I'm Ilia Curto Pelle

Graduate Student at University of Oxford, MPhil in Late Antique and Byzantine Studies

  • Age 23
  • Address Fondovi Jilishta, Sofia 1233, Bulgaria
  • E-mail mail[at]curtopelle[dot]com
  • Phone +359 878 898 712
  • Graduation April 2024
  • HIGHER EDUCATION University of Oxford

I am an early career scholar, whose research interests focus on the social and economic history of the Eastern Mediterranean in the second half of the first millennium CE. My recent admission to the MPhil Program in Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at the University of Oxford was an important milestone on my path to a future academic career in the field. Unfortunately, the price of an Oxford education is extremely high and would be an incredible burden for myself and my family. That is why a GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help fund my study at Oxford. You can support me by clicking on the link above.

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November 2022

Research Assistant

Dr. Michael Maas, Rice University

In the autumn of 2022, through a set of common acquaintances, I met Dr. Michael Maas, one of the premier scholars of ethnography, ethnicity, and geographical thinking in Late Antiquity. After a long conversation, he offered me the opportunity to serve as his research assistant on his forthcoming monograph, The Conqueror's Gift: Empire and Ethnography at the End of Antiquity. My responsibilities include the reading, checking, and editing of footnotes, including the verification of citations from primary and secondary sources and the translation of text from Greek and Latin. My goal is to help Dr. Maas produce a volume with striking text and killer footnotes, which has the potential to reconsider the relationship between the Roman Empire and the barbarian world.

November 2022- November 2024

RAST Administrator

Research Assistance Support Team (RAST)

The moment I knew that I would start my MPhil program at the University of Oxford, I decided to look for a job to supplement my studies. After several interviews, I was offered the position of Administrator of the Research Assistance Support Team at the Said Business School at the University of Oxford. RAST is a new service within the Faculty Services division of the University, which offers full-time research assistance to the faculty of the SBS. My responsibilities include the management of the RAST email inbox,the processing and allocation of RA requests from faculty, the storage and organization of RAST-related documentation, and the gathering and reviewing of feedback. My goal is to put RAST on the SBS map and to develop an innovative approach to research assistance, which could become a model for similar teams in other departments at Oxford and other universities.

May 2021 - May 2022


Histories in Transition Project, Austrian Academy of Sciences

Since May 2021, I had 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 took care of the logistics of the organization of HIT's virtual seminar series and steering group meetings. In addition, I assisted 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.

November 2020 - April 2022


Bulgarian-American Fulbright Commission

The life of many was severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The general uncertainty of the time 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 were 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.

May 2021 - May 2022


Princeton Studies in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages

I had been working as a peer-editor for the Journal for Princeton Studies in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages (now renamed SCIVIAS) 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 used my position to elevate my peers and tried to bring as many of the resources for the study of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages that our University offers to our readership. The result of my team's efforts was the publication of the most recent issue of the journal in the Spring of 2022, featuring contributions from both undergraduate students and faculty at Princeton University.

August 2020 -

Assistant Coordinator

FLAME Project

From the summer of 2020 up to my graduation from Princeton University in 2022, I served as the assistant coordinator to for Mark Pyzyk, coordinator of the FLAME (Framing the Late Antique and early Medieval Economy) Project. In this capacity, I reviewed references and content for the FLAME Project's coin circulation module. I was also responsible for identifying and rectifying bugs in the back end of the database. I also worked 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. Since the summer of 2022, I have also been a part of the project's executive committee, which makes all the key decisions related to the future of the project.

June 2020 - July 2020


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.

September 2018 - May 2022


Princeton Numismatic Collection

Since September 2018, I worked together with Professor Alan Stahl in the Princeton Numismatic collection. My responsibilities included the analysis, referencing, cataloging, photographing, and labeling of scyphate and flat silver, billon, and copper coins from the 12th and 13th centuries. I particularly focused on Bulgarian, Serbian, late Komnenian, Latin, Nicaean, Epirote, and early Palaiologan coinage. I also aided Professor Stahl in several capacities, most notably by creating a new and updated manual for inputting coin data, assisting in teaching sessions with fellow undergraduate students, and worked in several areas of the collection on the cataloging and photographing of coins dating from the 6th century BC to the 19th century AD.



