Noel Lenski, whose work focuses on the history of the later Roman Empire, and how power relations played themselves out at all levels of society, from emperors to slaves, has been appointed the Dunham Professor of Classics and of History, effective immediately.
He is a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in the Department of Classics, the Department of History, the Department of Religious Studies, and the Medieval Studies program.
In his scholarship, Lenski has transformed understandings of political, military, social, economic, religious, cultural and art history. He is the author or co-author of four books in the broader field of Roman history. The award-winning “Failure of Empire: Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century AD” (2002) was the first comprehensive biography of the Roman emperor Valens and his troubled reign. With a focus on political and military history, it has been lauded for providing the first synthetic analysis of events on the Balkan and eastern frontier during the fourth century. Lenski’s co-authored histories “The Romans: From Village to Empire” (2011) and “A Brief History of the Romans” (2013) are standard textbooks used in Roman history classes nationwide. His most recent monograph, “Constantine and the Cities: Imperial Authority and Civic Politics” (2016), examined the dialogic nature of imperial power and revealed how Christianity rose from a religion persecuted by the authority of the Roman empire to become a religion of state through skillful manipulation of the political process by emperor Constantine. In addition, Lenski has translated two volumes of primary sources and edited five volumes of essays — including “What is a Slave Society? The Practice of Slavery in Global Perspective” (2018), which was named a Choice Outstanding Book of the Year.
The author of more than 80 articles, reviews, and encyclopedia entries, Lenski is a two-time ACLS fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Dumbarton Oaks Fellow. He has appeared as a commentator on NPR, CNN, the History Channel, and Huffington Post Live, earning a reputation that extends beyond the university and bringing his insights on the history of power and the grim phenomenon of slavery to wide audiences. In addition, he has held editorial roles with the Journal of Late Antiquity, Munera, and Edinburgh Studies in Slavery, and has held leadership roles in the Society for Classical Studies. He has served on review panels for the National Endowment for the Humanities and currently serves on the advisory board of the Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies and on the Board of Trustees of the American Numismatic Society, reflecting the broad influence of his work.
At Yale, Lenski teaches courses on Roman law, ancient leadership, human migration, Late Antiquity and the history of slavery, as well as language courses on Greek and Latin authors. A dedicated university citizen, he is currently the director of Graduate Studies in History and previously served as director of Undergraduate Studies in Classics.
He earned a bachelor of arts degree from Colorado College and his Ph.D. from Princeton.