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Collection Overview

Fagles, Robert
Robert Fagles Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
28 boxes and 27.4 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 1-28


Robert Fagles (1933-2008) was an American professor, poet, and academic, best known for his contemporary translations of ancient Greek and Latin classics, especially his acclaimed translations of the epic poems of Homer. The papers consist of professional and publishing correspondence, along with manuscript and typescript drafts, corrected proofs and galleys, notes, revisions, and other files regarding his English translations of ancient Greek and Latin texts, including Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil's Aeneid, Aeschylus's Oresteia, Sophocles's Three Theban Plays, as well as poems by Bacchylides and Pindar.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The papers consist of Robert Fagles's professional correspondence and translation files, primarily including revised manuscript and typescript drafts, corrected proofs and galleys, notes, financial documents, permissions files, reviews, and promotional materials for his English translations of ancient Greek and Latin texts, including Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil's Aeneid, Aeschylus's Oresteia, Sophocles's Three Theban Plays, and poems by Bacchylides and Pindar, as well as files on Fagles's book of original poetry I, Vincent. The papers provide a comprehensive picture of Fagles's career as a translator and poet from the early 1960s until his death in 2008, and most materials in the papers reflect these creative and scholarly aspects of his life. While the papers do include occasional drafts of talks at various seminars, conferences, and events that Fagles led at Princeton, his papers largely do not include files devoted to his teaching and administrative roles in the Department of Comparative Literature at Princeton.

Fagles kept extensive files on each of his major writing and translation projects, which include his drafts and preliminary writings, as well as related correspondence, publishing and production files, royalties and sales statements, reviews, files on theatrical productions and works in print referencing his translations, awards, and events. Correspondence files include Fagles's correspondence with fellow classicists, scholars, poets, former students, and family members, including Robert Fitzgerald, Joyce Carol Oates, Louise Glück, James Dickey, Robert Hollander, Francis Fergusson, George Steiner, and many others, primarily regarding various writing projects, although much of the correspondence is of a mixed personal and professional nature. Professional files regarding publishing, permissions, talks, and awards that Fagles kept in addition to his files on specific works are also present.


The papers are arranged into the following three series: Series 1: Writings, Series 2: Correspondence, and Series 3: Professional Files.

Collection Creator Biography:

Fagles, Robert

Robert Fagles (1933-2008) was a renowned translator of Greek and Latin classics, whose bestselling translations of Homer and Virgil's epics are recognized for reinterpreting the classics in a contemporary idiom. Fagles was also the Arthur Marks '19 Professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton University, where he taught English and classics from 1960 until 2002 and founded the Department of Comparative Literature, which he chaired for two decades.

Born in Philadelphia on September 11, 1933, Fagles attended Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, where he studied German. He first developed an interest in the classics during his freshman year at Amherst College in 1952 and eventually switched his major from pre-med to English. Graduating summa cum laude in 1955, Fagles went on to complete his Ph.D. in English literature at Yale University in 1959, where he taught as an instructor for one year. At Yale, Fagles met Bernard Knox, a classicist who became a lifelong friend and later edited and wrote introductions to his published translations. After joining the Princeton faculty in the Department of English in 1960, Fagles became the director of Princeton's Program in Comparative Literature in 1966. Upon the program's inception as an official department in 1975, Fagles served as its founding chair until 1994, where he was credited with integrating literary study with translation and the creative arts. Throughout his career at Princeton, Fagles taught both undergraduate and graduate courses, including freshman seminars, specializing in the classical tradition in English and European literature, the theory and practice of translation, and forms of poetry. After his retirement in 2002, he remained an emeritus professor. Princeton awarded him an honorary doctorate in humane letters in 2007.

Fagles began his career as a translator with the publication of the Complete Poems of the Greek lyric poet Bacchylides, released by Yale University Press in 1961, followed by Pindar's Olympian Odes, which appeared serially in the journal Arion in 1964 and 1965. Moving on to the Greek tragedies, Fagles then translated Aeschylus's Oresteia (Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides), published in 1975, and Sophocles's Three Theban Plays (Antigone, Oedipus the King, and Oedipus at Colonus), published in 1982, both with Viking Penguin. Fagles remains best known for his popular translations of the three great classical epics, Homer's Iliad (1990) and Odyssey (1996) and Virgil's Aeneid (2006). In 1979, Fagles also published a book of original poems titled I, Vincent: Poems from the Pictures of Vincent Van Gogh, billed as a collection of translations of paintings by Vincent Van Gogh. Fagles's original poems have also appeared in various literary journals, including The Sewanee Review, The Yale Review, The Southern Review, Antaeus, and Grand Street.

Fagles was the recipient of many awards over his lifetime, including the Howard T. Behrman Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities from Princeton University (1989), the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award of the Academy of American Poets (1991), an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1996), the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation (1997), and the National Humanities Medal (2006). He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters and holds honorary degrees from Amherst College, Bowdoin College, Yale University, and Princeton University.

Robert Fagles was married to Lynne Fagles (née Marilyn Duchovnay) for 51 years, with whom he had two daughters, Katya and Nina. He died in 2008 at age 74.

Collection History


Gift of Lynne Fagles in 2015 (AM 2015-63). Typescript drafts and proofs of Fagles's translations of Sophocles's Three Theban Plays and Aeschylus's Oresteia were an earlier gift of Robert Fagles in 1986; these materials, which were previously described as the Robert Fagles Translations of Greek Drama (TC014), were transferred to his papers in 2015.


Nothing was removed from the collection during 2015 processing.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in April 2015, with assistance from Kristine Gift (GS) and Fiona Bell '18. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding in April 2015.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Robert Fagles Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
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Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 1-28