The Catholic University of America




Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Professor of Early Christian Studies

Personal University phone: 202 319 6217
Personal University email:

On the page below, scroll down to find 1. General field of interest, 2. Academic biography, 3. Teaching, 4. Current research, 5. and 6. Publications, and 7. Contact details.  In several places you will find hyperlinks to other pages on the site.


1. General Field of Interest

I am an historian of Late Antiquity - roughly the period between Marcus Aurelius and Muhammad: the late second to the early seventh century (although my work has focused largely on the later end of that spectrum).  I specialize in its religious history, under the well-tested rubric "the transformation of the classical heritage" - studying chiefly its Christian and specifically Patristic manifestations, but with due reference to both Jewish and pagan literature and practice.  I have a particular interest in ascetic culture - again, chiefly in its Christian forms, but taking into account also its Jewish and pagan analogues.  I am deeply interested in the interplay between theological reflection and historical circumstance, attending especially to modes of dissemination and the motives behind them - in homilies and letters, for example, as well as in exegetical commentaries and more formal treatises.  Linguistically, I move with greatest ease in the Latin and Greek milieux.

2. Short Academic Biography

While trying a vocation for the religious life and the priesthood in the English Province of the Society of Jesus, I completed a Licentiate in Philosophy (1959-1962) at Heythrop College.  I then completed a B.A. in Modern History (1962-1965) at Campion Hall, Oxford, leaving the Jesuits in my final year.  I worked as a lay missionary teacher (1965-1968) in Zambia.  Returning to Oxford, I completed a D.Phil. in the History Faculty (1968-1972), under the supervision of Peter Brown, having been appointed a Graduate Scholar at Wolfson College.

By the time I had completed and successfully defended my thesis (subsequently published as Ascetics, Authority, and the Church in the Age of Jerome and Cassian, Oxford University Press, 1978), I had been appointed (in 1972) a Lecturer in History at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, where I remained until 1998, ending as an Associate Professor.

During my time in Auckland, I was appointed to the following fellowships and temporary teaching positions: Fellow, Dumbarton Oaks (1981-1982); Visiting Professor, University of California, Berkeley (1985); Honorary Research Fellow, University of Exeter, England (1990); Member, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton (1990); Visiting Scholar, Wolfson College, Oxford (1995); Bye Fellow, Robinson College, Cambridge (1996).

In 1998, I was invited to take up an endowed position as Visiting Professor of Early Christian Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.  My position was made permanent in 2001, when I became Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Professor of Early Christian Studies.

During my time at Catholic, I have been appointed to the following fellowships: Distinguished Scholar, Senter for Høyere Studier, Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (2003); Visiting Scholar, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, University of California, Los Angeles (2010), which was followed by a lecture tour of other University of California campuses (Santa Barbara, Berkeley, and Davis); Honorary Professor of the Australian Catholic University (Centre for Early Christian Studies, Faculties of Theology and Philosophy) (2013-2016).

I have also served as Director of Catholic's Center for the Study of Early Christianity (2001-2015).

In 2013, I was presented with a Festschrift recognizing forty years of research and publication in the field of late antique asceticism: Ascetic Culture: Essays in Honor of Philip Rousseau, edited by Blake Leyerle and Robin Darling Young (University of Notre Dame Press).  The book contains exciting essays by the Editors and by Virginia Burrus, Daniel Caner, Catherine Chin, Malcolm Choat, Elizabeth Clark, Susanna Elm, Georgia Frank, James Goehring, Joel Kalvesmaki, Patricia Cox Miller, Claudia Rapp, Samuel Rubenson, and Janet Timbie.

3. Teaching


Fall 2017

ECST 715 (graduate seminar course with research paper): "Ascetics and Healing in Late Antiquity."  TTh 2:10-3.25 (Venue TBA).

Spring 2018

ECST 650 (graduate seminar course with research paper): "History of Early Christian Thought." Time and place TBA.  Compulsory for "Early Christian Studies" students.

On this page (click "Graduate Students" above), you will find more detailed information about the topics of dissertations I am ready to direct.  I also provide information about some of my present and immediate past students, their progress within the Center's program or other programs, their publications and conference activities, and (where I know it) their place of employment. 

4. Current Research

I continue to work on Jerome, Cassian, and their contemporaries.  I am also taking a closer interest in Gregory the Great.

I am increasing my attention to the ascetic as a healer (rather than the 'new philosopher' - not that I reject that characterization), partly in conjunction with the Working Group for Religion, Medicine, Disability, and Health in Late Antiquity presided over by Kristi Upson-Saia and Heidi Marx-Wolf.  This also allows reflection on issues connected with nature, the body, the miraculous, and the providence of God.

Finally, I am beginning to lay out plans for two monographs: one on the contemporary relevance of ancient asceticism; the other on hermeneutic techniques appropriate to the reading of late antique texts.

Further details of these endeavors will be found by clicking on the heading (4) above.

5. Recent Publications 

"Gregory’s Kings, the Theatre of the 'Modern,' and the Endurance of Romanitas," in Jamie Kreiner and Helmut Reimitz (eds), Motions of Late Antiquity: Essays on Religion, Politics, and Society in Honour of Peter Brown (Turnhout: Brepols, 2016), pp. 209-229.
"Can 'Late Antiquity' Be Saved?" in Ellen Muehlberger (ed.), "Late Antiquity and the New Humanities," Marginalia, LA Review of Books, (2015).
"Jerome as Priest, Exegete and 'Man of the Church'," in Geoffrey D. Dunn and Wendy Mayer (eds), Christians Shaping Identity from the Roman Empire to Byzantium: Studies Inspired by Pauline Allen (Leiden: Brill, 2015), pp. 186-207.
"Homily and Exegesis in the Patristic Age: Comparisons of Purpose and Effect," in Alberto J. Quiroga Puertas (ed.), The Purpose of Rhetoric in Late Antiquity: From Performance to Exegesis (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013), pp. 11-29.
6. Forthcoming Publications
(With Albrecht Diem) "The Development of Monastic Rules," in Alison Beach and Isabelle Cochelin (eds), The Cambridge History of Medieval Western Monasticism (Cambridge University Press).
Ed. (with Janet Timbie) The Christian Moses: From Philo to the Qur'an (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press).
"Hagiography and Displacement: City Readers, Desert Scenes," in Stephen Harrison and Thea S. Thorsen (eds), The Power of Ancient Prose: Novelistic, Apologetic, Biographic.


7. Fuller Contact Details

Philip Rousseau. M.A., D.Phil., F.R.Hist.S.
Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Professor of Early Christian Studies
211 McMahon Hall
The Catholic University of America
Washington, DC 20064

Personal University phone: 202 319 6217
Personal University email: