Hadrian's Villa-Canopus & Serapeum.

Dr. Vivian A. Laughlin's research and interests explore ancient esoteric and polytheistic religions east and west of the Mediterranean. Although her background and training spans from the Middle Bronze Age through the Roman Imperial Period, her specific research and interests are honed to the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Focusing on the Hellenistic and Roman periods, her research explores the continuity and connectivity of ancient Egyptian religion and culture within Hellenistic and Roman religions; and the ruler's political ploys, which appropriated and, in some instances, expurgated ancient Egyptian deities east and west of the Mediterranean. The scope of her research showcases material culture used as forms of media that became dynamic tools within the political propaganda of ancient rulers. Her research ultimately exhibits various aspects of how ancient religion helped shape ancient cultures and societies.

Dr. Laughlin's dissertation, “The Appropriation of the Hellenistic-Egyptian Cult of Serapis: A Multi-Disciplinary Study Focusing on Augustus, Nero, Hadrian, Their Coinage, and Villas, is an interpretive analysis that showcased coinage, architecture, statues, plaques, and motifs derived from ancient Egypt but utilized with political prowess within these villas. It demonstrated how ancient Egyptian religious and cultural concepts were used as paradigms within the Ptolemaic dynasty, and when the Romans conquered Egypt in 31 B.C.E., its socio-political religious ruling concepts were transferred to the new rulers. Dr. Sarolta A. Tak√°cs served as Dissertation Chair and Advisor. This research is currently being prepared for book publication.

During her Fulbright Postdoctoral Research, Dr. Laughlin expanded her research to the Southern Levant. Beginning with the Persian Period, she examined the Egyptian religious connections and contextualized the Serapian and Isian expurgations that were evident in some regions and its burgeoning influence in other regions. 

It is the continued goal to expand this research project around the Mediterranean to showcase whether the cults were isolated, assimilated, syncretized, appropriated, erased, and/or juxtaposed into ancient culture and society. Doing so will help us better understand the historical archaeology of religious change that contributed to the cross-cultural and socio-political relations of the Hellenistic and Roman Mediterranean.