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 It is unpublished but available from University Microfilms, under the name Valerie French Allen; she later gave up the name Allen and was known in her last decades by her maiden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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From now on, the Gnomon Bibliographic Database will also be available in an English version (http://www.englisch.gnomon-online.de/), including a comprehensive English thesaurus. The database contains around 500,000 entries, with monthly updates comprising the latest reviews, monograph studies, anthologies, and articles in periodicals.

View full article. | Posted in Websites and Resources on Mon, 04/23/2012 - 3:54pm by .

From the San Francisco State University News:

Alexandra Pappas has been selected by the Department of Classics to be the first endowed Raoul Bertrand Chair in Classics. Currently a fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C., Pappas will join SF State this fall as an assistant professor.

Pappas will teach courses in Greek and Latin language, Greek art and archaeology and courses on Greek and Roman culture.

"Dr. Pappas is a dynamic teacher who is sure to attract new students to study ancient Greece, Rome and the broader Mediterranean," said classics Chair David Leitao. "Her exciting interdisciplinary research will help keep the classics department at the cutting edge of humanities in the 21st century."

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Members may have seen a petition posted to the website of L’Année philologique (anphil.org), expressing concern about funding for the German office of L’Année.  Here is a brief account of the situation, of which the APA Board has been aware since January, and how we have decided to proceed.

The Société Internationale de Bibliographie Classique (SIBC), based in Paris, is the international not-for-profit organization that oversees L’Année.  The German office is one of six self-sustaining offices that prepare entries for L’Année;the others are in Paris (the main editorial office), Genoa, Granada, Lausanne, and Durham, NC.  This last is the American Office, which is the responsibility of the APA and reports to our Research Division.  The funds raised in our current Gateway Campaign to date ensure the continued operation of the American Office (though we continue to solicit contributions to meet all NEH challenge grant requirements), but the APA is very concerned about the health of the German Office, which prepares a significant amount of the content in each issue of L’Année: its funding is up for renewal in a difficult fiscal climate.  It is important for members to realize, however, that a threat to an individual office does not mean that the operation of the bibliography as a whole is in danger.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 04/17/2012 - 7:09pm by Adam Blistein.

Follow this link to submit an individual abstract for the 2013 Annual Meeting.  The Program Committee will review these submissions on June 29-30, 2012.  Please be sure that your membership is current (i.e., paid up for 2012) before beginning the submission process.  If you are not sure whether you have paid your APA dues for the current year, ask the customer service staff at the Johns Hopkins University Press at jrnlcirc@press.jhu.edu, 800-548-1784 (US and Canada only), or 410-516-6987 (all others). 

Before submitting your abstract, please read the Program Committee's instructions for the submission of individual abstracts this year.  Please note that the Committee has instituted several changes in the submission process.  In addition, see the Association's general regulations concerning abstract submissions and suggestions from the Program Committee that emerged from a workshop on abstract writing at the 2010 annual meeting. 

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 04/17/2012 - 5:52pm by Adam Blistein.

From the Pulitzer website:

The 2012 Pulitzer Prize Winners

General Nonfiction

For a distinguished and appropriately documented book of nonfiction by an American author that is not eligible for consideration in any other category, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Awarded to "The Swerve: How the World Became Modern," by Stephen Greenblatt (W.W. Norton and Company), a provocative book arguing that an obscure work of philosophy, discovered nearly 600 years ago, changed the course of history by anticipating the science and sensibilities of today.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Tue, 04/17/2012 - 1:36am by Information Architect.

Instructions for the submission of individual abstracts to the APA Program Committee for review at its meeting in June will be posted here by April 17.  The deadline for submission of individual abstracts will be May 16, 2012, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 04/10/2012 - 2:51pm by Adam Blistein.

From the JournalStar.com:

Tom Winter finished a lecture on passive and past-tense Latin verbs on Thursday, pulled his skateboard from the desk and rolled into a cool spring afternoon.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln classics and religious studies professor became an Internet sensation Wednesday when a photo of him skateboarding across campus became the top item on the social news website Reddit.com. The photo inspired dozens of memes -- photos with humorous text superimposed.

"Nine pages of memes and a site I never knew about before yesterday," Winter said. "It's a pretty good photo."

By Thursday afternoon, the photo had gotten more than 756,000 views on Imgur.com, the Internet image hosting site on which it originally appeared, and 1,300 comments on Reddit.com. Users of Imgur.com wrote mock captions for the image, which features a skateboarding Winter, arms out and holding a briefcase.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Fri, 04/06/2012 - 1:22pm by Information Architect.

In September 2009, the Vice President for Professional Matters, Professor James May, received from a member of the APA, Professor Jenny S. Clay, a complaint that her work and that of others had been plagiarized by Mr. Stephen Evans in his doctoral dissertation, Hymn and Epic: A Study of their Interplay in Homer and the Homeric hymns, which was published by the University of Turku in Finland as volume 244 of the Humaniora series of the Annales Universitatis Turkuensis in 2001.

The APA Statement on Ethics provides that:

The most fundamental ethical obligation of any scholar is to give full and proper credit to all sources involved in research, whether these sources be the published work of other scholars or the unpublished work of students or colleagues. Material taken verbatim from another person’s published or unpublished work must be explicitly identified with reference to its author. Borrowed ideas or data, even if not directly quoted, must be explicitly acknowledged. Revised reprints and translations of earlier work should be identified as such.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 03/27/2012 - 9:33pm by Adam Blistein.

The Classical Reception Studies Network was formed in early 2004 as a collaboration between six universities with research specialisms in various aspects of Classical Reception Studies. The aims of the Network include the promotion of rigorous debate about all aspects of classical reception studies and the development of seminars and workshops to encourage the exchange of expertise and growth of collaborative projects (including the supervision of graduate students). Data is being collected on the research and teaching currently undertaken in Classical departments in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Collection of information about classical reception studies in other Arts and Humanities departments will follow and it is intended to extend the survey to international contacts. Data collected to date is now available as a searchable online database. The web site also provides links to research and teaching resources.

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