AG Leventis Professor of Greek Culture
I am a Senior Research Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge (David Attenborough’s old college) and retired from my post as Cambridge University Professor of ancient Greek culture. I specialise in all aspects of the history of ancient Greece – sports, sex, politics, war, economics, etc etc – between about 700 and 300 BC, with an added focus on the continuing impact of ancient Greek achievements on our own societies and cultures today. The subjects of recent schools talks I have given include the Battle of Marathon’s 2500th anniversary (in 2010/1), the ancient Olympics compared with the modern Games (2012), and whether or not ancient Sparta was a ‘totalitarian’ society (the new ‘300’ movie sequel throws no new light on ancient Sparta and is in my humble opinion best avoided…). I have recently been involved with a new translation by Tom Holland of the world’s first historian, Herodotus, which was published by Penguin in 2013. In 2016 I published Democracy: A Life, a book about democracy in ancient Greece compared – or rather contrasted – with our modern versions of what we call ‘democracy’. I have given many schools talks on that subject, emphasising always that there is a world of difference between holding a referendum (direct democracy) and our usual (indirect, parliamentary) democratic practice. Currently, I’m working on a book on the ancient Greek city of Thebes – famous or notorious in myth and literature for being the home of Oedipus, but also a significant political actor in its own right.
Independent Life Peer & Consultant
Head of South College and Associate PVC Engagement, Durham University
Director, The Africa Centre & Former Chief Executive, The Place
Former CEO of Urdd Gobaith Cymru