Zmarł Profesor Pavel Oliva

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Od Kolegów z Czech otrzymaliśmy smutną informację:

It is my sad duty to report to this list the death of Prof. Pavel Oliva, the doyen of Czech classical philology and ancient history, on Friday of 5th March, at 97 years of age. 

Born Pavel Ohrenstein to a prominent Prague Jewish family, he lived through the concentration camp in Theresienstadt, the death camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Totaleinsatz in Schwarzheide, and the ensuing death march. In 1949, he graduated at Charles University, Prague, and since 1952 worked for decades at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, first at the Institute of History, later at the Centre of Greek and Roman Studies. He published his first book on early Greek tyrants in 1953. His perhaps most influential book, “Sparta and Its Social Problems”, was published in 1971. Aside from Greek history, he also published on the history of the Roman province of Pannonia. In 1981, he was a Nellie Wallace lecturer in Oxford. Eventually, his bibliography amounted to over 1200 items, including encyclopedies on Greek and Roman history, monographs on Solon, Spartacus, Demosthenes, and Polybius, and numerous Czech translations of ancient Greek texts, including the poems of Solon, the Aristotelian Athenian constitution, Demosthenes’ Assembly speeches, the oeuvre of Polybius, and a selection of Plutarch’s Moralia. In his later years, he wrote a few books about the history of his family and that of his late wife Věra (née Pávová, m. 1947, d. 2015), a renowned historian in her own right.

In the 1960s, Pavel Oliva played a prominent part in establishing the journal EIPHNH that eventually served as an established platform of communication for scholars from both the East and West of the Iron Curtain; his last contribution to the journal was published in 2016. He was also an active member of the Union académique internationale, becoming its vice-president in 1988-1991. He counted among his friends G. Alföldi, G. Cawkwell, V. Ehrenberg, M. I. Finley, A. H. M. Jones, D. M. Lewis, A. Momigliano, G. Thompson, J.-P. Vernant, R. F. Willets, and many others.

He was an extraordinary personality and a proof of the fact that tenacity and diligence can successfully resist the most adverse fate and time, and will never be forgotten.

Under the present circumstances, the funeral will be attended by his family only. Those who wish to send their condolences to the family may contact Pavel Oliva’s daughter, Hana Linhartová (

Pavel Nývlt

Center of Classical Studies

Institute of Philosophy, Czech Academy of Sciences

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