Lewis Webb


Institutionen för historiska
Renströmsgatan 6
41255 Göteborg
Box 200
40530 Göteborg

Om Lewis Webb

Academic Background

I am a Postdoctoral Researcher in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History at the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Gothenburg and a Swedish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the Faculty of Classics at the University of Oxford.

I received a BMedSci in Neurology and Physiology (2009) from Flinders University, a BA (Hons) in Classical Studies and Psychology (2011) and an MPhil in Classical Studies (2014) from the University of Adelaide, and a PhD in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History (2019) from the University of Gothenburg. My PhD thesis examined competitions for status among senatorial women in Mid-Republican Rome with a focus on competitive domains, resources, and regulation.

In 2019, I was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University and at the Department of Classics and Ancient History at Durham University.

Research Interests

I am a social and cultural historian of the Roman Republican and imperial periods, specializing in gender, law, religion, and space in Republican Rome. Much of my recent work has focused on Roman women, particularly their public roles and visibility.

My research interests extend in various additional directions, including comparative approaches to sexuality and shame in Rome, northern alterities in Roman literature, early Roman legislation, theoretical approaches to Roman archaeology, the Anthropocene, and the material culture of Etruria and Thessaly.

My current research project is entitled ‘(In)visible women: Female spatial practices and visibility in urban spaces in Republican Rome (509–27 BCE)’ and is funded by the Swedish Research Council (2020–2022). This project aims to challenge and resolve some ancient and contemporary misconceptions about women in Republican Rome, especially their purported invisibility and association with domestic spaces and practices. As part of this project, I am preparing a monograph on senatorial women in Mid-Republican Rome for Bloomsbury.

Additionally, I am a researcher within two archaeological projects in Italy and Greece, namely the Swedish research project Understanding Urban Identities from the Bronze Age to the Roman time: The case of Vulci in the context of southern Etruria in Viterbo, Italy, which is investigating the ancient city of Vulci, and the Greek-Swedish Palamas Archaeological Project in the municipality of Palamas, Greece, which is investigating the ancient city at Vlochos.

I am also a series editor for the newly launched book series Women in Ancient Cultures for Liverpool University Press: https://liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/pages/women-in-ancient-cultures

(In)visible women: Female spatial practices and visibility in urban spaces in Republican Rome (509–27 BCE)

A woman’s place was at home in Republican Rome (509–27 BCE). To appear in public was ‘abnormal’ or ‘transgressive’. Such is the status quo in the traditional scholarship. This project will challenge this status quo by comprehensively examining and visualizing all the available ancient evidence for female spatial practices and visibility in urban spaces in Republican Rome. To do so it will adopt an interdisciplinary, intersectional approach, combining Roman Republican history, spatial history, and gender history with intersectional feminist theory, a spatial database, and digital mapping. Traditional scholarship links women in Rome with private spaces and practices, but recent scholarship highlights their public lives and practices. So how (in)visible were they? The project aims to challenge and resolve misconceptions about these women and to shed light on their lives. The method encompasses 1) the survey and analysis of all available ancient textual and material evidence; 2) the construction of a spatial database that collates the survey data and links women with urban spaces; 3) the construction of a digital deep map to visualize these data; and 4) the synthesis of results and overarching analysis. This novel project will expand our knowledge of women’s lives, enhance the visibility of past women, and offer an interdisciplinary model for reconsidering female spatial practices and visibility in other periods and cultures.

PhD Thesis: Elite female status competition in Mid-Republican Rome

Competition: a force that pervades societies, both ancient and modern. This force takes a central role in the discourses of modern biology, sociology, psychology, gender studies and economics; theorists in these fields trace the human struggles for life, status, capital and sexual partners, and economists defend the value of economic competition.

In my research, I focused on competition in antiquity, but limited my scope to elite female status competition in Mid-Republican Rome (264–133 BCE).

In the past, scholarship on the Roman Republic has drawn particular attention to the importance of status competition for elite males, but few scholars have examined intersections between status competition and gender. I hoped to remedy this lacuna, inspired by modern research on female competition in sociology, psychology and gender studies.

In brief, my findings indicated that 1) senatorial women competed for status by visibly displaying their wealth and other resources throughout the city, especially during public religious activity, banquets, funerary practices, and the triumphal procession, 2) that they had vast resources available for their competitions, including wealth, social networks, and status symbols, and 3) that Roman legislators tried and ultimately failed to regulate female status competition through laws and other sanctions.