Obituary: Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 1922-2009

January 7, 2010

A leading Classics scholar, known for his forceful views on Christians, socialists, many of his fellow academics and most aspects of the modern world, has died.

Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones was born on 21 September 1922 and educated at the French Lycee and Westminster School in London, where his dazzling talents as a linguist soon became evident.

Although he embarked on a degree at Christ Church, Oxford, he interrupted his studies in 1940 by joining up at the earliest possible opportunity to aid the war effort. Having rapidly mastered the Japanese language, he spent the war working for the Intelligence Corps in the Far East.

After graduating with great distinction in 1948, Sir Hugh spent six years as a fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, before returning to Oxford as the first E.P. Warren praelector at Corpus Christi - where he came up with various ruses to circumvent the American benefactor's stipulation that the holder of the post should not be allowed to teach women.

He is said to have proposed to his first wife, Frances Hedley, while marking a translation she had done by adding the words: "This prose is gamma, but you are alpha."

In 1960, at the age of just 38, Sir Hugh was appointed Oxford's Regius professor of Greek. He was knighted on retirement in 1989.

Deeply versed in traditional textual scholarship, Sir Hugh produced three volumes of Academic Papers as well as editions of a newly discovered play by Menander, the works of Sophocles (with Nigel Wilson) and surviving fragments of Hellenistic poetry (with Peter Parsons).

His trenchant study of Greek religion, The Justice of Zeus (1971), remains a landmark in the field.

He was also an impassioned advocate for the Classics, through translations and books such as Blood for the Ghosts: Classical Influences in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (1982) and Greek in a Cold Climate (1991).

Mary Beard, professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, described him as "a fantastic populariser" whose "work in opening up the history of Classical scholarship was very important. The parodic image of him as a narrow-minded conservative is misleading. He was always interested in getting a wide intellectual audience. Once you got through the bluster and his own self-mythologisation as a bully, you found someone who was clever, engaging and delighted to be stood up to."

Long plagued by ill health, Sir Hugh died on 5 October 2009 after a routine operation.

He is survived by his second wife, Mary Lefkowitz, and by two sons and a daughter from his first marriage.

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