History Professor’s Lecture to Accompany Major Exhibit at the Field Museum

Ian Worthington
Jordan Yount
News Source: 
College of Arts & Science

The Hellenic American Leadership Council has invited an MU history professor to deliver a public lecture and feature his latest book in conjunction with a major exhibit at one of the largest natural history museums in the world. Later this week, Curators’ Professor Ian Worthington will present a talk on his book, By the Spear: Phillip II, Alexander the Great, and the Rise and Fall of the Macedonian Empire, as well as a lecture on Alexander, as part of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago’s exhibit, “The Greeks: From Agamemnon to Alexander,” through April 10.

Worthington says the current exhibit covers 5,000 years of Greek history from the Neolithic period to the end of Alexander the Great’s reign. He says more than 500 artifacts are on display—many for the first time outside of Greece–as well as a number of items from the National Hellenic Museum in Athens, Greece. These include the spectacular artifacts from the tomb of Philip II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great. Worthington says he was trying to decide when to attend the exhibit when he got a phone call inviting him to give a lecture and discuss his book.

“I think this will be pretty good publicity for the history department and for the university, although giving both these talks in conjunction with such an important international exhibit is intimidating,” Worthington says. On March 26, he will present a public lecture on Alexander the Great, and that afternoon he will discuss his book and moderate a question- and-answer session at the home of the Greek Consul General in Chicago.

Worthington says Alexander the Great continues to capture our imagination because he conquered an empire stretching from Greece to what is now Pakistan and all points south in a decade, all before he turned 30 years old.

“Here is this young, dashing, heroic king—he’s like a fourth-century Achilles—just fighting these enormous battles against huge odds and winning all the time,” Worthington says. “He’s also a person who opens up contacts between the East and the West in the ancient world like no one before him. Thanks to him, Greeks became accustomed to a world far larger than the Mediterranean. If you’re looking for someone who was a pioneer in globalism or transnationalism, and who promoted cross-cultural contacts like no other, you’ll find it in him. He is a very big deal in the history of his own time and in world history.”

Worthington says the downside of Alexander’s reign is the collapse of the Macedonian empire and 40 years of a bloody civil war between his successors. He blames the collapse, in part, on Alexander’s inability to produce a male heir before he died just before his 33rd birthday.

By the Spear: Phillip II, Alexander the Great, and the Rise and Fall of the Macedonian Empire, published by Oxford University Press in 2014, will be available in paperback this fall.

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