Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
Department of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies

Welcome to Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies (CAMS) at Penn State!

CAMS is the study of cultures that arose and flourished around the Mediterranean basin (including Egypt, Greece, Rome, Anatolia, Israel, Mesopotamia, and North Africa) from ancient Mesopotamia (ca. 4000 BCE) to the end of Greco-Roman antiquity (ca. 600 CE). CAMS investigates the whole scope of the ancient Mediterranean world and trains students to interpret the linguistic, historical, and archaeological evidence of its cultures.

Committed to Diversity

The Department of Classics & Ancient Mediterranean Studies (CAMS) at Penn State is devoted to fostering an environment of diversity, equity, and inclusion for all who study the ancient world. As an open and welcoming academic community, we embrace a view of the ancient Mediterranean and its legacies as the common heritage of all people, regardless of gender, color, race, nationality, religion, age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

In keeping with our conviction that scholarship on antiquity benefits from a multiplicity of voices and perspectives, CAMS supports diversity in research areas, classroom activities, and above all in its membership, especially among groups historically under-represented in the field.

We affirm Penn State’s commitment as a public institution of higher education to effectively serve the members of our communities at all levels – on campus, across the state, and beyond – and we welcome the input of our students, colleagues, and friends as we pursue this goal.

Dr. Hannah Smagh hired as Assistant Teaching Professor

Meet the newest member of the CAMS faculty: Dr. Hannah Smagh specializes in Greek archaeology and the material culture of Greek religion. She has excavated at several projects in the Mediterranean, including Samothrace, Corinth, and the Molyvoti, Thrace, Archaeological Project in Greece and Selinunte in Sicily. Her research interests include gender, identity, and ethnicity in the Mediterranean world, slavery in the ancient world, Greek urbanism, cultural exchange, and digital humanities. Her current book project focuses on the practice of religion in the Greek house. Welcome, Dr. Smagh!

Featured Graduate

Gress selected as Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies marshal

Congratulations to Robert Gress, our Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies major student marshal for spring 2022 commencement! Robert is graduating with a B.A. degree in Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies. He was the 2021 recipient of the Robert E. Dengler Classics Grant-in-Aid Award. Robert previously worked for United Parcel Service and the United States Coast Guard Reserve. After graduation, he will continue studying Classics in graduate school. 
Featured Graduate

Castleberry selected as Anthropology marshal

Congratulations to Sarah Castleberry, the spring 2022 Anthropology student marshal! She is graduating with B.A. degrees in Anthropology and Art History, with a minor in Latin. Sarah sang advanced choral repertoire with Penn State Oriana Singers in the Penn State School of Music for six semesters. She also spent three weeks in Rome after her freshman year through the Department of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies’ Study Tour of Roman History and Archaeology and studied abroad in Perugia, Italy, last fall. After graduation, Sarah will return home to Connecticut to work as a field archaeologist at Heritage Consultants, LLC for the summer and then plans to find anthropological or museum work near Boston, Massachusetts, next fall.

Welcome, Dr. Michael Beshay!

We are happy to announce that Dr. Michael Beshay will be joining the CAMS faculty in the Fall of 2022. Dr. Beshay writes: “I’m a scholar of religions of late antiquity who specializes in the history of early Christianity. My research centers on several interconnected topics, including the development of authoritative traditions; their transmission and reception in diverse artifacts and across confessional boundaries; the significance of ritual and “magic” for the production of novel religious idioms; and the legacies of so-called “heretical” Christians within the beliefs and practices that emerge as “Orthodox.” I explore these dynamics relative to the ritual traditions surrounding the Virgin Mary and King Solomon–two prominent figures whose authorities span multiple religious communities and represent layers of cultural innovation and conflict.”

January 27, 2023
4:00 pm
102 Weaver and on Zoom
Gods and goddesses in ancient Mesopotamia were embodied in statues that were brought to life through mouth-opening and mouth-washing rituals. Subsequently, the deities required daily nourishment, and it was the temple’s obligation to provide this care. The ritual presentation of foods could only be performed by a select group of ritually pure temple officials, which, in early Mesopotamia, also included women. A closer look at this daily ritual offers fascinating perspectives on Mesopotamian religious beliefs and practices. [Event held in person. Zoom attendees must pre-register here.]
December 2, 2022
4:00 pm
Weaver 102
The ongoing excavations in the village at Huqoq in Lower Eastern Galilee have uncovered a monumental, Late Roman synagogue paved with floor mosaics depicting a series of remarkable biblical and non-biblical scenes. This lecture (developed in collaboration with Dr. Karen Britt) considers the sophisticated visual strategies that were employed across the various zones within the synagogue’s mosaic program to structure and mediate the viewing experience. The composition, placement, orientation, and framing of the various mosaic panels or groups of panels in the synagogue conditioned how viewers would have moved through—and thus experienced—the carefully differentiated spaces within the building. This analysis demonstrates the value of an approach to synagogue mosaics that foregrounds their physical placement within the broader architectural environment.

Sponsored by the Department of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies and the Jewish Studies Program

November 1, 2022
5:00 pm
Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library
How do we know when we are looking at images of Africans in Greek art? And how can we talk productively about what Greeks saw in these images? Neither question has a straightforward answer thanks to the conventions used by Greek artists and the conflicting expectations of ancient and modern people about the representation of “race.” This lecture considers the increasingly popular subject of the representation of Africans in the ancient Mediterranean by focusing on the Greek visual evidence, especially vase paintings of Aithiopia. Co-sponsored by the local AIA society, the Department of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, the Department of Anthropology, and the African Studies Program
Weaver 102
This year’s CAMS lecture series will focus on various explorations of the spaces, rituals, texts, and visual realms that constituted the physical stages and mental landscapes of the religious experience in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East. The series will include speakers representing a range of topics and regions, from ancient Mesopotamia and the Phoenician world to Early Judaism and Christianity in Late Antique Egypt.

Click on this post for details!

October 13, 2022
– October 15, 2022
Meet archaeologists from the Departments of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies and Anthropology on Thursday, October 13 from 1:30-2:30 pm in 409 Carpenter! Hear about their work in the field and ask them questions about working as an archaeologist. (There will also be food!) Then on Friday, come to an open house (11am-4pm) at the Matson Museum of Anthropology and learn about the process of creating a display of ancient objects in their galleries. There will be opportunities to talk with people who work with these objects and even handle some of them yourselves! These activities are co-sponsored by the Department of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, the Archaeological Institute of America, and the Matson Museum of Anthropology.
CAMS Assistant Professor Jake Nabel has been selected to receive a Loeb Classical Library Foundation Fellowship for the 2022/23 academic year. Awarded on a competitive basis, the Loeb Fellowship funds major research projects within the field of Greek and Roman studies. Its support will allow Prof. Nabel to complete his monograph, The Arsacids of Rome: Royal Fosterage and Interdynastic Kinship in Roman-Parthian Relations, for the University of California Press. A study of ancient interstate politics, the book reappraises the relationship between Rome and the Iranian empire of Parthia by foregrounding the careers of several Parthian princes who were sent to live at the court of the Roman emperor in the first century CE.