I'm Ilia Curto Pelle
Princeton University Class 2022
- Age 22
- Address Fondovi Jilishta, Sofia 1233, Bulgaria
- E-mail mail[at]curtopelle[dot]com
- Phone +359 878 898 712
- Graduation May 2022
- Princeton University
Since I was a child, history has been my passion. I am enthralled to learn about the symbioses and confrontations between different cultures, religions, and peoples, probably because of my mixed (Bulgarian, Italian, and Russian) origins. The approach that I take to study history is similarly multifaceted and based on drawing lessons from the past. I try to involve myself with several digital humanities initiatives, such as the FLAME and HIT Projects, to utilize diverse approaches and lenses to studying history through various disciplines, such as paleography, numismatics, and historiography, and to look for ways to integrate the lessons of history into modern-day policy-making through the creation of intersections between history and international relations. I hope to use this multidisciplinary approach to better the state of the field in my country, to become an excellent university professor.
Histories in Transition Project, Austrian Academy of Sciences
Since May 2021, I have been working together with the Histories in Transition Project at the Austrian Academy of Sciences as a coordinator of the Project. In this capacity, I take care of the logistics of the organization of HIT's virtual seminar series and steering group meetings. In addition, I assist the members of the HIT steering committee on the preparation of an online database of Carolingian-era manuscripts, as well as a Zotero bibliography, in order to further the goals of the project in investigating the transformation of historical writing in Western Europe between the 8th and 9th centuries.
Princeton Studies in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages
I have been working as a peer-editor for the Journal for Princeton Studies in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages since my freshman year. The journal focuses on publishing promising examples of academic work from undergraduate and graduate students at Princeton. In 2020, I was chosen to become the vice-editor-in-chief of the Journal, overseeing the peer-review process of the Journal. Finally, I was extremely honored to be chosen as the editor-in-chief of the Journal for the 2021/2022 school year. I hope to use my position to elevate my peers and to try to bring as many of the resources for the study of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages that our University offers to our readership. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Journal was prevented from publishing its latest issue, which my team and I are hoping to finalize in Early Fall 2021. Next, we plan to issue a call for papers for a publication in early 2022.
Bulgarian-American Fulbright Commission
The life of many has been severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The general uncertainty of the time has made the application process for universities an even more daunting task for Bulgarian high-school students than it usually is. This is why, in the waning months of 2020, I reached out to the Fulbright Commission in Bulgaria to assist them in their task of promoting American tertiary education among Bulgarian students. To accomplish this task, I assisted Fulbright in the organization of a virtual U.S. College Alumni Fair, where high-school students from Bulgarian schools got the chance to meet current university students, staff members, and alumni. The event was a great success, gathering over 200 high-school students from all over the country. In addition, the stories of Bulgarian students in the US will be gathered and published by the Fulbright Commission as a record of success stories that will serve as a pipeline for potential future Bulgarian students to apply to universities in the United States.
Since the summer of 2020, I have been aiding Mark Pyzyk, coordinator of the FLAME (Framing the Late Antique and early Medieval Economy) Project. In this capacity, I review references and content for the FLAME Project's coin circulation module. I am also responsible for identifying and rectifying bugs in the back end of the database. I have also been working on inputting numismatic data from museum collections and hoards from the Northern Balkans, Merovingian-era finds in France, and Sassanian finds in Georgia, contributing to the populating of FLAME's database.
Center for the Study of Democracy
The COVID-19 pandemic forced me to reexamine my summer 2020 plans. Initially, I was approved for an internship at the Russian International Affairs Council in Moscow, which was unfortunately canceled. Even so, I received a great opportunity back home, in Bulgaria. I applied to be an intern at the Center for the Study of Democracy in Sofia, one of the leading European non-profit think tanks, which has been a pioneer in the study of anti-corruption, state capture, and democratic backsliding. During my internship at CSD, I worked on an upcoming project on Chinese Influence in Central and Eastern Europe, studying the ways Chinese capital affects the governmental and environmental policies of countries in the region, as well as of the EU as a whole. My tasks also included the creation of a study detailing the different scandals in the sectors of infrastructure, wholesale pharmaceuticals, and wholesale fuels in Italy during the last 3 years. In addition, I was tasked with studying pro-authoritarian tendencies among Bulgarian MEPs by comparing their official websites and votes on pivotal European Parliament resolutions with their stance on authoritarianism in Russia and China in interviews, articles, and speeches.
