In Memoriam Valerie French

Valerie French, Associate Professor Emerita of History in American University, Washington, D.C., died suddenly in her home in Washington, Dec. 8, 2011, in her 71st year. She was born in Toledo, Ohio, Jan. 16, 1941. She received her B.A. degree in chemistry from Cornell University, where her interest in ancient history was awakened in classes under Donald Kagan. She pursued ancient history at UCLA, where she gained her M.A. and Ph. D. (1971) degrees, learning her needed languages in graduate school. She taught at American University from 1969 until her retirement in 2005. She received multiple awards for teaching and for her work in administration. Ebullient and supportive towards all, she served several years as a dean. She published widely on the history and activities of women and children in antiquity and sustained by herself the program in ancient history at American University. Other colleagues will discuss her work in these areas. This notice will focus on her strictly scientific work. It has remained little known but is of the highest importance for Greek, especially Athenian, history.

Her dissertation at UCLA was “The First Tribute Stele and the Athenian Empire, 455-445 B.C.,” 173 pp. It is unpublished but available from University Microfilms, under the name Valerie French Allen; she later gave up the name Allen and was known in her last decades by her maiden name, Valerie French. The official copy of the dissertation is held by the Department of History, UCLA. The work is a highly detailed study of the texts of the first ten of the Athenian tribute lists inscribed on the famous First Stele, or Lapis Primus, preserved in the Epigraphic Museum, Athens. The tribute lists constitute a document second only to Thucydides for our knowledge of fifth-century history. In this study French rigorously brought to bear her scientific training and proposed many important new readings and hypotheses. In measuring and reading the often worn and fragmentary letters she had the advice of Markellos Mitsos, the director of the EM, and of two of America’s preeminent epigraphists, Professors Ronald Stroud and Stephen Tracy. She drew attention to the need for multiple measurements of all ambiguous letters and preserved her many original readings in the notes to her discussion. The result is the only precise study of the texts of the tribute lists since the edition of the lists, known to all as ATL, by Meritt, Wade-Gery, and McGregor (Cambridge-Princeton, 1939-1953). Any future editor of the lists will inevitably have to use French’s work on the texts.

She submitted her manuscript to the University of California Press, which replied that it would not “publish all those numbers,” that is, her many records of measurements of the letters in her endnotes. Discouraged by this reply, she apparently lost interest in pursuing another publisher and turned to interests in other fields. Her publications in fifth-century classical studies are essentially limited to essays in Festschriften dedicated to Truesdell Brown, Donald Kagan, and Mortimer Chambers. The result is that her work on the Athenian empire has been all but totally overlooked. McGregor, who heard about it, requested from her a photocopy of her dissertation but seems to have made no use of it. It is briefly mentioned by Raphael Sealey in his A History of the Greek City States (Berkeley-Los Angeles 1976 etc., pp. 286, 296), in a discussion of W.K. Pritchett’s suggestion that a decorative relief, perhaps containing one list on its back, was mounted on the first stele above list 1. French (pp. 38-41) examined the surface at the top of the first stele and concluded that there was probably “a decorative relief which has been totally destroyed,” but she reserved judgment about whether this hypothetical relief also carried a list of a year’s tribute.

As one specimen of the originality and importance of her work, we may look at the first line of List 9 as numbered by ATL. This line is designated as a prescript by ATL (that is, it supposedly follows the usual formula at the head of a year’s record, “under the ninth board of treasurers, for which ... was secretary,” following which would come a list of cities that paid tribute. The reader will note, however, that only three Greek letters in the whole line are printed in ATL. The first is a dotted (that is, by epigraphic convention, uncertain) alpha, which ATL understands as the first letter of á¼€[ρχε̃ς], “board.” Eight letter-spaces farther on, ATL printed ἐν[á½±τες], “ninth,” in which both epsilon and nu are undotted, that is, considered certain by the editors.

