Alexis Q Castor Shirley Watkins Steinman Professor of Classics, Department Chair of Classics, Brooks College House Don


I am a social historian of the ancient Mediterranean. My main research area considers how jewelry and adornment, as elements of dress worn every day, allowed wearers to create their social identities. Since men and women, boys and girls, wore jewelry, this topic affords me the opportunity to study people in all social classes. I bring this interest in the daily workings of the ancient world to all of my classes.

I teach 100-level and 200-level ancient history courses on Greece or Rome and thematic topics that include Race and Ethnicity in the Classical World, the Ancient Family, or Ancient Law and Order; intermediate ancient Greek courses; and 300-level advanced ancient history seminars. Each class has a different focus, but all blend textual and archaeological evidence in our study of the past. In all of my classes we center key questions, like: What new discoveries or technologies inform us of ancient life? What groups does the evidence ignore? What is culturally distinctive about a certain region or period? I never want my students to think that the Greeks and Romans are “just like us,” but rather to understand that these ancient peoples faced similar challenges to those we face today and responded to them according to their specific cultural values. This, in turn, allows us to reflect on our own society.

For a general audience, I have created a course on the history of ancient Mesopotamia for The Great Courses.


My book project, Jewelry in Greece and Etruria: A Social History (c. 900-200 BCE), offers a comparative study of how Greeks and Etruscans wore and used jewelry. Why these two cultures in particular? The Etruscans were the most significant importers of fine Greek pottery and interacted a great deal with the Greeks. Etruscan historical traditions cite immigrant Greek kings. But they are linguistically and culturally distinct, and neither culture dominated the other. Thus, their cultural practices can help to highlight distinctions in jewelry use that would not be evident by study of either society on its own. This is the first comprehensive study to trace how jewelry functioned in the daily dress and life of Greeks and Etruscans. My focus on the wearers, rather than those who made jewelry or the art-historical stylistic developments, is a novel approach in the study of ancient jewelry.

Select Publications

In prep. "Bejeweled Vases: Perceiving Jewelry in Classical and Hellenistic Art" 

In prep. "Adorned Nudes in Etruscan Art" 

Forth. "Jewelry" in the Oxford History of the Classical World

"Male Ornaments, East and West" in Etruria and Anatolia: Material Connections and Artistic Exchange (Cambridge University Press, 2023)

“Macedonian Lionesses: A New Paradigm for Female Jewelry Use (c. 325-275 BC)” Journal of Greek Archaeology, 2 (2017) 

“Surface Tensions on Etruscan and Greek Gold Jewelry,” in M. Cifarelli and L. Gawlinski, eds. (2017) “What Shall I Say of Clothes?” Theoretical and Methodological Approaches to the Study of Dress in Antiquity, pp. 83-100. (AIA Publications)

“Etruscan Jewelry and Identity” in S. Bell and A. Carpino, eds. (2016) The Blackwell Companion to the Etruscans. pp. 275-292. (Wiley-Blackwell) 

Select Presentations

 I was invited to be a national lecturer for the Archaeological Institute of America in 2016, 2017, and 2022 and I continue to speak to audiences in chapters throughout the United States.

  • "Bejweled Nudes in Etruscan Art," Archaeological Institute of America, Annual Meeting, 2021
  •  "Seeing Jewelry in Classical and Hellenistic Vase-Painting," Archaeological Institute of America Annual Meeting, Boston, 2018
  • "Jewelry as Women's Wealth," Campbell Art History Lecture, University of Akron, 2018
  • "Looking at Lionesses: Macedonian Courts and Jewelry," Bard Graduate Center, 2018
  • "The Narrative of Adornment: Hellenistic Jewelry on Attic Black-Glaze," Greek Vases as Medium of Communication, International Symposium, Vienna, 2017
  • "The Princess Bride: Wedding and Jewelry in Classical Greece," Virginia Tech University, 2016