Martin Litchfield West
|Martin Litchfield West|
23 September 1937|
|Died||13 July 2015
|Alma mater||Balliol College, Oxford |
|Occupation||Professor, academic and author|
|Known for||Classics scholar|
Martin Litchfield West, OM, FBA (23 September 1937 – 13 July 2015) was a classical scholar, acknowledged, on receipt of the Kenyon Medal for Classical Studies from the British Academy, as "the most brilliant and productive Greek scholar of his generation, not just in the United Kingdom, but worldwide." At the time of his death he was an Honorary Fellow of All Souls College, University of Oxford.
He wrote extensively 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.
In 2001, West produced an edition of Homer's Iliad for Teubner, 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 for Oxford University Press, and one on "The Making of the Odyssey" in 2014.
In addition to the Near-Eastern connection, in 2007 he wrote on the reconstitution of Indo-European culture and poetry, and its influence on Greece, in the book Indo-European Poetry and Myth. In recognition of his contribution to scholarship, he was awarded the Order of Merit in 2014. West died in 2015 in Oxford at the age of 77.
Life and career
West was born in Hampton, Middlesex, the son of Catherine (née Stainthorpe) and a civil engineer, Maurice West. After graduating from St Paul's School, he proceeded to Balliol College. He married a fellow scholar Stephanie Pickard in 1960 at Nottingham, after meeting her at a lecture given by Edward Fraenkel at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He became a junior research fellow at St John’s College from 1960-1963, where he produced his first work, an edition of Hesiod's Theogony. From the mid-sixties he took especial interest in the relation of Greek literature to the Orient, and over several decades, culminating in his masterpiece The eastern Face of Helicon (1997) defended his view that it was a variation on 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.
Awards and honours
- 2000: Balzan Prize for Classical Antiquity
- 2002: Kenyon Medal for Classical Studies from the British Academy.
- 2007: A book of essays on ancient Greek literature written for West on his 70th birthday
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.
Academic teaching and research history
- Emeritus Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford (since 2004)
- Senior Research Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford (1991–2004).
- Professor of Greek, University of London (Bedford College, later Royal Holloway and Bedford New College) (1974–91).
- Fellow and Praelector in Classics, University College, Oxford (1963–74).
- Jr. Woodhouse Research Fellow, St. John's College, Oxford (1960–63).
A dedication to West from The British Academy, upon awarding him the 2002 Kenyon Medal for Classical Studies :
"Among classical scholars, and in the field of ancient Greek literature, Martin West's intellect and productivity have put him in a class of his own. In a career of 35 years, he has published 15 major books, several smaller books, and nearly 200 incisive and original papers. All of his writings maintain the highest standards of traditional scholarship, combining acute intelligence and technical mastery with an admirable clarity and directness of mind and style.
His work falls into three overlapping categories.
First of all, he is the author of the standard manuals of Textual Criticism (1978), Greek Metre (1982) and Greek Music (1992). In case 'manual' suggests a second-hand compilation, it should be explicitly stated that all three books represent a deeply original viewpoint. Secondly, in the editing and explication of Greek poetic texts, West has contributed exemplary editions of the fragments of Hesiod (with R. Merkelbach, 1967); of the Greek Iambic and Elegiac poets (1971-2; 2 1989, 1992); of the Anacreontea (1984; 2 1993); of Aeschylus (1990); and of the Iliad (vol. I, 1998). His contribution to Iambus and Elegy was reinforced by invaluable adversaria in Studies in Greek Elegy and Iambus (1974), and his papers on Greek lyric poetry would in themselves make a substantial volume. He celebrated the millennium with a new text of the fundamental poem of Western civilisation, Homer's Iliad. In addition, there are critical texts, with magisterial commentaries, of Hesiod's Theogony (1966) and Works and Days (1978), and The Orphic Poems (1983) and The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women (1985), which reconstruct with great acumen and ingenuity two literary genres familiar to the Greeks but lost to us except in fragments. Thirdly, his interest in the Greeks and the Orient, first exemplified in Early Greek Philosophy and the Orient (1971), recently re-emerged in The East Face of Helicon (1997), a comprehensive and timely investigation of parallels between Greek literature and the literatures of the Ancient Near East based on first-hand acquaintance with the texts.In the field of classical scholarship, as traditionally understood, Martin West is to be judged, on any reckoning, the most brilliant and productive Greek scholar of his generation, not just in the United Kingdom, but worldwide."
