Professor Gavin Kelly (MA, MPhil, DPhil)

Professor of Latin Literature and Roman History; Classics

Background

I first thought Classics was fun at the age of 9, when I saw a repeat of I Claudius on TV; my enthusiasm was soon reinforced by a Penguin translation of Livy in my school library. History as literature and history from literature are still what interest me most, and most of what I publish combines elements of both literary criticism and political history. I read Classics at Gonville and Caius, Cambridge, from 1993 to 1996, winning the Chancellor’s Medal for Proficiency in Classical Learning and other University and College prizes. At Magdalen College, Oxford, I took an MPhil in Ancient History in 1998 and a Doctorate in 2002. After holding Research Fellowships at Peterhouse, Cambridge (2000-2004) and Manchester (2004-2005), I joined Edinburgh's Department of Classics as Lecturer in Latin Literature in 2005. I was appointed Senior Lecturer in 2011, Reader in 2014, and Professor in 2016, and served from 2016 to 2019 as Head of the Department of Classics. I have also been a Fellow of the National Humanities Center in North Carolina (2010-2011), a Visiting Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford (2014), a Humboldt Fellow at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich (2015-2016), a visiting Fellow at Karl Eberhards Universität, Tübingen (2020-2021), and a Senior Fellow at Otto Friedrich Universität, Bamberg (2023-2024).

Bright, committed students make it a joy to teach Latin language and literature at Edinburgh. Many of our students have had the good fortune to be taught Latin at school; the four-year course means that those new to the language have time to catch up. By the end of their fourth year, our students can come up with remarkably original and scholarly work. At Honours, I enjoy teaching both central canonical texts like Vergil, Tacitus, and Juvenal, and brilliant but less discovered authors like Ammianus and Rutilius Namatianus. Since my original appointment was in Latin, there is less time to teach my other subject, Roman (especially late Roman) history, but I always enjoy doing so when I can.

I enjoy supervising doctoral students on literature of the high and late Roman empire (both verse and prose, including commentaries and text critical studies), and on Roman political history of the same period, and am pleased to hear from those considering an application.  I have also acted as host to postdoctoral scholars on several occasions, and would be glad to support further applications (including for scholars from Germany on the Feodor Lynen fellowship).

External appointments

  • Secretary of the Edinburgh and South East Centre, Classical Association of Scotland (2006-2014)
  • Fellow, National Humanities Center (2010-2011)
  • British Academy Mid-Career Fellow (2013-2014)
  • ACLS Collaborative Fellowship (2014-2015)
  • Visiting Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford (2014)
  • Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich (2015-2016)
  • President of the Edinburgh and South East Centre, Classical Association of Scotland (2015-2021)
  • DFG Fellow, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen (2020-2021)
  • Visiting Professor, University of Pisa (2021)
  • Corresponding Fellow, ERC Consolidator Grant AntCoCo, Otto Friedrich Universität Bamberg (2021-2026; resident 2023-2024) 
  • Joint Editor of the book series Edinburgh Studies in Later Latin Literature, Edinburgh University Press (2019-)
  • Member of the Editorial Board of the book series Late Antique History and Religion, Peeters (2007-); Editor in Chief (2023-2028)
  • Member of Editorial Board, Philologus and Philologus Supplements (2014-)
  • Member of Editorial Committee, Invigilata Lucernis (2019-)
  • Member of Scientific Committee of the book series Nuova Biblioteca della Cultura Romanobarbarica, SISMEL/ edizioni del Galluzzo (2019-)
  • Member of Scientific Committee of Occidente/Oriente. Rivista di Studi Tardoantichi (2020-)
  • Member of Editorial Committee of the book series Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries, Cambridge University Press (2021-) 
  • Member of Editorial Board of the book series Studi e Testi Tardoantichi, Brepols (2022-)
  • Member of Scientific Committee of the book series Concondia discors, Guida Editori (2023-)
  • Member of Editorial Board of Journal of Roman Studies (2023-2028)

Useful Links

Responsibilities & affiliations

Roles

Director of Faculty (on leave 2023-2024)

Affiliated research centres

Centre for Late Antique, Islamic and Byzantine Studies

Undergraduate teaching

Sub-honours courses

  • Non-beginners’ Latin at subhonours (1c, 1d, 2a, 2a ex-beginners, 2b). Authors taught include Catullus, Juvenal, Lucretius, Ovid, Petronius, Rutilius Namatianus, and Vergil. I have also taught beginners' Latin (Latin 1a).
  • Late Roman lectures on Transformation of the Roman World ca. 300-800: Towards Byzantium and the Early Medieval West.
  • Lectures on Roman history and texts for Roman World 1b: The Roman Empire.

