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 It is unpublished but available from University Microfilms, under the name Valerie French Allen; she later gave up the name Allen and was known in her last decades by her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

Lucerna ardens extinguitur
 

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 12/21/2020 - 8:38am by John C. Franklin.

Our third interview in the Contingent Faculty Series is a digital sit-down between Salvador Bartera (SB) and Joshua Nudell (JN), Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics at Westminster College in Fulton, MO. Prof. Nudell holds a PhD in Ancient History from the University of Missouri. His research focuses on political culture and identity in Classical and early Hellenistic Greece, with particular focus on Ionia and the Greeks of Asia Minor. His monograph, Accustomed to Obedience?: A History of Classical Ionia, is under contract with the University of Michigan Press. Prof. Nudell is also interested in political rhetoric, imperialism, cultural memory, and the reception of the ancient world in games. His other passion involves food, both from a scholarly point of view and from a more ‘practical’, hands-on approach. His teaching experience includes small colleges, community colleges, and a large state university. He normally teaches courses in ancient history.

 

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 12/18/2020 - 9:37am by .

Ovatio for Dr. Fauci and Response

The Michigan Classical Caucus recently sent an ovatio to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the United States.

They recently posted the response they received from Dr. Fauci's office in a release to their members. The release follows:

Dear MCC Members,

Recently, two of your past presidents and the Secretary-Treasurer sent a message to Dr. Anthony Fauci on behalf of the Michigan Classical Caucus. Dr. Fauci, in case you did not know, received a Classical education at the Jesuit high school in Brooklyn: 4 years of Latin, 3 years of Greek. He went to the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts for his undergraduate degree/pre-med majoring in Classics: Greek philosophy focus. We felt that since he is not shy about praising his background, we should not be shy in thanking him.

We created an OVATIO for him and forwarded it to his office. We realize that he is extremely pre-occupied right now, but we wanted to let him know that people think highly of him for things besides this pandemic and how he trying to help us through it. (He still credits his background in philosophy as a help.)

We have received the following response from his staff:

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Thu, 12/17/2020 - 1:18pm by Erik Shell.

The Society for Classical Studies mourns the recent loss of Senator Paul S. Sarbanes.  Obituaries like this one from the New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/07/us/politics/paul-sarbanes-dead.html

give a full picture of his life of distinguished public service, including his five terms representing the State of Maryland as an exceptionally well-informed, honorable, and self-effacing member of the US Senate.  Intensely proud of his Greek heritage (he was the son of immigrants who ran a Greek restaurant on Maryland’s Eastern Shore), and of the accomplishments of his classicist wife, the late Christine Dunbar Sarbanes, he was a great friend to classical studies in general and to the SCS in particular.  Paul and Christine Sarbanes served as co-chairs of the Society's Gateway Campaign for Classics from 2005 to 2013, and themselves made a generous donation to the Campaign. 

The Society for Classical Studies expresses its deepest sympathy to the Sarbanes family. 

by Adam Blistein and Sheila Murnaghan

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Mon, 12/14/2020 - 7:10am by Erik Shell.

CFP: Ancient Leadership Series for SAGE Business Cases

Since 2018, SAGE Business Cases (SBC) has been inviting authors to contribute to its Ancient Leadership series. This year’s series will explore “The Stakes and Sacrifices of Leadership” through history, mythology, philosophy, and material culture.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 12/10/2020 - 10:56am by Erik Shell.

Ancient Greek Literature

Eligibility: UK/EU/International graduates with the required entry requirements

Funding details: Bursary plus tuition fees (UK/EU/International)

Duration: Full-time – for a maximum of four years, or Part-time - for a maximum of six years

Application deadline: 15th January 2021

Interview dates: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: September 2021. Please note that May 2021 is also potentially available if preferred - subject to discussion and agreement

For enquiries, please contact Professor Judith Mossman


Coventry University is inviting applications from suitably qualified graduates for a fully funded PhD studentship.

Project details

Applications are invited for a fully funded PhD studentship, either full or part-time, in Ancient Greek literature.

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Thu, 12/10/2020 - 10:48am by Erik Shell.

In 2020, the inaugural year of the SCS Erich S. Gruen Prize, the selection committee received 31 submissions from graduate students across North America treating aspects of race, ethnicity, or cultural exchange in the ancient Mediterranean. The committee was impressed with the candidates’ overall quality as well as range. Papers received, all anonymized before review, reflected the temporal and geographical breadth of classical and Near Eastern antiquity and diverse disciplinary perspectives including archaeology, art history, epigraphy, history and philology. 

View full article. | Posted in Awards and Fellowships on Wed, 12/09/2020 - 8:13am by Helen Cullyer.

On December 2, the University of Vermont (UVM) announced devastating cuts to many programs and departments, including Classics. SCS President Sheila Murnaghan and Director of the Classics Advisory Service Jeff Henderson have written to the UVM Provost and President in support of Classics and to protest the deep cuts. Prof. Henderson continues to stay in close touch with department chair John Franklin to provide support and assistance to everyone in the Classics department. Other humanities organizations, including the Medieval Academy of America, are also supporting the humanities at UVM.

Individuals can take action by signing this petition, which was created by a UVM student. 

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Mon, 12/07/2020 - 10:12am by Helen Cullyer.

ANTIQUITY IN MEDIA STUDIES is holding our first-ever virtual conference, and you're invited!

via Zoom on 11-12 December 2020, Eastern Standard Time

AIMS is a newly organized group of scholars who collaborate on research, pedagogy, and outreach activities that examine and enrich how people around the world engage with the concept and contents of "antiquity" in a variety of media. Since our inception via the Classical Antiquity section of the Film & History conference, we have been expanding our focus to include the wider Mediterranean world, with the goal of welcoming engagements with antiquities from around the globe.

In recognition of the ever-greater ubiquity of screens in our professional lives under COVID, this year's conference focuses on receptions through screen-media platforms, including film, television, streaming video, video games, and social media. Our closing session features remarks on the state of Classical Reception Studies by Monica S. Cyrino (University of New Mexico, Albuquerque) and Antony Augoustakis (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign).

The detailed program, abstracts, code of conduct, and other information are available at the conference website:

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Mon, 12/07/2020 - 6:40am by Erik Shell.

(Un)-Forgotten Realms: Science Fiction and Fantasy in and about the Ancient Mediterranean

25th Annual Classics Graduate Student Colloquium

University of Virginia

Saturday, April 17th, 2021

Keynote Speaker: Jennifer Rea (University of Florida)

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 12/04/2020 - 2:58pm by Erik Shell.

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