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History of the Classics Department

From the founding to the present

George SaleClassics has been taught at the University of Otago since its establishment in 1869, with the Chair of Classics being one of the three foundation chairs. George Samuel Sale was the first to hold this position and he remained Professor of Classics until his retirement in 1908.

Sale was followed by Thomas D. Adams, who was appointed in 1917 and held the post until 1948. Adams’s staff included the prominent art historian A. D. Trendall, who helped to procure a good proportion of the collection of antiquities now displayed in the Otago Museum.

Guy MantonThe department’s third professor was Guy Manton, who held the Chair from 1949 until 1965. Internationally recognized scholars who taught at Otago during this period include Agathe Thornton (Living universe: gods and men in Virgil’s Aeneid; Maori Oral Literature as seen by a Classicist), J. R. Hamilton (Plutarch: Alexander, a commentary), J.K. Anderson (Ancient Greek Horsemanship) and (briefly) A. A. Long.

Kenneth Quinn, best known for his work on Catullus and Virgil, succeeded Manton as Professor of Classics in 1965 before departing in 1969. John Barsby portraitRichard Mulgan held the Chair at Otago from 1970-77, a period that saw a healthy expansion of student numbers in Classical Studies.

John Barsby, internationally renowned for his research on Ovid and Roman comedy, was appointed to the Chair in 1978, a post that he held until 2002. (His books include Ovid: Amores 1; Bacchides: Plautus, edited with a commentary; Eunuchus: Terence.) William Dominik was appointed to the Chair in 2002 and served as Head of Department for eight years. (His books include The Mythic Voice of Statius and Speech and Rhetoric in Statius' Thebaid.) Dr Patricia Hannah took over the role as Head between 2010 and 2012. Associate Professor Jon Hall was appointed to the post of Head of Department in 2013 (and was appointed Professor in 2016). William Dominik left the university in 2015 and was appointed Emeritus Professor in the same year.