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Asko Parpola

Asko Heikki Siegfried Parpola
Born July 12, 1941, Forssa

Master of Arts 1963, Licentiate 1966, PhD 1968 (Sanskrit and comparative Indo-European linguistics), University of Helsinki

Emeritus professor and docent in Indology, University of Helsinki 2005–
Research Fellow 1968–72, Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS), Copenhagen
Acting professor of Sanskrit and comparative Indo-European linguistics 1972, University of Gothenburg
Research Fellow 1972–74, Humanities Research Council of the Academy of Finland
Senior Research Fellow 1974–1981, Humanities Research Council of the Academy of Finland
Acting professor of comparative religion 1977, University of Helsinki
Professor of Indology (personal chair), University of Helsinki 1982–2004
Visiting scholar 1987, Churchill College, University of Cambridge 1987
Visiting scholar 1999, Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University 1999
Visiting scholar 2006, Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Kyoto
Hermann Collitz Professor, Summer Institute of Linguistics, Linguistic Society of America/Stanford University 2007

Research themes
Vedic research (the Veda is India’s oldest known literature and religion)
The riddles of the Indus Civilization: writing, language and religion
The prehistory of Aryan languages in the light of archaeology and historical linguistics

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Awards and special achievements
University of Helsinki Master’s Thesis Prize 1963
First Class Knight of the White Rose of Finland 1990
Alfred Kordelin Foundation lifetime achievement award 2003
Commander of the Order of the Lion of Finland
M. Karunanidhi Classical Tamil Award 2009
Honorary member of the American Oriental Society
Indian Presidential Citation of Honour in Sanskrit Studies 2015

Photo: Juri Ahlfors
Written by Asko Parpola, (Olli Siitonen ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

My best memories/moments at the University of Helsinki

Of the many fine memories I have at the University of Helsinki, the longest in duration is studying classical philology, which already fascinated me at upper-secondary school. In the summer of 1958, I read Eutropius’s Breviarium historiae Romanae, which I had found in a second-hand bookshop, with no other help than that of a dictionary and grammar. I discovered that I enjoyed solving problems of Latin more than solving crossword puzzles.

At university, Yrjö Tiisala taught us, in his lectures on Horace, how one should sort out the writer’s unusual expressions, role-models and ambiguous references. I still know some of Horace’s poems by heart. The highlight of my Latin studies was nevertheless a month-long course on the topography of ancient Rome at the Villa Lante in the autumn of 1963. Our instructors were Jaakko Suolahti, professor of general history, who was researching ancient brick stamps in the port of Ostia, and his wife, the Etruscologist Eila Suolahti. We also made excursions to Ostia, Horace’s villa (in its closed cellar the museum curator was secretly cultivating champignons), Olevano Romano, famous for its wine, and Pompey and Herculaneum.

I studied Greek literature to the highest grade, and I still read Homer and Herodotus. My teachers included three docents, all of whom became professors, Heikki Koskenniemi, Rolf Westman and Holger Thesleff, but above all, it was the lectures and seminars of the aristocratic Henrik Zilliacus that I found especially rewarding and instructive.

My study mates, who became close friends, were also an important source of inspiration. Together we founded the student society Symposion, which is in existence to this day, and I had the honour of working as its study secretary and chairman.

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