Erich Gruen was born in Vienna in 1935 and came to the United States in 1939. He lived in Washington, D.C. before doing his undergraduate work at Columbia University. Erich spent 3 years at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar where he achieved First Class Honours in Literae Humaniores (Ancient History and Philosophy) and then returned to the States to do his PhD at Harvard University. After teaching for several years at Harvard, Erich took up his post at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught for over 40 years as a member of both the History and the Classics Departments, serving simultaneously as chair of the Group in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology. At Berkeley, he held the Gladys Rehard Wood Chair. He spent terms as a visiting professor at the University of Colorado, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Princeton University, Cornell University, Oxford University, the University of Minnesota, and Tel Aviv University. He also served as the Villa Professor at the Getty Center.
Erich has received many honors and awards. Although it is impossible to list them all, these honors include Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships and appointments at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and the Stanford Humanities Center. Erich has also given the Townsend Classical Lectures at Cornell University, the Semple Classical Lectures at the University of Cincinnati, and the Martin Classical Lectures at Oberlin. He has been elected to the American Philosophical Society, the Roman Society of Great Britain (Honorary Member), and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Erich was also awarded the Austrian Cross of Honor for Arts and Letters. UC Berkeley has honored Erich by appointing him Faculty Research Lecturer, awarding him a Distinguished Teaching Award, and giving him the Berkeley Citation for distinguished achievement and notable service to the University.
Erich has contributed major scholarship in three distinctly different areas – the Roman Republic, the Hellenistic world, and the Jews of the ancient Mediterranean, each one of these areas being the equivalent of a complete career for most scholars. His seminal book, The Last Generation of the Roman Republic, is so well known in the field that it is referred to affectionately as LGRR. Other books that have cemented his reputation as an eminent scholar in his chosen fields include The Hellenistic World and the Coming of Rome (University of California Press, 1984) (received the James H. Breasted Prize), Culture and National Identity in Republican Rome (Cornell University Press, 1992), Heritage and Hellenism: The Reinvention of Jewish Tradition (University of California Press 1998), Diaspora: Jews amidst Greeks and Romans (Harvard University Press, 2004), Rethinking the Other in Antiquity (Princeton University Press, 2011), and Constructs of Identity in Hellenistic Judaism: Essays on Early Jewish Literature and History (De Gruyter, 2016). His new book about ancient ethnicity will be published shortly. In addition to his books, Erich has written over 100 articles and has given close to 300 lectures and invited papers round the world.
Erich has also contributed to the Society for Classical Studies in major ways over the years. He served simultaneously on the Board of Directors and the Program Committee (1983-1986) when SCS was known as the APA, and he was Vice President for Programs (1987-1990), President-Elect in 1991, and President in 1992. He also served as a Vice-President for Professional Matters for the APA from 1997-2000.
He has been on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Interdisciplinary History, the American Journal of Ancient History, California Studies in Classical Antiquity, and Classical Antiquity, and he was an editor of the very successful University of California Press series “Hellenistic Culture and Society.”
However, what Erich is proudest of are the graduate students whom he has mentored over the years. Erich has supervised or served on the dissertation committees of over 100 students, and there are many others to whom he has given wise counsel. Erich’s pride and joy are the three full shelves of books written by his students.