Raaflaub was born to Fritz Raaflaub and Heidi Ninck in 1941 in Cameroon where his father worked as a teacher and missionary. Returned to his Swiss home town Basel, he graduated at the University of Basel in 1970 and has been employed at the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. In 1978 he became a professor at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, remaining in this position until his retirement in 2009. Raaflaub is married to Deborah Boedeker; they co-directed the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C.
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