Mary Beard has a Chair of Classics at the University of Cambridge and is a Fellow of Newnham College. She is classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement and author of the highly enlightening and engaging blog "A Don's Life."
A few exchanges from her Q & A with Boyd Tonkin in the Independent:
Choose a favourite author and say why you admire themRead the complete Q & A.
Tacitus: he's difficult, but the difficulty rewards you – like a Latin Joyce. He uses Latin in a cranky, weird way. It's so in-your-face, going utterly against the norms of Cicero.
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Which fictional character most resembles you?
When I was younger I liked to imagine myself as a cross between Jane Eyre
and some hapless Margaret Drabble heroine – a horribly self-regarding position to take.
* * *
Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?
Classicists take a pretty grim view of heroes. If I had to pick, then Elizabeth Fry – because the black hole of British culture is the penal system. And I think I'd resurrect Lord Reith, because we need the BBC.
Beard's Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (US title: The Fires of Vesuvius) is on Jamie Merrill's list of ten history books capable of improv[ing] your general knowledge.
The Page 99 Test: The Roman Triumph.
The Page 99 Test: The Fires of Vesuvius.