Peter Fraser (classicist)

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Peter Fraser
Born Peter Marshall Fraser
(1918-04-06)6 April 1918
Died 15 September 2007(2007-09-15) (aged 89)
Resting place British Military Cemetery, Cephalonia
Other names P. M. Fraser
Education City of London School
Alma mater Brasenose College, University of Oxford
Title Director of the British School at Athens
Term 1968 to 1971
Predecessor Peter Megaw
Successor Hector Catling
Awards Fellow of the British Academy (FBA)
Military career
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1941–1945
Rank Captain
Service number 201494
Unit Seaforth Highlanders
Special Operations Executive
Battles/wars World War II
*Greek Resistance
Awards Military Cross

Peter Marshall Fraser, MC, FBA (6 April 1918 – 15 September 2007) was a classical scholar and historian specialising in the Hellenistic age of Greece. He was a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford and acting Warden of the college from 1985 to 1987. He served as Director of the British School at Athens from 1968 to 1971.

Early life[edit]

Fraser was born on 6 April 1918.[1] He was brought up in Carshalton, Surrey.[2] He was educated at the City of London School, boys' independent day school in the City of London, England.[3] He won a classical scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford where he studied for mods the first part of Literae Humaniores. His studies were interrupted by his military service in World War II.[3] He returned to Oxford after the war. He wrote a thesis on Hellenistic Rhodes, which he entered for and won the prestigious Conington Prize.[3]

Military service[edit]

With World War II interrupting his studies, Fraser joined the Seaforth Highlanders, British Army in 1941.[4] He was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 16 August 1941, having attended an Officer Cadet Training Unit. He was given the service number 201494.[5]

It was because of his knowledge and interest in Classical Greece, that he was recruited by the Special Operations Executive.[6] Between 1943 and 1945, he was involved in the British Military Mission to Axis occupied Greece.[4] On 12 July 1943, he parachuted into Greece near the town of Kalamata. He gradually moved through the Peloponnese to the Argolis and Corinthia Prefecture. There he spent the winter of 1943 and the spring of 1944. His mission was to arm and assist the 'officer bands', the non-communist guerilla groups. However, the pre-existing structure of the Greek People's Liberation Army meant that by October 1943 only the communist resistance were strong enough to continue the fight against the occupiers. Fraser described his relationship with the EAM-ELAS as "the worst, since my original mission in that area was to try to find and, having found, to arm non-ELAS 'andartes' ".[6]

In 1944, he led a raid on a Nazi airfield near Argos, resulting in its successful destruction.[1][3] By the end of the war, he was effectively the commander of Volos.[1]

Academic career[edit]

In 1948, Fraser was made University Lecturer in Hellenistic History at the University of Oxford. As he was not made a fellow of one of the colleges at this time, he did not undertake tutorial teaching, but focused on research and lecturing.[6] In the early 1950s, he taught undergraduates, including George Forrest, early Roman history from a Greek perspective.[1] In 1954, he was appointed Fellow of All Souls College, the post-graduate only college, where he would supervise doctoral students.[7] He supervised Fergus Millar during his D. Phil..[6] He was promoted to Reader in Hellenistic History in 1964.[4] He retired from his university lecture post in 1985 and from his college fellowship in 1987.[3]

He held a number of college appointments at All Souls. He was Domestic Bursar between 1962 and 1965. He was Sub-Warden from 1980 to 1982, and from 1985 to 1987, served as acting warden of the college.[4] He held the position in place of Patrick Neill during the first two years of his period as Vice-Chancellor.[1]

He held a number of positions outside the University of Oxford. He succeeded Peter Megaw in 1968 as director of the British School at Athens. He held the position to 1971.[4] He was Visiting Professor of Classical Studies at Indiana University Bloomington for the academic year 1973 to 1974.[6] He chaired the Society of Afghan Studies from 1972 to 1982.[3]

Later life[edit]

Fraser was made an Emeritus Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford in 1995, a position he held till his death.[7]

He died on 15 September 2007, at the age of 89. He was survived by his six children and his third wife. His ashes were interred in the British Military Cemetery on the Greek island of Cephalonia.[3]

His grave stone states:[8]

Peter Marshall Fraser MC

6.4.1918 – 15.8.2007


Yet leaving here a name I trust

That will not perish in the dust

Personal life[edit]

Fraser married three times and had six children. He first marriage was in 1940 to Catharine Heaton-Renshaw. They had four children together; one son and three daughters. They divorced. His second marriage was to Ruth Elsbeth Renfer in 1955. Together they had two sons. His final marriage was to Barbara Ann Stewart in 1973. They did not have children.[3][4]

One of his son's by Ruth, Alex Fraser (born 23 July 1959), followed his father into the academic world and is currently chief operating officer of the Cass Business School, City University London.[9][10]


On 4 January 1945, Fraser was awarded the Military Cross (MC) 'in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the field'.[11]

Military cross BAR.svg War Medal 39-45 BAR.svg

In 1960, he was elected Fellow of the British Academy (FBA).[7] He was awarded a number of honorary degrees: in 1984, an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy (Dr. Phil) by the University of Trier; in 1996, an Honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) by La Trobe University; and in 2002 an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) by the University of Athens.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e Hornblower, Simon (25 September 2007). "Peter Fraser". The Independent. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  2. ^ Hornblower, Simon (2008). "Peter Fraser MA, MC, FBA (1918–2007)". The Annual of the British School at Athens. 103: 1–7. doi:10.1017/s0068245400000046. JSTOR 30245259. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Peter Fraser". The Times. 11 October 2007. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "FRASER, Peter Marshall". Who Was Who. A & C Black. November 2012. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  5. ^ "(Supplement) no. 35262". The London Gazette. 29 August 1941. pp. 5093–5094. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Professor Stathis Kalyvas; Professor Fergus Millar; Professor Tony Honoré (31 May 2008). "Peter Marshall Fraser- A Commemoration" (pdf). All Souls College. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c "British Academy Fellows". Deceased Fellows. British Academy. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  8. ^ "Peter Marshall Fraser MC". C5D-Certificates. Retrieved 11 July 2013. 
  9. ^ "Governance". Cass Business School. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  10. ^ "FRASER, Julian Alexander, (Alex)". Who's Who 2013. A & C Black. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  11. ^ "(Supplement) no. 36876". The London Gazette. 2 January 1945. p. 210. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 

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