A dedication to West upon receiving the 2000 Balzan Prize for Classical Antiquity :
"For his masterful editions and explanations of Greek poetry from Homer to the Attic tragedy as well as for his groundbreaking research in the alleged and still violently debated relationships between Greece and the Orient. Born in 1937, a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, West is considered one of the world's leading classical philologists. His masterly critical editions include Hesiod's works, Greek lyric, orphic poetry and all of Aeschylus' tragedies. His Early Greek Philosophy and the Orient (published in Italy by Il Mulino, 1994) offers a decisive and well-balanced contribution to the age-old debate over the 'originality' of Greek culture and its indebtedness to other cultures. His groundbreaking studies on early Greek music are also noteworthy."
In a review of his last work, Peter Green expressed admiration for West's 'marvellous polyglot and off-beat omnicompetence . .his mischievous wit, his loving resuscitation of so many great nineteenth-century scholars, the erudition which, however formidable and obsessional, always concealed (or so it seemed to me) a vein of slily (sic) ironic amusement.'
Selected list of books
- 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.
- 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 of classical texts
- Hesiod, Theogony, ed. with prolegomena and commentary by M.L. West, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1966, xiii + 459 pp.
- Fragmenta Hesiodea, ed.: R. Merkelbach et M. L. West, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1967, 236 pp.
- Iambi et elegi Graeci ante Alexandrum cantati. 1 : Archilochus. Hipponax. Theognidea, ed. M. L. West, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1971, revised edition 1989, xvi + 256
- Iambi et elegi Graeci ante Alexandrum cantati. 2 : Callinus. Mimnermus. Semonides. Solon. Tyrtaeus. Minora adespota, ed. M. L. West, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1972, revised edition 1992 x + 246 pp.
- Sing me, goddess. Being the first recitation of Homer's Iliad, translated by Martin West, London: Duckworth 1971, 43 pp. ISBN 0-7156-0595-X
- Theognidis et Phocylidis fragmenta et adespota quaedam gnomica, ed. M. L. West (Kleine Texte für Vorlesungen und Übungen 192), Berlin: Walter de Gruyter 1978, iv + 49 pp.
- Hesiod, Works and Days, ed. with prolegomena and commentary by M.L. West, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1978, xiii + 399 pp.
- Delectus ex Iambis et Elegis Graecis, ed. M. L. West, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1980, ix + 295 pp. ISBN 0-19-814589-6
- Carmina Anacreontea, edidit Martin L. West (Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana), Leipzig: Teubner 1984, xxvi + 64 pp.; corrected reprint with one page of Addenda, 1993 ISBN 3-8154-1025-8
- Euripides, Orestes, ed. with transl. and commentary by M. L. West, Warminster: Aris & Phillips 1987, ix + 297 pp. ISBN 0-85668-310-8
- Hesiod, Theogony, and Works and Days, transl. and with an introduction by M. L. West, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1988, xxv + 79 pp. ISBN 0-19-281788-4
- Aeschyli Tragoediae cum incerti poetae Prometheo, recensuit Martin L. West (Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana), Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner 1990, lxxxv + 508 pp. ISBN 3-519-01013-5
- Greek Lyric Poetry. The poems and fragments of the Greek iambic, elegiac, and melic poets (excluding Pindar and Bacchylides) down to 450 B.C., [verse translation] Oxford: Oxford university Press 1993, xxv + 213 pp. ISBN 0-19-282360-4
- Homeri Ilias. Volumen prius rhapsodias I-XII continens, recensuit Martin L. West (Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana), Stuttgart & Leipzig: B.G. Teubner 1998, lxii + 372 pp. ISBN 3-519-01431-9
- Homeri Ilias. Volumen alterum rhapsodias XIII-XXIV continens, recensuit Martin L. West (Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana), K. G. Saur: Leipzig & Munich 2000, vii + 396 pp.
- Homeric Hymns, Homeric Apocrypha, Lives of Homer, edited and translated by Martin L. West. (The Loeb Classical Library 496) Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press 2003 ISBN 0-674-99606-2
- Greek Epic Fragments from the Seventh to the Fifth Centuries BC, edited and translated by Martin L. West (The Loeb Classical Library 497). London Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press 2003 ISBN 0-674-99605-4
- Barrett, W. S., Greek Lyric, Tragedy, and Textual Criticism: Collected Papers, ed. M. L. West (Oxford & New York, 2007): papers dealing with Stesichorus, Pindar, Bacchylides and Euripides
His works also include contributions to dictionaries and books and more than 200 articles and papers since 1960.
