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 It is unpublished but available from University Microfilms, under the name Valerie French Allen; she later gave up the name Allen and was known in her last decades by her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

As of Friday March 13, 2020, SCS staff will be working remotely until further notice. We have taken this step in order to comply with the current policies of NYU, our host institution. Fortunately, we expect there to be little disruption to our operations. You can still do the following online:

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The best way to contact us during this period is at info@classicalstudies.org. We will respond promptly. To reach us by phone, please use 646 939 0435. We plan to check our physical mail on a regular basis but would prefer members to use online communication if possible at this time. 

View full article. | Posted in Public Statements on Thu, 03/12/2020 - 8:22pm by Helen Cullyer.

By Joel P. Christensen and Elton Barker

How does one (er, a pairing) write a collaborative book and how might we make sure that our work is accessible to students, teachers, and all those interested in Classics? Gather round for the biography of a new and freely available book, Homer’s Thebes: Epic Rivalries and the Appropriation of Mythical Pasts. 

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 03/12/2020 - 1:56pm by Joel Perry Christensen.

"Techne Agathe: Ethics of Art and Technology from Antiquity to Our Times"

The Second International Conference of Hellenic Studies will take place in Budva (Montenegro), from 14 to 19 September 2020. The topic of the conference is "Techne Agathe: Ethics of Art and Technology from Antiquity to Our Times".

Deadline for submissions: 1 July 2020

Conference website: http://ichs.me

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 03/12/2020 - 10:46am by Erik Shell.

As the COVID-19 virus becomes more widespread in the US and in many other countries, the SCS office and the Board of Directors are making plans to deal effectively with disruptions to all our operations and programs.

Since many academic institutions are now placing restrictions on domestic travel, cancelling trips and programs abroad, and even teaching online due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the SCS Board of Directors has approved, effective 3/6/20, the deferred spending by award winners of short-term award and grant funds for travel, programs, and events. Winners of the Frank M. Snowden Jr. Scholarships (formerly the Undergraduate Minority Scholarships), Coffin Fellowship, Pedagogy Awards, Koenen Fellowship, and Classics Everywhere micro-grants will be allowed to postpone their awards until 2021, subject to terms that will be included in all award letters going forward. Detailed instructions will be included in all award letters. SCS will continue to receive applications for these programs in accordance with posted deadlines, and 2020 winners may use funds in 2020 if they are able to do so.

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View full article. | Posted in Public Statements on Sun, 03/08/2020 - 2:32pm by Helen Cullyer.

Our second interview in the Contingent Faculty Series is with Ryan C. Fowler, who is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics at Franklin & Marshall College. Ryan teaches a wide variety of classes, including Ancient Medicine and Ancient Rhetoric and Persuasion. He has written a number of articles and books on Platonism in the early Roman Empire.  Ryan held a residential fellowship at the Center for Hellenic Studies in 2014, was Sunoikisis fellow for curricular development from 2012-2016, and has also taught at Grinnell College and Knox College.  He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from Rutgers University, an M.A. in Classical Greek from Columbia University, and an M.A. in philosophy from San Francisco State University.

How has working in a contingent position affected your work as a teacher? And do you think working in such a position has given you a different perspective on teaching or working at a college or university?

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 03/06/2020 - 6:23am by Andrew G. Scott.
"Empty Theatre (almost)"by Kevin Jaako, licensed under CC BY 2.0

A Forum on Thornton Wilder's Alcestiad at Fordham University

The Dean's Office of Fordham College at Lincoln Center, the Fordham Theatre Program, and the Fordham Department of Classics will present A Forum on Thornton Wilder’s Alcestiad on March 6, 2020. This June, Fordham Artist-in-Residence and Artistic Director of Magis Theatre Company, George Drance S.J., will stage Thornton Wilder’s Alcestiad at Four Freedoms Park in New York City.  In anticipation of the production, a panel discussion of the script will be held on March 6, 2020 at 6:30pm. The event will be held at the Twelfth Floor Lounge at Fordham Lincoln Center. Panelists will include George Drance, S.J. (Fordham University and Magis Theatre Company), Elizabeth Scharffenberger (Columbia University) and Jerise Fogel (Montclair State University).  Actors from Magis Theatre will also present a few scenes from the upcoming production.  The event is free and open to the public.

View full article. | Posted in Performances on Thu, 03/05/2020 - 1:06pm by Erik Shell.

The 2020 SCS Election Slate and narrative report of the 2019-2020 Nominating Committee are now available on our website. 

Thank you to our Nominating Committee members and to all those who have agreed to stand in summer 2020.

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(Photo: "_DSC7061" by rhodesj, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 03/05/2020 - 9:13am by Helen Cullyer.

Revised 7/30/20

As previously announced, Patrice Rankine and Sasha-Mae Eccleston will serve as guest editors of a future issue of TAPA with the theme of race, racism, and Classics (issue 153:1, to appear April 2023). Covid-19 and the global Movement 4 Black Lives have highlighted the extent to which racism is a public health emergency whose reach extends across the Black Atlantic and far beyond. In light of these deeply imbricated developments of 2020, this volume becomes even more timely. A detailed call for papers, along with instructions and deadlines for submission in 2021, follows.

Race and Racism: Beyond the Spectacular

 

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Wed, 03/04/2020 - 9:28am by Helen Cullyer.

The program submission system is now open and accepting proposals.

You can visit the main page at https://program.classicalstudies.org/

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(Photo: "_DSC7061" by rhodesj, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 03/03/2020 - 8:29am by Erik Shell.

Workshop: Socratic eudaimonia and the care for others

An event sponsored by the International Society for Socratic Studies

Verona, April 8-9, 2020

Despite the appearances given by certain texts, the moral psychology of Socrates need not imply selfishness. On the contrary, a close look at passages in Plato and Xenophon (see Plato, Meno 77-78, Protagoras 358, Gorgias 466-468, Euthydemus 278, Lysis 219; Xenophon, Memorabilia 3.9.4-5) suggests that the egoist’s welfare depends upon the welfare of others (i.e. family or friends). Since the welfare of the egoist’s family and friends is part of the egoist’s own eudaimonia, the egoist has a direct and intrinsic motive to promote the welfare of these others.

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Mon, 03/02/2020 - 9:03am by Erik Shell.

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