I trained as a historian, and studied ancient history and ancient languages (Greek, Akkadian, Sumerian) at University College London, and the School of Oriental and Asian Studies, I specialised in the neo-Assyrian Empire, and the ancient Near East. I also have a qualification in philosophy. I'm the author of the revolutionary study 'The Sacred History of Being', and two other books. I tweet regularly on ancient history and philosophy, with the Twitter ID @rotorvator.
How did you put your latest book together, and what is it called?
'Man and the Divine: New Light on Man's Ancient Engagement with God and the History of Thought'. I've settled into a pattern of writing essays for publication on my blog, and using those as the basis for book chapters. So regular blog readers will have some idea of where I am going nearly a year before book publication. It is also a good way of starting a conversation about a subject with readers. Five of the essays in the book got going as responses to other peoples work, including (surprisingly) a theatre performance. The book looks at esotericism in antiquity, and whether or not ancient religions were transcendentalist in nature.
What was your previous book?
'Understanding Ancient Thought', which was published in August 2017, It was intended as a companion of sorts to 'The Sacred History of Being' (published in 2015). It is much more discursive in style, and (I think) an easier read. It expands on some of the themes in the earlier book.
This is my second collection of essays on philosophy and ancient history. Like my first collection, 'Understanding Ancient Thought', it expands further on the arguments of 'The Sacred History of Being', which appeared in November 2015. A theme of my work is that abstract philosophical thought was a key component in the development of ancient Divine cult. Philosophy began outside Greece.
There are many puzzling things about the peoples of the ancient world. Why did they practice the sacrifice of animals? Why did they think they could understand the future by examining the entrails and the liver of a ram? What was the logic beneath the practice of magic? This collection of essays attempts, as far as possible, to understand the ancient world within its original context.
James Frazer won a fellowship with an essay on the development of Plato's theory of the Forms or Ideas. In this essay he argued that there was no overarching theory of Being in Plato's mind before he embarked on the writing of his dialogues, and that consequently differences in approach and discussion apparent in his work are the result of development in his thought. Was he right?
Did the ancient Greeks invent philosophy, and the concept of Being? That has been the conventional wisdom for many years. In fact philosophy is very old, and its presence can be traced in other cultures in the Ancient Near East, at least as far back as the middle of the 2nd Millennium B.C.E. Thomas Yaeger explores the ancient cultural significance and context of philosophy before the Greeks.