• Date of Birth: January 9, 1927
  • Born City: Saginaw
  • Born State/Country: MI
  • Parents: Mortimer Hardin & Helen Elizabeth Bishop C.
  • Date of Death: December 14, 2020
  • Death City: Los Angeles
  • Death State/Country: CA
  • Married: Marcia Gail Hamilton, 1949 (div. 1970); Catherine Mary Perry, 1973.
  • Education:

    A.B., Harvard, 1949; Ph.D., 1954; Rhodes Scholar, 1949; M.A., Oxford, 1955.

  • Dissertation:

    “Studies in the Veracity of Thucydides” (Harvard, 1954).

  • Professional Experience:

    Sgt., U.S. Army, 1944-5; Instr. Harvard, 1954-5; asst. prof., U. Chicago, 1955-8; asst. prof. to prof., UCLA, 1958-2000; vis. prof. SUNY Buffalo, 1971; Freiburg, 1974; Fulbright Fellow, 1974; dir. U. of California Education Abroad Program, Göttingen, 1976-8; vis. prof. ASCSA, 1979-80; Blegen Vis. Prof., Vassar, 1988-9.

  • Publications:

    “The First Regnal Year of Antigonus Gonatas,” AJP 75 (1954) 385-94; “The Twelve Gods at Cos,” HThR 48 (1955) 163-4; “Thucydides and Pericles,” HSCP 62 (1957) 79-92; “Four Hundred Sixty Talents,” CP 53 (1958) 26-32; “Notes on Gomme’s Commentary on Thucydides, II-III,” CW (1958) 225-8; Greek and Roman History (Washington: 1958; 2nd ed.. 1965); “A Rough Breathing in the Fifth Century,” CP 54 (1959) 42-4; Aristotle’s History of Athenian Democracy, with J. Day (Berkeley & Los Angeles, U. of California Press, 1962); “The Authenticity of the Themistocles Decree,” AHR 67 (1962) 306-16; “Aristotle’s ‘Forms of Democracy’,” TAPA 92 (1962) 20-36; The Fall of Rome; Can it Be Explained? (New York: 1963; 2nd ed., 1970); “Studies on Thucydides, 1957-1962,” CW 57 (1963) 6-14; “The Classical Period” in New Perspectives in World History ed. S. Engel (Washington: 1964) 147-68; “Notes on the Text of the Ath. Pol.,” TAPA 96 (1965) 31-9; Polybius. The Histories. Selections, (trans.), ed. E. Badian (New York: 1966); “Aristotle’s Homer: Poetics 1451 a 24-27,” CP 61 (1966) 186-7; “The Crisis of the Third Century,” in The Transformation of the Roman World, ed. L.T. White, Jr. (Berkeley & Los Angeles: U. of California Press, 1966) 30-58; “The Significance of the Themistocles Decree,” Philologus 111 (1967) 157-69; “The Berlin Fragments of the Ath. Pol.,” TAPA 98 (1967) 49-66; “Studies on Thucydides, 1963-1967,” CW 62 (1969) 245-54; “The Hellenistic Age,” in Perspectives on the European Past: Conversations with Historians, ed. Norman F. Cantor (New York: Macmillan, 1971) 82-102; “More Notes on the Text of the Ath. Pol.,” TAPA102 (1971) 41-7; “The ‘Fall’ of Rome, in Great Events from History, Ancient and Medieval Series, vol. 2 (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Salem Press, 1972) 980-4; Ancient Greece (Washington: American Historical Association, 1973); “Aristotle on Solon’s Reform of Coinage and Weights,” CSC A 6 (1973) 1-16; The Western Experience with R. Grew, D. Herlihy, T.K. Rabb, I. Woloch (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974; 2nd ed. 1978;  3rd ed. 1982; 4th ed., 1987; 5th ed. 1991; 6th ed. 1995; 7th ed. 1998 [with B. Hanawalt]); “Androtion F 6: tote proton,” JHS 99 (1979) 151-2; “Aristotle’s Historical Method,” in