Peter O’Brien

Peter O'Brien

Graduate Coordinator and Assistant Professor, Latin Literature

| Faculty Member

Peter O'Brien Peter O'Brien

BA (Hons)(Vind) MA (Dal) MA, PhD (Boston University)

Serving as a King’s-Dalhousie Carnegie Professor, Dr. Peter O’Brien is Assistant Professor of Classics in the King’s-Dalhousie Joint Faculty.

Research Topics

  • Late antique historiography
  • Latin literature
  • Neo-Latin

I was born and raised in Halifax, and completed my undergraduate degree at Dalhousie and the University of King’s College. After an MA thesis on Greek Tragedy at Dalhousie, I began doctoral studies at Boston University, where I continued to study Greek literature, but gradually shifted my main research focus to Latin. Before taking up my Dalhousie appointment in 2000, I taught Classics and English at a private school in Boston. In 2001, I became a member of the joint King’s-Dalhousie faculty. Since 2011, I have served as Public Orator at King’s, and from 2017-2021, I took a leave from my regular departmental duties to serve as Vice-President at King’s.

With Myles McCallum of Saint Mary’s University and Kathryn Simonsen of MUN, I serve as Co-Editor of Mouseion: Journal of the Classical Association of Canada.

In May, 2022, I began a two-year term as Vice-President of the Classical Association of Canada.

Research and teaching interests

My doctoral thesis explored imperial speeches in the fourth century A.D. historian Ammianus Marcellinus. My work since then has also focused on literary aspects of that author’s work, particularly his knowledge of and allusions to the Augustan epic poet Virgil. More recently, I have begun to explore the vast domain of Neo-Latin literature, especially its treatment of Canadian themes and topics, as well as the Classical Tradition at King’s and Dalhousie.

In addition to a graduate seminar on Ammianus, I teach Virgil, Ovid, Catullus, and other Latin poets in advanced language courses and seminars, as well as undergraduate courses in late Roman history and in Greek and Roman myth and literature. At the University of King’s College, I am a frequent lecturer in the Foundation Year Programme (Homer’s Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid), and have served as Co-ordinator of its first section.

In off-campus teaching, I’ve contributed lectures and seminars for several years to Halifax Humanities 101 and Halifax Thinks.


Recent Publications

“nec, nate, tibi comes ire recuso: Classical Formation and Latin Verse at King’s in the 19th Century.” In Academic Musings: The Legacy of the Euro-Méditerranée: A Festschrift in Celebration of the Reverend Doctor Thomas H. Curran. Eds. P Bryson, Susan Dodd, Neil Robertson. Belfast, PE: Underhill 2019. 269-286.

Si potes exemplo moveri, non propiore potes: Emotional Reciprocity in Le Brun’s Nova Gallia.” In Changing Hearts: Performing Jesuit Emotions between Europe, Asia and the Americas. Eds. Y. Haskell and R. Garrod. Leiden: Brill 2019. 147-166.

“Contemporary Companies outside the Civitas Dei: Augustine’s Pagan Adversaries.” In The Church Visible and Invisible: “The Blessed Company of all Faithful People.” Ed. S. Harris. Charlottetown, P.E.I.: St. Peter Publications, 2017. 75-107.

“Ammianus Marcellinus, the Caesar Julian, and Rhetorical Failure.” Cahiers des Études Anciennes no. 50 (2013): 139-160.

“Vetranio’s Revenge? The Rhetorical Prowess of Ammianus’ Constantius.” Dialogues d’histoire ancienne suppl. 8 (2013): 221-258.

The Virgil Encyclopedia, s.v. Ammianus Marcellinus and Historia Augusta. Ed. Richard Thomas and Jan Ziowlkowski. Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.

“La Franciade De Le Brun : Poétique Ovidienne De l’Exil En Nouvelle-France.” Tangence no. 99 (2012): 35-60.

“Origins: From Royal Priesthood to Hellenic Kingship to Roman Sacred Imperium.” In Changing our Mind on Secularization: The Contemporary Debate about sacred and secular in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Eds. W. Hankey and N. Hatt. Charlottetown, P.E.I.: St. Peter Publications, 2010. 49-69.

“An unnoticed Reminiscence of Aeneid 10.517-20 at Ammianus Marcellinus 22.12.6”, Mnemosyne 60.4 (2007): 662-668.

“The Goddess of Love and the Poetry of Rome.” in Proceedings of the 25th Annual Atlantic Theological Conference, St. Peter Publications, 2006. 109-134.

“Ammianus Epicus: Virgilian Allusion in the Res Gestae,” Phoenix 60.3-4 (2006): 274-303.

Words of Wisdom In the Senate Speaker’s Chambers: The Latin Inscriptions in the Senate Speaker’s Suite. Ottawa: Senate of Canada, 2006.


Kelly, G. 2008. Ammianus Marcellinus: The Allusive Historian.(Cambridge Classical Studies) Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. Mnemosyne 64.2 (2011), 345-350.

J. den Boeft et al., Philological and Historical Commentary on Ammianus Marcellinus XXVIII. Leiden: Brill, 2011. The Classical Review (forthcoming 65.1, 2015).

Matthews, J. 2007. The Roman Empire of Ammianus Marcellinus. With a New Introduction. Rev. ed. Ann Arbor: Michigan Classical Press. Pp. xvi + 608. US $87.00. ISBN 978-0-9799713-2-7. Mouseion 53.9.3 (2009): 350-354.

Ursula K. LeGuin. Lavinia. Orlando: Harcourt, 2008. Infomonkey Book Reviews, January 26, 2010, http://halifax.infomonkey.net/nova.scotia.news.events.php?e=ursula-le-guin-and-the-the-aeneids-lavinia

den Boeft, J.W. Drijvers, D. den Hengst, H.C. Teitler, Ammianus After Julian: The Reign of Valentinian and Valens in Books 26-31 of the Res Gestae. Mnemosyne Supplementa, 289. Bryn Mawr Classical Review. 2008.09.35 [Sept. 17, 2008; http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2008/2008-09-35.html]

A Companion to Catullus. Edited by Marilyn B. Skinner. Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World. Malden and Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2007. xxvi, 590 pages. $191.99. The Dalhousie Review 88.3 (2008): 453-455.

Virgil’s Aeneid: Decorum. Allusion, and Ideology, by Wendell Clausen. The Dalhousie Review 84.2 (2003): 315-318.

Climbing Parnassus, by Tracy Lee Simmons. The Dalhousie Review 83.3 (2003): 449-451.