Professor Watts received his PhD in History from Yale University in 2002. His research interests center on the intellectual and religious history of the Roman Empire and the early Byzantine Empire. His first book, City and School in Late Antique Athens and Alexandria (University of California Press, 2006), explains how the increasingly Christian upper class of the late antique world used a combination of economic and political pressures to neutralize pagan elements of the traditional educational system. City and School received the Outstanding Publication Award from the Classical Association of the Middle West and South in 2007. His second book, Riot in Alexandria: Historical Debate in Pagan and Christian Communities (University of California Press, 2010), uses Greek, Latin, Coptic, and Syriac sources to reconstruct an Alexandrian riot that erupted in 486 AD. Riot received a 2010 PROSE Award Honorable Mention in Classics and Ancient History. His third book, The Final Pagan Generation (University of California Press, 2015) offers a generational history of the men born in the 310s that traces the experience of living through the fourth century’s dramatic religious and political changes. It was awarded the 2015 Phi Alpha Theta Best Subsequent Book Prize. His fourth book, Hypatia: The Life and Legend of an Ancient Philosopher (Oxford University Press, 2017) recounts the life of an important female philosopher whose work redefined philosophy and whose death resonated as a symbol of dramatic religious and social change in the early fifth century.
In addition to these four monographs, he has co-edited five other volumes (From the Theodosians to the Tetrarchs [Cambridge, 2010]; Shifting Cultural Frontiers in Late Antiquity [Ashgate, 2012]; Freedom of Speech and Self Censorship in Late Antiquity [a special issue of the Revue Belge published in 2014]; Late Antique Letter Collections: A Critical Introduction and Reference Guide [University of California Press, 2016], and the Blackwell Companion to Late Antique Literature [Wiley-Blackwell, forthcoming]. He has also authored more than 40 articles on topics ranging from the Old Academy in the fourth century BC to the relationship between orality and textuality in the early Byzantine period. He is currently preparing a monograph tracing the Romanization and de-Romanization of the Mediterranean world between 96 and 850 AD (The Rise and Fall of the Roman Nation, [Oxford University Press, forthcoming]) and is co-authoring a volume introducing the historical and classroom uses of Roman imperial coins. Before coming to UCSD in 2012, Professor Watts taught for ten years at Indiana University. Professor Watts teaches courses on Byzantine History, Roman History, Late Antique Christianity and paganism, Roman numismatics, and the history of the Medieval Mediterranean.
Dr. Watts was the director of the Center for Hellenic Studies from 2014-2016.
January 7th, 2019 | 56 mins 16 secs
My guest is Edward J. Watts. In "Mortal Republic", this prize-winning historian offers a new history of the fall of the Roman Republic that explains why Rome exchanged freedom for autocracy. For centuries, even as Rome grew into the Mediterranean's premier military and political power, its governing institutions, parliamentary rules, and political customs successfully fostered negotiation and compromise. By the 130s BC, however, Rome's leaders increasingly used these same tools to cynically pursue individual gain and obstruct their opponents. As the center decayed and dysfunction grew, arguments between politicians gave way to political violence in the streets. The stage was set for destructive civil wars--and ultimately the imperial reign of Augustus.