Honours courses

  • Late Latin: Autobiographical Narratives in Late Antiquity [Augustine, Ammianus Marcellinus, Rutilius Namatianus]
  • Early Virgil [Eclogues and Georgics]
  • Tacitus Annals
  • Martial and Juvenal
  • Ammianus Marcellinus and the Roman Empire of the Fourth Century
  • The Emperor in the Late Roman World
  • Literature and Society in the Age of Trajan
  • Latin Language A and B [prose composition and metre]

Postgraduate teaching

  • Latin Text Seminar, a course for which the texts investigated change annually; authors previously taught include Claudian, Ammianus Marcellinus, Rutilius Namatianus, Petronius, Sidonius.
  • Period in Ancient History (once on The Roman Empire 363-455, once on the city of Rome in the long fourth century)
  • A Topic in Late Antique and Byzantine History (on The Emperor Julian).
  • I have also taught on various skills courses.

Current PhD students supervised

PhD supervision

  • Paterson, Rory: Late antique Latin love poetry. Joint supervisor.
  • Ambrose and his emperors [Shaw McFie Lang Scholarship, School of Divinity, 2019-2022]. Secondary supervisor
  • Imperial women in the third century [School Doctoral Scholarship, 2020-2023]. Primary supervisor
  • A Commentary on Servius' commentary on Vergil's Bucolica [College Research Award 2022-2024]. Joint supervisor.
  • A Commentary on Gorippus, Iohannis book 6. Joint Supervisor.
  • Rethinking the Historia Augusta: the Valeriani duo and Gallieni duo in the light of a new manuscript [College Research Award 2023-2026]. Second supervisor.
  • Ethnic group formation and dissipation in the late antique Roman west. Second supervisor.

Past PhD students supervised

  • Periti, Viola, 'Dynamics of Power and Artistry of Arrangement in Valerius Maximus’ Facta et dicta memorabilia' [School Doctoral Scholarship, 2019-2022]. Primary supervisor. Completed 2023.
  • Sagliardi, Giulia, 'A commentary on Claudian's Bellum Geticum' [AHRC Studentship, 2015-2018. Joint supervisor. Completed 2021.
  • Jarvis, Paul. 'Conflict and Transition: Pertinax and Imperial Society, 160-193 CE' [College of Humanities and Social Sciences Studentship, 2014-2017]. Primary supervisor. Completed 2019.
  • John. Alison, 'Education in late antique Gaul' [University of Edinburgh Research Scholarship, 2014-2017]. Primary supervisor. Completed 2018.
  • Tsartsidis, Thomas, 'Prudentius Peristephanon 10' [College of Humanities and Social Sciences Studentship, 2012-15]. Primary supervisor. Completed 2017.
  • Washington, Belinda, 'Empresses in the Late Roman World'. [Kerr-Fry scholarship, 2011-15]. Primary supervisor. Completed 2016
  • Hoskin, Matthew, 'The Letters of Pope Leo I' [Principal’s Career Development Award 2011-2014]. Joint supervisor. Completed 2015.
  • Cleary, Nicole, 'Jerome on the Attack' [SHCA scholarship, 2010-13]. Joint supervisor. Completed 2014
  • Greenwood, David, 'Julian the Apostate'. Joint supervisor. Completed 2013
  • Ellis, Anthony, 'Religion in Herodotus' [SHCA scholarship 2009-12]. Secondary supervisor. Completed 2013
  • Washington, Belinda, MSc by Research, 'The empress Justina' [SHCA MSc award]. Primary supervisor. Completed 2010.

I have also supervised external students at the University of San Marino (on Sidonius, sole supervisor, graduated 2021), the University of St Andrews (on Suetonius, second supervisor, graduated 2021), and the Open University (on Claudian, joint supervisor, graduated 2023). I am also currently supervisor of a PhD at the University of Bari.

