d.m. David Ridgway

From the Herald:

DAVID Ridgway, who has died aged 74, was the English-speaking world’s leading expert on how the ancient Greeks colonised the Mediterranean almost 3000 years ago.

He passed on that knowledge during a 35-year career as lecturer, then reader in archaeology and finally reader in classics, at Edinburgh University.

He and his Sardinian-born wife Francesca became popular figures at the university, where she was an honorary fellow, first in Archaeology, later in classics, until they moved south to Colchester, Essex, on his retirement in 2003.

From their Edinburgh base, the couple, who met in 1964 on an archaeological dig in Calabria, southern Italy, and married in 1970, became leading authors in their fields. She was recognised worldwide as an expert on the Etruscans.

Their joint work Italy Before the Romans, published in 1979 and covering Italy from the Bronze Age to Roman rule, became widely known to fellow academics and students simply as Ridgway and Ridgway. It included the first account in English of the Etruscan colonisation of Corsica.

During his many years in Edinburgh, Mr Ridgway’s work was perhaps better known in Greece and Italy, where he was considered the pre-eminent classical archaeologist of his time in the field of ancient Mediterranean history.

At the same time, he became something of a bridge between British and local Mediterranean scholars. His work helped reveal how the Greeks colonised the sea’s shores all the way to the Iberian peninsula (the name Iberia itself came from the Greek) long before the Roman Empire became the regional superpower.

He explained how the Greeks began colonisation partly to find more fertile land to help feed the motherland, partly to get away from over-populated cities riven by social unrest.

Among Walsall-born Mr Ridgway’s specialist areas was the colonisation of the lands bordering the central Tyrrhenian Sea, between western Italy and the islands of Sicily, Corsica and his wife’s native Sardinia.

He was also deeply involved in the excavations at ancient Pithekoussai, on the island of Ischia near Naples, one of the first areas colonised by the Greeks in the eighth Century BC.

Born in 1938, David Ridgway studied classics at University College London, graduating in 1960. He then spent five years on a post-graduate course at Oxford, during which he added a Diploma in Archaeology to his CV in 1962, guided by the renowned Iron Age archaeologist Professor Christopher Hawkes. From 1965-67, he was a Research Fellow at the Department of Classics at the University of Newcastle before moving to Edinburgh in 1968.

Thirty-five years later, after moving back south to retire, Ridgway and his wife were made Research Fellows of the Institute of Classical Studies, one of 10 Institutes making up the School of Advanced Study of the University of London. They commuted regularly from their home in Colchester to use the fine library of the Institute’s headquarters, Senate House, in London’s Bloomsbury district.

In 2006, 50 of Mr Ridgway’s fellow scholars from around the world published a Festschrift – a volume of relevant archaeological essays – in joint tribute to the Ridgways. It was entitled Across Frontiers: Etruscans, Greeks, Phoenicians and Cypriots.

Mr Ridgway’s colleagues said they found it fitting that he had died, in Athens, after a long hot day doing what he loved best – visiting excavations in the village of Lefkandi on the Greek island of Euboea, whence the earliest Greek colonists had gone west almost three millennia ago. His wife Francesca died in 2008. They had no children.