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Dr Eris Williams Reed

Email: eris dot williams-reed at warwick dot ac dot uk

Honorary Research Fellow


I gladly left school with vocational qualifications and then later completed an Open University course in ancient history. I went on to study for a BA in Archaeology and Ancient Civilisations (2012) in the Department of Archaeology at Durham University, before moving across the city to Durham’s Department of Classics and Ancient History, where I studied for a MA in Greece, Rome and the Near East (2013) and then a PhD in Classics (2018). I stayed in Durham during 2018/19, where I was a Teaching Assistant and an Impact Assistant in the Department of Classics and Ancient History, as well as Research Coordinator to the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture. I spent two much-loved years at Warwick, firstly as Teaching Fellow in Roman History (2019/20) and then as Senior Teaching Fellow in Roman History and Epigraphy (2020/21). Since then, I have worked at Newcastle University and the Science Museum. I now work at the Wellcome Collection, where I develop and lead participatory research projects to create new knowledge about our collections. I am delighted to remain connected to Warwick as Honorary Research Fellow.

I was previously Disability Liaison Officer for the Women's Classical Committee (2018-2022). I am currently a member of the CUCD EDI Committee (2020-) and supporter of the Network for Working-Class Classicists (2020-), with whom I co-authored the UK Class in Classics Report 2024. I am also a member of the AHRC's Peer Review College (2022-), offering expertise in the environmental humanities, museums and galleries, and impact and public engagement.

    Research interests

    I am an ancient environmental historian, specialising in the communities on the ‘edges’ of the Roman world. My research engages with contemporary theories of climate justice, focusing on the lived experience of ancient environments and their entanglement in diachronic colonial histories.

    My doctoral research, funded by the AHRC and freely available here, examined the relationship between water and religious life in Roman Syria, focusing on how religious communities engaged with water in the characterisation of gods, the organisation of sacred spaces and the development of patterns of worship. By examining historical and environmental evidence in parallel, I demonstrated that the religious communities of the region engaged critically with water in the development of their traditions and practices, and that the nature of this engagement was directly influenced by local environmental conditions.

    My current research project, The Nature of the Near East: Environments and their Religious Communities in the Roman Empire, mobilises and expands the methodology of environmental history to disentangle the study of religious life in the Roman Near East from the perceived ‘otherness’ of the region’s environments and communities. Environmental history, I argue, proactively foregrounds the lived experiences of these religious communities within the environments they valued, as well as recovering them from a position of historic marginalisation. I have recently developed a case study on the Sacred Grove of Tadmor-Palmyra, which uses environmental history to trace the long-histories and legacies of eco-orientalism in our understanding of the city and its peoples.

    Another strand of my research centres on the lived experience of environmental change, which brings ancient inscriptions into dialogue with modern ecological thinking about the emotional and social impact of ecological devastation and loss.This work will appear in a forthcoming chapter, ‘Ecological grief and the Safaitic inscriptions of ancient north Arabia’, which examines the graffiti of nomadic pastoralists through the concept of ‘ecological grief’. I demonstrate that doing so changes our understanding of the texts’ authors and their environmental, emotional and religious worldviews, as well as revealing the possible contribution of material texts to positive action in the face of modern environmental change. Click here for a video of me discussing this project in 2020 as part of Warwick's Faculty of Arts at Home video series. I am also a member of the AHRC Research Network, Environmental Emotions: Theory, Testimony, Politics.


    (under review) 'Extra-urban sanctuaries and environments: environmental history and the Sacred Grove of Tadmor-Palmyra' Acta Instituti Atheniensis Regni Sueciae.

    (forthcoming) 'Ecological grief and the Safaitic inscriptions of ancient north Arabia' in Eidinow, E. and Schliephake, C. eds. Conversing with Chaos in Greco-Roman Antiquity, Bloomsbury Ancient Environments.

    (2024) UK Class in Classics Report 2024, with L.G. Canevaro, M. Canevaro, B. Mazzinghi Gori, and H. Stead.

    (2022) ‘Religious Life’ with Ewins, A. in Kaizer, T. ed. A Companion to the Hellenistic and Roman Near East, Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World. Wiley Blackwell, Malden, MA .

    (2021) 'Contextualizing the sacred in the Hellenistic and Roman Near East' Bibliotheca Orientalis 77.5/6, pp.429-445.

    (2020) 'Environments and gods: creating the sacred landscape of Mount Kasios’ in Haüssler, R. and Chiai, G.F. eds. Sacred Landscapes in Antiquity: Creation, Manipulation, Transformation, Oxbow Books, Oxford.

    Public engagement

    I regularly contribute to the activities of the Warwick Classics Network and specialise in the history and material culture of the Roman world. I am passionate about studying the ancient world through a plurality of voices and bringing them into dialogue with modern interests, particularly the climate crisis and social justice. I was Editor of the Stories of Objects blog, which brought to life aspects of the ancient world through the study of individual objects. The blog featured posts by our student community and evolved from my Stories of Objects module that launched in summer 2021. School teachers are welcome to use the blog to support their teaching. My research interests and teaching specialisms complement the following OCR modules:

    • GCSE Ancient History: Cleopatra: Rome and Egypt and Britannia: from conquest to province
    • A-Level Ancient History: The Julio-Claudian Emperors and The Flavians
    • GCSE Classical Civilisation: Myth and Religion, Women in the ancient world, and Roman city life
    • A-Level Classical Civilisation: Imperial Image and Invention of the Barbarian

    School teachers are welcome to use any of my existing online content to support their teaching:


    • BA; MA; PhD (Durham)

    Student contact

    Please contact me via email.