Tip o’ the pileus to Ron Janoff (of New York Latin Leaflet fame) for alerting us to the existence online of Alice Kober’s papers … there are a pile of (mostly handwritten) letters in there which are definitely a fascinating read and give a glimpse into how Classical research was done before email, twitter, etc.:
… it might be worthwhile compiling online ‘papers collections’ of Classicists … hmmm
Yesterday’s New York Times brought an opEd/hypish sort of thing by the author of a book on Alice Kober, whom I had never heard of and I’m sure many of you haven’t either. Here’s some in medias res:
Little did I realize six years ago, when I began work on a new book about the decipherment of an ancient script, that I would encounter the greatest backstage player I have ever written about: a woman who helped illuminate a world that flourished 3,000 years ago.
The woman was Alice Kober, an overworked, underpaid classics professor at Brooklyn College. In the mid-20th century, though hardly anyone knew it, Dr. Kober, working quietly and methodically at her dining table in Flatbush, helped solve one of the most tantalizing mysteries of the modern age.
The mystery centered on a long-lost script from Aegean antiquity known as Linear B. Inscribed on clay tablets around 1450 B.C., Linear B was unearthed in 1900 on Crete, amid the ruins of a lavish Bronze Age palace. The script, which teemed with pictograms in the shape of arrows, chariots and horses’ heads, resembled no writing ever seen. No one knew what language it recorded, much less what it said.
An unknown language in an unknown script is the linguistic equivalent of a locked-room mystery, and despite the efforts of investigators around the globe, Linear B endured for more than 50 years as one of the world’s great unsolved puzzles.
Then, in 1952, against all odds, the script was deciphered — seemingly in a single stroke. The decipherer was an amateur, Michael Ventris, a brilliant, melancholic English architect who had been obsessed with Linear B since he was a boy. He discovered that the script was used to write a very early dialect of Greek; set down in wet clay centuries before the advent of the Greek alphabet, it recorded the day-to-day workings of the first Greek civilization.
Though Mr. Ventris’s achievement brought him worldwide acclaim, it also left many unanswered questions. He had planned to write an account of his work, describing the incremental steps that led to his inspired solution. But he was unable to do so before he died in 1956, at 34, in a swift, strange car crash that may have been suicide. As a result, the story of one of the most breathtaking intellectual achievements in history remained incomplete for more than half a century.
Like so many canonical narratives of achievement, this story has a quiet backstage figure behind the towering public one. And here, too, as in other such stories (recall Rosalind Franklin, whose work, long unacknowledged, informed the mapping of the structure of DNA by Francis Crick and James Watson), that figure is a woman.
Alice Elizabeth Kober was born in Manhattan on Dec. 23, 1906, the daughter of recent immigrants from Hungary. A brilliant student, she earned a bachelor’s degree in classics from Hunter College, and it was there, in a course on early Greek life, that she appears to have encountered Linear B.
Enthralled — and already confident of her own blazing intellect — she announced on her graduation that she would one day decipher the script. She came within a hair’s breadth of doing so before her own untimely death, at 43, just two years before Mr. Ventris cracked the code.
Dr. Kober never married, nor do her hundreds of pages of correspondence reveal the faintest glimmer of a personal life. Each night, after her classes were taught and her papers graded, she sat at the table in the house she shared with her widowed mother and, cigarette burning beside her, sifted the strange Cretan inscriptions.
It was Dr. Kober who cataloged every word and every character of Linear B on homemade index cards, cut painstakingly by hand from whatever she could find. (During World War II and afterward, paper was scarce, and she scissored her ersatz cards — 180,000 of them — from old greeting cards, church circulars and checkout slips she discreetly pinched from the Brooklyn College library.)
On her cards, she noted statistics about every character of the script — its frequency at the beginnings and ends of words, and its relation to every other character — with the meticulousness of a cryptographer. Sorting the cards night after night, Dr. Kober homed in on patterns of symbols that illuminated the structure of the words on the tablets. For as she, more than any other investigator, understood, it was internal evidence — the repeated configurations of characters that lay hidden within the inscriptions themselves — that would furnish the key to decipherment.
DR. KOBER and Mr. Ventris met only once, and by all accounts did not like each other. But through her few, rigorous published articles, which together form a how-to manual for deciphering an unknown script, she handed him the key to the locked room. After her death, using the methods she devised, he attacked the mystery with renewed vigor and brought about its solution.
It is now clear that without Dr. Kober’s work, Mr. Ventris could never have deciphered Linear B when he did, if ever. Yet because history is always written by the victors — and the story of Linear B has long been a British masculine triumphal narrative — the contributions of this brilliant American woman have been all but lost to time.
By fortunate coincidence, an archive of Dr. Kober’s papers had opened at the University of Texas shortly before I began my research. As a result, I was the first journalist to have the privilege of seeing her groundbreaking analysis of the script in full.
