James B. Rives
Kenan Eminent Professor of Classics
Ph.D., 1990, Stanford University
I received my B.A. in Classics from Washington University in St. Louis, and my Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1990. After teaching eight years at Columbia University and eight years at York University in Toronto, I joined the faculty at UNC in 2006.
My 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. I also have 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.
My books include a study of religion in Roman Carthage (1995) and a historical/historiographical commentary on Tacitus’ Germania (1999). In my book, Religion in the Roman Empire (2007), I attempted 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. I have also prepared new editions of two books for Penguin Classics, for which I 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).
I have 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. My current major project is an investigation of the cultural significance of animal sacrifice in the Roman empire. For further information about my research, including downloadable copies of many of my articles and papers, see my Academia.edu website here.
Since receiving my Ph.D., I have taught courses in a range of areas, including Roman history, Latin prose, and ancient culture (especially myth and religion). In the 2020-21 academic year I am teaching an introductory lecture course on classical mythology and a graduate course on Tacitus Suetonius and imperial biography in the fall, and introductory Greek New Testament and our junior seminar on animal sacrifice in the spring