Onassis Series In Hellenic Culture/Publications

In this series, Oxford University Press publishes books based on original scholarly material presented within the University Seminars Program. Each book is authored by an Onassis Senior Visiting Scholar. Onassis Series in Hellenic Culture books may be purchased through Oxford University Press.

Professor Anthony Kaldellis, The Ohio State University

Anthony Kaldellis is a Professor of Classics at Ohio State University. Raised in Athens by an American mother and a father from Mytilene, Greece, he came to the US to study physics, but ended up a Byzantinist in Ohio. Professor Kaldellis has written extensively on many aspects of Byzantine history, literature, and culture. His work has focused on the reception of the classical tradition, including authors, genres (Ethnography after Antiquity), identities (Hellenism in Byzantium), and monuments (The Christian Parthenon). His most recent monograph proposes a new, Roman interpretation of the Byzantine political sphere (The Byzantine Republic: People and Power at New Rome). He has also translated many Byzantine texts, most recently the historians Prokopios, Michael Attaleiates, and Laonikos Chalkokondyles (the last two for the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library). 

Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood:  The Rise and Fall of Byzantium, 955 A.D. to the First Crusade (2017)

In the second half of the 10th century, Byzantium embarked on a series of spectacular conquests: first in the southeast against the Arabs, then in Bulgaria, and finally in the Georgian and Armenian lands. By the early 11th century, the empire was the most powerful state in the Mediterranean. It was also expanding economically, demographically, and, in time, intellectually. Yet this imperial project came to a crashing collapse 50 years later, when political disunity, fiscal mismanagement, and defeat at the hands of the Seljuks in the east and the Normans in the west brought an end to Byzantine hegemony. By 1081, not only was its dominance of southern Italy, the Balkans, Caucasus, and northern Mesopotamia over but Byzantium’s very existence was threatened.

How did this dramatic transformation happen? Based on a close examination of the relevant sources, this history—the first of its kind in over a century—offers a new reconstruction of the key events and rulers as well as a different model for understanding imperial politics and wars, both civil and foreign. The narrative of Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood unfolds in three parts: the first covers the years 955-1025, a period of imperial conquest and consolidation of authority under the great emperor Basil “the Bulgar-Slayer.” The second (1025-1059) examines the dispersal of centralized authority in Constantinople as well as the emergence of new foreign enemies (Pechenegs, Seljuks, and Normans). The last section chronicles the spectacular collapse of the empire during the second half of the 11th century, concluding with a look at the First Crusade and its consequences for Byzantine relations with the powers of Western Europe. This briskly paced and thoroughly investigated narrative vividly brings to life one of the most exciting and transformative eras of medieval history.

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Streams Of Gold Rivers Of Blood

Professor Frank L. Holt, University of Houston

Professor Frank L. Holt has taught ancient history at the University of Houston for 30 years, where he has earned seven teaching awards, including two University Teaching Excellence Awards and the inaugural Distinguished Leadership in Teaching Excellence Award. His many published books include Lost World of the Golden King: In Search of Ancient AfghanistanThe Alexander Medallion: Exploring the Origins of a Unique ArtefactInto the Land of Bones: Alexander the Great in AfghanistanAlexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions, and Thundering Zeus: The Making of Hellenistic Bactria

The Treasures of Alexander the Great: How One Man's Wealth Shaped the World (2016) 

Holt's book examines the material fortune of the world’s most successful conqueror. According to many economists and historians, young Alexander amassed more riches more rapidly than any other individual in history, an economic boon said to be matched only by the massive exploitation of the New World by the major powers of early modern Europe. As Frank L. Holt argues in this book, there may be no better means to understand the values and legacy of the enigmatic Alexander than to see how he managed these resources.

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The Treasures Of Alexander The Great Frank Holt

Professor Leonora Neville, University of Wisconsin Madison

Leonora Neville studies Byzantine culture and society, and is the John W. and Jeanne M. Rowe Professor of Byzantine History at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Her work focuses on medieval history writing, authority, gender, and the importance of the classical past for Byzantine culture. Currently she is exploring how cultural ideas about ways men and women ought to behave created and constricted freedom and power in Byzantine society. The study of cultural memories of classical Roman masculinity in Byzantium led her to write Heroes and Romans in Twelfth-Century Byzantium (Cambridge 2012). She reconsidered the strength of the famed Byzantine bureaucracy in Authority in Byzantine Provincial Society, 950-1100 (Cambridge 2004). 

