Professor Alan Cameron (1938-2017)

Alan Cameron, the Charles Anthon Professor Emeritus of Latin and Literature at Columbia University, died on July 31st at the age of 79 in New York while receiving treatment for complications arising from ALS. Alan was educated at St. Paul’s School in London, and at New College, Oxford, where he was awarded a first class degree in Literae Humaniores in 1961. Without ever needing to complete a Phd, a point of considerable amusement and pride, Alan took up teaching positions in Glasgow and London before joining the Columbia faculty in 1977; he remained in the department until his retirement in 2008.

Alan had an unrivalled expertise in the history and literature of Hellenistic Greece and Late Antiquity and an infallible command of Greek and Latin philology that included both the canonical and more recondite areas of the corpus. Combining his impeccable knowledge with innovative approaches, an engaging style, and a zest for challenging and upending long-established views, Alan produced scholarship that ranged as broadly as its learning was deep. His publication record runs to many pages (over 200 articles plus more than a dozen books), and his discussions remain ‘must read’ items for those in any number of different areas, religion, social and political history, mythology, and the history of classical scholarship among them. Among his most ground-breaking books are Circus Factions: Blues and Greens at Rome and Byzantium (1976), Callimachus and his Critics (winner of the APA Goodwin Prize in 1997), Greek Mythography in the Roman World (2004) and The Last Pagans of Rome (2011), and a sampling of only his most recent essays (‘Psyche and her Sisters’, ‘Black and White: A Note on Ancient Nicknames’, ‘On the Date of John of Gaza’ and ‘Notes on the Erotic Art of Rufinus’) stands testament to Alan’s boundless intellectual range and curiosity as well as his facility for eye-catching titles.

In addition to his tireless scholarly activity, his participation in conferences and willingness to deliver lectures in many parts of the world, and the recognition he received in the form of many honors (among them he was made a fellow of the British Academy in 1975 and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1978), Alan was an immensely popular and much revered teacher at all levels. Generations of Columbia graduate students, as well as some of Alan’s colleagues, remember with particular fondness and gratitude the classes in Greek and Latin Verse Composition that he used to hold at his New York home. Endlessly hospitable and with friends across the globe, Alan also found time to swim, bike, travel, cultivate a taste for films of sometimes questionable artistic merit, and, as a school boy in company with Martin West, to be one among the three members of the St. Paul’s Astronomy Club.

My colleagues at Columbia and I are deeply saddened by the loss, and extend our deepest condolences to Alan’s wife Carla, his son and daughter and his recently born and much anticipated first grandchild, Silas, whom Alan was able to meet shortly before his death. As more information becomes available about memorial arrangements, we will communicate it here.

Deborah Steiner

John Jay Professor of Greek and Latin


Department of Classics