Since the start of summer 2020, I have been working together with Professor Carolyn Yerkes as a research assistant. My work focuses on the role of Classical inscriptions in the books of the great 18th century Italian painter, architect, and writer Giovanni Battista Piranesi. In order to examine the role of historical monuments, I read extensively in Latin, comparing the way Piranesi depicts and uses inscriptions with how they appear in the editions of other authors of the 17th and 18th century. My goal is to assist Professor Yerkes in the preparation of Piranesi on the Page, an exhibiton scheduled to open in 2021.
Princeton Numismatic Collection
Since September 2018 I have been working with Professor Alan Stahl in the Princeton Numismatic collection. My responsibilities include the analysis, referencing, cataloging, photographing, and labeling of scyphate and flat silver, billon, and copper coins from the 12th and 13th centuries. I particularly focus on Bulgarian, Serbian, late Komnenian, Latin, Nicaean, Epirote, and early Palaiologan coinage. Lately, I have been working on the cataloging of Seleucid coins from Princeton's excavations at Antioch on the Orontes, modern Antakya in Turkey.
Princeton Classics Club
In September 2018 I was elected as the VP of the Princeton Classics Club. Thanks to my efforts, I had the honor to be elected as the club's president in 2019. The main goal of the club is the organization of events, related to the study of classics at Princeton University, including the annual competition for high school students Certamen Princetoniense, trips to Broadway and theater spectacles, the invitation of guest lecturers, and the organization of the Latin and Ancient Greek language tables. My greatest pride in my two terms as president was adapting the Princeton Certamen competition to a virtual format, allowing over 500 high-school students from around 50 schools to get the chance to test their Latin knowledge and meet university student from over 10 elite American universities despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Classics (Ancient History) major, certificates in Hellenic Studies, Medieval Studies, History and Practice of Diplomacy
American Numismatic Society Lyceum
ANS Lyceum courses on Ancient Greek and Roman coins
Paideia Institute, 2019 and 2020 iterations
Spoken Latin and Greek Conference
National High School of Ancient Languages and Cultures "Constantine-Cyril the Philosopher"
Latin, Ancient Greek, Old Bulgarian, History, Cultural Anthropology
Аcademia Vivarium Novum
Internship in Spoken Latin
National School of Music "Lyubomir Pipkov"
Piano, Solfeggio, History of Music, Oboe
Britanica Educational Center
I was born with three mother tongues, so learning languages is a hobby for me. Since the Fall of 2021, I have been learning Arabic. Which should follow – Turkish, Japanese, or Gaelic?
GRE General Test
Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE)
Certificate in Advanced English (CAE)
International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
World History SAT Subject Test
Latin Reading SAT Subject Test
SAT I with Essay
Goethe C1 Prüfung
Global Medieva and Renaissance Studies Colloquium
In the early months of 2022, I heard about the creation of a new interdepartmental program at the University of Pennsylvania: Global Medieval and Renaissance Studies. The best preparation that scholars of the future can have is to exchange perspectives and researches with people working on other disciplines and time periods. Therefore, in March 2022, I presented my paper on the "Transformation of Bulgarian Grand Strategy under Khan Krum (803-814)" at the GMRS Colloquium. The paper represents an innovative attempt at producing an interdisciplinary research which combines approaches from international relations theory and history. My presentation and the panel it participated in provoked a lot of fruitful discussion. I hope to use the suggestions and advises received in refining my paper for publication.
