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The Sustainable Past

A new podcast series on Archaeology and Sustainability.

What can we learn from the ancient Roman and Greeks to help with environmental sustainability issues today? Patricia Baker and Giacomo Savani will explore possible answers to this question in a new podcast series with leading scholars who will address the environmental concerns which are of critical importance for ourselves, future generations, and all life on our delicate planet. Each speaker will be invited to explain their subject and personal view of what we can learn from the past to help make the world more sustainable for the future.

In this series, every Tuesday from 8 June to 13 July, six scholars will highlight some of the cutting-edge research and activities that are being undertaken in classical studies.


8 June. Introduction to the series, by Patricia Baker and Giacomo Savani

15 June. Interview with Dr Christopher Schliephake, a leading scholar in ancient environmental humanities, will present a detailed review of current scholarship in this field

22 June. Interview with Dr Andrea Brock, a leading archaeologist on ancient environmental archaeology who will speak about her work on the Tiber river studying the early foundations of ancient Rome

29 June. Professor Jason König, an expert on environments mentioned in ancient Greco-Roman literature, will illustrate his work on ancient conceptions of mountains

6 July. Professor Kathryn Gleason, an expert on Ancient Roman Gardens, will explain how the Romans created their gardens and what they meant to them

13 July. The final interview. Dr Giacomo Savani, an expert on ancient Roman baths, and Dr Matthew Mandich, who works on ancient and modern urbanism, will speak about their recent workshop on “Antiquity and the Anthropocene”. Then, Dr Giacomo Savani will interview Dr Patricia Baker, an expert on ancient medicine, about her recent work on ancient floral design and medicine


Dr Christopher Schliephake, University of Augsburg. He is a Senior Lecturer in Ancient History and is involved with numerous international environmental humanities research groups. He is also an editorial board member for Bloomsbury’s series on Ancient Environments. Two of his recent publications are The Environmental Humanities and the Ancient World, in 2020 with Cambridge University Press and an edited volume on Ecocriticism, Ecology and Cultures in Antiquity, 2017.

Dr Andrea Brock is Director of the Centre for Ancient Environmental Studies at the University of St. Andrews. She is an environmental archaeologist with particular expertise on historical ecology and palaeo landscape reconstruction. Her current work integrates the literary record on early Rome with geoarchaeological evidence, in order to produce an environmental and topographical reconstruction of Rome’s river valley. She is Director of the Forum Boarium Project, where she worked on a coring survey of the city’s original river harbour and harbour sanctuary. One of her recent publications is Exposing Rome’s archaic landscape: recent geoarchaeological investigations at and around S. Omobono and she is the PI for the newly awarded Lerverhulme Fellowship that explores Rome’s Riverine Landscape.

Professor Jason König is Assistant Director of the Centre for Ancient Environmental Studies at the University of St. Andrews. He is currently working on ancient representations of landscape and the environment, the main focus of which is a book on the representation of mountains in ancient literature and culture. The project is supported by a Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant, entitled Mountains in ancient literature and culture and their postclassical reception. He is also exploring the opportunities and challenges involved in bringing ancient Greek and Roman literature into dialogue with approaches from ecocriticism and the environmental humanities. He recently co-edited the volume Mountain Dialogues from Antiquity to Modernity with Dawn Hollis for Bloomsbury.

Professor Kathryn Gleason, Department of Landscape Architecture at Cornell University. Her work focuses on the archaeology of Roman Gardens, and she has worked in the Bay of Naples and in Israel. Her research explores an extensive system of plant trade and hydrological engineering that was needed to construct Roman gardens. A recent publication is the edited volume Gardens of the Roman Empire with CUP, which also has a dedicated website.

Dr Giacomo Savani is a post-doctoral research Fellow in the School of Classics, University College Dublin, and a visual artist. He is currently investigating the study and reception of Roman baths in Italy, France and England from 1500 to 1700. In 2017, he wrote and illustrated the educational book Life in the Roman World: Roman Leicester (2018). His art is inspired by environmental change and was displayed in the online exhibition linked to the workshop Antiquity and the Anthropocene.

Dr. Matthew J. Mandich holds a PhD in Roman Archaeology from the University of Leicester (UK) and is currently undertaking a Master’s at the University of San Francisco (USA) in Urban and Public Affairs. His research is founded on the archaeological, topographical, and historical study of ancient Rome and his current interests focus on the comparative study of ancient and modern urbanism, cities, and empires. He is especially interested in exploring how humans can live in close proximity to one another in environmentally, economically, and socially responsible ways. A recent publication is Ancient City, Universal Growth? Exploring Urban Expansion and Economic Development on Rome’s Eastern Periphery. He is also a co-founder and an editorial board member of the Theoretical Roman Archaeology Journal.

Dr Patricia Baker is an affiliated scholar and adjunct instructor in the Department of History at Virginia Tech, US, and founder of a new online teaching website, Pax in Natura, that uses craft and floral design to teach people about Greco-Roman relationships with the environment to help explore environmental issues today. Her main area of research is ancient medicine and health and its relationship to the environment. She is also a floral designer and is currently working on a project that explores ancient floral design to help flower designers develop sustainable practices. A recent publications is Identifying the Connection between Roman Conceptions of ‘Pure Air’ and Physical and Mental Health in Pompeian Gardens (c. 150BC-AD 79): a Multy-sensory approach to Ancient Medicine World Archaeology.