School of History, Classics & Archaeology

Historical approaches to later Latin literature

This conference is preparatory to a new Cambridge History of Later Latin Literature edited by Gavin Kelly and Aaron Pelttari. Latin literature survives in far greater quantity and diversity from the period of ca. 100 to 700 than from its first 350 years. Nevertheless, the tendency remains, not only in literary histories, but in the mindset of many scholars and students of the Roman world, to conceive of Latin literature as a narrative which ends, or is transformed, many centuries before Roman history terminates. In this volume, 47 chapters cover change and continuity in texts of all kinds: as well as chapters organised by periods, genres, and authors, there will be chapters dedicated to the contexts of literature – such as the educational system and the technology of books – and general trends – such as the late antique turn towards autobiography, and the development of a more episodic and fragmented aesthetic.

A great deal of work has been done on late antiquity in recent years, but scholarship is still often disconnected between the various disciplines that share the end of the ancient world and the early centuries of medieval Europe. This project aims to consolidate the scholarly gains of previous generations but also to ask new questions and invite new directions for the future, with chapters written by leading international scholars. Their work currently in progress will be presented at this conference.

Programme at a glance

8 September 2017

9.30–10.00 Coffee and welcome

10.00–10.15 Conference introduction Gavin Kelly and Aaron Pelttari

10.15–11.45 Session 1 Social and Linguistic Contexts (Chair: Aaron Pelttari)

  • Gavin Kelly (Edinburgh) ‘Prose rhythm’
  • Justin Stover (Edinburgh) ‘The book in the Roman and post-Roman world’

12.00–12.45 Session 2 Model and Trends (Chair: Gavin Kelly)

  • Catherine Conybeare (Bryn Mawr), ‘The autobiographical turn’


13.00–14.00 Lunch


14.00–15.30 Session 3 From the Age of Trajan to the Age of Constantine (Chair: Alice Borgna)

  • Catherine Ware (Cork) ‘Literary culture in the empire of Diocletian and Constantine’
  • Eric Rebillard (Cornell) ‘The beginnings of Christian Latin literature’


15.30–16.00 Coffee break


16.00–17.30 Session 3 The Empire after Constantine (Chair: Catherine Ware)

  • Mark Vessey (UBC) ‘Literature and the church in the post-Constantinian empire’
  • Aaron Pelttari (Edinburgh), ‘Cambridge Dictionary of Later Latin Literature’


18.30. Conference dinner at Beirut, 24 Nicholson Square

9 September 2017

9.30–11.00. Session 5 Genres 1 (Chair: Alison John)

  • Ilaria Ramelli (Milan) ‘Secular and Christian commentaries in late antiquity’
  • Matthijs Wibier (Pavia) ‘Legal writing, its forms, and influence’

11.15–12.45 Session 6 Genres 2 (chair: Lucy Grig)

  • Hildegund Müller (Notre Dame) ‘Sermons’
  • Jean-Louis Charlet (Aix-Marseille) ‘Hymns’


12.45–13.45 Lunch


13.45–14.45 Architectural tour led by Dominic Berry

15.00–16.30 Session 7 Genres 3 (Chair: Tom Brown)

  • Christa Gray (Reading), ‘Secular and Christian biography’
  • Jennifer Ebbeler (Austin), ‘Epistolography’

16.30–17.00. Session 8. Roundtable discussion about the volume and next steps

HCA Institute of Classical Studies


Generous funding for this conference was providing by the British Academy, the Institute for Classical Studies, and the Classical

Classical Assoc


Professor Gavin Kelly's staff profile

Dr Aaron Pelttari's staff profile


British Academy logo

Historical approaches to later Latin literature

Preparatory to a new 'Cambridge History of Later Latin Literature', this event aims to consolidate the scholarly gains of previous generations but also to ask new questions and invite new directions for the future. (Published 2 June 2017)

Seminar room 2, Chrystal Macmillan Building, 15a George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LD