Robert Gurval

A photo of Robert Gurval
E-mail: Phone: 310-825-6744 Office: Dodd Hall 289E

Robert Gurval is Associate Professor in the Department of Classics and former Department Chair (2000-05; 2013-14). He is currently the Faculty Undergraduate Advisor for all Classical Civilization and language majors in the Department of Classics. In Fall 2014, he was appointed the Director of the Mellon Program in Post-Classical Latin.

His research explores the intersections of politics and literature in the Augustan Age and early Empire. His major publication is Actium and Augustus: The Politics and Emotions of Civil War (University of Michigan, 1996). His interests include Latin literature, ancient biography, Roman numismatics, and the reception of Classics in popular culture. His current project examines the construction of Cleopatra as a myth and image from antiquity to the 21st century.

His undergraduate teaching includes Discovering the Romans (CL 20); Cinema and the Ancient World (CL 42); Ancient Lives: The Art of Biography (CL 137); Ancient Epic (CL 142); The Female in Roman Thought (CL 150B). He will be teaching the Departmental capstone seminar in Winter 2017 (CL 191, America and Rome: Politics Culture Art). Previously, he taught the capstone seminar on Hadrian: The Enigmatic Emperor. He regularly teaches a Honors Collegium seminar on Representing Cleopatra (HC 5) in alternate years and created a new seminar, Ancient Rome and the Monuments of Washington, D.C.

He has taught six different Fiat Lux Seminars (CL 19), including one related to the upcoming centennial anniversary of our institution, UCLA 1919: The First Professors (Winter 2017). He also directs the Travel Study Program in Rome (CL M114 & B/History M112C & E), and is next scheduled to teach it in summer 2017. He has supervised the Elementary Latin program. He is creator and developer of the hybrid online section of Latin 1-3 and taught hybrid sections of Latin 1 in Fall 2014 and Winter 2016. He also regularly teaches upper-division reading courses in Latin, most recently, Suetonius (LA 119A), Vergil (LA 105A) and in Spring 2017, Livy (LA 111). He has taught the survey of Augustan Literature (200B) and graduate seminars on Augustus, Topics in Roman History, Horace, Roman Biography, and Vergil (see attached syllabi).

He is the former faculty Chair of various Academic Senate Committees: College Honors (2009-10; 2011-13); General Education Governance (2006-10); and Undergraduate Honors, Awards and Prizes (1992-96; 1997-2002; 2004-05). He served on Undergraduate Council (1998-2000); and most recently on CUARS, the Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Relations with Schools (2011-13; 2014-15).

He was a Fulbright Scholar at the Chinese University Hong Kong in 2010-11. As a Fulbright, he was a participant in a four-year, 20-person team effort to assist in building a program of General Education as the eight public universities of Hong Kong prepared to shift from a three to four-year system of undergraduate education in Fall 2012. At Chinese University of Hong Kong he taught a pilot of the foundation course, In Dialogue with Humanity. Since his Fulbright year, he has been actively engaged in promoting the teaching Classics in China and has given public lectures on General Education and Classics, especially on Cleopatra and Hollywood films on Ancient Rome, in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau. In Spring 2014, he was a Visiting Professor in the Department of History at Fudan University, Shanghai, where he taught a graduate seminar on ancient biography. In May 2016, he was a Visiting Professor in the Departments of History at Shanghai Normal University and Beijing Normal University, where he taught a graduate seminar on Caesar Augustus: The First Emperor of Rome.

He was also co-Principal Investigator of a series of workshops held at UCLA and Hong Kong on comparative approaches to the study of religion in 2014-16. In May 2015, he co-organized at UCLA the workshop, Empire and the Media of Religion: A Workshop on Comparative Approaches to the Study of Religion in the Greco-Roman Imperial Era and Early China.

He welcomes questions from Chinese mainland students interested in studying Classics in the U.S.


