Social and cultural history of Greece and the Roman Empire; urban development and reuse of sacred space; archaeology of religion; interplay of identity, memory, and landscapes in premodern societies; impacts of empire on local identity formation
How to Move a God: Shifting Religion and Imperial Identities in Roman Athens
Joshua R. Vera is a doctoral candidate in ancient Mediterranean history, specializing in the religions, cultures, and societies of the Roman Empire. He earned his AB cum laude in history and classical civilizations from the University of California, Berkeley (2010), a postbaccalaureate certificate with distinction in classical languages from the University of California, Los Angeles (2011), and the AM in history at the University of Chicago (2012). Joshua has studied at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (2009, 2016–17) and the American Academy in Rome (2012) and also worked on the Porta Stabia excavations of the Pompeii Archaeological Research Project (2012). He received a Fulbright Fellowship for research in Greece in 2016–17.
His dissertation addresses questions of identity, memory, and landscape among Greek subjects of the Roman Empire. It is a primary case study that analyzes the impact of an unprecedented and unusual series of construction projects that transformed the traditional sacred landscape of the city of Athens between 86 BC and 140 AD. Through a close examination of the archaeological record, juxtaposed with the inscriptions and limited literary evidence, the project presents an integrative history of the city center with a particular focus on the built environment of the marketplaces. Joshua identified how the rearrangement of certain monuments would have forced Athenians to interact with the monuments in new ways and affected their lived religion and identity. These public spaces facilitated—and, as the dissertation argues, manifested—the Athenians’ most significant cultural, religious, and ideological developments, before and after the city was absorbed into the Roman world. This research will inform both our understanding of life in Greece during and after the advent of Rome and larger discussions of the relationship between place, religion, and identity across political regimes in the ancient world and beyond.
As part of the University of Chicago's Core curriculum, Joshua has taught the civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome and served as a writing intern for two courses in world literature.