Hugh Lloyd-Jones

Hugh Lloyd-Jones is Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford University. His latest books, Blood for the Ghosts and Classical Survivals, will be reviewed here by M.I. Finley.

Facing both ways

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 19 August 1993

The Italian original of Bisexuality in the Ancient World appeared in 1988, and several new treatments of the topic have appeared since then. First, Kenneth Dover published in The Greeks and their Legacy, the second volume of his collected papers, an article in which he put the case against the theory, lately revived, that the favourable Greek attitude to homosexuality derived from a phase of history in which a young male was prepared for the rites de passage from which he would emerge as a full warrior by the tuition of an older male who was his lover. Further, the American scholar David Halperin published A Hundred Years of Homosexuality (1990), a volume of essays in which he enthusiastically supports Foucault’s view that ‘homosexuality’ is a construction of Western culture that came into being only about a hundred years ago. These problems have also been discussed by another American scholar, the late John J. Winkler, a writer of great ability whose early death is much to be regretted. In The Constraints of Desire (1990) Winkler is mainly concerned with the position of women, but he contributed to Before Sexuality, a book of essays about ‘the construction of erotic experience in the ancient world’, an essay called ‘Laying Down the Law: The Oversight of Men’s Sexual Behaviour in Classical Athens’, in which he assesses the power of moral conventions regulating sexual activity in the Athens of the fourth century.

What the Romans did

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 5 February 1987

Classical education is one thing, critical scholarship is another, and in his sketch of the history of Classical education in England, built around a detailed treatment of its three most celebrated figures, Professor Brink is concerned above all to describe and to make a case for the element of critical scholarship that Classical education may contain. Textual criticism is an important kind of critical scholarship, but it is not the only kind: one must discover what the authors actually wrote, but one must also determine the reliability of the documents and monuments surviving from the Ancient world.

Homage to Scaliger

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 17 May 1984

Joseph Scaliger (1540-1609) was a towering figure in the history of European scholarship. During the first half of his career, he virtually created the systematic study of early Latin; during the second, using Oriental as well as Greek and Latin sources, he laid the foundations of our knowledge of the chronology of the ancient world. Born and brought up at Agen in the west of France, he was the son of Julius Caesar Scaliger, a Latin scholar of distinction, who claimed to be descended from those Della Scalas who were lords of Verona during the Middle Ages. So far as he was able, the elder Scaliger gave his son a thorough training: but he greatly preferred Latin to Greek literature, and his Greek left much to be desired. His son reacted against his father’s anti-Hellenism: after his father’s death, at the age of 18, he made his way to Paris, where the famous Hellenists Turnebus and Auratus were active. With help from them and by his own strenuous efforts, he acquired a remarkable command of Greek, and went on to attain proficiency in Hebrew. By 1562, he had taken the fateful step of becoming a Calvinist. He obtained the patronage of Louis Chasteignier, lord of La Roche-Pozay near Poitiers, and in 1565 accompanied him on a diplomatic mission to Italy. Despite his Calvinistic contempt for Italian scholars and the Catholic Church – he preferred talking Hebrew with the learned Jews of Mantua and Ferrara to cultivating the society of Italian Humanists – he was inspired by the sight of Rome and the opportunity to copy inscriptions. Returning home in 1567, he found his studies interrupted by the religious wars of that and the following year. Making his way to Valence, in Dauphiné, he spent two years under the aegis of the great jurist Cujacius, who had an important influence upon his work. After the massacre of St Bartholomew in August 1572, he fled to Geneva, where he had contacts with other Protestant men of letters. Largely owing to the protection of the La Roche-Pozay family, he managed to carry on his work during the wars of the League. But in 1593, the year when Henri IV decided that Paris was worth a mass, he accepted the offer of a chair at the newly founded university of Leiden, which had already become one of the chief cultural centres of Europe. Here he taught such pupils as Daniel Heinsius and Grotius, and here he died in 1609.–

