Ancient Greek letters to be translated into English for first time by Roehampton classicist

The first ever English language translation of a series of 2,000 year old letters, once believed to have been written by Marcus Brutus, an ancient Roman politician and military leader who played a key role in the assassination of Julius Caesar, will be carried out by a Roehampton classicist.

Posted: 20 May 2015

image for news story Ancient Greek letters to be translated into English for first time by Roehampton classicist
Dr Kathryn Tempest will create the first ever translation of a series of 2,000 year old letters

Dr Kathryn Tempest, Senior Lecturer in Latin Literature and Roman History at the University, has been awarded a prestigious 12 month Leverhulme Fellowship to work on a new project: ‘The Pseudepigrapha of Marcus Iunius Brutus’.

The letters are now considered by many scholars to have been rhetorical exercises, written by an unknown author, and are being studied by Dr Tempest as an example of the ancient literary phenomenon of pseusepigrapha: the art of impersonating great figures from history.

The letters, which are from the period following Caesar’s assassination, when Brutus prepared for war in the Greek East against Caesar’s avengers (43-42 BC), form part of a collection of 70 short correspondences between Brutus and the communities, who were responding to his repeated demands for money and military support. 

Dr Tempest said: “Even if the letters are fictitious, they may offer a verbal crystallization of a genuine practice which we can use to further our understanding of the role of letters in military envoys. Ultimately, by the end of this project, I aim to demonstrate that the letters attributed to Brutus can lead us towards a far greater understanding of how military diplomacy operated, both in practice and in the rhetorical schools.”

Dr Tempest will produce a scholarly edition including an extensive introduction to the letters, a new critical text based on the collation of the surviving manuscripts, as well as the first English translation, and a more detailed commentary than has ever been attempted in any language. She will also focus on the stylistic and rhetorical choices of the letters and examine how the linguistic choices made by the author may indicate the letters’ suitability for a performative context in an emotionally-charged atmosphere.

Her work will be funded by The Leverhulme Trust, which was established at the wish of William Hesketh Lever, one of the great businessmen and entrepreneurs of the Victorian age, and makes awards for the support of research and education.
Dr Tempest has been invited to present a paper on her project at the 'Addressing Matters in Context: The Art of Persuasion across Genres and Times' conference in August held at the University of Cyprus.

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