  • University of California, Berkeley | Ph.D. Classics (1988)
  • University of California, Santa Barbara | M.A. Classics (1982)
  • Brown University | A.B. Classics (1980) magna cum laude
  • Washington & Lee University


Undergraduate Courses | Classical Civilization

  • Discovering the Romans, Classics 20 General Education Lecture course
  • Reading Latin Literature, Classics 41 General Education Lecture course
  • Cinema and the Ancient World, Classics 42 General Education Lecture course
  • The Hollywood Myth of the Gladiator, Classics 42 (six-week summer course)
  • HBO Rome, Classics 89 Honors Seminar
  • Ancient Empires: Rome and China, Classics 89 Honors seminar
  • Ancient Epic, Classics 142 Lecture course
  • Ancient Lives: The Art of Biography, Classics 137 (formerly 144) Lecture course
  • The Female in Roman Thought and Culture, Classics 150B Lecture course
  • Hadrian: The Enigmatic Emperor, Classics 191 Capstone Seminar
  • The Age of Nero: Politics, Literature, and Society, Classics 197 Departmental Seminar
  • Re-Discovering Pompeii, Classics 19, Classics 87GE, Classics 197 Fiat Lux (freshman) Seminar, Honors Seminar, Departmental Seminar
  • Representing Cleopatra: History, Literature, and Film, Classics 19, Honors 5 Fiat Lux (freshman) Seminar, Honors Seminar
  • UCLA 1919: The First Professors, Classics 19 Fiat Lux (freshman) Seminar
  • Ancient Rome and the Monuments of Washington, D.C., Classics 19 Fiat Lux (freshman) Seminar
  • The Affairs of Caesar: Sex and Politics in Ancient Rome, Classics 19 Fiat Lux (freshman) Seminar
  • Exploring Ancient Rome, Classics 19 Fiat Lux (freshman) Seminar
  • Film and Society: The Hollywood Myth of Ancient Rome, Honors 34 Honors Seminar
  • Male Identity and Sexuality in Ancient Rome, Honors 43 Honors Seminar

Undergraduate Courses | Travel Study Abroad

  • The History and Monuments of Rome, Classics M114A-B/History M112C-E
    • Four-week summer field study and lecture course taught in Rome summer 2008, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016

Undergraduate Courses | Latin and Greek

  • Latin, Latin 1-3 Elementary Latin first-year sequence
  • Hybrid-Online Elementary Latin creator, supervisor and instructor
  • Faculty Supervisor of Elementary Latin program
  • Readings in Latin Prose & Poetry, Latin 100 Intermediate Latin course
  • Latin Prose Composition, Latin 110
  • Ovid, Latin 104 Advanced Latin Reading course
  • Vergil, Latin 105A, 105B Advanced Latin Reading course
  • Roman Elegy, Latin 108 Advanced Latin Reading course
  • Horace, Latin 109 Advanced Latin Reading course
  • Livy, Latin 111 Advanced Latin Reading course
  • Tacitus, Latin 112 Advanced Latin Reading course
  • Apuleius, Latin 116 Advanced Latin Reading course
    Suetonius, Latin 119A Advanced Latin Reading course
  • Sallust, Latin 117 Advanced Latin Reading course
  • Plutarch, Greek 131 Advanced Greek Reading course

Graduate Courses

  • Topics in Ancient History: The Roman World, Classics 201B Graduate Seminar
  • Reflections of Augustus, Classics 201B Graduate Seminar
  • Reading Horace: Poetry, Politics, and Augustus, Latin 206 Graduate Seminar
  • Tacitus and Nero, Latin 211C Graduate Seminar
  • Biography, Latin 214 Graduate Seminar
  • History of Republican Literature, Latin 200A Graduate Latin Literature Survey
  • History of Augustan Literature, Latin 200B Graduate Latin Literature Survey

Beijing Normal University, Beijing Teaching

  • Caesar Augustus: The First Emperor of Rome Two-week intensive graduate seminar in Department of World History (May 2016)

Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai Teaching

  • Caesar Augustus: The First Emperor of Rome Two-week intensive graduate seminar in Department of World History (May 2016)

Fudan University, Shanghai Teaching

  • Ancient Biography Four-week intensive graduate seminar in Department of World History (April-May 2014)

The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Teaching

  • In Dialogue with Humanity First-year General Education foundational course (Spring 2011) Authors/texts include Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, Zhuangzi, Old Testament, Qur’an, Buddhist Heart Sutra, Huang Zongxi, Rousseau, Adam Smith, and Karl Marx.

