This website is dedicated to the memory of Elaine Fantham, renowned and much missed professor of Latin at Princeton and the University of Toronto, known to colleagues around the world as a brilliant and path-breaking scholar, to students as a wise and devoted mentor, to NPR audiences as a witty and inspiring guide to the classical world.

We invite all who have benefited from her friendship and her learning to share their memories and photos of her in the comments below.

Here are links to remembrances of her produced by:

Elaine’s personal website, which includes her CV, can be reached here. Her appearances on NPR’s Weekend Edition are also available via this link.

Photo to the left of Elaine in 1989; taken by Robert Matthews


9 thoughts on “Welcome”

  1. I had the great fortune to know Elaine over the last few years of her life. In rather haphazard “research” I was doing for a book, “Cleopatra at the Breakfast Table: Why I Studied Latin with My Teenager and How I Discovered the Daughterland,” I kept seeing her name everywhere online – and so I decided to contact her to see if she would be willing to give me a few words of wisdom or encouragement, perhaps even a few words I could quote in the book. I soon discovered that she lived across the street from me, here in Toronto. She was always gracious, ferociously knowledgeable and never less than completely encouraging to both me and my daughter. Elaine and I went to movies together, had coffee on many occasions, and from time to time I was called across the street to help her with her technology challenges. I’m attaching a picture that was taken at the launch of the “Cleopatra” book. I never saw Elaine in the classroom, but I was always pleased to spend time with her and to share conversation. In my few words of dedication to Elaine in my book I said thanks to her “for her boundless wisdom, and for her many great suggestions for further reading. Because of her I almost added two additional sources of insight to the bibliography: those distinguished scholars Dalwhinniee and Lagavulin.” Elaine did enjoy her single malt! My daughter interviewed Elaine about ten days before she died (for a research project she is doing at the University of Toronto) and the three of us were to get together the week that she died. I pass her building several times every day and each time I do, I am sad that I will not enjoy any more of those inspiring, challenging, mischievous, insightful conversations.

    Elaine Fantham

  2. I met Elaine in the Fall of 1982, at Toronto, in a required course called Roman Life and Letters. I had just decided that I wanted to be a classics major. For the next three years at Toronto, and then throughout the rest of my life (she left Toronto for Princeton right when I left for Berkeley, but we always stayed in touch) she would be not only a mentor but an inspiration. Not only did I learn more in two classes with her (Roman Historiography and the Latin Elegy) than in any graduate seminar I ever took, but she demonstrated to me that it was possible to be a woman in the academy without losing either your mind or your sense of humour–something that, during my years at Berkeley, was often hard to believe. Because of Elaine, the universe as a whole has always seemed funny to me, even when it was pretending to be most dire, a revelation that has often been life-saving.

  3. I am just one of many classicists who owe an enormous debt to Elaine Fantham. Her razor-sharp mind and encyclopedic knowledge of Latin literature have produced one highly visible legacy of her career. But her encouragement and mentoring of younger classicists — especially but by no means exclusively her own students — has produced a second legacy. This latter legacy depended not only on her formidable intellectual skills but also on her character, especially her commitment both to individuals and to Classics as a field. She was one of a kind and will be long and truly missed.

  4. Elaine had already been at Princeton for two years when I arrived at Rutgers from Hopkins in 1988. We were both chairs, she starting in 1989, I in 1990, in difficult moments of our departments’ histories. Both of us escaped nonetheless to conferences and to give lectures elsewhere and we teased each other about the frequency of our absences. Then one day at the Newark airport when I got on the van to central NJ Elaine was sitting there. We had caught each other in the act. We had to laugh. Once Alessandro Schiesaro invited me to teach a session of his undergraduate Horace class and Elaine attended. I was talking about Odes 1.23 (vitas inuleo me similis, Chloe). Elaine commented that Chloe might be persuaded by the rather pompous persona of the ode that she is tempestiva viro but at the same time disagree that he is the vir. I think of another of Elaine’s observations, a more general one : “preoccupation with the novel shapes the questions we ask and the expectations with which we approach an ancient text” (from an article on Ovid in a volume edited by Karl Galinsky, 1992). Words that I have always remembered, have cited, and am now about to cite again in discussion of the discussion of the character of Helen. I have just reread Elaine’s terrific article on the Roman mime in OCD4 (unchanged from OCD3 except that Costas Panayotakis added bibliographical matter). It brings back her wit and spirit.

  5. Lovely memories of staying with Elaine, her husband and daughter at their house in Toronto in September, 1981. She put 4 or 5 of us up for a couple of nights during our North American tour of Aristophanes’ ‘Wasps’. When we told Elaine we would probably be back quite late and asked for a key, she replied, ‘OK, no problem – door’ll be open.’ Coming from London in the ’80’s we could hardly believe this, but it turned out to be true. A truly great lady – requiescat in pace.

  6. Quite apart from the example she set for everyone in her own work, Elaine’s generosity to younger scholars was truly remarkable. Without her support at a crucial time in my own career, before we really knew one another or she had any particular reason to offer that support, I don’t know where I would be today. And her continued advice, encouragement, and friendship over the years are things for which I will always be grateful. She was a force of nature, a great scholar, and a beautiful person.

  7. Elaine taught me introductory Greek in 1979-80, during my first year at Trinity College at the University of Toronto, thus helping to set me on the path that I follow today. I have taught Greek now for over twenty-five years and every time I do I think of her and that class. There are certain Greek words that I can still hear her saying in that wonderful accent of hers. She will be missed, but she has left a great legacy in her scholarship and her μαθηταί: Exegit monumentum aere perennius.

  8. I was at the Belvedere School, Liverpool with Elaine Fantham (nee Crossthwaite) in the 1950s and remember looking up to her as an exceptional pupil and scholar even in those days. By chance our paths crossed in the late 1960s in St. Andrews. I was by then a Classics graduate, and during a few years “maternity” break found a warm welcome and many like minds in the St Andrews University Classical Association. Elaine was a neighbour and a good friend and I have happy memories of our association at that time.

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