Biography and Research Interests
Just the Facts
I am William R. Kenan Professor of Ancient Greek History in the Department of Classics at Dartmouth College and Life Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge University. I hold a B.A. from Dartmouth, and a Ph.D. from Columbia University.
My areas of expertise include ancient Greek history (with a particular focus on Sparta), sport history (including the ancient Olympics), and the relationship between sport and political systems.
I am the author of three monographs: Olympic Victor Lists and Ancient Greek History (Cambridge University Press 2007), Sport and Democracy in the Ancient and Modern World (Cambridge University Press, 2012), and A New Reading of the Damonon Stele (Histos Supplement 8, 2019). I have co-edited two volumes of essays: with Donald Kyle, The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Sport and Spectacle in Greek and Roman Antiquity (2014) and, with Danielle Allen and Paul Millett, How to Do Things with History (Oxford University Press, 2018). I have also written more than 30 articles.
My currently scholarly preoccupation is working, with Paul Cartledge of Cambridge University, on the Oxford History of the Archaic Greek World.
More detailed information about my professional trajectory can be had from my curriculum vitae, which can be downloaded by clicking on the icon below.
What Interests Me
My past preoccupations and my plans for the future can both be traced back to a single moment in 1992. I was leaning against a building on the corner of 114th Street and Broadway, eating a quick lunch in between classes during my first year of graduate school at Columbia University. It suddenly occurred to me, as I watched the masses of people surging past and caught random pieces of conversations in a half-dozen languages, that I had no idea whatsoever how it could possibly work. How could it be that millions of people could collectively form a stable community in which things, for the most part, functioned smoothly? They were almost all complete strangers to each other and a substantial fraction of them were born and raised outside the United States, yet their interactions were beautifully synchronized. Traffic lights changed, cars stopped, pedestrians crossed the street. Someone walked into a coffee shop, which opened precisely on time, and someone else was waiting to take their order. The paper cup holding the coffee started in a forest somewhere and traveled from processing plant to distribution center, then onto a UPS truck and through the maze of traffic in New York City to the door of the coffee shop, just in time to be filled up and taken away. In short, everyone, without conscious agreement and with very little advance planning, was doing pretty much what they needed to do in order for an impossibly complicated system to work. I walked to class that day thinking about how and why societies do or do not function, and I have been thinking about it ever since.
Why do I study ancient Greece? Greek communities experienced great difficulty in maintaining stable sociopolitical systems, and it is not coincidental that Greeks thought long and hard about how and why communities cohere or disintegrate. For someone interested in those issues, studying the history of the hundreds of autonomous Greek city-states, how Greeks constantly innovated in search of new ways of organizing themselves, and their profound reflections on their experiences is a constantly enlightening and amazing experience.
If you would like to know more my career trajectory, you can download the career narrative document by clicking on the icon below.