Reverend Canon Prof John Richardson (MA, DPhil, FRSE)

Emeritus Professor of Classics


I took my first degree and  studied for my DPhil at Trinity College, Oxford from 1964 to 1972.  I held a Lectureship in Ancient History at Exeter College, Oxford from 1969 to 1972, when I took up a Lectureship in Ancient History at the University of St Andrews, which I held until 1987.  I was appointed to the first chair of Classics at the University of Edinburgh in 1987, which I held until retiral in 2002.  I was Head of the Department of Classics from 1987 to 1992 and again in 1998 to 1999.  From 1992 to 1997 I was Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Provost of the Faculty Group of Arts, Divinity and Music.

Responsibilities & affiliations

I have held an honorary Professorship in the University of Durham since 2003 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1996. Between 1993 and 1996 I was Chair of the Councul of University Classical Departments; and between 1998 and 2001 President of the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies. I am also a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and an Honorary Canon of St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh since 2000.

Research summary

My main research interests are in the development of Roman imperialism and the empire in the last three centuries BC, with particular reference to Spain; in Roman law and its history, especially during the republican period;  and in the relationship between the Roman empire and the Christian religion.  I have co-operated with other scholars on most of these topics, and especially through the Group for the Revision of the Texts of Roman Laws, which from 1981 to 1996 prepared an edition of all extant Roman statutes.  This group comprised some fifteen scholars from six countries.  Over the past few years, I have paid research visits to Spain, France, Switzerland and Italy, to read papers, consult with colleagues, and to examine inscriptions and archaeological sites.  I have been part in the international project Impact of Empire, initiated by Professor Lukas De Blois of Nijmegen, and including scholars from several EU countries.   I have received financial assistance for this from the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.


  • Europe


  • Ancient Civilisations
  • Diplomatic History
  • Imperialism
  • Language & Literature
  • Politics
  • War


  • Antiquity

Current research interests

Since my retiral in 2002 I have continued working on Roman imperialism and in 2008 produced a book on the idea of empire from the third century BC to the second century AD, entitled The Language of Empire (Cambridge University Press). I have just completed a book on the emperor Augustus for the series The Edinburgh History of Ancient Rome (Edinburgh University Press), of which I am the general editor.

Project activity

I am currently continuing to work on Roman Spain and am about to start work on Adam Ferguson’s History of the Progress and Termination of the Roman Republic (1783), written while Ferguson was Professor of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh.


  1. Roman Provincial Administration (Macmillan Education: London 1976, republished by Bristol Classical Press 1984), 88 pp.
  2. Hispaniae: Spain and the development of Roman imperialism 218-82 BC (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 1986), xi + 218 pp.
  3. J. D. Cloud, M. H. Crawford, J. A. Crook, S. Demougin, J.-L. Ferrary, E. Gabba, H. Galsterer, E. Green, M. Humbert, U. Laffi, A. Lewis, A. W. Lintott, H. B. Mattingly, Ph. Moreau, Cl. Nicolet, J. M. Reynolds, J. S. Richardson, P. Stein and C. Williamson (under the general editorship of M. H. Crawford), Roman Statutes (Institute of Classical Studies, University of London: London 1996).  Primary responsibility for the Lex Latina Bantiae (pp.193-208) and the Fragmentum Tarentinum (pp.209-218); shared primary responsibility (with M. H. Crawford) for the lex Valeria Aurelia and congeners (pp. 507-547); shared general responsibility for the volume, under Professor Crawford’s editorship.
  4. The Romans in Spain (Blackwells: Oxford 1996), vii + 341 pp. (Spanish translation: Hispania y los Romanos (Critica: Barcelona 1998), 300 pp.  Paperback edition of English version,1998)
  5. Appian: Wars of the Romans in Iberia (Aris & Phillips: Warminster 2000), viii + 184 pp.
  6. The Language of Empire: Rome and the idea of empire from the third century BC to the second century AD (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 2008), ix + 219 pp.

