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Ashley Chhibber

Classics, University of Nottingham

Thesis title:

Communicative Failure and Characterisation in Latin Civil War Epics

My doctoral project analyses communicative failures in three lengthy Latin poems: Virgil’s Aeneid (composed c. 29-19 BCE), Lucan’s Bellum Ciuile (c. 62-65 CE), and Statius’ Thebaid (c. 80-92 CE). In the Aeneid, Aeneas escapes from the horrors of the Trojan War only to face another war in Italy as he attempts to found a city for the future Roman people. The Bellum Ciuile describes the historical civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great, particularly the events of 49 to 48 BCE, while the Thebaid relates the myth of the war between Polynices and Eteocles, the two sons of Oedipus and Jocasta, for the throne of Thebes. Both of these epics therefore develop the theme of civil war and internal divisions which underlies the second half of the Aeneid.

Although classical scholars have catalogued and categorised the speeches in these poems, the issue of communicative failure (and how this creates a paradigm of problematic heroism, and heroes who show a range of weaknesses) has been particularly neglected. My thesis will analyse the interaction between communication and the experience of civil war, to argue that these epics present warfare as both creating and being created by a failure of communication on personal, political and religious levels.

Research Area

  • Classics


'The outbreak of civil war in Latin epic poetry', poster presentation - Midlands4Cities Research Festival, Birmingham (23/05/19).

'Clashes of identity and civil war in Virgil, Lucan and Statius' - UoN Classics & Archaeology Festival of PG Research, Nottingham (30/05/19).

'Vox Populi, Vox Pompei: Addressing the troops in Lucan's Bellum Ciuile 1 and 2' - Annual Meeting of Postgraduates in Ancient Literature (AMPAL), Leeds (14/06/19).

'The death and afterlife of Lucan's Pompey: From failed Republican hero to spirit and symbol of change' - 'Becoming' and the Roman World (Conference), Durham (13/09/19).

Public Engagement & Impact

Leader of school Latin club with Nottingham Classics Outreach  at Sneinton C of E Primary for 5 weeks (Autumn 2018).

'Problems of communication in Latin epic', Nottingham PubhD (16/09/19).

Co-organiser of various research events including:

  • Midlands4Cities Research Festival, Birmingham (May 2019);

  • UoN Classics & Archaeology Festival of PG Research, Nottingham (May 2019);

  • Cicero Away Day, Birmingham (June 2020).

Other Research Interests

Latin hexameter poetry more broadly; intertextuality; metapoetics; trauma theory; models of masculinity; Stoicism; reception and translation of Virgil; widening access to Classics (especially in terms of racial diversity).

Educational Background

BA (Hons) in Classics (Ancient Greek and Latin ab initio) - 1st Class - at King's College, Cambridge.

MSt in Greek & Latin Languages and Literature at Trinity College, Oxford.


Teaching for undergraduates at the University of Nottingham:

"Virgil and the Epic Tradition" (2nd & 3rd-year course), Autumn 2019: 10 hours of seminar teaching and 2 hours of lecture teaching, 13 hours of exam and coursework marking.

"Greek and Roman Myth" (1st-year course), Spring 2020: 10 hours of seminar teaching, 10 hours of lecture facilitation, 16.25 hours of exam and coursework marking.

"Interpreting Ancient Literature" (1st-year course), Spring 2020: 3 hours of seminar teaching.