Anna Komnene: The Life and Work of a Medieval Historian (2016)

Byzantine princess Anna Komnene is known for two things: plotting to murder her brother to usurp the throne, and writing the Alexiad, an epic history of her father Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118) that is a key historical source for the era of the First Crusade. Anna Komnene investigates the relationship between Anna’s self-presentation in the Alexiad and the story of her bloodthirsty ambition. It begins by asking why women did not write history in Anna’s society, what cultural rules Anna broke by doing so, and how Anna tried to respond to those challenges in her writing. This analysis of the Alexiad’s interaction with 12th-century ideals of proper female behavior explains many of the idiosyncrasies and surprises of Anna’s Alexiad. The new understanding of Anna’s authorial persona then sparks a thorough rethinking of the evidence for Anna’s character and biography.

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Anna Komnene

Professor Emerita Mary Lefkowitz, Wellesley College

Mary Lefkowitz, a graduate of Wellesley College and Radcliffe College (Harvard University), taught at Wellesley from 1960-2005. She has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, several honorary degrees, and a National Humanities Medal “for outstanding excellence in scholarship and teaching.” An Honorary Fellow of St. Hilda’s College, Oxford, she is a Trustee of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. Dr. Lefkowitz has written articles and books about the ancient Greek poet Pindar, women in Greek and Roman antiquity, and fictional biography and history in the ancient world. Her book Greek Gods, Human Lives seeks to restore the gods to their ever-important role in ancient narratives. She is known outside the academic world for Not Out of Africa, her best-selling analysis of contemporary fictions about ancient history, and Black Athena Revisited, which she co-edited with Guy M. Rogers. Dr. Lefkowitz has appeared on national radio programs, on CBS television’s 60 Minutes, and was the subject of interviews in The Boston Globe and The Washington PostHistory Lesson, her book about the intellectual issues raised by the Black Athena controversy, is “a clear-eyed look at the perils - and promise - of contemporary academic life” (Booklist). 

Euripides and the Gods (2016)

Many modern readers believe that in his dramas, Euripides was questioning the nature and sometimes even the existence of the gods, and that his plays are deeply ironic and designed to reveal the flaws in the traditional religious beliefs of his own time. Euripides and the Gods argues that this characterization is misleading, and that rather than seeking to undermine ancient religion, Euripides is describing with a brutal realism what the gods are like, and reminding his mortal audience of the limitations of human understanding. Like Homer in the Iliad, Euripides in his dramas is making a statement about the nature of the world and human life, terrible and dispassionate. 

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Euripides And The Gods Mary Lefkowitz

Professor Paul Stephenson, Radboud University

Paul Stephenson is Professor of Medieval History at Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands. His published work has focused on Byzantine political and cultural history; the history and historiography of the Balkans, medieval and modern; and Byzantine warfare. He is author and editor of eight books, including Byzantium's Balkan Frontier (2000), The Legend of Basil the Bulgar-slayer (2003), and Fountains and Water Culture in Byzantium (edited with Brooke Shilling, 2015), all with Cambridge University Press. His Constantine: Unconquered Emperor, Christian Victor (London, 2009; New York, 2010), has been translated into several languages and appeared in a US History Book Club edition. Most recently, he has edited (with Ingela Nilsson) Wanted: Byzantium: The Desire for a Lost Empire (Uppsala, 2014). Stephenson has taught at universities in the Netherlands, UK, Ireland, and the USA, and has held fellowships awarded by the British Academy (at Oxford), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (Mainz), the Alexander S. Onassis Foundation (Athens), and the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (Uppsala). For five years he was Professor of Medieval History at Durham University, UK. Before that he occupied the Rowe chair in Byzantine History at the University of Wisconsin and Dumbarton Oaks (Trustees for Harvard University). 

