In Memoriam: Theodore V. Buttrey, Jr.

(Written by Sarah E. Cox, and shared with the SCS by Ofelia N. Salgado-Buttrey)

Theodore V. Buttrey, Jr.

29 December 1929 – 9 January 2018

Renowned educator, numismatist and classicist, Theodore V. (“Ted”) Buttrey, Jr., died on January 9, 2018, eleven days after his 88th birthday.  Born in Havre, Montana, as a child he attended the Peacock Military Academy in San Antonio, Texas, where he first encountered the coins of Mexico, a life-long interest.  His secondary education was at the Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, after which he entered Princeton University, graduating magna cum laude in 1950 in Classics.  In the summer of 1952, he participated in the inaugural Summer Seminar in Numismatics conducted by the American Numismatic Society, an experience that may well have been pivotal in setting the later course of his career.  In 1953, still at Princeton, he completed his Ph.D. thesis on a numismatic subject, “Studies in the Coinage of Marc Anthony,” a chapter of which was condensed and published as “Thea Neotera on Coins of Antony and Cleopatra,” ANS Museum Notes 6 (1954), pp. 95-109.  There followed a Fulbright scholarship to study in Rome.

In 1954 Ted joined the faculty of Yale University, where he remained for a decade, first as an instructor and then as assistant professor in the Department of Classical Studies; he also served as curator of the numismatic collection and, from 1962 to 1964, as assistant professor in the Department of Medieval Studies.  In 1964 he moved to the University of Michigan, where he remained until his retirement in 1985, starting as associate professor of Greek and Latin and rising to full professor in 1968.  From 1969 to 1971 he also served as Director of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology.  After retiring from Michigan he moved to the University of Cambridge, to become an Affiliated Lecturer in the Faculty of Classics of Clare Hall College, where he had previously been a Visiting Fellow and Resident Member.  In addition, from 1988 to 1991 he served as Keeper of Coins and Medals at the Fitzwilliam Museum, and from 2008 until his death held the post of Honorary Keeper of Coins.  Ted was a life member of the SCS (the APA at that time) and the AIA, as well as a member of the Royal Numismatic Society and the Société Française de Numismatique, and he received a host of awards and honors, including the Medal of the Royal Numismatic Society, the Huntington Medal of the ANS, the medal of the Norwegian Numismatic Society, and the Wolfgang Hahn Medal of the Institut für Numismatik und Geldgeschichte of Vienna University.

Ted’s publications, both books and articles, totaled well over 100.  Most were concerned with topics in numismatics, especially antiquity, where the broad span of his interests encompassed Athenian coins, Republican denarii, Flavian coins, the coinage of Pescennius Niger, and even calculating ancient coin production.  The modern era of numismatics also consumed much of his time, and a challenge to the authenticity of a collector’s gold bars of the Spanish-American southwest even got his name in the newspapers.  But he never forsook his devotion to Classics, as evidenced by his early article, “Accident and Design in Euripides’ Medea,” published in AJP in 1958, while he was at Yale, and to an even greater extent by the television programs he produced for Michigan Media on Homer, Greek drama and theatre, Herodotus, Suetonius, and other classical subjects.  As recently as 2015, in conversations at the International Numismatic Congress in Taormina, he discussed plans for a book on the role of fate in Oedipus Rex, arguing against the idea of unshakeable destiny.

While never thought of as one who suffered fools gladly, he was a charismatic teacher and approachable mentor, encouraging of younger scholars, as well as a witty and engaging raconteur.  He will be greatly missed, but he leaves an immense legacy for his students, colleagues, and family to cherish and spread.

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(Photo: "Candle" by Shawn Carpenter, licensed under CC BY 2.0)   


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Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy is often characterised in terms of competitive individuals debating orally with one another in public arenas.  But it also developed over its long history a sense in which philosophers might look to an authority and offer to that authority explicit intellectual allegiance.  This is most obvious in the development of the philosophical ‘schools’ with agreed founders and canonical founding texts.  There also developed a tradition of commentary, interpretation, and discussion of texts—composed by ‘authorities’—which often became the focus of disagreement between members of the same school or movement and also useful targets for critics interested in attacking a whole tradition.  Discussing the meaning, force, and even the authorship itself of these texts became a mode of philosophical debate.

