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Albert Bates

Albert Bates

Supervisor: Professor Caroline Vout

College: Christ's College

Thesis Title: The Mythology of Ecphrasis in Rome and Roman Greece (50 BC - 500 AD)


  • BA Classics (2012-2016), St. Hilda’s College, University of Oxford, Double First
  • MPhil Classics (2016-2017), Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, Distinction
  • PhD Classics (2018-), Christ’s College, University of Cambridge

My research focuses on ancient writing about art, in particular on literary descriptions of works of art (‘ecphrasis’). I am fascinated by the paradoxes of these descriptions which make readers see artworks not through pigment or marble but through words, which marvellously body forth images even as they displace them. My thesis attempts to explain the popularity of certain Greek myths to ecphrases in Rome and Roman Greece by looking at how they comment self-reflexively on ecphrasis itself (its ontology, its operations, its effects etc.) and therefore function metaecphrastically. It examines how these myths exploit and engage with the intermeshed theories of vision, the visual imagination and ecphrasis being put forward in contemporary rhetorical and philosophical texts (from Lucretius to the Progymnasmata). 

Research Interests

  • Art-and-text studies
  • Vision, visuality and the 'gaze' in literature 
  • The philosophy and psychology of imagination
  • Sensory history
  • Cognitive classics
  • The historiography of ancient art
  • Reception of ancient texts in modern art, and ancient art in modern texts (esp. ecphrases).

Research Supervision

I teach Greek reading classes for the Faculty of Classics (undergraduate and MPhil); and Greek and Latin language and literature for Christ's College.

Other Professional Activities

Co-convenor for Writing the Embodied Experience in Imperial Ecphrasis (September 2019):

Conference Papers

'Artistic Images in Lucretius' De Rerum Natura 1', Graduate Interdisciplinary Seminar (GIS), University of Cambridge (May 2017).

'Paragone: Xenophon, Memorabilia 3.10-11 as Art Criticism', Xenophon and Sokrates on Greek Painting, Sculpture, Armor, and Seduction, University of Tübingen (October 2018).

'The Cloak of Cloanthus (Aen. 5.250-257): Ecphrasis, Epicureanism and the Imaginaton', Graduate Interdisciplinary Seminar (GIS), University of Cambridge (April 2019).

'The Synthetic Imagination: Centaurs in Imperial Ecphrasis (Lucian, Philostratus, Callistratus', Writing the Embodied Experience in Imperial Ecphrasis, University of Cambridge (September 2019).

Upcoming events

Bridging Binaries LGBTQ+ tour

Jun 06, 2020

Museum of Classical Archaeology, Faculty of Classics

Upcoming events

RSS Feed Latest news

New Collection Videos

Mar 31, 2020

The Museum of Classical Archaeology is pleased to announce the first in a series of short videos on objects in the collection, featuring the Faculty's own Prof Caroline Vout.

Building Closure

Mar 20, 2020

The Faculty Building is closed from 5 pm on Friday 20 March until further notice.

Coronavirus guidance

Feb 06, 2020

A link to the College and University guidance on the Coronavirus is available here

CREWS: Visiting Fellowship focused on the study of ancient writing systems

Jan 22, 2020

Details of how to apply for this Visiting Fellowship are now available online. The deadline for applications is 5pm GMT on Monday, 17th February 2020

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