James Romm

James Romm teaches Classics at Bard College, New York. His most recent book, Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero, was reviewed in the LRB by Shadi Bartsch.

Anyone​ who doubts that Thebes is indeed a ‘forgotten city’ hasn’t spent much time in Greek souvenir shops. In a marketplace shaped by the interests of foreign tourists, there are countless mementos of Athens and Sparta, but barely a trace of a city that was at one time their equal and even, for a brief stretch, the leading power of Hellas. Two years ago, after a diligent...


James Romm, 21 January 2016

Thucydides​ may well have been the first Western author to address himself to posterity. His forerunners – Homer and Herodotus, principally – show no awareness of a readership extending beyond their own time. But Thucydides called his work ‘a possession for eternity’, and spoke of the chaos of civil war as something ‘that is and always will be, as long as human...


James Romm, 21 October 2015

‘We wield​ bows and arrows, throw javelins and ride horses; we know nothing of woman-ly tasks,’ the Amazons said of themselves, according to Herodotus. He had learned the legends of the women warriors on a trip to the southern outskirts of their territory – the region the Greeks called Scythia, the vast steppe lands to the north and east of the Black Sea. Herodotus shows...


James Romm, 21 November 2013

How fortunate you would have been, as a Roman patient of the second century AD, to be attended by Galen, the greatest Greek physician of the age. Galen would have paid housecalls, several times a day if needed, and brought you food. He would have questioned you with earnest concern about the onset and progress of your symptoms. He would have supplied medicines mixed from as many as 64...


James Romm, 20 June 2013

At first glance, Demosthenes, the leading politician of ancient Athens in the era of its decline, would seem an ideal subject for a biography. Dozens of his speeches survive, a huge corpus composed both of policy addresses delivered in the Athenian assembly and apologias written for defendants in the courts. Several of these, including the once celebrated but now little read ‘On the...

The Other

James Romm, 15 December 2011

‘Custom is king of all things,’ Herodotus proclaimed, arguing that if customs were like goods in a marketplace, set out alongside other such goods, each people would choose its own above all others. An experiment conducted by the Persian king Darius proved the point for Herodotus. Greeks, who buried their dead, had been confronted with Callatian Indians, who ate theirs: both...


James Romm, 6 October 2011

Almost 35 years ago, the Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikos opened a large, unplundered chamber tomb in the northern Greek village of Vergina, and a great controversy began. The tomb housed the cremated remains of a man aged between 35 and 55 and of a younger woman, a pair Andronikos soon identified as the Macedonian king Philip II – father of Alexander the Great, builder of the...


Shadi Bartsch, 17 June 2015

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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