Panhellenica: Essays in Ancient History and Historiography in Honor of Truesdell S. Brown, ed. S. Burstein & L.A. Okin (Lawrence, KS: Coronado Press, 1980) 57-67; “Papyri of Herodotus,” Oxyrhynchus Papyri 48 (1981) 22-73; ‘Naukraros, Naukraria,” Onomata. Revue onomastique 9 (1984) 49-52; “Themistocles and the Piraeus,” in Studies Presented to Sterling Dow in His Eightieth Birthday, ed. Kent J. Rigsby (Durham, NC: Duke U. Press, 1984) 43-50; “The Formation of the Tyranny of Pisistratus, I,” Actes du VIIᵉ Congrès de la Fédération Internationale des Associations d'Études classiques, I, ed János Harmatta (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1984) 69-72; “Wilamowitz and Greek History,” in Wilamowitz nach 50 Jahren, ed. W.M. Calder III, H. Flashar & T. Lindken (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1985) 222-38; Aristotelis Athenaion Politeia(Leipzig: Teubner, 1986; ed. correctior, 1994); Georg Busolt: His Career in Letters (Leiden: Brill, 1990); “”Ernst Curtius” and “Felix Jacoby,” in Classical Scholarship: A Biographical Encyclopedia, ed. Ward W. Briggs & William M. Calder, III (New York & London: Garland, 1990) 35-42, 205-10; “The Genesis of Jacoby’s Atthis,” in  ‘Owls to Athens’: Essays on Classical Subjects presented to Sir Kenneth Dover (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990) 381-90; “The ‘Most Eminent Living Historian, the One Final Authority’: Eduard Meyer in America,” in Leben und Leistung eines Universalhistorikers, ed. William M. Calder, III & A. Demandt, Mnemosyne Supplement 112 (1990) 97-131; Staat der Athener, Aristoteles: Werke in deutscher Übersetzung 10.1, with others (Berlin & Darmstadt: Fôrsk, 1990); “Athens’ Alliance with Egesta in the Year of Antiphon,” with R. Gallucci & P. Spanos, Acta of the University of New England (Armidale, Australia) International Seminar on Greek and Latin Epigraphy, ed, Ian Worthington (also in ZPE 83 (1990) 38-63); “Schliemann and America,” in Heinrich Schliemann nach hundert Jahren, ed. W.M. Calder, III & J. Cobet (Frankfurt am Main: V. Klöstermann, 1990) 397-414;  “Cornford’s Thucydides Mythistoricus,” in The Cambridge Ritualists Reconsidered, ICS Suppl. 1 = Illinois Studies in the History of Classical Scholarship II, ed. W.M. Calder III, 61-77; “The Historian as Educator: Jaeger on Thucydides,” in Werner Jaeger Reconsidered, ICS Suppl. 2 = Illinois Studies in the History of Classical Scholarship II,  ed. W.M. Calder III (1992) 25-35; Photographic Enhancement of a Greek Inscription,” CJ 88 (1992-3) 25-31; “Hellenica Oxyrhynchia (Leipzig: Teubner, 1993); “The Archon's Name in the Athens-Egesta Alliance: (IG IP 11),” in ZPE 98 (1993) 171-4; “Aristotle and His Use of Sources,” in Aristote et Athènes = Aristoteles and Athens: [actes de la table ronde “Centenaire de l'Athenaion politeia”], Fribourg (Suisse), 23-25 mai 1991, ed. Marcel Piérart (Paris: De Boccard, 1993) 39-52; “A Tour through Greek Guidebooks,” in Alpha to Omega: Studies in Honor of George Szemler on his Sixty-Fifth Birthday, ed. W.J. Cherf (Chicago: Ares, 1993) 7-22; “Aristotle and his Use of Sources,” in Aristote et