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 It is unpublished but available from University Microfilms, under the name Valerie French Allen; she later gave up the name Allen and was known in her last decades by her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

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Tue, 02/14/2012 - 3:01pm by Information Architect.

Robert Siegel talks with Classics professor Philip Freeman about his translation of the book, "How to Win an Election: An Ancient Guide for Modern Politicians." The book was written by the brother of Marcus Cicero, for when Marcus ran for office in Rome in 64 B.C. But the ancient Roman guide for campaigning still holds lessons for today's elections.

Listen to the story at npr.org.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Wed, 02/08/2012 - 2:06am by Information Architect.

The Classics faculty at Royal Holloway have just been informed that in 2014 they will lose one position or, if applications decrease this year, two positions. Applications are holding up, so it seems that only one position will be lost. This is much better than the dire scenario that was threatened last summer, when many of our members signed an international petition in defense of Classics at RHUL.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Thu, 02/02/2012 - 2:34pm by Information Architect.

The APA Unicode fonts AtticaU, BosporosU, KadmosU, which are a part of GreekKeys 2008, now have styled versions (italic, bold, and bold italic) to accompany the regular typeface previously available.

Formerly, almost any computer application that was capable of displaying text could also display styled versions of a font by modifying a regular version installed on the system. In recent years, some advanced programs have been designed so that they no longer create such styles on the fly, but instead will apply a style to a font only if there is a separate styled version of the font installed on the system. MS Word still behaves in the old way and is content with only a regular version. Programs like Pages, Mellel, and InDesign adopt the new approach and require styled versions.

The characters of the APA fonts have now been reprocessed in FontLab Studio to create AtticaU Italic, AtticaU Bold, AtticaU Bold Italic, BosporosU Italic, BosporosU Bold, BosporosU Bold Italic, KadmosU Italic, KadmosU Bold, KadmosU Bold Italic alongside AtticU Regular, BosporosU Regular, and KadmosU Regular.

Anyone who is interested and holds a license to GreekKeys 2008 is invited to email djmastronarde at berkeley dot edu to receive instructions for downloading the new styled versions of these fonts. Feedback is welcome.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 01/31/2012 - 1:24am by .

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.

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Sun, 01/29/2012 - 10:01pm by Adam Blistein.

James H. Tatum, Dartmouth College, has won the American Book Award for 2011 for his book African American Writers and Classical Tradition, Chicago, 2010, co-authored with William Cook.  The American Book Awards, established in 1978 by the Before Columbus Foundation, recognize outstanding literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America's diverse literary community.

View full article. | Posted in Member News on Sun, 01/29/2012 - 9:09pm by Adam Blistein.

Each year the National Committee for Latin and Greek (NCLG) sponsors National Latin Teacher Recruitment Week (NLTRW), which takes place during the week of March 5th this year.  The APA has joined the American Classical League and numerous regional and state organizations in this effort to encourage all Classicists at all levels of instruction to take steps that will ensure that Latin, Greek, and Classics pre-college classrooms have the teachers they need.  Thanks to the considerable public interest in Latin and the classical world, demand for Latin teachers at the primary and secondary levels has outrun supply, and there is now a serious shortage in many regions of the USA and Canada.  Each year, for lack of teachers, existing programs are cancelled, thriving programs are told they cannot expand, and schools that want to add Latin are unable to do so. 

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 01/25/2012 - 9:17pm by Adam Blistein.

From The Chronicle Review:

Erasmus quoted the Iliad in a time of widening war:

Men get their fill of sleep and love, of beautiful singing and carefree dance, but they never get enough of war.

And they never get enough of the Iliad. In his anthology, Homer in English, George Steiner asked in 1996, Why are there so many Iliads in English? His answer: notions of noble manliness. "There shines throughout the Iliad an idealized yet also unflinching vision of masculinity, of an order of values and mutual recognitions radically virile."

Small wonder the epic has appealed to warrior nations like England and the United States. William Blake warned, "It is the Classics & not Goths nor Monks, that Desolate Europe with Wars.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Wed, 01/25/2012 - 2:26pm by Information Architect.

Instructions for submission of proposals to the APA Program Committee for review at its meeting in April will be posted here at the beginning of February.  The deadline for receipt of these submissions will be no earlier than March 16, 2012.  Until these instructions are posted, consult the information provided last year, especially the program policies, the descriptions of materials required for the different types of submissions, and the information on eligibility.  (Note:  Persons submitting proposals to the Program Committee this year must be members in good standing for 2012.)  While the method of submission may be different this year, general policies and the materials required will be very similar and probably identical. 

At its April meeting the Program Committee will consider the following types of submissions

Proposals of Sessions for the 2013 Annual Meeting

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 01/24/2012 - 3:00pm by Adam Blistein.

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