The Serpent Column: A Cultural Biography (2016) 

Stephenson's book offers an extended reflection on a singular monument of Hellenic antiquity, today a hollow stump of twisted bronze to be seen between two obelisks in central Istanbul. Raised first at Delphi to support a golden tripod, the column stood for almost eight centuries as a votive offering to Apollo for the Greeks’ victories over the Persians. The column, a spiraling pillar of bronze ending in three serpentine heads, was forged from Persian arms and armor taken at the battle of Plataia. Ancient authors, including Herodotus, Thucydides, and Pausanias, evinced no interest in a question that is compelling to us, namely how we should understand the form and meanings of the column. This study considers the contexts for the column’s creation, its translation to Constantinople, and its survival to the present day. It traces the receptions of the column through the Byzantine millennium and its Ottoman aftermath, when it served as an evocation of victory and defeat, protection and redemption, temptation and judgment, all preoccupations of those who viewed it at the heart of an ever-changing city and empire. The Serpent Column has been well studied, but this is the first monograph devoted to its compelling biography through 2,500 years, expounding its roles in all phases of Hellenic history. 

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The Serpent Column By Paul Stephenson

Professor Claudia Rapp, Institut für Byzantinistik und Neogräzistik Universität 

Claudia Rapp studied at the Freie Universität Berlin and Oxford University, and since 1984 has been a Professor in the History Department at UCLA, where she teaches Late Antique and Byzantine history. Her research interests are the social relations within Byzantine Christianity, the construction of authority (especially of holy men and of bishops), and the uses of writing. She has held fellowships at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, Dumbarton Oaks, Utrecht University, and All Souls College, Oxford, and lectured in Tokyo, Melbourne, Harvard, Oxford, Leiden, Berlin, and Spoleto. She is the co-editor of three books, and author of Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity (2005) and more than thirty articles. 

Brother-Making in Late Antiquity and Byzantium: Monks, Laymen, and Christian Ritual (2016)

Among medieval Christian societies, Byzantium is unique in preserving the text of a church ritual for "brother-making" (adelphopoieia, adelphopoiesis), in which two men, who are often married, are pronounced by the prayers of a priest to be "brothers." They are expected to remain on friendly terms and have access to one another's households as quasi-family members. Both the ritual and its application are well attested from the late 8th century to the 15th century and beyond. Brother-Making in Late Antiquity and Byzantium considers all aspects of ritual brotherhood and its application throughout Byzantine history, shedding light on the evolution of a social institution over several centuries. 

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Brother Making

Professor David Konstan, New York University

David Konstan is Professor of Classics at New York University and Professor Emeritus of Classics and Comparative Literature at Brown University. Among his books are Roman Comedy (1983), Sexual Symmetry: Love in the Ancient Novel and Related Genres (1994), Greek Comedy and Ideology (1995), Friendship in the Classical World (1997), Pity Transformed (2001), The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks (2006), "A Life Worthy of the Gods": The Materialist Psychology of Epicurus (2008), and Before Forgiveness: The Origins of a Moral Idea (2010). He was president of the American Philological Association in 1999, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

Beauty: The Fortunes of an Ancient Greek Idea (2015)

What does it mean to say something is beautiful? On the one hand, beauty is associated with erotic attraction; on the other, it is the primary category in aesthetics, and it is widely supposed that the proper response to a work of art is one of objective contemplation. At its core, then, beauty is a contested concept, and both sides feel comfortable appealing to the authority of Plato, and via him, to the ancient Greeks generally. So, who is right, if either? Beauty offers an elegant investigation of ancient Greek notions of beauty and, in the process, sheds light on the appreciation of the artistic achievements of the classical world.

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Beauty David Konstan

Professor Edith Hall, King’s College, London

Edith Hall was awarded her doctorate at Oxford in 1988, which won the Hellenic Foundation Prize for the best thesis in ancient Greek studies and was published as Inventing the Barbarian. She has subsequently held posts and the universities of Reading, Cambridge, Oxford, and Durham, and is currently a Professor of Classics at King's College London. She is also co-founder with Oliver Taplin of the Archive of Performances of Greek & Roman Drama at the University of Oxford, and has been involved in several professional productions of ancient Greek drama. Her publications include an edition of Aeschylus′ Persians, Greek & Roman Actors (with Pat Easterling), Greek Tragedy and the British Stage (with Fiona Macintosh), The Theatrical Cast of Athens, The Return of Ulysses: A Cultural History of Homer′s Odyssey, and Greek Tragedy: Suffering under the Sun, in addition to several co-edited volumes on ancient culture and its reception.