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

  • Fulbright Scholarship | Hong Kong General Education, 2010-11
  • American Philological Association | Excellence in Teaching Award, 2006
  • University of California, Los Angeles | Distinguished Teaching Award, 2006 | Eby Award for the Art of Teaching
  • University of California, San Diego | Distinguished Undergraduate Mentor, 2005
    University of California, Los Angeles | Distinguished Advisor | Regents Scholars Society, 1999-02
  • University of California, Los Angeles | Teaching Award, Honors Program, 2000
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor | Outstanding Reader’s Report Award, 2000
  • American Academy in Rome | Rome Prize, School of Classical Studies, 1996-97
  • Golden Key National Honor Society| Honorary Member, 1993
  • University of California, Berkeley | Chancellor’s Fellowship, 1987-88
  • University of California, Berkeley | Regents Scholarship, 1982-83
  • University of California, Santa Barbara | Regents Scholarship, 1980-81
  • American Numismatic Society | Graduate Seminar Fellowship, 1986

Publications and Papers

  • Actium and Augustus: The Politics and Emotions of Civil War. University of Michigan Press, 1996, 360 pages, 60 black & white photographs.
  • “Dying Like a Queen: The Story of Cleopatra and the Asp(s) in Antiquity.” In Cleopatra. A Sphinx Revisited, ed. M.M. Miles. University of California Press, 2011.
  • “No, Virgil, No: The Battle of Actium on the Shield of Aeneas.”  In Why Vergil: A Collection of Interpretations, ed. S. Quinn. Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers: Wauconda, Il., 1998.
  • Caesar’s Comet: The Politics and Poetics of an Augustan Myth.” Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, vol. 42 (1997): 39-71.
  • “Actium.” In The Virgil Encyclopedia, edd. Richard F. Thomas and Jan M. Ziolkowski. Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome “Actium” (Oxford University Press, 2010).
  • Review of Sally-Ann Ashton, Cleopatra and Egypt (Blackwell, 2008). Classical Bulletin 85.1 (2009): 60-62.
  • Review of V.G. Kiernan, Horace: Poetics and Politics (St. Martin’s Press, 1999) American Historical Review (April 2001).
  • “How to Make a Hollywood Film on Ancient Rome in Ten Easy Steps”
    • SCRAM, Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences, Santa Monica (November 2016)
  •  “Teaching Classics in China”
    • California Classical Association-Southern Section Meeting, Los Angeles (November 2016)
  • “Becoming a God: Horace and the Divinity of Augustus”
    • The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing (May 2016)
  • “Titus Pomponius Atticus: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man”
    • Beijing Normal University, Beijing (May 2014)
  • “Teaching Gender in Ancient Greek and Roman Thought” (with Ann Bergren)
    • Fudan University, Shanghai (May 2014)
    • Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai (May 2014)
    • Shanghai University (May 2014)
  • “CSI Alexandria: The Last Days and Death of Cleopatra”
    • California Classical Association-Southern Section Meeting, Los Angeles (November 2013)
    •  Conference on Ptolemaic Egypt, UCLA (December 2012)
  • “A Tribute to Evelyn Venable Mohr: From Hollywood to Westwood”
    • California Classical Association-Southern Section Meeting, Los Angeles (November 2013)
  • “Playing Caesar: Rex Harrison, Thornton Wilder, and Julius Caesar in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’ Cleopatra (1963)”
    •  American Philological Association Annual Meeting, Seattle (January 2013)
  • “Harmony and Homer on the Pearl River Delta: The Foundations of a new Liberal Arts Education in China”
    • Association for Core Texts and Courses, Annual Meeting, Milwaukee (March 2012)
    • General Education and University Curriculum Reform: An International Conference in Hong Kong at The City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR (June 2012)
  • “Agrippina: Empress of Rome”
    • Symposium on Famous Women in History: Hathshepsut, Agrippina, Cixi
    • The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR (February 2012)
  • “Seducing Caesar: Sex and Politics in Ancient Rome”
    • Boya College, Sun-Yat Sen University, Guangzhou (February 2012)
    • University of Saint Joseph, Macau (April 2011)