Homer’s Skill

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 2 September 1982

The thorough understanding of a difficult text, even of one written in one’s own language, may be made far easier by a good commentary. Eliot himself provided, if not a commentary, useful notes upon The Waste Land, and an Oxford don, John Fuller, has written an excellent commentary on Auden’s poems. In the case of a text written in an ancient language, a commentary is particularly useful. The Greeks themselves had started to write commentaries on Greek poems as early as the fourth century BC. In the first place, a commentary on an ancient text must explain the meaning of the words. But a commentary need not be narrowly linguistic, like that expounded by the Victorian schoolmaster who began the term by saying to his sixth form, ‘Boys, you are about to enjoy the privilege of studying the Oedipus Coloneus of Sophocles, a veritable treasure-house of grammatical particularities’; neither need it concentrate narrowly on the establishment of the author’s correct text, like Housman’s famous commentary on the astrological poem of Manilius. Wilamowitz and other German scholars of the 19th century held that a good commentary should explain the subject-matter of the text it illustrates; its author will need to know history, archaeology and linguistics, as well as literature and language. A commentary should also pay attention to the author’s style, and here not all learned persons have been equally successful; it helps if the writer of the commentary has a style himself. The most learned commentary written in the English language on a Greek or Latin text, the commentary on Aeschylus’s Agamemnon written by the late Eduard Fraenkel, tries to fulfil all these requirements: but readers who are not professional scholars may well find it too exhaustive. The commentaries on the seven plays of Sophocles published during the last quarter of the 19th century by the Cambridge scholar, Sir Richard Jebb, had certain technical deficiencies, even when they were new, and the writer’s taste was naturally that of a man of his own time. But they are a singular, if not a unique, example of a commentary which is not only a work of learning but a literary study, and is itself a work of literary art.

Prodigious Powers

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 21 January 1982

This posthumous work provides yet more evidence of the phenomenal energy and wide range of information of the late Arnold Toynbee. He returns to a question which had interested him from the start of his career, and in order to appreciate the application to it of his mature method, a summary of that career is needed. It can be given with the help of the obituary notice contributed to the Proceedings of the British Academy for 1977 by William McNeill, an American scholar who has a close affinity with his subject.

Eminent Athenians

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 1 October 1981

It is natural to contrast this book with The Victorians and Ancient Greece, by Richard Jenkyns, reviewed by me in the issue of this journal for 21 August-3 September 1980 (Vol. 2, No 16). Mr Jenkyns is a Classical scholar and a smooth and polished writer; I wrote that he ‘offers a great deal of information, clearly and pleasingly’. Professor Turner is a historian, the author of a study of the impact of scientific naturalism on Victorian England; he describes Macaulay’s style as ‘elegant’, and though he writes clearly enough, the adjective is not one that fits his own. He makes some mistakes which Mr Jenkyns would never have made; he cannot spell the names of Wilamowitz or de Quincey, or the word ‘Nicomachean’; he thinks Pindar was Athenian; he imagines that Frazer’s commentary on Pausanias, with its wealth of artistic, religious and historical detail, is a work similar to a critical edition of a text by Porson; and the knowledge that Exeter College, Oxford has a dining-hall, in which William Sewell once publicly burned a copy of Froude’s Nemesis of Faith, has led him to refer to it by the name of Exeter Hall, a building in London where Elderess Polly, Elderess Antoinette and other Nonconformist orators dear to Matthew Arnold used to edify the public. But where Mr Jenkyns is trivial, superficial and patronising, Professor Turner is serious, thorough and understanding. He is extremely well-informed, and, where necessary, well able to take account of Continental influences; and he knows how to detect and to delineate general tendencies. Jenkyns’s book is a pleasant entertainment for the casual reader, but Turner’s is an intelligent critical study of great value. It is handsomely printed, and the numerous misprints do not seriously impede the reader; and it is well illustrated, though I hope no future author will reproduce the ghastly portrait of Gilbert Murray by a relation which the National Portrait Gallery foolishly accepted.

