Nicholas Hudson

PhD | Classical and Near Eastern Studies | University of Minnesota | 2006

MA | Interdisciplinary Archaeological Studies | University of Minnesota | 2000

BA | Anthropology and History | University of California at Santa Cruz | 1997

Research and Teaching Interests

As an archaeologist who studies the material culture of the Roman and Late Antique Mediterranean (ca. 100 BCE – 650 CE), I am especially interested in the transformation of social institutions that occurred in Late Antiquity (ca. 250 – 650 CE). This dynamic period of time witnessed dramatic shifts in governance, social order, and daily civic practice. The social compacts that served as the foundations of the Classical World (the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome) gave way to new agreements that defined emergent traditions and institutions that took root to shape the Medieval West and the Byzantine East. 

I am especially interested in the daily lives of the people who populated the Roman Empire during this dynamic period. I try to go beyond the grand figures of history, such as the emperors and empresses, the statesmen and generals. Instead, my inquiries focus on the lives of the anonymous population that served as the foundation of empire. As such, my primary research tool is pottery, the mundane workaday artefact of human lifeways. 

Pottery was used to transport, store, cook, serve, and eat food. My research aims to use pottery to shed light on ancient foodways at the household level, hopefully to reveal how people chose to eat their meals as a reflection of personal control of social landscapes. What were they eating? How were they eating it? Who were they eating with, and why? Just as our own choices about with whom we choose to dine reflect our own perceptions of our place in our communities, so too do ancient choices. My ambition is to better understand how people expressed their social identities through meal preparation and consumption in order to better understand the motivations and worldviews of the Late Antique masses. In the end, my intention is to use archaeology to provide a voice to the voiceless populations of Roman imperial history.

In the classroom, my teaching is informed by my research. My ambition is to teach ancient art history always with the goal of providing a voice to the silent classes of the ancient Mediterranean and beyond. I believe this is important so we can learn history not just as a series of events framed by big names and big events, but also as a landscape populated by regular people whose ambitions and aspirations were not so different than our own: access to personal stability, safety, and opportunity. By bringing the anonymous masses into the classroom, so we can see ourselves in history. In so doing, we can make the ancient world relatable and we can make it matter to our lives today.

Ancient Art Courses at UNCW

Fieldwork past and present. Click on markers to explore.

Current Writing Projects (non-field work-related)

Book: Dining at the End of Antiquity

Reconstruction of client class diners sharing a meal, 4th century CE, Kourion, Cyprus. © Nicholas Hudson 2023
Reconstruction of patron class diners reclining on a stibadium couch, 4th century CE, Aphrodisias, Turkey. © Nicholas Hudson 2023

Article: Casa del Menandro Silver

I am currently working on a critique of the current interpretation of 1st century CE silver table set from the Casa del Menandro at Pompeii. I am offering a new analysis of the archaeological material along with a significant reassessment of how similar silver sets were used – and thus how we should understand them – by the influential and powerful members of Roman society during the Principate (late 1st century BCE through mid-3rd century CE).

Computer rendered assemblage of the Casa del Menandro silver.  © Nicholas Hudson 2021

Article: Historiography of Roman dining

I am in the early stages of two essays that explore the historiography of Roman dining within both Roman Studies and popular culture. The first essay looks at how 18th and 19th century British scholarship shaped the study of Roman culinary and dining traditions. It unpacks the moral baggage Victorian scholars and antiquarians burdened the topic and disconnects it from concepts of British imperialism that framed Roman dining practices as either a moral model by celebrating ancient sources like Cicero and Pliny, or as a cautionary tale of corruption and decay by citing the likes of Martial. The second essay will continue the historiography to highlight the shifting interests and perspectives applied to Roman dining during the 20th century. It will outline how emerging scholarly traditions mid-century helped shape new approaches that are beginning to change our understanding of the topic as a bellwether of civic health and engagement.

Painting by Thomas Couture, Romans during the Decadence, 1847. Musée d’Orsay permanent collection.

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