    • Fudan University, Shanghai (April 2011)
    • Beijing Normal University, Beijing (December 2010)
  • “An Overview of General Education at Eight HK UGC-funded Universities”
    • Multiple venues in Hong Kong universities
    • Hong Kong SAR (April-June 2011)
  • “Engaging Students in General Education Humanities Tutorials”
    • Conference at The City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR  (May 2011)
  • “Death Becomes Her: The Suicide of Cleopatra in Literature and Art”
    • The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR (February 2011)
  • “The Americanization of Cleopatra: Elizabeth Taylor and the Making of a Hollywood Epic”
    • Guandong University of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou (October 2010)
    • Beijing Capital University, Beijing (December 2010)
    • Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong SAR (March 2013)
  • “Dido and Cleopatra”
    • American Classical League Annual Meeting, Los Angeles (June 2009)
  • “Ovid and the Art of Love”
    • UCLA Women’s Faculty Club (November 2008)
  • “The Romans on the Danube”
    • California Classical Association-Southern Section Meeting, Los Angeles (October 2008)
  • “The Affairs of Caesar: Sex and Politics in Ancient Rome”
    • UCLA Friends of Classics (April 2008)
    • The UCLA Affiliates (October 2007)
  • “Cast(igat)ing Cleopatra: HBO Rome and an Egyptian Queen for the 21st Century”
    • American Philological Association Annual Meeting, San Diego (January 2007)
  • “Casting Cleo: The Women who played Cleopatra in Film and Television”
    •  California Classical Association-Northern Section Meeting, San Francisco (April 2006)
  • “Representing Cleopatra: Literature, Drama and Film”
    • Ashland University (March 2005)
    • University of Mississippi (March 2004)
    • College of Charleston (March 2003)
    • California Palace of Legion of Honor (September 2002)
    • UCLA Parents Weekend (October 2002)
    • UCLA Foundation Retreat (November 2002)
  •  “Heaven Can Wait: Horace, Augustus, and the Ambitions of Immortality”
    •  California Classical Association-Northern Section, Palo Alto (April 2004)
    •  College of Charleston (March 2003)
    • New York Classical Club (February 2000)
  • “Teaching Classics in the Southland: The Early Years at UCLA”
    • California Classical Association-Southern Section Meeting, Los Angeles (October 2003)
  • “The Secret of the Etruscans”
    •  Conference: University of California, Los Angeles Extension (December 2001)
  • “All in the Family: Augustus and the Makings of a Dynasty”
    •  Conference:  “Rome in the Year One” Humanities West, San Francisco (February 2001)
  • “The Bad and the Beautiful: Roman Emperors and their Wives in Hollywood”
    •  Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University (September 2000)
  • “Ancient Lives: The People and Professions of Pompeii”
    •  Los Angeles County Museum of Art (November 1999)
    • UCLA Parents Weekend (October 2003)
  • “Dying Like a Queen: Cleopatra and the Story of the Asp(s) in Antiquity”
    •  Conference: Cleopatra and Egyptomania, University of California at Irvine (March 1999)
  • “Captive Images: An Ideology of Empire and Subjugation on the Coinage of Augustus”
    •  American Philological Association Annual Meeting, Chicago (December 1997)
  • “The Other Nicopolis: The Foundation of an Augustan Victory City at Alexandria”
    •  CAPNW Annual Meeting at Eugene (April 1994)
  • “In Search of Spartacus: Reflections of a Classicist at UCLA”
    •  Keynote Speech, UCLA Golden Key Society (April 1993)
  • “Horace’s Advice to Lollius: The Actia pugna and Epistle 1.18”
    •  CAPNW Annual Meeting at Vancouver (April 1992)
  • “The Politics of Roman Coinage:  Octavian and Antony”
    •  Fresno State University, Ancient World Lecture Series (October 1991)
  • Subita Felicitas”:  Seneca and the Invective of Suillius in the Annals of Tacitus
    •  CAPNW Annual Meeting at Spokane (April 1991)
  •  “The Art of Imitation or the Imitation of Art: Vergil and the Laocoön Group”
    •   American Philological Association Annual Meeting, San Francisco (December 1990)
  • Posteri Negabitis: Actium and Horace”
    • American Philological Association Annual Meeting, Baltimore (December 1989)