Professor Julia Hillner

Staatsexamen, Ph.D. (Bonn)

Department of History

Professor of Medieval History

Julia Hillner
On leave 2020-2021

Full contact details

Professor Julia Hillner
Department of History
Jessop West
1 Upper Hanover Street
S3 7RA

I joined the Department of History in 2008. I studied at the Universities of Bonn, Perugia and Padova and graduated with a PhD in Ancient History in 2001.

Before coming to Sheffield I worked ​for the AHRB funded project "Religion, Dynasty and Patronage in Rome, c. 440-840", as a Teaching Fellow in Early Christianity, and as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, all at the University of Manchester.​

My research has been funded by the British Academy, the AHRC, the Leverhulme Trust and the Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation.

I am the Principal Investigator of The Migration of Faith: Clerical Exile in Late Antiquity and of Women, Conflict and Peace: Gendered Networks in Early Medieval Narratives, a member of the Faculty of Archaeology, History and Letters of the British School at Rome​, a co-editor of Gender & History, a member of the editorial board of Journal of Roman Studies, and a trustee of the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies.

Research interests

My research interests focus on anything to do with late Roman law: from the political, social and philosophical contexts of its production and codification at the imperial centre, to legal practices 'on the ground' and how they helped individuals to shape their relationships and environment.

I have a particular interest in the transformations of the family and the household in the period 300-750 and how these transformations are reflected in legal norms and practices. I have published widely on related topics: from the urban context of the family and property holding, particularly in the late antique city of Rome, to issues of authority, hierarchy and discipline within the household and how these have influenced concepts and practices of public punishment in late antiquity.

I currently have three research projects: the first one, funded by the AHRC, is a collaborative project with colleagues at the Universities of Halle, Aarhus and Vienna, investigating the cultural encounters generated by legal banishment of religious dissidents in late antiquity and their influence on the development and institutionalisation of the Christian church in this period. Within this project, I investigate how exiled clerics' social relationships, in particular with members of their households and with women, structured their experiences and the memory of their exile. I am particularly interested in the possibilities of social network analysis to assess the roles of such more 'marginal' people. For further information and publication plans see

My second project is a biography of Helena, mother of the first Christian emperor Constantine (under contract with Oxford University Press, for the Women in Antiquity series). This book will examine Helena's life and reception against the background of female networks within and across the imperial and royal dynasties of late antiquity and against the social and legal parametres of female life in the late Roman empire. I am blogging about this project here.

Finally, I am working on a project on a role of women in early medieval conflict resolution, together with Dr Máirín MacCarron (Sheffield), Prof Silvio Dahmen (Porto Alegre) and Prof Ralph Kenna (Coventry). This project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, analyses how early medieval history-writing fitted women and their networks into stories of conflict and peace-building. Is objective is to reveal whether women only appear as peace-building and conflict-sowing conduits between men in early medieval texts, or whether early medieval authors afforded women more expansive roles within their networks. It will do so using an interdisciplinary approach combining qualitative and quantitative methodologies from History, Literature and Network Science. It will build on ground-breaking developments in literary network analysis, that is, mathematical calculation of character relationships over the course of a narrative, and adapt this method as historical source criticism. One outcome of the project will be a monograph co-authored with Dr MacCarron.

I am also a founding member, with Dr Charles West (History) and Dr Jane Rempel (Archaeology), of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities' interdisciplinary Medieval and Ancient Research Seminar (MARS) part of the The Medieval and Ancient Research Centre at the University of Sheffield (MARCUS). 



  • Hillner J (2015) Prison, punishment and penance in late antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Hillner J (2004) Jedes Haus ist eine Stadt: Privatimmobilien im spätantiken Rom. Bonn: Habelt. RIS download Bibtex download

Edited books

Journal articles


Dictionary/encyclopaedia entries


  • Hillner J, Mawdsley H & Rohmann D (2018) The Migration of Faith: Clerical Exile in Late Antiquity. RIS download Bibtex download
Research group

Research supervision

I teach social history of the Roman and late Roman empire. I am happy to supervise students interested in any aspect of this area, in particular those with interests in the city of Rome, the family, monasticism, crime and punishment, and late Roman and early medieval law.

Current Students

Second Supervisor

  • Kelsey Madden (Second Supervisor, Department of Archaeology) -  Vulnerable Victims of War: The Meaning and Significance of Barbarian Women and Children Represented in Roman Conquest Iconography from the 1st to the 4th centuries AD.

All current students

Completed Students
  • Simon Hosie (MPhil) - Cataloguing the Empire: The Regionary Catalogues and the Role and Purpose of Bureaucratic Inventories.
  • Harold Mawdsley - Exile in the Western Successor-States, 439 - C.650.


Find out more about PhD study in History

Teaching activities


  • HST230 - The Family in Late Antiquity: Romans, Barbarians and Christians
  • HST2025 - Match of the Day: The Nika Riot in 532
  • HST3113/14 - The Phoenix City: Rome in Late Antiquity (300-600)


  • HST6033 - Crime and Punishment in Late Antiquity
  • HST6084 - Writing Late Antique Lives
Professional activities

I am a member of the editorial board of Journal of Roman Studies, a co-editor of Gender & History and an editor of Early Medieval Europe,

I serve as an elected  member of the Faculty of Archaeology, History and Letters of the British School at Rome (2017-2021) and as an elected member of the council of the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, of which I am also a trustee

I am on the Advisory Board of the ERC funded project "Connected Clerics. Building a Universal Church in the Late Antique West" (CONNEC), directed by Dr David Natal (Royal Holloway), and a 'Fachgutachter' for the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

I am a member of the Associazione Internazionale di Archeologia Classica (AIAC)

Administrative roles:

I am the Department of History's REF coordinator.

Public engagement

I am a committee member of the Sheffield branch of the Classical Association, which I chaired in 2010-11. In 2015-6 I supervised research into the history of the Sheffield Classical Association, conducted by Isobel Bowden and supported by a SURE project grant of the University of Sheffield. The results of this project can be found on the branch's website.

I am also on the Roman Society's Panel of Lecturers and can be booked for local Classical Association and school talks. I have recently given lectures in Bangor, Hull, Cardiff, Leeds, Edinburgh and Newcastle-under-Lyme.

In the media:

I am a regular contributor to the department's History Matters blog. I regularly blog about the research for my current monograph project, a biography of Helena, mother of Constantine, here.