Biographies of our benefactors
John Percival Postgate
John Percival Postgate was Professor of Latin from 1909-1920. He is well known to this day as the editor of a number of Latin poets (including Tibullus, Propertius, Catullus, and Statius – amongst others) as well as for his passionate campaigning for the relevance of the classical past: he was the main force behind the creation of the Classical Association of England and Wales in 1902.
In his lecture ‘Dead languages and dead language’ (delivered on 10 December 1909, the very day F.W. Walbank was born), he argued that to speak of Latin and Greek as dead was ‘grotesque’; they were alive through their literature and history, and through the languages that sprang from them. If students, he argued, found our subjects ‘mere grind’ the fault was with the teaching: ‘if the ‘dead’ languages are not to retire into the background, they must be taught as if they were alive’.
Frank Walbank taught at Liverpool for his entire academic career; he was Professor of Latin from 1946-51 and Rathbone Professor of Ancient History and Classical Archaeology from 1951 until his retirement in 1977. He is well-known primarily for his work on Polybius, the Greek historian of the rise of Rome, on whom he wrote a three-volume commentary.
His published work – running from his first book published in 1933 to his last article in 2007 - ranged over much of the history and culture of the Hellenistic world and ancient history more widely. Especially in his earlier work, he looked to the ancient world for lessons for his own day. ‘Instead of solacing ourselves with the passing of moral judgements on those who are now long since dead’, he wrote, we should learn the lessons of history, and ‘reserve our energies for the more immediate task of helping to right what is wrong in our own civilization’.