Research summary

Places: 

  • Europe
  • Mediterranean
  • Near East

Themes: 

  • Language & Literature
  • Political History

Periods: 

  • Antiquity
  • Medieval

My interests embrace both the literature and the history of the Roman empire, above all the fourth and early fifth centuries – a time of rapid political, social, and religious change, and also one of the most significant periods in Latin literary history. Most of my work melds textual and historical approaches: as both Latinist and historian I prefer secular or pagan texts and topics to ecclesiastical ones. My doctorate and much of earlier work centred on Ammianus Marcellinus, the greatest historian of Late Antiquity. This project was published in a number of articles in journals and collections (including ‘Ammianus and the great tsunami’, which appeared with ominous timing in November 2004), and Ammianus Marcellinus: The Allusive Historian was published by Cambridge University Press in 2008.

I have collaborated with my colleague Lucy Grig on Rome and Constantinople in late antiquity: Two Romes, a collection of essays resulting from conferences held in Lampeter and Edinburgh, was published by Oxford University Press (New York) in 2012. New Approaches to Sidonius Apollinaris, co-edited with Joop van Waarden, was published by Peeters of Leuven in 2013; I also organise jointly with Van Waarden an international collaborative project, which has been funded by a Leverhulme International Network grant as well as by a British Academy/ Leverhulme Small Research Grant, to provide commentaries on the whole of Sidonius’ oeuvre. This also led to The Edinburgh Companion to Sidonius Apollinaris (2020), again co-edited with Van Waarden. Among articles recently published are studies of Latin poets including Martial and Sidonius, of the speeches and letters of Symmachus, of the political history of the 370s AD, and of Edward Gibbon's attitude to late antique literature. WIth my colleague Aaron Pelttari, I am editing a Cambridge History of Later Latin Literature and a Cambridge Dictionary of Later Latin Literature.

Watch a short video of me speaking about my current project of editing Ammianus - Media Hopper

Current research activities

For my main individual project at the moment, I have returned to Ammianus Marcellinus and his Res Gestae, in the form of (1) a complete new translation for The Landmark Ammianus Marcellinus, edited by Michael Kulikowski, (2) a new critical edition, contracted to appear in the Oxford Classical Texts, and (3) an accompanying book on the text and language of the Res Gestae, also contracted to Oxford University Press.

Research projects

Rutilius’ Return [In 2010-11 I held a fellowship at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina to work on the fifth-century poet Rutilius Namatianus]

Studies in the Text and Language of Ammianus Marcellinus [supported by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship 2013-2014, and Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship 2015-2016]

The Landmark Ammianus Marcellinus [Work on the translation supported by an ACLS Collaborative Fellowship, held jointly with Michael Kulikowski, Penn State, 2014-15]

Prolegomena to the study of Sidonius Apollinaris (in collaboration with Joop van Waarden, Amsterdam) [conference and publication of The Edinburgh Companion to SIdonius Apollinaris (2020) supported by British Academy/ Leverhulme Small Research Grant, 2014-2016]

Sidonius Apollinaris: A Comprehensive Commentary for the 21st Century [a Leverhulme-funded International Network, based in Edinburgh and involving scholars from the Universities of Amsterdam, Basel, Naples, Padua, and the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris, 2014-2017]  

Affiliated research centres

  • Centre for Late Antique, Islamic, and Byzantine STudies

Books

Gavin Kelly, Ammianus Marcellinus: The Allusive Historian (Cambridge University Press, 2008).

Edited Books

Gavin Kelly and Aaron Pelttari (eds), The Cambridge History of Later Latin Literature (Cambridge, in press 2025).

Gavin Kelly and Joop van Waarden (eds), The Edinburgh Companion to Sidonius Apollinaris (Edinburgh, 2020).

Joop van Waarden and Gavin Kelly (eds), New Approaches to Sidonius Apollinaris (Leuven, 2013).

Lucy Grig and Gavin Kelly (eds), Two Romes: Rome and Constantinople in Late Antiquity (New York, 2012).

Articles and Book Chapters

Gavin Kelly and Aaron Pelttari, 'Histories of later Latin literature', in G. Kelly and Aaron Pelttari (eds) The Cambridge History of Later Latin Literature (Cambridge, in press 2025) [6,000 words].