Theories of Myth

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 19 March 1981

Until a comparatively short time ago most books purporting to deal with Greek mythology were content only to relate the myths, fighting shy of any attempt to explain that part of their significance which is not apparent on the surface. The proliferation of theories of myth which started about 1830 and finished, roughly speaking, at the beginning of the First World War was followed by a positivist reaction. One of the main causes of this reaction was the insistence of most of the proponents of theories about myth that their theory alone explained all myths, or at least most of them, Some of the theories could be made to explain almost anything: for example, an American scholar could use the theory, widely canvassed during the 19th century, that all myths originated as nature myths to prove that its advocate, Max Muller, was himself a sun-myth. The members of the ‘Cambridge’ school, who did valuable pioneering work on the use of anthropological methods, made the mistake of insisting too strongly that myth originated from ritual. This provoked a strong adverse reaction.

Gods and Heroes

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 18 December 1980

The vast number of books and articles devoted to Sophocles since the Second World War shows he arouses great interest, but, though we now have an English translation of Karl Reinhardt’s famous book about him, which first appeared in 1933, we have so far had no general study of the seven complete plays that was of high quality throughout. Professor Winnington-lngram has brought out many excellent interpretations of Greek tragedy: now he offers us a study of Sophocles that is not likely to be improved upon for many years.

Feet on the mantelpiece

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 21 August 1980

Until the 18th century modern Europe had in the main seen Ancient Greece through Latin spectacles. Important advances in Greek studies had been made, but their effect had been restricted, since few were able to read the language easily – in particular, the difficult language of the greatest writers. The first country in which serious efforts were made to see Ancient Greece directly was Germany. The efforts would hardly have been possible without the work of scholars, some of whom were able both to advance the knowledge of the Ancient world and to communicate their learning and enthusiasm to others, but the spreading of enthusiasm was to a greater extent the work of creative writers, among whom Lessing, Goethe and Schiller played a leading part. These men assumed that Ancient literature, as well as Ancient art, were directly accessible to modern minds, and produced masterpieces to which their study of Ancient masterpieces made an obvious contribution. Greek art and literature inspired in them an enthusiasm comparable with that which the men of the Italian Renaissance had felt for Roman art and literature, or for Greco-Roman culture in general, and their approach to it was not yet conditioned by the historical sense which succeeding generations were to develop.

Defence of poetry

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 3 July 1980

Professor Stanford, who this year retires from the Regius Chair of Greek at Trinity College, Dublin after 40 years in office, feels that ‘creative literature is being used more and more as material for history or archaeology or psychology.’ He therefore sets out to defend the poetic element in literature against disparagement and neglect. He cites much modern as well as ancient literature, and seems to wish his book to be relevant to modern as well as ancient poetry, but much of what he says seems principally concerned with the case of Greek studies.

Glaucus and Ione

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 17 April 1980

The recent Pompeii exhibition has been a success in America; and this is why we are offered a handsome new edition of Bulwer-Lytton’s novel, based upon one produced at the Officina Bodoni in Verona for the Limited Editions Club. Sixteen reproductions of Pompeian paintings from the catalogue of the exhibition illustrate the book; there are also some somewhat drab woodcuts by Kurt Craemer. There is a lively introduction by Edgar Johnson.

Syme’s Revolution

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 24 January 1980

During the fifty years that have elapsed since the publication of the earliest of the essays collected in these volumes, there has been a revolution in the study of Roman history in which Ronald Syme has played a part comparable with that of Augustus in the revolution which his most famous book describes. When his career began, that study was still dominated by the gigantic figure of Theodor Mommsen, who was born in 1817 and died in 1903, the year of Syme’s birth. The History of Rome which made Mommsen familiar to the general reader – it even earned him one of the earliest Nobel Prizes for Literature – was only one item in his vast output, and was viewed by him with some misgiving as a popularising work. More important, in his view, were his detailed studies of the Roman provinces, his immense contribution to the collection and publication of inscriptions, his planning of the great series of Monumenta Germaniae Historica, his comprehensive works on Roman public and private law. Mommsen began from the study of Roman private law: a fact that had great consequences. For all his power to portray individuals, he was above all a student of institutions. The flaw in his approach to history was that it was too legalistic. ‘He codified Roman law more than the Romans ever did,’ writes Arnaldo Momigliano, ‘instead of trying to see how the Roman ruling class built the system of their own government to ensure order in the State and continuity to their own rule.’

