PhD Position

(PhD) Anchoring Empire in the Roman Past

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Radboud University
Erasmusplein 1
6500 HD Nijmegen

Dr. Suzanne van de Liefvoort
+31(0)24 3611276

Anchoring Empire in the Roman Past

Anchoring WP10: Cultural Common Ground in the Roman Empire (31 BCE-200 CE)

PhD Position (4 years, 1.0 fte), Radboud University

Main Supervisors: Prof. dr Olivier Hekster (Nijmegen) and Dr Rens Tacoma (Leiden)

Salary Range: between € 2.541 and € 3.247 gross per month

Project Description

Over the centuries, Rome grew from a city state into one of the largest empires in history, which in late antiquity developed into a relatively stable eastern part and increasingly fragmented western part. It changed from a (legendary) monarchy into a Republic, and then into an imperial structure, and from a political unit of a relatively cohesive people into a multi-ethnic and multi-cultured empire. Throughout these changes, inhabitants of Rome described themselves as ‘Romans’ (in Latin or Greek) and developed ideas of what ‘being Roman’ entailed. The concept of mos / mos maiorum was an important way to shape this ‘Romanity’, which set Romans apart from others in their world. Romans often reacted to massive changes in the socio-political framework of their society by anchoring the new situation in a known or constructed past, taking their own political institutes of bygone days as point of reference, often reconfiguring them in the process.

This PhD project focuses on the ways in which Romans used ‘Roman’ examples of political institutes and practices to understand and adapt to major changes in their political culture. Major shifts in society led to political tensions and changes in governmental structures, which were then often anchored in a Roman past. What types of Roman examples were used in this process? How was the Roman past (re)construed to fit new socio-political situations? How was Rome able to create and retain a notion of ‘Romanity’ in a massively changing world? The research can take any major socio-political shift from Roman history to approach this phenomenon, from the period in which Rome changed from a smallish state into a world empire in the 3rd and 2nd century BCE to the fragmentation of the Roman west in the 5th century CE., and beyond, to the reconfigurations of romanitas of the post-classical successor states in the West and Justinian’s reshaping of the empire in Byzantium.

In short, the research will look at the ways in which changes in Roman political culture were anchored in a specifically ‘Roman’ past in order to retain the idea of a continued Roman identity. We invite structured PhD proposals (title, research question, scholarly background, aims, method, corpus) on this theme.

The research program in classical studies ‘Anchoring Innovation’ studies the way in which people regard and cope with such transitions by relating/connecting what is perceived as new to something that is already familiar (either by way of contrast or analogy). More information about this program can be found on the website ( Another good starting point to get acquainted with the research program is an article by Ineke Sluiter, entitled “Anchoring Innovation: a Classical Research Agenda”.

Terms and Conditions

PhD project, 4 years (1.0 FTE, 38 hrs per week), starting date to be agreed upon, with a preference for September 1, 2023. Initially the employee will receive an 18 month contract, with extension for the following 30 months on condition of a positive evaluation. The appointment must lead to the completion of a PhD thesis. Salary range from € 2.541 to € 3.247 gross per month for a fulltime appointment (pay scale for PhDs, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities).

Radboud University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3%), training and career development. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. Please note that if the successful candidate is not already registered as living in the Netherlands, it is required that the candidate will officially relocate to the Netherlands on the starting date of the contract at the latest.

Tasks of the PhD candidate will include

  • Completion of a PhD thesis within the contract period;
  • Participation in meetings of the project research group(s);
  • Presentations of intermediate research results at workshops and conferences;
  • Participation in the training program of the Radboud Graduate School for the Humanities, the National Research School in Classics (OIKOS) and the wider Anchoring Innovation project;
  • Participation in staff meetings and in the intellectual life of the department and the institute
  • Some teaching in the second and third years of the appointment.


  • A RMA, MA or MPhil degree in Ancient History, or Classics, or similar, held by the time of appointment, with an MA thesis of high quality with a grade of at least 8.0 on a ten-point scale, or comparable assessment (if the degree is not yet obtained at the time of application, a statement by the applicant’s supervisor should confirm that it will be obtained by time of appointment);
  • Well-developed research skills, including the ability to formulate relevant and creative research questions and hypotheses, descriptive and analytical skills, and a clear and persuasive style of writing;
  • Excellent competence in English, good reading knowledge of Greek and/or Latin (depending on the subject), passive knowledge of the relevant modern languages;
  • Independent thinker;
  • Team player.


The Anchoring Innovation program is strongly committed to diversity within its team and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.


Enquiries about the position can be addressed to Prof. dr Olivier Hekster ( We deliberately scheduled a long period between this announcement and the deadline for submission so that candidates have ample time to prepare their own versions of the projects outlined above. We know that the design of a good project takes time and effort. Do not hesitate to contact your prospective supervisor about this. Questions about the procedure can be directed to Dr Suzanne van de Liefvoort (


In order to be admissible, applications must include the following information (in the same order), in one PDF file (not zipped):

  • Cover letter;
  • CV, including contact information of two referees;
  • Transcript of records (i.e. a certified copy of your MA and BA course lists and results);
  • Research proposal of 1500 words. This does not include the bibliography and (if appropriate) an appendix containing a list of sources (together max. two pages A4);
  • Copy of relevant diploma or statement by master thesis supervisor confirming that the applicant will hold the required degree at the time of appointment.

Please submit your complete application to Dr Suzanne van de Liefvoort, the coordinator of the Anchoring-program via before April 24, 2023. Interviews will take place in the week of 22-26 May 2023 (online).