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 It is unpublished but available from University Microfilms, under the name Valerie French Allen; she later gave up the name Allen and was known in her last decades by her maiden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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Dura-Europos: Past, Present, Future - Celebrating the Centennial of Excavations at Dura-Europos

Sponsored by: Yale University’s interdisciplinary ARCHAIA Program for the Study of Ancient and Premodern Cultures and Societies

Dates : March 31, 2022 - April 2, 2022

Where: Hybrid/Virtual [livestream]

Yale University’s interdisciplinary ARCHAIA program is pleased to share news of its upcoming hybrid conference: Dura-Europos: Past, Present, Future. This three-day event (March 31-April 2, 2022) is arranged to celebrate the centennial of excavations on-site at Dura-Europos (Syria). Papers and discussion will explore the town’s regional and long-distance ties in antiquity, 21st-century geopolitical entanglements, and avenues for future research. Registration is free, and online attendance is open to all. 

For information about the papers and presenters, and to register, please see: 

https://campuspress.yale.edu/duraeuropos2022/

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Tue, 03/08/2022 - 11:55am by .

CAAS ARC Workshop: Diversity Policies are for Everyone

When: Saturday, March 19, 2022 - 11:00AM EDT

Where: Virtual (via Zoom)

The Antiracism Committee (ARC) of The Classical Association of the Atlantic States (CAAS) is organizing another workshop on diversity policies. Through a series of case studies, this workshop will explore ways to create and improve on diversity policies so that they can be more helpful to BIPOC students and scholars. We’ll be meeting on Saturday, March 19, 2022 at 11am EDT via Zoom. This workshop is free and open to anyone who registers.

If you’d like to register, you can fill out this form:  https://forms.gle/C5KMYK7nB3FQRVXr8

If you have any questions about the workshop, please email David Wright: djwrig85@gmail.com. See also attached flyer and share widely! Hope to see you there!

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Mon, 03/07/2022 - 3:04pm by .

Call for Proposals: CAAS 2022 Annual Meeting

The Classical Association of the Atlantic States

Dates: October 6-8, 2022

Venue: HOTEL DU PONT, Wilmington, DE

Deadline for all proposals (individual papers, panels, workshops): (extended) Monday, March 28, 2022

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Mon, 03/07/2022 - 12:34pm by .

The Classics Program at Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY), advertises its graduate programs in Latin education. These programs combine courses and mentoring in the vibrant environs of New York City. They aim to foster the ability to make Latin compelling to a diverse population of middle and high school students. Both programs lead to certification in New York State. Applications are accepted in both the Fall and the Spring. The deadline for applications to start in Fall 2022 is March 15th, 2022, but consideration may be made for later applications. 

  1. MA in Adolescent Education, Grades 7-12 – Latin

A 49 to 50-credit course sequence in Latin, Classics, and Education that prepares students to teach Latin in grades 7-12. This program is run jointly by the Classics Program in the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Education.

View full article. | Posted in Degree and Certificate Programs on Fri, 03/04/2022 - 4:49pm by .

When you are standing at the edge of the Pontic steppe, where the Bug-Dnieper estuary melts into the Black Sea, there are three islands on the horizon. It can be difficult to see in the haze of late summer, which is when I was there last with two friends, Sam Holzman and Phil Katz.

Foremost is Berezan, once connected to the adjacent mainland. Long and flat-topped like a container ship, the largest of the handful of islands to rise from the Black Sea. It was settled by Ionians in the sixth century BCE, and has been all-but-continuously excavated since 1894.

A second island is artificial: across from the mainland town of Ochakiv lies the fortress isle of Pervomaisky. The Ottomans used the citadel at Ochakiv to control access to the river until it fell to John Paul Jones in service of the Empress Catherine in 1788. Pervomaisky was built up from a sandbar and fortified by Russia in the late nineteenth century. Both permanently blocked off the Dnieper as an invasion or slaving route to the forest steppe.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 03/03/2022 - 12:00pm by .

International Conferences of Novelty in Classics

1st ICoNiC: Audience Response in Ancient Greek and Latin Literature: Concepts, Contexts, Conflicts - Multiple Approaches to Author-Audience Relationship

02-03 September 2022 (virtual via MS Teams)

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 02/22/2022 - 8:30am by .

Between 6pm GMT on 31 May 2022 and the following evening, 1 June 2022, the Herodotus Helpline will be hosting the Herodotus Marathon. This is a non-stop, multilingual reading of Herodotus’ Histories. We are calling it the Marathon because we anticipate that it will take a little over 26 hours. Non-stop. Different readers will read their sections of the Histories via zoom, but it will be broadcast live (and recorded for posterity) on youtube. Readers will read in their native languages (or in ancient Greek, if they prefer).

To reflect Herodotus’ huge reach, we are looking for readers from the widest possible range of backgrounds (and the widest possible range of native tongues). Readers will include: scholars and students of Herodotus, celebrities with an interest or background in antiquity, or members of the general public with an interest in the ancient world - all are welcome!

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 02/22/2022 - 8:04am by .

Interdisciplinary Humanities 

Fall/Winter 2022 issue: Myth and Art

Deadline for Submissions: March 31, 2022

Guest Editors: Edmund Cueva and Anna Tahinci

[Journal published by parent organization - HERA (Humanities Education and Research Association) at UTEP (University of Texas at El Paso)]

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 02/22/2022 - 7:41am by .
NEH seal

The Hill School and Valencia College invite applications to the NEH Institute, Timeless Parallels: Veteran Voices and Classical Literature

Eligibility:

This program is open to all secondary school teachers of Latin, Ancient Greek, English, or History.

Program Description:

This Institute will enable secondary school teachers to develop curriculum that draws parallels between the experience of veterans in the modern and ancient worlds, exploring such issues as homecoming and reintegration into civilian life; the treatment of veterans; the problem of war trauma and treatment of PTSD; and, the role of society in sharing the burdens of veteran experiences.

Program Costs:

View full article. | Posted in Summer Programs on Sun, 02/20/2022 - 8:47pm by Helen Cullyer.
Eta Sigma Phi owl logo

Eta Sigma Phi has extended the deadline for all three of its 2022 Summer Travel Scholarships to March 1:

The Theodore Bedrick Scholarship provides funding for a Vergilian Society Tour in Italy: https://www.etasigmaphi.org/scholarships/summer-travel/bedrick/

The Brent Malcolm Froberg Scholarship provides funding for the Summer Session of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens: https://www.etasigmaphi.org/scholarships/summer-travel/ascsa/

The America Academy in Rome scholarship provides funding for the AAR's Classical Summer School: https://www.etasigmaphi.org/scholarships/summer-travel/aar/

View full article. | Posted in Summer Programs on Sun, 02/20/2022 - 6:38pm by Helen Cullyer.

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