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.

June 2020 - January 2021

Research Assistant

Princeton University

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.



University of Oxford

Master of Philosophy in Late Antique and Byzantine Studies


Princeton University

B.A. in Classics (Ancient History), certificates in Hellenic Studies, Medieval Studies, History and Practice of Diplomacy, 3.983/4.000 GPA, Summa cum laude


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

2006 - 2017

Britanica Educational Center


Language Skills

Bulgarian Mother Tongue
Italian Mother Tongue
English Proficient
German Advanced
Latin Advanced
French Advanced
Ancient Greek Advanced
Russian Intermediate
Old Church Slavonic Intermediate
Arabic Intermediate
Ge'ez Intermediate

Languages are crucial to the study of past cultures. Therefore, learning languages is crucial for my work as a historian. After improving my Arabic, my next goal is to learn Syriac, Coptic, and Armenian.


September 2022

Conference Presentation

XVI International Numismatic Congress

The International Numismatic Congress meets every 5 years and brings together scholars from across the world. I had the incredible privilege of participating in the XVI. edition of the congress in Warsaw, Poland, with my own research on "The Impact of Slavic Invasion on Coin Circulation in the Northern Balkans". I suggested that the steep decrease of coin circulation in the Balkans needs to be investigated with a more interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach and take into account the developments across the Empire. A comparison with Anatolia should lead us to question the doomsday scenaria, prevalent in Balkan scholarship, and instead lead us to focus on patterns of supply and demand, monetization as a malleable phenomenon, and the possible existence of non-coin based exchanges. My presentation met with success and I received many suggestions, which I can use in the reworking of my paper into an article for publication in an academic journal.

March 2022

Conference Presentation

Global Medieval 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.

March 2022

Conference Presentation

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.

January 2022

Conference Presentation

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.

April 2021

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:

June 2021


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:

May 2020

Princeton Research Day

Princeton University

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.

Prizes & Awards

October 2022

Wakeham Humanities Scholarship

St. Catherine's College, University of Oxford

The Wakeham Humanities Scholarship is awarded to a distinguished student of St. Catherine's College at the University of Oxford in the humanities. It is offered to a graduate member of St. Catherine's College, who is enrolled in a masters degree program (MPhil, MSt) in literature or history. I had the honor of being awarded this Scholarship upon my admission to the University of Oxford and St. Catherine's College.

May 2022

John J. Keaney Prize for best senior thesis

Classics Department, Princeton University

The John J. Keaney Prize is the departmental prize for the best senior thesis. This award is in fond memory of Professor John Keaney, who served the Department as colleague, teacher, and mentor for 41 years, from 1959 to 2000. I was presented with this award during the Class Day ceremony of the Classics department of Princeton University for my senior thesis on "The Transformation of Balkan Society in the 7th century", undertaken under the supervision of Professors Daniela Mairhofer and John Haldon.

May 2022

Membership of Phi Beta Kappa (ΦΒΚ) honor society

Phi Beta Kappa (ΦΒΚ) honor society, Princeton chapter

The Phi Beta Kappa Society (ΦΒΚ) is the oldest academic honor society in the United States, and the most prestigious, due in part to its long history and academic selectivity. I was extremely honored to be invited to become a member of PBK for my academic successes during my undergraduate education at Princeton University.

May 2022

Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies Senior Thesis Prize

Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies, Princeton University

Each year, the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies awards a Hellenic Studies Senior Thesis Prize for the best senior thesis written on a topic in Byzantine or Modern Greek Studies. I had the honor of receiving this award for my senior thesis on "The Transformation of Balkan Society in the 7th century", undertaken under the supervision of Professors Daniela Mairhofer and John Haldon.

May 2022

Judith Laffan Memorial Prize

Department of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University

The Judith Laffan Memorial Prize is awarded by the department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University every year to an undergraduate student at Princeton University for outstanding progress and dedication to the Arabic language. I had the honor of receiving this prize during the Class Day ceremony in May 2022.

September 2020

2019-2020 Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence

Princeton University

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.

December 2014-November 2016

First Place

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.


  • "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.


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
  • Address Fondovi Jilishta,