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 It is unpublished but available from University Microfilms, under the name Valerie French Allen; she later gave up the name Allen and was known in her last decades by her maiden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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Classics programs in two institutions in the Russian Federation are being threatened with closure.  Click here to sign a petition in support of the Russian State University of the Humanities in Moscow.  Click here to sign a petition in support of the program at St. Petersburg State University.  The latter link opens a page that appears to be completely in Russian, but the English version will appear if you click on an expansion link with a caret pointing down (V)after the first several lines of Russian text.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Mon, 11/19/2012 - 1:27pm by Adam Blistein.

The Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance invites expressions of interest in directing a staged reading at the 2014 APA meeting in Chicago. CAMP is very proud to sponsor this reading, which has become a tradition. The eleventh annual reading, which will take place at the 2013 APA meeting in Seattle, will be Alcestis, adapted and co-directed by Mark Damen and Mary-Kay Gamel.

Proposals for plays must be accompanied by a firm commitment by a director or a larger creative team who will assume full responsibility for production. Scripts must be complete by the time the statement of interest is submitted, and the proposer must have the legal right to perform the script.

The director is given free rein with regard to the artistic realm of the play, including the scale of the production, though we strongly caution potential directors to be mindful of the extreme limitations imposed by a very short rehearsal period (approximately two days), a short time slot for performance (under two hours), few theatrical resources, and a limited budget. The director is responsible for writing and distributing a call for actors, for planning in advance the type of production to be done, for maintaining contact with a CAMP liaison and the APA regarding performance progress and needs, and of course for directing the show in Chicago.

Statements of interest must address the following issues:

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Fri, 11/16/2012 - 7:13pm by Adam Blistein.

"Because it's been a language of scholars and old things, it's got a mystique and romance to it," says Rachel Currie, one of many Australian students breathing new life into the dead language of Latin.

At the University of Western Australia, where Currie is taking a double major in biomedical science, introductory Latin this year has 129 students, an increase of 150 percent. Currie prizes Latin as a kind of master key of language that unlocks scientific terminology and opens up insights into English grammar as well as Romance tongues for travel in Europe.

But sheer fun can't be overlooked, and the textbook Lingua Latina, with its Roman family saga, helps teachers deliver. "Marcus beats up his sister, one of the uncles joins the army -- it's exactly like a Roman soap opera," Currie says.

A new liberal arts-style curriculum at UWA has helped languages generally, says Yasmin Haskell, who holds the Cassamarca Foundation chair in Latin humanism. Students must take "breadth" courses outside their home faculty. As a result, Latin reaches beyond the language nerds. Students from the sciences narrowly outnumber those from the arts.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Tue, 11/13/2012 - 2:30pm by Information Architect.

If you regularly use Facebook or Twitter, you may want to follow the APA (https://www.facebook.com/APAClassics and @apaclassics). All posts to this APA blog are also published on those pages. In addition, those pages highlight features of the upcoming annual meeting in Seattle.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 11/08/2012 - 3:27pm by Adam Blistein.

I want to thank the more than 200 APA members who responded to my recent request for comments about the proposal from the Board of Directors that we consider changing the name of the Association. I am currently preparing a summary of their comments and suggestions and will post it just before or after Thanksgiving. That will initiate a public discussion that the Board wants to be as open and inclusive as possible. Information Architect Sam Huskey has been developing a new blogging mechanism that will permit Board and committee members to post articles and allow members and friends to respond. The Board believes that public discussion of the issue of the name change is a good way to inaugurate this new effort on our part to take advantage of electronic media. This discussion will inform the deliberations of the Board of Directors when it meets, as usual, at the annual meeting in January and determines the next steps we should take in reaching a decision on this important issue.

With best regards,
Jeff Henderson

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 11/08/2012 - 3:19pm by Adam Blistein.

The Ancient World Mapping Center is pleased to release version 2.0 of the Antiquity à la Carte application. Version 1.0 appeared in spring 2012 and served as a proof of concept for the mapping application. The application, engineered by Ryan Horne, provides the user with a map base that can be populated by drawing on the collective databases of the Ancient World Mapping Center and the Pleiades Project. The new version, more fully featured, offers the user a range of new capabilities, including:

View full article. | Posted in Websites and Resources on Fri, 11/02/2012 - 11:24pm by .

Because of Hurrican Sandy, the University of Pennsylvania, where the APA is based, has suspended operations for Monday and Tuesday, October 29 and 30.  The APA Office will therefore be closed on those days.  We will respond to e-mail and telephone messages as soon as possible.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Sun, 10/28/2012 - 6:45pm by Adam Blistein.

Details of academic sessions at the 144th Annual Meeting in Seattle are now posted.  On this page see links to information about the program and logistics of attending the meeting.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 10/16/2012 - 8:33pm by Adam Blistein.

Dear members and friends,

As promised in my May letter about APA strategic planning (see the link below), I am writing to invite comment on the Board's unanimous view that we should change the name of our association.  The Board is divided between American Classical Association or the Classical Association of North America, so would be interested to know which you prefer, or whether you can suggest a better name.  Whether or not to change the name of TAPA would be decided at a later stage.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:51pm by Adam Blistein.

The following members were chosen in the elections held this Summer.  They take office on January 6, 2013, except for the two new members of the Nominating Committee who take office immediately.

President-Elect

Kathryn J. Gutzwiller

Financial Trustee

Ralph J. Hexter

Vice President, Professional Matters

John F. Miller

Vice President, Publications and Research

Michael Gagarin

Board of Directors

Sarah Iles Johnston

Ralph M. Rosen

Nominating Committee

Joshua T. Katz

Jennifer T. Roberts

Education Committee Member

Sally W. Morris

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 10/04/2012 - 1:17pm by Adam Blistein.

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