Konstan, David 1940-

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Konstan, David 1940-


Born November 1, 1940, in New York, NY; son of Harry (a store manager) and Edythe (a teacher and school board president); married Pura Nieto, 1994; children: Eve Anna, Geoffrey Theodore. Education: Columbia University, B.A. (cum laude), 1961, M.A., 1963, Ph.D., 1967. Hobbies and other interests: Cooking.


Home—Providence, RI. Office—Department of Classics, Brown University, 48 College St., Providence, RI 02912-9021; fax: 401-863-7484. E-mail—[email protected].


Hunter College of the City University of New York, New York, NY, lecturer in classics, 1964-65; Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, Brooklyn, NY, instructor in classics, 1965-67; Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, assistant professor, 1967-72, associate professor, 1972-77, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, 1977-87, chair of Department of Classics, 1975-77, 1978-80, director of humanities program, 1972-74; Brown University, Providence, RI, professor, 1987—, John Rowe Workman Distinguished Professor of the Classics and the Humanistic Tradition, 1992—, chair of department of classics, 1989-92. American University in Cairo, visiting professor, 1981-83; University of Texas—Austin, visiting scholar, 1986-90; University of CaliforniaLos Angeles, visiting professor, 1987; Monash University, Fulbright senior lecturer, 1988; University of Sydney, visiting professor, 1990-91; University of Natal, visiting professor, 1993; University of La Plata, visiting professor, 1997; Washington University, Biggs Resident Scholar, 1999; Universidade de Sao Paulo, visiting professor 2000; King's College, Cambridge, Member of High Table, 2000; Leventis visiting research professor, University of Edinburgh, 2001; William Evans visiting fellow, University of Otago, 2002. Programme MENTOR, member of international scientific committee, 1988—. Editorial board member of numerous journals.


American Philological Association (president, 1999), Classical Association of New England (state president, 1979), Phi Beta Kappa.


Fellow, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1978, 1990, and 2004; award for outstanding academic book, Choice, 1989-90, for the translation On Aristotle's Physics Six; fellow, American Council of Learned Societies, 1991; Guggenheim fellow, 1994; fellow at National Humanities Center, 1995; Rockefeller fellow; Alexander S. Onassis Foundation research grant, 2001, lectureship, 2003 and 2004; Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences fellowship, 2004-05.


Some Aspects of Epicurean Psychology, E.J. Brill (Leiden, Netherlands), 1973.

Catullus' Indictment of Rome: The Meaning of Catullus 64, Hakkert (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1977.

Roman Comedy, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1983.

Sexual Symmetry: Love in the Ancient Novel and Related Genres, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1994.

Greek Comedy and Ideology, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1995.

Friendship in the Classical World, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1997.

Pity Transformed, Duckworth (London, England), 2001.

The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks: Studies in Aristotle and Classical Literature, University of Toronto Press (Buffalo, NY), 2006.

(With Ilaria Ramelli) Terms for Eternity: Aiônios and Aīdios in Classical and Christian Texts, Gorgias Press (Piscataway, NJ), 2007.

Lucrezio e la psicologia epicura, V&P (Milan, Italy), 2007.

Contributor to books, including Essays in Ancient Greek Philosophy, Volume 2, edited by John P. Anton and Anthony Preus, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1983; What Is Art?, edited by Hugh Curtler, Haven Publishing, 1983; The Death of Art: Critical Essays in Philosophy, edited by Berel Lang, Haven Publishing, 1984; and The Left Academy, Volume 2, edited by Bertell Ollman and Edward Vernoff, Praeger (New York, NY), 1984. Author of introduction and notes, Cyclops by Euripides, translation by Heather McHugh, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2001. Contributor of more than 100 articles and reviews to scholarly journals, including Apeiron, Classical Philology, Comparative Drama, and Journal of Early Christian Studies.


Menander, Dyskolos, Bryn Mawr Commentaries (Bryn Mawr, PA), 1983.

(With Michael Roberts) Apollonius of Tyre, Bryn Mawr Commentaries (Bryn Mawr, PA), 1985.

(With Thomas M. Falkner and Nancy Felson) Contextualizing Classics: Ideology, Performance, Dialogue: Essays in Honor of John J. Peradotto, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 1999.

