Joe Jansen

Joe Jansen

Assistant Professor of Ancient Mediterranean Studies

I received a Ph.D. in classics, so I do most of my teaching in Ancient Mediterranean Studies, where I offer a variety of Greek and Latin language and civilization courses. But I also teach for First-Year Writing, the History Department, and the Political Economy and Search programs. The latter is a nice fit for me since many of the texts we read help further my research and, let’s be honest, are some of the most interesting and influential texts ever written.  Teaching Greek history is also a real treat because history is my first love and the main focus of my research agenda. I have just developed a course called "Athenian Democracy in Crisis," which focuses on the last third of the fifth century, from the beginning of the Peloponnesian War to the death of Socrates. In it we run an updated version of the role-playing game The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 B.C. In this simulation students are responsible for assuming the roles of real historical personae and recreating the dynamics of Athenian participatory democracy by introducing and debating their own pieces of legislation. They are also tasked with holding a preliminary hearing in which they present evidence for against bringing charges against Socrates.  As one student puts it, the game allowed her "to implement [her] working knowledge of the Athenian democratic process and to adopt the mentality of [her] character in order to understand better the motivation and ideologies of real historical actors."

I have two main research interests: the Athenian historian Xenophon and the political, social, and economic history of Athens in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE.  Both of these concerns intersect in my book project entitled: Xenophon’s Poroi and the Reinvention of Athenian Political Economy. In it I argue that the Poroi (Ways and Means-354BCE) is a unique work of political economy that illustrates the ways in which the Athenians can have both a just and dynamic economy without resorting to imperial forms of wealth extraction. Specifically, I contend that Xenophon challenges the parasitic, consumer-based orientation of Athens’ imperial economy by proposing practical but bold measures meant to transform Athens into a productive center of silver mining, manufacture, and free commercial exchange. My most recent publications deal with Xenophon's progressive treatment of outsider groups in the Poroi (“Strangers Incorporated: Outsiders in Xenophon’s Poroi,” in F. Hobden and C. Tuplin eds., Xenophon: Ethical Principle and Historical Enquiry.  Brill, 2012) and a curious episode in the Anabasis (“Greek Oath-Breakers?  The Arrest of the Generals in Xenophon’s Anabasis Reexamined.” Mnemosyne 67: 122-30.  2014). I also have a forthcoming essay on Xenophon's conception of peace appearing in the volume Peace and Reconciliation in the Ancient World (Ashgate 2017).


B.A., M.A., University of Wisconsin
Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin