Annual Leon Levy Lectures

photograph of Norman L. Peck, Shelby White, Roger S. Bagnall, and Piotr Michalowski in the Oak Library

Norman L. Peck, Shelby White, Roger S. Bagnall, and Piotr Michalowski. ©NYU Photo Bureau: Sorel

The Annual Leon Levy Lecture is held in honor of Leon Levy and his passion for expanding knowledge, the power of ideas, and a just and equitable society. This broad humanism also defined his philanthropy. During his early life, Leon Levy’s close relationship to his father, the economic analyst Jerome Levy, was a major influence on his career and his values. As Leon remembered, “Dad did not view economics as a way to make money but as a way to improve society.” This was a fundamental belief Leon shared. Leon spent his professional life on Wall Street, starting as a research analyst right out of the U.S. Army, and within three years he was the youngest partner of Oppenheimer & Co. From the beginning of his career he was a generous patron of the arts and benefactor of a wide range of causes and institutions; philanthropy was not something he turned to once he made money. Leon was guided by his boundless curiosity, optimism, and desire to enable individuals to reach their full potential. “I give funds with few strings attached. I believe that liberal arts education is both important and imperiled, the study of arts, ideas, history, and politics prepares students to enjoy life as well as contribute to society.”

The Leon Levy Lectures are supported by the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation and the Leon Levy Foundation.

The following lectures have been delivered in this series:

The Horizons of Antiquity

photo of Glen Bowersock at podiumThe First Annual Leon Levy Lecture (2007) was given by G.W. Bowersock, Professor Emeritus of Ancient History, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

The History of the Sahara in Antiquity: Mirage or Scientific Project?

photo of Mario Liverani at podiumThe Second Annual Leon Levy Lecture (2008) was given by Mario Liverani, Professor Emeritus of Ancient Near East History, University of Rome La Sapienza.

The Historian in the Future of the Ancient World: A View from Central Eurasia

photo of Nicola di CosmoThe Third Annual Leon Levy Lecture (2009) was given by Nicola di Cosmo, Luce Foundation Professor in East Asian Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

The Cultural Dynamism of Astral Science in the Hellenistic Age

photo of Francesca RochbergThe Fourth Annual Leon Levy Lecture (2010) was given by Francesca Rochberg, Catherine and William L. Magistretti Distinguished Professor of Near Eastern Studies, University of California, Berkeley.

A Greek Statuary Complex at the Sarapieion of Memphis and the Early Ptolemaic Kings

photo of Marianne Bergmann at podium The Fifth Annual Leon Levy Lecture (2011) was given by Marianne Bergmann, Director Emeritus, Archaeologisches Institut, Universitaet Goettingen.

Gods, Humans, and Rulers: Religion and Empire in Early China

photo of Michael Puett at podiumThe Sixth Annual Leon Levy Lecture (2012) was given by Michael Puett, Walter C. Klein Professor of Chinese History, Harvard University.

Historical Perspectives on Sumerian Vistas

photo of Piotr Michalowski at podiumThe Seventh Annual Leon Levy Lecture (2013) was given by Piotr Michalowski, George G. Cameron Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

The Lure of Gold and Iron: China and the Steppe in the First Millennium BC

photo of Jessica RawsonThe Eighth Annual Leon Levy Lecture (2014) was given by Jessica Rawson, Professor of Chinese Art and Archaeology, Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford.

Scythian Elite Burial Mounds in the Eurasian Steppes

photo of Hermann Parzinger at podiumThe Ninth Annual Leon Levy Lecture (2015) was given by Hermann Parzinger, President of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz.

A People Without a Name or, Who Were the Hittites?

photo of Theo van den Hout at podiumThe Tenth Annual Leon Levy Lecture (2016) was given by Theo van den Hout, Arthur and Joann Rasmussen Professor of Hittite and Anatolian Languages, The University of Chicago. Video of this lecture is available on the corresponding event page.

The Roman Caesars in Modern Art: Missing Persons and Mistaken Identities

photo of Mary BeardThe Eleventh Annual Leon Levy Lecture (2017) was given by Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge.

Urbanism and the History of Architectural Restlessness

portrait image of Monica L. SmithThe Twelfth Annual Leon Levy Lecture (2018) was given by Monica L. Smith, Professor in the Department of Anthropology and in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Assyria and the Hebrew Bible: A Reassessment

Headshot of Peter MachinistThe 13th Annual Leon Levy Lecture (2019) was given by Peter Machinist, Hancock Research Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages at Harvard University.

The Shape of the Ancient World: Global Development in the Distant Past

Ian Morris, speaking at podiumThe 14th Annual Leon Levy Lecture (2020) was given by Ian Morris, Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor of Classics at Stanford University.

At Arm's Length: Barbarian Settlement, Law, and Ethnography in Roman Late Antiquity

portrait photo of Michael MaasThe 15th Annual Leon Levy Lecture (Spring 2022) was given by Michael Maas, the William Gaines Twyman Professor of History at Rice University.

Mobile Cosmopolitanism: Diversity and Exchange in the Uyghur Steppe Empire (744-840)

Portrait photo of Michael DromppThe 16th Annual Leon Levy Lecture (2022) was given by Michael R. Drompp, Professor Emeritus of History at Rhodes College.

In Search of the "Evanescent" Garamantes: The Central Sahara in the 1st Millennium BCE

photograph showing Lucia Mori in front of tables with ceramic pieces partially assembledThe 17th Annual Leon Levy Lecture (2023) was given by Lucia Mori, Associate professor of History of the ancient Near East at Sapienza University of Rome, and member of the PhD school of Philology and History of the Ancient World at Sapienza.