Congratulations to our Newest Classics PhDs!

By: Hana Aghababian & Sarah Epplin,  Classics
December 15, 2020

Two doctoral students will be graduating in Fall 2020 and receiving their PhD in Classics--Peter Osorio with a concentration in Ancient Philosophy and Jonathan Warner with a concentration in Ancient History. 

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Peter joined the Classics program in 2014, after completing his BA in Classical Studies and Economics at Dartmouth College and the post-baccalaureate program in Classics at the University of Pennsylvania. His dissertation “Argument and Authority: Textualizing Scepticism in Cicero's Dialogues,” which he defended in Fall 2019, explores a new framework for understanding Cicero’s sceptical methodology. Peter says that his dissertation “is grounded, theoretically, in the epistemology of testimony and, historically, in the educational practices of the Hellenistic Academy, two understudied topics in the history of ancient philosophy. It argues that several literary conventions of the dialogues, such as dedicatory addresses and representations of reading dialogue, are vehicles for a text-based scepticism of testimony. I hope that it spurs further interest in social epistemology among historians of philosophy and of ancient Greek and Roman literature.” With interests in Greek and Roman philosophy and literature, Peter has also published on Cicero, Vergil, Protagoras, and early modern reception. 

When reflecting on his time at Cornell, Peter says one of his favorite experiences was being a part of the Greek Philosophical Texts reading group. He says, “I’ve learned so much about how to read critically from everyone in it, from faculty to graduates past and present. I haven’t been able to join this semester, and I miss, and expect I will to continue to miss, ending the week with it.” He also will miss “meeting with friends for TGIF at the Big Red Barn after the Greek reading group on Friday afternoons.” On teaching, Peter says his most rewarding course was a 3000-level course on education in the Clouds and Hippias Minor: “My students were phenomenal, even humoring my assigning them Dewey and Freire on the side.” He will be teaching a similar course on testimony in Lysias and Antiphon in Spring 2021.  

Besides what can be found in his dissertation's acknowledgements, Peter would like to thank Linda Brown, Jessica Smith, Keeley Boerman, and Pamela Hanna for the work they've done “supporting my remote teaching this year and over these final days of wrapping up the details of degree conferral. I am, of course, indebted to all the faculty for their support over the past several years.” Peter is happy to chat with readers interested in his work, the PhD program, or the Classics department in general. 

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Jon came to Cornell in 2014, after completing his BA in Classics and History at George Washington University and his MA in Classical Languages at the University of Georgia. His dissertation, entitled “Soldiers of Caesar and Christ: Martial Imagery and the Ethos of Church and State Service in Late Antiquity,” examines martial imagery in Greek and Roman letters of the mid-fourth to mid-fifth centuries C.E. Jon says, “In a reappraisal of narratives of late antique militarization, I argue that an ethos of quasi-military service reverberated through elite discourse and reinforced universal models of allegiance. Churchmen and administrators adopted martial imagery to further their own agendas even as military models of service remained contested. Traditionalists questioned the logic of soldierly administrative language, and entrepreneurial bishops contrasted earthly and heavenly militia. In this way, the similarities between different spheres of martial imagery fueled debates about universal hierarchies and allegiance.” He adds that the inspiration for his dissertation topic came from his A-exam on late antique imperial administration, during which he “became fascinated by the military titles and accoutrement of the civilian bureaucracy, a detail often mentioned by scholars but rarely explored in depth.” Jon continues to be interested in the nature of militarism, and has begun thinking about possible future directions for his research: “While my dissertation explored the uses of martial imagery in non-military contexts, I only tangentially touched upon the relationship with the army itself and contemporary warfare. Exploring these more traditional facets of militarism in greater depth could allow me to relate the claims of my dissertation to other issues in political and military history.” 

To prospective and current graduate students embarking on the dissertation-writing process, Jon advises, “Remain open to developing new research interests and projects. When I first came to Cornell, I didn’t have a specific interest in bureaucracy or the language of militia in late antiquity. I’m glad that I was willing to branch out and explore new topics!” He adds that it is not always a bad idea to explore areas outside of your main research interests as well: “For example, studying Syriac allowed me not only to touch upon some additional sources, but also to work with some wonderful people whom I might not have met had I focused exclusively on one narrow area of research.”

Jon fondly remembers many of the classes that he has both taken and taught while at Cornell. One of his very first classes as a PhD student was also his favorite, a seminar on Latin scientific literature taught by Courtney Roby. He says, “The course covered a wide variety of ancient texts that I had never encountered before, and the scholarship we read showed the kinds of interesting and original questions that scholars should ask of sources.” As a teacher, Jon most enjoyed his First Year Writing Seminar on Greek myth, in which the students were introduced to the Aeneid, Iliad, and Odyssey. He enjoyed having the opportunity to design a course “that progressively emphasized different elements of writing and levels of analysis,” and he found it rewarding to watch the students “develop as strong writers and critical readers of ancient texts.” Like Peter, Jon also recalls Friday evenings spent at the Big Red Barn chatting over drinks with his fellow graduate students, adding that it is one of the things he has missed most during COVID. 

Jon would like to thank the Classics Department staff and faculty for all of their help over the years, and extends a special thank you to his dissertation committee, Benjamin Anderson, Courtney Roby, and Barry Strauss, for their feedback and encouragement. Above all, he is grateful to his advisor, Éric Rebillard, for his advice and guidance along the way. 

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Congratulations, Peter and Jon!

Klarman Hall at sunset