(With N. Keith Rutter) Envy, Spite, and Jealousy: The Rivalrous Emotions in Ancient Greece, Edinburgh University Press (Edinburgh, Scotland), 2003.

Arethusa, guest editor, 1980, associate editor, 1990—; member of editorial board, Diaspora: Journal of Transnational Studies, 1989—; member of editorial advisory board, Scholia: Natal Studies in Classical Antiquity, 1991-93.


Simplicius, On Aristotle's Physics Six, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1989.

(With Diskin Clay, Clarence Glad, and others, and author of commentary) Philodemus Peri Parrhesias, Society of Biblical Literature Texts and Translations (Atlanta, GA), 1997.

(And author of introduction and notes) Philodemus, On Frank Criticism, Scholars Press (Atlanta, GA), 1998.

Aspasias, Michael of Ephesus, On Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics 8 and 9, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 2001.

(Translator and editor, with Donald A. Russell) Heraclitus: Homeric Problems, Society of Biblical Literature (Atlanta, GA), 2005.

(With Suzanne Saìd) Greeks on Greekness: Viewing the Greek Past under the Roman Empire, Cambridge Philological Society (Cambridge, MA), 2006.

(Translator) Aspasius, On Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics 1-4, 7-8," Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 2006.

Associate editor, Arethusa; coeditor, "Writings from the Greco-Roman World Series."


David Konstan once told CA: "Among my original motives for pursuing the classics were these: that one could study a few texts lovingly, and that all disciplines, it seemed, lay open to one who commanded the languages. I have been fortunate: I have had the chance to spend months with a few dozen verses of Catullus, to meditate on why atoms fall and how slavery transformed the Roman world. I approach the ancient world as an anthropologist. True, I cannot ask direct questions of the Greeks and Romans, but they have left us a marvelous set of documents.

"The classical world was not all glory and grandeur. It marginalized women, foreigners, slaves, the dependent poor. Part of our task is to demystify the past, and understand it in a critical way.

"I have had the pleasure, in recent years, of studying laughter, sexuality, and friendship in the ancient world. I am contemplating devoting the next few years to investigating the history of pity. I don't know if there is a deeper significance to this intellectual trajectory, but it is certainly not boring."

He later added "I hope my books will contribute to making the classical world more interesting, and also more relevant, precisely for the ways in which it differed from the modern world: it has both positive and negative lessons to offer, and also endless fascination."

This intellectual trajectory has produced, in addition to numerous scholarly books, the well-received study The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks: Studies in Aristotle and Classical Literature. In this work Konstan examines twelve terms describing emotions, including "fear," "shame," "pity," "anger," "hatred," and "love." He provides detailed analyses of how these terms are used in the works of Aristotle and other classical writers, showing how the terms have been translated and construed. From this analysis, Konstan argues that ancient Greek attitudes were strikingly similar to those of contemporary westerners, but also differed in significant ways.

Konstan's discussion of the difference between "anger" and "hatred," for example, reveals important distinctions in how the ancient Greeks construed interpersonal and class relationships. The term "anger" was used to describe what one felt when offended by a social inferior; "hatred" or "enmity," by contrast, was reserved for those toward whom one felt generalized animosity. It was not the result of personal insult or ill treatment, but was directed toward entire categories of people, such as criminals or tyrants, who were considered "bad." As for "love," Aristotle described it in terms of benevolence toward others, not as romantic infatuation. As Konstan shows, the Greeks' emotions were experienced relative to an individual's esteem in the eyes of the community.

Anthony J. Podlecki, reviewing the book in Canadian Journal of History, estimated that Konstan's evidence suggests there to be "about an eighty percent overlap … between ancient Greek thinking about the emotions and our own." As the critic went on to point out, this difference is "enough to justify his thesis that the real value of undertaking an exercise of this kind is to find out in what ways the Greeks, whom some of us take as our spiritual and cultural ancestors, differed from us, and why this might have been so. We should, thus, be able to understand ourselves better."

For Review of Metaphysics contributor Virgil Nemoianu, however, The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks emphasizes the similarities between concepts of the emotions in antiquity and the present. While acknowledging the many valuable insights in the book, the critic felt that Konstan's conclusion—that Aristotle's world was intensely competitive and attuned to degrees of power—is not wholly convincing. Podlecki, on the other hand, hailed the volume as "a rigorous examination of how the ancient Greeks thought and talked about their emotional lives."

