Rebecca Benefiel to Deliver Endowed Professorship Lecture Benefiel’s talk “Uncovering the mysteries of Pompeii” will be held on Nov. 10.
Rebecca Benefiel, professor of classics, will present a public lecture to mark her appointment to the Abigail Grigsby Urquhart ’11 Term Professorship at Washington and Lee University.
Titled “Uncovering the Mysteries of Pompeii,” Benefiel’s talk is free to the public and will be held on Thursday, Nov. 10 at 5 p.m. in Stackhouse Theater. The lecture focuses on the graffiti written on the walls of the famous Italian city that was buried under volcanic debris following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79 CE.
“Even after two centuries of excavation, Pompeii continues to reveal secrets from the preserved remains,” said Benefiel. “The handwritten graffiti on the walls of Pompeii tell a new story of what life was like in the first century. My lecture will present the detective work of archaeology and the value of interrogating evidence — even evidence that may have long been ignored.”
Over the past decade, Benefiel has been working with Sara Sprenkle, professor of computer science at W&L, to bring this ancient graffiti to the public through their digital resource, the Ancient Graffiti Project. She has led more than 60 students and faculty in fieldwork at Pompeii and Herculaneum, and she is currently on sabbatical as a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Additionally, Benefiel is the only American supervisor for the large-scale collaborative project, Epigraphic Database Roma, a scholarly database presenting ancient inscriptions from the Italian peninsula.
Benefiel’s National Geographic podcast on the graffiti of Pompeii was named one of the top five travel podcasts by Exploreworldwide.com. She co-edited the book “Inscriptions in the Private Sphere in the Greco-Roman World,” and has authored numerous additional articles and publications over the years. She is also a frequent lecturer on the subject of ancient graffiti.
Benefiel has been a member of the W&L faculty since 2005. She has served as department head for the Department of Classics and is a core faculty member for the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program. She has also been an affiliated faculty member for the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, and served as a humanities faculty member for the Digital Humanities Working Group. In 2011 she received an Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
Benefiel holds a B.A. in classics with a double major in Greek and Latin from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and she has done graduate work in epigraphy at L’Universitá di Roma ‘La Sapienza. She also earned a Ph.D. in classics from Harvard University.
The Abigail Grigsby Urquhart ’11 Term Professorship was established in 2007 by Abigail’s parents, A. William and Mary Urquhart. The professorship is a permanently endowed fund at W&L, providing support for a university faculty member who is judged to be excellent in teaching and in professional contributions. The award recognizes a different professor every three to five years.