Martin Litchfield West

Martin Litchfield West
Born (1937-09-23)23 September 1937
London, England
Died 13 July 2015(2015-07-13) (aged 77)
Oxford, England
Nationality British
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford[1]
Occupation Professor, academic and author
Known for Classics scholar
Honours OM

Martin Litchfield West, OM, FBA (23 September 1937 – 13 July 2015) was a British classical scholar.

He wrote 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.

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 Eduard Fraenkel at Corpus Christi College, Oxford.[2][3] 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 East Face of Helicon (1997), defended his view that it derives significant influences and inspiration from 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.[4][5] A distinguished Hellenist, he however declined to campaign actively for the maintenance of a chair at London University;

West died in 2015 in Oxford at the age of 77.[6] Fellow Oxford academic Armand D'Angour paid tribute to him as 'a man of few words in seven languages.'[7]

Awards and honours

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.[10]

Academic teaching and research history


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, Massachusetts: 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, Massachusetts: 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[11]
  • The Hymns of Zoroaster: A New Translation of the Most Ancient Sacred Texts of Iran, Leiden, 2010.
  • Homerus, Odyssea, ed. M. L. West, (Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana), De Gruyter: Berlin 2017 (posthumous)

Selected articles

His works also include contributions to dictionaries and books and more than 200 articles and papers since 1960.

See also



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