Eric Robinson is Professor of History at Indiana University and the author of the books The First Democracies: Early Popular Government Outside Athens (1997), Ancient Greek Democracy (2004), and Democracy Beyond Athens: Popular Government in the Greek Classical Age (2011). Before joining a Zócalo/Getty “Open Art” panel discussion entitled “How Does Democracy Survive Demagoguery?” he talked in the Zócalo green room about Sparta, Indiana ice cream, and his study.
If you had a time travel machine, which time and place would you first visit?
Definitely 5th century B.C. Greece. Which polis in Greece? I think Sparta would be pretty fascinating, because we don’t know as much about the Spartans as we do about the Athenians.
Who was the greatest Roman politician?
I’ll say Augustus, Octavian Caesar.
Who was the greatest Greek politician?
Cleisthenes. He brought democracy to Athens.
What’s the best place to eat in Bloomington?
I would say the Chocolate Moose, an ice cream place.
What student habit most annoys you?
Not doing the reading before coming to class.
What’s the hardest thing about studying war?
You don’t want to do direct personal research. And it changes an awful lot over the centuries. I do sometimes work on ancient warfare. It’s not something you want to have a lot of personal experience with.
Who was the last politician, living or dead, who inspired you?
It must have been when I was younger. I remember John Anderson, an independent candidate from long ago.
What salad dressing best describes you?
Let’s say ranch—smooth, creamy and flavorful.
Where do you go to be alone?
My study. Unless my 10-year-old son comes in to use my computer.