Mary McHugh


Associate Professor and Chair in Classics

Mary McHugh began her undergraduate career at Mt. Holyoke College as a pre-med major.  However, a course on ancient philosophy in her first semester changed her plans.  Interest blossomed into a special major, ancient Greek and philosophy.  And a course on 19th century Russian poetry, taught by the Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky, underlined the importance of knowing the origins of so much great world literature.  Familiarity with the works of Classical antiquity, especially in their original language, allows one to glean so much more from the works of later artists and authors who found inspiration there.

During her years in graduate school, stints at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens and the American Academy in Rome offered unique opportunities to view art and monuments in situ, lending fresh appreciation to the complex interplay between literature, art, and material culture, and what these sources can tell us about antiquity.

Mary's doctoral dissertation, Manipulating Memory: Remembering and Defaming Julio-Claudian Women, examined the influence of the commemorative practices of the Hellenistic/Ptolemaic dynasties on the Roman portrayal of four Julio-Claudian women: Livia, Octavia, Agrippina Maior and Agrippina Minor. These women featured prominently in the advertisement of dynastic succession promoted by their male relatives. When their spouses, brothers, or sons lost favor in the public eye, the savagery directed at these men also found expression in the strategies employed to disgrace the women connected to them. Several of the imperial women who had been given extraordinary honors, commemorated in art, text, and monument, later experienced public smear campaigns recorded by the very same media.

An interest in Tacitus' historiography led to Mary's first publication in 2004. Her essay, "Historiography and Freedom of Speech: the Case of Cremutius Cordus," delivered as a conference paper at the Penn-Leiden Colloquium on Ancient Values, was published by Brill in a volume of the conference proceedings, Free Speech in Classical Antiquity, edited by Ineke Sluiter and Ralph Rosen. This essay argues that the digression at Annals 4.32-33, rather than being a break in the narrative (common opinion in previous scholarly publications), instead provides the frame and context to read correctly the account of the treason trial of Cremutius Cordus which follows.

Mary participated in a 2008 NEH Summer Seminar in Italy on St. Francis of Assisi and the Thirteenth Century. She has an article forthcoming in Helios (Spring 2012) on the historian Tacitus' representation of Agrippina Maior and an essay on the posthumous reputation of Agrippina Minor, delivered as a conference paper at Bristol in 2010 and forthcoming in the conference proceedings, entitled Seduction and Power: Antiquity in the Visual and Performing Arts, to be published by Continuum in Fall 2012. She currently has several other essays under review by peer-reviewed, scholarly journals. Her book review of D'Ambra's Roman Women appeared in Classical Bulletin 85 (1): 142-45. She is currently working on a Tacitus Reader, a textbook intended to make this notoriously difficult historian accessible to advanced Latin students at the undergraduate level. Her current research interests include street food in antiquity, women in the context of their relationships with Roman soldiers, and the reception of Hellenistic science in the Islamic world.


B.A. cum laude Mt. Holyoke College; M.A. Tufts University; M.A. and Ph.D University of Wisconsin, Madison

Courses Taught

Synonym Title Times Taught Terms Taught
CUR-100Historical Perspective I82016/FA, 2015/FA, 2009/FA, and 2007/FA
LAT-102Beg. Latin II62016/SP, 2011/SP, and 2010/SP
LAT-101Beg. Latin I62013/FA, 2011/FA, and 2008/FA
CLA-398Honors Thesis42016/SP, 2015/SP, 2014/FA, and 2014/SP
GRE-101Beg. Greek I42015/FA, 2010/FA, 2009/FA, and 2007/FA
LAT-301Roman Historian-Livy32016/FA, 2014/FA, and 2010/FA
LAT-304Roman Drama32014/SP, 2012/SP, and 2008/SP
CLA-211Art & Archeol Greece32012/SP, 2010/SP, and 2008/SP
CLA-106A Taste of Roman Food32011/JN, 2009/JN, and 2005/JN
GRE-244ST:Plato's Symposium22016/SP
CLA-212Art and Archeology of Rome22015/SP and 2009/SP
CLA-399Classics Capstone22015/SP and 2011/SP
CLA-202Roman Hist/Culture22014/FA and 2008/FA
CLA-101Myth and Meaning22014/SP
GRE-201Plato and the Intellectual Revolution22013/FA and 2011/FA
GRE-102Greek II22012/SP and 2008/SP
LAT-112Latin II22005/SP
LAT-111Latin I22004/FA
GRE-344ST:Plato's Symposium12016/SP
NDL-268Career Exploration12012/JN
LAT-202Vergil's Aeneid12009/SP
CLA-112Great Books of the Greek and Roman World12005/SP
GRE-111Greek I12004/FA