Joshel, Sandra R(ae) 1947-

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JOSHEL, Sandra R(ae) 1947-


Born 1947. Education: Skidmore College, B.A.; Rutgers University, Ph.D., 1977.


Office—University of Washington, History Department, Box 353560, Seattle, WA 98195-3560; fax: 206-543-9451. E-mail—[email protected]


Historian, educator, and author. New England Conservatory of Music, Boston, MA, instructor in liberal arts department; University of Washington, Seattle, assistant professor of ancient Rome.


Fulbright-Hays fellowship; National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship for independent study.


Work, Identity, and Legal Status at Rome: A Study of the Occupational Inscriptions, University of Oklahoma Press (Norman, OK), 1992.

(Editor, with Sheila Murnaghan) Women and Slaves in Greco-Roman Culture: Differential Equations, Routledge (New York, NY), 1998.

(Editor, with Margaret Malamud and Donald T. McGuire, Jr.) Imperial Projections: Ancient Rome in Modern Popular Culture, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 2001.

Also contributor to scholarly journals, including Journal of Popular Culture.


An historian and classicist, Sandra R. Joshel has a particular interest in the lives and status of the less visible populations in ancient Rome: the vast majority of Roman slaves, freedmen, and women who have often been overlooked by most other historians. In Work, Identity, and Legal Status at Rome: A Study of the Occupational Inscriptions, she uses carvings on sepulchers and other monuments to tease out the ways ordinary Romans perceived their status within society. "The results are highly speculative, but considering the nature of the evidence, they could hardly be otherwise," noted Choice reviewer R. I. Curtis. Much like today, people chose particular job titles to define themselves and claim a place in society, and Joshel uses "descriptive statistics" to shed light on the lives and thoughts of the people in ancient Rome.

In Women and Slaves in Greco-Roman Culture: Differential Equations, Joshel and coeditor Sheila Murnaghan bring together a series of essays that provide a fuller treatment of the ancient world's attitude toward the marginalized. As Times Literary Supplement reviewer William Fitzgerald explained, the editors "have set out to trace 'the process of simultaneous assimilation and distinction' of women and slaves in the Greco-Roman world, from Homer to Augustus, and their pithy introduction makes a convincing case for the mutual implication of slavery and gender in the ancient world." While the evidence, almost always written by and for the free male elite, is inevitably one-sided, essayists are able to read between the lines to discover the hidden fears, affection, and even grudging admiration that complicated Greek and Roman freedmen's feelings toward the "inferiors" who were such an important and intimate part of their lives.

In much of her work, Joshel has sought clues to the lives of Romans in their cultural artifacts and art forms. In Imperial Projections: Ancient Rome inModern Popular Culture, she instead uses our own popular art forms to explore ancient Roman culture. The book is "an insightful exploration into how Imperial Rome, in its various guises, has provided a malleable and commercially viable mythos that has found special receptivity in modern America," according to History contributor Amy Henderson. From silent films like the original Ben Hur to the hugely popular I, Claudius television series and the academy-award winning Gladiator, as well as plays, novels, and even Las Vegas casinos, Rome has clearly gripped the American imagination, and its "decadence" is a staple throughout our popular culture. Joshel and her fellow editors and essayists discuss the many ways that modern attitudes toward sex and sexuality, gender roles, and class assumptions often underlie attitudes toward ancient Rome. For Bryn Mawr Classical Review contributor Kirk Ormand, "Imperial Projections is a terrific book. It successfully merges modern cultural critique with sound classical scholarship, and does so in a manner that is enjoyable to read and intellectually challenging."



Bryn Mawr Classical Review, July 29, 2002, Kirk Ormand, review of Imperial Projections: Ancient Rome in Modern Popular Culture.

Choice, November, 1992, R. I. Curtis, review of Work, Identity, and Legal Status at Rome: A Study of the Occupational Inscriptions, p. 526.

History, summer, 2002, Amy Henderson, review of Imperial Projections, p. 175.

Times Literary Supplement, April 30, 1999, William Fitzgerald, "Women and Slaves Last," p. 38.


University of Washington Department of History Web site, (August 27, 2004), "Sandra R. Joshel."*

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