Adventures with Iphigenia in Tauris: A Cultural History of Euripides' Black Sea Tragedy (2012)

The heroine of Euripides′ now neglected tragedy Iphigenia Among the Taurians is the nearest thing to a “quest heroine” in ancient drama: intelligent, courageous, and specially loved by the goddess Artemis, she secures her escape, with her brother Orestes, from the remote corner of the Black Sea, in the land of the Taurian barbarians, where they have both been stranded. Adventures with Iphigeneia in Tauris examines the cultural impact of the remarkable tragedy from its first performance in the penultimate decade of the 5th century BC to the third millennium.

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Adventures With Iphigenia In Tauris Edith Hall

Professor Henry Maguire, Johns Hopkins University

Henry Maguire is a Professor in the History of Art Department of Johns Hopkins University. Before receiving this post in 2000, he was at the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for over 20 years. He was Director of Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks (Harvard University) from 1991-1996. His current research includes Byzantine secular art and literature, mosaics of the Basilica of Eufrasius at Porec, and medieval sculpture in Venice. He is the author of numerous publications including Art and Eloquence in ByzantiumEarth and Ocean: The Terrestrial World in Early Byzantine Art, and the forthcoming San Marco, Byzantium, and the Myths of Venice (co-edited with Robert Nelson). 

Nectar and Illusion: Nature in Byzantine Art and Literature (2012)

Byzantine attitudes toward terrestrial nature were complex and ambivalent. On the one hand, Byzantine literature and art celebrated nature as a reflection of the glory of its Creator and as the cradle of the Incarnation; on the other hand, the Byzantines viewed the natural world as fleeting and corruptible, and mistrusted it as a distraction from spiritual reality and the permanent rewards of their faith. Nectar and Illusion explore the contradictions created by the Byzantine reception of nature, in both the verbal and the visual arts. 

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Nectar And Illusion

Professor Simon David Goldhill, University of Cambridge

Dr. Simon David Goldhill is Professor of Greek at the University of Cambridge, Fellow of Kings College and Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author and editor of 21 books and numerous articles on Ancient Greece. He has held visiting Professorships at Universities in Europe and the US and has offered numerous lectures as a keynote speaker in international conferences or in the framework of prestigious named lectures at Universities around the world. 

Sophocles and the Language of Tragedy (2012) 

Simon Goldhill's book has three aims. First, it analyzes the extraordinary language of Greek tragedy in the hands of Sophocles: it looks at the flickering ironies that run through his tragedy, at how he constructs searing and destructive dialogue, how he experiments with the chorus' lyric voice. Second, it explores how Sophocles enters the critical language of tragedy from the 19th century onwards: what did the chorus mean for German philosophers? How did English schoolmasters understand the angry Electra? What did the word "tragedy" mean for Nietzsche or Hegel or Wagner? The third inquiry, however, is to explore the relation between these first two areas – a problem that is at the cutting edge of current critical concerns: how much is the understanding of Sophocles determined by a specific historical and cultural context? Is Sophocles really different for every generation? This book opens a new vista on Sophocles' tragedies, on the reception of tragedy, and on what it means to be a modern reader of ancient Greek drama. 

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Sophocles And The Language Of Tragedy

Professor William Murray, University of South Florida

William Murray is the Mary and Gus Stathis Professor of Greek History at the University of South Florida. He was the founding director of the university’s Interdisciplinary Center for Hellenic Studies, served two terms as chair of the department, and currently serves as director of the university's Ancient Studies Center. He has taught as a visiting scholar at the University of Haifa (in 1997), the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (1986; 1996), and was selected a National Lecturer by the Archaeological Institute of America annually between 1989 and 2007, when he held the Institute’s Charles Elliott Norton Lectureship. His scholarly interests embrace all aspects of ancient seafaring, from ships and sailing routes to trade and ancient harbors, to naval warfare and weaponry. In pursuit of these interests over the past thirty years, he has been involved in numerous archaeological projects in Greece, Israel and Turkey, both on land and underwater. He is author, with Ph. M. Petsas, of Octavian's Campsite Memorial for the Actian War, the compiler of "Epirus and Acarnania" for the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World, and is currently working with Konstantinos Zachos to recreate full-sized warship rams from the Battle of Actium. 

