Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

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  • Timothy Sorg

    Timothy Sorg


    BioTim is a Lecturer in the Thinking Matters program. In academic year 2020-2021, he is teaching THINK49: Stories Everywhere in the Fall, THINK54: 100,000 Years of War in the Winter, and then on leave in the Spring. He received his B.A. in History from Oregon State University in 2010, his M.A. in Classics from Stanford University in 2011, his M.A. in History from Cornell University in 2014, and his Ph.D in History from Cornell University in 2018. Before Stanford, he taught courses at Cornell and Oregon State on a range of topics in history, including empires in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean worlds, Greek political philosophy, war and democracy in Greece and Rome, and the history of science. His research focuses on how participatory city-states created empires in the ancient Mediterranean world.

    His current book project, titled "Citizen Settlers: How Land Distribution Shaped the Ancient Origins of Western Empires," is a story of how the idea of territorial empire developed simultaneously in multiple corners of the Mediterranean basin and why the Roman approach, rather than any of its contemporaries, became synonymous with empire in the West. He argues that Roman land distribution shaped the ancient origins of Western empires not because the Romans were the most efficient imperialists, as political theorists going back to Machiavelli have assumed, but because their rival empires at Athens and Syracuse distributed land for other purposes besides territorial control. The book follows the people of land distribution to retell and explain the wider history of ancient Mediterranean empires. The story revolves around people who were citizens and foreigners, settlers and dispossessed, generals and craftsmen: it was their movement that gave each empire its shape. Drawing on broader debates in political geography, macroeconomics, and environmental ecology, Citizen Settlers shows how ancient Mediterranean empires are best distinguished in the way citizens used land distribution to organize and place value on human capital—all the skills, crafts, and specialization people brought with them as they moved across each empire and in and out of each citizen society. Using archaeological case studies to test how land distribution reorganized, concentrated, and displaced people within each empire, we learn that, over time, the Roman approach made for the most effective empire, which allowed it to survive and shape Western conceptions of territorial empire. But we also learn that Rome was effective by accident.

    In his next book project, tentatively titled "Citizens of Some Other Place: Longing and Belonging in Classical Greece," he will explore all that it meant to be a foreigner in classical Greece--as merchants, entrepreneurs, exiles, refugees, and colonists. Hid research will begin in the centers of the Greek world, at Athens and Sparta, but also take me to colonies in the western Mediterranean, federations on the mainland, and emporia in the northern Aegean. He will consider how Greeks thought about other Greeks and also how Greeks thought about non-Greek-speaking “barbarians” from northern Africa, the Middle East, and beyond. He will ask what it means for people to prize and defend the dignity of their fellow citizens but then not extend that sense of dignity to people from outside their community. In other words, does robbing someone of their ability to feel “at home” also rob them of their dignity? He will also test how different kinds of governments—democracies, oligarchies, and monarchies—welcomed and restricted foreigners in different ways, challenging common assumptions about the relationships between democracy, openness, and nativism.