Robin Lane Fox

Robin James Lane Fox, FRSL (born 5 October 1946)[1] is an English classicist, ancient historian and gardening writer known for his works on Alexander the Great.[2] Lane Fox is an Emeritus Fellow of New College, Oxford and Reader in Ancient History, University of Oxford. Fellow and Tutor in Ancient History at New College from 1977 to 2014, he serves as Garden Master and as Extraordinary Lecturer in Ancient History for both New and Exeter Colleges. He has also taught Greek and Latin literature and early Islamic history.[3][4]

Robin Lane Fox
Robin Lane Fox at Financial Times 125th Anniversary Party, London, in June 2013
Robin James Lane Fox

(1946-10-05) 5 October 1946
EducationEton College
Alma materMagdalen College, Oxford
OccupationEducator, author
Known forHistorian of classical antiquity

His major publications, for which he has won literary prizes including the James Tait Black Award,[5] the Duff Cooper Prize,[6] the Heinemann Award[7] and the Runciman Award,[8] include studies of Alexander the Great and Ancient Macedon, Late Antiquity, Christianity and Paganism,[9] the Bible and history, and the Greek Dark Ages. His most recent book in 2015 concerns the patristic author Augustine of Hippo. He is the gardening correspondent of the Financial Times.

Early life

Lane Fox was educated at Eton College, an all-boys public school near Windsor, Berkshire. He studied Literae Humaniores (Classics) at Magdalen College, Oxford.[1] Like his fellow ancient historians Paul Cartledge and Alan Cameron, and philosophers Terence Irwin and John McDowell,[10] he was an undergraduate student of G. E. M. de Ste. Croix.[1][11]

Academic career

Lane Fox was a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, from 1970 to 1973. From 1974 to 1976, he was a lecturer at Worcester College, Oxford. From 1976 to 1977, he was a research fellow in classical and Islamic history at Worcester.[1] In 1977, he was elected a fellow of New College, Oxford, in succession to G. E. M. de Ste. Croix.[1][11] In 1990, he was appointed Reader in Ancient History within the Faculty of Classics.[12] In 2012, he retired and was appointed an Emeritus Fellow of New College.[13]

Important influences on his contributions to the study of ancient history include Louis Robert,[14] Peter Brown,[15] E. R. Dodds,[15] Timothy Barnes,[15] E. J. Bickerman,[16] Martin Litchfield West,[17] Walter Burkert,[17] and his long-standing New College colleague W. G. (George) Forrest.[18]

He was historical advisor to the film director Oliver Stone for the epic Alexander. His appearance as an extra in cavalry manoeuvres, in addition to his work as a historical consultant, was publicised at the time of the film's release.[19][20][21]

He wrote and presented Greek Myths: Tales of Travelling Heroes, which was first broadcast on BBC Four at 9:00pm on 15 November 2010.[22]

While primarily focused on ancient Greece, Fox has authored three books dealing with the history of Christianity, Pagans and Christians, The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible, and most recently a biography of Saint Augustine, Augustine: Conversions and Confessions. In the second book, Fox professes himself to be an atheist, although in the last book he expresses much admiration for St. Augustine.

Lane Fox is the gardening correspondent of the Financial Times and an outspoken opponent of garden gnomes.[23]

Personal life

Lane Fox is the father of Martha Lane Fox and of Henry Lane Fox. Martha is an entrepreneur and crossbench life peer who co-founded Henry is CEO of The Browser website.[24]

Lane Fox is an atheist.[25]

Selected publications

  • Alexander the Great (London: Allen Lane, 1973, and New York: E. P. Dutton, 1974) (awarded Duff Cooper Prize and James Tait Black Memorial Prize)
  • The Search for Alexander (London: Viking, 1981)
  • Pagans and Christians: In the Mediterranean World from the Second Century AD to the Conversion of Constantine (London: Viking, 1986; Penguin Books Ltd re-issue, 2006)
  • Better Gardening (London: R. & L., 1982)
  • Variations on a Garden (London: R. & L., 1986)
  • The Unauthorised Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible (1991; new edition, Penguin Books, 2006)
  • The Long March: Xenophon and the Ten Thousand (Yale University Press, 2004)
  • The Making of "Alexander": The Official Guide to the Epic Alexander Film (London: R. & L., 2004)
  • The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian (London: Allen Lane, 2005)
  • Page, Russell, The Education of a Gardener (New York Review of Books reprint, 2007), preface by Robin Lane Fox
  • Travelling Heroes: Greeks and Their Myths in the Epic Age of Homer (London: Allen Lane, 2008)
  • Thoughtful Gardening: Great Plants, Great Gardens, Great Gardeners (London: Particular Books, 2010)
  • Augustine: Conversions and Confessions (London: Allen Lane, 2015) awarded Wolfson History Prize)


  1. Robin Lane Fox profile at Debrett's People of Today
  2. Review of Lane Fox in The Independent
  4. "Classics - Exeter College". Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  5. "Lane Fox profile at the Tait Black website". Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  6. Press, Orphans. "Past Winners of The Duff Cooper Prize - The Duff Cooper Prize". Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  7. "Lane Fox profile". Folio Society. Archived from the original on 25 March 2012. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  8. Profile of Lane Fox at the Runciman Award winners webpage of the Anglo-Hellenic League Archived 4 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  9. Robin Lane Fox, Pagani e cristiani, a detailed review in Italian of Robin Lane Fox's Pagans and christians.
  10. Ste Croix, The Origins of the Peloponnesian War, xii
  11. Review of Lane Fox's Travelling Heroes in The Independent
  12. "Mr Robin J. Lane Fox". Faculty of Classics. University of Oxford. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  13. "Emeritus, Honorary and Wykeham Fellows". New College. University of Oxford. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  14. Pagans and Christians, p. 10
  15. Pagans and Christians, p. 8
  16. The Unauthorized Version, p. 9
  17. Travelling Heroes, xiii
  18. Travelling Heroes, p. xiv
  19. "Into Battle With Alexander", The Times, 4 May 2004.
  20. "Why the lowly shepherd is the one who gets to hear the angels", 20 December 2011, The Daily Telegraph
  21. Profile in The Spectator
  22. Greek Myths: Tales of Travelling Heroes, BBC Four, BBC, UK.
  23. "Gnomes spark row over fairies at Chelsea", The Independent
  24. Henry Lane Fox profile in The Telegraph
  25. In the preface to his book The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible (1991), Lane Fox states: "I write as an atheist, but there are Christian and Jewish scholars whose versions [of the history of the Bible] would be far more radical than mine." (Penguin paperback edition 2006, p.7; ISBN 978-0-14-102296-3)
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