Mikalson, Jon D. 1943–

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Mikalson, Jon D. 1943–


Born August 1, 1943, in Milwaukee, WI; son of John M. and Evelyn K. Mikalson; married Mary Villemonte, August 28, 1966; children: Melissa, Jacquelyn. Education: University of Wisconsin—Madison, B.A., 1965; attended American School of Classical Studies, Athens, 1968-69; Harvard University, Ph.D., 1970.


Home—Crozet, VA. Office—Department of Classics, 146 New Cabell Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22903.


University of Virginia, Charlottesville, assistant professor, 1970-77, associate professor, 1977-1984, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of classics, 1984—.


American Philological Association, Classical Association of the Middle West and South, Classical Association of Virginia (past president).


The Sacred and Civil Calendar of the Athenian Year, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1975.

Athenian Popular Religion, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1985.

Honor Thy Gods: Popular Religion in Greek Tragedy, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1991.

(Editor, with Gareth Schmeling) Qui Miscuit Utile Dulci: Festschrift Essays for Paul Lachlan MacKendrick, Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers (Wauconda, IL), 1998.

Religion in Hellenistic Athens, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1998.

Herodotus and Religion in the Persian Wars, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 2003.

Ancient Greek Religion, Blackwell Pub. (Malden, MA), 2005.


Jon D. Mikalson was born August 1, 1943, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and earned his doctorate from Harvard University. In addition, he spent time studying abroad at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Greece. A writer and educator, he took a position at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, serving on the faculty of the classics department. In addition to his academic endeavors, Mikalson has written a number of books on ancient Greek history, philosophy, religion, and writings.

In Honor Thy Gods: Popular Religion in Greek Tragedy, Mikalson takes a look at the traditional interpretations of various Greek plays, notably the ways in which certain passages are consistently referred to in an effort to identify the playwright as either particularly religious or, in contrast, particularly rational. Mikalson points out that these excerpts are often taken out of context in order to be used to make a particular point, and that popular beliefs of the day would have, in all likelihood, led to different conclusions. Likewise, when looking into the lives of the major playwrights producing tragedies during the classical era, it is impossible to link any of them, with any certainty, to specific views. John C. Gibert, writing for the Bryn Mawr Classical Review Web site, remarked that "on its own terms, the book makes a valuable contribution by combining well-defined aims with comprehensive and learned examination of the texts."

Religion in Hellenistic Athens offers readers an organized, descriptive look at the major players in Athens' religious history, running chronologically. Mikalson addresses various battles and skirmishes within the city lines, many of which are fueled in part by the need to protect the population and to honor both the gods themselves and the family units that serve as the backbone of the community. Writing for History: Review of New Books, J. Drew Harrington remarked that "through meticulous scholarship and the use of every tool available to scholars, Mikalson has provided an excellent study of Hellenistic religion. This work contributes greatly to the understanding of Hellenistic Greek life." Historian contributor Daniel H. Garrison wrote that "though narrow in its focus at a time when increasing attention is being paid to the peripheries of Greek history and literature, this is a well-written summary of mainstream classical Athenian religion."

Herodotus and Religion in the Persian Wars addresses the ways in which various deities figured prominently in Herodotus' historical writings. The book looks at both the use of religion in Herodotus and the role of religion during the Persian Wars. Mikalson considers the gods of Ancient Greece as a single, unified entity and also as individuals. Writing for History: Review of New Books, Thomas Kelly remarked that "there are numerous ideas expressed by Herodotus, especially but not exclusively in his characterizations of Xerxes and Croesus, that were not derived from the cultic, practiced religion that he is primarily concerned with."



Historian, March 22, 2006, Daniel H. Garrison, "Ancient Greek Religion," p. 191.

History: Review of New Books, December 22, 1999, J. Drew Harrington, review of Religion in Hellenistic Athens, p. 86; January 1, 2004, Thomas Kelly, review of Herodotus and Religion in the Persian Wars, p. 78.


Bryn Mawr Classical Review Online, http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/ (March 4, 2008), John C. Gibert, review of Honor Thy Gods: Popular Religion in Greek Tragedy.