Armand D'Angour

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Armand D'Angour
Born (1958-11-23) 23 November 1958 (age 62)
Scientific career
ThesisThe dynamics of innovation: newness and novelty in the Athens of Aristophanes (1998)
Doctoral advisorPeter Lunt
Richard Janko
Alan Griffiths

Armand D'Angour (born 23 November 1958) is a British classical scholar and classical musician, Professor of Classics at Oxford University and Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Jesus College, Oxford. His research embraces a wide range of areas across ancient Greek culture, and has resulted in publications that contribute to scholarship on ancient Greek music and metre, innovation in ancient Greece, and Latin and Greek lyric poetry. He has written poetry in ancient Greek and Latin, and was commissioned to compose odes in ancient Greek for the 2004 and 2012 Olympic Games.

D'Angour's researches into the sounds of ancient Greek music (2013 to date) are considered groundbreaking in potentially establishing, through his scholarly recreation of the sound of the earliest substantial notated document of Greek music (from Euripides' drama Orestes), connections between ancient Greek music and much later Western musical traditions.[1]

D'Angour's book Socrates in Love (published in March 2019) presents new evidence for a radically revisionist historical thesis regarding the role of Aspasia of Miletus in the development of Socrates' thought.

Early life[edit]

D'Angour was born in London[2] and educated at Sussex House School and as a King's Scholar at Eton College. While at Eton he won the Newcastle Scholarship[3] in 1976 (the last year in which the original twelve exams in Classics and Divinity were set), and was awarded a Postmastership (full academic scholarship) to Merton College, Oxford to read Classics.[4] Having learned the piano from age 6 and cello from age 11, from 1976 to 1979 he undertook a Performer's Course (piano/cello joint first instruments) at the Royal College of Music, London, where he studied piano with Angus Morrison and cello with Anna Shuttleworth and Joan Dickson.[5] At Oxford (1979–83) he won the Gaisford Greek Prose Prize, the Chancellor's Latin Verse Prize, the Hertford Scholarship, and the Ireland and Craven Scholarship, and graduated with a Double First (BA Hons, Literae Humaniores).

In 1981 he conducted the Kodály Choir and orchestra in a number of concerts, which included performances of Brahms' 1st Piano Concerto (soloist Colin Stone), Poulenc's Organ Concerto (soloist Michael Emery) and Fauré's Requiem (with Rudolf Piernay as baritone soloist). In 1983, he sat for a Prize Fellowship by Examination at All Souls College, but was unsuccessful.[6] He then studied cello in the Netherlands with cellist Anner Bylsma,[7] and now regularly performs as cellist with the London Brahms Trio.[8] From 1987 to 1994 he worked in and eventually managed a family business.[9] In 1994-8 he researched for a PhD at University College London on the dynamics of innovation in ancient Athens,[10] a topic inspired by both his classical background and his experience of innovation in business. During this period he co-authored a book with Steven Shaw[11] on swimming in relation to the principles of the Alexander Technique.[12]

During his doctoral research D'Angour published his first scholarly article (in Classical Quarterly 1997) "How the Dithyramb Got Its Shape", in which he restored[13] the opening lines of a fragment of Pindar (fr. 70b from Dithyramb 2, first published in 1919) to show that it refers to the creation of the 'circular dance' (kuklios choros), the form in which the dithyramb was performed in Athens in the early fifth century BC.

Academic career[edit]

In 2000 D'Angour was appointed Fellow in Classics at Jesus College, Oxford.[14] He extended the chronological scope of this doctoral research to produce The Greeks and the New [15](published by Cambridge University Press in 2011), a wide-ranging academic study of novelty and innovation in ancient Greece;[16] he has applied the findings of his research to business[17][18] and to other domains, including music and psychoanalytic theory.[19] His TedED lessons on Archimedes' Eureka Moment and the Origins of the Ancient Olympics have together had over 4 million views.

In March 2019 his book Socrates in Love: The Making of a Philosopher, in which new evidence is proposed for the identification of Diotima in Plato's Symposium with Aspasia of Miletus, was published by Bloomsbury.

D'Angour was awarded the title of distinction of Professor of Classics in the 2020 Oxford Recognition of Distinction round. His book How to Innovate: an Ancient Guide to Creative Thinking(Princeton, 2021) summarises some of the ideas that were presented in The Greeks and the New, and offers a four-part template for understanding how innovation comes about, and how it might be fostered and produced.

