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Name: Rebecca Batty

PhD: Classics

Thesis Title: Rivers, Rulers and Romans: How do rivers in Augustan literature reflect the relationship between power and environment?


Thesis Description:

My project explores the significance of rivers in the cultural production of the Augustan era, an age when redefining Roman power demanded new and better metaphors to reflect a radical new political system. Rivers play a prominent role in Augustan Rome as a symbol of power, from the Tiber to the Nile and Danube. The relationship between ethnicity and nationality is again challenging political ideology and discourse, making this an important time to explore how national power is articulated through landscape and territorialism. Rivers, I argue, showcase the perils and opportunities of technocracy and the complex relationship between polities and their environments at a historical moment when claiming a right to territory required new articulation.

My thesis examines three case studies of the rivers Tiber, Nile and Danube. In the Augustan period claiming power required subtlety, where gaining territory was not only occupying the land, but also presenting it as legitimate in the Roman national landscape. By analysing the literary depictions of rivers in Rome and comparing with the depictions of the rivers at the Eastern and Western borders, my project will combine literary criticism and cultural geography to elucidate how growing Roman power is articulated through the presentation of rivers.

My thesis builds on research undertaken for my Masters dissertation on the use of rivers in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Alice Oswald’s Dart, which in turn used research from my undergraduate degree in Classical Civilisation and English.


Supervisors and Institution(s): Professor Helen Lovatt (UoN),  Professor Diana Spencer (UoB), Professor Charles Watkins (UoN)




Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:


  • Member of committee for UoN Landscape, Space and Place Reading Group
  • Co-organiser of Orientations: A Conference of Narrative and Place
  • Co-organiser of Echoes Symposium



  • Social media manager for Mint Imperials blog, 2016 – present.
  • ‘Seneca’s Medea and the Politics of Destruction’, paper given at the ‘Ancients Behaving Badly’ UWICAH postgraduate conference at Swansea, 19th November 2016.
  • Placement at the University of Nottingham's Manuscripts and Special Collections department. I was responsible for cleaning, identifying and cataloguing newly acquired books from the Loughborough Parish Library Collection. Oct 2015 – May 2016.


Other Research Interests:

  • Reception of classics in film
  • Ovid in modern English poetry


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