Richard Tarrant was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. and educated at Fordham University (B.A. 1966) and Corpus Christi College, Oxford (D. Phil. 1972).

Professor Tarrant taught at the University of Toronto from 1970 until 1982, when he joined the Harvard faculty. He served as Chairman of the Department from 1988 to 1994 (with a year's leave in 1991-92, when he was Mellon Visiting Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and Visiting Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford); in 1995-96 he was Acting Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. In 1998 he received the Joseph R. Levenson Award for undergraduate teaching, and in 1999 he was appointed a Harvard College Professor.

His professional activities include past service to the American Philological Association as a Director, member of the Program Committee, and Vice-President for Publications; in 2003 he was nominated as a candidate for President. He is a member of the editorial boards of Toronto Medieval Latin Texts, Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries, and Materiali e discussioni per l'analisi dei testi classici. He was Editor of Phoenix (the journal of the Classical Association of Canada) from 1978 to 1982 and has edited four volumes of Harvard Studies in Classical Philology.

His main areas of interest are Latin literature (primarily though not exclusively poetry), Greek and Roman drama (principally tragedy), and the transmission and editing of classical Latin texts.

Among his major publications are editions with commentary of Seneca's Agamemnon (Cambridge UP 1977) and Thyestes (Scholars Press 1985); he is also one of the co-authors of Texts and Transmission: A Survey of the Latin Classics, edited by L. D. Reynolds (Clarendon Press 1983). His articles and reviews include studies of Virgil, Horace, Ovid, ps-Ovid, and Seneca, as well as discussions of problems in textual criticism (e.g., interpolation in poetic texts).

Much to his own amazement, he has recently completed a critical edition of Ovid's Metamorphoses for the Oxford Classical Texts series (due to appear early in 2004); this will eventually be followed by a companion volume of notes on the text. His commentary on Virgil: Aeneid Book XII for the Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics series was released in August, 2012; future projects include books on Horace's Odes and on textual criticism.

At the undergraduate level he has taught both departmental courses and a course in the Core Curriculum on "The Rome of Augustus"; graduate seminars he has given have included Latin Palaeography, Ovid's Metamorphoses, Horace's Odes, Latin Elegy, and Augustan Questions.