OLIVER LYNE was one of the most distinguished classicists of his generation, internationally acclaimed as a scholar and celebrated as an inspirational and much-loved teacher in Oxford.
Alongside his many books - Ciris: a poem attributed to Vergil (1978), The Latin Love Poets from Catullus to Horace (1980), Further Voices in Vergil's Aeneid (1987), Words and the Poet (1989), Horace: behind the public poetry (1995) - he produced numerous influential articles of which several, such as "The Neoteric Poets" (1978) and "Servitium amoris" (1979) in Classical Quarterly, achieved classic status. At the time of his death he was working on the Roman poetess Sulpicia and on a wide-ranging study of daughters in Greek and Latin literature.
Oliver Lyne was born in Peterborough in 1944, son of Rosalind and Richard Lyne, himself a Classics teacher, and younger brother of Adrian (the film director). He was educated at Highgate School in London and St John's College, Cambridge. He briefly held Fellowships at Fitzwilliam and Churchill colleges, in Cambridge, before becoming a Tutor and Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, in 1971. He married Linda Rees in 1969; their son Raphael was born in 1971 and their daughter Rosy in 1973. In 1999 Oliver Lyne became Professor of Classical Languages and Literature at Oxford University.
At Balliol his Classics colleagues for over 30 years were Jasper Griffin and Oswyn Murray. Griffin and Lyne were close friends and a formidable teaching team in classical languages and literature. Although notionally Griffin was responsible for Greek and Lyne for Latin, in practice Balliol undergraduates knew Lyne as an eye- opening teacher of Homer as well as of Virgil, and a master of Greek prose composition no less than of Latin. Herodotus and Euripides were in fact among his favourites, and he told with amusement how, when starting out on graduate work, he meant to be a Hellenist, before being assigned the Ciris as his doctoral subject by his supervisor, F.R.D. Goodyear.
Hallmarks of his publications were meticulous scholarship, close textual analysis, sensitivity to verbal nuance, and critical readings of great humanity and insight. His acumen as editor and textual critic were revealed early in his edition of Ciris; they continued to be displayed to years of Oxford students in classes on the text of Catullus which Lyne gave together with his dear friend and acknowledged mentor, Don Fowler.
Lyne's position as a leading classical literary critic was definitively established by his second book, The Latin Love Poets, subsequently a staple of school and university reading lists. He will probably be remembered, however, most of all for his discussions of poetic style (Words and the Poet) and of subversive allusion in Virgil (Further Voices): "Vergil", of course, as Lyne insisted on spelling him. Lyne was famous - and controversial - for his demonstrations of the complex poetic strategies by which Virgil, Horace, and Propertius strove to retain a recalcitrant independence under the …