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 It is unpublished but available from University Microfilms, under the name Valerie French Allen; she later gave up the name Allen and was known in her last decades by her maiden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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Call for Papers
Sapiens Ubique Civis VIII – Szeged 2020
PhD Student and Young Scholar Conference on Classics and the Reception of Antiquity
Szeged, Hungary, September 2–4, 2020

The Department of Classical Philology and Neo-Latin Studies, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Szeged, Hungary is pleased to announce its International Conference Sapiens Ubique Civis VIII – Szeged 2020, for PhD Students, Young Scholars, as well as M.A. students aspiring to apply to a PhD program.

The aim of the conference is to bring together an international group of young scholars working in a variety of periods, places, languages, and fields. Papers on a wide range of subjects, including but not limited to the literature, history, philology, philosophy, linguistics and archaeology of Greece and Rome, Byzantinology, Neo-Latin studies, and reception of the classics, as well as papers dealing with theatre studies, comparative literature, contemporary literature, and fine arts related to the Antiquity are welcome.

Lectures: The language of the conference is English. Thematic sessions and plenary lectures will be scheduled. The time limit for each lecture is 20 minutes, followed by discussion. It is not possible to present via Skype.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 01/14/2020 - 9:26am by Erik Shell.

Our second interview in the Women in Classics series is with Shelley Haley, Edward North Chair of Classics and Professor of Africana Studies at Hamilton College. This is the second of a two-part interview with Prof. Haley, which picks up at the point when she decided to apply to graduate school to study Classics.

CC: How did you decide to apply to graduate school?  

This was a very turbulent time in American history. I was fed up with the United States of America, absolutely fed up. I remember the conversations we used to have about the women’s movement. This was back in the dark ages. There were three or four white women on my floor in college having a deep discussion, wringing their hands and saying, “But how, how, how are we going to have a family and a career? How?” In my head I was just frustrated. My mother, my grandmother, her mother before her, all of them always had to work, and always had family. It can be done. I think that was my first introduction to black feminism, and to the line that divides it from white feminism. I had had enough.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 01/13/2020 - 6:24am by Claire Catenaccio.

Our second interview in the Women in Classics series is with Shelley Haley, Edward North Chair of Classics and Professor of Africana Studies at Hamilton College. She was born in upstate New York and earned her B.A. from Syracuse University in 1972. She received her M.A. in 1975 and her Ph.D. in 1977, both from the University of Michigan. An expert on the figure of Cleopatra, Dr. Haley has discussed the subject on both the BBC and the Learning Channel. Her publications include Fanny Jackson Coppin’s Reminiscences of School Life, and Hints on Teaching (1995) and numerous articles on the role of women in the ancient world and on race in the discipline of Classics.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 01/09/2020 - 4:47pm by Claire Catenaccio.

“Whose Heritage is it Anyway?”: Local Responses to Cultural Heritage Preservation in the Age of UNESCO

UT Antiquities Action 2020 Annual Symposium
Keynote speaker: Yvonne Therese Holden, Director of Operations, Whitney Plantation

UT Antiquities Action invites the submission of abstracts for its 5th annual symposium, to be held on Saturday, the 4th of April, 2020 at the University of Texas at Austin. 

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 01/09/2020 - 9:23am by Erik Shell.

Homer in Sicily: An Academic Conference and Tour of Ancient Sites

Exedra Mediterranean Center
[Postponed until 2022]
 

Homeric Thrinacia – our Sicily – is the legendary home of the Cattle of the Sun, the Cyclops, the Laestrygonians, Aeolus, and close neighbor of Skylla and Charybdis. Samuel Butler, in the nineteenth century, memorably theorized that the Odyssey’s author was a young Sicilian woman, glimpsed in the figure of Nausicaa. Otherwise, surprisingly few scholars have explored Sicily’s association with the Homeric epics, the Odyssey in particular. The goal of this conference is to bring scholars from a variety of disciplines to Siracusa to discuss Homer’s epic vision and to visit the archaeological traces of the mythic places and beings of the Odyssey.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 01/09/2020 - 9:00am by Erik Shell.
"Empty Theatre (almost)"by Kevin Jaako, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Joan and Mason Brock Theatre, Susan S. Goode Fine and Performing Arts Center, 5817 Wesleyan Drive, Virginia Beach, VA

Fri 2/7/20 7:30pm to 9:30pm

View full article. | Posted in Performances on Thu, 01/09/2020 - 8:30am by Erik Shell.

The SCS Board of Directors has endorsed the following statement developed by the American Anthroplogical Association in collaboration with a number of other societies and associations:

Targeting Cultural Sites is a War Crime

On behalf of more than 50,000 scholars and researchers in the humanities and social sciences, our scholarly and professional societies call upon people throughout the US and, indeed, around the world to remind the President of the United States that targeting cultural sites for military activity is a war crime except under the narrowest of circumstances, and cannot be justified under any circumstances.

View full article. | Posted in Public Statements on Tue, 01/07/2020 - 10:21am by Helen Cullyer.

Graduate Student Caucus Meeting

Hosted by the SCS Graduate Student Committee

Friday, January 3, 5:00pm-6:00pm, Independence Ballroom Salon C

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Come hear about the Graduate Student Committee’s plans for 2020 and offer your feedback on how best the SCS can serve graduate students.

We hope this meeting can be the springboard for a new level of collective action of North American Classics graduate students.

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This event will be followed by a Social Hour, also hosted by the Graduate Student Committee, which will take place Friday, January 3, 7:00pm-8:00pm on the Mezzanine Level of the Marriott Marquis. Come get your drink ticket while they last!

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 12/31/2019 - 4:16pm by Helen Cullyer.

That contingent faculty members make up a significant portion of those teaching on college campuses today is a well-known fact. This fact also holds true in our own fields of study (e.g. Classics, Ancient History, Archaeology and Art History), and over the years much attention has (rightfully) been paid to the many challenges and problems that stem from this reliance on contingent labor. At the same time, and despite these challenges and problems, contingent faculty members have been making important contributions to our fields in the areas of service, teaching, outreach and research, and these contributions have only grown in their significance as the number of scholars working in these positions has grown. As members of the Committee on Contingent Faculty, we believe it is time to acknowledge these contributions and celebrate the accomplishments of faculty who are working off the tenure track in our related fields. While we continue to search for solutions to the problems of contingency and advocate for those in precarious positions, we think it is equally important to bring visibility to some of these exceptional members of our scholarly community. To that end we seek to publish a series of individual profiles/interviews on the SCS blog over the course of the next year featuring some of our NTT colleagues at various stages in their careers, who are making a difference and making their mark in our discipline.

View full article. | Posted in on Tue, 12/31/2019 - 1:50pm by Chiara Sulprizio.
 
The SCS Board is delighted to announce a new prize, which will be awarded for the first time in 2020. The Gruen Prize honors Erich S. Gruen, Gladys Rehard Wood Professor of History and Classics Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley.  It will be an essay prize for the best graduate student research on multiculturalism in the ancient Mediterranean, and submissions about any aspect of race, ethnicity, or cultural exchange will be considered. 
View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Tue, 12/31/2019 - 11:04am by Helen Cullyer.

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