Barry McNamara  |  Published February 15, 2023

A 17-Year Journey

Classics professor Bob Simmons relieved, satisfied by publication of his first book.

BOB SIMMONS: It took 17 years, but the Monmouth classics professor was finally able to hold a cop... BOB SIMMONS: It took 17 years, but the Monmouth classics professor was finally able to hold a copy of his book on Feb. 9.MONMOUTH, Ill. – Students who occasionally miss a deadline for an assignment will be pleased to know there is at least one Monmouth College professor who can lend a sympathetic ear.

More than a year after he was granted a three-month deadline extension, Monmouth classics professor Bob Simmons can now hold in his hand a copy of his book Demagogues, Power, and Friendship in Classical Athens: Leaders as Friends in Aristophanes, Euripides, and Xenophon.

“Amusement, relief, satisfaction,” replied Simmons, when asked how it felt to actually have possession of the book, which he received Feb. 9 from Bloomsbury Publishing.

The book examines ways in which a demagogic leadership style based on personal connection became ingrained in ancient Greece, drawing on close study of several genres of literature of the late 5th and early-to-mid 4th centuries BCE. (An account of the book’s subject matter appears in this story.)

The book is available on and through Bloomsbury.

‘It’s just not’

What Simmons described as a 17-year process of completing the scholarly work was extended by three months when a variety of circumstances combined to change his response to his Bloomsbury contact.

“They contacted me early in the fall (of 2021) and asked if I was going to make my Dec. 31 deadline, and I said, ‘Yes! Yes!’ Then I spoke with them later in the fall, and they asked again if it would be finished, and I said, ‘It’s just not.’” Bob Simmons

“They contacted me early in the fall (of 2021) and asked if I was going to make my Dec. 31 deadline, and I said, ‘Yes! Yes!’” said Simmons. “Then I spoke with them later in the fall, and they asked again if it would be finished, and I said, ‘It’s just not.’”

The pandemic alone might’ve been a good reason, as Simmons said, “It took four times as long to teach during that time as we prepared for in-person and remote learning.” But he was also doing the prep work for new courses, teaching more courses than normal, organizing another successful Classics Day, working on other scholarly projects, and helping to plan a College-sponsored trip to Italy.

Bad news, good news

“Unfortunately, the trip to Italy that was also going to be led by art professor Janis Wunderlich got canceled because of COVID,” said Simmons. The silver lining, though, was, “It opened up 10 days of my life.”

For three of those days, Simmons worked diligently on the book from the solitude of a hotel room in Las Vegas. When he returned to Monmouth, there was more good fortune. His spring semester teaching load was lighter, and a trio of his “conscientious and thoughtful” classics students lent a hand, either by handling some professional tasks he could delegate or by helping convert parts of the book, such as the bibliography, to Bloomsbury’s editorial style.

“I realized I should really be citing these three books. I know my way around all three languages, but reading a scholarly work in a foreign language is different from asking where the restroom is.” Bob Simmons

But there were setbacks. After a conversation with his dissertation adviser, Simmons realized there were several transitions in the book that could be improved, and he also discovered three texts – in German, French and Italian – that he needed to read to make sure they hadn’t already made his points. The good news was, they hadn’t. The bad news was, that took additional time.

“I realized I should really be citing these three books,” said Simmons. “I know my way around all three languages, but reading a scholarly work in a foreign language is different from asking where the restroom is.”

‘A jillion small things’

When March 31, 2022, arrived, Simmons had a draft to send to Bloomsbury, but, “I knew it wasn’t a finished product.”

“It went through the review process and I received some suggestions, which was great, because the book needed it, but it was also terrible, because I was so sick of reading it at that point,” he said. “It was one of those things that I could keep working on it until the end of time and still find things wrong with it.”

And that’s what happened prior to his proof revision deadlines of May 31 and June 30.

“I found, like, a jillion small things – all of them my fault – that I wanted to fix,” he said. “Their response was, ‘No problem.’ It was zero stress working with his publisher – all validation, zero stress.”

The only stress involved in the finishing touches was some “tedious” work on the book’s index that Simmons did himself, but then he sent it away and waited seven months to see the fruit of his labors.

“I’ve looked at it way too much, and I’ll never read it again,” said Simmons the day after he received his finished work. “Now it’s at the mercy of the world. I’ve put myself in the kitchen, and we’ll see what kind of heat there is.”

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