Gavin Kelly, 'Latin prose rhythm', in G. Kelly and Aaron Pelttari (eds) The Cambridge History of Later Latin Literature (Cambridge, in press 2025) [9,000 words].

Gavin Kelly, 'The survival and reception of earlier Latin literature in the Later Empire', in G. Kelly and Aaron Pelttari (eds) The Cambridge History of Later Latin Literature (Cambridge, in press 2025) [10,000 words].

Gavin Kelly, 'Ammianus Marcellinus, speeches, and rhetoric', in L. Van Hoof and M. Conterno (eds), Rhetoric and historiography: Exploring, transgressing and policing generic boundaries in Late Antiquity (Leuven, in press 2024), 181-202.

Gavin Kelly, 'Philological and historical notes on Ammianus Marcellinus', in N.E. Lenski, R.D. Rees and O. van Nijf (eds) From East to West in Late Antiquity: Studies in Honour of Jan Willem Drijvers (Bari, 2024) [6,000 words]

Gavin Kelly, 'Periodisations', in R.K. Gibson and C.L. Whitton (eds), The Cambridge Critical Guide to Latin Literature (Cambridge, 2024), 97-157.

Gavin Kelly, 'Editorial note', in Alan Cameron, Historical Studies in Late Roman Art and Archaeology (Leuven, 2023 [2024]), xiii-xv [I also shared in preparing this book for publication].

Gavin Kelly, 'Accursius’ Ammianus Marcellinus (1533): the editio princeps of books 27-31’, in S. Rocchi and S. Andronio (eds) Mariangelo Accursio tra l’Italia e l’Europa (Rome, 2023), 67-88.

Gavin Kelly, 'Why we need a new edition of Ammianus Marcellinus', in M. Hanaghan and D. Woods (eds), Ammianus Marcellinus: From Soldier to Author (Leiden, 2023 [2022]), 19-58.

Gavin Kelly, 'Titles and paratexts in the collection of Sidonius’ poems', in A. Bruzzone, A. Fo, and L. Piacente (eds) Metamorfosi del Classico in età romanobarbarica (Florence, 2021 [2022]), 77-97.

Gavin Kelly, 'Rutilius Namatianus, Melania the Younger, and the monks of Capraria', in W.V. Harris and A. Hunnell Chen (eds) Late Antique Studies in Memory of Alan Cameron (Leiden, 2021), 66-84.

Gavin Kelly, 'Sidonius as a reader of Rutilius Namatianus', Invigilata Lucernis 42 (2020) (= R. Valenti and C. Longobardi (eds) Dissona nexio. Rotte del sapere, tra storia e futuro per Marisa Squillante), 151-161.

Gavin Kelly and Joop van Waarden, 'Introduction', in G. Kelly and J. van Waarden (eds), Edinburgh Companion to Sidonius Apollinaris (Edinburgh, 2020), 1-9.  

Gavin Kelly, 'Dating the works of Sidonius', in G. Kelly and Joop van Waarden (eds), The Edinburgh Companion to Sidonius Apollinaris (Edinburgh, 2020), 166-194.

Joop van Waarden and Gavin Kelly, 'Prose rhythm in Sidonius', in G. Kelly and J. van Waarden (eds), Edinburgh Companion to Sidonius Apollinaris (Edinburgh, 2020), 462-475. [For a supplement see here].

Gavin Kelly and Joop van Waarden, 'Epilogue: Future approaches to Sidonius', in G. Kelly and J. van Waarden (eds), Edinburgh Companion to Sidonius Apollinaris (Edinburgh, 2020), 730-736.

Gavin Kelly, ‘The astrologer, the eunuch, and the emperor’, Revue des Etudes Tardo-antiques suppl. 5 (2018) (= E. Amato, P. De Cicco, T. Moreau (eds) Canistrum ficis plenum. Hommages à Bertrand Lançon), 241-251

Gavin Kelly, 'Edward Gibbon and late antique literature', in S. McGill and E. Watts (eds) Blackwell's Companion to Late Antique Literature (Oxford, 2018), 611-626.

Gavin Kelly, 'Ammianus, Valens, and Antioch', in S.-P. Bergjan and S. Elm (eds) Antioch II: The Many Faces of Antioch: Intellectual Exchange and Religious Diversity (350-450 CE) (Tübingen, 2018), 147-172.

