Distinguished Research Professor 2015
Susan Mattern, professor of history, has established an outstanding national and international reputation as an expert on the history of Rome. Her first book, Rome and the Enemy, is widely regarded as one of the most important contributions to the topic of Roman imperialism and was among the first to emphasize the informal nature of Roman rule that relied more on negotiation and patronage than scholars had previously realized. Mattern’s second book, Galen and the Rhetoric of Healing, represents a major shift in her research focus. In it, she argues that medicine was inflected by Greek ways of thinking about social values such as citizenship and masculinity. Therapy, she illustrates, was both an intimate dialogue between doctor and patient and a negotiation over power in the patient’s household. Mattern continued to break new ground in her third book, The Prince of Medicine, which is the first to systematically set the prominent Greek physician Galen in his social and environmental context—the ancient Mediterranean world of infectious disease. Previously portrayed as a dogmatic pedant, Mattern argues that Galen carried on an exhausting clinical practice that included several years of battle with the Mediterranean world’s first smallpox epidemic.