The Ancient History section is heir to the Ancient History research unit of the former Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, which goes back to the ‘Seminar for Ancient History’ (Seminarie voor Oude Geschiedenis), before the departmental structure was adopted in 1991. Research at the Ancient History Seminar / Research Unit was traditionally strongly focused on religion. This tradition goes back to Franz Cumont and was prominent in the works of Gabriel Sanders (retired in 1991), Pieter Lambrechts †1974) and Johnny Devreker (retired in 2008). The latter two shared also Cumont’s interest in religious material culture and archaeology. In 1967 Pieter Lambrechts started excavations on the site of ancient Pessinus, center of the cult of the Mother Goddess Cybele. Excavation campaigns were interrupted by Lambrechts’s death in 1974 but were taken up again by Johnny Devreker from 1987 until his retirement in 2008. Pieter Lambrechts was also deeply interested in Roman institutional history, particularly the development and composition of the Roman senate which he studied as prosopographer. Johnny Devreker followed this line of research until he gradually shifted his attention more to the excavations at Pessinus later in his carreer. While Robert Duthoy (retired 2007) initially also started out as a historian of Roman religion, he gradually evolved into a social historian, specializing in local urban society and Latin epigraphy. His work on the augustales and patron-client relations – although mostly published in the 1970’s and 1980s is still much cited. Gabriel Sanders was interested primarily in early Christianity, epigraphic poetry and the Latin literature of late Antiquity and early Middle Ages. Dorothy Pikhaus (retired 2008) continued his work on epigraphic poetry and literary culture. Although her work covered the entire period from the early Principate to Late Antiquity, she was most interested in early Christian epigraphy.
Economic history had been the specialty of Raymond Bogaert (retired 1986). His work on Greek and Egyptian banking still enjoys worldwide recognition as fundamental. Although Bogaert was head of the ‘Seminar for Greek Epigraphy and Papyrology’ (Seminarie voor Griekse Epigrafie en Papyrologie), which after the introduction of the departmental structure became part of the Department of Latin & Greek, his work was profoundly historical and stimulated much of Verboven’s later work.
In 2007 and 2008 the three tenured staff members (J. Devreker, R. Duthoy, D. Pikhaus) of the former Ancient History Research unit retired. Only two were scheduled to be replaced (Robert Duthoy who was replaced by K. Verboven, and Johnny Devreker who was replaced by Andries Zuiderhoek). In 2009, however, Peter Van Nuffelen joined the team as a research professor. In 2010 the research unit itself was transferred to the new Department of History, where it now forms the Ancient History section.