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Professor Edmund Richardson


Professor in the Department of Classics and Ancient History
Member of the Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies


I’m interested in how people relate to the past - and the fragility and wonder of those relationships.

My research is on the afterlives of the ancient world: from medieval tales of Alexander the Great (where he flies to the stars and meets the Queen of the Amazons), to Greek drama on Broadway. I'm fascinated by characters on the edges of many histories: how forgotten stories can change the way we see the world.

My most recent book, Alexandria: The Quest for the Lost City, was published in 2021. It explores how Alexander the Great's lost city of Alexandria Beneath the Mountains, in Afghanistan, was discovered by the most unlikely person imaginable: Charles Masson, an ordinary working-class boy from London, turned deserter, spy, doctor, archaeologist and scholar. On the way into one of history's most extraordinary stories, Masson would take tea with kings, travel with holy men and become the master of a hundred disguises. He would change the world, and the world would destroy him. Alexandria was reviewed by the New York Times, the Guardian, the Times, the Spectator and the Daily Telegraph, and was named one of the books of the year for 2021 by the Spectator, the Daily Telegraph, Open Magazine (India), the Listener (New Zealand) and the Sydney Morning Herald.

In 2016, I was named one of the AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinkers - one of ten academics selected to work with the BBC to develop programs based on their research. I've broadcast on everything from Victorian ghost-hunters to the search for Alexander the Great's tomb. I'm always more than happy to speak to schools and other external groups, about topics from Alexander the Great's lost cities to Victorian con-artists. You can read an interview with the AHRC about my work here, and one with the Guardian here.

I'm a member of the Durham Centre for Classical Reception, which aims to promote the interdisciplinary study of the afterlives of ancient Greece and Rome.

I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, interested in topics related to Classical Reception.

Before joining the Department as a Lecturer in 2013, I was Hannah Seeger Davis Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Princeton, in the Program in Hellenic Studies (2009-10), Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Durham (2010-12) and Lecturer at the University of Leeds (2012-13). I completed my Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge (2008).

Cambridge University Press published my first book, Classical Victorians: Scholars, Scoundrels & Generals in Pursuit of Antiquity, as the inaugural title in their Classics After Antiquity series. Victorian Britain set out to make the ancient world its own - and this is the story of how it failed. It is the story of the embittered classical prodigy who turned to gin and opium, the general who longed to be an Homeric hero - and the virtuoso forger who tricked the greatest scholars of the age. I've recently been appointed one of the series editors of Classics After Antiquity by CUP.

Bloomsbury published my edited volume, Classics in Extremis, in late 2018. Its contributors explore some of the most remarkable, hard-fought and unsettling claims ever made on the ancient world, and argue for a decentered model of classical reception: where the 'marginal' shapes the 'central' as much as vice versa – and where the most unlikely appropriations of antiquity often have the greatest impact.

Research interests

  • Classical Reception Studies
  • Alexander the Great
  • Historiography
  • Tragedy and Performance


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