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Professor Peter Heslin


Professor in the Department of Classics and Ancient History+44 (0) 191 33 41682
Co-Director (Digital Humanities) in the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 


My research focuses on classical Latin poetry and its reception, Roman art and topography, and the digital humanities.

My interests in digital humanities include the application of machine learning and Bayesian statistical methods to literary history, the training of (not so) large language models for ancient languages, and making Latin and ancient Greek more accessible to everyone by means of open-source software that helps readers of all levels engage with texts in the original language.

I am the developer of Diogenes, a widely used application for working with databases of Greek and Latin texts, which can be downloaded from its home page. There is also now a browser-based version for handheld devices, called DiogenesWeb.

Much of my analog research (as it were) is linked by an interest in the cultural history of Roman reappropriations of Greek myth.

My first book, The Transvestite Achilles: Gender and Genre in the Achilleid of Statius (Cambridge University Press, 2005), is a study of an unfinished Latin epic poem narrating the early biography of Achilles, including an episode in which the hero was hidden from the Trojan War on the island of Scyros, cross-dressed as a girl.

My second monograph,The Museum of Augustus: The Temple of Apollo in Pompeii, the Portico of Philippus and Roman Poetry (J. Paul Getty Museum, 2015), posits a new methodology for understanding the intersection of Roman poetry and art, and introduces new techniques for reconstructing the appearance of Pompeiian wall paintings that were lost in the early years after their excavation. I conclude by explaining a series of famous ecphrases in Augustan poetry, especially Virgil's account of the temple of Juno in Cathage, as responses to a specific Roman monument and its decorative programme.

My third monograph, Propertius, Greek Myth, and Virgil: Rivalry, Allegory and Polemic (Oxford University Press, 2018) gives a new account of Propertius' peculiar manner of employing examples from Greek myth, which on the surface often seem inept or pointless. I argue that this appearance functions as part of his self-characterization as a feckless lover, but that close inspection reveals their intertextual point. Myth is a language in which Propertius engages in a dialogue with the Greek literary tradition and in polemics with his rivals, especially Virgil.

My work on Pompeian painting brought me in 2010 to the J. Paul Getty Villa in Los Angeles as a Getty Scholar. In 2012, I was the inaugural Joan Palevsky Visiting Professor of Classics at the University of California at Los Angeles. My research has also been supported by grants from the Center for Hellenic Studies and the Loeb Classical Library Foundation.

PhD Supervision

I would be happy to speak to anyone consuidering a PhD in digital humanities, especially the application of statistical models to premodern literary history, or in Latin poetry, especially epic, elegy and lyric from the Augustan to Flavian period.

School Talks

I am happy to give school talks on Roman mythological painting from Pompeii or on Greek myth in Latin poetry. 

Research interests

  • Latin poetry
  • Roman painting
  • Humanities computing
  • Reception of Latin poetry


Authored book

Chapter in book

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Supervision students