About Eric

So….a bit about me.

If you’re wondering about the author, I live, love, write, and work in Tacoma (WA) together with the other Doctor Nelson, my wife Susan. I spent my early day in nearby Gig Harbor, which was then mostly still a fishing village. (There wasn’t even a stoplight in the town until I was in high school, and that was a big controversy.)


Susan and I at Trajan’s Market

I grew up on Allen Point, with a couple miles of beach and hundred acres of woods, and then on the old Holly farm of the Englishman McAlister Moore, now known as Moorelands. I feel like I had about the best environment, best family, and best bunch of friends an eccentric could ever hope for. You’ll hear about these locations, and some of those people, in this blog.

Teaching the Senior Capstone

Teaching the Senior Capstone

Languages banner

Teaching Latin

I am an Associate Professor of Classics, and the Chair of the Department of Languages and Literatures, at Pacific Lutheran University, in Tacoma, Washington.

I teach a wide range of material to undergraduates, such as:

  • Latin and Greek;
  • Ancient literature, history, and culture;
  • Comparative mythology;
  • The history of medicine;
  • Writing;
  • Senior capstone seminars and critical theory.

Over that time I’ve told many stories to students. Sometime they say, “You know, you ought to write that down.” And that’s, in part, what I’m doing here.

My little niche of academia is a speciality in Ancient Medicine and Culture and I am probably the world expert on a small slice of the Hippocratic Corpus. However, I’m pretty much a generalist, and work to make the ancient world and its influence comprehensible — and entertaining — to a broad undergraduate and popular audience. Besides my academic work in medicine and culture, I have authored two popular books: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to The Roman Empire and — together with Susan — The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Ancient Greece and written entries for encyclopedias and general history books. The CIGs have been translated into both French and Chinese.

Shooting for Rome: Engineering an Empire

Shooting for Rome: Engineering an Empire

I’m also very proud of having served as an expert and consultant (script and historical) for a range of TV docudramas for the History Channel, Discovery Channel, and Animal Planet. One of them, Rome: Engineering an Empire, won two Emmys. I’ve been working on a series of vodcasts on the ancient infrastructure that made Roman urban culture possible, and hope to get one of the producers I have worked with to produce a show on early plagues and pandemics, and a program on antiquity and the culture of wine.


On the Spanish Steps in Rome

I’ve had the good fortune to travel a great deal, and to spend extended time in Ireland, England, France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. I have lived in Rome, where I did some of my graduate work at the Università di Sapienza and at the Vatican Library (Biblioteca Apostolica). Susan and I were able to go back to Rome and the bay of Naples last year during sabbatical. In the future, Susan and I will be leading a January course on Greek literature to Athens. So I’m sure there will be more travel posts in the months ahead.

So, the blogs. These blogs, like my teaching, are not about convincing people, but about telling good stories and opening doors to different ways of considering the world. I often think myself through things by writing, and I like to write about things that interest, puzzle, and engage me. If you like being along while someone tries to make sense of something, or if you just like a good story, come on along: but please keep in mind I’m not trying to enlighten anyone. I don’t pretend to that.

That said, I think it is fair to say that I have a pretty decent grounding in what I’m talking about, even if my perspective is often quirky and eccentric. I work in the history of ideas and culture.  Cultural ideas and perspectives have a kind of genetic history and I’ve spent my adult life mucking around in that particular gene pool.

I appreciate you reading this far, and taking the time to find out something about me. Please, if you like what you find, become a fan of Altered Focus, and share some link love with your friends!


Talking things over with Matt, one of my advisees.

Talking things over with Matt, one of my advisees.

In Print and On Screen
Ancient Rome
Ancient Greece (with Susan Allard-Nelson)
Ethical Theory (Susan Allard-Nelson)
History Channel: Rome: Engineering an Empire
History Channel Series: Engineering an Empire: Greece and Age of Alexander
Discovery Channel: Machines of Malice
Machines of Malice 2 of 3
Animal Planet:Animal Gladiators
Plagues and Epidemics (contributor)
Ancient Medicine (contributor)
General History (contributor)