In a scholarly debate in the late 1980s concerning methodology in the classics, Luck was a leader on the side of traditional rigorous scholarly methods and against what he viewed as unfounded speculation based on multiculturalism.
Education and academic career
Luck was born in Bern, Switzerland, and attended the Kirchenfeld Gymnasium (high school) in Bern. During and after World War II, he served in the Swiss Army, eventually being promoted to lieutenant. After this, he earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Bern, also with studies at the University of Paris. He came to the U.S. for graduate studies, at Harvard University, where he earned a master's degree in classics in 1951. Returning to the University of Bern, he earned a doctorate in 1953. He was awarded a Guggenheim in 1958.
Der Akademiker Antiochos (Haupt, 1953). This monograph, Luck's Ph.D. thesis, collects the fragments of text attributed by name to Antiochus of Ascalon, and discusses other texts that are likely to have been influenced by Antiochus.
Arcana mundi : magic and the occult in the Greek and Roman worlds : a collection of ancient texts (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985). Luck collects examples of magical thought in the ancient world, from Homer to the fall of Rome, and ranging in content from poetry and papyri to philosophy. This work includes major sections on magic, miracles, demonology, divination, alchemy, and astrology. Originally written in English, it has also been translated into German, Italian, and Spanish.
Albi Tibulli Aliorumque Carmina (Teubner, 1988). A collection of the works of Tibullus, and a survey of the manuscripts from which these works were collected.
Die Weisheit der Hunde. Texte der antiken Kyniker in deutscher Übersetzung mit Erläuterungen (Alfred Kröner, 1997). The history of the Cynics, from the collected ancient texts concerning them, which Luck has translated into German.
Ancient pathways and hidden pursuits : religion, morals, and magic in the ancient world (University of Michigan Press, 1999). A collection of 22 of Luck's essays, on diverse topics, written over a 50-year time span.