From the Director (Winter 2018)

This article first appeared in ISAW Newsletter 20, Winter 2018.

In twelve years of campaigning, Alexander III of Macedon—Alexander the Great—reached the Libyan Desert and India before dying in Babylon in 323 BCE. ISAW’s Spring exhibition gives prominence to Islamic versions of the legends of the Alexander Romance, in which the journeys of Iskandar (Alexander) extended even to Russia and the fringes of the apocalyptic land of Gog and Magog. The great sages whom Iskandar visited in pursuit of wisdom were not limited to Aristotle, the tutor of the historical Alexander, but included Plato, Socrates, and Hermes Trismegistus.

In the present issue of the ISAW Newsletter we highlight some of the journeys ISAW doctoral students have recently made as recipients of fellowships from NYU Global Research Initiatives, one of the ways in which NYU’s network of campuses and research institutes in thirteen countries worldwide harmonizes with the ambitious geographical scope of ISAW’s mission. Washington DC may have been the closest any of our students got to Gog and Magog, but they too were enabled to access learning through contact with present day sages and with the records of the past. Travel to do research in distant libraries and museums is as essential a part of ISAW’s doctoral experience as travel to ancient sites.

Our Visiting Research Scholar program exists not just for the sake of what happens during the scholars’ residence at ISAW—their research projects and contributions to our graduate and undergraduate teaching—but also cumulatively, to build our own virtual global network. This issue features the appointment of one of our earliest VRSs, Wu Xin, to the faculty of Fudan University in Shanghai, and the return to New York of a slightly more recent VRS, Mathieu Ossendrijver, to be our 2018 Rostovtzeff Lecturer. Our selection from the many recent publications of ISAW people also includes books by no less than four former VRSs.

Alexander Jones
Leon Levy Director and Professor of the History of the Exact Sciences in Antiquity