Fridrik Thordarson, 1928-2005


Fridrik Thordarson passed away on October 2nd. This is not only a great loss for the field of Caucasian linguistics in general and in particular for Ossetian studies, but also for us who have lost an amiable and committed colleague.

Fridrik Thordarson was born in Iceland on March 7th, 1928, and came to Norway in 1951 to study Classical Philology at the University of Oslo. He took his exam in 1963 with Latin as his major and Greek and Indian Philology as his minors. From 1965 onwards he taught classical philology as a lecturer, and became professor in 1994.

The scope of his linguistic interest was very wide. As a student, he spent a year (1958-59) in Greece to learn Modern Greek at a time when it was still unusual to combine Classical Greek studies with an interest in Modern Greek. He always emphasized the continuity in Greek culture, with Greek language and culture remaining an important interest for him.

His other research interest was the languages of the Caucasus. From 1968 to 1969 he spent a year in Georgia, where he perfected his knowledge of Georgian and Ossetian - following in the footsteps of his teacher of Georgian, Hans Vogt. He had studied Old Iranian with Georg Morgenstierne and was able to extend his knowledge of Ossetian with Olga Tedeeva in Tbilisi. He became one of the leading experts of this Caucasian-Iranian language and its culture.

A less known aspect of his work was stressed by his former students D. Haug and E. Welo: "Fridrik has devoted his life to the study of language, but he is also considered a true master in the use of his mother tongue, Icelandic. His reputation as a great stylist he has won through essays on various topics, and especially through his translations from the classical languages, which include the Greek novel of Daphnis and Chloe and selections from Thucydides."

Early this year, F. Thordarson was honoured with a magnificent Festschrift: Haptacahaptaitis. Festschrift for Fridrik Thordarson. On the occasion of his 77th birthday. Edited by Dag Haug and Eirik Welo (Oslo: Novus forlag). The contributions to this volume mirror his broad interests and his success as an academic teacher. It also includes a complete list of his publications.

As far as I know, it was F. Thordarson who initiated the foundation of the Societas Caucasologica Europaea at the third meeting of caucasiologists in Oslo which he organised and whose papers he published in 1988.

Winfried Boeder
(Source: Obituary written by Eystein Dahl, Dag Haug and Eirik Welo in Norwegian)