Shawn Ragan

Graduate Student

M.A., History, University of California, Riverside
B.A. (Magna Cum Laude), History, Boise State University

Research Areas

Roman Imperial Cult, Roman Third-Century "Crisis," Roman Numismatics, Roman Epigraphy, Chinese Religions, Roman Religions, The Role of History in the Public Sphere

Contact Information
Department of History

My research focuses on the intersection of politics and religion in periods of crisis. My dissertation examines the Roman imperial cult (i.e. emperor worship) and the ways that imperial and provincial elites used religion as a means of legitimating authority and navigating complex power dynamics during the Third-Century Crisis (235-284 CE), a period of political instability and upheaval with at least twenty-six claimants to the throne over forty-nine years.  I argue that, not only did the imperial cult continue throughout the third century, contrary to the view of many scholars, but that it evolved as the principle means for emperors to assert their ties to divine forces. Further, I argue that, in the third century, the cult was used in novel ways that provided a means for local elites to exercise real agency in the legitimation and even de-legitimation of emperors. Additionally, as the living emperor was more closely associated with divinity and intensified religious concepts became increasingly important to imperial ideology, the cult produced a polarizing effect within Roman society.  Religious groups that practiced monotheism or otherwise failed to offer sacrifice to the emperor were persecuted for the first time on an empire-wide scale. The events of the third century shaped what was to come in the fourth century and later, with the adoption of Christianity by Constantine and his successors


Committee Members 

Michele Salzman (Chair), Denver Graninger, Edward Watts (UCSD)

Awards Received

Society for Classical Studies Annual Joint Meeting Travel Stipend Award, 2019
Nominee, K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award, AAC&U, 2018 (award determination pending)
PCB-AHA Presidents Graduate Student Travel Award, 2018
European Academy of Religion Travel Award, 2018
Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award: UC Riverside Graduate Division, 2016–2017