Donald Kagan

Donald Kagan's picture
Sterling Professor Emeritus of Classics & History
Fields of interest: 

Ancient: Ancient Greek & Roman history; Political thought & diplomacy


Professor Kagan, who received his PhD from Ohio State University in 1958, has written The Great Dialogue: A History of Greek Political Thought from Homer to Polybius (1965 and 1986); The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War (1969); The Archidamian War (1974); The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition (1981); The Fall of the Athenian Empire (1987); Pericles and the Birth of the Athenian Empire (1990); On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace (1995); While America Sleeps (2000) with Frederick W. Kagan; The Western Heritage (2000) with Steven Ozment and Frank M. Turner; The Heritage of World Civilizations (2000) with Albert M. Craig, William A. Graham, Ozment and Turner; The Peloponnesian War (2003).

Winner of the National Humanities Medal for 2002, and a prominent social and political critic, his graduate courses include seminars in the writings of selected Greek historians and in selected periods in Greek history.

Education & Degrees

1954 A.B., History, Brooklyn College
1955 M.A., Classics, Brown University
1958 Ph.D., History, Ohio State University
1988 Doctor of Humane Letters, University of New Haven (Hon)
1990 Doctor of Humane Letters, Adelphi University (Hon)

Positions Held

1956-1958 Teaching Assistant in History, Ohio State University
1957-1958 Part-time Instructor in History, Capital University
1959-1960 Instructor in History, Pennsylvania State University
1960-1963 Assistant Professor of History, Cornell University
1964-1966 Associate Professor of History. Cornell University
1967-1969 Professor of History, Cornell University
1969-Present Professor of History and Classics, Yale University
1972-1975 Chairman of Classics Department, Yale University
1976-1978 Master of Timothy Dwight College, Yale University
1979-1990 Richard M. Colgate Professor of History and Classics, Yale University
1986-1987 Acting Chairman, Department of Classics, Yale University
1987-1988 Acting Director of Athletics, Yale University
1989-1992 Dean of Yale College
1991-1995 Bass Professor of History and Classics and Western Civilization
1995-2002 Hillhouse Professor of History and Classics
2002- Sterling Professor of Classics and History


  • 1958-1959 Fulbright Fellowship to the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Greece
  • 1959 Summer Fellowship at the American Numismatic Society
  • 1960 Summer Fellowship to Seminar in Economic History, New York University
  • 1965 Distinguished Teaching Award, College of Arts and Sciences, Cornell University
  • 1966-1967 Fellowship at Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington, D.C.
  • 1968 Clark Award for Distinguished Teaching, Cornell University
  • 1971-1972 National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Fellowship
  • 1975 DeVane Medal, awarded by the Yale Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for scholarship and teaching, Yale College
  • 1976 Distinguished Alumnus Award, Brooklyn College
  • 1984 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Research Fellowship
  • 1992-1993 Fellowship at Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California
  • 1994 The Sidney Hook Memorial Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Freedom and Integrity of the Academy, presented by the National Association of Scholars
  • 1996 Guest Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars 1998 Harwood Byrnes ‘08/Richard B. Sewall Teaching Prize, Yale College
  • 2003 National Humanities Medal for 2002
  • 2003 Gerhart Niemeyer Award for Distinguished Contributions to Scholarship in the Liberal Arts
  • 2005 National Endowment for the Humanities Jefferson Lecturer