Dr. Kober’s work on Linear B spanned more than a decade, and the archive includes sheaves of her correspondence with the few would-be decipherers she respected, plus her tens of thousands of homemade index cards, fitted neatly into “file boxes” made from empty cigarette cartons. Like so much of women’s lives at midcentury, all this — which reveals the steps Mr. Ventris took in his triumphant decipherment — had long existed outside the reach of posterity.
I am not certain how Dr. Kober would feel about her role in the decipherment being brought to light today. “The important thing is the solution of the problem, not who solves it,” she wrote to a young American colleague in 1949. But I prefer to take my cue from a letter she wrote two years earlier, on the publication in an academic journal of her scathing critique of another scholar’s misguided attempt to decipher Linear B.
“I hope he will not be too annoyed with my review,” Dr. Kober wrote. “But I feel that in scholarly matters the truth must always be told.”
So, too, in obits. After Dr. Kober died, on May 16, 1950, The Times published a short obituary article under the headline, “Prof. Alice Kober of Brooklyn Staff.” The article — the dutiful roster of job titles and professional memberships that typified obituaries of the period — devotes less than a sentence to her work on Linear B.
- via: Alice E. Kober, 43; Lost to History No More (New York Times)
As many on the Classics list noted, Kober is mentioned in various books on the decipherment of Linear B, but it seems to be usually in the introduction or other parts of the text where undergrads and other budding professionals probably won’t look. I’m sure I’m not the only person who went through my undergrad knowing of Michael Ventris and probably no one else, and operating under the impression that it was a one-man show, even though you knew there were others in the race. Seems to be something we should be making amends to bring up Kober’s name more often, especially since she can’t really be called an ‘amateur’, which is the epithet we often give to Ventris. There are probably quite a few others in that category as well …
The official description:
In the second interview recorded in April at the Classical Association conference in Reading Dr Lisa Maurice of Bar Ilan University talks with CC’s Anastasia Bakogianni about her twin passions: children’s literature and the portrayal of Jews in films about antiquity.
In this vodcast she talks about the popularity of the classical world in children’s literature and its impact on how ancient Rome is perceived in the modern world. At this year’s CA there were two panels devoted to the subject, testifying to the vibrancy of research in this area. Lisa discusses how the portrayal of Romans in fiction for children and young adults has changed over time. In the 1950s the Romans were seen as the great civilizers, but more recently they have become the villains. In the second half of the interview Lisa talks about her work exploring what it means to be Jewish in ancient Rome with particular reference to two televisions series: Masada (1981) and Rome (2005-7). The shifting portrayal of Jewish and Roman identity on the small screen allows us to reflect on our own understanding of both ancient and modern and the on-going dialogue between the two.
This item from the Evening Standard (wow!) was mentioned over at Classics International:
Spears are being hurled in the classical world after a new book about Euripides was given a lukewarm write-up in the well-respected Classical Review.
Cypriot author had spent eight years researching the play Rhesus, attributed to Euripides, for his new academic work published by the Oxford University Press. Liapis concludes that it’s not by Euripides but the authorship issue is not the problem. It was the review by Donna Zuckerberg, a little-known classicist doing a PhD at Princeton, who bakes by night and also happens to be the younger sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Not many in the classical world share Zuckerberg’s opinion that Liapis “fails utterly” in writing a proper appreciation of the play, nor her view that he betrays “persistent and pervasive negativity”. The Classical Review has already received complaints about the quality of Zuckerberg’s review and dismissive comments. Another classical journal, the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, had given Liapis a rave write-up, saying he offered “ a wealth of intelligent, well-balanced discussion”.
Professor Colin Leach, formerly at Oxford University, whose enthusiastic review is due to be published in the Journal of Classical Teachers later this year, expressed his surprise that Classical Review did not allocate so important a book to a senior academic. He also notes: “Zuckerberg used the ‘word’ hapaces, which purports to be the plural of hapax. But hapax is not a noun, but an indeclinable adverb, meaning ‘once’, and hapaces does not exist. It may be a feeble joke, or even an Americanism.” God forbid.
- via: Classical battle over Facebook founder’s sister (Evening Standard)
If you don’t have access to Classical Review, you can get a taste of Zuckerberg’s comments here (it’s the first paragraph). The BMCR review by David Sansone is here. Simon Perris’ review for Classical Journal is generally positive. Judging from those (and the above), I strongly suspect the Standard was experiencing a bit of a slow news day and wanted to do some Zuckerberg bashing of some sort (perhaps they’re trying to stir something up analogous to Simcha Jacobovici v Joe Zias … or Simcha Jacobovici v Yuval Goren (but see also …) … disagreements of this sort aren’t really new to us and, as far as I’m aware, don’t generally make the newspapers. On the other hand, it’s interesting to note that Zuckerberg’s sister is pursuing a PhD in Classics!