Critics also welcomed Heraclitus: Homeric Problems, which Konstan translated and edited with Donald A. Russell. As Bryn Mawr Classical Review contributor Filippomaria Pontani noted, it is the only ancient Homeric allegory, other than Porphyry's "Cave of the Nymphs," that has survived in its entirety. The critic further commented that Konstan's introduction to the work provides "a very stimulating starting point" in a study of Heraclitus and of ancient allegory in general.



American Journal of Philology, fall, 1986, review of Roman Comedy, p. 448; spring, 1996, Andrew Walker, review of Sexual Symmetry: Love in the Ancient Novel and Related Genres, p. 165.

Ancient Philosophy, fall, 1998, Pamela M. Huby, review of Friendship in the Classical World, p. 502.

Canadian Journal of History, March 22, 2007, Anthony J. Podlecki, review of The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks: Studies in Aristotle and Classical Literature, p. 77.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, September, 1983, review of Roman Comedy, p. 92; May, 1994, D. Oateiner, review of Sexual Symmetry, p. 1431; March, 1996, C.S. Broeniman, review of Greek Comedy and Ideology, p. 1124; November, 2006, J. Bussanich, review of The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks, p. 494.

Church History, March, 2003, Andrew S. Jacobs, review of Greek Biography and Panegyric in Late Antiquity, p. 189.

Classical Literature, October, 2007, Edward Sanders, review of The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks, p. 327.

Classical Outlook, December, 1983, review of Roman Comedy, p. 68.

Classical Review, annual, 1995, review of Sexual Symmetry, p. 270.

Classical World, January, 1986, review of Roman Comedy, p. 206; September, 1997, review of Sexual Symmetry, p. 61; September, 1998, review of Greek Comedy and Ideology, p. 55.

Comparative Drama, summer, 1984, review of Roman Comedy, p. 175.

First Things: Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, May, 1999, Gilbert Meilaender, review of Friendship in the Classical World, p. 57.

Greece & Rome, April, 1990, Richard Wallace, review of On Aristotle's Physics Six; April, 1996, Stephan Halliwell, review of Greek Comedy and Ideology, p. 81.

Journal of Hellenic Studies, annual, 2007, Douglas Cairns, review of The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks, p. 248.

Journal of the History of Philosophy, David K. Glidden, review of Friendship in the Classical World, p. 359.

Library Journal, June 1, 1983, review of Roman Comedy, p. 1139.

Reference & Research Book News, May 1, 2006, review of Heraclitus: Homeric Problems; November 1, 2007, review of On Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics 1-4, 7-8."

Religious Studies Review, July, 1995, review of Sexual Symmetry, p. 226, and review of Greek Comedy and Ideology, p. 228; January, 1998, review of Friendship in the Classical World, p. 73; April, 2002, review of Pity Transformed, p. 162; July, 2003, review of Aspasias, Michael of Ephesus, p. 295.

Review of Metaphysics, March, 1991, D.K.W. Modrak, review of On Aristotle's Physics Six, p. 653; March 1, 2008, Virgil Nemoianu, review of The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks, p. 641.

Theatre Journal, December, 1988, review of Roman Comedy, p. 574.

Times Higher Education Supplement, August 11, 1995, Philip Warnock, review of Greek Comedy and Ideology, p. 21.

Times Literary Supplement, April 15, 1994, Mary Rigger Beard, review of Sexual Symmetry, p. 7; April 14, 1995, Erich Segal, review of Greek Comedy and Ideology, p. 3; August 23, 2002, Charine Edwards, review of Pity Transformed, p. 25.

Washington Post Book World, June 18, 1995, review of Greek Comedy and Ideology, p. 13.


Brown University Web site,http://www.brown.edu/ (July 27, 2008), Konstan faculty profile.

Bryn Mawr Classical Review,http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/ (July 27, 2008), Filippomaria Pontani, review of Heraclitus.

Ohio State University Web site,http://omega.cohums.ohio-state.edu/ (April 14, 2002), Elizabeth Belfiore, review of Pity Transformed.