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 It is unpublished but available from University Microfilms, under the name Valerie French Allen; she later gave up the name Allen and was known in her last decades by her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

Categories

Follow SCS News for information about the SCS and all things classical.

Use this field to search SCS News
Select a category from this list to limit the content on this page.
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.
front face of restored Harry Wilks Study Center at Villa Vergiliana

Would you like to direct a tour or workshop for the Vergilian Society in 2024? 

Vergilian Society tours are designed to appeal to a wide range of travelers interested in the ancient Mediterranean.  Our programs welcome college students, instructors and nonprofessionals.

For 2024, we are particularly interested in tours of the ancient Mediterranean or study programs (such as Latin workshops) that are based at the Villa Vergiliana, a study center in the Bay of Naples, Italy. 

If you have any questions about proposal submissions, please contact the Chair of the Villa Management Committee, John Wonder, at jwwonder@sfsu.edu 

You'll find previous tour details at https://www.vergiliansociety.org/previous-tours/

View full article. | Posted in Organizations on Fri, 02/18/2022 - 11:50am by Helen Cullyer.

Homer in Sicily: An Academic Conference and Tour of Ancient Sites

Exedra Mediterranean Center

October 5-8, 2022 [and post-conference tour October 9-10, 2022]

Homeric Thrinacia – our Sicily – is the legendary home of the Cattle of the Sun, the Cyclops, the Laestrygonians, Aeolus, and close neighbor of Skylla and Charybdis. Samuel Butler, in the nineteenth century, memorably theorized that the Odyssey’s author was a young Sicilian woman, glimpsed in the figure of Nausicaa. Otherwise, surprisingly few scholars have explored Sicily’s association with the Homeric epics, the Odyssey in particular. The goal of this conference is to bring scholars from a variety of disciplines to Siracusa to discuss Homer’s epic vision and to visit the archaeological traces of the mythic places and beings of the Odyssey.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 02/17/2022 - 4:04pm by .

(From Haverford College Communications)

Daniel Gillis, a member of the classics faculty for almost 40 years, died Dec. 3. He was 86. 

Gillis earned his B.A. from Harvard University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Cornell University before joining the Haverford faculty in September 1966. He was promoted to associate professor of classics in 1968 and full professor in 1976. 

He taught classes on Latin language and literature, Roman social history, and other courses outside the Department of Classics, such as “Fiction of the Holocaust.” He published numerous books including two volumes on German composer and conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler–1965’s Furtwängler Recalled and 1970’s Furtwängler and America– and a collection of largely autobiographical poems, 1979’s Vita. His other books included Collaboration with the Persians (1979), Measure of a Man (1982), and Eros and Death in the Aeneid (1983). In 1992, he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquities of Scotland in recognition of his establishment of an institute for Scottish Highland Studies in Prince Edward Island.

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Thu, 02/17/2022 - 3:49pm by .
The top half of a page from a Greek-English dictionary containing the entry for logos.

The Cambridge Greek Lexicon (CGL) set out to replace the Middle Liddell, a goal whose overwhelming success cannot be in doubt. Indeed, it puts the field of classical studies in the awkward position of having a student dictionary that is on sounder footing than its chief scholarly dictionary, and it seems likely that CGL will be the go-to resource not just for undergraduates but for grad students and scholars when reading classical Greek literature.

Yet the words “classical” and “literature” in the previous sentence carry a good deal of weight. In order for the dictionary to be completed in a reasonable amount of time, and at a size and cost that will be manageable for students, CGL excluded quite a bit of material. Its coverage “extends from Homer to the early second century AD (ending with Plutarch’s Lives)” (CGL 1: vii), but it covers this material selectively, and the focus is clearly on poetry from Homer to the Hellenistic period and on literary prose down to Aristotle. There is very little coverage of Roman-era works, religious works, technical works, and documentary works.

View full article. | Posted in on Tue, 02/15/2022 - 10:01am by .

The deadline for the next round of applications for the Ancient World, Modern Communities Initiative (formerly Classics Everywhere) is February 28, 2022.

We invite applications from individuals, organizations, and/or communities to apply to the “Ancient Worlds, Modern Communities” committee for mini-grants of up to $2,000 to support works that engage 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. Examples of successful projects include but are not limited to: public lectures; readings; discussion groups; performances; summer, after-school and weekend programs for school-age children; visual arts exhibits and installations; podcasts; and videos.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Wed, 02/09/2022 - 6:16pm by .

AIA/SCS Career Development Seminars 

Wednesday Feb 16, 2022 (4pm EST) and Thursday, March, 17, 2022 (4pm EST)

February 16, 4:00-5:00pm Eastern: Laura Surtees on libarianship. Laura is a Research and Instruction Librarian and coordinator of the specialty Rhys Carpenter Library at Bryn Mawr College. You can read Laura's biography and sign up at https://forms.gle/DMd298Rb5UJ2Ax3N9 .

The Career Development Seminar scheduled for Thursday, January 20, from 4:00-5:00pm  Eastern has been rescheduled for Thursday March 17, 4:00-5:00pm Eastern. It will feature Nathalie Roy and Michael Posey, talking about K-12 teaching. You can sign up for this seminar here: https://forms.gle/nJSMwGew5yWUmMAXA .

You can find more information about the AIA/SCS Career Development Seminars here: https://classicalstudies.org/placement/career-development-seminars .

Please email info@classicalstudies.org if you have any questions or concerns.

---

View full article. | Posted in General Announcements on Wed, 02/09/2022 - 9:52am by .

We are pleased to announce that Volume III, Issue I of The Haley Classical Journal is now live! 

In this issue of The Haley, explore topics ranging from Roman spolia to re-examinations of grief in the Iliad. You may read the full issue here, as well as our previous issues.

Our submission period for Volume III, Issue II (with publication in June of 2022) is now also open. We will be receiving papers until March 11, 2022. We encourage any students who will be undergraduates next semester to submit their work here, including those who have submitted work to us before!

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Tue, 02/08/2022 - 3:16pm by .
A woodcut of a black and white manuscript page with Latin text at the bottom. Above the text is an image of a woman covered in feathers with the wings and feet of a bird, thebreasts and face of a human woman, and long hair. A banner above her reads "FAMA"

In Plautus’s Mercator, the senex Demipho, the archetypal lecherous old man, attempts to justify to his son his purported decision not to purchase the puella Pasicompsa as a maid for their household. While the audience understands Demipho’s dissimulation — he will, as we know, purchase the girl to satiate his lascivious desires — the old man must trot out a believable excuse to the lovelorn adulescens, whose own parallel obsession with Pasicompsa motivates the plot of the play. Rather than appeal to expediency or even to economics, Demipho argues that the presence of the girl in their household would bring shame to the family and harm their reputation:

Because there would be a scandal if a woman of her appearance were to follow the mother of a household; were she to walk through the streets, everybody would stare at her, ogle her, nod to her, wink at her, whistle at her, pinch her, call after her, and be a nuisance. People would serenade mockingly at our door. With their pieces of charcoal the door would be filled with little ditties. And, given what crooked gossipers people are nowadays, they would disapprove of my wife and myself on the grounds that we were keeping a brothel. What on earth is that necessary for?

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 02/07/2022 - 10:22am by .

Pages

Latest Stories

In Memoriam
Contributed by Hanna M. Roisman:
SCS Announcements
SCS Announcements
Symposium Cumanum – Call for Proposal

© 2020, Society for Classical Studies Privacy Policy