A.E. Housman and Biography

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 22 November 1979

There is, as Richard Graves points out, no general biography of Housman. The books about him by Laurence Housman, Grant Richards and Percy Withers are valuable, because these men knew Housman and could describe him: but they are not biographies. George Watson’s A.E. Housman: A Divided Life is more like one, but it is not quite one; of Norman Marlow and Maude Hawkins I say nothing. The most satisfying book about Housman is A.S.F. Gow’s Housman: A Sketch, but as Mr Graves says, its aims are limited, since it is mainly concerned with Housman’s scholarship.


Manly Decency

23 April 1992

Professor Boris Ford (LRB, 23 April) thinks there is a Regius Chair of English at Cambridge. There is indeed a King Edward VII Chair of English Literature, founded, surprisingly enough, as a memorial to that monarch. But a Regius Chair is a chair founded by a king, and Edward VII did not found the chair. When its second holder, Q, was asked whether he did, he replied by quoting the one line of Wordsworth’s...

Non Grata

4 May 1989

No one who knows me will deny that I am a Conservative. Someone in New York once said: ‘If that man took another step to the right, he’d fall off the world.’ That is why I am writing to say how strongly I agree with the protests of Nicholas Penny (Diary, 4 May) and of Sir John Pope-Hennessy (New York Review of Books, 4 May) against the behaviour of the Government, the trustees whom...

The Oxford Vote

7 March 1985

SIR: Professor Pulzer (LRB, 7 March) is living in a dream world. The old Butskellite consensus for which he hankers could not continue, because the time came when the country had to realise that it must earn its living in a competitive world, and by its tolerance of the greedy and stupid oafs who were running the big trade unions the Butskellite consensus was making that impossible. I have suffered,...


19 July 1984

SIR: J.I.M. Stewart’s excellent review of Mrs Spurling’s Secrets of a Woman’s Heart (LRB, 19 July) contains interesting remarks about the sources of Ivy Compton-Burnett’s fiction. Miss Compton-Burnett herself told me that she had been influenced by stichomythia, the kind of dialogue in which each speaker utters one line or two lines in turn in Greek tragedy.

Modern Prejudice

2 December 1982

SIR: I yield to none in admiration for the great contribution to the social and economic history of the ancient world made by Sir Moses Finley, which, as he himself acknowledges, I have more than once praised in print: so that when I saw the titles of two books of mine and that of a third in which I had some part prefaced to an essay of his printed in your columns (LRB, 2 December 1982), I was gratified...
SIR: Clive James, in his excellent article about Christopher Brennan (LRB, 15 July), has not done justice to the article ‘On the Manuscripts of Aeschylus’ which Brennan published in the Journal of Philology for 1894. Mr James writes that ‘the only thing that came out of it was a mention, with qualified approval, in a footnote to Sidgwick’s edition of Aeschylus.’ Brennan...

New Evidence

5 November 1981

SIR: The benign and generous notice of History and Imagination: Essays in Honour of H.R. Trevor-Roper by Mr A.J.P. Taylor that appeared in your last issue (LRB, 5 November) has given me so much pleasure that I am reluctant to complain of anything that it contains. But I cannot refrain from commenting on Mr Taylor’s belief that Classical studies are concerned with a body of evidence that never...

Jesus Christie

Richard Wollheim, 3 October 1985

There are, I am sure, in the lives of all of us except perhaps the most low-spirited, some four or five people whom we cannot forgive. By this I do not mean anything necessarily moral. We...

Read More

Modern Prejudice

M.I. Finley, 2 December 1982

Of the 53 short essays, book reviews, lectures and obituaries assembled in Hugh Lloyd-Jones’s two volumes, two were published in the year before he assumed the Regius Professorship of Greek...

Read More

Tribute to Trevor-Roper

A.J.P. Taylor, 5 November 1981

The festschrift, a collection of essays in honour of a senior professor, used to be dismissed as a rather tiresome German habit. Now, I think, it has become embedded in English academic...

Read More

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences