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Professor Garth Fowden FBA

Professor Garth Fowden, FBA

Sultan Qaboos Professor of Abrahamic Faiths

Senior Research Associate, Peterhouse


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 École des Hautes Études 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 videoaudio, and print 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 Eurasian First Millennium CE. He assigns particular prominence to the development of rabbinic Judaism, patristic Christianity and early Islam, but also of other religions such as Buddhism and Manicheism. Greek philosophy and medical science, and Roman law, are also integral to the project. His interpretative essay entitled Before and after Muhammad: The First Millennium refocused (2014), is designed as a prelude to Antiquity and Islam: 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

Module for M.Phil. in Theology and Religious Studies: Before the Qur'ān: Texts, monuments, perceptions 

Collaborators outside this directory

Key Publications

Other Publications

  • ‘The Platonist philosopher and his circle in late Antiquity’, Philosophia 7 (1977) 359-83 
  • ‘Bishops and temples in the eastern Roman Empire, A.D. 320-435’, Journal of theological studies 29 (1978) 53-78
  • 'The pagan holy man in late antique society', Journal of Hellenic studies 102 (1982) 33-59
  • ‘Nicagoras of Athens and the Lateran Obelisk’, Journal of Hellenic studies 107 (1987) 51-57
  • ‘Pagan versions of the rain miracle of A.D.172’, Historia 36 (1987) 83-95
  • ‘City and mountain in late Roman Attica’, Journal of Hellenic studies 108 (1988) 48-59
  • ‘Religious developments in late Roman Lycia: Topographical preliminaries’, in Ποικίλα (Μελετήματα 10) (Centre for Greek and Roman Antiquity, National Hellenic Research Foundation, Athens 1990) 343-72
  • Review article on A. Frantz, The Athenian agora XXIV: Late Antiquity: A.D.267-700 (Princeton 1988): ‘The Athenian agora and the progress of Christianity’, Journal of Roman archaeology 3 (1990) 494-501
  • ‘Constantine’s porphyry column: The earliest literary allusion’, Journal of Roman studies 81 (1991) 119-31
  • ‘Obelisks between polytheists and Christians: Julian, ep. 59’, in H. Hokwerda, E. R. Smits and M. M. Woesthuis (eds), Polyphonia Byzantina: Studies in honour of Willem J. Aerts (Egbert Forsten, Groningen 1993) 33-38
  • 'Constantine, Silvester and the church of S. Polyeuctus in Constantinople', Journal of Roman archaeology 7 (1994) 274-84
  • 'The last days of Constantine: Oppositional versions and their influence', Journal of Roman studies 84 (1994) 146-70
  • Review article on T. E. Gregory, Isthmia V: The Hexamilion and the fortress (Princeton 1993), and P. Castrén (ed.), Post-Herulian Athens: Aspects of life and culture in Athens A.D. 267-529 (Helsinki 1994): 'Late Roman Achaea: Identity and defence', Journal of Roman archaeology 8 (1995) 549-67
  • 'Polytheist religion and philosophy', in Av. Cameron and P. Garnsey (eds), The Cambridge ancient history 13: The late empire A.D.337-425 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1998) 538-60
  • ' "Desert kites": Ethnography, archaeology and art', in J. H. Humphrey (ed.), The Roman and Byzantine Near East 2: Some recent archaeological research (Journal of Roman archaeology Supplementary series 31, Portsmouth, R.I. 1999) 107-36
  • 'Varieties of religious community', in G. W. Bowersock, P. Brown and O. Grabar (eds), Interpreting late Antiquity: Essays on the postclassical world (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. 2001) 82-106
  • '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
  • Translation: A. Papadiamantis, ‘At Saint Anastasa’s’, in L. Kamperidis and D. Harvey (eds), Alexandros Papadiamandis.  The boundless garden: Selected short stories, Volume 1 (Denise Harvey (Publisher), Limni, Euboea 2007) 179-99 [from the Modern Greek]
  • 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 
  • ‘Gibbon on Islam’, English historical review 131 (2016) 261-92

  • ‘War das erste Jahrtausend eine bedeutsame Periodisierung für die Zeitgenossen?’, in N. Schmidt, N. K. Schmid and A. Neuwirth (eds), Denkraum Spätantike: Reflexionen von Antiken im Umfeld des Koran (Episteme in Bewegung: Beiträge zu einer transdisziplinären Wissensgeschichte 5) (Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden 2016) 499-531

  • ‘Late Antiquity, Islam, and the First Millennium: A Eurasian perspective’, Millennium: Jahrbuch zu Kultur und Geschichte des ersten Jahrtausends n. Chr. 13 (2016) 5-28 [with responses by P. Blaudeau, J. Haldon, A. Marcone, S. Patzold, S. Rebenich, C. Robinson]


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