Ancient Greek Music[edit]

In 2013-15 D'Angour conducted a Research Fellowship awarded by the British Academy[20] to investigate the way music interacted with poetic texts in ancient Greece, which resulted in a widely acclaimed scholarly breakthrough in the subject.[21] In 2013 he published a conjectural verse reconstruction of the lost portion of Sappho's famous fragment 31. In May 2015 he appeared in a BBC Four documentary entitled 'Sappho', for which he used scholarly evidence to recompose the music for two stanzas of an ancient Sapphic song;[22] in July 2016 he organised and presented the first ever research-driven concert of ancient music in the Nereids Gallery of the British Museum.[23] In January 2017 he was interviewed about his research into ancient Greek music by Labis Tsirigotakis as part of the programme 'To the Sound of Big Ben' on Greek TV's ERT1 Channel;[24] and in July 2017 the first public performance of his musical reconstructions of the chorus preserved on papyrus from Euripides Orestes (408 BC)[25] and the Delphic Paean of Athenaeus (127 BC) was given at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

D'Angour's investigations have been acclaimed for reversing previous assumptions by demonstrating the affective symbolism and tonal basis of Greek music of the Classical period, and potentially affirming its connection to much later European musical traditions.[26] His numerous public talks, media interviews, and online presentations on the topic led to the award in 2017 by the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University Louise Richardson of a prize for public engagement with research.[27] He subsequently composed music in ancient Greek style to accompany a series of performances of Euripides' play Alcestis (438 BC) staged in the Greek theatre at Bradfield College in June 2019, and his research has inspired other stage performances including that of Euripides' Herakles at Barnard College, Columbia in 2019.

Olympic Odes[edit]

At the request of Dame Mary Glen-Haig, senior member of the International Olympic Committee, D'Angour composed an Ode to Athens[28] in 2004, in the appropriate Pindaric style, Doric dialect and metre (dactylo-epitrite) of ancient Greek, together with an English verse translation. The ode was recited at the 116th Closing Session of the IOC in 2004 and gained wide media coverage, including a full page spread in the Times headed up by veteran journalist and classicist Philip Howard.[29]

In 2010 Boris Johnson, then Mayor of London, commissioned him to write an ode in English and Ancient Greek[30] for the London Olympics 2012, and declaimed it[31] at the IOC Opening Gala.[32] Johnson arranged for the 2012 ode to be engraved on a bronze plaque in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and gave a performance of it at the site during a ceremony (2 August 2012) attended by the Lord Mayor of London (Sir David Wootton) to mark the unveiling of the plaque.[33]

Socrates & Aspasia[edit]

D'Angour's research into the early life of the philosopher Socrates led him to elicit new evidence for the identification of 'Diotima' in Plato's Symposium as Aspasia of Miletus. His controversial book on the subject, Socrates in Love, published in 2019, was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal in May 2019, with reviewer Jamie James writing:

It is a tour de force of scholarship, and D'Angour sifts through his vast reading with judicious care. Open-minded but not credulous, he accomplishes what was long thought to be impossible: a reliable, consistent account of the man who forged the matrix of Western philosophy [...] D’Angour rehabilitates Aspasia's reputation and ingeniously argues that she originated the concept of Platonic love, one of the first principles of Western philosophy. Moreover, he moots the "attractive and compelling possibility that the advent of Aspasia into the young Socrates' life" may present "an appealing and credible image of Socrates in love".[34]

Reviews also appeared in the Times (by Patrick Kidd),[35] Telegraph (by Nikhil Krishnan),[36] Financial Times (by Peter Stothard),[37] and numerous other journals.[38]



