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 It is unpublished but available from University Microfilms, under the name Valerie French Allen; she later gave up the name Allen and was known in her last decades by her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

APPLICATION DEADLINE EXTENDED

The APA Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance (CAMP) solicits applications from APA members interested in serving as local scholars for Aquila Theatre’s Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives: Poetry-Drama-Dialogue program, an important new nationwide partnership between libraries and the theatre supported by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The program will have an additional focus on cross-cultural impact relating to the African-American, Asian-American and Latino experience and a special emphasis on veterans and their families and will be guided by consultants specializing in these areas. Ancient Greeks/Modern Lives will travel to 100 library and arts center locations nationwide.  Program details are available on the project web site.

Scholars are particularly needed who are within the vicinity of or able to travel to the following areas:

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Fri, 10/07/2011 - 7:20pm by Adam Blistein.

The following members were chosen in the elections held this Summer. They take office on January 8, 2012, except for the two new members of the Nominating Committee who take office immediately.)

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 10/05/2011 - 1:59pm by Adam Blistein.

The American Office (AO), the first of the international offices of L'Année philologique, was established in 1965 at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, when the volume of material, especially the English-language publications, began to exceed the capabilities of the Paris office.  Lisa Carson became Assistant Director and Principal Bibliographer in 1988, and assumed the Directorship in 1992. The AO moved to the University of Cincinnati in 2002, where it gained Dr. Shirley Werner as Assistant Director. In 2010 the AO moved to Duke University.

L'Année philologique on the Internet (APh Online) now covers 84 years of classical bibliography with volumes 1 (1924-1926) to 80 (2009).  Volume 80 was posted in late August, and 2,200 records from volume 81 (2010) have been online since the middle of June.  Additional records from volume 81 will be posted at the end of this year. 

Please note these new features of APh Online:

· It is now possible to create a search history alert. The alert automatically searches the latest update to the database, and then sends you an e-mail.  See the online user guide to learn how to register for this feature. 

· You can also subscribe to a RSS feed that will list all new records.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 10/05/2011 - 1:41pm by Adam Blistein.

The website for L'année philologique is now Z39.50 compliant, which means that users can search and download references from the site directly through bibliographic reference software such as EndNote. Click here to download a file that will enable EndNote to search and download information from APh online.

View full article. | Posted in Websites and Resources on Wed, 10/05/2011 - 12:49pm by .

In response to the campaign to save Classics at Royal Holloway, and to the proposals put forward by the Department, the College has made some revisions to its proposals for the future of Classics. In particular the BA Classics is to be retained and the importance of advanced teaching in classical languages has been explicitly recognised. A reduction in staff numbers is still proposed, but it would be a loss of 4 posts rather than 6. We would be allowed to admit a total of 50 undergraduates per year for our classical degree programmes. The merger with History is still proposed but the suggestion now is that there would be a 'School of History and Classics' with a 'subject leader' for Classics. The proposal to move the Philosophy staff, including the Ancient Philosophy post, to the Department of Politics and International Relations has not been changed, nor has the proposal to move our Research Professor entirely to the Department of English.

Discussions within the College continue, and we hope for further progress. We are very pleased that we can continue to welcome applications through UCAS for 2012 for ALL our current degree programmes.

Prof. Anne Sheppard
Head of Classics and Philosophy Department
Royal Holloway
University of London
Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX

tel: +44 (0)1784 443204

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Mon, 10/03/2011 - 2:33pm by Information Architect.

"When Ted Pappas returned to Greece last summer he took 'Electra' with him. 'I studied it in Greek under an olive tree on my property,' says Pappas, who is directing the Pittsburgh Public Theater production of 'Electra' that begins performances Thursday at the O'Reilly Theater, Downtown." Read more at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review online.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Sun, 10/02/2011 - 2:14pm by Information Architect.

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