Over the past few weeks a number of Classicists have been mentioned in various news outlets for various reasons … I think I’ve mentioned most of them in my Explorator newsletter, but have been too swamped to mention them here efficiently, so here’s a compendium:
Robert Kaster was named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences:
- FACULTY AWARD: Eight named to American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Princeton News)
Feature on David Soren and his Art History and the Cinema course:
- UA professor forever a performer (Arizona Daily Wildcat)
Candida Moss is getting attention for her book about the ‘myth’ of Christian martyrdom:
Barry Strauss was talking Spartacus at the AAR:
Henry Bayerle was interviewed about teaching ancient languages:
Patricia Johnston was talking Aeneid:
Guy Hedreen got a Guggenheim:
… as did Kyle Harper:
Angelos Chaniotis was talking Greek graffiti:
Steven Tuck was talking gladiators:
Eric Robinson was talking Spartans:
Timothy McNiven was talking monsters:
Mary Beard received a nice post:
From the Telegraph:
Peter Walsh, who has died aged 89, was a classicist and helped to change the way scholars look at some of the great Latin texts.
He made his name in 1961 with Livy: His historical aims and methods, a book which rescued the reputation of the great Roman historian from the academic doldrums. In 1970 The Roman Novel showed the connection between the Satyricon of Petronius and the Metamorphoses (or Golden Ass) of Apuleius and other forms of fiction being written in the Roman world before 200AD, and explored how they had influenced the mainstream of European picaresque literature over the centuries.
Later on in his career Walsh turned his attention to medieval Latin, ranging from the sacred to the profane. He published editions of The Art of Courtly Love and the earthy lyrics of Carmina Burana, while his work on the early Church fathers (including Saints Paulinus and Thomas Aquinas) led to his appointment as a papal Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Gregory.
One of nine children, Patrick Gerard Walsh was born on August 16 1923 at Accrington, Lancashire, where he and his siblings were brought up in poverty in a two-bedroom terraced house with an outside privy. His decision, in childhood, to adopt the name Peter was not entirely popular with other members of the family since his brother and father both had the same name.
Peter’s father, a factory labourer, was a first generation Irish immigrant who had experienced a profound conversion to Catholicism as a result of traumatic wounds sustained at the Battle of the Somme, and he subjected his young family to a rigorous programme of religious training and ritual, both in the home and at the local Jesuit church. Of Peter’s eight brothers and sisters, three became nuns and two priests.
Walsh won scholarships to Preston Catholic College and then to Liverpool University, where he took a first in Classics. During the war, having failed to make the grade in the RAF due to poor practical skills, he served in Italy and Palestine with the Intelligence Corps, although the only training he could recall involved solving crossword puzzles.
After the war he began his academic career at University College, Dublin, moving in 1960 to Edinburgh University, where he was awarded a personal chair in 1971. The following year he succeeded CJ Fordyce as Professor of Humanity at Glasgow University, where he turned his attention largely to medieval Latin and also sought to address the decline of Classics in Scottish schools by organising residential courses for schoolchildren.
After his retirement in 1993 he continued to work, making new translations of Petronius, Apuleius, Boethius and Cicero for Oxford World’s Classics.
At the time of his death, despite suffering from Parkinson’s disease, he was attempting to complete a translation of St Augustine’s The City of God, and had reached the 16th of its 22 books.
A few weeks before he died he was delighted when Harvard University Press published a handsome anthology of his translations of Latin hymns.
He married, in 1953, Eileen Quin, who survives him with their daughter and four sons.
via: Peter Walsh (Telegraph)
Here’s the official description:
Last week we posted an interview with Professor Judith Hallett from the University of Maryland about her work on American women scholars and the Classics. Here, in a second interview with Anastasia Bakogianni, Professor Hallett discusses how classical reception can be used to engage students. She talks about how it can be incorporated into the teaching of Latin and more generally its value as a teaching tool in today’s competitive higher education climate.
From the Globe and Mail:
Kathryn Bosher studied very old things and died at a very young age.
An accomplished, respected scholar of ancient Greek theatre, especially as it was performed outside ancient Greece, Prof. Bosher had also been a world-class rower for Canada. She packed much into a life that metastatic lung cancer cut short at the age of 38 on March 23, just five months after the disease was diagnosed.
Very unlike the popular image of the tweeded geezer who pores over dusty, half-forgotten tomes, Prof. Bosher was a vibrant, energetic young woman who could make the Greek classics crackle. Among a handful of scholars to research the ancient origins of comedy in Sicily and southern Italy, then western outposts of the Greek empire, she was equally at home with the raunchy, sexually charged humour of Aristophanes as with the crystalline melodies of Sappho’s poems.
“She combined a good critical sense of her field with a tremendously positive disposition,” Robert Wallace, who worked with her in the department of classics and theatre at Northwestern University in the Chicago area, where Prof. Bosher began teaching Greek and Latin in 2006, told the campus newspaper.
“Students were just blown away by her knowledge and passion,” noted another colleague.
“Tragedy grew up in Athens but comedy grew up in Sicily,” explained her husband, LaDale Winling, an American history professor at Virginia Tech. “She documented this process by looking at theatres that have been excavated, and clay fragments, to illustrate that as great as Athens was, it wasn’t the birthplace of everything. There were cultural products coming from Sicily.”
Prof. Bosher preferred the drama and tragedy of the ancients to their comedy, which, by today’s measure, tended to be laced with crude bathroom humour. “She was faced with these jokes about bodily fluids and excreta, but she was much more highbrow and enjoyed a lofty plotline,” her husband said. “Some of the jokes we just don’t get anymore; they speak to a time and place and set of issues that no longer resonate or apply. She thought comedy could offer compelling and unique insights into a society.”
But a social and political history of theatre in Sicily from around 500 to 200 BC had not been examined in great detail because the evidence seemed too sparse and fragmentary, Prof. Bosher wrote in her doctoral thesis, Theater on the Periphery.
“In recent years, however,” she wrote, “significant discoveries have been made by archaeologists, papyrologists and philologists, and, by drawing on all these kinds of evidence, it is possible to piece together the outlines of the development of western theatre [in early Sicily].”
Whereas, for example, the playwright Epicharmus was the first to make the cultural and political elite of the Greek Heroic Age the butts of ridicule, Sicily was ruled by local tyrants, who would stage bawdy comedies to poke fun at themselves as a way of cooling civil unrest, Prof. Winling explained. “It was a very flexible genre.”
Born in Toronto on Sept. 14, 1974, Kathryn Grace Bosher wrote and performed plays from the age of five or six, her mother, Cecil Bosher, recounted. Inspired by a Latin teacher at Toronto’s Branksome Hall school, young Kate travelled through Greece and studied Classics at the University of Toronto, earning bachelor and master’s degrees there, and a doctorate from the University of Michigan.
A lithe frame of just under six feet made her a natural rower. As a teen, she rowed with Canada’s junior national team, participating in the 1991 World Junior Championships in Spain in the women’s eight (they finished seventh).
A competitive sculler in graduate school, she won both the senior women’s single and the championship women’s single for the Ann Arbor Rowing Club at the 2004 Royal Canadian Henley Regatta. The same year, she won three gold medals at the U.S. Rowing National Championship. “She was the story of that regatta, for sure,” said Brett Johnson of USRowing.
Even in graduate school in Michigan, she was driven in her sport. She would get up at about 5:45 a.m. and row for 90 minutes. That was followed by a breakfast of raw oats, yogurt, bananas and raisins, then time spent on the Web reading message boards on rowing, sandwiched around a few hours of research and scholarly reading. Then came a healthy lunch, more research and another hour-and-a-half of rowing. During winters, the same regimen was completed on indoor rowing machines.
“Research and graduate school were a way of recovering between workouts,” her husband said. “True, Classics was why she was in [school], but rowing was what sustained her.”
Prof. Bosher loved to direct plays. As a grad student, she helmed Euripides’s Orestes, while “nobody who saw the production of Aristophanes’s Assemblywomen that she directed for the 2008 Feminism and Classics conference will forget it,” the American Philological Association noted in its tribute to her.
Her mother recalls “a romantic, sensitive, poetic person, filling her bedroom with dead roses. She said her best ideas came while staring out of a library window. As a child surrounded with 136 dolls, she grew into the fantasy world of play performance.”
Conscious of her peers’ criticism, she moved from such sensitive themes as love, death and the unconscious in classical Greek literature, to the more ribald works.
“She believed in being tough,” Cecil Bosher added. “Although she never was, and thought doing things which were unfamiliar or unpleasant purely for the experience of them was valuable.”
In 2009, Prof. Bosher helped win a Mellon Foundation grant for a two-year series of conferences called Theater Outside Athens, focusing on new research and bringing together scholars of theatre and antiquity. A resulting book of the same title she edited sought to produce a wide-ranging study of “this hitherto neglected history,” she wrote in the introduction.
She was sometimes called on to comment on what seemed a greater trend toward ancient Greek culture, as seen in the movies 300, Troy and the Clash of the Titans remake. “It seems people are using Greek myth to think about the modern world, as people have always done,” she told the Orlando Sentinel in 2010, “but there seems to be an extra swing toward Greekness.”
Most recently, she directed a project called Classicizing Chicago, a website and archive that intends to investigate and document a wide range of aspects of Chicago’s engagement with Greco-Roman antiquity from 1830 until the present day.
Unfinished business included editing, with three colleagues, the Oxford Handbook of Greek Drama. “Kate was very much the driving force behind this volume and we will complete it very much in her honour,” relayed Prof. Justine McConnell of Oxford University.
Prof. Bosher started getting headaches and feeling neck pain last summer. The pain worsened. In October, it was diagnosed as lung cancer that had metastasized to several bone sites, including her cervical spine. The elite athlete had never smoked. She fought to the very end, a stoic like so many of her study subjects.
