Sean Silvia

Graduate Student

Sean Silvia is a PhD Candidate in Princeton's Department of History studying the reuse of classical ruins, and the transformation of ancient sites into zones of imperial heritage conflict in the long-nineteenth-century Ottoman Aegean Sea region. With his research, he aims to articulate the changes in Ottoman engagement with antiquities across the long nineteenth century and extend beyond the limited vantage point of the Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivleri (Ottoman State Archives) by tracing the actions of local, non-élite Ottomans and analyzing the inhabited spatiality of the physical ruins. His research of reused classical sites engages with broader historical conversations about ‘modernity’ in the Islamic world, historical memory, hierarchies of knowledge, heritage ownership, and imperial extraction. His study at Princeton is aided by the Stanley J. Seeger Hellenic Studies graduate funding award.

Before beginning his PhD at Princeton, Sean earned his BA summa cum laude in History and Archaeology from the University of Southern California in 2022, where he founded USC’s first undergraduate history research journal, The SCroll. His history honors thesis, “A Battlefield of Imperial Identity: Classical Spoliation in a Contested Aegean During the Long Nineteenth Century,” was funded by the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship and received a “Highest Honors” departmental designation, the Lois Banner Award for best undergraduate history honors thesis, and USC’s Discovery Scholar Prize. He graduated with USC’s Certificate of Proficiency in Foreign Languages for French, German, Greek, and Latin. During the Summer of 2022, Sean was a recipient of the Critical Language Scholarship for study of Turkish at Ankara Üniversitesi. He earned an MSt in Classical Archaeology at Oxford University in 2023, where his coursework and dissertation “Representing Classical Sites in the Ottoman Aegean: Art, Absence, and Heritage in Late Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Western European Travelogue Illustrations” received a distinction. His Oxford studies were funded by the Ertegun Graduate Scholarship Programme in the Humanities. He has excavated at two sites, as an undergraduate at the Middle Bronze Age palace of Tel Kabri in Israel, and as a graduate student at the ruins of Aphrodisias in Turkey.


“When Romans Built a Phrygian Rock-cut Altar: The Çamdibi Necropolis as a Cultural Nexus in the Mountains of Roman Bithynia.” Studia Bithynica: Colloquia Anatolica et Aegaea Congressus internationales Smyrnenses 13 (2023), 52–69.

“The Battleground of Imperial Memory: The Antique Spoliation of the Complex of Algerian Gazi Hasan Paşa on Kos and Its Contestations.” Mediterranean Studies 30.2 (2022), 141–162.

“Decapitation and Dynamite: The Mutilated Mountain-side Monument of Gaius Julius Aquila on the Bithynia et Pontus Coast.” CLARA: Classical Art and Archaeology 7 (2021),  1–25.

Year of Study
First Year
Area of Interest
Art History
Classical Tradition
Colonialism & Post Colonialism
Diplomatic History
Heritage Studies
Imperial History
Landscape Studies
Material Culture
Memory Studies
Race & Ethnicity
17th & 18th Centuries
19th Century
Middle East and North Africa