Networks in Transition: Monetary Exchange from Antiquity to the Middle Ages
The culmination of my two years working with the FLAME Project was undoubtedly my participation on the Second FLAME Conference, which took place in Princeton in March 2022. In my talk on the "The Impact of "Slavic Invasions" on Coin Circulation in the Northern Balkans," I highlighted some of the major challenges of studying the monetary economy of the region in the 7th century. I argued that the near-absence of coins from the Balkans in the 7th century should not simply be attributed to the arrival of non-Roman groups in the region, notably the Slavs. Instead, it has to be studied within the context of the economic and fiscal change in the Byzantine Empire in the 7th century. I am extremely thankful for all of the suggestions I received in response to my paper. A refined version of this argument will be presented at the 2022 International Numismatic Congress in Warsaw. I would like to once again thank the organizers of the conference for allowing me to participate in this incredible culmination of the 8-year efforts of the FLAME Project.
Small Change: New Perspectives on Early Medieval Money
I was invited to present the results and feature of the FLAME Project's circulation module at the Small Change: New Perspectives on Early Medieval Money in Cambridge University. This presentation was a result of my work on the FLAME Project's circulation module, which collects data about coins found around Western Afro-Eurasia, which are dated to the 4th-8th century. My talk included a discussion of the history, development, and future goals of the FLAME Project, as well as a live demonstration of some of the major features of the circulation module. I would like to express my sincere thanks to Professors Alan Stahl, Mark Pyzyk, and Rory Naismith for giving me the opportunity to, for the first time in my life, present at a major conference alongside some of the most notable members of the field of Early Medieval Numismatics.
The Helicon: Yale University Undergraduate Journal of Classics
In the Fall of 2020, I worked on a paper entitled "The transformation of Mard ō Mard from a Persian tradition to a literary topos." In this paper, I examined the ways a Sassanian dueling tradition was transformed into a literary device within the framework of Arabic historiography. I am extremely honored to have received the opportunity to have this work of mine published in the 2022 issue of The Helicon: Yale University Undergraduate Journal of Classics. To view the full version of this paper, visit the following link: https://bit.ly/34pmJ3U
2019-2020 Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence
The Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence is one of the most important prizes that a student at Princeton University can receive in recognition of their academic achievements. During the 2019-2020 school year, I managed to receive the highest possible marks in all of my classes. In 2020, I had the honor to be awarded the Shapiro Prize alongside some of the most endowed Princeton students from my class.
Panel presentation & Publication
Richard Macksey National Undergraduate Humanities Research Symposium
I would like to extend my gratitude to the Richard Macksey National Undergraduate Humanities Research Symposium organizers for allowing me to present the results of my first junior paper, written under the supervision of Professor Marc Domingo Gygax and entiteld " The Araxa Honorary Decree for Orthagoras: Dating and Historical Context." This was published in the second volume of the Richard Macksey Journal of Johns Hopkins University. To view the full version of this paper, visit the following link: https://bit.ly/2Ya7nwq
Award of merit
The outstanding students of Bulgaria
I had the honor of being awarded membership in the club "The outstanding students of Bulgaria." This club invites students that have achieved the highest grades in the country, received national and international recognition of their talents, or have been accepted into the best universities in the world. I was invited due to the excellent grades I achieved in high school and on the national examinations, as well as my admission to Princeton, and my third place in the National Olympiad in Bulgarian History.
Princeton Research Day
During my sophomore fall, I began a research project on Seleucid serrated bronze coins. After completing my project, I was honored by being approved to present it before the Princeton University community at the virtual Princeton Research Days in 2020. To see a recording of my presentation, please click on "A New Approach to Seleucid Serrated Coins: Questions of Reform and Dynastic Continuity" in the Projects section of this website.
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences' Student Institute
A chance for every young inquisitive person in Bulgaria to showcase his or her aptitude for research in many different areas of study by developing original work and defending it in front of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. I am extremely thankful to have had the opportunity to participate in the first and third iterations of the Student Institute in 2014 and 2016 respectively with my projects on the "Symbiosis of Cultures and Religions in the Palatine Chapel of Palermo" and "The Influences of Ancient Culture on the Iconography of the Virgin Mary". I was even more honored to have received the first prize in the respective categories for those two pieces of research as a high-school student.
