School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Staff Profile

Dr David Creese

Lecturer in Classics



BA (University of King's College), MA Classics (Dalhousie), PhD (Birmingham).

My primary research interests are Greek and Roman music, especially Greek harmonic theory; instruments and their place in the development of Greek musical science; music and Graeco-Roman society; the representation of musical instruments, expertise and performance in non-technical literature; musical learning and cultural memory in the Second Sophistic; and the reception of ancient Greek musical theory in later ages.  I have published articles on musical aspects of Latin poetry and Greek philosophical texts, as well as a book entitled The Monochord in Ancient Greek Harmonic Science (Cambridge, 2010).  I served on the founding executive committee of MOISA, an international society for the study of Greek and Roman music and its cultural heritage.

Academic career

  • 2019-20 Leverhulme Research Fellow (Project:  'Scientific Authority in Ptolemy's Harmonics:  A Comparative Approach')
  • 2015-18 Head of Classics & Ancient History and Deputy Head of School, Newcastle University
  • 2011-  Lecturer in Classics, Newcastle University
  • 2010-11  Associate Professor of Greek and Latin Literature, University of British Columbia
  • 2003-10  Assistant Professor of Greek and Latin Literature, University of British Columbia
  • 2002-3  Lecturer in Classics, University of St Andrews
  • 2001-2  Teaching Fellow in Humanity (Latin), University of St Andrews

Other professional activities


Areas of specialisation

As a classicist with a consuming interest in music, my research interests centre around the ways in which music was involved in Greek intellectual life and literary culture. This set of interests has led me to pursue questions about the related roles of instruments, diagrams, proofs and experiments in the development of scientific arguments on musical subjects in Greek antiquity; about the sometimes complicated literary reception of Greek musical culture in Latin poetry; about the rhetorical uses of the technical terminology of Greek musical theory in non-technical literature; and about the literary culture of scientific writing more broadly:  its modes of persuasion; its criteria of truth; the literary uses of scientific discovery, proof, fable and anecdote.

Current Major Project

Scientific Authority in Ptolemy's Harmonics:  A Comparative Approach.

Claudius Ptolemy's treatise on harmonics (2nd c. AD) cites very few authorities, and undermines them all. Yet his mathematical approach to the study of Greek musical theory requires some basis for trust, since it is in several respects a revolutionary one. The project aims to elucidate the processes by which Ptolemy builds this basis of trust, investing scientific authority in the reader’s perception and reason through a regulated interaction facilitated by the controlled deployment of purpose-built instruments. The investigation relies on a close comparison, the first of its kind, of Ptolemy’s methods in harmonics and optics.

(This project is supported by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship, 2019-20.)

Postgraduate supervision

In addition to the areas mentioned above, topics in ancient philosophy (particularly epistemology and ethics), the sciences (especially the exact sciences) in Greek and Roman antiquity, and Greek poetry (especially Hellenistic).



  • On research leave (Leverhulme Research Fellowship)