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Dr Jerry Toner 

Profile photo of Jerry Toner. He stands in front of a bookshelf filled with green Loeb Classical Library books.
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Fellow Type

Lecturers, Professors and College Officers,

I am the Director of Studies in Classics at Churchill and an Affiliated Lecturer at the Classics Faculty. Feel free to contact me via e-mail.

My research looks at Roman cultural history, with a focus on history “from below”. There have been thirty-one translations of my books into fifteen languages: Chinese (4), Dutch (2), Estonian, French (2), Greek (2), Italian (2), Japanese (2), Korean, Polish, Russian (3), Spanish (4), Taiwanese (2), Thai, Turkish (2), and Ukrainian (2).

I have a number of favourite research areas:

1. Popular Culture
My book, Popular Culture in Ancient Rome (Polity, 2009), analysed the life of the non-elite in Roman society. I have also published a number of articles looking at aspects of non-elite Roman life:
“Barbers, barbershops, and searching for Roman popular culture,” Papers of the British School at Rome, 2015.
“Social relations and constructions of social identity among Roman non-elites,” Oxford University Press, Oxford Handbooks Online, 2015.
“The intellectual life of the non-elite,” in Lucy Grig (ed.), Popular Culture in the Ancient World, Cambridge University Press, 2016.
“Popular culture and entertainment” in Augustine in Context, Cambridge University Press, 2017.
“Popular Eschatological Visions in the Roman Empire” in Eschatology in Antiquity, Routledge, 2021.
And on the nature of the Augustan cultural ‘revolution’:
“When Augustus met Adorno: Class, Mimesis and Restoring the Past,” in Aaron Turner (ed.), Reconciling Ancient and Modern Philosophies of History, De Gruyter, 2020.

2. Leisure
My PhD looked at the role of leisure in ancient Rome and was published as Leisure and Ancient Rome (Polity, 1995). I am currently editing a volume for Bloomsbury entitled A Cultural History of Leisure in Antiquity, due out in 2022. I have also published a book on the Games:
The Day Commodus Killed a Rhino: understanding the Roman games (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014).
and the following article:
“Leisure as a site of child socialisation, agency and resistance in the Roman empire”, in Ville Vuolanto (ed.), Children and Everyday Life in the Roman and Late Antique World (Routledge, 2016)

3. The (mis-)use of Classics to create various imagery and stereotypes relating to subordinate groups
My book Homer’s Turk: How Classics Shaped Ideas of the East (Harvard University Press, 2013) shows how historians and travel writers have used classical sources to help create various images of Islam and the Orient.

4. Disasters
In Roman Disasters (Polity, 2013), I look at the important role that disasters played in Roman life and culture, ranging from floods and fires to warfare and famine.

5. The Senses in Roman history
I started looking at this in a chapter of my popular culture book, “Common Scents, Common Senses”, trying to see how different a sensory world the non-elite inhabited. I have edited a book, A Cultural History of the Senses in Antiquity (Bloomsbury, 2014), which looks at the senses from a wider perspective. I have also contributed a chapter on “Smell and Christianity” to a volume edited by Mark Bradley on Smell in Antiquity (Routledge, 2015).

6. Mental Health
I think the Roman non-elite as a whole had a lot of mental health issues but faced and expressed them in a completely different way from the modern world. A chapter of my Popular Culture book looked at this, while a chapter of the Disasters book looks at the psychological effect of these traumatic events. I have also contributed a chapter based on this to William Harris’ edited book on Mental Disorders in the Classical World (Brill, 2013).

7. Risk
The concept of risk has appeared repeatedly in my work and my current project is to look at this in greater depth. Risk in the Roman World will examine how the Romans understood and tried to deal with the ever-present risks they faced and will appear as part of CUP’s Key Themes in Ancient History series.

An important part of my work is trying to popularise Classics and Ancient History and I have written several accessible and introductory books:
Infamy: the crimes of ancient Rome (Profile, 2019)
The Ancient World (Profile, 2015)
The Day Commodus Killed a Rhino: understanding the Roman games (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014).
Greek Key Words (Cambridge: Oleander Press, 2003)
Latin Key Words (Cambridge: Oleander Press, 2002)
Rethinking Roman History (Cambridge: Oleander Press, 2001)

I have also written a trilogy of guides to the Roman empire in the guise of a Roman nobleman, Marcus Sidonius Falx, which allows us to get inside the head of an elite Roman male:
How to Manage Your Slaves (Profile, 2014)
Release Your Inner Roman (Profile, 2016)
A Grand Tour of the Roman Empire (Profile, 2021)

After completing my PhD in Classics at Cambridge, I spent 12 years as a Fund Manager in the City of London, where I managed US$15bln in global bond, currency and asset allocation funds, before returning to the ancient world in 2006. I sit on the College’s investment committee as well as acting as an external member of the Hughes Hall investment committee.

How to Manage Your Slaves

College Positions

Director of Studies

12 January 2022 – Present