Fellows in Focus: Mary-Evelyn Farrior

A woman sits at a coffee bar
Mary-Evelyn Farrior (2024 Fellow) at the AAR Bar (photograph by Claudia Gori)

Classicist and Columbia University PhD candidate Mary-Evelyn Farrior is the 2024 Emeline Hill Richardson/Jesse Howard Jr. Rome Prize Fellow. Her Rome Prize project at the Academy, Inscribing Community: Mapping Greek Inscriptions in Imperial Rome, examines the foreign communities of Rome through Greek inscriptions found in Rome. The Greek language, Farrior argues, was not only a means of communication, but also a way for foreign groups to build community in a Latin-dominated city. Analyzing a corpora of inscriptions as both archaeological objects and texts, Farrior seeks to unite objects that previously have been studied individually, analyzing maps of their provenience to locate “clusters” where Greek inscriptions are more common (thus, neighborhoods with more foreigners). Esquiline, Fora, and Trastevere are three such locales. Yet, according to Farrior, the inscriptions tell us far more than simply that these foreign communities existed; they also tell us about their activities, commerce, religion, and organization, and other “epigraphic habits.”

While at the Academy, Mary-Evelyn Farrior participated in the March conference of the AIAC held at AAR, delivering a paper entitled “Understanding the Stations of the Sacra Via.” For her Shoptalk, she was paired with Baldwin Giang and addressed the theme of straniere sempre. On June 4, she participated in AAR’s inaugural Open Stacks event.

AAR spoke to Farrior about her time in Rome.

What have you been working on while at AAR? Has your project changed since arriving?

I have been working on my dissertation, which is now in its final stages. My dissertation is about foreign communities in imperial Rome, as seen through the Greek inscriptions they left behind. When I arrived at the Academy, I had one final chapter to write, which was the focus of my time in fall. I have written this last chapter in such a different way from the others, as a result of being in Rome, that I have reconsidered the argument of my existing chapters – which I am currently revising. Since I have been in Rome, I have been able to go out into the city, see the sites and inscriptions that are the topic of my chapters, and really incorporate their materiality and archaeology into my analysis.

What’s something that has surprised you about being at the Academy?

Though I had a sense of the scale of the Arthur & Janet C. Ross Library before arriving, it never ceases to amaze me how fantastic and rich the collection is for my subject. I really think it is one of the best in the world for Roman topography and archaeology. Every book I have needed for my dissertation has been in the library – from random off prints of small archaeological journals to every volume of large reference texts. It is an amazing experience to see a citation, find it in the catalogue, and immediately walk downstairs and grab it from the library. It has really made my work go much faster. Furthermore, I have loved getting to know the fantastic librarians and library staff at the Academy. They have been incredibly helpful and a wonderful part of my time at the Academy.

Have you had any conversations with other fellows or residents that changed your perspective?

There are too many to count. But I think, counterintuitively, my conversations at the Academy have shifted my attention beyond Italy. Joy Connolly and Alessandro Schiesaro, who spoke together at the Academy in February, proposed new directions for the field of Classics and encouraged the idea of a more global approach to ancient studies–and the Academy has given me the space to explore such an approach. I have particularly loved my conversations with Nhung Tuyet Tran, who is a phenomenal historian of Southeast Asia. Her work and methodology, particularly surrounding inscriptions, has been really inspiring. And I have had such a fantastic time talking with John Delury, a historian of modern China and the inaugural Tsao Family Fellow, about topics like citizenship and civil service in Chinese and Roman history. All of these conversations have encouraged me to expand my historical horizons beyond the Mediterranean.

Have you seen any sites in Rome or Lazio that has made a particularly strong mark?

I had studied abroad in the neighborhood and also excavated in Rome, so I felt pretty familiar with the Roman material in the city. As a result, I think I have felt most inspired by sites from other points in Rome’s long history. I have particularly enjoyed the frescoes and mosaics of medieval churches, like Santa Maria Antiqua which recently reopened and the chapel of San Zenone in Santa Prassede. Both are absolutely stunning. I may turn into a Medievalist before the end of my time here… 

Press inquiries

Andrew Mitchell

Director of Communications

212-751-7200, ext. 342

a.mitchell [at] aarome.org (a[dot]mitchell[at]aarome[dot]org)

Maddalena Bonicelli

Rome Press Officer

+39 335 6857707

m.bonicelli.ext [at] aarome.org (m[dot]bonicelli[dot]ext[at]aarome[dot]org)