Athènes: Aristotle and Athens, ed. M. Piérart (Paris: Editions Diffusion de Boccard, 1993) 39-52; “John Efstratios Rexine. In Memoriam,” APA Newsletter (December 26, 1993); “Reading Illegible Greek Inscriptions: Athens and Egesta,” in Thetis: Mannheimer Beiträge zur Klassischen Archäologie und Geschichte Griechenlands und Zyperns 1 (1994) 49-52; articles on: A.E.R. Boak, P.A. Clement (with B. Lindros Wohl). D.W. Bradeen, J.H. Day, B.O. Foster, J.R. Grant, F.M. Heichelheim, H.B. Hoffleit, F.B. Marsh, O.W. Reinmuth, A.B. West, R.J.W. Westgate, in Biographical Dictionary of American Classicists, ed. W.W. Briggs, Jr. (Westport & London: Greenwood, 1994); “Eduard Meyer and the Great War,” in TO HELLENIKON: Studies in Honor of Speros Vyronis, Jr., ed. J.S. Allen, et al., (New Rochelle, NY: Caratzas, 1995) 2:245-56; “Ancient Greece to the End of the Hellenistic Period,” (edited) section 6 in The American Historical Association’s Guide to Historical Literature ed. M.B. Norton, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford U. Press, 1995) 1:158-91; “In Memoriam: Sterling Dow,” (with A.L. Boegehold), CW 88 (1995) 473; “On Homer: Felix Jacoby to Guenther Jachmann,” in Worte, Bilder, Töne: Studien zur Antike und Antikerezeption: Bernhard Kytzler zu ehren, ed. Richard Faber & Bernd Seidensticker (Würzburg: Kônigshausen und Neumann, 1996) 297-302; “The Athenaion Politeia after a Century,” in Transitions to Empire: Essays in Greco-Roman History, 360-146 B.C., in Honor of E. Badian, ed. R.W. Wallace & E.M. Harris (Norman, OK, & London: U. of Oklahoma Press, 1996) 211-25; articles on K.J. Beloch, G. Budé, G. Busolt, R. Carpenter, J.G. Droysen, J. Kirchner, Marmor Parium, Ed. Meyer, E. Meyer, F. Morosini, C.-F. Nointel, in An Encyclopedia of the History of Classical Archaeology, ed. N.T. de Grummond (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1996); “Thucydides” in Ancient Greek Authors vol176 of Dictionary of Literary Biography, ed. W.W. Briggs, (Detroit, Washington, London: Gale, 1997) 381-9; “The Reception of Gibbon in the New World,” in Imperium Romanum: Studien zur Geschichte und Rezeption: Festschrift für Karl Christ zum 75. Geburtstag, ed. Peter Kneissl & Volker Losemann (Stuttgart: Steiner, 1998) 83-92; “Wilamowitz on Thucydides,” in Wilamowitz in Greifswald: Akten der Tagung zum 150. Geburtstag Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorffs in Greifswald, 19.-22. Dezember 1998, ed. William M. Calder III (Hildesheim: Olms, 2000) 504-23); “Two Passages in Thucydides,” in Gestures: Essays in Ancient History, Literature, and Philosophy presented to Alan  L. Boegehold: on the Occasion of His Retirement and his Seventy-Fifth Birthday, ed. Geoffrey W. Bakewell & James P. Sickinger (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2003) 188-94; “La vita e la carriera di Felix Jacoby,” in Aspetti dell'opera di Felix Jacoby, ed. Carmine Ampolo (Pisa: Ed. della Normale, 2006) 5-29; “Jacoby's Fight for the Geographers,” in In Pursuit of Wissenschaft: Festschrift für William M. Calder III zum 75. Geburtstag,ed. Stephan Heilen (Hildeseheim & Zurich: Olms, 2008) 123-34.

