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Bert van Stekelenburg
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This is one of the pictures on the roll of photographs found in his cabin after his death
Bert van Stekelenburg
Professor of Latin and Watcher of Birds

The loss at sea of Bert van Stekelenburg, former Chair of the Department of Latin at Stellenbosch University came as a great shock to the South African Classics community and to his many friends in Stellenbosch, Cape Town, and virtually every other corner of the globe. He fell overboard on 11 March 2003 about four nautical miles off the coast of Chile from the ship with which he was returning to Patagonia from an expedition to watch a particular species of penguin in its own habitat. Colleagues and friends miss Bert for his warmth, his sense of humour, and his consistent self-irony (an ostensible pose of being a 'bombastic Hollander' hid true humility and deep kindness).

Extracts from Redevoeringen bij Cassius Dio

Bert van Stekelenburg
1940 - 2003

Author and editor of works on ancient history and literature
Professor of Latin at Stellenbosch University until 1996

Albert Victor (Bert) van Stekelenburg was born on 31 March 1940 in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
In 1965 he started his career teaching Classics at Dutch academic high schools. In 1971 he received a doctorate in Classics from the University of Leiden, after a stint of research that took him to Rome (1968 to 1969). Thesis: Redevoeringen bij Cassius Dio
During 1972 the young graduate took some time off to travel through Africa, from Cairo to the Cape, and gravitated to Stellenbosch, where he found a vacancy in the Department of Latin. In the following February Bert van Stekelenburg started as lecturer, beginning a career that lasted until 1996, when he took early retirement as Professor and Head of the Department of Latin, but continuing as part-time lecturer in the newly formed Classics Department, until 1998, after which he occasionally taught as guest lecturer and was a frequent and popular public speaker.
Bert's facility with languages, both ancient and modern, and his deep learning were phenomenal. Within the first year of his migration to Stellenbosch, he was already publishing in Afrikaans. Bert's research interests (published in Akroterion) during those first years were largely historical or didactic. An early article was on the Stellenbosch University Roman coin collection (1978) and numismatics remained one of his abiding interests and teaching specialities.
In 2002 he established the annual 'Grevenbroek Prize', to go to the best undergraduate (third-year) student in Latin at the University of Stellenbosch.
Bert is gratefully remembered by the wider Stellenbosch community for his work in many community projects as member of Stellenbosch Round Table, and later of Rotary International. During his term as President of the Stellenbosch Chapter, he instituted innovative ways of fund-raising for the Hospice movement and other charities.
In the seven years following his official retirement Bert undertook many bird-watching expeditions, travelling in turn to various parts of the world. He walked the length of the Pyrenees, criss-crossed South America, went on a motorcycling trip through Kenia, spent a long time in the jungles of Indonesia, travelled to Nepal and India, watching birds and living with the locals.
Bert van Stekelenburg died on on 11 March 2003, when returning from an expedition to Patagonia to watch a particular species of penguin in its own habitat, he fell overboard about four nautical miles off the coast of Chile.


Redevoeringen bij Cassius Dio, Delftsche Uijgevers Maatschappy, 1971
Tria Saecula series (Co-authors: Frans Smuts and Suretha Bruwer), Stellenbosch, 1980-1982 (tri-lingual annotated Latin texts for school and university use)
Lexis Latina, Pretoria, 1985 (a basic 1500-word Latin vocabulary, featuring high-frequency word lists suitable for both literary and legal Latin studies)
De Iure (editor), Pretoria 1991 (a set of legal Latin texts for law students)

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Extracts from "English summary" of Redevoeringen bij Cassius Dio, pp.155-60

The present study aims at examining to what extent Cassius Dio Cocceianus, whose Roman history was written at the time of the Severi, when rendering the spoken word in his work, considered himself bound by the facts that had come down to hi. It also investigates how he incorporated them and to what extent he mixed them with contemporary elements and his personal view of people and events. To this end, the majority of the speeches which have survived intact - viz. Those of the 58 B.C. - 14 A.D. period and which are dealt with by Dio in books 38 up to and including 56, have been examined in detail.

* * * * *

...[G]enerally speaking, Dio did not use the speeches to clarify historical situations but to advance moralising theories; consequently his sources are often not of a historical but of a rhetorical nature. Moreover, if necessary, Dio chose and transformed his material deliberately. For these reasons, his own notions of historical events and persons are more important to his History than the factual information provided by his sources. This should put us on our guard lest we rely on him too much where we mainly depend on Dio, and this is especially so for the years 44 B.C. - 14 A.D. On the other hand, however, Dio"s discussion of the period round about the beginning of our era is interesting, because it offers the views of a senator of the third century, who in spite of the personal disadvantages and dangers that the monarchical system implied for him, does profess his belief in the principate as a form of government which is to be preferred to the republic.


Text by Jo-Marie Claassen, May 2003     Photo by Pieta Van Beek

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