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UC San Diego Announces Holder of Endowed Chair in Ancient Greek History

Image: Denise Demetriou

Denise Demetriou (right) teaching at Delphi in Greece.

The University of California San Diego Division of Arts and Humanities has completed the Herculean task of appointing the last of three endowed chair holders at the Center for Hellenic Studies, launched earlier this year.

Selected from a pool of highly qualified scholars, Denise Demetriou joins UC San Diego as holder of the Gerry and Jeannie Ranglas Endowed Chair in Ancient Greek History.

“I am thrilled to be joining the history department at UC San Diego and excited to contribute to the Center for Hellenic Studies,” said Demetriou.

For nearly a decade, Demetriou has taught ancient Greek history to undergraduate and graduate students at Michigan State University after receiving her doctorate in classics from The Johns Hopkins University in 2005. Her research interests focus on archaic and classical Greek history, with a particular interest in exploring different kinds of cross-cultural interactions within the Greek world and between Greeks and non-Greeks.

Demetriou’s book “Negotiating Identity in the Ancient Mediterranean: The Archaic and Classical Greek Multiethnic Emporia” (Cambridge University Press, 2012) received support from the Mary Isabel Fellowship for Greek Studies and a Loeb Classical Library Foundation Fellowship for its examination of the construction of ethnic, civic, religious and social identities in the ancient Mediterranean from the seventh to the fourth centuries B.C. It showed that sustained cross-cultural interactions among different Mediterranean groups resulted in a shared and evolving culture based around city-states, polytheistic religious system and artifacts or styles that comprised a common material culture. In particular, the book argues that cultic practices mediated relations between Greeks and non-Greeks, and among different Greek groups, while helping to construct distinctive and new identities.

“We are pleased that the university chose an esteemed professor of such high stature to fill the last chair,” said Gerry Ranglas, whose generous endowment supported Demetriou’s appointment.

Ranglas explained that a few years ago UC San Diego first envisioned a comprehensive Greek studies program given the city’s environment, weather, biotech and education-focused climate, which attracts people of learning. The local Greek community, supportive of enrichment through the humanities, contributed generously to three endowments in order to cover the span of Greek history in light of its profound impact on Western culture.

“UC San Diego is unusual among colleges and universities in North America in offering students and scholars the opportunity to study the whole span of Greek history, culture and archaeology, from antiquity to the present-day,” said Demetriou. “I cannot wait to share my passion for ancient Greek history with this vibrant intellectual community.”

For more than five centuries, the world’s best universities have endowed positions intended to honor exceptional faculty members for their past and future contributions to academia, while supporting their current work. Now writing her second book, Demetriou is investigating foreign relations and the practice of diplomacy at both the state and non-state levels between Greek and Phoenician city-states in the fourth century B.C.

Division of Arts and Humanities Dean Cristina Della Coletta said, “Professor Demetriou brings a remarkable combination of intellectual skills in the fields of Greek history and critical theory.”

Demetriou joins center scholars Edward Watts, holder of the Alkiviadis Vassiladis Endowed Chair in Byzantine Greek History and Thomas Gallant, holder of the Nicholas Family Endowed Chair in Modern Greek History. She said that she looks forward to working with her colleagues to continue to build the research facilities of the unique Hellenic center, train undergraduate and graduate students and serve the wider San Diego community.

The Center for Hellenic Studies brings together local and international faculty, researchers and students to explore the history, culture and physical remains of more than three millennia of Greek history.

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