Color photograph of Mary Tolly Boatwright standing in front of book-filled shelves and holding a framed handwritten letter and drawing

Mary T. Boatwright

Esther Van Deman Scholar in Residence
March 8–April 16, 2021
Professor Emerita of Classical Studies, Duke University

Mary “Tolly” Boatwright’s year as an undergraduate at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome during the early 1970s was instrumental in her decision to attend graduate school and become a professional classicist. Her landmark books that followed include Hadrian and the City of Rome (1987), Hadrian and the Cities of the Roman Empire (2000), and Peoples of the Roman World (2012). After a distinguished career that includes over forty years of teaching classical studies and history, Boatwright is now professor emerita at Duke University.

In 1977–78, Boatwright was Affiliated Fellow with the University of Michigan, where she was earning her doctorate. She returned to AAR in 1978–79 to work as an assistant for a conference run by John D’Arms on the seaborne commerce of ancient Rome. Since then Tolly has made periodic appearances at the Academy—most recently in summer 2015 when she began research for her new book, Imperial Women of Rome: Power, Gender, Context (2021).

During her 2021 Residency, Boatwright made progress on her biography of Agrippina the Younger. “This is a very new endeavor for me, since I have tended to work on topography, Hadrian, and social history.” She had plans to visit several sites: Agrippina’s villa on the Bay of Naples, where the Roman empress was killed by order of her son Nero; the spot nearby where her remains were cheaply and hurriedly interred; and locales in Rome and elsewhere that are home to inscriptions and portraits of her. Pandemic restrictions, however, precluded visits to sites outside Lazio and to all museums in Rome. Through AAR’s resources, Tolly was able to climb the Column of Marcus Aurelius; she also visited other publicly accessible sites in the city.

Exchanges with Fellows opened new approaches to Agrippina, and to Roman topography and urbanism as well. Tolly also discussed “Colonial Cities and Imperial Citizens” with Mia Fuller in a February Conversations/Conversazioni.