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 It is unpublished but available from University Microfilms, under the name Valerie French Allen; she later gave up the name Allen and was known in her last decades by her maiden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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Third Annual Conference: Temple/Carleton Consortium on Women, Marriage and the Household from Antiquity to the Present: An Interdisciplinary, Global Conference 

WOMEN AND RITUAL ACTS

When: May 12-14, 2022

Where: Temple University Rome: Lungotevere Arnaldo da Brescia, 15 and Virtual participation available via Zoom

Co-DirectorsKaren Klaiber Hersch and Jaclyn Neel

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Wed, 04/20/2022 - 10:44am by .

Call for Applications: Tsakopoulos Hellenic Collection
Hellenic (formerly Library) Research Fellowship Program 2022-2023

**Contingent on continued on-campus operations during 2022-2023 academic year**

Thanks to generous ongoing funding from the Elios Charitable Foundation, the Tsakopoulos Hellenic Foundation, and the Tarbell Family Foundation, the University Library is pleased to offer the continuation of the Hellenic (formerly Library) Research Fellowship Program (HRFP) for a 10th year. The name change is intended to better convey and reflect the focus of the program. The Program supports the use of the Tsakopoulos Hellenic Collection by fellows for scholarly research in Hellenic studies while in residence in Sacramento, CA.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Wed, 04/20/2022 - 10:01am by .

As the annual meeting program submission deadlines approach, we have had a few reports from people who can't log into the program submission site but can log into our main website (https://classicalstudies.org)

In order to address these difficulties, we've made some technical adjustments. As of today (4/19/22), if you are an active member, you will be able to log into both sitesclassicalstudies.org and the program submission system. If you are not an active member for 2022, you will not be able to log into either site. 

You can check your membership status at https://scs.press.jhu.edu/membership/log-in

If you are planning to make a submission, please do not leave it until the last minute to check your membership status. 

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 04/19/2022 - 7:42am by Helen Cullyer.
SASA reading groups flyer

SASA (Save Ancient Studies Alliance) is looking for experienced and passionate educators for a paid role during the summer! SASA has received a generous grant of $10,000 from the Delmas Foundation to support their Summer Mini-Reading Groups.

These groups are small, informal discussion groups, centered on ancient texts! They are free to participants, and are hosted on Zoom. We are now looking for talented and dedicated academics to lead 3 and 8 week reading groups.

See here for more details, and read the Call for Applications.

View full article. | Posted in Summer Programs on Tue, 04/19/2022 - 7:23am by Helen Cullyer.
A white marble statue of a nude man holding a smaller old man on his shoulder with a child behind his legs. The old man carries a statue.

In an April 2020 post for Eidolon, I gathered predictions on “classics after coronavirus.” Two years later, it’s hard to believe all that’s changed — and all that’s stayed the same. Thanks to advocacy for more inclusive and global approaches to antiquity, the term “classics” can scarcely be used without scare quotes. Even the simple preposition “after” seems hopelessly outdated: we’re all learning to live and work alongside a virus that’s here to stay.

View full article. | Posted in on Wed, 04/13/2022 - 10:35am by .
Title: Papyrus in Greek regarding tax issues (3rd ca. BC.)  Currently in the Metropolitan Mueum of Art. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/251788 Source: Wikipedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Papyrus_in_Greek_regarding_tax

Digital Corpus of Literary Papyri Workshop

Where: Carleton University, Ottawa

When: July 6–8 2022

The College of the Humanities at Carleton University is partnering with the University of Manitoba to offer a three-day practical workshop on the Digital Corpus of Literary Papyri (DCLP) in Ottawa, July 6–8 2022.

View full article. | Posted in Summer Programs on Mon, 04/11/2022 - 10:19am by .

The 2021-2022 SCS Nominating Committee, co-chaired by C.W. (Toph) Marshall and Patrice Rankine, has worked hard through the late Fall 2021 and early 2022. The Committee is pleased to present the complete slate of candidates for election in Summer 2022. All candidates listed below have agreed to stand. SCS will publish candidate statements in the early summer and online voting will begin as usual on or around August 1.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Fri, 04/08/2022 - 2:17pm by Helen Cullyer.
Four stone columns in the shape of women dressed in drapery stand at the front of a stone building with a green, domed roof.

The Ancient Worlds, Modern Communities initiative (AnWoMoCo), launched by the SCS in 2019 as the Classics Everywhere initiative, supports projects that seek to engage broader publics — individuals, groups, and communities — in critical discussion of and creative expression related to the ancient Mediterranean, the global reception of Greek and Roman culture, and the history of teaching and scholarship in the field of classical studies. As part of this initiative, the SCS has funded 132 projects, ranging from school programming to reading groups, prison programs, public talks, digital projects, and collaborations with artists in theater, opera, music, dance, and the visual arts. To date, it has funded projects in 28 states and 11 countries, including Canada, UK, Italy, Greece, Spain, Belgium, Ghana, Puerto Rico, Argentina, and India.

This post discusses four AnWoMoCo funded projects: an outreach program in CT called “Ancient Worlds in Our Community” (AWOC); a new adaptation of the Oresteia in Long Island; the publication of a book on Neoclassical influences on Chicago architecture; and Project Nota, a database of women Latin authors from all periods.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 04/08/2022 - 10:54am by .

The Politics of Archaism in the Imperial Period

An international colloquium at the University of Bristol (1 July 2022)

This colloquium is generously sponsored by the Institute of Greece, Rome, and the Classical Tradition, the University of Bristol, the Classical Association, and the Institute of Classical Studies. Its scope is to stimulate research on a crucial aspect of Roman Imperial culture, namely the widespread employment of archaism in Greek and Latin by the most authoritative intellectuals of the period, such as Dio of Prusa, Lucian of Samosata, Maximus of Tyre, and Aelius Aristides for Greek; Fronto, Apuleius, and Aulus Gellius for Latin.

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Tue, 04/05/2022 - 1:13pm by .

The Department of Classics at UCLA is pleased to announce the following opportunity designed to advance the department's goals of diversity and inclusion. The department is offering a one-year tuition scholarship for our post-baccalaureate program in Classics for the academic year 2022-2023, designed to benefit a promising candidate for graduate work who needs an extra year of preparation in the ancient languages before applying to graduate programs in Classical Studies.  Members of groups who contribute to the University’s diversity—including members of groups that have been historically and are presently underrepresented in the academy (e.g., racial and ethnic minorities and individuals from low income backgrounds) are especially encouraged to apply. Applicants should have completed a bachelor’s program or equivalent in Classics or a related field and must be legally authorized to work/study in the United States at the time of submitting the application.  

 

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Tue, 04/05/2022 - 12:48pm by .

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