Jay Samons is Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Executive Director of the Institute for Hellenic Culture and the Liberal Arts at The American College of Greece and Professor of Classical Studies at Boston University. As Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at the American College of Greece, Professor Samons helps to implement the college’s strategic plan to utilize education and research for economic and social impact in Greece. The plan’s initiatives include new institutes and centers of excellence designed to foster research, international collaboration, undergraduate and graduate programming, and educational outreach as well as providing policy recommendations aimed at improving Greece’s economy while emphasizing Greece’s important historical and contemporary role as an intellectual and cultural leader.
Born in Arkansas and educated at Baylor University and Brown University, Samons has taught ancient history and classical languages at Boston University for nearly 30 years, winning many teaching awards including the university’s highest honor, the Metcalf Award for Excellence. He has published numerous books and articles on classical Greece, focusing in particular on fifth-century Athenian history and politics. In Empire of the Owl: Athenian Imperial Finance (2000), Samons described aspects of classical Athens’ political economy. Samons’ most recent book, a biography of ancient Greece’s most famous statesman (Pericles and the Conquest of History), appeared in 2016 from Cambridge University Press. Other works include What’s Wrong with Democracy? From Athenian Practice to American Worship (2004), Athens from Cleisthenes to Pericles (1991, with Charles W. Fornara), and the edited volumes The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Pericles (2007) and Athenian Democracy and Imperialism (1997). With his colleague Steve Esposito, Samons will publish an edition of selections from the Greek historian Thucydides in the Oxford College Commentaries series in 2021.
Professor Samons’ scholarly work has centered on the relationship between Athenian democracy and imperialism, the issue of national character, the relevance of ancient history for the modern world, the political careers of Pericles and his sometime rival Kimon, and analysis of the historians Herodotus and Thucydides. He has lectured at numerous universities and other institutions including Oxford University, The University of Edinburgh, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, Duke University, and the Getty Villa. In January, 2020, Samons delivered the fortieth annual Bancroft Lecture at the U.S. Naval Academy. He has also presented the Christopher Roberts Lecture at Dickinson College in 2013, the Harry Carroll Lecture at Pomona College (2016), and the Elizabeth M. Hunter Lecture at Florida State University (2016). In 2018 Professor Samons was a Visiting Scholar at St John’s College, Oxford, where he continued work on a book-length study of the Athenian general and statesman Kimon and the rise of classical Athens.