James Rives, Kenan Eminent Professor of Classics
James Rives received his B.A. in Classics from Washington University in St. Louis, and his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1990. After teaching eight years at Columbia University and eight years at York University in Toronto, he joined the faculty at UNC in 2006.
His main area of scholarly interest is religion in the Roman imperial period, particularly the interrelation of religion with socio-political power and the nature of religious change between the 1st century BCE and the 4th century CE. He also has interests in ancient historiography, especially the ethnographic tradition, in Latin prose, in ancient scholarship, and in the cultural and intellectual history of the high empire.
His books include a study of religion in Roman Carthage (1995) and a historical/historiographical commentary on Tacitus’ Germania (1999). In his book, Religion in the Roman Empire (2007), he attempts to sketch out the major aspects of religious life in the imperial period in all its variety, taking into account both the numerous cultural traditions within the empire as well as the full range of religious activities, from simple expressions of personal piety to formal civic activities to abstruse mystical speculation. More recently, he has prepared new editions of two books for Penguin Classics, for which he has revised the translations and provided new introductions and notes: Robert Graves’ translation of Suetonius (2007) and Harold Mattingly’s translation of Tacitus’ Agricola and Germania (2009).
He has also published articles on a range of topics, including the Roman law on magic, the early Christian conception of religion, the emperor Decius’ decree on sacrifice, the Roman destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and Apuleius’ Apology. His current major project is an investigation of the cultural significance of animal sacrifice in the Roman empire.
Since receiving his PhD he has taught courses in a range of areas, including Roman history, Latin prose, and ancient culture (especially myth and religion). At UNC he has introduced a new graduate seminar on sacrifice in the Graeco-Roman world, and a new first-year seminar on barbarians in Greek and Roman culture. He is on leave in the fall of 2013, and in spring 2014 will be teaching an undergraduate lecture course on Greek and Roman myth.