Christopher Kelly

Christopher Kelly teaches classics and ancient history at Cambridge, and is the master of Corpus Christi College.

A Shocking Story: Julian the Apostate

Christopher Kelly, 21 February 2019

In November​ 361, after the sudden death of the emperor Constantius II, his cousin Flavius Claudius Iulianus became the undisputed ruler of the Roman world. Twenty months later, Julian himself lay dying. In early April 363, 100,000 Roman troops had crossed the frontier and marched eastwards through Mesopotamia. The campaign was a disaster, dogged by bad luck, incompetence and a failure to...

Silks and Bright Scarlet: Wealth and the Romans

Christopher Kelly, 3 December 2015

Sometime​ in the late 430s, the pious nun Melania recalled a vision she and her husband had shared thirty years before in Rome when they were young and very rich:

One night we went to sleep, greatly upset, and we saw ourselves, both of us, passing through a very narrow crack in the wall. We were gripped with panic by the cramped space, so that it seemed as if we were about to die. When we...

One Stock and Nation: Roman Britain

Christopher Kelly, 11 February 2010

The history of Roman Britain has always been – perhaps predictably – more about Britain than about Rome. For those committed to our island story, the Romans, after all, are something of an embarrassment, as invaders and occupiers who brutally suppressed native independence movements. Even if conquest can be glossed with more comfortable ideas of civilisation, there is still the...

Between 1896 and 1907, the Oxford Egyptologists Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt spent six seasons digging the low, sandy mounds surrounding the village of el-Behnesa, a hundred miles south of Cairo and ten miles west of the Nile. In concentrating on the ancient town of Oxyrhynchos (literally, ‘city of the sharp-nosed fish’), they were not aiming to uncover another set of...

Sticking with the Pagans

Christopher Kelly, 4 November 1993

In AD 362 – only fifty years after Constantine’s conversion to Christianity – the pagan Emperor Julian, hoping to undermine the privileged position of this new religion, banned Christian rhetoricians from teaching the pagan Classics. In a spectacular act of literary futility, the Syrian poet Apollinaris and his son, determined to retain a Classical gloss to Christian education, at once translated nearly the whole of the Bible into Greek epic verse.’

High in the Pyrenees, early in the fifth century, a knot of Roman soldiers huddled together over the saddest kind of duty. A comrade-in-arms had died young, after just two years under the...

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