Supervisors: Maureen Carroll
My research seeks to explore the effect of time on unique regional circumstances which allowed Roman women in Italy, North Africa, and Asia Minor to increase their social power within their communities in the Roman Empire from the 1st to 3rd centuries AD. Focusing on specific case studies in these regions distant from, but politically and socially tied to, the empire’s capital in Rome will allow me to compare and contrast the situations that fostered women’s independence, while also highlighting the more oppressive forces at hand to limit women’s participation in public life. This study focuses on women’s access to the funds, power, and influence needed to commission public buildings as part of the Roman system of benefaction in urban communities that normally was a male-dominated forum for competition and honor.
The study also aims to examine the evolution of the meaning of these themes with changes in imperial leadership over time and in different corners of the empire. The women of the imperial family will provide a comparative context to understand how women outside the imperial family emulated these high-ranking role models. I seek to create an understanding of complex themes on the roles of women, the legacy of a family with power, and the cultural dissimilarities that allowed women from noble backgrounds to reach new levels of influence within the larger social hierarchy of the empire.
Melissa Kays began her work in the field through her studies at the University of Central Florida (BA - Anthropology) and continued her studies at the University of Sheffield in the Archaeology of the Classical Mediterranean Masters program. Her dissertation was titled “The Independent Women of Roman Italy, Asia Minor, and North Africa in the 1st – 3rd Centuries AD”. Melissa continues her research on this topic of benefactresses in Roman public life within her PhD thesis, examining 250+ ancient benefactresses with the aid of her innovative database methodology.
Once Melissa began her doctoral research, her first opportunities to present her work came about at conferences such as the Roman Archaeology Conference (Split, Croatia) and the Colloquium for Roman Provincial Art (Vienna, Austria). At the Roman Archaeology Conference, Melissa delivered a compelling presentation titled "Acting Roman, Dressing Syrian. Aurelia Paulina of Perge and the Creation of a Public Persona." Her expertise was further showcased at the Colloquium for Roman Provincial Art, where she presented on the topic of "Monuments of Aurelia Paulina and Her Portrayal of Social Change in Roman Asia Minor."
Melissa has taken on various roles to contribute to her field. As a member of the UoY Career Champions Team, she actively supported and guided fellow students in their career developmnt. Furthermore, she has served as an illustrator for the Leverhulme Grant project titled "Dress and Identity in Early Roman Southwest Italy," displaying her diverse skill set and commitment to scholarly pursuits. Most recently, Melissa has joined the university’s Open Research Team as an Graduate Engagement Lead for the Arts and Humanities. Within this role she will aid in advocating open research practices while connecting with the University of York Open Research Advocates Network.
Melissa's research contributions have also been recognized through publication opportunities. Her work on "Monuments of Aurelia Paulina and Her Portrayal of Social Change in Roman Asia Minor" has been accepted for publication in the CRPA proceedings, a significant achievement that will further disseminate her research findings.
In addition to her academic achievements, Melissa has received multiple awards and funding to support her research endeavors. Notably, she secured conference funding from the Roman Society and the York Graduate Research School Conference Fund, enabling her to attend conferences in Vienna and Split. She also obtained travel funding for data collection trips to Perge in Turkey and site visits in Rome, Sessa Aurunca, and Cassino. Furthermore, Melissa received funding from WRoCAH Doctoral Study Week for her research visit to Rome in January 2023, demonstrating her commitment to expanding her knowledge and networks.
Melissa has actively engaged in professional development opportunities to enhance her research skills. Her most notable work was in completing the York Learning and Teaching Award program, where she received accreditation from AdvanceHE verifying her award of Associate Fellow of the HEA (AFHEA).
Overall, Melissa Kays' research profile exemplifies her exceptional achievements, dedication, and contributions to the field of Roman archaeology. Her conference presentations, poster submissions, publications, awards, and ongoing professional development highlight her commitment to advancing knowledge and understanding in her area of expertise. Alongside her research, Melissa has enjoyed exploring ways to communicate research experiences and findings using social media, and would be keen to hear from any scholars with similar interests.
Kays, M. (in press). Monuments of Aurelia Paulina and Her Portrayal of Social Change in Roman Asia Minor. Proceedings of the 17th International Colloquium on Roman Provincial Art. Vienna / Carnuntum, May 16th – May 21st, 2022.
2023: Successfully completed the York Learning and Teaching Award (YLTA), thus receiving accreditation by Advance HE for the position of Associate Fellow of the HEA (AFHEA)