Of Lies and Bizarre Tales: Ctesias and the Persian Empire

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University Club, Room 212
@ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Portrait image of Matt Waters wearing a blue checkered shirt

Monday Seminar:

Matthew Waters

UW System Fellow (2011-2012)

Classics and Ancient History, UW-Eau Claire


The Achaemenid Persian Empire (c. 550-330 BC) at its height stretched from the Danube to the Indus and from the Himalayas to the Sahara. The Greek Ctesias served as a doctor to the Persian king Artaxerxes II (reigned 404-358 BC) and wrote an extensive history of the Persian Empire, the Persica, to his time. Only fragments of this work survive, scattered in various ancient authors and in a severely-truncated epitome by the Byzantine patriarch and scholar Photius (9th century AD). Ctesias’ work has been largely marginalized in light of the fundamental problems of reliability with the extant account. As recent work has emphasized, however, such criticism often stems from a misguided approach to what his work may offer us. This seminar will discuss some preliminary observations based on analysis of Near Eastern influences on Ctesias’ work.


Matt Waters is a UW-System fellow, Professor of Classics and Ancient History at UW-Eau Claire. He received his Ph.D. in Ancient History (Near Eastern and Greek) from the University of Pennsylvania. His main research interests are Achaemenid history and Greek historiography. He was the winner of the Greenfield Prize from the American Oriental Society in 2006 and has been awarded fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies as well as Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies and Loeb Classical Library Foundation. Recently published work includes numerous articles on various aspects of first millennium BC history, especially Greek-Persian relations. Other works in preparation include a survey of Achaemenid Persian history (Cambridge U Press).