Through repeated measurements of these supposed letters and the location of letters under them in the list of states paying tribute, specifically the name of the city Μενδα[á¿–οι], French showed that the undotted epsilon and nu of ἐν[á½±τες] cannot be read and, more crucially, that the whole line is not, as ATL held,  the prescript heading the records of tribute for the year. She finally sketched and interpreted the preserved marks as rho, gamma, alpha, part of [Βε]ργα[á¿–οι], a city in the Thraceward region; and the column in question contains only Thraceward names, thus “Bergaioi is the most likely restoration.”

French’s results support those of David Lewis, ABSA 49 (1954) 25-28, who with George Forrest had rejected the supposed alpha of á¼€[ρχε̃ς] as “no more than an accidental nick on a much-worn stone.” For Lewis, there was “a distinct possibility that the letters [sc. epsilon, nu of ATL’s ἐν[á½±τες] are not part of a prescript.” Lewis could not accept ATL’s ἐν[ and finallysaw “no alternative to the reading [Βερ]γ[αá¿–οι],” which was to be French’s final suggestion. Note, however, that she read rho, gamma, and a possible alpha, thus carrying the decipherment beyond Lewis. Her work on these letters, it will be seen, is not confined to rediscovering the name of one city, but requires a whole reconsideration of ATL’s list 9.

There is not enough space here to discuss the other critical subjects that French surveyed in her dissertation, such as ATL’s very adventurous opinion (barely accepted, reluctantly, by Meiggs-Lewis in their collection, p. 135) that in the year 449/8 the Athenians collected no tribute whatever and resumed collection in the next year. Rejecting this conclusion after detailed argument, French writes, “there is no ‘missing list,’ no year in which tribute was not collected” (p. 63). On all such topics French maintains her iron concentration and clear, vigorous prose;  and she provides data available nowhere else. Her work, based on a direct, hands-on study of the famous Lapis Primus, will surely some day receive the attention that it deserves.

Mortimer Chambers

Categories

Follow SCS News for information about the SCS and all things classical.

Use this field to search SCS News
Select a category from this list to limit the content on this page.
Newspaper

The SAGP Board has decided that the 2022 Annual Meeting will again occur via Zoom. This makes it possible to stretch out the time-frame so that we do not have simultaneous panels. We will schedule panels on weekends, Friday through Monday (avoiding Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, since those are the heaviest teaching days for most people). We will schedule starting September 23, and ending November 19, for this round.

Members of the Society are invited to propose Zoom panels. Organizers should specify the topic of the panel, the proposed speakers (with academic affiliation and email address) and tentative title (check with them first!), and preferred date (and an alternate). Some preference for organizers who would be able to host a zoom event themselves.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 05/20/2022 - 8:40am by .

Call for Papers

Sapiens Ubique Civis IX – Szeged 2022

PhD Student and Young Scholar Conference on Classics and the Reception of Antiquity

Szeged, Hungary, August 31–September 2, 2022

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 05/13/2022 - 10:47am by .
Res Difficiles 3 poster with full schedule of speakers

Classical Studies at Boston University and Classics, BU Center for the Humanities, Philosophy, & Religious Studies at the University of Mary Washington present Res Difficiles: A Conference On Challenges and Pathways for Addressing Inequity In Classics. 

When: May 20, 2022 , 9:00am - 4:00pm Eastern

Where: Live-streamed via Zoom. Registration now open

Dr. Kelly Nguyen (Stanford University) will deliver the keynote address, "(Be)Longing and (Re)Orienting In and Beyond the Classics Classroom"

The event will be live-captioned. Participants/viewers may live-tweet the event on the hashtag #ResDiff3.

You can find more information about the speakers and read the full program at https://resdifficiles.com/

Any questions can be directed to the co-organizers: Hannah Čulík-Baird and Joseph Romero.

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Wed, 05/11/2022 - 8:57pm by Helen Cullyer.
blue lecture poster, Earthquakes and the Structuring of Greco-Roman Society: the longue durée of human-geological environment relationships in Helike, Greece

On Thursday, May 12 at 6 pm ET, the AIA’s Student Affairs Interest Group (SAIG) and SCS’s Graduate Student Committee (GSC) will hold the 2022 SAIG/GSC Dissertation Lecture! This annual talk is a collaborative effort intended to highlight the work of a senior doctoral candidate whose research features interdisciplinary work between the fields of archaeology and Classical philology, and to support the student networks between these related fields.