“When doctors at Ohio State University indicated there was nothing more they could do, she said to me, ‘Screw them. I don’t plan on dying in the next few weeks,’” Prof. Winling recalled. “I still cannot believe that Kate could not beat cancer, because she was the toughest person I have ever met.”
She leaves her husband, Prof. LaDale Winling; an infant son, Ernest; parents John and Cecil Bosher; a brother, Hal; and half-sisters Sylvie and Lise Bosher.
A memorial service will take place May 4, 11 a.m. at Ennismore Cemetery in Ennismore, Ont.
via: Greek theatre drew scholar Kathryn Bosher, rowing moved her (Globe and Mail)
From the Norman Transcript:
Kyle Harper, University of Oklahoma associate professor of classics and letters, is a recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, it was announced this week.
The fellowship is a national award honoring scholars, artists and scientists who are selected on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise. Guggenheim Fellows represent a wide variety of backgrounds, fields of study and accomplishments.
Harper, who also serves as director of OU’s Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage and senior vice provost for OU’s Norman campus, was selected in the field of European and American history based on his current research project, “The Fall of the Roman Empire: A Biohistory.”
“The entire university community joins me in congratulating Vice Provost Harper for this exceptional recognition of his work as a scholar,” OU President David L. Boren said. “With this award, along with the James Henry Breasted Prize, he takes his place among the finest scholars in his field in our country.”
Harper recently was named recipient of the James Henry Breasted Prize by the American Historical Association for his book “Slavery in the Late Roman World, AD 275-425,” published by Cambridge University Press in 2011.
Earlier, he was presented the Classical Association of the Middle West and South’s Outstanding Publication Award for the same book.
His next book, “From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Ethics in Late Antiquity,” is due to appear from Harvard University Press next month. “The Fall of the Roman Empire: A Biohistory” is a study that will examine the influence of environmental factors like disease and climate on the end of the ancient Roman empire.
“Historians have increasingly recognized the potential of the natural sciences to help us understand past events and long-term transformations, such as the collapse of ancient empires,” Harper said. “I feel tremendously honored to receive this recognition, and I’m so grateful for all the support I receive from the University of Oklahoma. I’m proud to teach at a top-tier research institution like OU, where we’re advancing the frontiers of knowledge in exciting ways.”
As director of OU’s Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage, Harper has helped coordinate two successful Teach-In conferences, the first on Constitutionalism, the second, on the Great Depression and World War II.
Harper created and introduced “Freedom.ou.edu,” an OU website featuring a weekly series of short lectures on constitutional law and constitutional history.
The website provides content produced by the Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage, a program founded in 2009 to emphasize the teaching of constitutional foundations as part of the college curriculum.
Harper, who earned a bachelor of arts degree in letters summa cum laude from OU and master’s and doctoral degrees in history from Harvard University, teaches a range of courses on Greek and Roman history, early Christianity, late antiquity and ancient law.
For his teaching, he was awarded the Irene Rothbaum Outstanding Associate Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Award in 2011.
- via: Kyle Harper selected for fellowship (Norman Transcript)
This week’s Classics Confidential vodcast features Professor Judith Hallett of The University of Maryland talking about her work on American women’s engagement with the classics. She discusses the difficulties that women faced in gaining entry into higher education and in establishing their scholarly role and position. And she talks about the fascinating case of Edith Hamilton, who taught classics and wrote a number of influential books that helped to shape a whole generation’s response to ancient Greece and Rome.
Jenny Strauss Clay is famous for her work on Homer, the Homeric Hymns and Hesiod, with a focus on how these archaic Greek hexameter poems maps out an epic cosmos. But today she will talk about a different kind of mapping, based on what has been labelled the “spatial turn” in Classical studies. Her recent book, Homer’s Trojan Theater, exploits digital technology, cognitive mapping and mnemonics to analyse visualization in Homer, especially in relation to the Homeric battlefield.
From the Independent:
Once famously described in the press as one of this country’s hidden chess assets, Adrian Hollis spent a long and distinguished academic career as a Classics Tutor and Fellow of Keble College, Oxford. There, amid research focussed largely on Hellenistic and Roman poetry, he bestrode the often narrow confines of his art with consummate ease.
Though originally hailing from the West Country, Adrian Hollis spent almost all his working life in Oxford. The only son of the former Director-General of MI5, Sir Roger Hollis, and his first wife, Evelyn Swayne, he initially moved to the city during the Second World War when his father was based at Blenheim Palace. Winning a Classics Scholarship to Eton College, he then took a first in mods and greats at Christ Church.
It was while at university that he first made his mark in the world of competitive chess. Having won the West of England Chess Congress on his debut in 1961, he represented Oxford University Chess Club in four varsity matches, twice taking the top board. Becoming British Correspondence Chess Champion three times, in 1976 he became an English Correspondence Chess Grandmaster.
