Peter O'Brien

Assistant Professor, Latin Literature

Head Shot P. O'Brien

Phone: 902-494-3468
Mailing Address: 
Marion McCain Building, Room 1172
Research Topics:
  • Late antique historiography
  • Latin literature
  • Neo-Latin


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


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.

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

  • "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. doi:- 10.7202/1015112ar.
  • “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.


Recent Talks