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Prof Zahra Newby

Professor Zahra Newby


Professor in Classics & Ancient History
Head of Department 2018-2023

2023-2024: On Research Leave

Tel: 22367; 02476 523023
Email: Z dot L dot Newby at warwick dot ac dot uk

Faculty of Arts Building 2.14, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL


After studying Classics (Literae Humaniores) at Oxford, Prof Zahra Newby went to the Courtauld Institute of Art, London to study for a Masters in Ancient Art. She stayed at the Courtauld for her doctorate, focussed on Art in the Second Sophistic , under the supervision of Jas' Elsner. Zahra took up her post at Warwick in 2000.

Her research interests lie in art of the Roman empire in its widest cultural contexts, including art in the provinces of the Greek east, the Roman response to Greek culture, ancient funerary art, ancient athletics, festival culture and the relationships between art and text (see further below). She welcomes research students in any of these areas.

She has acted as external examiner for Birkbeck College, London; Glasgow University and Royal Holloway, University of London.

Research interests

I work on the visual arts of the Roman empire. My doctoral thesis (2000, Courtauld Institute of Art, London) studied the elite art of the middle Roman empire in its social and cultural contexts, particularly in relation to the flowering of Greek culture known as the Second Sophistic. My monograph on Greek Athletics in the Roman World (Oxford, 2005) looks at the visual representation of athletic subjects in the Roman empire and the roles played by athletic activity in the self-representation of cities and individuals and I have also published an introductory book to ancient athletics: Athletics in the Ancient World (Duckworth, 2006). My latest project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, returns to Greek festival culture in the Roman empire, looking at the active role that visual material culture played in creating the meanings of civic festivals for their participants and spectators.

I am also interested in the links between art and text: I have co-edited a volume on Art and Inscriptions in the Ancient World and have written a number of articles on the viewing of visual images in imperial Greek literature.

Another interest is in the representation of Greek myth. My latest monograph, Greek Myths in Roman Art and Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2016) explores the representation of Greek mythology in Roman art, with a particular focus on domestic and funerary contexts. I have also published a number of articles on mythological sarcophagi and recently co-edited, together with Anthropologist Ruth E. Toulson, a volume of papers exploring the active roles played by images in the contexts of grief and remembrance (Routledge 2018). These papers draw on a workshopLink opens in a new window held at Warwick in May 2016, funded by the Wellcome Trust.

I contributed to the Open University OpenLearn module on The Ancient OlympicsLink opens in a new window, which gained an award for OpenCourseWare Excellence at the Open Educational Resource 2012 conference.

I am committed to conveying my research to a wider audience. In addition to talks at schools, I have also given public educational lectures at Compton Verney, Warwickshire, and the British Museum.

Teaching and supervision

In 2006 I was awarded the Butterworth Memorial Teaching Award by the University.


  • Domestic Space in the Roman World
  • Art and Architecture of Asia Minor
  • Roman Culture and Society
  • Greek Culture and Society
  • Hellenistic World


  • Taught MA in Ancient Visual and Material Culture
  • Taught MA in the Visual and Material Culture of Ancient Rome

MA and PhD supervision:

I am keen to supervise topics across the spectrum of ancient art, with particular interests in Roman domestic and funerary art, ancient athletics, art and text, and festival culture in the Roman Empire. Current and past research topics under my supervision include:

  • Gymnasia in Postclassical Greece (Mainland and the Cycladic Islands): Change, Continuity and the Built Environment. (PhD, Matthew Evans; co-supervised with Prof. Michael Scott).
  • Images of female mythological sacrificial characters and the role of the feminine in Roman art. (PhD, Jacqui Butler)
  • The Representation of Otherness in the Imagines of Philostratus. (PhD, Elena Claudi, co-supervised with Dr. Elena Giusti).
  • Colour in Greek and Roman Art (PhD, Vicky Jewell, co-supervised with Michael Scott)
  • Defining a Late Antique Aesthetic in Art and Text (PhD, Miriam Hay, funded by a Wolfson Fellowship)
  • Material Responses to Tyranny (PhD Nigel Heathcote)
  • Egyptianising Monuments in Roman Art (PhD, Vanessa Mackenzie, awarded 2012)
  • Roman funerary monuments of North Africa (MA by research, Charles Ford)
  • Expressions of Cultural Identity in Roman Funerary Monuments (MA by research)
  • Art and Propaganda in the regimes of Augustus and Constantine (MA by research)

Administrative roles

  • Head of Department (2018-2023)
  • Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Classics and Ancient History (2010-2012, 2013-2017)
  • Deputy Head of Department, Classics and Ancient History (2016-17)
  • Deputy Chair of Arts Faculty Graduate Studies Committee (2014-16).

Selected publications


  • Edited: The Material Dynamics of Festivals in the Graeco-Roman East. (Oxford University Press, 2023).
  • The Materiality of Mourning. Cross-disciplinary Perspectives. Ed. with Ruth Toulson (Routledge, 2018).
  • Greek Myths in Roman Art and Culture: Imagery, values and identity in Italy, 50 BC - AD 150. (Cambridge University Press, 2016)
  • Art and Inscriptions in the Ancient World. Ed. with R. Leader-Newby (Cambridge University Press, 2007)
  • Athletics in the Ancient World (Duckworth, 2006)
  • Greek Athletics in the Roman World. Victory and Virtue (Oxford University Press, 2005)

View more publications

Professional associations

I am a regular peer-reviewer for Classical Journals and publishers. I have acted as a member of Council for the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies and have served on the JACT Ancient History committee (chair 2007-2010) and the Classical Association Journals Board.


  • M.A. (Oxford); M.A. (London)
  • Ph.D. (London)

Student Drop-in Hours

During 2023-24 I will be on research leave. Please contact if you have queries relating to the Department, or otherwise email me.



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