Photo of Professor Barbara Borg

Professor Barbara Borg

Research interests

My research is characterised by an interdisciplinary and contextual approach, and focusses on four major fields: (1) The ideologies and value systems of the Romans as they are expressed through images (especially portraiture and funerary art), architecture, and epigraphy; (2) The language and 'rhetoric' of Greek and Roman images and the relationship between image and text; (3) Inter-cultural relationships, in particular the multi-cultural society of Roman Egypt; (4) Geo-archaeology, in particular the study of the provenance of marble, contributing to an understanding of ancient economies.

My latest project is a study of tombs and burial customs in Rome, which are an exquisite source of information for social history.

A book on the tombs of the third century will come out in September 2013: Crisis and Ambition: Tombs and burial customs in third-century CE Rome (OUP). The third century CE often appears to be a gap in cultural history, filled only by a series of disastrous proceedings that ruined what was left of former glory—that is, until an entirely new material culture emerged towards its end, like a phoenix from the ashes. The book challenges this view. Through a study of tombs and burial customs in Rome and its surroundings, of collective freedmen tombs, spectacular élite monuments, the nuclei of the catacombs, splendidly decorated sarcophagi, and image decoration on walls, floors and ceilings, it  demonstrates that the third century was an exciting period of experiment, novelty, and creativity, despite the various aspects of crises—or precisely because of them—, and that ambition continued to be a driving force and determining factor in all social classes who found innovative solutions to the challenges they encountered, and paved the way for the new system of late antiquity.

I am now working on a book on second-century CE Roman tombs (provisional title: The art of commemoration in second-century CE Rome), and I am editing a Blackwell’s Companion to Roman Art.