  • Dissertation: Politics and Policy at Corinth, 421-336 B.C., Ohio State University, 1958.
  • “Corinthian Diplomacy after the Peace of Nicias,” American Journal of Philology, LXXXI (July, 1960), pp.291-310.
  • “Pheidon’s Aeginetan Coinage,” Transactions of the American Philological Association, XLI (1960), pp.121-136.
  • “Timoleon’s Mission to Sicily and Its Political Background,” The Historian, XXIII (November, 1960), pp.1-22.
  • “The Economic Origins of the Corinthian War,” La Parola del Passato, 80, (September-October, 1961, pp.321-341.
  • “The Origin and Purposes of Ostracism,” Hesperia, XXX (1961), pp.393-401.
  • “Corinthian Politics and the Revolution of 392 B.C.,” Historia, XI 2 (April, 1962), pp.447-457.
  • “The Enfranchisement of Aliens by Cleisthenes,” Historia, XI 3 (July, 1962), pp.41-46.
  • “Argive Politics after the Peace of Nicias,” Classical Philology, LVII (October, 1962), pp.1-20.
  • Editor of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in the West in the D.C. Heath Series, “Problems of European Civilization,” (Boston, 1962), 2nd edition, 1978, new title, The End of the Roman Empire, Decline or Transformation?, 3rd edition, 1992.
  • The Great Dialogue: A History of Greek Political Thought from Homer to Polybius, The Free Press, (New York, 1965). Republished by the Greenwood Press, (Westport, Connecticut, 1986).
  • Editor of Readings in Greek Political Thought, the Free Press (New York, 1965).
  • Editor of Problems in Ancient History, 2 vols., Macmillan (New York, 1966), 2nd edition, 1975.
  • Co-Editor with L.P. Williams and Brian Tierney of Great Issues in Western Civilization, 2 vols., Random House, (New York, 1967), 2nd edition, 1972, 3rd edition, McGraw-Hill (New York,1976), fourth edition, 1992.
  • The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1969, paperback, 1989.
  • Revision of Hellenic History, Botsford and Robinson, Macmillan, (New York, 1969).
  • The Archidamian War, Cornell University Press, (Ithaca, 1974), paperback, 1990.
  • Editor of “Studies in the Greek Historians,” Yale Classical Studies, No.24, 1975.
  • “The Speeches in Thucydides and the Mytilene Debate,” Yale Classical Studies, No.24, 1975, pp.71-94.
  • The Western Heritage, with Steven Ozment and Frank M. Turner, Macmillan (New York, 1979), 2nd edition, 1983, 3rd edition, 1987, 4th edition, 1991, 5th edition, Prentice Hall, (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1995). 6th edition, 1997.
  • The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition, Cornell University Press, (Ithaca, 1981), paperback edition, 1991.
  • “The Dates of the Earliest Coins,” American Journal of Archaeology, 86 (1982), pp.343-360.
  • “Human Rights, Moralism, and Foreign Policy,” The Washington Quarterly, (Winter, 1982), pp.86-95.
  • “Military Service: A Moral Obligation,” New York Times, Sunday, December 4, 1983, p.E21.
  • “The Changing World of World Histories,” New York Times Book Review, November 11, 1984, pp. 1, 41-42.
  • “The Pseudo-Science of `Peace’ ”, The Public Interest, 78 (Winter, 1985), pp.43-61.
  • The Heritage of World Civilizations, with Albert Craig, William Graham, Steven Ozment, and Frank M. Turner, Macmillan (New York, 1986), 2nd ed., 1990, 3rd ed. 1994, 4th ed. 1997, 5th ed. 1999.
  • “Yale’s Uncivil Disobedience,” New York Times, May 20, 1986, p.A27.
  • “World War I, World War II, World War III,” Commentary, (March, 1987), pp.21-40.
  • The Fall of the Athenian Empire, Cornell University Press, (Ithaca, 1987), paperback, 1991.
  • “The First Revisionist Historian,” Commentary, (May, 1988), pp.
  • “George Will’s Baseball - A Conservative Critique,” The Public Interest, 101 (Fall, 1990), p.3-20.
  • Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy, The Free Press (New York, 1991), paperback, Simon and Schuster, (New York, 1991), British edition, Secker and Warburg (London, 1990), German edition, Perikles Die Geburt der Demokratie, Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart, 1992, Italian edition, Pericle die Atene e la Nascita della Democrazia, Arnaldo Mondadori, (Milan, 1992), paperback, 1993.
  • “An Address to the Class of 1994,” Commentary, (January, 1991), pp.47-49.
  • “Cleisthenes and the Birth of Democracy,” in E.N. Genovese, ed., The Burnett Lectures, A Quarter Century, San Diego, 1993, pp.222-239.
  • “Athenian Strategy in the Peloponnesian War,” in W. Murray, M. Knox and A. Bernstein, eds., The Making of Strategy, Cambridge, 1994, pp.24-55.
  • “Why Western History Matters,” Wall Street Journal, December 28, 1994.
  • On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace, Doubleday, New York, 1995. Paperback, Anchor Books, New York, 1996. Korean translation, 1998. Spanish translation 2003.
  • “A Wolfe in Stout Clothing,” with Walter A. Ralls, The Armchair Detective, Spring 1995, vol.28, number 2, pp.176-183.
  • “Colin Powell’s War,” Commentary, (June, 1995), pp.41-45.
  • “Why America Dropped the Bomb,” Commentary, (September, 1995), pp.17-23.
  • “Our Interest and Our Honor,” Commentary, (April 1997), pp.42-45.
  • “Are U.S. Forces Overstretched?: Roles and Missions,” Orbis (Spring, 1997), pp.187-198.
  • “Locarno’s Lessons for NATO,” Wall Street Journal, October 28, 1997.
  • “Joe DiMaggio, Baseball’s Aristocrat,” Weekly Standard, March 22, 1999, pp.23-27.
  • “What Is A Liberal Education,” Reconstructing History, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Elizabeth Lasch-Quinn, eds., Routledge. New York and London, 1999. pp. 214-225.
  • “The Lessons of September 1, 1939,” Wall Street Journal, September 1, 1999, A. p.26.
  • “Lessons of the Great War,” Commentary (October, 1999), pp. 48-52.
  • While America Sleeps, with Frederick W. Kagan, St. Martins, New York, 2000.
  • ²Terrorism and the Intellectuals,Ó The Intercollegiate Review, Spring 2002, pp.3-8.
  • The Peloponnesian War, Viking Press, New York, 2003. Paperback edition 2004. Dutch translation 2004.