Professor Oliver TaplinBack to People

Subjects: Classics, Classics (and Joint Honours), Classics and English, Classics and Modern Languages, Classics with Oriental Studies
College appointment: Emeritus Fellow


I did my first degree and doctorate at Oxford, and my first post was at Bristol University. I had the good fortune to be made a Tutorial Fellow at Magdalen in 1973 at the age of 30. I stayed in the post for 35 years, because there was, quite simply, no better job that I would have preferred. During that time I was made a Professor, a Fellow of the British Academy and President of the Classical Association. I retired in 2008, but I continue to come into the College often.


My main teaching has been in all aspects of ancient Greek epic, tragedy and comedy. Further related subjects include vase-painting and theatre; performance studies; reception of ancient literature in modern poetry; practical translation workshops. I still hold some classes for Magdalen undergraduates, especially on Greek theatre.


My research and my teaching interests have largely been the same, and have been mutually reinforcing. I am now beginning to work on a broad-brush book on Greek Tragedy, including a critique of Aristotle’s Poetics.  Since retirement I have also found the time to embark on translations from ancient Greek into English verse.

Some publications

  • The Stagecraft of Aeschylus (Oxford 1977, reissued as a paperback 1989).
  • Greek Tragedy in Action (London and Berkeley 1978; revised edition 1985); also translated into Greek, Japanese and Polish.
  • Greek Fire (London 1990); also translated into Dutch, Portuguese, French, German and Greek.
  • Homeric Soundings.  The Shaping of the Iliad (Oxford 1992, reprinted in paperback, 1994).
  • Comic Angels – and other approaches to Greek drama through vase-painting (Oxford 1993, reprinted in paperback, 1994).
  • Pots and Plays.  Interactions between Tragedy and Greek Vase-painting of the Fourth Century BC (Getty Museum Publications, Los Angeles, 2007)
  • Sophocles Oedipus the King and other tragedies (Oxford World’s Classics, 2016)
  • Aeschylus The Oresteia (Norton, New York, 2018)