Skip to main content

James Zainaldin

Assistant Professor in Classical and Mediterranean Studies
Mellon Foundation Dean's Faculty Fellow in Classical and Mediterranean Studies

James Zainaldin is Assistant Professor and Mellon Foundation Dean’s Faculty Fellow in Classical and Mediterranean Studies at Vanderbilt University. Previously (2021–2023) he was Assistant Professor of Classics and Letters at the University of Oklahoma and concurrently Loeb Classical Library Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University. He received his Ph.D. in Classics from Harvard University and a double-B.A. in Classics and Philosophy from Emory University.

Zainaldin’s work centers broadly on the scientific, technical, and philosophical traditions of ancient Greece and Rome, usually with specific focus on Latin prose of the Roman Empire. He also works on comparative Greco-Roman/ Chinese studies and the reception of the Western Classics in modern China and has a secondary appointment in the Department of Asian Studies at Vanderbilt. As a student of the Chinese tradition, Zainaldin 翟牧泗 continues to pursue studies in classical and Mandarin Chinese.

Zainaldin has published numerous articles and peer-reviewed book chapters on Greco-Roman science and philosophy, on Latin literature, and on Greco-Roman/Chinese comparative studies (overview). Written alongside his dissertation, his first book, on the fragmentary Latin agricultural writings of the third-century Roman author Gargilius Martialis, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2020 in the series Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries. Besides establishing a new critical Latin text of the extant agricultural writings of this 3rd-century north-African author, the book offers a comprehensive study of Gargilius’ writings, revealing their importance for our understanding of the development of the Latin language and of ancient scientific and technical literature.

Zainaldin has three further book projects ongoing (overview also here):

  • A large book, in production with Cambridge University Press, that presents the first full-scale, synthetic study of the artes—the systematic prose treatises on the ancient “arts and sciences”—of the early Roman Empire. This project not only reconstructs for the first time the emergence of a distinctive intellectual culture represented by the artes, but also demonstrates the extent and originality of Roman scientific thought.
  • A commentary on Seneca the Younger’s Consolation to Marcia, co-written with Jonathan Master (Emory University) and under contract with Cambridge University Press for the series Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics, that sets Seneca’s work into its manifold ancient contexts (historical, philosophical, linguistic, literary, and cultural).
  • A book, in progress, that introduces, sets into global context, and offers a new argument for the significance of the Greco-Roman tradition of philosophical consolation from Crantor (3rd c. BCE) to Seneca and Plutarch (1st c. CE).

In his teaching, Zainaldin enjoys introducing students to topics which are central to his own interests and remain of enduring relevance today. At Vanderbilt he regularly teaches courses on Greek and Roman science (“Ancient Science,” CLAS 2300) and medicine (“Ancient Medicine and Its Legacy,” CLAS 1140). He also enjoys teaching Greek and Latin at all levels. In spring 2025 he will teach a course on “Science, Technology, and Values” in the pilot for the new Vanderbilt first-year core sequence. Zainaldin is always excited to meet with and support students working in the humanities as well as those majoring in STEM disciplines who have interests in history, philosophy, and more. He is particularly interested to meet with students with comparative interests, whether Greek-Roman/Chinese or otherwise.