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In their fathers’ power

Jasper Griffin, 15 October 1987

A History of Private Life. Vol. I: From Pagan Rome to Byzantium 
edited by Paul Veyne.
Harvard, 670 pp., £24.95, May 1987, 0 674 39975 7
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The Roman World 
edited by John Wacher.
Routledge, 2 pp., £100, March 1987, 0 7100 9975 4
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The Roman Empire: Economy, Society and Culture 
edited by Peter Garnsey and Richard Saller.
Duckworth, 231 pp., £24, March 1987, 0 7156 2145 9
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Sexual Life in Ancient Egypt 
by Lisa Manniche.
KPI, 127 pp., £15, June 1987, 0 7103 0202 9
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... Three substantial books on the world of ancient Rome, each in a different idiom. A critic of G.K. Chesterton said that he had a style in which it was impossible to tell the truth; in what style, indeed, can truth be told? Perhaps that aim is altogether too high, and the question should be ‘What style does not condemn us to tell lies?’ To put it in a friendlier way, which sort of sentence do you enjoy reading? There is the Gallic style: ‘The genealogy of ancient education was as follows: from culture to the will to culture, from there to the school, and from the school to the scholastic exercise as an end in itself ...

What the Romans did

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 5 February 1987

English Classical Scholarship: Historical Reflections on Bentley, Porson and Housman 
by C.O. Brink.
James Clark, 243 pp., £11.95, February 1986, 0 227 67872 9
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Latin Poets and Roman Life 
by Jasper Griffin.
Duckworth, 226 pp., £24, January 1986, 0 7156 1970 5
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The Mirror of Myth: Classical Themes and Variations 
by Jasper Griffin.
Faber, 144 pp., £15, February 1986, 0 571 13805 5
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... righteousness which pervade this solid, meritorious but rather stodgy little book. As it happens, Jasper Griffin’s two books protest vigorously against that separation of literature and life which was a final product of Romanticism. They make exhilarating reading. Latin Poets and Roman Life starts with the remark that the Augustan poets of Rome ...

To the crows!

James Davidson, 27 January 1994

The Oldest Dead White European Males, and Other Reflections on the Classics 
by Bernard Knox.
Norton, 144 pp., £12.95, September 1993, 0 393 03492 5
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... finest Classicist of our day’, by Peter Green as one his nation ‘ought to bronze’, and by Jasper Griffin as a man ‘one would like to have as a friend’. In his long career he has written on many subjects: scholarly articles on the heroes of Attic drama in its golden age, unsentimental reminiscences of the Spanish Civil War, accounts of ...

Homer’s Gods

Colin Macleod, 6 August 1981

Homer on Life and Death 
by Jasper Griffin.
Oxford, 218 pp., £12.50, July 1980, 0 19 814016 9
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Homer 
by Jasper Griffin.
Oxford, 82 pp., October 1980, 0 19 287532 9
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Homer: The Odyssey 
translated by Walter Shewring.
Oxford, 346 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 0 19 251019 3
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... Germany and Austria, in the last forty years a body of writing has grown up there which, in Mr Griffin’s phrase, makes ‘intellectually respectable the instinctive response of the audience’. Mr Griffin brings English scholarship up to date by bringing it firmly back to Homer. He generously acknowledges ...

Homer’s Skill

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 2 September 1982

Homer, Iliad XXIV 
by Colin Macleod.
Cambridge, 161 pp., £15, March 1982, 9780521243537
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... Penguin anthology of oral verse, supplies a useful conspectus of the comparative material. Like Jasper Griffin in his brilliant book Homer on Life and Death (1980), Macleod has made use of all this work. He does not believe, as I do, that Homer used writing: but he tells us that he has learned something both from analytic and from formulaic ...

Syme’s Revolution

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 24 January 1980

Roman Papers 
by Ronald Syme, edited by E. Badian.
Oxford, 878 pp., £35, November 1980, 0 19 814367 2
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... poetry and the life of luxury’ and another on ‘Propertius and Antony’, published by Jasper Griffin in the Journal of Roman Studies for 1976 and 1977. But Syme is not only a writer of books: much of his best work is to be found in his numerous articles and in his occasional reviews. Some have already been collected in Ten Studies in Tacitus ...

Who whom?

Christopher Ricks, 6 June 1985

The English Language Today 
edited by Sidney Greenbaum.
Pergamon, 345 pp., £12.50, December 1984, 0 08 031078 8
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The English Language 
by Robert Burchfield.
Oxford, 194 pp., £9.50, January 1985, 9780192191731
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A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language 
by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartvik.
Longman, 1779 pp., £39.50, May 1985, 0 582 51734 6
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Words 
by John Silverlight.
Macmillan, 107 pp., £17.50, May 1985, 9780333380109
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Faux Amis and Key Words: A Dictionary-Guide to French Language, Culture and Society through Lookalikes and Confusables 
by Philip Thody, Howard Evans and Gwilym Rees.
Athlone, 224 pp., £16, February 1985, 0 485 11243 4
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Puns 
by Walter Redfern.
Blackwell, 234 pp., £14.95, October 1984, 0 631 13793 9
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Fair of Speech: The Uses of Euphemism 
edited by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 222 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 19 212236 3
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... these 16 essays) is of how many words were originally euphemisms but are not now felt to be so. Jasper Griffin, in a happily sombre account of Greek and Roman euphemisms, adduces ‘execution’, ‘vagina’ and ‘excrement’. Robert Adams gives us ‘syphilis’. Catherine Storr (uncondescendingly tender about children’s euphemisms) reminds us ...

Like a Meteorite

James Davidson, 31 July 1997

Homer in English 
edited by George Steiner.
Penguin, 355 pp., £9.99, April 1996, 0 14 044621 4
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Homer’s ‘Iliad’ 
translated by Stanley Lombardo.
Hackett, 584 pp., £6.95, May 1997, 0 87220 352 2
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Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ 
translated by Robert Fagles.
Viking, 541 pp., £25, April 1997, 0 670 82162 4
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... dominated student bibliographies; but in the lecture-halls there were signs of a reaction. Jasper Griffin and Oliver Taplin in particular drew attention to the imaginative world of the poet, emphasising unity, humanity and narrative complexity. This seemed a much more rewarding approach to those for whom the most remarkable feature of the epics ...

The Empty Bath

Colin Burrow: ‘The Iliad’, 18 June 2015

Homer: ‘The Iliad’ 
translated by Peter Green.
California, 560 pp., £19.95, May 2015, 978 0 520 28141 7
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... is not any of these things. There is an immense moral seriousness to the Iliad: it conveys – as Jasper Griffin brilliantly showed three decades ago in Homer on Life and Death – the contrast between the darkness of death and the fragile joy of living. But the poem can also be whimsical, magical, ironical and circuitous. Above all it is ...

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