Commencement 2023: new grads tell their stories

Bob Handelman

Bob Handelman

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C. J. Rice
Mannington, WV
PhD in History and Classics

What’s your area of focus in history? Which time period and general themes interest you?
Very broadly, I work in Roman history, but more specifically, I work in a period called the later Roman Empire—so the third, fourth, and fifth century CE. I’m really interested in the entanglement of ideas about religious identity with ideas about citizenship, and how those two become increasingly integrated into one another. I follow that entanglement to a series of legal proclamations from the third, fourth, and fifth centuries that show the ways religious identity became the vector for shaping civic identity—the way you could become a legal actor in Roman imperial history.

What was your dissertation topic?
The title was Religio Licita—it’s a Latin phrase that means “permitted religion”—and the subtitle was “Empire, Religion, and Civic Subjects, 250–450 CE.” I looked at the ways that an individual subject’s religious identity, under Roman imperial authority, shaped the way that they had access to a series of certain legal rights: the right to own property without interruption, the right to engage in certain legal processes in the law courts—things like that.

Where are you off to next?
I just learned in the last month that I had been offered, and I have now accepted, a visiting assistant professorship in the department of Greek and Roman studies at Vassar College.