This international conference will investigate the twin notions of ‘authorship’ and ‘authority’—the Latin word auctoritas combines these two—in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy.  Topics to be explored include: philosophical allegiance and schism, commentary and quotation, the treatment of anonymous texts or texts of disputed authorship, the collection of authorised corpora of texts and the rejection of spurious or non-canonical works.

More details will be posted on the Faculty of Classics website.

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Thu, 01/09/2014 - 3:25pm by Adam Blistein.

We are very grateful to the nearly 2,500 registrants who overcame difficult travel conditions to attend last week’s joint annual meeting.  At the same time, we are aware that some members who had registered in advance were unable to come to Chicago because their initial airline reservations were cancelled, and their carriers could not put them on different flights in time to attend the meeting.  APA and AIA carry “convention cancellation insurance” for such events, and next week we will announce a procedure by which affected individuals can apply for refunds of advance registration fees.

Adam D. Blistein, APA Executive Director
Kevin Quinlan, AIA Interim Executive Director

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 01/08/2014 - 1:07pm by Adam Blistein.

Anna Shaw Benjamin died on July 21, 2013. Dr. Benjamin received both undergraduate and graduate education at the University of Pennsylvania (B.A. 1946, Ph.D. 1955) and at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. At the latter she held two fellowships, being a Thomas Day Seymour Fellow (1948/1949) and a Fulbright Fellow (1949/1950).

Dr. Benjamin commenced her devoted teaching career in 1951, as Instructor in Classical Languages and Humanities at Juniata College, a small institution in Pennsylvania, which she left for the University of Missouri-Columbia after receiving her Ph.D. in 1955. There, over almost a decade, she moved from Instructor in Classics and Archaeology to Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Professor, and Chair. In 1964, she came to Rutgers University as a Full Professor in the Department of Classics from which she retired in 1987. During her years at Rutgers she served at various times as Chairperson and/or Director of Graduate Studies and created an archeology program within the Classics Department.  Most summers were spent at digs in Greece with colleagues at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens and later at excavations at Aphrodisias in Turkey.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 12/30/2013 - 12:49pm by Adam Blistein.

Our colleagues at AIA have once again developed an online scheduling tool that will permit you to develop a schedule of events you want to attend in Chicago.  You can develop your schedule from lists of sessions, committee meetings, and special events organized by APA, AIA, and affiliated groups.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 12/24/2013 - 10:18am by Adam Blistein.

In my final letter to the membership, I would like to give you all an idea of where we are headed as an organization in the near future.  Our organization is evolving in an exciting way.  We are the heirs of a distinguished history of developing and supporting research and teaching in all the areas of our discipline, and we shall continue to foster those goals as energetically and creatively as we can.  In my last letter I referred to some of the most conspicuous ways in which we are fulfilling this vital part of our mission, in particular with support for L’Année philologique and development of the Digital Latin Library.  At the same time, we are taking seriously the commitments we made in the Gateway Campaign to making the world of classics and the work of APA members valuable to a larger audience, both within and outside academia.  We are in the process of journeying through that Gateway – including evolution of our name, our logo, our web site, our annual meeting, our organizational structure, and our advocacy messages.  No part of our new orientation involves abandoning our history and mission.  In fact, without the foundation of the scholarly and teaching work of our members, we would have little to offer. 

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 12/18/2013 - 3:46pm by Adam Blistein.

Garrett Fagan recently posed an interesting question in his very useful discussion of the crisis in the humanities: “should we embrace the competition for students in a marketplace of majors?” That my answer is “yes” is probably evident from my last post, in which I urged classicists to participate in public discourse in order to insure that the public image of Classics is both attractive to our students and acceptable to their parents. Not everyone shares this view. Many scholars cringe at the economic and corporate metaphors that often cluster around this issue (“competition,” “marketplace”) and worry about the dilution of rigor and intellectualism they connote. But in my view we do not need to choose between “giving the students what they want” and our core values as humanists. We do, however, need to give ourselves permission to reconnect in our classes with the reasons most people are drawn to the humanities in the first place.

