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 It is unpublished but available from University Microfilms, under the name Valerie French Allen; she later gave up the name Allen and was known in her last decades by her maiden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

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The 2020 Annual Meeting is just three weeks away.  Both the AIA and SCS are making final arrangements for what we anticipate will be an excellent meeting.  While our registration numbers for the upcoming meeting are looking good, reservations at the hotels are not looking as strong.  While we understand that some attendees will opt to stay with local friends or find a less-expensive accommodation, we rely on hotel reservations to secure the meeting space each year.

Why is it important to book at our official Annual Meeting Hotels?
The AIA and SCS are proud to have produced the Annual Meeting for our professional members for the past 120 years. Financially, we are able to do this by reserving a large block of rooms with a hotel. In exchange, these hotels offer our attendees the guaranteed lowest group rate at the hotel and provide us with complimentary meeting space to hold the meeting. But if we are unable to meet our guaranteed minimum number of registered guests, then the AIA and SCS will have to pay for the unused rooms as well as room rental for the meeting space, which can amount to a severe financial penalty. We request your support by booking within our reserved blocks and helping us continue to produce this meeting for the next 100 years.  

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Fri, 12/13/2019 - 3:19pm by Erik Shell.

Our first interview in the Women in Classics series is with Sarah B. Pomeroy, Distinguished Professor of Classics and History, Emerita, at Hunter College and the Graduate School of the City University of New York. She was born in New York City and earned her B.A. from Barnard College in 1957. She received her M.A. in 1959 and her Ph.D. in 1961, both from Columbia University. Pomeroy has been recognized as a leading authority on ancient Greek and Roman women since her book Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity was first published in 1975. Her other publications include Xenophon, Oeconomicus: A Social and Historical Commentary (1994), Families in Classical and Hellenistic Greece: Representations and Realities (1998), Spartan Women (2002), and, with Stanley M.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 12/12/2019 - 3:45pm by Claire Catenaccio.

International Association for Presocratic Studies
Seventh Biennial Conference: 15-19 July 2020

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 12/11/2019 - 1:47pm by Erik Shell.

The Lego Classicists project is more than child’s play. Recreating classics scholars in Lego bricks crosses the boundaries between pop-art and ancient history, focusing attention on the work of ancient world scholars in an environment of celebration, connection and inclusion.

Although it began almost by accident, Lego Classicists is being embraced by some of the world’s leading classics and ancient world scholars, including Dame Mary Beard. On 20th February 2019, the third annual International Lego Classicism Day also attracted participants from across the world: Cambridge University’s CREWS Project; academic and broadcaster, Michael Scott; the Director of the British School at Athens, John Bennet; staff at Stellembosch University, South Africa; the Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney; the Ure Museum; Reading University; and conservators at the British Museum.



Figure 1: Dr. Duygu Camurcuoglou from the British Museum with a Lego mini-fig of herself.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 12/05/2019 - 11:42pm by Liam D. Jensen.

Joseph O’Neill and Adam Rigoni of Arizona State University are seeking abstracts from a diverse group of scholars and artists that represent multidisciplinary, multicultural redeployments of the Aeneid. We do not propose examining the Aeneid as a decidedly Roman text. Nor do we propose an examination of a cultural artifact. Rather, we seek to present a volume that deploys the Aeneid anew, one that not only reflects the Aeneid’s status as a ‘modern story’, but one that inserts the Aeneid into contemporary discourse. We understand ‘contemporary’ and ‘modern’ rather broadly—essays need not be limited strictly to the new millennium.

Possible topics include:

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 12/04/2019 - 10:28am by Erik Shell.

New to being an Affiliated Group this year, the Multiculturalism, Race & Ethnicity in Classics Consortium will be meeting at this year's annual meeting.

This meeting will take place on Saturday, January 4th, from 9:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. in the Marquis Ballroom Salon 13.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 12/04/2019 - 10:19am by Erik Shell.

(Text provided by Tony Woodman, Basil L. Gildersleeve Professor of Classics Emertius at the University of Virginia, and Sara Myers, Professor and Chair of Classics, UVA)

Edward Courtney, Basil L. Gildersleeve Professor of Classics Emeritus at the University of Virginia, passed away peacefully on 24 November 2019. He was born in 1932 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and retained his Belfast accent throughout his life. After an outstanding career as an undergraduate at Trinity College, Dublin, where he won medals for his translations into Greek and Latin verse, he was a Research Lecturer at Christ Church, Oxford, before being appointed in 1959 to a Lectureship at King’s College, London, eventually being promoted to Professor. In 1982 he and his family emigrated to the United States, where he was Ely Professor of Classics at Stanford University; but, when the Gildersleeve Chair of Classics was inaugurated at the University of Virginia, Ted became its first holder in 1993, retiring in 2002.

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Tue, 12/03/2019 - 2:54pm by Erik Shell.

Many thanks to our Local Arrangements Committee for creating a fantastic guide to the DC area for our January 2020 meeting. The guide features plenty of family-friendly activities and also includes walking tours of classical DC. 

Read and download the Local Arrangements Guide for 2020.

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(Photo: "_DSC7061" by rhodesj, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Sat, 11/30/2019 - 7:13am by Helen Cullyer.

Precollegiate Teaching Award

College Teaching Award

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Sat, 11/30/2019 - 7:10am by Helen Cullyer.

The Committee on Public Information and Media Relations is pleased to announce that this year's Forum Prize, for a work originating outside the academy, has been awarded to Jeff Wright for Odyssey: The Podcast.

The winner of the 2019 Society for Classical Studies Forum Prize—Jeff Wright, creator and performer of Odyssey: The Podcast—takes many turns toward and away from his illustrious epic source. Jeff’s Homer is a composite character built on the bases of English translations among the most appealing today. But Jeff is not content merely to play rhapsode to Homer’s bard.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Sat, 11/30/2019 - 7:08am by Helen Cullyer.

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