- The Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts of Hesiod's "Theogony", Classical Quarterly 14, 1964, 165–89;
- Conjectures on 46 Greek Poets, Philologus 110, 1996, 147–68;
- The Contest of Homer and Hesiod, Classical Quarterly 17, 1967, 433–50;
- Near Eastern Material in Hellenistic and Roman Literature, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 73, 1968, 113–34;
- Stesichorus, Classical Quarterly 21, 1971, 302–14;
- Stesichorus at Lille, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 29, 1978, 1ff.;
- The Cosmology of "Hippocrates", De Hebdomadibus, Classical Quarterly 21, 1971, 365–88;
- Indo-European Metre, Glotta 51, 1973, 161–87;
- Greek Poetry 2000-700 B.C., Classical Quarterly 23, 1973, 179–92;
- The Medieval Manuscripts of the "Works and Days", Classical Quarterly 24, 1974, 161–85;
- Tragica I-VII, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 24, 1977, 89–103; 25, 1978, 106–22; 26, 1979, 104–17; 27, 1980, 9–22; 28, 1981, 61–78; 30, 1983, 63–82; 31, 1984, 171–96;
- The Prometheus Trilogy, Journal of Hellenic Studies 99, 1979, 130–48;
- The Rise of the Greek Epic, Journal of Hellenic Studies 108, 1988, 151–72;
- Analecta Musica, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 92, 1992, 1–54;
- Simonides Redivivus, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 98, 1993, 1–14;
- The Babylonian Musical Notation and the Hurrian Melodic Texts, Music and Letters 75, 1993/4, 161–79;
- "Ab Ovo". Orpheus, Sanchuniathon, and the Origins of the Ionian World Model, Classical Quarterly 44, 1994, 289–307;
- The Date of the "Iliad", Museum Helveticum 52, 1995, 203–19;
- Akkadian Poetry: Metre and Performance, Iraq 59, 1997, 175–87;
- "Towards Monotheism", in P. Athanassiadi and M. Frede (edd.), Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity, Oxford 1999, 20–40;
- The Invention of Homer, Classical Quarterly 49(2), 1999, 364–82
- M.L. West's Biography at All Souls College, Oxford
- British Academy: Medals and Prizes (Kenyon Medal)
- "All Souls College Oxford". www.asc.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved 2015-07-15.
- "Professor Martin West", Balliol College, 14 July 2015
- 'Obituary: Dr Martin West - Classical scholar ‘in a class of his own’,' Oxford Mail 16 July 2015.
- Gregory Hutchinson, 'Martin West: Prolific scholar whose books shed new light on the archaic and early-classical periods of Greek literature,' The Independent, 3 August 2015
- Jane L Lightfoot, 'Martin West obituary:Scholar of ancient Greek poetry,' The Guardian 13 August 2015.
- 'Professor Martin West, OM,' The Telegraph 21 July 2015.
- 'In memoriam Martin West,'
- P. J. Finglass, C. Collard, N. J. Richardson (eds.) Hesperos: Studies in Ancient Greek Poetry, Oxford University Press, 2007; ISBN 978-0-19-928568-6; reviewed by John Gibert, Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 23 June 2008.
- The London Gazette: . 31 December 2013.
- Peter Green,['Q after P,'] Times Literary Supplement 11 September 2015 pp.10-11, p.11.
- Table of contents for Greek lyric, tragedy, and textual criticism : collected papers / W. S. Barrett ; assembled and edited by M. L. West at catdir.loc.gov, accessed 15 August 2008
- "Biographical Entry: Dr. Martin Litchfield West", Debrett's People of Today, Debrett's Limited, 18–20 Hill Rise, Richmond, Surrey TW10 6UA United Kingdom
- M.L. West's page at All Souls College, Oxford (archived 2015)
- M.L. West's page at the Balzan Foundation Prize at the Wayback Machine (archived 12 December 2007)
- M.L. West's page at the British Academy's Kenyon Medal award at the Wayback Machine (archived 5 October 2007)