Martijn Icks is a Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Amsterdam. Most of his research is focused on the time of the Roman Empire, in particular on late antiquity, although his interests are not confined to the ancient world, but extend to later periods as well. Among other things, his research interests include the representation and perception of imperial power, Roman art and coinage, imperial rituals, gender and reception studies. He also has a keen interest in character assassination as an historical and cross-cultural phenomenon.
Icks obtained his PhD cum laude from the University of Nijmegen in 2008. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the Roman emperor Elagabalus and his fictional afterlife in art and literature from antiquity to the present day. This study was published under the title The Crimes of Elagabalus: The Life and Legacy of Rome’s Decadent Boy Emperor (2011).
As a Marie Curie Fellow, Icks initiated the project “Making and Unmaking the Emperor” at the University of Heidelberg (2009-2011), focusing on the defamation of Roman emperors through negative interpretations of imperial rituals in ancient texts. Afterwards, he worked for several years as a research fellow at the University of Düsseldorf (2011-2014) and as a lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast (2014-2016) before coming to Amsterdam. His current research project involves the visibility and invisibility of Roman imperial power.
Icks is a founding member of CARP, the Lab for Character Assassination and Reputation Politics, based at George Mason University, Virginia (http://communication.gmu.edu/research-and-centers/carp). With Eric Shiraev, he published the edited volume Character Assassination throughout the Ages (2014). He is one of the editors of the forthcoming Routledge Handbook for Character Assassination and Reputation Management.
(edited with Eric Shiraev; Palgrave Macmillan 2014)
Using a variety of cases from history and today's life, the book examines character attackers targeting the private lives, behavior, values, and identity of their victims. Numerous historical examples show that character assassination has always been a very effective weapon to win political battles or settle personal scores.
(I.B. Tauris 2011 / Harvard University Press 2012)
Elagabalus was one of the most notorious of Rome's 'bad emperors': a sexually-depraved and eccentric hedonist who in his short and riotous reign made unprecedented changes to Roman state religion and defied all taboos. An oriental boy-priest from Syria – aged just fourteen when he was elevated to power in 218 CE – he placed the sun god El-Gabal at the head of the established Roman pantheon, engaged in orgiastic rituals, took male and female lovers, wore feminine dress and was alleged to have prostituted himself in taverns and even inside the imperial palace.
Since his assassination by the Praetorian Guard at the age of eighteen, Elagabalus has been an object of fascination to historians and a source of inspiration for artists and writers. This immensely readable book examines the life of one of the Roman Empire's most colourful figures, and charts the many guises of his legacy: from evil tyrant to firebrand rebel, from mystical androgyne to modern gay teenager, from decadent sensualist to ancient pop star.
‘Cross-dressers in control: Transvestism, power and the balance between the sexes in the literary discourse of the Roman Empire’, in: D. Campanile, F. Carlà-Uhink & M. Facella (eds.), TransAntiquity: Cross-Dressing and Transgender Dynamics in the Ancient World (Routledge: London – New York 2017) 65-82
‘Turning victory into defeat: Negative assessments of imperial triumphs in Greco-Roman literature’, in: F. Goldbeck & J. Wienand (eds.), Der römische Triumph in Prinzipat und Spätantike (De Gruyter: Berlin – Boston 2017) 317-333
‘Great pretenders: Elevations of “good” usurpers in Roman historiography’, in: H. Börm, M. Mattheis & J. Wienand (eds.), Civil War in Ancient Greece and Rome: Contexts of Disintegration and Reintegration (Stuttgart 2016) 303-320
‘The depraved devotion of Elagabalus: Images of the priest-emperor in the visual and performing arts’, in: F. Carlà & I. Berti (eds.), Ancient Magic and the Supernatural in the Modern Visual and Performing Arts (Bloomsbury: London – New York 2015) 211-224
With Eric Shiraev (eds.), Character Assassination throughout the Ages (Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke 2014)
‘The inadequate heirs of Theodosius: Ancestry, merit and divine blessing in the representation of Arcadius and Honorius’, Millennium. Jahrbuch zu Kultur und Geschichte des ersten Jahrtausends n. Chr. 11 (2014) 69-99
‘Creating tyrants in ancient Rome: Character assassination and imperial investiture’, in: M. Icks & E.B. Shiraev (eds.), Character Assassination throughout the Ages (Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke 2014) 83-100
‘De triomf van de tiran. Triumphi als kritiekmiddel in Romeinse literatuur’, Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis 127 (2014) 1-19
‘Bad emperors on the rise: Negative assessments of imperial investitures, AD 284-395’, Klio. Beiträge zur alten Geschichte 94 (2012) 462-481