Mary Beard says damehood ‘tribute to Greeks and Romans'

The academic has been awarded the honour for her services to the study of classical civilisations.

Classicist Mary Beard said it was a “smashing honour” to be made a dame in the Queen’s Birthday honours.

Beard, who was awarded an OBE in the 2013 New Year Honours, will receive a damehood for services to the study of classical civilisations.

The academic told the Press Association: “It is of course a smashing honour. I feel especially pleased that someone working on the ancient classical world gets honoured in this way.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

“I’d like to treat it as a bit of a tribute to the Greeks and Romans themselves – as well as to all my wonderful academic colleagues who also do so much for the study of antiquity.”

The Cambridge professor is well-known for her online presence and regular appearances on classics and discussion panel programmes on the BBC, as well as contributing to Radio 4 series A Point Of View.

Despite her many accolades, the scholar said she reacted with “a mixture of disbelief and pleasure” at the news.

Yet she expects her friends and family to throw around a few jokes when they find out about her award.

“I think there will be a bit of ribaldry to be honest – and a few jokes about ‘pantomime dames’. But all good fun,” she said.

Born Winifred Mary Beard, she is often described as Britain’s best-known classicist for her regular appearances in the media.

It was her time as an undergraduate at Cambridge University which sparked the feminist views that she holds dear.

Beard completed her PhD in 1982 and became the only female lecturer in Newnham College’s Classics faculty.

In 2004 she became Professor of Classics at Cambridge and launched her TV career in 2010, when she presented Pompeii: Life And Death In A Roman Town, on BBC Two.

She has gone on to write a number of documentaries on the subject as well as appear on Question Time.

The author of almost twenty books, she  also writes the A Don’s Life blog for the Times Literary Supplement and has recently spoken about the #MeToo movement.

Mary Beard
Mary Beard is often described as Britain’s best-known classicist (Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

The 63-year-old told the Press Association that conversations about the gender pay gap and inequality was “certainly something to celebrate”.

“I think, though, that we have to wait a while before we know whether this is a real turning point or not. It is hard to turn a hashtag into practical social and political change,” she added.

On the progress of gender equality in a few years’ time, she said: “I feel fairly confident that it will be better, the question is how much better. I have lived through a gender revolution in my lifetime…but there is still a hell of a long way to go.”

Beard married art historian Robin Cormack in 1985. They have a daughter, Zoe and son Raphael.

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