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 It is unpublished but available from University Microfilms, under the name Valerie French Allen; she later gave up the name Allen and was known in her last decades by her maiden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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In April I briefed members on behalf of the Board about the funding threat to the German office of L'Année and promised to update members when we had further news (http://apaclassics.org/index.php/apa_blog/apa_blog_entry/3325/). I am delighted to pass along the following letter of 11 August 2012 from SIBC President Margarethe Billerbeck:

Jeff Henderson

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Dear Friends and Colleagues,

It is with great pleasure that I can inform you that the German Arbeitsstelle of L’Année Philologique can continue after the end of the current year. Professor Martin Hose has successfully negotiated the transfer of the present Arbeitsstelle from Heidelberg to the University of Munich which is prepared to finance and house the new équipe. This will include a full-time collaborator, a part-time collaborator as well as two assistants (‘Hilfskräfte’). The present guarantee is for three years with the possibility of renewal. At a time when public finances are severely strained this is an excellent outcome of what seemed an almost hopeless situation. We will have an occasion to express our sincere gratitude to Professor Hose for his untiring effort to convince the authorities of his University to accept this charge when he joins us at the Annual Meeting of the SIBC in Paris in November.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 08/13/2012 - 6:11pm by Adam Blistein.

In August all APA members in good standing for 2012 will receive instructions for voting in the 2012 election from Vote-Now, the firm we have retained to conduct this election.  Members for whom we have a valid e-mail address will receive their instructions via e-mail; all others will receive instructions via first-class mail.  Regardless of the method of notification, all members will once again have the option to vote online or to use a paper ballot.  The deadline for receipt of paper ballots will be the close of business on Friday, September 28, 2012.  Online balloting will close at 3:00 a.m. Eastern time on Monday, October 1, 2012

The online ballot will contain links to the biographical sketches and election statements of individual candidates.  In addition, several documents relevant to the election are posted here:

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Fri, 08/10/2012 - 1:52pm by Adam Blistein.

IMT Institute for Advanced Studies Lucca (www.imtlucca.it) is accepting applications, from extremely motivated students oriented towards dynamic and highly applicative research opportunities, for fully-funded Ph.D. positions in its 2013 Doctoral Research Program within the “Management and Development of Cultural Heritage” track.
 
The track in Management and Development of Cultural Heritage, in close collaboration with the LYNX - Center for the interdisciplinary Analysis of Images Research Unit (http://lynx.imtlucca.it/), aims at providing prospective professionals operating in the field of management of culture and cultural heritage with specific know-hows. It also promotes research offering the students a lively contact with different research approaches and methodologies applied in the research fields related to cultural heritage and art history.
 
Each student is invited to construct a personal study plan with Advisor, drawing from entire range of course offerings to best suit his or her background and research interests. 
 

View full article. | Posted in Degree and Certificate Programs on Wed, 08/01/2012 - 3:21pm by Adam Blistein.

From DiscoveryNews.com:

Ancient Greek will resound in full Pindaric style at the welcome gala for the International Olympic Committee on Monday July 23.

An Olympic Ode, composed by an Oxford University academic, will be read in ancient Greek by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

"I have no doubt that the members of the International Olympic Committee are fully versed in ancient Greek, but to ensure the elaborate puns can be fully appreciated, I shall have the pleasure of vocalizing the Ode twice, once in Greek and then again in English," Johnson, who studied classics at Oxford University, said.

Read more here …

Update, July 30, 2012

Listen to a small portion of Mr. Johnson’s recitation at the opening event for the International Olympic Committee on July 23.  

Update August 7, 2012

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Sat, 07/28/2012 - 7:20pm by Information Architect.

The automated system for the 2012-2013 APA/AIA Placement Service is now open and accepting registrations by candidates, subscribers, and institutions.  As was the case last year, registrants will need to create an account at placement.apaclassics.org and then purchase the service(s) they wish.  Registrants who used the Service last year may (but are not required to) adopt the same username and password as before; however, they will still need to create a new account.  Detailed instructions for registering for the service and then taking advantage of its features are available at the Placement web site. 

Please note the following important changes in the service this year.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 07/17/2012 - 4:32pm by Adam Blistein.

(A longer version of the following memoir, by Helen North, Centennial Professor of Classics Emerita, Swarthmore College, was commissioned for a forthcoming volume of the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. This version was lightly edited and abridged by Ralph M. Rosen. Sadly, Professor North herself died on January, 21, 2012. Shortly before her death she had given her permission for this obituary to be abridged and published in the APA Newsletter. Special thanks to Julia Gaisser for facilitating the process, and to the American Philosophical Society for permission to print the text that follows).

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Mon, 07/16/2012 - 2:50pm by Adam Blistein.

"It was the last day of school in July 1942 in Niort, a French city occupied by the Germans. Louise Fligelman, then an eighth grader, still remembers the flurry of excitement when students and faculty were unexpectedly called to a special assembly. Her older brother, Richard, 16, was asked to step forward to accept a signal honor from the school’s principal: He had won the first prize in Latin in the prestigious concours général, a nationwide competition among high schools." Read more in The New York Times

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Thu, 07/05/2012 - 5:19pm by Information Architect.

In the latest issue of American Educator, Peter Dodington, a longtime Latin teacher, explains why studying the ancient Greek and Roman world and learning Latin achieve one of the central goals of public education: helping students think deeply about how they want to live their lives and what they hope to accomplish. Click here for the pdf.

Thanks to Ronnie Ancona, APA VP for Education, for suggesting that we post this piece on the APA Blog.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Thu, 06/28/2012 - 12:43pm by Information Architect.

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