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Professor Garth Fowden

Professor Garth Fowden

Sultan Qaboos Professor of Abrahamic Faiths

Academic Director, Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme

Senior Research Associate, Peterhouse

Garth Fowden is interested in taking PhD students.


Garth Fowden read Modern History at Merton College, Oxford, and there also wrote his doctoral thesis, under the supervision of Henry Chadwick, on Pagan philosophers in late antique society, with special reference to Iamblichus and his followers (1979). Between 1978 and 1983 he held research fellowships at Peterhouse and at Darwin College, Cambridge. From 1983 to 1985 he taught Byzantine and Modern Greek History at Groningen University in the Netherlands, whence he moved to a position at the National Research Foundation, Athens, and then to the Sultan Qaboos Chair in 2013. He has held visiting appointments at Princeton University; the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; the Institute for the Humanities, University of Michigan; the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris; and most recently (2012-13) the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.

Professor Fowden gave his inaugural lecture in the Faculty of Divinity on 4 December 2013. There are both video and audio versions available.

Subject area and speciality

Religious Studies specialists:
  • History of Iran, Rome and the Caliphate in the First Millennium CE
  • Philosophical and religious currents, 200-1000 CE
  • The environment of early Islam


Late antiquity specialists:
  • History of Iran, Rome and the Caliphate in the First Millennium CE
  • Philosophical and religious currents, 200-1000 CE
  • The environment of early Islam


Senior Research Associate

Research Interests

In response to current debates about the nature and definition of late Antiquity, the relation of early Islam to the late antique world dominated by Iran and East Rome, and the acculturation of Muslim communities in contemporary Europe, Professor Fowden is engaged in writing a large-scale history of the First Millennium CE. He assigns particular prominence to the development of rabbinic Judaism, patristic Christianity and early Islam, but also of Greek philosophy and medical science, and Roman law. His interpretative essay entitled Before and after Muhammad: The First Millennium refocused (2014), is designed as a prelude to The First Millennium: From Augustus to Avicenna, to be published by Allen Lane.

Research Supervision

Professor Fowden welcomes enquiries from students interested in working, from a historical viewpoint, on any aspect of the First Millennium, particularly its intellectual currents and its historiography.


B6: Christianity in late Antiquity (to circa 600) [with Dr Thomas Graumann]

D1f: Jews, Christians and Muslims before and after Muhammad


Collaborators outside this directory

Key Publications

  • The Egyptian Hermes: A historical approach to the late pagan mind (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1986; reprinted in paperback, with a new Preface, Princeton University Press, Princeton 1993)
  • Empire to commonwealth: Consequences of monotheism in late antiquity (Princeton University Press, Princeton 1993)
  • Quṣayr 'Amra: Art and the Umayyad elite in late antique Syria (University of California Press, Berkeley 2004)
  • Before and after Muḥammad: The First Millennium refocused (Princeton University Press, Princeton 2014)

Other Publications

  • 'Late antique art in Syria and its Umayyad evolutions', Journal of Roman archaeology 17 (2004) 282-304
  • 'Late polytheism', in A. K. Bowman, P. Garnsey and Av. Cameron (eds), The Cambridge ancient history 12: The crisis of empire, A.D. 193-337 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2005, second edition) 519-72
  • 'Sages, cities and temples: Aspects of late antique Pythagorism', in A. Smith (ed.),The philosopher and society in late antiquity: Essays in honour of Peter Brown (Classical Press of Wales, Swansea 2005) 145-70
  • Review article on E. W. Bodnar with C. Foss, Cyriac of Ancona: Later travels (Cambridge, MA 2003): 'Kyriacus palaeophilos Anconitanus (and the Cha Gorge, Crete)', Journal of Roman archaeology 18 (2005) 775-80
  • 'Greek myth and Arabic poetry at Quṣayr 'Amra', in A. Akasoy, J. E. Montgomery and P. E. Pormann (eds), Islamic crosspollinations: Interactions in the medieval Middle East (Gibb Memorial Trust, Cambridge 2007) 29-45
  • Review article on A. Kaldellis, The Christian Parthenon: Classicism and pilgrimage in Byzantine Athens (Cambridge 2009): 'The Parthenon between antiquity, barbarism and Europe', Journal of Roman archaeology 23 (2010) 802-10
  • 'Contextualizing late Antiquity: The First Millennium', in J. P. Arnason and K. A. Raaflaub (eds), The Roman Empire in context: Historical and comparative perspectives (Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester 2011) 148-76
  • 'Pseudo-Aristotelian politics and theology in universal Islam', in P. F. Bang and D. Kołodziejczyk (eds), Universal empire: A comparative approach to imperial culture and representation in Eurasian history (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2012) 130-48
  • Review article on J. Haldon (ed.), Money, power and politics in early Islamic Syria. A review of current debates (Farnham 2010), and A. Borrut and P. M. Cobb (eds), Umayyad legacies: Medieval memories from Syria to Spain (Leiden 2010): 'The Umayyad horizon', Journal of Roman archaeology 25 (2012) 974-82


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