“Ancient history” has become a cliché meaning “outdated, irrelevant;” Herodotus goes unread while the grotesque 300 movies entertain millions.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.