Articles published as sole author

  1. ‘The Commentariolum Petitionis’, Historia 20 (1971), 436-442.
  2. ‘The triumph, the praetors and the senate’, Journal of Roman Studies lxv (1975), 50-63.
  3. ‘The Spanish mines and the development of provincial taxation in the second century BC’, Journal of Roman Studies lxvi (1976), 139-152.
  4. ‘The Roman period, 80 BC - AD 14’, JACT Bureaucratica 1979, 12-22.
  5. ‘Polybius’ view of the Roman empire’, Papers of the British School at Rome, xlvii (1979), 1-11.
  6. ‘The ownership of Roman land: Tiberius Gracchus and the Italians’, Journal of Roman Studies lxx (1980), 1-11.
  7. ‘Should historians write history that is distinctively Christian?’,  (published as a pamphlet by IVP, 1982), 13 pp.
  8. ‘The triumph of Metellus Scipio and the dramatic date of Varro RR 3’, Classical Quarterly 33 (1983), 456-463.
  9. ‘The tabula Contrebiensis: Roman law in Spain in the early first century BC’ Journal of Roman Studies lxxiii (1983), 33-41.
  10. ‘The purpose of the lex Calpurnia de repetundis’, Journal of Roman Studies lxxvii (1987), 1-12.
  11. ‘The rogatio Valeria Aurelia: form and content’, Estudios sobre la Tabula Siarensis, (Anejos de Archivo Espanol de Arqueologia IX (1988)), 35-41
  12. ‘Les peregrini et l’idée d’empire sous la République romain’, Revue historique de droit français et étranger 68 (1990), 147-155
  13. ‘Thucydides 1.23.6 and the debate about the Peloponnesian war’ in E. M. Craik (ed.), Owls to Athens (Essays presented to Sir Kenneth Dover) (Oxford U.P. 1990), 155-161
  14. ‘Imperium Romanum: empire and the language of power’, Journal of Roman Studies lxxxi (1991) 1-12
  15. ‘The administration of the empire’, in J. Crook, A. Lintott and E. Rawson (edd.), Cambridge Ancient History IX (second edn, Cambridge 1994), 564-98
  16. ‘neque elegantem, ut arbitror, neque urbanum: reflections on Iberian urbanism’, in Social Complexity and the Devlopment of Towns in Iberia from the Copper Age to the second century AD (Proceedings of the British Academy 86 (1995)), 339-54
  17. ‘The Roman mind and the power of fiction’, in L. Ayres (ed.), The Passionate Intellect: Essays presented to Professor I. G. Kidd (Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities VII (1995)), 117-30
  18. ‘The reception of Roman law in the West: the epigraphic evidence’, in E. Hermon (ed.), Pouvoir et «Imperium» (IIIe av. J.-C. – Ier ap. J.-C.) (Naples 1996), 65-76.
  19. ‘Conquest and colonies in Lusitania in the late republic and early empire’, in E. Ortiz de Urbina and J. Santos (edd), Revisiones de Historia Antigua II (Vitoria/Gasteiz 1996), 53-61.
  20. ‘Imperialism (Roman)’, in S. Hornblower and A. Spawforth (edd.), The Oxford Classical Dictionary (3rd edition, Oxford 1996), 751 (also appeared in The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilisation (Oxford 1998), 367-8). 
  21. ‘Princeps and imperator’, in P. Jones and K. Sidwell (edd.), The World of Rome (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 1997), 83-111.
  22. ‘Governing Rome’, in P. Jones and K. Sidwell (edd.), The World of Rome (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 1997), 112-39.
  23. ‘The senate, the courts and the SC de Cn. Pisone patre’, Classical Quarterly 47.2 (1997), 510-518.
  24. ‘Un terra di promesa’, in J. Arce, S. Ensoli and E. La Rocca (edd.) Hispania Romana: de terra di conquista a provincia dell’ impero (Electa: Milano 1997). 67-72
  25. ‘Old statutes never die: a brief history of abrogation’, in M. Austin, J. Harries and C. Smith (edd.), Modus Operandi: essays presented to Geoffrey Rickman (Institute of Classical Studies: London 1998), 47-61.
  26. ‘Tarraco in the age of Trajan: the testimony of Florus the poet’, in J. González (ed.), Traiano emperador de Roma («L’Erma» di Bretschneider, Rome 2000), 427-450.
  27. ‘Social mobility in the Hispanic provinces in the republican period’, in L. de Blois (ed.), Administration, Prosopography and Appointment Policies in the Roman Empire (J. C. Gieben, Amsterdam 2001), 246-254.
  28. ‘To publish or not to publish? Anecdotes from the secret history of epigraphy’, in T. H. Lim, H. L. MacQueen and C. M. Carmichael (edd.), On Scrolls, Artefacts and Intellectual Property (Sheffield Academic Press, Sheffield 2001), 216-222.
  29. ‘The new Augustan edicts from northwest Spain’, Journal of Roman Archaeology 15 (2002), 411-415.
  30. ‘Imperium Romanum between Republic and Empire’, in L. de Blois et al. (edd.), The Representation and Perception of Roman Imperial Power (J. C. Gieben, Amsterdam 2003), 137-147
  31. ‘Indexing Roman imperialism’, The Indexer 24.3 (2005), 138-140
  32. Articles on Baetica, Baleares, Carthago Nova, Celtiberian wars, Hispania, Lusitania, Numantia, Saguntum, Sertorius, Taracco and Viriathus in The Cambridge Dictionary of Classical Civilisation (CUP, Cambridge 2006)
  33. ‘The meaning of imperium in the last century BC and the first AD’, in B. Kingsbury and B. Straumann (edd.), The Roman foundations of the Law of Nations: Alberico Gentili and the Justice of Empire (OUP, Oxford 2010), 21-29
  34. Articles on ‘imperium’, ‘Province, Roman’ and ‘Spain, Roman’ in Michael Gagarin (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopaedia of Ancient Greece and Rome (Oxford UP, Oxford 2010).


Joint articles published

  1. (with P. B. H. Birks and A. Rodger)  ‘Further aspects of the tabula Contrebiensis’, Journal of Roman Studies lxxiv (1984) 45-73.  (Joint authorship and responsibility).
  2. (with L. Sawyer) ‘Using appropriate nomenclature’, Trends in Biochemical Science 16.1 (1991) 11. (Joint authorship and responsibility).


Review article

  1. ‘Ea quae fiunt in provinciis’, Journal of Roman Studies lxix (1979) 158-167.