Colin Elliott

Assistant Professor, Department of History

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Classics

Department of History

IU, IU Bloomington

Full Biography

In broad terms, I am interested in social and economic connectivity in the Ancient Roman Empire. My first book (in preparation), early articles and University of Bristol doctoral dissertation (2012) examine this theme as it relates to money and the way in which money impacted social and cultural cohesion throughout the Mediterranean in the first four centuries A.D. Despite the presence of a unified, centralized monetary system, my work shows that ideas about what money was, how it was used and how it functioned varied widely throughout the Roman Mediterranean. In short, money-use in the Roman Empire was inescapably tied to culture, and efforts by Roman officials to homogenize currency acceptance and use within its territories were subject to unpredictable and even catastrophic results.

Since investigating the monetary policies of the Roman Empire, I have become aware of a curious connection between several key monetary reforms and devaluations and the appearance of plagues and changing weather patterns in the Roman Mediterranean. Hence, my current research investigates the contributions of ecological and epidemiological factors in both the unification and diversification of Mediterranean economies and societies. The natural focal point for such themes is the second through sixth centuries A.D.; a period which seems to have witnessed a variety of plagues, environmental changes, large-scale migrations and upheavals in economic and social institutions. Through a series of intensified studies, beginning with a focus upon the Antonine Plague in the mid to late second century A.D., this research will provide new insights into the way in which Late Antique economies weathered synonymous changes in both climate and political economy.  The results will shed new light upon the evolution of key social and economic structures during the transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages.

Research Interests

  • Ecological and Economic Integration in the Ancient and Late Antique Mediterranean
  • Money, its meaning and uses in the Roman Empire
  • The Application of Economic and Social Theory to Classical Antiquity


  • ‘The Role of Money in the Economy of Ancient Greece and Rome’. In Battilossi, Cassis & Yago (eds.), Handbook of the History of Money and Currency. Springer (forthcoming).
  • ‘The Antonine Plague, Climate Change and Local Violence in Roman Egypt’. Past & Present (2016)
  • ‘The Crisis of A.D. 33: Past and Present’. Journal of Ancient History (2015).
  • ‘The Acceptance and Value of Roman Silver Coinage in the Second and Third Centuries A.D.’ Numismatic Chronicle (2014).