  • Notes:

    In 1944 Chambers enlisted in the Army Reserve Program and was sent to the University of Michigan to study engineering. Also in his program was Alan Boegehold (1927-2015), who would be his lifelong friend. Assigned initially to the Army infantry, he was later transferred to the Engineering Corps, whence he was discharged as a sergeant in the fall of 1946. He enrolled at Harvard in the Spring of 1947 and after five semesters graduated in 1949. He majored in Latin, taking classes from J.P. Elder (1913-85) and Arthur Stanley Pease (1881-1964), but his Greek professors, Sterling Dow (1903-95), who directed his dissertation, Cedric Whitman (1916-79), and John Finley (1904-95) were among his favorites. An important experience was Werner Jaeger’s (1888-1961) course, “Man and Society in Greek Thought.” Which itself in two ways in Chambers’ subsequent career. He learned that even great scholars can, and must, bring their learning to general undergraduate courses.

    Elected a Rhodes Scholar in 1949, he studied ancient history (“Greats”) at Wadham College under the historian C.E. Stevens (1905-76), dean of Trinity James Holladay (1907-89), and the philosopher Ian Crombie (1917-2010), and he took Greek prose composition from the young Kenneth Dover (1920-2010). Two years after returning from Oxford the Latin major completed his dissertation on Thucydides. During his year as an instructor he taught future luminaries like William M. Calder, III, James Coulter, Charles Segal (1936-2002), and David Wiesen (1936-1982). From early in his career he chose to express his views in the form of reviews of the most important books on Greek history. After three years at the University of Chicago, he found a permanent home in Los Angeles. 

    Chambers’ Aristotle’s History of Athenian Democracy (written with James Day) showed how the Athenaion Politeia was itself shaped by Aristotelian ideas found in the Politics. He then turned to editing papyrological texts. He edited the papyrus of Herodotus for Oxyrhynchus Papyri and Aristotle’s Athenaion Politeia for Teubner. He also began demonstrating his interest in the development of classical studies during the past two centuries. He edited a vlume of Georg Busolt’s letters, published on Edward Gibbon’s, Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Feelix Jacoby, Eduard Meyer, Francis Cornford and his teacher, Werner Jaeger, as well as dozens of encyclopedia articles on aclassicists, ancient historians, and classical archaeologists.

    Drawing on the example of Jaeger, Chambers taught so many large classes in history and western civilization that by one conservative estimate he taught over 20,000 students in his career at UCLA. He taught Roman history (while Truesdell Brown taught Greek history) but students especially delighted in the professor’s peculiarities: His penchant for quoting Winston Churchill, his talent for mimicry (students heard “his” Marlon Brando or Jimmy Cagney while colleagues enjoyed “his” repertoire of scholars) and most of all is annual demonstration of Hippocleides dancing away his bride. Some of those undergraduates went on to pursue graduate work in classics and ancient history including Stanley Burstein, Art Eckstein, Judy Ginsburg, and Lawrence Tritle. Another student, Lew Alcindor, went on to become better known as Kareem Abdul Jabbar. In the last five years before his retirement, he conducted UCLA Summer Sessions in Greece for undergraduates. Chambers also made a point of providing students with accurate and significant materials, notably his 1966 translation of Polybius, his 1970 Fall of Rome, and the textbook for his Western Civilization course, The Western Experience, widely used in America a quarter-century after its publication. 

    Where most of us have “interests” or “hobbies,” Mort’s wholehearted devotion turns his into true passions.  He was a consummate sports fan, who played tennis, faithfully attended UCLA basketball games, and devoted to baseball statistics that prodigious memory that he otherwise employed on bibliographical citations or wine lore.  His interest in the democratic process, ancient and modern, made him a biennial volunteer at the election-day telephone bank at the local Democratic party headquarters. In addition to fine wine and rare books, Mort and Catherine are true amateurs of classical music, with a special love for the German and Austrian classics.  She plays the 1908 Bechstein in their living room and he played his large collection of CDs, LPs, and even his treasured 78s.  But all these passions, even his beloved 1967 MG, were relatively recent compared to his love of tennis as player and expert observer.  After sixty years of playing, his serve no longer exceeded 100 MPH, but his wiliness at the net improved by the year.  The Chambers’ own pilgrimages are not to Santiago de Compostela, but to the Austrian Schubertiade, to Delphi, and to Wimbledon. 

  • Sources:

    Festschrift: Text and Tradition Studies in Greek History and Historiography in Honor of Mortimer Chambers, ed. Ronald Mellor & Lawrence Tritle (Claremont, CA: Regina Books, 1999).

    Personal knowledge.

  • Author: Ronald Mellor