Selected academic articles

  • 'How the Dithyramb Got its Shape', Classical Quarterly 47 (1997) 331–351.
  • 'Ad unguem', American Journal of Philology vol.120, no. 3 (1999) 411–427.
  • 'Archinus, Eucleides, and the reform of the Athenian alphabet', Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 43 (1999), 109–130.
  • 'Catullus 107: a Callimachean reading', Classical Quarterly 50 (2000) 615–618.
  • 'Drowning by Numbers: Pythagoreanism & Poetry in Horace Odes 1.28’, Greece and Rome 50 (2003) 206–219.
  • ‘Conquering Love: Sappho 31 and Catullus 51’, Classical Quarterly 56 (2006) 297–300.
  • ‘Horace’s Victory Odes’ in Receiving the Komos: Ancient and modern receptions of the Victory Ode, eds. P. Agocs et al. (London 2012) 57–72.
  • ‘Plato and Play: Taking education seriously in ancient Greece’, American Journal of Play Vol. 5 no. 3 (Spring 2013) 293–307.
  • ‘Sense and Sensation in music’, in A Companion to Ancient Aesthetics, ed. Paul Destrée and Penelope Murray (Wiley-Blackwell: New Jersey, 2014), 188–203.
  • 'Vocables and microtones in ancient Greek music’, in Greek and Roman Musical Studies 4.2 (2016) 273–285.
  • ‘Euripides and the sound of music’, in A Companion to Euripides, ed. L. McClure (John Wiley 2017), 428–443.
  • ‘The musical setting of ancient Greek texts’, in Music, Texts, and Culture in ancient Greece, co-edited with T. Phillips (OUP, 2018)
  • ‘Translating Catullus 85: Why and How’. Philologia Classica 14.1 (2019), 155–60.
  • ‘The Musical Frogs in Frogs’. In Ancient Greek Comedy, eds. A. Fries and D. Kanellakis. (De Gruyter 2020), 187–198.
  • 'Recreating the Music of Euripides' Orestes'. Greek and Roman Musical Studies 9.1 (2021) 175–190.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved on 21 August 2012.
  3. ^ "Eton College." Times [London, England] 24 March 1976: 18. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 20 August 2013.
  4. ^ "University news." Times [London, England] 31 May 1980: 14. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 20 August 2013.
  5. ^ [1] Retrieved on 13 August 2012.
  6. ^ "Failing at All Souls » Armand D'Angour". Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  7. ^ M. Campbell The Great Cellists (London, 2011) p. 208.
  8. ^ "Concerts » Armand D'Angour". Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  9. ^ PDF of PhD diss. from UCL Library, p5. Retrieved on 22 August 2013.
  10. ^ Abstract of PhD diss. from UCL Library. Retrieved on 21 August 2013.
  11. ^
  12. ^ The Art of Swimming: in a new direction with the Alexander Technique (London, 1996).
  13. ^ P. Wilson, BMCR 4.24.2002: "the remains of ‘fair-navelled’ ( εὐομφάλοις) — applied to ‘circular [choruses]’ — that D’Angour so brilliantly and to my mind convincingly conjured from the gloom of this line".
  14. ^ Announcement of appointment to Jesus College in Oxford Gazette, 1999 Archived 2 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 13 August 2012.
  15. ^
  16. ^ Review of The Greeks and the New, John Hesk, Times Literary Supplement London, 6 July 2012.
  17. ^ 'What's new? Some answers from ancient Greece'. OECD Observer No 221-222 (Summer 2000).
  18. ^ Isis Innovation 40 (2003) 4–5. Archived 1 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Interview in Greek Reporter, 10 June 2012., Retrieved on 13 August 2012.
  20. ^ "Mid-Career Fellowship Competition 2013 Awards - British Academy". British Academy. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  21. ^ D'Angour, Armand (23 October 2013). "How did ancient Greek music really sound?". Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ [2]
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Ancient Greek music: hearing long lost sounds again wins university public engagement award". University of Oxford. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  28. ^ Text and translation of Armand D'Angour. "Ode to Athens." Times [London, England] 31 July 2004: 9. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 20 August 2013
  29. ^ Philip Howard and Alan Hamilton. "Olympics ring to sound of winning British ode." Times [London, England] 31 July 2004: 9. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 1 September 2013.
  30. ^ Olympic Ode lends touch of classics Archived 1 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Text of the ode, University of Oxford Website. Retrieved on 13 August 2012.
  31. ^ BBC News Story about Boris Johnson declaiming Olympic Ode, 23 July 2012. Retrieved on 13 August 2012.
  32. ^ Boris Johnson to recite new poem for the Olympics in Ancient Greek, The Guardian, 23 July 2012. Guardian, Retrieved on 13 August 2012.
  33. ^ Oxonian's Olympic Ode a success, Cherwell Magazine, 30 July 2012., Retrieved on 19 August 2012.
  34. ^ Jamie James, ‘Socrates in Love’ Review: A Vigorous, Brilliant Young Man', Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2019.
  35. ^ Retrieved 31 Dec 2020.
  36. ^ Retrieved 31 Dec 2020.
  37. ^ Retrieved 31 Dec 2020.
  38. ^ Retrieved 31 Dec 2020.

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