Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Professor Frank Walbank Obituary

Tomorrow's Times has an obituary of a renowned classical scholar whose works will be familiar to many:

Professor Frank Walbank: historian of classical antiquity
. . . . Throughout his life the bulk of this activity was devoted to the history and historiography of the post-Alexander period of ancient Greek history. By 1930 the publication of newly found inscriptions and papyri was transforming access to a period which had suffered from comparison with the Golden Age of 5th and 4th-century BC Greece; Walbank was among the first to see and seize the opportunity. The history came first, with biographies of two first-rank figures, Aratos of Sicyon (1933) and King Philip V of Macedon (1940). Lucid, comprehensive and judicious, they became and remain standard works of reference.

Behind them, however, lay the historian Polybius, whose surviving text, still substantial though a pitiful torso of the original 40 books, had had no commentary since the 1790s. From 1942 onwards Walbank set himself to fill that gap. Vol I, covering the fully extant books I-VI, came out in 1957, II in 1967 and III in 1979. Within that invaluable, peculiarly Anglo-Saxon genre of detailed “historical commentary” on ancient historical texts, they are reckoned to have set the gold standard: his appreciation of Johann Schweighauser’s 18th-century edition — “the more one works with this, the more one comes to admire its thoroughness and sound common sense” — applies with equal force to his own . . .
Walbank died on 23 October this year, aged 98.

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