Professor Eckstein is a specialist in the history of the Hellenistic world and Roman imperialism under the Republic. He has published four books, a co-edited book, and 50 major scholarly articles. The first book, Senate and General: Individual Decision-Making and Roman Foreign Relations, 264-194 B.C. (1987), is a study of the day-to-day mechanism of Roman foreign relations under the Roman Republic, emphasizing specifically the wide freedom of diplomatic decision-making enjoyed by Roman commanders in the field—the diplomatic importance of “the man on the spot”. The second book, Moral Vision in the Histories of Polybius (1995), is a revisionist analysis of the important Hellenistic historian Polybius, who has usually been viewed as a severe and rational pragmatist; the book emphasizes instead Polybius’ traditionally moralistic approach to human action in the face of widespread social and international anarchy. The third book, Mediterranean Anarchy, Interstate War, and the Rise of Rome (2006), is a pioneering effort at combining modern international-systems theory with Hellenistic history. It argues that while Rome under the Republic was certainly a militaristic and aggressive state, this cannot be the primary reason for its exceptional success, since all states in the harsh interstate anarchy that constituted the Hellenistic Mediterranean world were militaristic and aggressive, and the anarchic state-system pushed all of them in that direction. The reason for Rome’s exceptional success lies, rather, in Roman skill at alliance-management, which included the generous extension of Roman citizenship to non-Romans. Professor Eckstein’s fourth book, Rome Enters the Greek East: From Anarchy to Hierarchy in the Hellenistic Mediterranean, 230-188 B.C. (2008), is a detailed study of Rome’s first involvement in the Greek world east of Italy, and engages this topic through (once more) a theoretically-informed approach involving modern international-systems theory.
Professor Eckstein’s 50 scholarly articles cover a wide range of topics, mostly on issues of Roman imperial expansion, but also on topics ranging from modern theories of economic imperialism to American film and popular culture. In the latter regard, Professor Eckstein is co-editor (with Peter Lehman, former President of the American Cinema Studies Association) of a collection of scholarly essays on one of the director John Ford’s greatest films: The Searchers: Essays and Reflections on John Ford’s Classic Western (2004).
Professor Eckstein has been a long-term member of the editorial board of The American Journal of Philology (the oldest and most prestigious American journal of ancient literature and history), and of The International History Review (the most important journal of international political theory). He was the major scholarly consultant on the PBS film “Roman City” (1994), which won an Emmy Award. For the past ten years he has been Director of the Department’s Undergraduate Honors Program in History.