Garth Fowden

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2012/2013
discipline History
Research Director in the Institute of Historical Research of the National Research Foundation in Athens, Greece

Research project

The First Millennium: Before and after Muhammad


The First Millennium project responds to two debates about Islam - its late antique roots, and the role it will play in twenty-first-century Europe.
Starting from first pagan, then Christian Rome’s creation of a Mediterranean empire, FM shifts attention eastward to Oriental (especially Syriac) Christianity and Iran, setting the stage for Muhammad and the Arab conquests. The Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates united the old Sassanian world with much of Rome’s territory, while Islam’s cultural crystallization, well under way by 1000, drew on rabbinic Judaism, Christianity, Iranian Zoroastrianism and Greek philosophy, which all attained classical/canonical forms during the millennium after Augustus. FM interweaves political narrative with the development of these intellectual and scholarly traditions, which, along with Roman law, have so signally influenced the cultural foundations of the contemporary world. By examining these traditions in their interaction, during a phase when they were less rigidified and institutionalized than they later became, I hope to suggest lines of further thought about how they might cohabit within the emerging European polity. At the same time I offer the general reader a different account of all these histories that does not predestine them to culminate in European modernity but leaves open other possible perspectives and progressions, notably towards the great Muslim empires of early modern Eurasia.



Garth Fowden is Research Director in the Institute of Historical Research of the National Research Foundation in Athens, Greece. From the autumn of 2013 he shall be the Sultan Qaboos Professor of Abrahamic Faiths at the Divinity Faculty in Cambridge. He holds a Ph.D. in Modern History from the University of Oxford.
His main research interests are Late Antiquity and the early Islamic world.

Selected publications


‘Contextualizing Late Antiquity: The First Millennium’, in J. P. Arnason and K. A. Raaflaub (eds), The Roman Empire in Context: Historical and Comparative Perspectives, Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, 2011, pp.148-176.


‘Pseudo-Aristotelian politics and theology in universal Islam’, in P. F. Bang and D. Kolodziejczyk (eds), Universal empire: A comparative approach to imperial culture and representation in Eurasian history, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012, pp.130-148.


‘Greek myth and Arabic poetry at Qusayr ‘Amra’, in A. Akasoy, J.E. Montgomery and P.E.Pormann (eds), Islamic crosspollinations: Interactions in the medieval Middle East, Gibb Memorial Trust, Cambridge, 2007, pp.29-45.


‘Sages, cities and temples: Aspects of late antique Pythagorism’, in A. Smith (ed.), The philosopher and society in late antiquity: Essays in honour of Peter Brown, Classical Press of Wales, Swansea, 2005, pp.145-70.


‘Late polytheism’, in A.K. Bowman, P. Garnsey and A. Cameron (eds), The Cambridge ancient history 12: The crisis of empire, A.D. 193-337, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2005, second édition, pp.519-72.


Qusayr ‘Amra: Art and the Umayyad elite in late antique Syria, The transformation of the classical heritage, vol.36, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2004.


Empire to Commonwealth: Consequences of Monotheism in Late Antiquity, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1993.


The Egyptian Hermes: A historical approach to the late pagan mind, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1986; reprinted in paperback with a new Preface, Princeton, 1993 ; French translation, Les Belles Lettres, Paris, 2000 ; Greek translation, Enalios, Athens, 2002.


junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
discipline Cultural Studies
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
discipline Biology
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
discipline History
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
discipline History