Sarah Iles Johnston

photo of Sarah Iles Johnston taken September 2020

Sarah Iles Johnston

College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Religion

(614) 292-2058

424 University Hall
230 North Oval Mall
Columbus, OH, 43210

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Areas of Expertise

  • Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean
  • Myth
  • Archaic Greek Poetry


  • Ph.D. Cornell 1987
  • M.A. Cornell 1983
  • B.A. (Classics) Univ. Kansas 1980
  • B.S. (Journalism) Univ. Kansas 1979

Personal Statement

"It is only by a somewhat severe mental effort that we realize the fact that there were no gods at all, that what we have to investigate are not so many actual facts and existences but only conceptions of the human mind that conceived them."
Jane Ellen Harrison, Prolegomena

"There is no greater bar to the understanding of mythology than our modern habit of clear analytical thought."
Jane Ellen Harrison, Delphika

These two quotations from one of the foundational figures for the study of ancient religions begin to sketch where those of us who continue in the field must stand--poised precariously between trying to think ourselves back into the ancient mind-set (if that's even possible) and yet resisting the lure of some of its more attractive and culturally familiar aspects.

I have just published The Story of Myth, a book that uses approaches from folklore studies, narratology, media studies and the social sciences to better understand the ways in myths, in the vivid forms in which they were narrated in ancient Greece, contributed to the creation and sustenance of belief in the gods and heroes.

I am now working on a book on ghosts stories during the Edwardian and Victorian periods, and on a re-narration of Greek myths for adults.


Picture of book cover The Story of Myth

Ritual Texts for the Afterlife: Orpheus and the Bacchic Gold Tablets

Ancient Greek Divination

Restless Dead: Encounters between the Living and the Dead in Ancient Greece

Hekate Soteira: A Study of Hekate's Roles in the Chaldean Oracles and Related Literature

Edited Volumes

Ancient Religions

Mantike: Studies in Ancient Divination

Medea: Essays on Medea in Myth, Literature, Philosophy, and Art

Recent Articles

•”Theurgy and Magic” in Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic, ed. David T. Frankfurter (Brill 2019).

•“Many (Un)Happy Returns: Ancient Greek Concepts of a Return from Death and their Later Counterparts,” in Round Trip to Hades in the Eastern Mediterranean Tradition, eds. Gunnel Ekroth and Ingela Nilsson (Brill 2018) 356-69.

Sarah Iles Johnston Full CV.pdf