Charles W. Fornara Professor Emeritus of Classics

Charles Fornara has a B.A. from Columbia (1956), M.A. from the University of Chicago (1958), Ph.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles (1961). After a stint at the Ohio State University (1961-3), he had the good fortune to come to Brown as an Assistant Professor, and is currently David Benedict Professor of Greek. He became a Fellow of the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University in spring, 1983, and in 1988 he won a Samuel Guggenheim Fellowship.

In 1971 his dissertation on The Athenian Board of Ten Generals was published by Historia as an Einzelschrift , and in the same year there appeared his Herodotus, An Interpretative Essay (Oxford). A little later came his Archaic Times to the Peloponessian War (2nd ed. Cambridge 1983), mostly translations of historical inscriptions, with brief explanatory notes. In 1983 there appeared his book on The Nature of History in Greece and Rome (Berkeley) and in the same year, Athens from Cleisthenes to Pericles (Berkeley), in collaboration with Loren Samons. In 1994, in continuation of Felix Jacoby's great work on the Fragments of the Greek Historians, he published Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker IIIc, Geschichte von Städten und Völkern (Horographie und Ethnographie), Fascicle I, Commentary on Nos. 608a-608 (Leiden). This fasicule contained his commentary on the remaining fragments of the Egyptian ethnographies of Hellanicus of Lesbos and Aristagoras, an Ionian whose ethnikon is unknown.

He has written some thirty papers in learned journals or as chapters in books mostly involving Greek historiography, Greek history, various epigraphical questions, though also a few studies on the Latin historian Ammianus Marcellinus, who flourished in the last half of the fourth century A.D. In the past few years, his attention has focused on Greek poetic literature, principally Sophocles and Pindar, though he continues at the same time his research in the above-mentioned subjects.

Though his two airedales, Eloise and Alexander, would be perplexed to hear him say it, he lives alone, in the country in southern Rhode Island. For diversion he reads a good deal, mostly 18th and 19th century English literature, and when not reading, he listens to classical music, again mostly 18th or 19th century, or works outside on one landscaping task or another. When his son, Charlie, visits him, as he often does, they play a lot of chess.

Brown Affiliations

Research Areas

research overview

His research is concentrated in four areas. In Greek historiography, he revisits Herodotus and the problem of the unity of his work; he is also collecting together a set of essays about the Egyptian historian, Manethon. In his study of the Athenian empire, he reexamines two enigmatic financial documents (the Kallias Decrees). In the field of Greek tragedy, he is writing a monograph on Sophocles. Finally, he continues to investigate the history of Ammianus Marcellinus.

research statement

His research is centered in four distinct areas: (1) Greek historiography, (2) the history of the Athenian empire, (3) Sophocles, and (4) the Roman history of Ammianus Marcellinus. For present purposes, he divides his description of his current research into two categories: I. Work which he is now writing up, and which he will have completed within the next four or five months, if not before; II. Work in which his research progresses, but the final product is a degree more distant.

I.(1). He returns to the question of the compositional 'unity' of Herodotus' history (see his publication on Herodotus, "An Interpretative Essay," 1971) by presenting new or rather unconsidered evidence of a fundamental inconsistency of historical perspective within the work, which can best be explained, indeed, can only be explained, by the hypothesis that some sections of his history were written well before he attained his final conception of world history. The presence of such 'levels' in the completed work permits us to mark some of the stages of his intellectual development as he compiled his history.

With a gifted graduate student, he is writing a paper about one of the fragments of the great Atthidographic historian, Philochorus (FGrHist 328 F 181), which Felix Jacoby seems to have erroneously identified as a quotation in Harpocration, which was (he inferred) taken from Philochorus' Atthis . They argue against these propositions.

He is writing two reviews (one for Classical Review , the other for Exemplaria Classica ). The first is on a commentary by Lionel Scott on Herodotus Book 6, which entails discussion (though in limited space) of Herodotus' sources and his personal inclinations as indicated in his treatment of the Ionian Revolt and subsequent battle of Marathon. The other review is concerned with a text, translation, and commentary on Ktesias of Knidos, by Dominique Lenfant (Budé 2004). Lenfant's work is a major contribution and deserves a thorough analysis.

I.(2). The Kallias Decrees (IG. I 3rd ed. 52) are central to modern reconstructions of Athenian financial history. He gave a paper on this subject in Athens in July 2006, returning to this problem after having dealt with it almost 30 years ago (see full publications list). These two financial decrees stand back-to-back on one stone, and the date and purpose of one of them (Face A) has been the subject of immense debate. Normally though not invariably dated to the year 434/3 B.C., he will again propose a later date.

I.(3). See below.

I.(4). His continuous interest in Ammianus Marcellinus takes different forms at different times. Just now he is finishing a paper presenting certain emendations in the text of 17.1.10, 17.3.5, which, though not of any special historical significance, improve the language and coherence of these passages.

II.(1). He is gradually revising and collecting together portions of a (not altogether completed) commentary he had written on Manethon, the Egyptian historian. This was intended to comprise the second fascicule of his continuation of Jacoby's great commentary on the fragments of the Greek historians (see full publications list for the first fascicule). Chapters will deal with, among other things, the vita Manethonis, the apocryphal works, the textual tradition as it reached Sextus Julius Africanus and Eusebius, and an exhaustive treatment of some of the more difficult fragments.

II.(3) For some years he has been planning a monograph on Sophocles. Because Sophocles is an enigmatic playwright, unlike Aeschylus and Euripides, who, in their different ways reveal their fundamental beliefs and message, the (irresistible) temptation to 'explain' Sophocles and extract higher meaning from his plays has, he thinks, been shown to be counterproductive by the very multiplicity of competing interpretations occurring in modern literature. Sophocles, he believes, was a traditionalist who kept to himself his private and perhaps more exalted notions of divinity and the world, and he secluded these notions from his dramaturgy. Though he accepted, for the sake of the play, the conventional mythical ingredients, he had no interest in either refining them or supporting them. His way was to develop the conflicts and relationships developing there from.

II.(4). Certain incidents in Ammianus seem to him to deserve more extensive treatment than they have heretofore received. One that he is currently investigating involves his treatment of Julian before the Battle of Strasburg. As is well known, Julian initially attempted to persuade his army to delay the battle (16.12.9ff.), and his rather puzzling decision to interfere in this manner (he was only the titular leader of the army) is of singular interest. Giovanni Pighi, in his Nuovi Studi Ammiani , last studied the whole question in detail in 1936, and greatly as he admires the work of this fine scholar, he does not think his account (which remains more or less authoritative) is satisfactory. He is reexamining the whole tradition about this affair.

funded research