In 1998, Mrs. Kanella Georgopoulou guided me over stone fences and through fields of donkey thistles to a dilapidated chapel below a small village in the Mani. Bleeding from scratches and parched by the heat of the high sun, we contemplated the face of the Virgin. Once found in the apse of the church, a section of the painting now lay shattered on the ground below. Gazing at the pieces of her village’s history, Mrs. Georgopoulou asked why no one was interested in the past. “When we are gone,” mused the octogenarian, “there will be no one left to tell the tale.” Mrs. Georgopoulou was one of the numerous elderly villagers in the Mani, Boeotia, and Crete who expressed to me the same concern — village life would soon disappear.
This week we focus on Sharon Gerstel’s book, shortlisted for this year’s award. From the book jacket: “This is the first book to examine the Late Byzantine peasantry through written, archaeological, ethnographic, and painted sources. […] The village is a micro-society, with its own social and economic hierarchies. This text reveals lesser-known individuals – such … Read moreThis week’s focus: Rural Lives and Landscapes in Late Byzantium, by Sharon Gerstel
Author John Dillery, whose book Clio’s Other Sons: Berossus and Manetho has been shortlisted for this year’s Runciman Award, kindly agreed to answer a few questions for us.
Clio’s Other Sons is a scholarly work, liberally annotated with footnotes. How long does it take to research a work such as this? Where do you start?
It took me 16 years to write. I started by thinking hard about why these non-Greek priests – Berossus the Babylonian and Manetho the Egyptian – would want to write a history of their native lands in a language not their own, using in some cases methods of treating the past that were not their own, but from elements that were. What was the purpose of these histories?
An Opportunity: Hellenization and World History
Something obviously very big happened in the history of the world in the Hellenistic period. Greek, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian cultures, each constituting massive contributions to the achievement of organized human life on our planet, were brought into intimate interplay that, while by no means unprecedented, had not occurred on a similar scale before. Greek culture, the one I know best and with which I am principally concerned, went from being the possession of a relatively small number of people clustered around the shores of the Eastern and Central Mediterranean to a tool of communication and social construction in the hands of many, many more people and in many other places, some quite far from the central Greek homelands.
This week we focus on John Dillery’s shortlisted book, Clio’s Other Sons: Berossus and Manetho. Here are some of the questions the author seeks to answer: ‘How did the non-Greek members of the ancient civilizations of the Near East and Egypt view the expulsion of the Persians and the conquest of their lands by the … Read moreThis week’s focus: Clio’s Other Sons: Berossus and Manetho by John Dillery