Christian Laes


Biographical information

Full Professor (Ordinarius) of Ancient History, University of Manchester. Associate Professor (part-time) of Ancient History and Latin, University of Antwerp.

Professor Christian Laes (°1973) studies the social and cultural history of Roman and Late Antiquity, paying particular attention to the human life course: childhood, youth, family, sexuality, and disabilities. His monographs and over eighty contributions have been published with internationally renowned publishers and journals. He is a member of several international research networks: Religion and Childhood. Socialisation in Pre-Modern Europe from the Roman Empire to the Christian World (2009-2012), Handwörterbuch der antiken Sklaverei (2011-2013), Roman Society Research Center (2010-   ), Structural Determinants of Economic Performance in the Roman World (2012-   ) and Tiny Voices from the Past. New Perspectives on Childhood in Early Europe (2013-2017).

Christian Laes has held guest professorships at several European and American universities: Coimbra, Hamilton (Colgate), Leuven, Oslo, Nicosia (Open University), Tampere, and Vilnius. Since June 2013, Christian Laes has been granted the title of Adjunct Professor (Docent) in Ancient History at the History Department of the University of Tampere (Finland).  From the 1st of August 2014 to the 1st of August 2016, he was a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Social Research at the same university. From October 2016 on, he became an Invited Professor at the Pontificium Institutum Altioris Latinitatis (Salesiana, Rome). In 2016-2017 he acted as an Inspector for Classical Languages with the Flemish Ministery of Education. In 2017-2018, he was a Visiting Professor at the University of Fribourg, in the ERC-project Locus Ludi.

In the last years, Christian Laes has been much involved in the study of disability history of Antiquity. Next to a monograph, an edited bookvolume and several articles, this interest also led to the development of a website Disability History and the Ancient World containing a regularly updated bibliography on the subject.

For his research, Professor Laes has made extensive use of inscriptional evidence. His love for documentary philology, mainly epigraphy, caused him to be involved in the excavations of Grumentum, for which an edition of the epigraphical material is in preparation.

Educated as a classical philologist, he has kept his zeal for Latin language and literature, occasionally publishing on Neo-Latin writers as Nodot, Schnur, De Groot, De Laet, Van Torre, Pascoli. As a Sodalis and Vice-President of the established Academia Latinitati Fovendae, Christian Laes promotes the use of the Latin language.

Other interests include didactics of Latin and Ancient Greek. As the president of Classica Vlaanderen he actively supports the cause of ancient languages in the Flemish secondary school system and in European context.

In his free time, Christian Laes is a keen traveller. A taste for fine dining is one of his weaknesses.  

List of Publications and Scholarly Achievements

The website of this university contains a detailed list of all published work. However, if you would be interested in the details about forthcoming publications or if you would like to see the list of other academic achievements, I kindly invite you to take a look at the list of scholarly publications and academic scholarly achievements. This information will be regularly updated.

Recent book publications

Chr. Laes (ed.), Disability in Antiquity, London and New York, Routledge, 2017.

This volume is a major contribution to the field of disability history in the ancient world. Contributions from leading international scholars examine deformity and disability from a variety of historical, sociological and theoretical perspectives, as represented in various media. The volume is not confined to a narrow view of ‘antiquity’ but includes a large number of pieces on ancient western Asia that provide a broad and comparative view of the topic and enable scholars to see this important topic in the round. "The volume serves as a fitting starting point for a new era in disability history focussing on the ancient Mediterranean." (Jane Draycott)

Chr. Laes, V. Vuolanto (eds.), Children and Everyday Life in the Roman and Late Antique World, London and New York, Routledge, 2017.

The topics discussed in this volume include children's living environments; clothing; childhood care; social relations; leisure and play; health and disability; upbringing and schooling; and children's experiences of death. While the main focus of the volume is on Late Antiquity its coverage begins with the early Roman Empire, and extends to the early ninth century CE. The result is the first book-length scrutiny of the agency and experience of pre-modern children. "On account of its impressive thematic breadth, the high-level quality of its contributions throughout, and its deep, critical engagement with issues of method and theory, Children and Everyday Life in the Roman and Late Antique World should be required reading for anyone interested in the history of childhood." (Sinclair Bell)

Chr. Laes, K. Mustakallio, Ville Vuolanto (eds.), Children and Family in Late Antiquity. Life, Death and Interaction, Leuven, Peeters, 2015. This volume concentrates on three interlinked aspects of family life and interaction: liminal situations regarding demography and ecological factors that lay down the framework for family life; liminal conditions on the edges of familial life regarding child labour, child slaves and sexual attitudes towards children; and local traditions which confront us with people and cultures at the borders of the Roman Empire. It continues the series of five previous Roman Family conferences, but focuses especially on Late Antiquity.

 Beperkt? Gehandicapten in het Romeinse rijk, Leuven, Davidsfonds, 2014.  This is the first monograph ever to treat disabilities in the Roman Empire. After a methodological introduction and a chapter on the 'crucial' first days after birth, the book treats disabilities from head to toe: mental problems, blindnes, deafness and muteness, speech impairment and mobility problems. Ninety pages of footnotes, indices and bibliography make the volume an invaluable research tool, also for those who are less acquainted with Dutch. It was awarded the Homerusprijs 2015 of the NKV (Nederlands Klassiek Verbond), for the best book in classics bridging the present and the ancient world.

Christian Laes, Johan Strubbe, Youth in the Roman Empire. The Young and the Restless Years?, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Modern society has a negative view of youth as a period of storm and stress, but at the same time cherishes the idea of eternal youth. How does this compare with ancient Roman society? Did a phase of youth exist there with its own characteristics? How was youth appreciated? This book studies the lives and the image of youngsters (around 15-25 years of age) in the Latin West and the Greek East in the Roman period. Boys and girls of all social classes come to the fore; their lives, public and private, are sketched with the help of a range of textual and documentary sources, while the authors also employ the results of recent neuropsychological research. The result is a highly readable and wide-ranging account of how the crucial transition between childhood and adulthood operated in the Roman world.