Professor emeritus of classical archaeology John Anderson dies at 91

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Remembered for his kindness and geniality, John Kinloch “Jock” Anderson, professor emeritus in the campus department of classics, passed away Oct. 13. He was 91.

Anderson was born in India on Jan. 3, 1924 and was educated at Trinity College in Scotland and later at the University of Oxford.

During World War II, Anderson served in England’s Royal Highland Regiment during its Southeast Asian campaign, where he contributed to the intelligence unit through his ability to quickly master Asian languages, according to friend and former student Christopher Simon.

After the war, Anderson participated in major archaeological excavations in Greece and Turkey. He then began teaching at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1953, where he met his future wife, Esperance.

Five years later, Anderson moved with his wife to Berkeley, where he took a position as a lecturer in the UC Berkeley department of classics and would later become a full-time professor. Anderson taught at UC Berkeley for 35 years until his retirement in 1993.

Anderson was beloved by students for his popular introductory class, Classics 17, which he taught without the help of any teaching assistants.

According to Simon, Anderson used to grade “hundreds of blue books” for the class by himself, often bringing them to his bed and evaluating them before he slept.

Students noted his compassion and understanding, as well as his extraordinary knowledge of ancient languages.

“I would walk with him across campus and it would take a very long time because he’d never go through a door without letting everyone else go through first,” Simon said.

Anderson published several books on the ancient world that cover topics ranging from the ancient Greek historian Xenophon to military theory and hunting.

A great equestrian, Anderson began riding horses at an early age and continued doing so late into his life, which drove his study of Greek horsemanship and led to the publication of his notable book “Ancient Greek Horsemanship” in 1961.

He was honored last year for his 90th birthday in a profile published in “ANABASIS: Studia Classica et Orientalia,” an interdisciplinary scholarly journal in which Russian writer Alexander Sinitsyn deemed the book “of great scholarly importance.”

Beyond his scholarly achievements, those close to Anderson have said that he will be remembered most for his good will.

“He was just one of those people who attracted lifelong friends,” Simon said.

A fellow member of the Berkeley Greek Club with Anderson, translator Rodney Merrill remembered that after the translation of “The Iliad,” Anderson took the time to look over all 24 books and discuss each one with him.

“He was one of the most genial people I’ve ever known,” Merrill said. “He was always welcoming and always willing to be supportive.”

Anderson is survived by his three children, five grandchildren and great-granddaughter.

Contact Jessica Lynn at [email protected].