Ray Starr

Theodora Stone Sutton Professor of Ancient Greek and Roman Studies & Professor of Classical Studies

Focuses on Roman literature and culture; law; the sociology of Roman literature and education; political communication; media studies; and Augustus.

I've published on various subjects, including Virgil and the commentaries on his work in late antiquity; the sociology of Roman literature, especially the circulation; reading and teaching of literary texts in antiquity; and the emperor Augustus, especially his monumental Res gestae divi August (The Achievements of the Divine Augustus). My current research focuses on readers and their texts in antiquity, from the circulation of authors' works in bookstores and private networks of friends to readers' experience with texts in various forms, including papyrus rolls and inscriptions on stone, a reflection of my involvement in Book Studies at Wellesley.

I've taught throughout the Classical Studies curriculum, focusing on Latin at all levels (elementary, intermediate, and advanced) and (in translation) on Roman law and Roman culture and society. Recent courses include Roman Law, Daily Life in the Ancient World, Roman Historical Mythology, Vergil and Augustus, Reading Latin Literature, and Roman Poems and Poetry Books.

In addition to scholarly research, I've also been deeply involved with high technology and classical studies as well as with the Classical Association of New England, a 700+ member association of collegiate and pre-collegiate faculty in New England, where I have served as president and have received the Barlow Beach Award for Distinguished Service.

My personal interests include kayaking, cooking, and behavioral economics.


  • B.A., University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)
  • M.A., Princeton University
  • Ph.D., Princeton University

Current and upcoming courses

  • Romans read Latin as quickly and with as much pleasure as we read English. They looked forward to a new book just as eagerly as we might pre-order a new novel by our favorite novelist. In this non-traditional Latin course you will read a variety of authors (many chosen by the class members), and you will learn to read Latin more like a Roman. Double or triple your reading speed, improve your comprehension, appreciate the language more richly, and simply enjoy it more. This course focuses not on reviewing grammar and forms but on learning concrete, practical reading techniques that go far beyond just looking up every word online or hunting for a verb. The specific interests of the members of the class will help determine what we’ll read, which might include some famous classics but also little-known but fascinating works like Perpetua’s autobiographical account of her own martyrdom (recently transformed into a graphic novel), Sallust’s portrait of scandals, Egeria’s record of her pilgrimmage, the wild adventure/romance novel Apollonius, King of Tyre, or medieval Latin texts. Homework assignments, some of them analogous to problem sets or labs, will help you develop specific reading techniques.
  • Vergil's Aeneid, Georgics, and Eclogues in their literary context of both Greek poetry (Homer, Apollonius of Rhodes, Euripides) and Latin poetry (Ennius, Lucretius, Catullus, Horace) and in their historical context in the reign of Augustus, the first Roman emperor. Readings in Latin from Vergil and in translation from other ancient works. Use of internet resources on Vergil and Rome.
  • Romans based their history in myth and made their history into myths. This course includes reading from major authors such as Livy, Vergil, Horace, Ovid, Propertius, and Tacitus, focusing on historical myths such as Romulus and Remus, the Rape of the Sabine Women, Tarquinius Superbus, and Hercules and Cacus. We will then examine how later Romans reworked those myths to serve current political purposes and how they transformed historical events into powerful myths.