The Age of the Titans: The Rise and Fall of the Great Hellenistic Navies (2012)

Thanks to the construction of Olympias, a full-scale working model of an Athenian trieres (trireme) built by the Hellenic Navy during the 1980s, we roughly understand the physical properties of the trireme navies that defeated Xerxes at Salamis and helped build the Athenian Empire of the High Classical Age. The Age of Titans picks up the story of naval warfare and naval power after the Peloponnesian War, following it into the 4th and 3rd centuries BC when Alexander's successors built huge oared galleys in what has been described as an ancient naval arms race. This book will represent the fruits of more than thirty years of research into warships "of larger form" (as Livy calls them) that weighed hundreds of tons and were crewed by 600 to 1,000 men and more. The book argues that concrete strategic objectives, more than simple displays of power, explain the intense arms race that developed among Alexander's most powerful successors and drove the development of a new model of naval power. The model's immense price tag was unsustainable, however, and during the 3rd century the big ship phenomenon faded in importance, only to be revived unsuccessfully by Antony and Cleopatra in the first century BC. 

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The Age Of Titans William M  Murray

Professor Robert Ousterhout, University of Pennsylvania 

Robert Ousterhout teaches Byzantine art and architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also directs the Center for Ancient Studies. He taught previously at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he received his Ph.D. in 1982. An internationally recognized scholar in medieval and Byzantine architecture, his research concentrates on the documentation, preservation, and interpretation of the vanishing architectural heritage of the eastern Mediterranean, with notable field projects in Thrace, Istanbul, Cappadocia, and Jerusalem. He is the author, co-author, or editor of more than two dozen books, including Master Builders of Byzantium and A Byzantine Settlement in Cappadocia.

Eastern Medieval Architecture: The Building Traditions of Byzantium and Neighboring Lands

Publication Date To Come

Ousterhout's book examines the rich and diverse architectural traditions of the Eastern Mediterranean between the fourth and fifteenth centuries CE, focusing on the social and cultural developments of the Byzantine Empire, the Caucasus, the Balkans, and Russia. The text takes an expansive view, attempting to balance the opposing trends in the study of visual and material culture, to present the architectural developments in a way that makes them accessible, interesting, and intellectually stimulating. 

Professor Tim Whitmarsh, Corpus Christi at the University of Oxford, UK

Tim Whitmarsh is the E.P. Warren Praelector and Tutor in Classics at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He received his doctorate, which won the Hellenic Foundation prize in 1998, from the University of Cambridge; since then he has held positions in Cambridge and Exeter, before moving to Oxford in 2007. He is the author of Greek Literature and the Roman Empire, Ancient Greek Literature, The Second Sophistic, and Returning Romance, as well as over 50 articles, and has edited several collections of essays. He has lectured all over the world, written for the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books, and appeared on BBC radio.

Hellenism, Orientalism, and the Invention of the Novel

Publication Date To Come

Who invented the novel? Where did it come from? Is this the one literary genre to which we cannot credit the Greeks? These questions go back at least to the 17th century, to the redoubtable French polymath and future bishop Pierre­­-Daniel Huet, who credited the invention of the form to “orientals” and, what is more, they have an obvious resonance in our age, in which the controversies stirred by Black Athena are still alive. But are they the right questions to ask? This book will argue that the earliest novels were indeed products of the contact zones between Greece and the East; but to understand these origins, the book will propose, we need to radically rethink, that is to say denationalize, our sense of what Greek culture actually was in the Hellenistic and early imperial periods. 

Professor Alain Bresson, University of Chicago

Alain Bresson is Professor in the Department of Classics at the University of Chicago. He is an historian of the ancient world with particular interests in the ancient economy, the Hellenistic world, and the epigraphy of Rhodes and Asia Minor. His books include L'économie de la Grèce des cités, La cité marchande, Recueil des inscriptions de la Pérée rhodienne, and, as editor, five more books on matters of economics, civic life, writing and public power, and the history of the family. In addition to his Onassis series book on the origins of coinage, he is currently working on a new handbook of the economies in the classical world (in collaboration with Elio Lo Cascio and Francois Velde), and preparing the English translation of his book on the economy of Greek cities. 

Why Coinage? The Origins and Development of Coinage in Ancient Greece

Publication Date To Come

Coins are familiar to all of us, so familiar that coinage may seem to be almost co-existent with human life or civilization. Yet, this very familiar means of payment has a history, and we are fortunate enough to be able to determine when and where it all began: around 600 BCE, in Western Asia Minor, in a Greco-Lydian context. This book will propose a new explanation for the origins and development of this particular form of money. What circumstances made coinage possible? What made it necessary? How was it maintained? What were the main phases of its development? These are the questions to which this book will provide startling new answers.