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 It is unpublished but available from University Microfilms, under the name Valerie French Allen; she later gave up the name Allen and was known in her last decades by her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

Hadrian's Villa, the UNESCO World Heritage Site near Tivoli, is at risk. The City of Rome is under orders from the EU to close its biggest garbage dump at a place called Malagrotta. Since fall of 2011 the government has been looking for a new site to replace Malagrotta. Unbelievable as it may sound, the locality chosen is Corcolle, which is located at the doorstep of Hadrian's Villa.

As might be expected, the recommendation to use Corcolle has encountered stiff opposition. The City of Tivoli, the Ministry of Culture, and the Province of Rome have all gone on record with objections. Many civic groups and Italian citizens have also protested this irresponsible scheme. On February 26, 2012, an international petition was launched on the iPetitions website. In just over two weeks, we have collected more than 3,300 signatures. A list of cultural leaders and professors of classics, archaeology, and cultural heritage who have already signed can be seen on the website.

I write to urge all APA members to sign the petition now, before it is too late. Join people from all walks of life and from all four corners of the earth who have banded together to protest this unconscionable plan.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Sun, 03/18/2012 - 1:21am by Information Architect.

Jeffrey Beneker recently received a Distinguished Teaching Award at the University of Wisconsin. Read about it in the University of Wisconsin-Madison News.

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The APA is a member of the National Humanities Alliance (NHA), a consortium of organizations concerned about funding and policies that affect the humanities in the United States.   The NHA has sent us the following message about a "Dear Colleague" letter being circulated in the U. S. House of Representatives urging appropriators there to support President Obama's request for a slight increase in the Endowment's budget for the next fiscal year.  If possible, please get in touch with your Representative by this Friday, March 16 to urge him or her to support this funding for the NEH.

Adam D. Blistein
Executive Director

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Our tireless Gateway Campaign Committee is leading the APA down the home stretch as we approach our July 31st deadline for completing our NEH Challenge Grant match.  Nearly 1,000 APA members and others devoted to classical antiquity have contributed to the Gateway Campaign to date.  We have a total of $2.2 million and the Endowment for Classics Research and Teaching has become a reality.  We need another $400,000 if we are to keep every NEH dollar in the Endowment working to provide sophisticated and accessible tools for Classics scholars, develop future generations of inspired and diverse Classics teachers, and make high quality information about Classics available to the largest possible audience both inside and outside the scholarly community.  Visit the Campaign News section of the APA web site for the most up-to-date information and learn how you can help us to fill our Campaign amphora.

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The Chronicle of Higher Education has a crossword puzzle with a Latin theme ("Ex Libris") this week. Download it (and the application for seeing it on your screen) here.

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From the Baylor Lariat:

An ancient Roman comedy and other Latin activities will kick off the weekend for a group of high school students celebrating ancient Roman culture. Baylor’s Classics Department is having its ninth annual Latin Day from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today.

Undergraduate students will provide Latin-themed activities for about 200 high schoolers from across Texas, but the day can be enjoyed by anyone, said , assistant professor of classics.

A comedic play written by Plautus and directed by Dr. , professor in the classics department, is expected to be the most popular event, Hanchey said.

Read the rest of the story here.

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The APA web site now contains our audited financial statements for the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2011, and the Executive Director's report for the year ending December 31, 2011.  I apologize for the delay in submitting the latter report.

Adam D. Blistein
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View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Fri, 02/24/2012 - 8:18pm by Adam Blistein.

From CNN.com:

Athens (CNN) -- Robbers broke into a museum in Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympics, tied and gagged a museum guard, and fled with stolen artifacts, Greek authorities said Friday.

The two men raided the Museum of the History of the Olympic Games, a smaller building close to the main Archaeological Museum of Olympia, just after 7:30 a.m. local time, said Athanassios Kokkalakis, a police spokesman.

The robbers "approached the museum's guard, tied her hands and bound her mouth and then went into the museum, where they took 65 to 68 small clay and brass small statues, and a gold ring, and put them in a bag and left."

Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos submitted his resignation after the robbery took place, the prime minister's office said.

Read more …

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Fri, 02/17/2012 - 9:36pm by Information Architect.

Inside Higher Ed's academic minute today features APA member Barbara Gold speaking on the subject of love in ancient Rome. Listen to the audio clip at http://www.insidehighered.com/audio/2012/02/14/love-ancient-rome.

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