Amanda Gaggioli, doctoral candidate at Stanford University and second SAIG/GSC Dissertation Lecturer, will present “Earthquakes and the Structuring of Greco-Roman Society: the longue durée of human-geological environment relationships in Helike, Greece.” This virtual talk integrates data from archaeology, history, and ancient languages with those from environmental sciences to discuss how earthquakes and other geological hazards affected human-ecological interactions in the ancient world. Full details are available below.
 

Earthquakes and the Structuring of Greco-Roman Society: the longue durée of human-geological environment relationships in Helike, Greece

Amanda Gaggioli, PhD Candidate, Department of Classics | Stanford Archaeology Center, Stanford University

May 12, 2022 | 6pm EST via Zoom

Registration is required at the following link:

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 05/09/2022 - 9:13pm by Helen Cullyer.

The Classics Program at Hunter College is pleased to announce the 84th Josephine Earle Memorial Lecture on Friday, May 13, at 5pm. The lecture is taking place virtually over Zoom. Pre-registration is required at the link below. The event will begin with a ceremony for student award ceremony and a celebration of recent graduates from Classics. The lecture will follow.

84th Josephine Earle Memorial Lecture

Friday, May 13, 5-7pm

"Aesthetic Hierarchies in Greek Comedy"

Ralph Rosen, Professor of Classical Studies (University of Pennsylvania)

Register at this link:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0tcOCprD8sHNN9TMpKixBXOiljw9H3zrag

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Fri, 05/06/2022 - 9:07am by .

(Dedicated to the 30th Anniversary of Greece-Georgia Diplomatic Relations)

The Institute of Classical, Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies of Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University (Georgia) is pleased to announce the Call for Papers of the International Student Conference “Contemporaneity of Antiquity” to be held in hybrid mode (via ZOOM and face-to-face) on June 6-8, 2022.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 04/28/2022 - 9:36am by .
"Empty Theatre (almost)"by Kevin Jaako, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Theater in Greece and Rome (TIGR), a committee affiliated with The Classical Association of the Middle West and South (CAMWS), invites proposals for a workshop to be held under TIGR’s sponsorship at the 119th CAMWS Annual Meeting, March 29-April 1, 2023 in Provo, Utah, at the Provo Marriot Hotel and Conference Center at the invitation of The Utah Classical Association.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 04/26/2022 - 12:16pm by Helen Cullyer.
"Empty Theatre (almost)"by Kevin Jaako, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Anne Carson’s Euripides: Six Takes on The Trojan Women (2021) and H of H (2021)

When: 11am-1pm CDT, Friday, April 29th, 2022

Where: Virtual (Zoom)

An online event organized by Laura Jansen (Bristol), Sarah Nooter (Chicago) and Mario Telò (Berkeley)

View full article. | Posted in Performances on Fri, 04/22/2022 - 10:01am by .

Third Annual Conference: Temple/Carleton Consortium on Women, Marriage and the Household from Antiquity to the Present: An Interdisciplinary, Global Conference 

WOMEN AND RITUAL ACTS

When: May 12-14, 2022

Where: Temple University Rome: Lungotevere Arnaldo da Brescia, 15 and Virtual participation available via Zoom

Co-DirectorsKaren Klaiber Hersch and Jaclyn Neel

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Wed, 04/20/2022 - 10:44am by .

Call for Applications: Tsakopoulos Hellenic Collection
Hellenic (formerly Library) Research Fellowship Program 2022-2023

**Contingent on continued on-campus operations during 2022-2023 academic year**

Thanks to generous ongoing funding from the Elios Charitable Foundation, the Tsakopoulos Hellenic Foundation, and the Tarbell Family Foundation, the University Library is pleased to offer the continuation of the Hellenic (formerly Library) Research Fellowship Program (HRFP) for a 10th year. The name change is intended to better convey and reflect the focus of the program. The Program supports the use of the Tsakopoulos Hellenic Collection by fellows for scholarly research in Hellenic studies while in residence in Sacramento, CA.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Wed, 04/20/2022 - 10:01am by .

Pages

© 2020, Society for Classical Studies Privacy Policy