The Past in the Present

Interpreting Herodotus after Charles W. Fornara

Columbia University, September 20-22 2013


Charles Fornara earned his B.A. here at Columbia University in 1956. He went on to earn an M.A. at the University of Chicago (1958) as well as a Ph.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles (1961). He is now the David Benedict Professor of Classics and History (Emeritus) at Brown University.

Fornara’s Herodotus. An Interpretative Essay  of 1971 stands out in Herodotean scholarship, in particular for locating Herodotus in the context of the Atheno-Peloponnesian war and for its exploration of the Athens-Sparta conflict as a ‘red thread’ running through the Histories. This book also includes penetrating discussion of other issues: the relative unity of Herodotus’ work, the relationship between ethnographies and historical narrative; and the significance of ‘patterning’ within the Histories, the way (in Fornara’s words) in which ‘history became moral and Herodotus didactic’.

Forty years on from the publication of Herodotus. An Interpretative Essay, this conference brings together a group of international scholars with varying approaches and interpretative skills into dialogue with one another, to look afresh at the themes of Fornara’s Essay in the light of the scholarship of the intervening years.

If you would like to attend the conference, or if you have any queries, please contact the organisers, Tom Harrison ( or Liz Irwin ( 


All sessions to take place in 501 Schermerhorn Hall
Click here for a printable program.


09:15 – 01:00

Chair: Thomas Harrison

09:15 – 09:30 Introduction
09:30 – 10:30 John Dillery (University of Virginia)
“Hecataeus and Herodotus”
10:30 – 11:00 Coffee
11:00 – 12:00 Ewen Bowie (Corpus Christi College, Oxford)
“The Lesson of Book 2”
12:00 – 01:00 Reinhold Bichler (Innsbruck)
“Charles Fornara and Herodotus Book 2: The Question of Unity and Development”


02:30 – 05:00

Chair: Elizabeth Irwin

02:30 – 03:30 Thomas Harrison (Liverpool)
“The Moral of History”
03:30 – 04:00 Coffee
04:00 – 05:00 Joseph Skinner (Newcastle)
“The World of Herodotus”



09:30 – 01:00

Chair: Thomas Harrison

09:30 – 10:30 Robert Rollinger (Helsinki/Innsbruck) and Josef Wiesehöfer (Kiel)
“Herodotus and the Persian Empire: The Transformation of Ancient Near Eastern Motifs”
10:30 – 11:00 Coffee
11:00 – 12:00 Christopher Tuplin (Liverpool)
“Dogs That Do Not (Always) Bark: Herodotus on Persian Egypt”
12:00 – 01:00 Kai Ruffing (Kassel)
“Gifts for Cyrus, Tribute for Dareios”


02:30 – 06:00

Chair: Elizabeth Irwin

02:30 – 03:30 Peter J. Rhodes (Durham)
“Herodotus and Democracy”
03:30 – 04:00 Coffee
04:00 – 05:00 Wolfgang Blösel (Duisburg-Essen)
“Herodotus and Sparta”
05:00 – 06:00 Jonas Grethlein (Heidelberg)
“Past and Present in Herodotus’ Histories”



09:30 – 01:00

Chair: Thomas Harrison

09:30 – 10:30 Emily Greenwood (Yale)
“History on the Move”
10:30 – 11:00 Coffee
11:00 – 12:00 Elizabeth Irwin (Columbia)
“Herodotus’ Last Logos”
12:00 – 01:00 Closing Discussion

We would like to thank Francesco de Angelis, Mathias Hanses, William V. Harris, Selina Rivera, Geraldine Visco, and Caroline Wazer for their support in the organization of this conference. We are also grateful to our financial backers: The Stanwood Cockey Lodge Fund of the Columbia Department of Classics, the Columbia University Seminar in Classical Civilization, the Center for the Ancient Mediterranean (Columbia University), and the John Percival Postgate Trust (University of Liverpool).

  • Contact Info

  • Department of Classics
    1130 Amsterdam Avenue
    617 Hamilton Hall, MC 2861
    New York, NY 10027

  • Phone: (212) 854-3902
    Fax: (212) 854-7856