I'm Ilia Curto Pelle

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

  • Age 24
  • 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 with interests in the economic and social history of the Eastern Mediterranean between the 5th and 10th centuries. My work adopts an interdisciplinary methodology drawing on fields as diverse as numismatics, artifact studies, literary studies, epigraphy, and even international relations to explore the lives of non-elite people (e.g. merchants, peasants, migrants) in the pivotal period of transition from the Late Antique to the Early Medieval world. Currently, I am working on my research on 13th-century Byzantine coin imitations as part of my master thesis for the degree in Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at the University of Oxford. My dream is to become a leading scholar in the fields of Late Roman, Byzantine, and Medieval history.

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September 2023 -


Oxford University Byzantine Society

During my first year at Oxford, I became part of the Oxford University Byzantine Society, the premier Oxford student organization for the promotion of Byzantine studies. I was honored to be elected as secretary of the OUBS for the 2023-2024 year. As secretary, it is my responsibility to assist the president of the OUBS in all of his capacities, which includes the organization of a yearly conference on Byzantine Studies at Oxford, a research trip to Byzantine monasteries in Georgia, and a conference panel at the 2024 International Medieval Congress in Leeds. I will also be the reference person for the incoming graduate class of the Late Antique and Byzantine Studies program and will co-organize academic and extra-curricular events for the student body.

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 -

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 -


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.

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.

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.

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.



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

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.

Publications and Conferences

July 2023

Presentation at 2023 International Medieval Congress

The Byzantine Oikoumene: A Medieval International Society?

June 2023

Presentation at 10th Joint Meeting of ECFN and & 2nd BulgNR TOGETHER

The impact of "Slavic invasions” on coin circulation in the Northern Balkans

May 2023

Presentation at 58th International Congress on Medieval Studies

Challenges and Perspectives for Studying the Circulation of Sassanian Coinage

February 2023

Presentation at 98th Annual Meeting of the Medieval Academy of America

The Byzantine Oikoumene: A Medieval International Society?

September 2022

Presentation at XVI International Numismatic Congress

The impact of "Slavic invasions” on coin circulation in the Northern Balkans

Spring 2022

Publication in Helicon: The Yale Undergraduate Journal of Classics

The transformation of Mard ō Mard from a Persian tradition to a literary topos

March 2022

Presentation at Global Medieval and Renaissance Studies Colloquium

Khan Krum and the Change of Bulgarian Grand Strategy at the Turn of the 9th Century

March 2022

Presentation at FLAME Conference: Networks in Transition: Monetary Exchange from Antiquity to the Middle Ages

The impact of "Slavic invasions” on coin circulation in the Northern Balkans

January 2022

Presentation at Conference: Small Change: New Perspectives on Early Medieval Money

The FLAME Project: a Digital Perspective on Early Medieval Coinage

April 2021

Presentation at Richard Macksey National Undergraduate Humanities Research Symposium 2021

The Araxa Honorary Decree for Orthagoras: Dating and Historical Context

May 2020

Presentation at Princeton Research Day 2020

A New Approach to Seleucid Serrated Coins: Questions of Reform and Dynastic Continuity


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,