Robert Holschuh Simmons

Associate Professor and Chair, Classics

Rm 21 Wallace Hall 309-457-2378 View my resume


Who I am as a teacher and scholar is in large part a reflection of my own education in the liberal arts at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. There, I majored in classics and English and was inspired to pursue a doctorate, hoping to do for other undergraduates what my outstanding professors did for me.

St. John’s also inspired me to push my limits in other ways, personally, professionally and athletically. The strong emphasis on social justice at St. John’s led me to teach English and direct recreation as a LaSallian Volunteer at a reform school in Albany, New York, immediately out of college. Then I earned a master’s in teaching at Minnesota State-Mankato to continue my effort to reach students at formative levels. I parlayed that degree into three years of teaching English at Omaha (Nebraska) North High School.

But I continued to love classics, so when I decided to return to graduate school to pursue my doctorate it was in classics at the University of Iowa. Throughout my years in Albany, Omaha and Iowa City, I continued to be the well-rounded person that I had been encouraged to be at St. John’s, training diligently as a distance runner (I ran cross country and track in college), culminating in my qualification for and competition in the 2000 US Olympic Marathon Trials.

After completing my doctorate at Iowa, I taught for eight years at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. My goal all along, though, was to return to my roots in the liberal arts. I love being here at Monmouth.


My teaching and research interests, broadly, start with the ancient worlds of Greece, Rome and their neighbors. More narrowly, within that broad range, I focus on political, social and class conflict and evolutions; love and friendship; gender and sexuality; tragedy and comedy; epic; sports; outreach; and, of course, Greek and Latin languages.

These interests show up in all sorts of courses that I teach and research that I share. (See my list of courses taught and selected research for examples.) In whatever I research, teach and demonstrate to the public, I am keenly aware of what the ancient world communicates about the modern one, and of the perpetual importance of revealing the levels of contemporary significance that can be taken from studying different aspects of the classical world.


BA – Classics and English, St. John’s (Minnesota) University, 1993
MAT – English, Minnesota State University-Mankato, 1995
PhD – Classics, The University of Iowa, 2006

Courses Taught

GREK 101-102: Introductory Greek I-II

GREK 200/300/400: Directed Readings in Greek (Homer; Sappho; Herodotus; Euripides; Plato; Spoken Greek)

LATN 101-102: Introductory Latin I-II

LATN 120: Intensive Latin Review

LATN 200/300/400: Directed Readings in Latin (Transitional; Plautus; Terence; Lucretius; Martial; Lucan; Petronius; Pliny; Suetonius; Eutropius; Vergil; Spoken Latin)

CLAS/HIST 130: Ancient Society (Sports in Greece and Rome; Greeks and Barbarians: Greek Self-Identity against the Ancient Middle East)

CLAS 200: Introduction to Classical Studies

CLAS 201/301: Classics Seminar (Tyrants, Assassins, and Demagogues: Seizing Power in Ancient Greece; Greek Tragedy; The Drama of War: Athenian Tragedy and Comedy of the Peloponnesian War)

CLAS 210/310: Classical Literature (Love and Friendship in Greece and Rome; Roman Comedy Alive: The Roman Comic Theatre, Analyzed and Performed)

CLAS 230/330: Mythology (The Trojan War and Its Aftermath; Dionysus and Theban Myths; Classical and World Mythology)

CLAS 235/335: Greek, Roman and Mediterranean History

CLAS/COMM 290: Greek Rhetoric in Greece (team-taught with Lori Walters-Kramer)

CLAS/HIST 295: Classics Day Leadership

INTG 101: Introduction to Liberal Arts

INTG 202: World Drama

SOFIA projects:
Inside Ancient Greek Athletics, assisted by Olivia Matlock ’22 

“Friends” in High Places: Politicians Making Constituents Feel Like They’re Friends, From Ancient Athens to the Contemporary U.S., assisted by Steven Mastin ’17

College for Kids:
Sports in Greece and Rome (for second- to eighth-graders)


Selected Work

2022 Demagogues, Power, and Friendship in Classical Athens: Leaders as Friends in Aristophanes, Euripides, and Xenophon. Under contract with Bloomsbury Press for publication in 2022.

2022 Introduction and notes to Men and Their Horses: Aristophanes’ Knights, translated by Wilfred Major and Michael Lippman, with a foreword by Jeffrey Henderson. Under contract with Theran Press for publication in 2022.

2022 “As Women Might See It: Suggestions of Transgender Identity in the Bacchae’s Pentheus.” Article submitted to EuGeStA for consideration for publication.

2022 Class Warfare and the Athenian Theatre: Euripides, Aristophanes, and the Age of the Demagogues. Book proposal being revised to submit to Bloomsbury.

2021 “Fear of Demagogues and Mobs, in Classical Athens and the Contemporary US.” Presentation at the 58th Annual Convention of the Illinois Junior Classical League—North. Itasca, IL (moved online due to COVID-19).

2021 “Ancient Olympics Alive: Techniques, Materials, and Sources to Capitalize on the 2021 Olympics in Classes and Outreach Activities.” Presentation at the 152nd annual meeting of the Society for Classical Studies. Chicago, IL (moved online due to COVID-19).

2020 “Why Did Athenians Trust Demagogues? The Power of Being Pithanotatos.” Presentation at the 116th meeting of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South (CAMWS), Birmingham, AL (moved to online due to COVID-19).

2019 “How Can We Save Latin in our Public High Schools?” SCS Blog,, September 12, 2019.

2019 “Your Olympic Classroom: Planning Classically-Themed Activities to Anticipate the 2020 Olympics.” 80th meeting of the Illinois Classical Conference, Rock Island.

2019 “Testudinem Formate! See a Roman Legion in Action, Then Join It.” Interactive demonstration with four Monmouth students at the 56th Annual Convention of the Illinois Junior Classical League—North, Itasca, IL.

2018 “‘Men, Friends’: The Sociological Mechanics of Xenophontic Leaders Winning Subordinates as Friends.” In At the Crossroads of GrecoRoman History, Culture and Religion: Papers in Memory of Carin M. C. Green, edited by Sinclair Bell and Lora Holland, pp. 31-44. Oxford: Archaeopress.

2018 “Making Classics (Even More) Cool: Building a Thriving Classics Day at a University.” Classical Journal 113.3 (February/March): 335-362.

2018 “Finding Transgender Inclinations in the Ancient World: Pentheus in Euripides’ Bacchae.” Presentation at the 71st American Classical League (ACL) Annual Institute, Missoula, MT.

What I have always found compelling about Classics is that its subject matter is always completely present; while we may be formally talking about a distant time and place, the content, and the way we approach it, always reflects contemporary life and events.

– Robert Holschuh Simmons