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Dr Alice König

Senior Lecturer in Latin & Classical Studies
Director of the Centre for the Literatures of the Roman Empire, LT programme convener

Phone: 01334 462607

Room: S18

Research profile

Research Interests

  • Imperial Latin literature, especially Flavian, Nervan and Trajanic literature 
  • intertextuality and literary interactivity
  • the interface between literature and society, socio-literary interactions
  • intellectual history, particularly ancient technical/scientific writing
  • ancient representations of war, and the reception of ancient military writing in Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance 
  • the Latin exempla tradition and ancient didactic writing
  • ancient biography (especially Tacitus and Suetonius)
  • Roman imperial women (especially Agrippina the Younger).  

Current research

I am writing a monograph which will examine the surviving works of the Roman author and statesman Sextus Julius Frontinus, both for their own sake and as a window onto his world. It will offer new readings of his treatises on Roman land surveying, military tactics and Rome's aqueduct network, and in so doing aims to develop our understanding of Frontinus’ concerns and credentials as a writer, and to expose the extent of his impact upon Roman literary, social and political life. In the process, it will make significant contributions to the study of ancient ‘technical’ writing, ancient categories of knowledge, Domitianic, Nervan and Trajanic politics, and elite identity and aspirations during that period. It will engage with the writings of Martial, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Aelianus Tacticus, Plutarch, Arrian and Vegetius, among others, and will also examine the mediaeval and renaissance reception of Frontinus (via scholars like John of Salisbury, Christine de Pisan, Jean Gerson and Machiavelli). I have been supported in this project by a two-year Leverhulme Research Fellowship (Sept 2012-August 2014).

In 2012, I was awarded funding by the BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grants Scheme to run a collaborative research project entitled 'Literary Interactions under Nerva, Trajan and Hadrian'. This project has brought together many prominent researchers on Nervan, Trajanic and Hadrianic literature, via a workshop and four conferences (in St Andrews, Rostock, Boston and Exeter). It aims to develop our understanding not just of individual texts but also of the nature and impact of their cross-pollination (within and across genres, and between Latin, Greek, Jewish and early Christian reading and writing communities). The project’s first volume (co-edited with Christopher Whitton) was published in 2018, and the second (co-edited with James Uden and Rebecca Langlands) will be published in 2020. Both contribute to the wider study of literary communities and cultural interaction across the Roman empire, and both make significant methodological contributions to the study of intertextuality

With my colleague Nicolas Wiater, I established a new research project in 2017 entitled Visualising War: Interplay between Battle Narratives in Ancient and Modern Cultures. This project combines my interest in ancient military narratives and treatises with my interest in intertextuality, socio-literary interactivity and cross-cultural interactions. It has a strong interdisciplinary dimension and has generated a range of collaborations and outreach activities with scholars based in Biology, English, Film Studies, History, International Relations, Modern Languages, Music and Psychology, working on very different materials from different periods and places. Our first edited volume (Visualising War: Interplay between Battle Narratives across Antiquity) is in production. The interdisciplinary Visualising War Research Group, set up in 2018, runs regular workshops and conferences.. 

From 2012-16, I ran a pedagogical research project with Emma Buckley entitled 'Latin Language Teaching and the Student Experience'. This project examined the language learning experience of Latin students at Scottish universities in view of changing student demographics and school-based language-learning experiences. The results of this analysis were published in the Journal of Classics Teaching in 2017, and have enabled us to review our teaching and assessment practices across all four years of our Latin and Classics degree programmes at St Andrews so that we can better support and integrate a wide variety of students. Our findings have implications for the teaching of Latin (and Greek) in other Classics departments across the UK, especially at Scottish universities where the mix of qualifications is often more pronounced than south of the border. In November 2016 Emma Buckley and Alice König were both awarded McCall MacBain teaching awards for this project, in recognition of their outstanding contributions to research-led teaching. The bursaries that came with these awards funded some follow-on work, including the development of Latin vocabulary-building exercises and work on the first ever online dictionary of Latin synonyms, designed and developed by research assistant Tommaso Spinelli.

I have been a member of the RSE Young Academy of Scotland since 2016, and Co-Chair since 2018. During that time I have been involved in a range of cross-disciplinary projects addressing some of the most challenging issues facing society in Scotland and beyond – including Brexit, immigration, future educational models for a rapidly changing world, and Responsible Debate. I work with the Young Academy of Scotland and Book Aid International to support Mosul Book Bridge, an NGO helping to restock and rebuild Mosul University Library in Iraq. I sit on the RSE Human Rights Committee, work with other Young Academy members on our At Risk Academic and Refugee support schemes, and serve as a mentor for the IIE's Scholar Rescue Fund and the Robertson Trust. Other outreach activitiesinclude regular schools talks on topics such as war stories, ancient science, ancient explorers and intertextuality; guest appearances on BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time programme; and writing for exhibition catalogues, concert/opera programme notes and popular magazines on topics related to my research.

Research Students

  • I am currently supervising PhDs on Vitruvius, Tacitus and ancient biography.
  • I am happy to supervise in any of the areas listed above under ‘research interests’.
  • I am particularly keen to work with postgraduate research students on topics relating to intertextuality/literary interactivity or war stories, and on topics relating to the Schools’ Centre for the Literatures of the Roman Empire which I direct. 


For further information on publications, please view my profile on the university's research portal.

Academic career

Undergraduate degree and MPhil: King's College, Cambridge. PhD: St John's College, Cambridge.

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