Lucian’s race

I highly recommend Nathanael Andrade’s recent piece in Eidolon entitled “Voices In The Margins: Classics’ Suppression of Ancient Roman Writers of Color.” Although I am broadly sympathetic to its goals and standpoint I am not a frequent reader of Eidolon (I don’t have time to read anything that isn’t scholarship or science fiction), but Andrade’s essay, which I encountered quite by accident, eloquently expresses concerns that I share, using the racial identity of Lucian as his case study.

Frankly I have always imagined Lucian as a white guy, because, well, he quacks like a duck, so to speak. Andrade effectively demonstrates a few things. First, historically Lucian has been regarded not as ‘white’ but as ‘Oriental.’ Second, my unconscious perception of Lucian as white has nothing to do with what I know of his upbringing or what I read in his work, and everything to do with the nature of Classics as a discipline. I only ever read Lucian in the company of white people, and since the topic of race was never raised in any of my classes or in Lucian’s own work I simply defaulted to an image of whiteness.

I heartily agree with Andrade’s call to normalize diversity in Classics. I’m not really sure how to do it, but I think that recognizing my own unconscious assumptions about race is a good place to start.

‘Purveyors’ of Persian Art

Having a crappy day? I have just the thing: J. M. Rogers’ review of Surveyors of Persian Art: A Documentary Biography of Arthur Upham Pope and Phyllis Ackerman, edited by Jay Gluck, Noël Silver and Sumi Hiramoto Gluck (Ashiya: SoPA, 1996). As Rogers puts it:

“What did they do to deserve this volume, which at 680 pages is a severe test of one’s patience? Despite the inordinate length and the obtrusive egos of their self-obsessed informants, the repetitiveness, and the leaden, and often irrelevant interpolations by Jay Gluck they manage to present an unrelievedly disagreeable picture.”

He goes on to say:

“The scale on which Pope dealt — he claimed in 1932 (p. 167) to have purchased, i.e. sold, more than three quarters of a million dollars’ worth — suggests, however, that ‘Purveyors of Persian Art’ would also have been an apposite title for this volume.”


“Though Phyllis Ackerman’s papers are for the moment inaccessible in Shiraz she emerges as more awful than Pope. The marriage, which she appears to have engineered, may have been less fulfilling than she hoped, which may explain her almost comical obsession with sexual symbolism in middle age.”


“With friends like this enemies are superfluous, and Jay Gluck’s admission (p. 573) that everyone connected with the couple had a love-hate relationship with them almost suggests that it is unconscious revenge. As a work of reference, moreover, the volume suffers severely from an absence of explanatory notes and relevant bibliography. Few will need to peruse it, but for the present reviewer it has been a lowering experience.”

It brings a smile to my face every time I read it. The review is published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Third Series 7 (1997), 455-8. Enjoy!

The Herodotus Encyclopedia

I am pleased to report that The Herodotus Encyclopedia, edited by Christopher Baron, is now in production, and is expected to be published in 2020. It will undoubtedly be an invaluable resource for anyone working on any aspect of Herodotus. If you really have nothing better to do you can see what articles I wrote for the encyclopedia on my publications page.

Getty Research Institute call for applications

The Getty Research Institute has released its call for applications for the 2020-21 fellowship cycle, with the themes ‘The Fragment’ and ‘Phoenicians, Philistines, and Canaanites: The Levant and the Classical World.’ I was a postdoctoral fellow at the GRI in 2015-16, and I can recommend these fellowships very highly for the opportunities and connections they provide, the geniality of the GRI and Getty Villa staff, the excellent accommodations, and the weather in Los Angeles.

These fellowships can be a little confusing (I was definitely confused when I applied), so here is some explanation which may help future applicants. First, there are two kinds of fellows, Predocs/Postdocs and Scholars. Predocs/Postdocs have fellowships lasting nine months (late September to June), whereas Scholars, who normally have permanent jobs and are at least a few years out of grad school, have fellowships lasting three months (late September to December, January to March, or April to June).

Second, all of these fellowships are managed by the Getty Research Institute, one of the branches of the Getty Trust, which is separate from the J. Paul Getty Museum (another branch of the Getty Trust). Yet the ancient theme (‘Phoenicians, Philistines, and Canaanites’) is selected by the Antiquities department of the Getty Museum, which is housed at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades (near Malibu). All fellows working under either theme who deal with ancient art get offices at the Villa rather than the Getty Center in Brentwood (where the GRI and the rest of the Getty Museum are located). For example, during my fellowship the Villa theme was ‘Egypt,’ but one of my colleagues, also housed at the Villa, was a Roman art historian working on the ‘Materiality’ theme.

Confused yet? That’s understandable. I am happy to try to answer questions about the fellowship program, so please ask if you’re considering applying.