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Modern Ancient History

James Romm

“Ancient history” has become a cliché meaning “outdated, irrelevant;” Herodotus goes unread while the grotesque 300 movies entertain millions.  Those of us who consider the ancient historians to be “page-turners” find such trends painful to contemplate, but they’re not irreversible.  Character, I believe, is the key that can unlock the power of these narratives and keep modern readers connected to the facts. The techniques ancient historians used to evoke character – speeches and dialogue, quips and anecdotes, scenes from private life – are deemed,

by most classicists, unverifiable and therefore off-limits.  Yet if we in the academic community offer readers no good access to character, we will lose them to the cartoonish good-versus-evil myths offered by Hollywood.   I have sought, in my two historical narratives, to draw characters — responsibly, I hope — that give general readers an entry point into complex events.   Put human beings at the center, I believe, and readers will follow us anywhere.

Session/Panel Title

Writing outside the Box: Communicating Classical Studies to Wider Audiences

Session/Paper Number

24.2

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