One of the world’s leading historians on Ancient Greece, American Donald Kagan, has died, aged 89.
A popular and revered professor, Kagan played a crucial role in promoting ancient Greek studies in the US. His iconic course at Yale University, Introduction to Ancient Greek History, traced the development of Greek civilization from the Bronze Age to the end of the classical period, and was a major hit with students for decades.
Greek journalist Niko Efstathiou, one of Professor Kagan’s students, called his death a “devastating loss” and recalled in a tweet that he’ll “never forget the endless queues of students who wanted to follow his Introduction to Ancient Greek History course.”
The course is now available for all at Yale Open Courses.
Born in Lithuania in 1932, Kagan was brought to America at age two by his newly widowed mother. He grew up in Brooklyn and graduated from Brooklyn College in 1954, before receiving an MA from Brown University in 1955 and a PhD from the Ohio State University in 1958. He started teaching at Yale in 1969, going on to become one of the world’s most distinguished scholars of Ancient Greek history.
In its tribute to Kagan following his death, Yale University claimed the professor’s gift was narrative.
“He was a superb story teller. In just the same way that he could mesmerize friends with a recapitulation of the movie The Godfather, or a crucial Yankees-Red Sox game, he could captivate readers when writing about complicated battles of the Peloponnesian wars.”
A rare conservartive voice in the academic world, Kagan often championed the importance of learning about the development of Western civilization.
Among the many awards and accolades he collected throughout his decades-long career, he was also awarded the National Endowment for Humanities medal, the highest honor the US federal government gives for distinguished intellectual achievement.
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