Prof. John Serrati

(McGill, St Andrews)

McGill University

History Department

Classical Studies

Leacock 817


514-398-4400 ext. 094273

john.serrati AT




McGill University
History Department

Classical Studies
855 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, Quebec H3A 2T7
Office: 514-398-4400 ext. 094273
Fax: 514-398-8365

Email: john.serrati AT


Complete Curriculum Vitae [PDF]





Research Interests

·         Roman Imperialism

·         Early Provinces

·         Hellenistic and Roman Republican Sicily

·         Warfare and State Economies in the Roman Republic and the Hellenistic World

My main area of research involves the modalities of Roman imperialism and early provinciae.  Here, I focus primarily on the mid- and late Republic, looking at Roman provincial administration, the economy, and the non-military expansion of control in conquered territories.  Sicily acts as a microcosm for this line of research.  Here I examine the role of Sicily in the Roman Republic and the formation of the earliest proviniciae.  Included in this project is an analysis of Cicero’s Verrine Orations.  The aforementioned areas cross over with my broader field of study, which involves the analysis monetary and non-monetary capital in the military sphere.  Here I examine the role that royal and state economies played in projections of power and in providing rulers and ruling elites the means to wage war.


Other ongoing projects include the reception of classical Sparta in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the perception of space in the early Roman forum, and a greater study of ancient imperialism.


I was born in Montreal, Quebec, and was educated at Dawson College and then McGill University as an undergraduate.  I was never a good student in high school, and was lost after graduation in terms of career options.  However, I was blessed by having a brilliant classicist, Prof. John O’Flynn, at Dawson College, and from the age of eighteen I knew that I someday wanted to obtain my PhD, teach, and publish on the ancient world.  I have never looked back.  I did my doctoral work from 1995-2001 on a St Leonard’s College Scholarship at the University of St Andrews under Prof. Christopher Smith, and received my first academic job at the same institution.  I worked at the Queen’s University of Belfast from 2002-2004, and subsequently returned to Montreal to take up a post at John Abbott College, an institution at which I still teach.  In 2008 I was offered a place at McGill, where I continue to research, publish, and teach.  Outside of academe and my many wonderful students, I am married to the endlessly patient Stine Forseth; we have two great daughters: Amy who is four and Zoe who is eighteen months.  In my spare time I am an avid soccer player and help organize one of the leagues in which I play (ASAP).








Fighting Techniques of the Ancient World 3000 BC-AD 500: Equipment, Combat Skills, and Tactics.  New York: St Martin’s, 2002 (co-author with S. Anglim et al.), 256 p.


Sicily from Aeneas to Augustus: New Approaches in Archaeology and History.  Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000 (co-editor with C.J. Smith), 241 p.


Forthcoming Books (under contract)


Roman Imperialism in Sicily: 289-70 BC.  London: Routledge.


Rome and the Establishment of Empire: Forms of Control and the Origins of the Provincial System (327-146 BC).  Oxford: Blackwell.


Money and Power in the Roman Republic.  Oxford: Oxford University Press (co-editor with H. Beck and M. Jehne).




‘The Rise of Rome to 264’, in D. Hoyos (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to the Punic Wars.  Oxford: Blackwell, 2011: 9-27.


‘Neptune’s Altars: The Treaties Between Rome and Carthage (509-226 BC)’, (republication of 2006 article, infra), The Best Classical Scholarship of the Last Sixty Years: Classical Quarterly Special Issue (2011): 113-134.


‘Ancient Labour Action and the Sucessio Plebis’, Locus 39.2 (2009): 51-54.


‘A Syracusan Private Altar and the Development of Ruler-Cult in Hellenistic Sicily’, Historia 56 (2008): 80-91.


‘Warfare and the State’, in P. Sabin, H. van Wees, and L.M. Whitby (eds), The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007: 461-497


‘Neptune’s Altars: The Treaties Between Rome and Carthage (509-226 BC)’, Classical Quarterly 66 (2006): 1-29.


‘Garrisons and Grain: Sicily between the Punic Wars’, in Smith and Serrati 2000: 115-133.


Ammianus Marcellinus on Siege Warfare’, Archaeo 4 (1997) 53-62.


Forthcoming Articles (in press)


‘Warfare in the Hellenistic World’, in B. Campbell and L. Trittle (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Warfare.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2011: 189-245.


Various entries, in R.S. Bagnall et al. (eds), The Encyclopedia of Ancient History.  Oxford: Blackwell, forthcoming 2011.


‘Imperial Expansion and the Fall of the Roman Republic: Post Hoc, Propter Hoc’, in D. Hoyos (ed.), The Companion to Roman Imperialism.  Leiden: Brill, forthcoming 2012.


‘Warfare and the Polis’, in H. Beck (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to Ancient Greek Government.  Oxford: Blackwell, forthcoming 2012.


Forthcoming Articles (in progress)


‘Early Provincial Economies in the West: The lex Hieronica and the Financing of Roman Conquest’, in H. Beck, Jehne, and Serrati.





Classical Association of Canada


I continue to be very involved with the Classical Association of Canada.  I am currently undertaking a project to organise and recover lost material from the Association’s archive in Trinity College at the University of Toronto.  I previously served on the governing Council of the CAC as Secretary (2008-2011) and Pre-University Representative (2005-2009).  I highly encourage all classics faculty and students to join the CAC and to attend our annual conference.

Graduate Supervision

I am currently supervising two master’s students:

Ms Catherine McPherson: Roman Imperialism in Illyria

Mr Ruben Post: Armies of the Greek Federal States


Undergraduate Courses


First Year:            Ancient Chinese and Greek Worlds

                        Ancient Mediterranean

                        Beginner’s Latin

                        Greek History to Alexander the Great

                        Roman History from Foundation to Augustus

Second Year:            Alexander the Great

                        The Eastern Mediterranean: Monarchy and Empire

                        The Fall of the Roman Republic

                        Hannibal and the World of mid-Republican Rome

                        Intermediate Latin

                        Research Methods

                        People of the Sown Land: A History of Sparta

Third Year:            Ancient Warfare and Imperialism

                        Greek History: The Hellenistic World

                        Republic and Empire I: The Fall of the Roman Republic (the Gracchi to Caesar)

                        Republic and Empire II: Augustus and the Principate

                        Roman History: The Imperial Period

                        The Roman Empire from Marcus Aurelius to Justinian

Fourth Year:             Roman Republic II: Sulla to Caesar

                        The Triumph of Christianity

                        The Archaeology of the Ancient City

                        Honours Dissertation in Ancient History


Graduate Courses


Ancient Historiography

The Augustan Age

Constantine and his Legacy

From the Gracchi to Caesar: Key Themes in the Fall of the Republic

Research Methods and Applications


Selected Invited Papers


‘The Lapis Niger and Public Space in Early Rome’, Vanderbilt University, February 2011.


‘The Hellenistic Experience with War’, University of West Georgia, February 2011.


‘Ancient Sparta, Slavery, and Nineteenth Century America’, University of Tennessee (Chattanooga), Black History Month Keynote Address, January 2011.


‘Sparta in the Twentieth Century: The Reception of the Classical Past in Western Civilisation’, Série d’histoire occidentale en action, Université de Sherbrooke, March 2010.


‘Tyrants Past and Present: The Place of Sicily in the Hellenistic World’, University of Mannheim, Classics Research Seminar, June 2007.


‘Moscow on the Eurotas: The Reception of Spartan History in the Cold War (1945-1991)’, McGill University, Keynote Address, ‘Sparta: Military, Memory, and the Movies’ Colloquium, March 2007.


‘Strangers in a Conquered Land: The Macedonian Warrior Ideal and the Economics of Hellenistic Kingdoms’, Bishop’s University, Classics Research Seminar, November 2006.


‘The Kings and I: the Hellenistic Monarchs and the Western Mediterranean’, University of Manchester, October 2003.


‘God-Kings East and West: Perceptions of Hellenistic Monarchies in the Mediterranean’, University of Nottingham Classics, October 2002.


‘Resistance and Subjugation of the Sicilian Cities in the Punic Wars: The Making of the First Roman Province’, Rewley House, Oxford University ‘Sicily: An Archaeological Perspective’ Conference, March 2000.


‘A Question of Patronage: Claudian Connections in Republican Sicily’, University of St Andrews Research Seminar, May 1997.




Historical Consultant and Interviewee

Découverte (television and radio series)

CBC French Language (Radio-Canada)

Aired December 2010

Documentary on Pompeii


Historical Consultant and Presenter

Ancients Behaving Badly (television series)

History Channel

Aired November 2009-January 2010

The show featured biographies of ancient personalities.


Historical Consultant

Secrets of the Ancients (television series)

Discovery Channel

Aired November 2003-March 2004

The shows featured the reconstruction of ancient siege weapons.


Historical Consultant and Presenter

Building the Impossible (television show)

British Broadcasting Corporation

and The Learning Channel

Aired March 2003

Show featured a reconstruction of a Roman catapult used at the Siege of Jerusalem (AD 68-70) as it is depicted in the Bellum Judaicum of Josephos.


Historical Consultant

The Claw of Archimedes (episode of Secrets of the Ancients television series)

British Broadcasting Corporation

Aired September 1999

Show reconstructed the ‘claw’ of Archimedes.




Annual Historical and Archaeological Trip


Every May and June I co-organise, along with Prof. Bill Russell, a student historical and archaeological trip to the Mediterranean.  2012 will be our sixth odyssey; for this we shall be returning to Sicily for the third time.  We have a provisional itinerary and spots are being filled at a regular pace.  The course that runs during this trip is HIST 413: The Archaeology of the Ancient City.  Please email me if you would like more information.


Previous excursions

Rome and Istanbul (Constantinople) (2011)

Sicily and Tunisia (2010)

Rome and environs (2009)

Sicily (2008)

Rome and northern Italy (2007)