For five years (1982-87) he represented Britain in the Ninth Correspondence Olympiad, winning the world championship ahead of many distinguished competitors from Germany, Hungary, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. In 1998 he was a member of the British team that won the World Postal Chess Championship. Typically, during his years at Keble, Hollis did much to nurture a remarkable array of emerging chess talent that included David Goodman, David Norwood Dharshan Kumaran and Jonathan Rowson.
Having been an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Humanity at St Andrews University for three years between 1964 and 1967, that year he became yet another in a long line of Christ Church men who migrated to north Oxford to serve Keble College. It was there over the course of the next 40 years, that he not only created a noted centre of academic excellence but also exercised a most benign influence over generations of aspiring classicists. A quiet and courteous presence, his manner was invariably encouraging. But his disapproval could be bleak and his criticism devastatingly accurate.
Always precise, literate and stylish, Hollis proved to be an equally fine writer and editor. Alongside many significant contributions to specialist periodicals and journals, his early reputation was forged with two volumes of Ovid, Ars Amatoria 1 and Book VIII of his Metamorphoses. This was followed by an equally authoritative edition of the Greek poet Callimachus’ poem, “Hecale”.
Later scholarly editions, Hellenistic Colouring in Virgil’s Aeneid, Attica in Hellenistic Poetry and The Nuptial Rite in Catullus 66 and Callimachus’ Poetry for Berenice, were interspersed with definitive papers on Horace, Virgil, Propertius, Lycophron, Euphorion and Choerilus. No less impressive was his painstaking reconstruction of the many tiny slivers of verse that formed the basis of his final volume, Fragments of Roman Poetry c 60 BC-AD 20. Here again, his expertise and insights remain unsurpassed.
Throughout his time at Keble, Hollis threw himself wholeheartedly into the affairs of the college. He served as Tutor for Admissions, took on the role of Fellow Librarian, was Senior Tutor and, in later years, became Sub-Warden. As Editor of the College Record, amid a scrupulous attention to detail, he emerged as a man of wry but gentle observation to whom one warmed irresistibly. Following his retirement at the end of 2007, he was elected to an Emeritus Fellowship.
Within the wider academic world, he was valued not just for the depth of his knowledge but for the soundness of his judgement. While his scholastic credentials found a ready outlet as a keynote speaker at conferences and seminars worldwide, he also acted as a Research Consultant to the School of Classics at the University of Leeds. Hounded by the press for many years, Hollis always steadfastly rebutted any suggestion that his father had ever been an agent of the KGB.
Moving back to Somerset, while relishing both the cricket and the culture, he enjoyed a quiet but not entirely inactive retirement. Like Ovid before him he continued his academic studies, but now at a much gentler pace.
- via: Adrian Hollis: Classics don and chess grandmaster (Independent)
I think I missed this one:
This week’s Classics Confidential vodcast features Dr Anastasia Bakogianni of The Open University talking about her work on the reception of Electra in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As Anastasia explains in her recent book ‘Electra Ancient and Modern: Aspects of the Reception of the Tragic Heroine’:
“Electra is a unique, complex, and fascinating Greek tragic heroine, who became a source of inspiration for countless playwrights, artists, musicians and film makers. The daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra she famously supported her brother’s quest to avenge their father’s murder even at the cost of matricide. Her passion for justice and her desire for vengeance have echoed down the centuries to the modern era. Enshrined as the mourner of Greek tragedy par excellence Electra has enjoyed a long and rich reception history.”
Our interview touches on Electra’s different treatments by the ancient tragedians (Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides), and aspects of her subsequent reception by later visual artists, including film directors. We also hear about how Electra’s adoption by twentieth-century psychoanalysts have influenced recent versions of her story – which continues to thrill and captivate modern audiences.
