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Staff profiles

Professor Rebecca Flemming

Professor

I am the inaugural A.G. Leventis Chair in Ancient Greek Scientific and Technological Thought. My research focuses on ancient medicine in its social and cultural context, with special attention to gender, sexuality, and reproduction. I take an interdisciplinary approach to the subject, using literary texts and material objects as well as modern scientific evidence to explore disease, health and healing, the full range of patients and practitioners in the Greek and Roman worlds, and to investigate the diversity of understandings and debates about the human body.

 

Research interests

My research currently has three main focuses, all of which overlap:

  1. Reproduction and Society: the focus on fertility in ancient Greek and Roman society, the amount of energy and effort dedicated to having healthy children who contributed to familial continuity in a broader sense, has till not been fully appreciated and understood. This was a key feature of social organisation and state interest. So I continue to work in this area, expanding on the first part of Reproduction: Antiquity to the Present Day.
  2. Pandemics, pestilence and disease: the development of new scientific techniques, as well as the experiences of the global covid pandemic, have served to put the spotlight on epidemics and disease in the ancient Mediterranean. Classical medieval texts also have much to offer these studies, which require a critical multidisciplinary approach. See my survey essay 'Pandemics in the Ancient Mediterranean World' for some suggestions.
  3. Bodies, gender and sexuality: I am writing the chapter on 'Prostitution, medicine, health, and the body' for the Antiquity Volume of Bloomsbury's forthcoming Cultural History of Prostitution, which has me rethinking some familiar subjects, as well as completing the second (material) part of my essay 'The Classical Clitoris', an organ better known to ancient (and medieval) medical authoris than various early modern European anatomists would have you believe. 

External impact and engagement

External engagement and impact.

 

In addition to regular talks to school groups and at local festivals, I was Joukowsky Lecturer for the Archaeological Institute of America in 2020-2021, and gave a virtual lecture on 'Galen's gynaecology', for the exhibition The Empire's Physician: Prosperity, Plague and Healing curated by the institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University (https://isaw.nyu.edu/exhibitions/galen), in May 2021

 

I also appeared on 'In our Time: The Plague of Justinian', BBC Radio 4, 21/01/21

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, The Plague of Justinian