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 It is unpublished but available from University Microfilms, under the name Valerie French Allen; she later gave up the name Allen and was known in her last decades by her maiden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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Candidates wishing to use the APA/AIA Placement Service may register at the reduced early rate ($20 for e-mail service) until December 1, 2011.  Candidates must be members of either APA or AIA.  If the new online system does not recognize you as a member, and if you paid your dues recently, you will be permitted to register more quickly if you can forward a verification of your recent payment to Renie Plonski, the Placement Director (info@classicalstudies.org).

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 11/14/2011 - 9:36pm by Adam Blistein.

From Gibbon to "Gladiator," it might seem like we know a lot about Ancient Rome, but our view of this civilization is a skewed one. The Romans lived in one of the most stratified societies in history. Around 1.5% of the population controlled the government, military, economy and religion. Through the writings and possessions they left behind, these rich, upper-class men are also responsible for most of our information about Roman life.

The remaining people – commoners, slaves and others – are largely silent. They could not afford tombstones to record their names, and they were buried with little in the way of fancy pottery or jewellery. Their lives were documented by the elites, but they left few documents of their own.

Now, Kristina Killgrove, an archaeologist from Vanderbilt University, wants to tell their story by sequencing their DNA, and she is raising donations to do it. “Their DNA will tell me where these people, who aren’t in histories, were coming from,” she says. “They were quite literally the 99% of Rome.”

Read more on the Light Years blog at http://lightyears.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/11/who-were-the-99-of-ancient-rome/

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Mon, 11/14/2011 - 1:16am by Information Architect.

At its meeting in September 2011, the Board of Directors voted to recommend to the members that they change the By-Laws to combine the existing divisions of Publications and Research, effective January 6, 2013.  Members will be asked to vote on this change at the Annual Meeting of Members on January 8, 2012, in Philadelphia.

Current By-Law language with proposed deletions struck through and proposed additions [in brackets].

OFFICERS AND DIRECTORS

13.  The Board of Directors shall consist of the President, President-Elect, six[five] Vice Presidents, two Financial Trustees, six additional Directors, and Immediate Past President.  In addition, the Executive Director shall be a member of the Board of Directors with voice but without vote.  Except as may be provided otherwise by law, any Director or the entire Board of Directors may be removed, with or without cause, by a majority of the members then entitled to vote in an election duly called for that purpose.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 11/10/2011 - 12:45am by Adam Blistein.

Daniel Mendelsohn reviews Stephen Mitchell's new translation of the Iliad in the November 7th edition of The New Yorker. Read an abstract of the review online here.

View full article. | Posted in Book Reviews on Wed, 11/09/2011 - 6:09pm by Information Architect.

It has now been decided that no reduction in staff numbers in Classics at Royal Holloway will take place until the end of the academic year 2013-14.  Moreover if we recruit good numbers of students with AAB or above at A-level for 2012 and our plans to increase our numbers of Master’s students, both for our MA programmes and for our new MRes programmes, are successful, the proposal for a reduction in staff numbers is likely to be reviewed.  Validation of our two new MRes degrees, one in Rhetoric and one in Classical Reception, is in train.  For more details, see the Department’s blog at http://supportclassicsatrhul.wordpress.com and the Departmental website at www.rhul.ac.uk/ClassicsandPhilosophy.
 
We will be very pleased to receive good applications for Master’s and PhD degrees as well as for all our undergraduate programmes for September 2012.
 
Prof. Anne Sheppard
Head of Classics and Philosophy Department
Royal Holloway
University of London
Egham, Surrey  TW20 0EX

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Thu, 11/03/2011 - 1:29pm by Information Architect.

The new Placement Service web site is now available at placement.apaclassics.org.  We appreciate the patience that both candidates and hiring institutions have shown as we develop this new service.  The web site will permit both candidates and institutions to register and to submit scheduling information online and to see their schedules filled out as specific interview times are assigned.  Registered candidates will also be able to see new position listings as soon as texts of those listings are received and reviewed.  Please note that this new web site for registered candidates will only supplement – it will not replace – the traditional monthly listings of new positions that appear on the APA and AIA web sites.  The traditional listings perform a number of valuable functions for the field, but we look forward to giving active job candidates the earliest possible access to new listings. 

Candidates should be aware that we have a considerable backlog of positions already advertised that we need to enter into the new system.  The new job listing web site will therefore probably not be complete and up-to-date until the second week in November.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 10/27/2011 - 1:21pm by Adam Blistein.

"Wrestling announcer Ed Aliverti often spiced up the NCAA Division I wrestling tournament by yelling that wrestling was 'the world's oldest and greatest sport.' Prints sold at wrestling events depict biblical figure Jacob wrestling an angel, and Abraham Lincoln engaged in his own wrestling match before becoming president. The sport has always been proud of the ancient origins of the sport.

"Now, wrestling has proof of its long history, as researchers at Columbia University found an instructional manual on wrestling that dates back to 200 A.D."

Read more at Yahoo Sports…

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Thu, 10/20/2011 - 7:41pm by Information Architect.

Martha Abbott, a Latin teacher with whom many APA members have collaborated, has become Executive Director of the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), a society of over 12,000 language teachers and administrators. 

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Wed, 10/19/2011 - 6:22pm by Adam Blistein.

The Aquila Theatre's Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives project has been invited to perform a staged reading of scenes from ancient Greek literature for members of the administration and Congress at the White House on November 16, 2011. Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives:  Poetry-Drama-Dialogue is a major new national public program by the Aquila Theatre of New York, supported by a prestigious Chairman's Special Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).  The goal of the project is to bring the veteran community and public together around performances of several ancient  works.  This fascinating free public program of staged readings, lectures, reading groups, and workshops is visiting 100 libraries, arts centers, museums, theatres and galleries across America from May 2010 to April 2013.  The APA is participating in this program by helping to recruit and train the scholars who will lead the events before and after Aquila performances.  The staged reading at the White House will include scenes from Aeschylus' Agamemnon, Sophocles' Ajax, Euripides' Herakles, and Homer's Odyssey performed by a combination of actors from Aquila and combat veterans who served in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.  The reading will be followed by a "town-hall" style discussion moderated by APA member, Peter Meineck, Aquila's Artistic Director.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 10/18/2011 - 6:58pm by Adam Blistein.

We expect the new automated APA-AIA Placement Service registration web site to be available to candidates during the week of October 17.  At that time candidates will need to register for the 2011-2012 Placement Year if they wish to continue to receive Positions for Classicists and Archaeologists, get access to a web site in which new job listings will be posted as soon as their advertisements are approved, and schedule interviews at the upcoming annual meeting.  Candidates must be either an APA member for 2011 or an AIA member in good standing and will need to enter a member number to complete the registration process. 

If you are not yet a member, you can join the APA at

http://apaclassics.org/index.php/membership

or you can join the AIA at

http://www.archaeological.org/membership/join

If you have already joined one of the societies, please visit this web site to obtain an APA member number,

http://apa.press.jhu.edu/cgi-bin/member_number_lookup.cgi

AIA member numbers appear on the membership card and can be obtained from Membership@aia.bu.edu

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 10/12/2011 - 6:25pm by Adam Blistein.

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