Mary Beard

Mary Beard

Elected: 2019

Year of birth: 1955

Image credit: Robin Cormack

Mary Beard is one of Britain’s best-known Classicists – a distinguished Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, and Fellow of Newnham College, where she has taught for the last 30 years. She has written numerous books on the Ancient World, including the 2008 Wolfson Prize-winner, Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town which portrays a vivid account of life in Pompeii in all its aspects from food to sex to politics. Previous books include The Roman Triumph, Classical Art from Greece to Rome and books on the Parthenon and the Colosseum. Her interests range from the social and cultural life of Ancient Greece and Rome to the Victorian understanding of antiquity. Her book SPQR – A History of Ancient Rome was published to critical and popular acclaim as was the best-selling Women & Power, based on lectures given as part of the London Review of Books Winter Lecture Series.

Mary is Classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement and writes an engaging blog, A Don’s Life, selections of which has been published in book form. In 2013 Confronting the Classics, was published, a collection of essays and reviews that Mary has written over the last 20 years for the Times Literary Supplement, The London Review of Books and the New York Review of Books.

Mary has been invited to deliver various prestigious lecture series. In 2008 Mary was visiting Sather Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where she gave the Sather lectures on Roman laughter (A book, Laughter in Ancient Rome, based on the lectures was published by the University of California Press). In 2011 Mary delivered the Mellon Lectures at the National Art Gallery, Washington on the imagery of the Caesars. Mary’s academic achievement was acknowledged, in 2010, by the British Academy which elected her as a Fellow and in October 2011 Mary was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as a Foreign Honorary Member. In 2012 she was also elected as an International Member of the American Philosophical Society. In the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list for 2013, Mary was awarded an OBE for services to Classical scholarship. In 2014 The Royal Academy elected Mary as Professor of Ancient Literature, an honorary position first instituted in 1770 and in 2016 Mary was awarded the prestigious Spanish prize, The Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences. Mary was made a Dame in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2018.

Mary is a regular broadcaster and commentator on radio and television, on programmes such as BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time, and has written and presented television documentaries on Pompeii and Caligula as well as the highly-acclaimed TV series, Meet the Romans and Rome – Empire without Limit. Most recently she was a presenter for the BBC landmark Civilisations series and is the presenter of the BBC television arts show Front Row.

More of our Fellows

David Almond

Menna Elfyn

Anne Enright

Simon Brett

Fellowship Election Process​

Fellows are nominated by peers and elected by our Council of writers – our governing Board. Being elected a Fellow of the RSL is a lifetime honour. This role gives them the opportunity to support other writers, readers and the future of literature. The RSL connects writers in the Fellowship to one another, and to a wider readership.