Geoffrey Kirk

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Geoffrey Stephen Kirk, DSC, FBA (/kɜrk/; 3 December 1921 – 10 March 2003) was a British classical scholar, known for his books on Ancient Greek literature and mythology. He was Regius Professor of Greek at the University of Cambridge from 1974 to 1984.


Early life[edit]

Kirk was born and grew up in Nottingham,[1] the son of Frederick Kirk, MC.[2] Kirk was educated at Rossall School and Clare College, Cambridge.[2]

Military service[edit]

Kirk's time at Cambridge was interrupted by war: he joined the Royal Navy in 1941 and was commissioned as an officer one year later.[2] He spent much of his service in the Aegean Sea[2] with the Levant Schooner Flotilla, which included both schooners and caïques engaged in irregular operations supporting Allied special forces.[3] Kirk fought on many Greek islands and along a wide section of the Turkish coast, and was engaged in operations at Tekegas Barnu, Didyma, Icaria and Andros.[2] He was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) in 1945.

Academic career[edit]

After the war Kirk returned to Cambridge. He graduated in 1946[1][2] and was awarded a research fellowship at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He later became a lecturer and then a Reader at Cambridge. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1959 and served as its vice-president in 1972–73.[4] He also held visiting positions at Yale and Harvard.[2] In 1974 he became the 35th Regius Professor of Greek at Cambridge.

Later life[edit]

Following his retirement, in 1982, Kirk produced a six-volume commentary on the Iliad[1] and updated his book The Presocratic Philosophers with J. E. Raven and M. Schofield.

Kirk had married Barbara Traill in 1950 and they had a daughter, Lydia. In 1975 he married Kirsten Ricks. He was supported by Lydia and his four stepdaughters through ill health before his death in 2003.[1]


  • Heraclitus, The Cosmic Fragments (1954)
  • The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts (1957) with J. E. Raven; a revised 2nd edition was published in 1983 with the help of Malcolm Schofield.
  • The Songs of Homer (1962) later edited as Homer and the Epic (1965)
  • The Language and Background of Homer: Some Recent Studies and Controversies (1964) editor
  • Myth: Its Meaning and Functions in Ancient and Other Cultures (1970)
  • The Nature of Greek Myths (1974)
  • Homer and the Oral Tradition (1976)
  • Archilochos (1977) with Michael Ayrton
  • The Iliad: A Commentary (1985–93) six volumes, editor



Academic offices
Preceded by
Denys Page
Regius Professor of Greek Cambridge University
1974 - 1982
Succeeded by
Eric Handley