Lewis Richard Farnell

Vice-Chancellor, Oxford

(1) Greek Hero Cults and Ideas of Immortality (2) The Attributes of God

In his first lecture series (delivered in 1919), Farnell provides an overview of Kerakles and traces the origins of the Dioskouroi. He concludes with an eschatological summary, devoting time to Eleusinian and Samothracian rituals. In his second lecture series (delivered in 1924), Farnell explores mediaeval theology, considering himself a positivist and one who is guided by the spirit of comparative religion. He establishes the foundations of religious faith and discusses the evolution of attributes ascribed to divine.


Lewis Richard Farnell was born on 19 January 1856 in Salisbury, England. Classical scholar and Oxford academic, Farnell published a succession of books on Greek religion and promoted university reform. Elected Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford in 1880, he became Classical Lecturer and Sub-Rector in 1883, Senior Tutor in 1893, and Rector in 1913. During his time as Rector, he was appointed Lecturer in Classical Archaeology and was made the first Wilde Lecturer in Natural and Comparative Religion. He held the position of Vice-Chancellor from 1920 to 1923.  

Elected Fellow of the British Academy in 1916, he received honorary degrees from the universities of Dublin, St Andrews, and Geneva. An energetic promoter of the degree of DLitt, Farnell was often found championing the university against the colleges. Important works include The Cults of the Greek States, 5 vols. (1896), The Evolution of Religion, an Anthropological Study (1905), Greece and Babylon (1911), The Higher Aspects of Greek Religion (1912), Outline-History of Greek Religion (1920), The Works of Pindar, 3 vols. (1930), and a delightfully written autobiography, An Oxonian Looks Back (1934). 

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