Matthew Cobb

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Dr Matthew Cobb BA, MA, PhD

Lecturer in Classics

Tel: +44 (0) 1570 424806

Marketing and alumni group

I am a researcher and lecturer with interests in interdisciplinary (historical, literary and archaeological) approaches to the study of cultural and economic relationships between the Graeco-Roman Mediterranean and the Indian subcontinent. 

I obtained my PhD from Swansea University and have since that time published a number of books, edited chapters and articles.

Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies

My teaching encompasses a number of campus based and distance learning modules at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. This includes utilising a range of diverse material, themes and periods relating to the historical, literary, archaeological and social aspects of Ancient History and Classics. The modules taught on include the following:

  • Language modules:

    • Advanced Greek (texts including Herodotus’ Histories, Xenophon’s Anabasis, and selections of speeches from the corpus of Lysias)
    • Intermediate Greek (advanced grammar and translating un-adapted Greek texts – e.g. Lysias and Lucian’s True History)

    Undergraduate Modules:

    • From Village to Empire (first year survey course of Roman political and military history, including the Republican, Imperial and Late Antique periods)
    • Athens and Rome (first year - the social history and material culture of both Athens and Rome)
    • Everyday Life in Ancient Rome (first year – Roman social history module)
    • Infamous and Damned? Nero and the Julio-Claudian Dynasty (second year - historical, biographical and cultural study of the period)
    • Literature and Culture in the Reign of Nero (second year - literary, cultural and biographical history of the reign of Nero).
    • The Life and Times of Caesar and Cicero (second and third year module – co-taught, I do the historical part of the module, my colleague the literary part).
    • Macedon and the Macedonians (second year - I taught the latter Hellenistic part of the module)
    • Classics Project (Second year - independent, but supported, study project/proto-dissertation)
    • Regional Archaeology and History fieldtrip module (second and third year - organised field trip to Sicily – spring 2017; currently organiser the field trip to Provence).
    • City of Rome (third year – historical and social history, art history, and material culture).
    • West meets East: At the Borders of the Oikoumene and Beyond (third year - social, religious, political, military and economic history and material culture – interaction of the Graeco-Roman world with India, Central Asia, East Africa, Southern Arabia and the Far East).

    Postgraduate modules:

    • Julius Caesar and his Times (late Republican history with a biographic focus on Caesar)
    • Writing History in the Ancient World: Between Narrative and Interpretation (Greek and Roman historiography)
    • Life in the Eastern Desert of Egypt (political, religious, social, military and economic history and material culture)
    • Theory and Methodology for the Study of Classics

My research examines the cultural and economic interaction between the Mediterranean and Indian spheres. In particular, I am interested in the Indian Ocean as a conduit for trade and exchange between West and East, focusing on the Augustan period up to the third century AD.

This research encompasses a number of areas including economic issues relating to the cost, conduct, and operations of the trade; cultural and social issues concerning the identity and status of the merchants and the creation of diaspora and temporary merchant communities in foreign lands; as well as examining the social and economic impact of this trade on the elite at Rome, particularly the consumption of eastern goods.

Among my public engagement activities, I was a guest contributor to an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Making History Programme. This was an episode on Food which originally aired at 15:30 on Tuesday 7th of January, 2020. While in 2017, I appeared as an expert contributor in episode 6 of the second season of Finding Jesus: Fact, Faith, Forgery. The episode is entitled ‘Doubting Thomas’. This aired on CNN in America in the spring of 2017. I was consulted for my knowledge of Indian Ocean trade in the first century CE.

I have been involved in outreach initiatives designed to facilitate access to classics and ancient history in the wider community. These activities include participating in the South West Wales Reaching Wider Partnership programmes which is designed to get local school children interested in HE, as well as the Swansea  University / South West Wales Classical Association / Iris Project ‘Latin in the Park’ project.


  • Cobb, M. A. 2018. Rome and the Indian Ocean Trade: From Augustus to the Early Third Century CE. Leiden: Brill.

Edited books:

  • Autiero, S. and M. A. Cobb (eds.), [Forthcoming - September 2021]. Globalization and Transculturality from Antiquity to the Pre-Modern World. London: Routledge.
  • Cobb, M. A. (ed.), 2019. The Indian Ocean Trade in Antiquity: Political, Cultural and Economic Impacts. London: Routledge.

Journal articles and chapters in edited books:

  • Cobb, M. A. 2021: ‘Conceptualising the Far West: Early Chinese Notions of Da Qin and the Indian Ocean Trade’, in Himanshu Prabha Ray (ed.), The Archaeology of Knowledge Traditions of the Indian Ocean World. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 56–78.
  • Cobb, M. A. 2020: ‘Palmyrene Merchants and the Red Sea Trade’ in Michael Sommer (ed.), Inter duo Imperia: Palmyra between East and West. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, pp. 65-83.
  • Cobb, M. A. 2019: ‘Peoples of the Eastern Desert of Egypt and their impact on the Red Sea trade (first to third centuries CE)’ to appear in Ancient West & East 18: 85-112.
  • Cobb, M. A. and Mitchell, F. (2019) ‘Eros at Junnar: Reconsidering a Piece of Graeco-Roman Art’, Greece & Rome 66 (2): 203-226.
  • Cobb, M. A. 2018: ‘Black Pepper Consumption in the Roman Empire’, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 61 (4): 519-559.
  • Cobb, M. A. 2018. ‘Introduction: The Indian Ocean in Antiquity and Global History’, in Cobb, M. A. (ed.), The Indian Ocean Trade in Antiquity: Political, Cultural and Economic Impacts: 1-14.
  • Cobb, M. A. 2018. ‘From the Ptolemies to Augustus: Mediterranean integration into the Indian Ocean Trade’, in Cobb, M. A. (ed.), The Indian Ocean Trade in Antiquity: Political, Cultural and Economic Impacts: 17-51.
  • Cobb, M. A. 2016: ‘The Decline of Ptolemaic Elephant Hunting: An Analysis of the Contributory Factors’ Greece & Rome 63 (2): 192-204.
  • Cobb, M. A. 2015: ‘The Chronology of Roman Trade in the Indian Ocean from Augustus to Early Third Century AD’, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 58 (3): 362-418.
  • Cobb, M. A. 2015: ‘Balancing the Trade: Roman Cargo Shipments to India’, Oxford Journal of Archaeology 34 (2): 185-203. 
  • Cobb, M. A. 2014: ‘The Exchange of Goods from Italy to India during the Early Roman Empire: The Range of Travelling Times’, Ancient West & East 13: 89-116.
  • Cobb, M. A. 2013: ‘The Reception and Consumption of Eastern Goods in Roman Society’, Greece & Rome 60 (1): 136-52.

Articles for a popular/wider audience:

  • Cobb, M. A. 2017: ‘India in the Early Greek Imagination’, ARGO: A Hellenic Review 5 (1): 6-8.

Book Reviews:

  • Review of A. Van Oyen and M. Pitts (eds.), Materialising Roman History, Oxbow books, Oxford 2017 – for Ancient West & East, to appear in the 2019 issue.
  • Review of K. G. Evers, Worlds Apart Trading Together: The Organisation of Long-Distance Trade between Rome and India in Antiquity, Archaeopress Roman Archaeology 32, Archaeopress, Oxford 2017. – for Ancient West & East, to appear in the 2019 issue.
  • Review of D. Robin and F. Goddio (eds.), Thonis-Heracleion in Context, Oxford Centre of Maritime Archaeology, 2015. The Mariner's Mirror (2016), pages 469-472.