Feb. 29, 1996
Vol. 15, No. 12

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    Obituary: Arthur Adkins, Classical Lang. & Lit.

    Arthur W.H. Adkins, the Edward Olson Professor in Classical Languages & Literatures and a leading expert on ancient Greek values and ethics, died of cancer Feb. 13 at Bernard Mitchell Hospital. He was 66.

    "Arthur was very influential in the field of ancient Greek values and ethics, especially in tracing the development of Greek ethical beliefs from Homer through the great philosophers Plato and Aristotle," said Robert Kaster, Chairman of Classical Languages & Literatures.

    "In his work, Arthur stressed the tension between competitive and cooperative virtues, and in particular the predominance of competitive virtues in early Greek literature and society and the gradual rise of a value system in which cooperative virtues came to dominate," Kaster added.

    By arguing that the Greeks developed an appreciation for the value of cooperation relatively late, Adkins challenged conventional thinking on the topic, Kaster said.

    One of Adkins' most enduring contributions to scholarship is the University's Committee on the Ancient Mediterranean World, which he helped found in 1979. The committee grants advanced degrees and coordinates the work of scholars studying languages, history and archaeology.

    "The committee has made a particularly important contribution to our understanding of the links between Roman and Greek civilizations and other Mediterranean civilizations, such as those in the Near East," Kaster said.

    James Redfield, the Howard L. Willett Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and Chairman of the Committee on the Ancient Mediterranean World, said, "Arthur had a rather old-fashioned training, a good training, and he was able to bring that training into the context of the discipline of classics as it has in this generation transformed itself. He was always concerned about the relationship of the texts to the historical period and to the civilizations as a whole."

    Adkins' books include Merit and Responsibility: A Study in Greek Values (1960), From the Many to the One: A Study of Personality and Views of Human Nature in the Context of Ancient Greek Society, Values and Beliefs (1970), Moral Values and Political Behaviour in Ancient Greece (1972) and Poetic Craft and the Early Greek Elegists (1985). He edited with Peter White, Professor in Classical Languages & Literatures, University of Chicago Readings in Western Civilization, Volume 1 (1986), which includes texts representing the development of civilizations in the ancient world.

    A native of Great Britain, Adkins received his B.A. in 1952, his M.A. in 1955 and his D.Phil. in 1957, all from Oxford. After serving on university faculties in Britain, he joined the Chicago faculty as Professor in 1974. He was named the Edward Olson Professor in 1977, and he served as Chairman of Classical Languages & Literatures from 1975 to 1980.

    He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; a son, Matthew; a daughter and a son-in-law, Deborah and Stephen Molasky; and two grandchildren.

    Memorial contributions may be sent to the American Parkinson Disease Association, 1250 Hylan Blvd., Suite 4B, Staten Island, N.Y. 10305.

    A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, March 13, at 2 p.m. in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.