Dr Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe
Senior Lecturer in Roman History
+44 (0)20 7848 2534
Department of Classics
C6, North Wing
King's College London
London WC2R 2LS
Research interests and PhD supervision
From my undergraduate days I have straddled the disciplinary and institutional boundaries between History and Classics; my first degree was in History (Oxford 1998) and I then received an MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History (Cambridge, 1999), concentrating on late antiquity in both. My PhD (Cambridge 2004) examined the political theology of Ambrosiaster, an anonymous Latin Christian writer of the later fourth century CE. Before arriving at King's in January 2007 I held a Leverhulme Study Abroad Studentship in Rome (2001-2); a Research Fellowship at Peterhouse, Cambridge (2002-4) and a College Lectureship in History at the same college (2004-6); and a Fellowship at the Italian Academy at Columbia University in New York (2006). In the autumn of 2012 I was a visiting fellow at the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University.
The devil, demons, and ideas of evil
History of ideas and political thought
Late antique panegyric
Commentary and biblical exegesis
I am currently writing a book about late antique ideas of the work of the devil, examining Latin, Greek, Syriac and Coptic texts from the second to sixth centuries CE. I am exploring how early Christians imagined the devil to influence and intervene in human life, from Adam and Eve, across the sweep of scriptural and Roman history, to contemporary late antique political and social life. I am also investigating the empathetic reconstructions and rationalizations of the devil’s motivations, emotions and ambitions in his campaign against mankind. I concentrate in particular on the difficulties raised by the idea of an embodied spiritual creature who had turned wholly to evil, such as the question of the balance of human and diabolical responsibility in activities such as persecution.
I am happy to supervise PhD students on topics in late antique history, early Christianity, and ancient intellectual history and political thought.
For more details please see my full research profile.
‘The diabolical problem of Satan’s first sin: self-moved pride or a response to the goads of envy?’, Studia Patristica 54 (forthcoming), 1-20
‘Visualizing the Demonic: The Gadarene Exorcism in Early Christian Art and Literature’, in R. Raiswell and P. Dendle (eds), The Devil in Society in the Pre-Modern World (Toronto, 2012), 439-57
‘Bishops on the chair of pestilence: Ambrosiaster’s polemical exegesis of psalm 1:1’, Journal of Early Christian Studies 19.1 (2011), 79-99
‘Commemorating the usurper Maximus: ekphrasis, poetry, and history in Pacatus’ Panegyric of Theodosius’, Journal of Late Antiquity 3.2 (2010), 316-36
Ambrosiaster’s Political Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), x + 211 pp.
For a complete list of publications, please see my full research profile.
Expertise and Public Engagement
I teach a range of topics in ancient history to undergraduates, from modules covering the entire sweep of Roman history; Roman historiography; and late antiquity - to more specialized modules on the history and theory of ancient slavery; relations between pagans, Christians and Jews; and Augustine. I also teach a dedicated MA module on magic in late antiquity.
I have appeared in two BBC4 documentaries on the Devil (Andy Hamilton’s ‘Search for Satan’, October 2011, and Alistair Sooke’s ‘How the devil got his horns’, October 2012), and in two Radio 4 programmes on topics in Christian history (Giles Fraser’s ‘How Constantine invented Christmas’, December 2011, and a Beyond Belief programme on ‘the cross’, April 2012).
I have also written two articles for the BBC history website:
‘Christianity and the Roman Empire’, for the BBC History website:
‘Lost and Hidden Christianities’, for the BBC History website.