National History Olympiad
Between the 21st and 23rd of August in the city of Kardzhali, Bulgaria, the 11th edition of the National History Olympiad took place. 5 students from the NHSALC were able to pass the City and Regional competition and advance to the National Olympiad, including me. After an oral and a written examination covering the whole history of Bulgaria, I was able to finish with an excellent grade, thereby winning third place in the competition. This was the biggest challenge I had faced in my life and the award was a sign of recognition for both me and my school.
"I have worked with Ilia over the last half year and his assistance on the FLAME project (Framing the Late Antique and Medieval Economy) has been indispensable. He combines impressive ability with a heroic work ethic, all of which, along with great scholarly capacity, has meant that our project has been enormously enriched by his efforts."Mark Pyzyk Database Coordinator, Framing the Late Antique and early Medieval Economy (FLAME) Project
”Ilia is easily distinguished by a fierce ambition to achieve his goals, which has not only led to his choice to study in this school, but also to his excellent performance throughout the years both in class and in his Latin extra-curricular activities. His work on my subject has always been characterised by creativity, thorough learning and purposefulness. Ilia is a talented translator, and, due to his interest in Ancient history and Cultural anthropology, he exhibits an enormous potential to critically read and analyse sources from the Classical period in a plethora of subjects – history, culture and language."Dr. Lidia Dimitrova Domaradska Chief teacher of Latin in the National High School of Ancient Languages and Cultures “Constantine-Cyril the Philosopher”, teacher of Ancient Greek and Latin Epigraphy and Classical languages in the History department of the Sofia University “St. Clement of Ochrid“, Sofia, Bulgaria
Thanks to his qualities аs a musician, his broad vocal range, full-toned and rich voice, and his artistic gift indicative of a bright future as a professional bass singer, Ilia Curto Pelle earned his place in the ensemble. Ilia graduated with excellent grades. Thanks to self-training, self-discipline and the ability to master the material thoroughly, he achieves success with ease and inspires others, serving as an example of ambition, persistence and motivation. The contests he took part in and his prestigious awards are among the strongest evidence for his talent, discipline and performance.Daniel Stanilov Ivanov Teacher of Music and conductor of the choirs at the National School of Ancient Languages and Cultures “Constantine-Cyril the Philosopher”, Sofia, Bulgaria
His strong exactingness to himself and to his work helps Ilia in his relations with both classmates and teachers. Because of his innate intelligence, erudition and excellent upbringing, he has grown to become a highly prominent young man with a positive influence over his classmates and is respected by them. He shows tolerance and sense of humor. He has great relations with his classmates and his teachers; he is a team worker and has a high sense of responsibility towards everyone, both professionally and personally.Alexander Milkov Ivanchev Senior teacher of History and Civilization at The National School for Ancient Languages and Cultures "Constantine-Cyril the Philosopher" – Sofia, Bulgaria
Ilia is one of those students who get noticed right from the very start. His sound knowledge of Latin, Ancient Greek and Ancient Bulgarian and his excellent command of English and Russian allow him to approach any argument after getting acquainted with both the sources and the most advanced research on the topic. This advantage, combined with impressive work abilities and original thought, made Ilia stood out in two competitions at the Student Session of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in 2016 and 2014. Ilia’s developments drafted under my scientific leadership made a strong impression not only on the audience but also on the academic jury which distinguished him with the first place and he won academic internship at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.Dr. Veselina Kirilova Vachkova Teacher of History and Culture History at the National School for Ancient Languages and Cultures “Constantine-Cyril the Philosopher”, Sofia Director of the Historical Museum in Perushtitsa.
