CULTURE

2003 Runciman Award attracts 41 contenders

The judges for the Runciman Award have some serious reading to do before choosing this year’s winner, with 41 entries in competition. The prize is awarded annually in memory of Byzantinist Sir Steven Runciman by the Anglo-Hellenic League in London for a work wholly or mainly about some aspect of Greece or the world of Hellenism that has been published in its first English edition in the UK during the previous year and listed in Whitaker’s Books in Print. Dr Dorothy Thompson, chair of this year’s committee of judges, spoke to Kathimerini English Edition in an e-mail interview about the range of entries received and the effect such prizes have in promoting Greek studies. «This year 41 books have been entered,» says Thompson. «The vast majority of these – 32 – treat ancient Greece, from the Minoans to the Greeks under the Roman empire. These are both strictly academic and more general works and the judges are looking for a book that would appeal to the intelligent non-specialist reader. We also have books on Byzantium and on modern Greece (and Cyprus), some travel works and a couple of novels. All sorts of subjects are covered by these works – fiction, history, archaeology, philosophy and literature (ancient and modern). We regularly find ourselves regretting that, given the Byzantine interests of Steven Runciman, we get so few entries for that period.» As for the effect of such prizes on promoting Greek studies in general, Thompson comments: «I think the existence of this prize results in a higher profile for Greek Studies more generally and especially in the UK. The short list is discussed and the judges’ final decision announced at a meeting of the Anglo-Hellenic League in London (in 2003 this will be on June 9) and the chairman’s speech has, in recent years, been published in the Anglo-Hellenic Review. From the point of view of the winning author (and short-listed authors too), the prize can help a book’s sales or even, as in the case of a recent winner (Broodbank), perhaps help to attract further awards!» The prize is sponsored by the National Bank of Greece (NBG) and is currently worth 5,000 pounds. It may be given for a work of fiction, drama or non-fiction; concerned academically or non-academically with the history of any period; biography or autobiography, the arts, archaeology; a guidebook or a translation from the Greek of any period. Recent winners have been: 2000: John Luce, «Celebrating Homer’s Landscapes. Troy and Ithaca Revisited,» New Haven and London, Yale University Press, shared with Reviel Netz, «The Shaping of Deduction in Greek Mathematics: A Study in Cognitive History,» Cambridge, CUP; 2001: Cyprian Broodbank, «An Island Archaeology of the Early Cyclades,» Cambridge, CUP; 2002: James Whitley, «The Archaeology of Ancient Greece,» Cambridge, CUP. This year’s judges are Dr Dorothy J. Thompson (Chair) Isaac Newton affiliated lecturer in Classics, Girton College Cambridge; Professor Michel Jeffreys, professor of Modern Greek, Oxford; Dr Robin Barber, editor of Blue Guides to Greece and Athens, and Dr Dionysis Kapsalis, director of the NBG’s Cultural Foundation.