Arthur Keaveney obituary

My husband, Arthur Keaveney, who has died of Covid-19 aged 68, was a historian of ancient Rome, Greece and Persia who spent 35 years as a teacher and researcher at the University of Kent.

Arthur was born in Galway, Ireland, the elder son of Michael, a train driver, and Nuala (nee Scully), who had worked in the city’s main department store before her marriage.

He attended St Joseph’s Patrician college, Galway, and then gained a first-class degree in Latin and history at University College Galway (now the National University of Ireland), followed by an MA in Classics. In 1975 he came to Hull University, where we met, on a travelling scholarship to begin his PhD on the Roman general and statesman Sulla, which formed the basis of his first book, Sulla: the Last Republican.

In 1979 Arthur took up a lectureship at Kent, where he taught Greek and Roman history, along with Latin and Greek language courses. As a tutor, his academic standards were exacting, but his students appreciated his commitment to helping them achieve these. He is also remembered for his infectious laugh, his chaotic office and his unintelligible handwriting.

His published research ranged from biographies of Roman statesmen to studies of the Roman army and the Graeco-Persian wars of 499-449 BCE. This last topic developed a keen interest in the Achaemenid Persian empire, a subject that Arthur introduced into the Kent curriculum and which led to a memorable journey to Iran in 2004.

Although Arthur was settled happily in Canterbury, he remained an Irishman to the core. In the autumn semester of 2004, he returned to Galway as a visiting fellow of the National University of Ireland and he was proud to be invited to serve as honorary president of the Classical Association of Ireland in 2013. His presidential address outlined the life and thought of the Elizabethan planter Sir William Herbert, whose Latin book about Ireland had been edited and translated by Arthur and his former tutor at UCG, John Madden, in 1992. He retired as reader in ancient history at the University of Kent in 2014.

In retirement, Arthur continued his research, leaving a book on the ancient Persian court unfinished at his death. His other interests included films, from Bergman and Scorsese to 1950s Westerns, travel, languages (he spoke Irish, Italian and German) and mixing killer cocktails.

Arthur is survived by me, his brother Gay, his nieces, Neasa and Doireann, and his nephew, Fergal.

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