Born in Manchester, I was brought up in south London and educated at St Cecilia's School and Wimbledon College. My Mancunian roots have remained strong in my lifelong support for Manchester United football club. At Wimbledon College my passion for History was kindled by the renowned teacher and local historian Richard Milward.
I returned to Manchester for my undergraduate studies, gaining a First Class Honours degree in History (Ancient, Medieval, Modern). At Manchester I was converted from Modern to Ancient Greek History by the inspirational teaching of Cosmo Rodewald, under whose guidance I began my study of Sparta with an undergraduate thesis on 'Kings, Society and Foreign Policy: the Character of Government in Classical Sparta'.
I then went to Cambridge to undertake doctoral study in Ancient History, writing my PhD dissertation on 'Explorations in Classical Spartan Economy and Society', under the supervision of Sir Moses Finley and, after Finley's death, of Paul Cartledge.
I gained my first academic post at the University of Manchester as Lecturer in History in 1977 and was subsequently promoted to Senior Lecturer and then to Reader in Ancient History.
I joined the University of Nottingham in 2003 and was Professor of Ancient History until my retirement in 2018. Since 2004 I have led the research project Sparta in Comparative perspective, Ancient to Modern. In 2005 I co-founded the university's Centre for Spartan and Peloponnesian Studies and was Director until 2018. From 2010 to 2018 I was also Director of the university's Institute for the Study of Slavery.
In 2010 I was awarded Honorary Citizenship of the city of Sparta, Greece, for my contributions to the global understanding of Spartan history.
My broad area of expertise is the social, economic, political and military history of ancient Greece. Within that broad area, I have special expertise in
- archaic and classical Sparta, especially its social, economic, and military organisation
- Sparta in modern politics and popular thought
- slavery, especially helotage and other forms of unfree agrarian labour
- the agrarian economy of ancient Greece
My training as a historian covered the full chronological range from the ancient to the modern worlds. I am particularly interested in examining ancient Greece within the comparative perspective of other historical societies and in antiquity's role in modern political and intellectual thought .
I have now retired from the University of Nottingham and am no longer involved in teaching undergraduate or taught masters students..
As a retired Emeritus Professor, I shall not be able to act as primary supervisor for PhD students. However, I hope to be able to act as secondary co-supervisor, in collaboration with other colleagues in the Department of Classics and Archaeology.
Recent and Current PhD Theses supervised
- Depictions of Spartan Masculinity in Classical Athenian Prose
- Slaving Strategies in Classical Athens
- Aeolian Identity
- Finding the Non-Combatant within the Greek Polis
- The Reception of Greek Thought in American Conservativism since 1945
My main current interest is ancient Sparta and its reception in modern times. Since 2004 I have led a project on Sparta in Comparative Perspective, Ancient to Modern. The project compares classical… read more
My main current interest is ancient Sparta and its reception in modern times. Since 2004 I have led a project on Sparta in Comparative Perspective, Ancient to Modern. The project compares classical Sparta with other ancient Greek city-states and with societies at other historical times and places. It also examines the way in which Sparta has been appropriated as a comparative model in modern political and intellectual thought.
As part of this project, I have published two edited volumes: Sparta: Comparative Approaches and Sparta in Modern Thought , For the full list of project publications by myself and other members of the project team, see the project webpage.
Allied to my research on Sparta, from 2005 to 2018 I was co-founder and Director of the University of Nottingham's Centre for Spartan and Peloponnesian Studies.
My other current research interest is in ancient slavery, especially helotage and unfree rural labour in ancient Greece. I am editing the Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Slaveries with Kostas Vlassopoulos and Marc Kleijwegt. From 2010 to 2018 I was Director of the University of Nottingham's Institute for the Study of Slavery.
My past research has been directed at two important subjects within ancient history: (i) the agrarian economy of ancient Greece, especially the role of animal husbandry; (ii) the economy and society of archaic and classical Sparta.
These subjects are central to the understanding of ancient Greek society; but research in both areas had become somewhat stagnant, owing to the long-standing dominance of old-fashioned approaches. My work aimed to challenge the old orthodoxies with radically new approaches and interpretations. My core methods have been a close re-reading of both well-known and neglected ancient texts, together with use of hitherto under-utilised archaeological and epigraphic evidence, informed by insights drawn from other disciplines, especially the social sciences.
My approach to these subjects has viewed them against the comparative context of other areas of the ancient world and, cross-culturally, from the perspective of other historical times and places. My research ranges over many aspects of economy, society and culture, including education and upbringing; food and commensality; pederasty and homosexuality; patronage and friendship; political organisation and community; property and wealth; money and coinage; religious sanctuaries and votive offerings; slavery and unfree labour; sport and agonistic contests; warfare; women and gender.
Main past publications:
Property and Wealth in Classical Sparta (Duckworth & Classical Press of Wales, London 2000)
Sparta: New Perspectives, edited with Anton Powell (Duckworth & Classical Press of Wales, London 1999)
Sparta: Beyond the Mirage, edited with Anton Powell (Duckworth & Classical Press of Wales, London 2002)
Sparta and War, edited with Anton Powell (Classical Press of Wales, Swansea 2006)
Sparta: Comparative Approaches (Classical Press of Wales, Swansea 2009)
Sparta: The Body Politic, edited with Anton Powell (Classical Press of Wales, Swansea 2010)
Sparta in Modern Thought, edited with Ian Macgregor Morris (Classical Press of Wales 2012)
Slaves and Religions in Graeco-Roman Antiquity and Modern Brazil, edited with Dick Geary (Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2012)
I am currently working on a project on the interaction between war and society in classical Sparta, challenging Sparta's popular reputation as a military society. I have already published several articles on the subject, which are intended to lead to a book provisionally titled 'Comparing Spartan Militarism'. The book will examine how and why images of Sparta as a militaristic society developed in antiquity and in modern times, arguing that the growth of these images was rooted more in contemporary political factors than in authentic understandings of Spartan society. The book will also compare the role of war in Sparta with its role in a number of other societies in different historical periods, arguing that on most counts war in Sparta played a comparatively less important role than it did elsewhere.