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Kenyon Medal for Classical Studies

Sir Frederic Kenyon (1863–1952), elected a Fellow in 1903 and serving in turn as the Academy’s sixth President and second Secretary, bequeathed to the Academy a sum to provide a medal to be awarded biennially (or at longer intervals if necessary) to the author of some work relating to classical literature or archaeology.


Recent winners

2005: Professor Fergus Millar, FBA

Formerly Camden Professor of Ancient History, University of Oxford

Professor Fergus Millar’s scholarly activity, over a period of more than four decades, has been outstanding by the highest international standards and his work is read in all parts of the world where classical ancient history is studied.

After a period in which attention was focused excessively on the careers and connections of leading men, he has been responsible for a new approach to the working of the Roman state both under the Republic and under the Principate. His major book on the Principate, The Emperor in the Roman World, was published in 1977.

The Kenyon Medal is awarded for the book, which represents the climax of his work on the Republic, The Crowd in Rome in the Late Republic (University of Michigan Press, 1998). Since then he has brought the citizen body back into the Republic, and his major articles in these two areas have been republished in two substantial volumes, The Roman Republic and the Augustan Revolution (2002) and Government, Society and Culture in the Roman Empire (2004).

He is among the most influential ancient historians of the twentieth century.

2003: Professor John Nicolas Coldstream, FBA

Professor Nicolas Coldstream’s work constitutes a contribution of the utmost distinction in at least three areas. First is his wide canvass of the Early Iron Age in Greece and its impact on the Mediterranean world at large, from Phoenicia in the East to the areas beyond Italy in the West. Here his standing is unrivalled internationally.

Second category, is the Early Iron Age in Cyprus, where in the matter of Greek Geometric influence and its implications he has broken new ground and his teaching as well as his writing have had a huge influence, not least upon the younger workers in that field. Third is the study of Early Iron Age Crete which has been powerfully affected by his work and insights.

Several books of his have reached 'classic' standing even though they appeared relatively early in his career. His Greek Geometric Pottery; A survey of ten local styles and their chronology of 1968 has become a pillar of reference and will remain so for many years to come. His Geometric Greece of 1977 embraced a wider range of material also made use of subsequent excavation results, particularly in Campania, Etruria and above all in the Far West of Southern Spain. A new edition is at present in the final stages of preparation and will no doubt bring much that is both important, and new.

A Festschrift, Klados, published in 1995 contains his bibliography up to 1992, as well as evaluations of his work by other eminent scholars including Fellows of the Academy.

2002: Dr Martin Litchfield West

Among classical scholars, and in the field of ancient Greek literature, Martin West’s intellect and productivity have put him in a class of his own. In a career of 35 years, he has published 15 major books, several smaller books, and nearly 200 incisive and original papers. All of his writings maintain the highest standards of traditional scholarship, combining acute intelligence and technical mastery with an admirable clarity and directness of mind and style.

His work falls into three overlapping categories.

First of all, he is the author of the standard manuals of Textual Criticism (1978), Greek Metre (1982) and Greek Music (1992). In case ‘manual’ suggests a second-hand compilation, it should be explicitly stated that all three books represent a deeply original viewpoint. Secondly, in the editing and explication of Greek poetic texts, West has contributed exemplary editions of the fragments of Hesiod (with R. Merkelbach, 1967); of the Greek Iambic and Elegiac poets (1971-2; 2 1989, 1992); of the Anacreontea (1984; 2 1993); of Aeschylus (1990); and of the Iliad (vol. I, 1998). His contribution to Iambus and Elegy was reinforced by invaluable adversaria in Studies in Greek Elegy and Iambus (1974), and his papers on Greek lyric poetry would in themselves make a substantial volume. He celebrated the millennium with a new text of the fundamental poem of Western civilization, Homer’s Iliad. In addition, there are critical texts, with magisterial commentaries, of Hesiod’s Theogony (1966) and Works and Days (1978), and The Orphic Poems (1983) and The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women (1985), which reconstruct with great acumen and ingenuity two literary genres familiar to the Greeks but lost to us except in fragments. Thirdly, his interest in the Greeks and the Orient, first exemplified in Early Greek Philosophy and the Orient (1971), recently reemerged in The East Face of Helicon (1997), a comprehensive and timely investigation of parallels between Greek literature and the literatures of the Ancient Near East based on first-hand acquaintance with the texts.

