Reading the proverbial "writing on the wall" is a useful skill and Jeannine Uzzi has made an academic career of uncovering social conditions in visual Roman reliefs.

Last night, in a lecture titled "Why Creusa Had to Go: The Power of Gender in Roman Historical Relief," the associate professor of classical studies and chair of the department of modern and classical languages at the University of Southern Maine examined "evidence of persons and experiences that might not appear in the literary record."

Uzzi's interest in social critique of Roman art began when she was a graduate student at Duke, where she was assigned a research project on adoption in the Roman Empire, a heavy task due to the scarce source writings on the topic.

She discovered that "material remains are especially important when we seek to find evidence of those without access to education, wealth, and political power: slaves, children, and women," she said.

Uzzi has since published a book titled "Children in the Visual Arts of Imperial Rome" and is currently studying gendered imagery on Roman imperial sarcophagi.

Sheepishly, Uzzi admits her interest in classics may have had a less deliberate origin—getting stuck in Latin class as a teenager because all the French classes were full.

-Compiled by Daisy Alioto.