Gordon Willis Williams

Gordon Willis Williams, Thacher Professor of Latin Literature Emeritus, has died aged 84. Born in Dublin in 1926, Professor Williams was educated at Trinity College Dublin and at the University of Oxford. Before coming to Yale, he enjoyed a distinguished career as Fellow and Tutor at Balliol College, Oxford and as Professor of Humanity at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland. In 1973 he was invited to deliver the Sather Lectures at Berkeley. He joined the Yale faculty in 1974.

Williams's publications were numerous and influential. A groundbreaking series of articles in the late 1950's dealing with aspects of Roman social history and the position of women was followed in 1968 by the appearance of the massive and classic work Tradition and Originality in Roman Poetry, a book of fundamental importance to which Classicists forty years later are still responding. In quick succession came an edition of the third book of Horace's Odes in 1969 and then a briefer version of Tradition and Originality in 1973. There followed more major and provocative works of scholarship, Change and Decline: Roman Literature in the Early Empire (1978), Figures of Thought in Roman Poetry (1980), and Technique and Ideas in the Aeneid (1983).

For many years Gordon maintained a very high profile in the profession, frequently travelling all over the world to give lectures or teach specialized seminars. A great teacher of undergraduates, he directed many dissertations in his quarter century at Yale: his students and students of his students teach in Departments of Classics and of Comparative Literature from coast to coast. He was a great asset to Yale and to the Department of Classics. He will be much missed.

PDF: Memorial remarks by Gordon’s students,
Amy Richlin (UCLA) and Josiah Osgood (Georgetown).
Ivy photo