Ancient Rome conquers a professor


May 17, 2006

Matthew B. Roller


The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore

Salary --$76,000

Age --39

Years on the job --12

Teaching --Roller is a tenured professor and heads the classics department, which covers anything about ancient Rome or Greece from about 1500 B.C. to A.D. 500, including its culture, philosophy, art, literature and history. He specializes in the literature and history of the ancient Roman world.

Typical day --Roller sits on various academic committees. He usually teaches two classes each semester - one at the graduate level and the other for undergraduates. He also must prepare for his classes, counsel students and perform many administrative duties. Much of his time is spent on research. He usually is on campus between eight and 10 hours, five days a week and may come in over the weekend to catch up.

How he got started --Roller, originally from Colorado, earned his bachelor's degree at Stanford University and his master's and doctorate at the University of California at Berkeley. Roller thought he would be an engineer or scientist, but after taking a course in Greek he was hooked.

Passion for ancient Rome --"I was seduced by the world that had produced those languages."

The good --"The thing you choose to do, because you wanted to, is the thing someone is paying you now to do."

The bad --Some of the required administrative tasks. "There's nothing that says an academic is well prepared to be an administrator."

Philosophy on the job --Convincing students that "Roman culture is really fun and interesting to study on its own terms, but it also has something really interesting to say and that we should listen."

New book --Roller's second book, Dining Posture in Ancient Rome: Bodies, Values, and Status, is due out this spring. The book examines what the three dining positions of ancient Romans - reclining, sitting and standing - said about social status, morals and values.

Nancy Jones-Bonbrest Special to The Sun

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