Friday, October 08, 2004

Michael Grant

"Professor Michael Grant, who died in August, 2004, was a don at Cambridge, Professor of Humanity (Latin) at Edinburgh, and vice-chancellor at the Universities of Khartoum and Queen's, Belfast, but was best known as a prolific populariser of ancient history who published nearly 50 books on the Greeks, Romans and early Christianity.

Grant was always a lucid and erudite writer, who took the view that a study of the classical world was both "infinitely worth studying in its own right, without any consideration of modern analogies" and also that "without Latin, people are handicapped because they do not understand their past, and cannot therefore effectively plan their futures".

This attitude did nothing to impede his range, nor his appeal to the ordinary reader as well as the academic professional. As well as scholarly publications on the coinage of Rome (he was a distinguished numismatist), he produced biographies of Julius Caesar, Nero, Herod, Cleopatra, Jesus, St Peter and St Paul; accounts of the literature, history, art, mythology and social life of Greece and Rome; and found time to examine the Middle Ages and ancient Israel.

Books such as The Twelve Caesars (1975) and Gladiators (which was reissued recently after Ridley Scott's film) sold well in Penguin editions and enabled him to boast of a position as "one of the very few freelances in the field of ancient history" and, for the last 30 years or so, to work from his home in Italy.

The first of his general surveys, Ancient History (1952), and its companion Roman Literature (1954) immediately made clear his gifts of clarity and scholarship. Myths of the Greeks and Romans appeared in 1962, was twice updated, and was followed by Roman Myths. The Climax of Rome (1968) dealt with the neglected period of Rome after the second century AD; The Ancient Historians (1970) summarised the development - the invention, almost - of history; The Army of the Caesars (1974), The Twelve Caesars and The Roman Emperors (1985) covered the rule and supremacy of Rome.

But there was scarcely an aspect of ancient life which did not receive Grant's attention: The History of Rome (1978); The Jews in the Roman World (1973); Art in the Roman Empire (1995); The Classical Greeks (1989); The Hellenistic Greeks (1990) and many more were ground out by his pen." - The News Telegraph