James Romm

James Romm’s most recent book is Demetrius: Sacker of Cities.

Alexander the Great​ was a pioneer of political spin, a master of image-making. He permitted only a single court-approved sculptor, Lysippus, to do his portrait and took a team of propagandists and influencers on his invasion of Asia. On a medallion dating to late in his reign or just after, he appears in the guise of Zeus, holding a fiery thunderbolt – the first time a European...

No Cheating! Olympia

James Romm, 26 May 2022

No​ ancient Greek site, except perhaps Delphi, is now so richly imbued with the spirit of Hellenism as Olympia in the Peloponnese. Its ruins and museum suggest lofty Greek values: the drive (among males, anyway) to excel, simply for the honour of being the best; the aspiration towards the wise use of power (again, by males only), as seen in the site’s idealised portraits of Zeus; and...

Greek Hearts and Diadems: Antigonid Rule

James Romm, 18 November 2021

‘No part of Greek history should come home to us like the third century bc,’ William Tarn wrote in 1913. ‘It is the only period that we can in the least compare with our own.’ And yet the third century – standing midway between the classical age and the coming of Rome, undocumented by any intact surviving source – gets little attention even from...

Who started it? Nero-as-arsonist

James Romm, 17 June 2021

Thegreat fire that started in Rome on 19 July 64 CE not only destroyed much of the city but also helped to bring down the Julio-Claudian dynasty that had ruled the empire for nearly a century. Nero, who occupied the position of princeps (‘first citizen’) by virtue of being the great-great-grandson of Augustus, had destroyed all the other male members of the line by the time of...

When was Hippocrates?

James Romm, 22 April 2021

The doctor​ who first urged his colleagues to ‘do no harm’, and also instructed them, less memorably, to ‘observe all concretions of excreta’, was a pioneering Greek practitioner of the fifth century BCE. We don’t know much about him, not even his name, but the writings he left behind helped lay the foundations of Greek medical science. He was probably a...

How much weight​ should we give to unpleasant revelations about the private lives of thinkers? It partly depends on what kind of thinker we’re talking about. When it was discovered a few...

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