View full article. | Posted in on Wed, 12/18/2013 - 8:34am by Curtis Dozier.

During the New Year’s Day edition of National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, writer Frank Deford will report on a discussion he had recently with Professor Sarah Culpepper Stroup of the University of Washington about her 'War Games' course.  A University publication gives details of her course here.  After the broadcast, Mr. Deford's report will also be posted on the section of the NPR web site that archives his presentations. 

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 12/17/2013 - 1:17pm by Adam Blistein.

Last week I saw something that I never thought I’d see: a new Greek tragedy. I don’t mean an adaptation of a Greek play or a modern drama inspired by a Greek myth. This was a new play, with no direct overlap with any ancient drama, but which was structured and written exactly like a fifth-century Athenian tragedy. The staging itself was in many ways very modern, but when you stripped that away and looked at the script itself, it was stylistically almost perfect. Okay, one could quibble: I’m not sure they could have staged it with just three actors; the choral odes were split across episodes (though they were composed in strophes and antistrophes). But everything else was pretty much spot on. We got formal features such as prologue, agôn scenes, stichomythia, messenger speeches, and sung monody. Even on the level of language and metaphor, there was little that would feel out of place if you tried to pass it off as a translation of an ancient text.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 12/16/2013 - 11:15am by Laura Swift.

Why has the Titanomachy been so fascinating a subject for movies, TV, and video games in recent years?

Francisco de Goya, Saturno devorando a su hijo (1819–1823)In Greek myth, the Titans were the gods who ruled the cosmos in the generation before the ascent of the Olympians (Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, and the like).  The king of the Titans, Kronos, came to power by castrating his father Ouranos and held onto that power — in view of a prophecy that his son would overthrow him — by swallowing each of his children at birth.  But his wife, Rhea, replaced baby Zeus with a rock and hid him on the island of Crete until he grew strong enough to force Kronos to regurgitate his siblings, whom he then led in battle against Kronos and kin.  This battle, the war of the Olympians against the Titans, is called the Titanomachy, and can be considered the first war of Greek myth.  It takes up a full fifth of (what survives of) Hesiod’s Theogony, a poem about the birth of the gods (old-timey translation here), with a vivid description of the effects of Zeus’ prodigious use of the thunderbolt:

The land boiled, and every stream of Ocean, and the uncultivated sea.  The hot blast surrounded the earthborn Titans, unspeakable fire approached the bright sky, and the gleaming bright light of the thunderbolt and lightning blinded their eyes, though they were strong.  [Theogony lines 695–699, translation mine]

The Titanomachy ends with a victory for Zeus and the Olympians, thanks to the strongarm help of the hundred-handed monster-children of Mother Earth, who imprison the Titans in Tartarus, the deepest part of the underworld.

So much for the myth.  There are a number of treatments of the Titans in modern popular media.  And in almost every single one, the story is not the Titanomachy itself, but rather the reawakening or escape of the Titans from their prison, and the commencement or threat of a second war between Titans and Olympians.  It seems to me that this basic storyline, and the set of other plot elements that seem intrinsically associated with it, touch on a number of social/political anxieties in America today, as I’ll talk about in next month's column.  [Mega spoilers starting in the next paragraph!]

View full article. | Posted in on Sun, 12/15/2013 - 4:12am by T. H. M. Gellar-Goad.

There has been much ink spilt recently about a “crisis” in the humanities. In the New York Times alone there have been articles and a “Room for Debate” discussion of the “crisis.” Steven Pinker has weighed into the debate in The New Republic, generating ripostes from Leon Wieseltier in the same publication and Gary Gutting in the New York Times. Heated debate among readers can be charted in the comment boards attached to all of these publications.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 12/12/2013 - 3:38pm by Garrett Fagan.

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