Gavin Kelly, 'From Martial to Juvenal (Epigrams 12.18)', in A. König and C.L. Whitton (eds) Roman Literature under Nerva, Trajan, and Hadrian: Literary Interactions (Cambridge, 2018), 160-179.

Gavin Kelly and Justin Stover, 'The Hersfeldensis and the Fuldensis of Ammianus Marcellinus: A reconsideration', Cambridge Classical Journal 62 (2016), 108-129

Gavin Kelly, ‘Claudian’s last panegyric and imperial visits to Rome’, Classical Quarterly 66 (2016), 336-357.

Gavin Kelly, ‘The first book of Symmachus’ Letters as an independent collection’, in P.F. Moretti, R. Ricci, and C. Torre (eds) Culture and Literature in Latin Late Antiquity. Continuities and Discontinuities (Turnhout, 2015 [2016]), 197-220.

Gavin Kelly, ‘Ammianus’ Greek accent’, Talanta 45 (2013 [2015]) [special issue edited by M.-P. García Ruiz and A. Quiroga Puertas (eds), Linguistic and Cultural Alterity in the Roman Empire], 67-79.

Gavin Kelly, 'The political crisis of AD 375-376', Chiron 43 (2013), 357-409.

Gavin Kelly, ‘Pliny and Symmachus’, in B. Gibson and R. Rees (ed.) Pliny the Younger in Late Antiquity (= Arethusa 46.2), 261-287.

Gavin Kelly, ‘Sidonius and Claudian’, in J. van Waarden and G. Kelly (eds), New Approaches to Sidonius Apollinaris (Leuven, 2013), 171-191.

Lucy Grig and Gavin Kelly, ‘Introduction: from Rome to Constantinople’, in L. Grig and G. Kelly (eds), Two Romes: Rome and Constantinople in Late Antiquity (New York, 2012), 3-30.

Gavin Kelly, ‘Claudian and Constantinople’, in L. Grig and G. Kelly (eds), Two Romes: Rome and Constantinople in Late Antiquity (New York, 2012), 241-264.

Gavin Kelly, ‘Ammianus Marcellinus’, Oxford Bibliographies Online: Classics (see www.oxfordbibliographies.com) (New York, 2011; revised and updated 2015). 

Gavin Kelly,  ‘The Roman world of Festus’ Breviarium’, in C. Kelly, R. Flower, and M.S. Williams (eds), Unclassical Traditions: Alternatives to the Classical Past in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, 2010), 72-89.

Gavin Kelly, ‘Ammianus Marcellinus: Tacitus’ heir and Gibbon’s guide’, in A. Feldherr (ed.), Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians (Cambridge, 2009), 348-361.

Gavin Kelly, 'Adrien de Valois and the chapter headings in Ammianus Marcellinus', Classical Philology 104 (2009), 233-242

Gavin Kelly, 'The sphragis and closure of the Res Gestae', in J. den Boeft, D. den Hengst, H.C. Teitler and J.W. Drijvers (eds) Ammianus after Julian: The Reign of Valentinian and Valens in Books 26 - 31 of the Res Gestae (Leiden, 2007), 219-241.

Gavin Kelly, '"To forge their tongues to grander styles": Ammianus' epilogue', in J. Marincola (ed.), A Companion to Greek and Roman Historiography (Oxford, 2007), 474-480.

Gavin Kelly, 'Constantius II, Julian, and the example of Marcus Aurelius: Ammianus Marcellinus XXI, 16, 11-12', Latomus 64 (2005), 409-416.

Gavin Kelly, 'Ammianus and the great tsunami', Journal of Roman Studies 94 (2004), 141-167.

Gavin Kelly, 'The New Rome and the old: Ammianus Marcellinus' silences on Constantinople', Classical Quarterly 53 (2003), 588-607.

 

Other

Among my book reviews I would draw particular attention to my reviews of the Ammianus commentaries (vols. 25-2627-2829, and 30-31), and of Alan Cameron's Last Pagans of Rome. For other reviews and short contributions see my academia page or my blog. Among my blogposts that have been cited in wider scholarship are 'Prose rhythm and an emendation in a Donatist martyr act' (2020), 'Erasing Victor' (2018), 'Vichy and the Visigoths' (2016), 'Ammianus Marcellinus and funny names' (2016), and a complete translation of the breviary of Festus (2007).