Jim O'Donnell


Professor Emeritus


(On sabbatical 2012-2013)


Office of the President
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+1 202-687-1861

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Dr. O'Donnell, a classical scholar and Latinist, is an expert on the life and works of St. Augustine of Hippo, on media and information transmission through the ages, and on ancient Rome. He incorporates information technology into his research, using the distant past and the immediate, technological present to illuminate one another. His newest research re-thinks the saga of ancient Rome, demonstrating how a historically informed discussion of its borders and peoples can change the way we presently consider matters of warfare and national identity. Earlier research has focused on the meaning of the million-plus words left to us by St. Augustine, and also on the history of writing and media from ancient Greek times to the present. A widely quoted expert and a sought-after speaker, his work has been reviewed or discussed in The Economist, The New York Times, The New Republic, on the BBC, and in The Chronicle of Higher Education, among many other media outlets.


  • Ph.D. (1975) Yale, Medieval Studies


  • French (read)
  • German (speak, read, write)
  • Greek, Ancient (to 1453) (read)
  • Italian (read)
  • Latin (read, write)