Philip Vellacott

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Philip Humphrey Vellacott (16 January 1907 – 24 August 1997) was an English classical scholar, known for his numerous translations of Greek tragedy.

He was born at Grays, Essex and educated at St Paul's School, London and Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he was awarded a double first in the Classics Tripos.[1]

During the 1930s, he taught at Liverpool University, and schools including Dulwich College, London. He carried on teaching through the Second World War, as he was a conscientious objector. It was during his time as a teacher that he completed most of his Penguin Books classical translations centred on the works of Aeschylus, Euripides and Theophrastus. Apart from the quality of his translations, his lucid introductions to ancient Greek theatre and the plays he translated gave a sense of time, place, history and legend, as well as the tragedy and humour within each play, and the many skills employed by the playwright. Two particular insights stand out in the face of other critical appraisers of Euripides over the centuries: his appreciation of the playwright's persistent and often subtle use of irony, and his understanding of Euripides' formidable and equally subtle defence of women in the male-dominated world of ancient Greece - a world not dissimilar to the one in which Vellacott was brought up. In that sense, he was very much a man before his time.

Vellacott lectured on Greek drama on 4 tours in the USA and spent time as a Visiting Lecturer at the University of California at Santa Cruz.[2] He retired in 1967 to Radnorshire, where he carried on writing until his death in 1997.

In 1939 he married Nancy Agnew. The artist Elisabeth Vellacott was his sister.[1]

Works, other than translations[edit]

  • Ordinary Latin (1962)
  • Writing in Latin (1970) with D. P. Simpson
  • Sophocles and Oedipus: A Study of Oedipus Tyrannus with a New Translation (1971)
  • Ironic drama. A study of Euripides' method and meaning (1975)
  • Logic of Tragedy: Morals and Integrity in Aeschylus' Oresteia (1984)
  • The English Reader's Guide to Sophocles' Two Oedipus Plays (1993)


  • Aeschylus: The Oresteian Trilogy (Agamemnon, The Choephori, The Eumenides) (1956)
  • Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound and other plays (Prometheus Bound, The Suppliants, Seven Against Thebes, The Persians) (1961)
  • Euripides: Alcestis and other plays (Hippolytus, Iphigenia in Tauris, Alcestis) (1953) (republished as Three Plays (1972))
  • Euripides: The Bacchae and other plays (Ion, The Women of Troy, Helen, The Bacchae) (1954)
  • Euripides: Medea and other plays (Medea, Hecabe, Electra, Heracles) (1963)
  • Euripides: Orestes and other plays (The Children of Heracles, Andromache, The Suppliant Women, The Phoenician Women, Orestes, Iphigenia in Aulis) (1972)
  • Theophrastus: The Characters, and Menander: Plays and Fragments (1967)


  1. ^ a b Independent, obituary by Richard Luckett (see External Links).
  2. ^ Euripides: The Bacchae and other plays (Ion, The Women of Troy, Helen, The Bacchae) (1954)

External links[edit]