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 It is unpublished but available from University Microfilms, under the name Valerie French Allen; she later gave up the name Allen and was known in her last decades by her maiden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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Posted on behalf of APA President Kathleen M. Coleman
 
Dear APA members,
 
Many of you will be aware of the drastic cuts threatening the Department of Classics and Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London. 
 
As the APA's immediate response to this crisis, the Board of Directors has taken the following steps. First, together with John Miller, Chair of the APA's Classics Advisory Service, I am composing a letter to send to the Principal of Royal Holloway protesting against these proposals. Second, Ruth Scodel, a former President of the APA, will be in the UK on September 16 and has agreed to represent the APA at a symposium in London that day celebrating Classics at Royal Holloway and Bedford (Bedford College having merged with Royal Holloway College in 1985); Professor Scodel will be a powerful presence, and I am most grateful to her for representing us. 
 
View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 07/18/2011 - 8:31pm by Adam Blistein.

The Program Guide for the January 2013 Annual Meeting will appear in October.  Organizers of affiliated group and organizer-refereed sessions that have been approved for presentation at the 2013 meeting are reminded that calls for abstracts for their sessions should be sent to the Association Office no later than September 16, 2011.  See the APA web site (http://apaclassics.org/index.php/annual_meeting/meeting_info/calls_for_a...) for samples of previously published calls for abstracts.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 07/18/2011 - 1:46pm by Adam Blistein.

The Roundtable Discussion Session is a 90-minute joint annual meeting session with the AIA consisting of a number of tables devoted to discussions of a variety of topics, with at least one discussion leader for each topic.  Members are invited to propose themselves as roundtable discussion leaders.  Topics may be the leader’s area of scholarly interest or an issue important to the profession.  Since certain topics lend themselves to presentation by more than one leader, proposals for multiple leaders are welcome.  The Program Committee believes that these sessions can provide an excellent opportunity for younger registrants (both graduate students and recent Ph.D.'s) to interact with established scholars in a less formal environment than a session or a job interview.  Leadership of a roundtable discussion does not count as an “appearance” on the annual meeting program; i.e., roundtable leaders may present a paper or serve as a respondent in an APA paper session.

The Program Committee invites members to submit brief (50-100 word) descriptions of a suitable topic for a roundtable.  These submissions for the annual meeting in Philadelphia, PA should be sent to Heather Gasda (heatherh@sas.upenn.edu) by September 6, 2011.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 07/14/2011 - 7:47pm by Adam Blistein.

Mabel Louise Lang, emeritus professor of Greek at Bryn Mawr College, died peacefully on July 21, 2010, at the age of 92. She had spent more than seventy years at Bryn Mawr, where she was worshipped by generations of students and admired by scholars around the world.

Lang was born on November 12, 1917 in Utica, New York, and received her AB from Cornell in 1939 and her PhD from Bryn Mawr in 1943. She began teaching at Bryn Mawr in 1943 and continued to do so long after her official retirement in 1988, allowing more than half a century’s worth of students to benefit from her extraordinary ability to bring out the best in them.

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Wed, 07/13/2011 - 7:16pm by Adam Blistein.

Malcolm Burgess, publisher of the City-Lit series, selects his favourite reads about the eternal city, from I, Claudius to the Rome of Fellini and beyond. Read more in The Guardian online.

View full article. | Posted in Book Reviews on Wed, 07/13/2011 - 1:40pm by Information Architect.

The following questionnaire appeard on the Humanist Discussion Group:

Manuscripts Online: Written Culture from 1100 to 1500

Manuscripts Online is a new project that aims to enable federated searching of transcriptions, editions, catalogue descriptions, and calendars of primary texts in English, Latin, French, Welsh etc from or relevant to the British Isles, 1100-1500, on the model of Connected Histories for 1500-1900 (http://www.connectedhistories.org/). The service will be hosted by the University of Sheffield Humanities Research Institute. The specification of the service and a bid for funding are currently being drafted.

Please send responses to Professor John Thompson, School of English, Queen's University Belfast (J.Thompson@qub.ac.uk).

1. Would you use such a service?

YES [go to question 2]
NO [go to question 5]

2. What existing online digitised resources would you like to see included?

3. What digitised datasets that are currently offline would you like to
see included?

4. What printed resources would you would like to see digitised and
included?

5. Any other comments?

6. Please provide your name, institution, and email address:

View full article. | Posted in Websites and Resources on Sun, 07/10/2011 - 2:12pm by .

"No woman, according to New York Mayor Jimmy Walker, was ever ruined by a book. But Christopher B. Krebs, a classics professor at Harvard, makes a strong case that an early ethnological monograph, written in the first century in Latin by the Roman historian Tacitus, may have warped the cultural identity of an entire nation. In my old Penguin translation, 'Germania'—'On Germany'— runs fewer than 40 pages, but, like other comparably short documents, such as the Declaration of Independence and 'The Communist Manifesto,' its influence has been earthshaking. As the Penguin translator, H. Mattingly, frankly writes in his 1947 introduction, the book is 'a detailed account of a great people that had already begun to be a European problem in the first century of our era.'"

Read more of the review of A Most Dangerous Book at The Washington Post online.

 
View full article. | Posted in Book Reviews on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 4:54pm by Information Architect.

The APA Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance (CAMP) seeks participants for its performance at the APA Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.  This year’s play is the premiere of The Jurymen, an Aristophanic take on the last days of Socrates, written by Katherine Janson, and directed by Amy R. Cohen.  We need actors, musicians, stage crew, and helpers for our limited-rehearsal staged reading.  Rehearsals will begin on Wednesday, January 4 and the performance will take place on the evening of Friday, January 6.  Send an e-mail describing your interests and talents to acohen@randolphcollege.edu, by September 1, 2011.  Read the script at apollonejournal.org.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 3:16pm by Adam Blistein.

The Joint Committee on Placement and APA Staff are developing a system that will bring greater automation to the process of registering candidates and institutions for the Service and of scheduling interviews at the 2012 Joint Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.  We hope to have this system in place by the beginning of September.  While this new system is being developed, the Service will operate in the following manner:

For candidates:  Placement Director Renie Plonski will send an e-mail to all candidates registered for last year’s Service (2010-2011) stating that, unless they wish to discontinue their subscriptions, they will continue to receive e-mails around the 1st and 15th of each month containing all position listings recently submitted to the Service.  Any new candidate who wishes to receive the semi-monthly e-mails may be added to the e-mail list at no charge by submitting that request to Renie (plonskii@sas.upenn.edu).  Note:  Once the new automated system is implemented, we will no longer use this interim e-mail list.  All candidates wishing to participate in the 2011-2012 Service will need to register for it and pay the required fee. 

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 2:37pm by Adam Blistein.

"Two years ago, an archivist at Tufts University was sifting through manuscripts in the library's special collections when he came across a lone, unlabeled folder. To his surprise, it contained a stack of documents that no one then at the library had ever seen, some of them dating back to the 12th century. The Tisch Library Miscellany Collection was born. Now, Marie-Claire A. Beaulieu, an assistant professor of classics, has a novel way of identifying the documents and translating them from Latin to English—she's having her students do it. The 15 undergraduates and graduates she enlisted became historical sleuths, opening the cold case of the centuries-old texts; their work has been published online in the project's digital archive." Read more at The Chronicle of Higher Education online.

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 12:51pm by Information Architect.

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