Мusic and More
Princeton University Glee Club “Conversations”
- Thomas Tallis
- Spem in Alium
This video is a recording of the Princeton University Glee Club, performing the incredible “Spem in Alium Numquam Habui” by Thomas Tallis for 40 voices at its 2020 spring concert “Conversations”, in conjunction with the Antioch Chamber Ensemble. Do not try to find me, because I am in the rafters. But this was one of the most incredible and most difficult pieces I have ever sung in my life. The powerful music, the melodic lines, and the incredible voices of […]
Princeton University Glee Club “Out of the Deep”
- Sergei Rachmaninov
- All-Night Vigil, mvt. 5
This video is a recording of the Princeton University Glee Club, performing the 5th movement of Rachmaninov’s “Vespers” at the “Out of the Deep” concert in December, 2018. It was one of the most thrilling musical experiences in my life to perform next to these incredible professional singers, not only the members of the choir, but also the three special guests: the octavists Vladimir Miller, Glenn Miller, and Adrian Peacock.
Bob Chilcott – Agnus Dei (Nidaros Jazz Mass)
- Bob Chilcott
- Nidaros Jazz Mass, Agnus Dei
- Performed by
- Sofia Choir, Yambol Choral School "Prof. Georgi Dimitrov"
This extract shows the performance of Bob Chilcott’s Agnus Dei from his Nidaros Jazz Mass by the Sofia Choir of the Yambol Choral School at the 56th International Festival “Virgo Lauretana” in Italy. Here I learned how to play the organ in order to accompany the execution of this song.
Sergei Rachmaninoff – Prelude Prelude Op.3 No.2
- Sergei Rachmaninoff
- Prelude Prelude Op.3 No.2 in C sharp minor
- 23rd Competition for Young Pianists at Pedara, Sicily
As I am quarter-Russian, the Russian music and emotion makes up a significant part of who I am. This is one of my favorite works of music that I have played. The video is from the 23rd Competition for Young Pianists at Pedara, Sicily.
Solo Piano Concert
- Piano Charity Concert
- In support of
- Holiday Heroes
The greatest challenge for a young musician is to prepare his own concert. It took me 10 years to make this step. This video shows a short part of my solo piano charity concert, dedicated to Holiday Heroes, in November 2016. To see the full concert, please click here.
Frédéric Chopin – Nocturne Op. 55, No. 1
- Frédéric Chopin
- Chopin's Nocturne Op. 55, No. 1 in F minor
- National Piano Competition "Musical Awards"
This recording is part of my exhibition at the 2016 National Piano Competition “Musical Awards” in Kazanlak, Bulgaria, where I was awarded first place in the solo piano category. Here, I am playing Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 55, No. 1 in F minor. Enjoy!
Black & Red Night Interview
- Black & Red Night
- School Council of the NHSALC
- In support of
- Holiday Heroes
This interview was taken for Holiday Heroes during the Black & Red Night, a charity ball, organized by the National High School of Ancient Languages and Culture’s School Council. I managed the event, where many talents sang to help our cause for people in need, as its president.
Eric Whitacre – Seal Lullaby
- Eric Whitacre
- Seal Lullaby
- Sofia Choir, Yambol Choral School "Prof. George Dimitrov"
- Harmanli Choral Festival 2017
This song was performed during the choral festival in the Bulgarian city of Harmanli. The singers have all sung in the Choral School’s Children and Ladies’ Choirs. Their professional life has led them to Sofia, where this choir was created. I accompany all their performances on the piano.
Franz Liszt – Paraphrase on Verdi’s Rigoletto
- Franz Liszt
- Paraphrase on Verdi's Rigoletto
- 10th International Piano Competition "W.A.Mozart" in Frascati, Italy
In this video you can see one of the most difficult works I have played in my life – Liszt’s Paraphrase on Verdi’s Rigoletto. This performance is from the 10th International Piano Competition “W.A.Mozart” in May 2015, where I managed to win second place.
- Strategic games
If you want to discuss my academic interests, future plans, or projects, just get in touch by using the form below.
- E-mail mail[at]curtopelle[dot]com
- Phone +359878898712
- Skype iliacurtopelle