Robin Lane Fox
was born in 1946, in what he sometimes thinks of as his third life. He was educated at Eton College and Magdalen College Oxford and after his BA in 1969 became a Fellow by Examination of Magdalen College in 1970. He then wrote his book on Alexander the Great which was published in 1973 and has since been published in many languages and remained in print in most of them after winning several literary prizes in the UK. It has sold up to a million copies worldwide by now. His aim is to update it in the nearish future.
He then taught classical languages and literature at Worcester College, Oxford from 1973 to 1977 as a Lecturer, then Fellow, while also learning Arabic and setting out on the road to retraining as an Islamic historian. This aim was sabotaged by election to a Fellowship and University Lecturership in Ancient History at New College, Oxford where he has served the undergraduates, his primary love in the University, since 1977, arguably becoming better at the duties of the job. In 1990 he was promoted to be Reader in Ancient History for the University as well. He had published Pagans and Christians (1986) which was kindly received by classicists because it did not relate to much which they were working on at the time or thereafter. He followed it with The Unauthorised Version on truth and fiction in the Bible (1992) which continues to have a vigorous life in public libraries and then with an edited and partly-authored book on Xenophon and The Ten Thousand (2004) which scholars read more enthusiastically than he did. In 2005 he published his A History of The Classical World (2005) which has become a best-seller in the USA, UK and other languages, especially Spanish and this year, German. It co-won the Runciman Prize for 2005 and has attracted major reviews in many countries, especially Germany and Spain where it was top of the non-fiction bestselling lists.
In 2008 he published Travelling Heroes, a study of Greek, especially Euboean, contact with the Near East and the West and the mythical tales which they acquired and projected onto the world around them. It took him very many years of travel and thought and to his surprise was then filmed as a one-man documentary for the BBC, to appear, no doubt to the public’s bafflement, this autumn, 2010. The book has been translated and paperbacked widely since 2009. In his view it is in places his least awful book since bits of Alexander.
His previous lives were first, as a Euboean settler in the Chalkidki in the mid-eighth century BC where he acquired the knowledge deployed for the first time in Travelling Heroes, and then as a rejuvenated Chalcidic-Macedonian cavalry commander in the army of Alexander, a role which therefore came naturally to him to demand as his return for being Historical Consultant to Oliver Stone’s epic film Alexander (2004). Cavalry service and starry times in the wilds of Morocco, Thailand and Hollywood brought him back to life from his temporary entombment in the green orchards near Mieza in Macedon’s heartland. It is not yet clear when, or if, he will die again.
His classical interests are the classical world, especially archaic Greece and fifth to fourth Athens and the 50-40 BC turning point. He is always writing away but remains wary of committing himself by saying what he is writing about next, a question which most interests those who do not intend to read what he has written already. He has tried to cover the sources from Homer to Muhammad, inclusive, in his teaching life. He is Garden Master of New College, Oxford and since 1970 the weekly gardening columnist for the Financial Times. He is about to publish Thoughtful Gardening (2010) here and in the USA and A History of Macedon, 650BC-100AD with 16 fellow contributors, many from Greece, for Brill of Leiden in 2011.
He has been a Criticos judge since the Prize’s beginning in 1996 and will chair its first year as the London Hellenic Prize.