Martin Litchfield West

Martin Litchfield West, OM FBA (23 September 1937 – 13 July 2015) was a British philologist and classical scholar.[1] In recognition of his contribution to scholarship, he was awarded the Order of Merit in 2014.[2]

Martin Litchfield West
Born(1937-09-23)23 September 1937
Died13 July 2015(2015-07-13) (aged 77)
Oxford, England
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford
Occupation(s)Professor, academic and author
Known forClassics scholar

West wrote on ancient Greek music, Greek tragedy, Greek lyric poetry, the relations between Greece and the ancient Near East, and the connection between shamanism and early ancient Greek religion, including the Orphic tradition. This work stems from material in Akkadian, Phoenician, Hebrew, Hittite, and Ugaritic, as well as Greek and Latin. West also studied the reconstitution of Indo-European mythology and poetry and its influence on Ancient Greece, notably in the 2007 book Indo-European Poetry and Myth (IEPM).

West also produced an edition of Homer's Iliad for the Bibliotheca Teubneriana, accompanied by a study of its critical tradition and overall philology entitled Studies in the Text and Transmission of the Iliad. A further volume on The Making of the Iliad appeared ten years later, and one on The Making of the Odyssey was published in 2014.

Life and career edit

Early life and education edit

Martin Litchfield West was born on 23 September 1937 at Eltham General Hospital (Eltham, London), the first child of Catherine (née Baker Stainthorpe) and Maurice Charles West, a civil engineer. His younger sister, Jennifer Lesley West (now Bywaters) was born shortly after the war in 1947. His parents lived at that time in Orpington, but moved in 1939 to Hampton, where his father was appointed resident engineer at the Metropolitan Water Board-operated waterworks.[3] West father's family were from the Home Counties, and his mother's family from Yorkshire and Durham. His paternal grandfather, Robert West, lectured in electrical engineering; his maternal grandfather, John Stainthorpe, was a railwayman from Pickering. Litchfield was the maiden name of his paternal grandmother.[3][4]

Aged four, West entered the private preparatory school of Denmead. At 11, he lost a scholarship at Colet Court (now St Paul's Juniors), but was offered a feepaying place instead. West discovered at Colet his interest in languages and invented at 14 a competitor of Esperanto he labelled 'Unilingua'.[5] In 1951, he won a scholarship to the main school, St Paul's. Excelling at both linguistics and mathematics, he was advanced to the 'Upper Eighth' and sat for a scholarship to Balliol College a year early. His tutors included Donald Russell, Michael Stokes and Russell Meiggs. Among his peers were future Nobel Prize winner Anthony J. Leggett, and future Permanent Secretary Peter Gregson.[6]

Career edit

West on a visit to Estonia in September 1996

West married fellow scholar Stephanie Pickard in 1960 at Nottingham, after meeting her at a lecture given by Eduard Fraenkel at Corpus Christi College, Oxford,[2][7][8] whose seminars he attended. He became a junior research fellow at St John's College from 1960 to 1963. His doctoral thesis, a commentary on Hesiod's Theogony, won the Conington Prize for the best classical dissertation of the year in 1965, and was edited as a printed book the following year.[9]

From the mid-sixties, West took especial interest in the relation of Greek literature to the Orient, and over several decades, culminating in his masterpiece The East Face of Helicon (1997), defended his view that Greek literature derives significant influences and inspiration from Near Eastern literature. He took up a position as tutorial fellow at University College, a position he filled from 1963 to 1974. In 1973 he became the second youngest person to be elected a Fellow of the British Academy, at the age of 35. He obtained a chair at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, which he held from 1974 until 1991, when he became a fellow of All Souls College.[10][11] West retired formally in 2004, but remained active in All Souls until the end of his life.[12]

Death edit

West died of a heart attack in 2015 in Oxford at the age of 77.[2][13] Fellow Oxford academic Armand D'Angour paid tribute to him as "a man of few words in seven languages."[14]

Works edit

West edited and commented Hesiod's Theogony and Works and Days. In 1967, he published with Reinhold Merkelbach Fragmenta Hesiodea, an edition containing other fragmentary poems attributed to Hesiod. He also edited a book on the fragments of the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women.[12] West edited Homer's Iliad and Odyssey for the Bibliotheca Teubneriana, and the Homeric Hymns for the Loeb Classical Library.[15]

Awards and honours edit

West was a DPhil and DLitt of Oxford University, and was elected a Fellow of the British Academy, a Corresponding Member of the Akademie der Wissenschaften, Göttingen, and a Member of the Academia Europaea, London. HM The Queen appointed him a Member of the Order of Merit (OM) in the 2014 New Year Honours.[2][18]

Academic teaching and research history edit

Selected bibliography edit

Monographs edit

  • Early Greek Philosophy and the Orient, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1971, xv + 256 pp.; translation into Italian, Bologna 1993
  • Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique Applicable to Greek and Latin Texts (Teubner Studienbücher), Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner 1973, 155 pp.; translation into Greek, Athens 1989; translation into Italian, Palermo 1991; translation into Hungarian, Budapest 1999
  • Studies in Greek Elegy and Iambus (Untersuchungen zur antiken Literatur und Geschichte 14), Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter 1974, ix + 198 pp. ISBN 978-3-110-04585-7.
  • Immortal Helen: an inaugural lecture delivered on 30 April 1975, London: Bedford College 1975, 18 pp. ISBN 0-900145-30-7
  • Greek Metre, Oxford 1982, xiv + 208 pp. ISBN 0-19-814018-5
  • The Orphic Poems, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1983, xii + 275 pp. ISBN 0-19-814854-2; translation into Italian, Naples 1993;
  • The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women: Its Nature, Structure, and Origins, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1985, viii + 193 pp. ISBN 0-19-814034-7
  • Introduction to Greek Metre, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1987, xi + 90 pp. ISBN 0-19-872132-3
  • Studies in Aeschylus (Beiträge zur Altertumskunde 1), Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner 1990, x + 406 pp. ISBN 3-519-07450-8
  • Ancient Greek Music, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1992, xiii + 410 pp ISBN 0-19-814897-6; translation into Greek, Athens 1999
  • Die griechische Dichterin: Bild und Rolle (Lectio Teubneriana v), Stuttgart & Leipzig: B.G. Teubner 1996, 48 pp. ISBN 3-519-07554-7
  • The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1997, xxvi + 662 pp. ISBN 0-19-815042-3
  • Studies in the text and transmission of the Iliad. München: K.G. Saur 2001 304 pp. ISBN 3-598-73005-5
  • Indo-European Poetry and Myth. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007 480 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-928075-9
  • The Making of the Iliad: Disquisition and Analytical Commentary. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2011 441 pp. ISBN 978-0-199-59007-0
  • The Making of the 'Odyssey', Oxford University Press 2014.ISBN 978-0-198-71836-9

Editions, commentaries and translations edit

Articles edit

His works also include contributions to dictionaries and books and more than 200 articles and papers since 1960.

See also edit

Notes edit

Bibliography edit

Further reading edit

External links edit