Dan-el Padilla Peralta

Assistant Professor in Classics

Princeton University

Fellow, Society of Fellows in the Humanities 2015 -16

Dan-el Padilla Peralta studies the history of the Roman Republic and Empire, with a particular focus on trends in religious practice. He received his PhD in Classics from Stanford University in 2014 and holds previous degrees from Princeton and Oxford. While at Stanford, he held the university’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowship, intended to reward and encourage work across the disciplines. Dan-el is firmly committed to the application of social-scientific methods to the study of ancient history and believes the two domains have much to offer each other. He also has strong opinions about the importance of disciplinary versatility within the field of Classics, and of getting historians, philologists, and archaeologists to learn from and collaborate with each other. His teaching and research interests include the writings of the Greek and Roman historians, and their early modern reception; travel and mobility in the Mediterranean, and longue durée histories of the Middle Sea; comparative approaches to the study of antiquity; and the classical tradition in contemporary American and Latin American culture.

Dan-el’s book project, Divine institutions: Religion and State Formation in Mid-Republican Rome, argues that Rome’s meteoric rise from central Italian city-state to Mediterranean hegemon during the fourth and third centuries BCE has much more to do with religious developments than is usually assumed. Through a combination of theory and quantitative modeling, and incorporating literary as well as archaeological evidence, the book advances the claim that religion in mid-Republican Rome drove meaningful and highly consequential institutional change over time. This institutional change promoted forms of social trust and interpersonal connectivity that proved crucial to the maintenance of communal cohesion in times of great collective stress. As a complement to this book project, Dan-el is nursing along a comparative exercise, tentatively titled “The Axial contexts of Republican religion,” that tries to apply an Eurasian perspective to how the Romans of the Republic worshipped their gods.

Other projects currently in the works include an article on commerce, religion, and “ecological signaling” on Republican Delos; an expanded version of a study (originally prepared and published under Stanford’s ORBIS project) on the distance measurements recorded in ancient itineraries; and, as a prolegomenon to a future study on classical receptions in the Hispanophone Caribbean, an investigation of Athens and Sparta in the classical imaginary of the Dominican Republic. Together with two former colleagues at Stanford, Dan-el is also hard at work on a co-edited volume, Cargo Culture: Roman Literary and Material Appropriative Practices. Much closer to seeing the light of day is Dan-el’s memoir with Penguin Press, slated for publication in 2015.