In case you missed it … a lengthy profile/interview:
From the Columbus Dispatch:
BABCOCK Charles Luther Babcock, age 88, died Friday, December 7, 2012 at the Wesley Glen Health Center. Son of Estelle Randolph and Robert L. Babcock he was born in Whittier, California May 26, 1924. He was a World War II veteran, having served in Europe where he was awarded the Bronze Star with V(alor) device. Upon return to the US he became an aide to General Jon B. Coulter. Returning to University of California, Berkeley after the war he received his BA (Phi Beta Kappa), MA, and PhD (1953). He was a member of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity. He was a Fulbright Scholar and Fellow at the American Academy in Rome (1953-1955). Early academic positions were at Cornell University (1955-1957) and the University of Pennsylvania (1962-1966). In 1966 he came to The Ohio State University to be chair of the Department of Classics (1966-8 and 1980-1988). He was the first Dean of the newly created College of Humanities (1968-1970). Awards at OSU included the Alfred Wright Award (1968), Distinguished Teaching Award (1982), College of Humanities Exemplary Faculty Award (1989), and the Distinguished Service Award (1996). From the Classical Society of the Midwest and South, which he served as President in 1977-1978, he received the OVATIO Award of Merit (1982). Charles shared his great love of ancient Rome and the Latin language with many, not only through his teaching, but also through programs he directed in Rome: The Summer School at the American Academy (1966); Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies (1974-1975); Mellon Professor in Charge, School of Classical Studies at the American Academy in Rome (1988-1989). Survivors include Mary, his wife of 57 years; his children, Robert Sherburne Babcock of Hastings, Nebraska; Jennie Rownd Babcock of Columbus, OH; and Jonathan Taylor Babcock (Jennifer) of Salt Lake City, Utah; his grandchildren, Sara and Carl Babcock of Hastings and Eiseley Babcock of Salt Lake City. A date for a memorial service in the spring will be announced later. The family would appreciate contributions to the Charles L. Babcock Rome Scholarship (600239), which enables students to study in Italy. Contact the OSU Foundation on Lane Avenue, Columbus, OH. Online guestbook at http://www.cookandsonpallay.com
From the Telegraph:
Hector Catling, who has died aged 88, became director of the British School at Athens after playing a leading role in establishing a comprehensive archaeological field survey of the island of Cyprus.
In 1951 Catling, then a young Oxford student struggling to develop his career as an archaeologist, went out to Cyprus, as part of a two-year Goldsmith’s travelling scholarship, to assist Joan du Plat Taylor in her excavations of a Bronze Age shrine at Myrton-Pigadhes.
Over the next two years, with his wife and small daughter in tow, he criss-crossed the island to gather material for what would eventually be his magisterial Cypriot Bronzework in the Mycenaean World (1964), filing reports to AHS “Peter” Megaw, the first director of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus, which was then under British administration. “I began to develop an eye,” Catling recalled, “and found a lot of new sites here and there.”
Cyprus is fascinating to archaeologists because, owing to its location at the economic, political and cultural crossroads of the eastern Mediterranean, it is a repository for a rich variety of objects. Returning to Oxford, Catling had the idea of carrying out a comprehensive field survey of the island.
Peter Megaw supported the project, found a source of funding, and the Catlings moved from Oxford to Nicosia, with a stop in Athens to learn about Roman pottery from the finds at the Athenian Agora. Under Catling’s leadership, the newly-created Archaeological Survey of Cyprus began its first season in June 1955. A second team was put into the field in 1957.
The Survey, and Catling’s other work on the island, which included the publication of an Early Byzantine pottery factory at Dhiorios, revealed a rich medieval landscape almost unparalleled in the eastern Mediterranean, helping to place Cyprus at the centre of debates about the mechanisms of cultural exchange and island archaeology.
Catling’s four-year contract with the colonial government of Cyprus came to an end in 1959, and the island’s move to independence and the later Turkish invasion led to something of a hiatus. None the less, the Cyprus survey provided a model for similar projects elsewhere.
Hector William Catling was born on June 26 1924 and educated at Bristol Grammar School and St John’s College, Oxford, where he remained to take a doctorate on the Cypriot Bronze Age.
After his time in Cyprus, he returned to Oxford, becoming an assistant keeper and later senior assistant keeper in the Department of Antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum. He remained there until his appointment in 1971 as Director of the British School at Athens.
During his time in Athens, Catling undertook a major dig at Knossos, leading a massive excavation of its main Early Iron Age cemetery which led to the publication of a lucid joint study with Nicolas Coldstream, Knossos North Cemetery, in 1996. He also led digs at the Menelaion, an important Mycenaean site in Sparta, where he discovered inscriptions proving that Helen of Troy was worshipped there alongside her husband Menelaus, and at the sanctuary of Zeus Messapeus at Tsakona.
In the 1960s, with Anne Millet, Catling had carried out pioneering optical emission spectography analysis of stirrup jars excavated at Thebes in 1921, which showed them to be Cretan in origin. His research into the provenance of ceramics led to the foundation, in 1973, of the Athens School’s Fitch Laboratory for Science-based Archaeology, equipped with an atomic absorption spectrometer and a multitude of other hi-tech gadgets.
After his retirement in 1989 Catling founded the Friends of the British School at Athens, serving as its honorary secretary until 2011.
He was appointed OBE in 1980 and CBE in 1989.
Hector Catling married, in 1948, Elizabeth Salter, who predeceased him in 2000. Their daughter and two sons survive him.
Hector Catling, born June 26 1924, died February 15 2013
From the Baltimore Sun:
Georg H.B. Luck, whose career teaching the classics at the Johns Hopkins University spanned two decades and included studying the role magic and witchcraft played in the theology and world of the ancient Greeks and Romans, died Sunday from complications of cancer at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson.
He was 87 and a longtime resident of the city’s Poplar Hill neighborhood.