In the field of classical scholarship, as traditionally understood, Martin West is to be judged, on any reckoning, the most brilliant and productive Greek scholar of his generation, not just in the United Kingdom, but worldwide.

1999: Professor B B Shefton, FBA

At this very moment, Professor Shefton is participating in celebrations in the University of Newcastle to mark his 80th birthday. Arrangements have been made for the medal to be presented to him there by the Vice-Chancellor of the University. The citation which I am going to read will be read in a special ceremony there.

Brian Shefton is a classical art historian of remarkable range. His work has always depended on absolute control of all primary evidence. This has been used, at one level, to write what is still the most useful History of Greek Vases, marrying pictures, description and interpretation, but unfortunately long out of print. His other studies have concentrated upon the full range of artefacts, notably metalwork, and not only in matters of classification but with especial reference to finds in east and west. He has become the leading authority for interpretation of Greek presence in the Iberian peninsula in the archaic and classical periods, while at the other end of the Mediterranean he has explored the relationship of Greeks, Anatolians and Persians, largely through their metalwork. In Newcastle University he created a museum of classical antiquities which now bears his name, unique for a living scholar. His teaching and example have touched the work of more than one generation of students, and his readiness to address scholars outside Britain has made him a prime ambassador of British classical archaeological achievement and a most worthy recipient of the Academy's Kenyon Medal.

1997: Professor R. G. M. Nisbet, FBA

Three years after his retirement, Robin Nisbet's Collected Papers on Latin Literature reminded us of the centrality of his classical interests: Virgil, Catullus, Horace, Juvenal – the great names recur. They reminded us, too, of his increasing confidence in diagnosing and remedying corruptions in the text of these authors; of his fertile linking of history and literature; of the qualities of his style, wit, lucidity, no word wasted; and of the humanity and good sense that attends the learning. One of his very earliest works, an edition of Cicero's speech against Piso, already showed his mastery of the commentator's art: the problems facing a reader of the text are unerringly identified and concisely addressed. The flowering of this art came in the famous commentaries on the first two books of Horace's Odes, produced in happy collaboration with Margaret Hubbard. Like few other commentaries they repay reading all through, for their perceptiveness, their lightly carried learning, and not least for the aptness of the parallels, which are cited not to display erudition but to illuminate a point and to demonstrate the continuity of a great tradition. With these books Robin Nisbet set a benchmark for future commentators on Latin poetry as surely as he influenced, by his example and his good-humoured encouragement, a long succession of distinguished pupils.

1995: Sir John Boardman, FBA

Sir John Boardman has achieved distinction in every area of his discipline – notably as a field archaeologist in his earlier years, and as an outstanding exponent of the history of Greek art more recently. The significance of his work on engraved gems cannot be overstated: the originality and importance of this alone would entitle him to lasting academic distinction. For the Kenyon Medal, however, it is appropriate to cite one particular work in a different field: The Greeks Overseas, a book first published in 1964, re-issued in a new edition in 1973 and finally, in 1980, presented in a new and enlarged form. It is appropriate not only because it is work of enormously wide appeal, crossing the boundaries of disciplines, eagerly consulted in the more than 20 modern countries which it covers, and of interest to every archaeologist and historian of Europe, Western Asia or North Africa; but also because it is a unique tour de force, a book without either precedent or successor. Its currency and vitality as a primary source for scholars, more than 30 years after its first appearance, represents an unmatched achievement.


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