On the Spot: Rosa Andújar

‘Those in power tend to dictate the way history gets written.’

Statue of Salomé Ureña in the Ciudad Colonial of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Statue of Salomé Ureña in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Wiki Commons/Phyrexian.

Why are you a historian of ancient Greece?

I went to university intending to study maths and physics, but was inspired to learn ancient Greek by a brilliant teacher.

What’s the most important lesson history has taught you?

That those in power tend to dictate the way it gets written.

Which history book has had the greatest influence on you?

The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James.

What book in your field should everyone read?

The Invention of Athens by Nicole Loraux.

Which moment would you most like to go back to?

The Dionysia festival in 431 BC in which Euphorion, Aeschylus’ son, defeated both Sophocles and Euripides (whose Medea was staged that year).

Which historian has had the greatest influence on you?

Peter Brown, the amazing historian of Late Antiquity.

Which person in history would you most like to have met? 

Salomé Ureña, a 19th-century poet and advocate of women’s education in the Dominican Republic, where my family is from.

How many languages do you have?

I’m bilingual in English and Spanish; fluent in ancient Greek, Latin and French; and proficient in German, Italian, Portuguese and modern Greek.

What is the most common misconception about your field?

That it is only for people who studied Latin and Greek at school.

Who is the most underrated person in history…

Aspasia, a woman who migrated to Athens, was hailed as a philosopher by Socrates and had a relationship with the statesman Pericles.

…and the most overrated?

Cicero. So much elegant Latin, so little to say...

What’s the most exciting field in history today?

History from below.

Is there an important historical text you have not read?

Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

What’s your favourite archive?

The Thesaurus Linguae Graecae.

What’s the best museum?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

What technology has changed the world the most?

The internet.

Recommend us a historical novel...

Explosion in a Cathedral by Alejo Carpentier.

... and a historical drama?

Star Wars (it is set a long, long time ago…)

What will future generations judge us most harshly for?

Apathy about climate change.