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Current Projects

my primary current scholarly project is the Oxford History of the Archaic Greek World -- described in detail below. As part of that project, I am co-authoring, with Paul Cartledge of Cambridge University, a monograph on Archaic Sparta (Spartan Origins) and sole authoring a series of foundational studies for Spartan Origins

The Oxford History of the Archaic Greek World (OHAGW)

project directors: Paul Cartledge (Cambridge University), Paul Christesen (Dartmouth College)

supported by a generous grant from the A. G. Leventis Foundation

The Greek world in the Archaic period (c. 800 - c. 480 BCE) was remarkable for its diversity. As Greeks dispersed throughout the Mediterranean basin, the different environmental and human ecosystems they encountered almost inevitably led to important differences among widely scattered communities. Moreover, even communities situated relatively close to one another often responded in remarkably different ways to similar demographic, political, social, and economic challenges. At the same time, Greek communities had important commonalities, most notably language, and were bound together by a loosely structured but highly active network of commercial, cultural, diplomatic, and military ties. 

Diversity and uniformity are thus key issues for a broad range of scholarship on the Archaic Greek world. There is, nonetheless, a long-established tendency to focus attention on a limited number of communities, most notably Athens. That tendency has been frequently lamented, and with good reason: it implicitly homogenizes and inevitably impoverishes our perceptions of the Greek world. Decades of excavation and scholarship have greatly enriched our knowledge of dozens of Archaic Greek communities. The resulting information, however, has not been integrated and synthesized as regularly as it should be, for a variety of reasons. Of particular importance is the fact that much of this information is scattered among hundreds of publications. Even in cases where individual communities, such as Corinth and Miletus, have been the subject of scholarly monographs, the resulting publications take widely varying approaches with respect to the types of evidence considered and the methodologies used. The resulting lack of commensurability makes integration and synthesis difficult.

OHAGW will provide detailed studies of 34 sites, sanctuaries, and regions in Greece during the Archaic period. Each essay in OHAGW will be built around the same set of eleven rubrics, so that it will be possible to read either vertically (reading a complete study of a single site) or horizontally (reading, for example, about the economic history of a number of different sites). Taken together, these studies will add unprecedented depth and subtlety to our evidence for and understanding of diversity and uniformity in the Archaic Greek world.

- total expected length c. 1.5 million words
- will be published by Oxford University Press in hard copy and digitally

For a detailed discussion of OHAGW, consult the PDF of the project description that can be downloaded by clicking on the link below.

Some Forthcoming Articles

           Christesen, P. Forthcoming. "Luxury, Lost in                 Translation: τρυφή in Plutarch’s Sparta." In                   Luxury and Wealth in the Archaic to Hellenistic                Peloponnese, edited by C. Gallou and S.                            Hodkinson, Swansea: Classical Press of Wales.

▼ Downloadable Word Document Available 

Click on the icon to the left to download a pre-publication version of this article.

                             In this essay I argue that in Plutarch's descriptions of Sparta, τρυφή, which is habitually translated as                                         "luxury," actually meant something much closer to the English terms "decadence’ or "invidious, tasteless                                   ostentation."  Plutarch should thus be read as saying that the Spartan lifestyle limited self-indulgence, in                                   part by banishing goods and services understood as leading to moral corruption and socially disruptive                                       display of wealth, rather than saying that everything that we would normally put under the heading of                                       "luxury" was absent from Sparta. Re-interpreting Plutarch along those lines removes one of the major                                          remaining props of the belief in an austere Sparta in which luxury was entirely absent.

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