“Georg was a modest man who had great gusto for the things that interested him,” said Richard A. Macksey, a noted Baltimore bibliophile and professor of humanities at Hopkins. “He was the kind of person who could interest the general public in what might appear to many to be very dry work. He saw the relationship between theology, witchcraft and magic.”
“He was a pioneer in the study of magic and witchcraft in the theology of the ancient Greeks and Romans,” said Matthew B. Roller, a professor and former chairman of the classics department at Hopkins. “It was the first serious study and he collected all of the material.”
The son of a government worker and a homemaker, Georg Hans Bhawani Luck — pronounced “Luke” — was born and raised in Bern, Switzerland, where he graduated in 1944 from the Kirchenfeld Gymnasium.
Dr. Luck served in the Swiss army, first as a volunteer during World War II and later in the regular armed forces, where he attained the rank of lieutenant in the infantry.
Dr. Luck graduated from the University of Bern and also studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. He earned a master’s degree in classics in 1951 from Harvard University, and his doctorate in classics in 1953 from the University of Bern.
He taught at Harvard from 1955 to 1958, when he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was a lecturer in Greek and Latin from 1958 to 1962 at the University of Mainz.
Dr. Luck taught at the University of Bonn, where he attained a full professorship, for eight years, until he came to Baltimore in 1970 and joined the Hopkins faculty.
In addition to his regular classwork, Dr. Luck taught various courses in the Johns Hopkins School for Continuing Education.
For 12 years, he served as editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Philology.
His book “Arcana Mundi: Magic and the Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds” was published in 1986; he added a second volume in 2006.
“I think ‘Arcana’ is his most famous work,” said Dr. Roller. “He was in his 80s when he issued the second volume and it showed that he was still thinking about the subject.”
“No one currently at work in ancient magic or related fields can remotely compare with Luck for the breadth and profundity of his knowledge of the literary texts, for the humanity and sympathy of his exegeses of them, or for the humanity and lightness of touch with which he conveys his scholarship,” wrote Daniel Ogden in a 2007 review for the Literature Resource Center.
He had contributed a chapter to the “Athlone History of Witchcraft,” and a collection of his articles dealing with ancient morals, religion and magic — “Ancient Pathways, Hidden Pursuits” — was published by the University of Michigan.
“I am still interested in the history of magic and the occult sciences in Antiquity,” Dr. Luck wrote in an online Hopkins departmental profile.
Dr. Luck felt that certain plants, herbs and mushrooms played an important role in the practice of religion by the ancient Greeks.
“The analogies with the medieval witch-cults in Europe and with the practices of South American shamans are very instructive,” he wrote. “The Greek experience was, perhaps, on a higher level, but they worked within a very old, very ‘primitive’ tradition.”
A 1983 Baltimore Sun profile said that during the day Dr. Luck taught tenses and declensions to undergraduates studying Latin and Greek and “by night, however, the amiably rumpled, mild-mannered Johns Hopkins University professor turns his attention from Caesar and Cicero to witches and warlocks.”
The article also observed that through years of research and translation, Dr. Luck had “compiled a veritable cookbook of spells and incantations for almost every conceivable occasion.”
“His scholarship was theologically grounded,” said Dr. Macksey.
Dr. Luck also maintained a serious academic interest in Roman poetry and poets such as Ovid, Tibullus, Lucan and Propertius, who are considered love elegy poets.
Dr, Luck wrote widely in the field of classics in both English and German and was author of “The Latin Love Elegy,” published in London in 1959.
Even though Dr. Luck had retired, he maintained an office at Homewood.
“He was a genial presence and was always in good spirits. He also was willing to step in and teach a course if need be,” said Dr. Roller.
“Work and writing were his big interests along with playing classical guitar,” said his wife of 56 years, the former Harriet Richards Greenough.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 811 Cathedral St.
In addition to his wife, Dr. Luck is survived by a son, Hans Andreas Luck of Bern; two daughters, Annina Luck Wildermuth of Huntington, N.Y., and Stephanie Luck Coic of Paris; and two grandchildren.
via: Georg H.B. Luck, Hopkins professor (Baltimore Sun)
In her latest post marking the New York Review of Books’ fiftieth anniversary, Mary Beard reminisces and inter alia mentions something which should be part of our collective mission statement (do universities still have those):
“if we were to amputate the classics from the modern world, it would mean more than closing down some university departments and consigning Latin grammar to the scrap heap. It would mean bleeding wounds in the body of Western culture—and a dark future of misunderstanding.”
- via: New York Review of Books reaches 50 (Don’s Life)
Sarah Ruden has a piece on Horace as ‘anti-celebrity’ in the National Review … worth a look:
Douglas Frame talks about assorted Homerica and his book Hippota Nestor over at the Center for Hellenic Studies site:
My spiders brought back this very interesting blog post from Never Yet Melted, which is an account of being an undergrad in ‘Dr Meleagar’s' (a.k.a William George Headlam’s) presence:
From an Open University press release:
Professor Helen King has been awarded a prize by the Women’s Classical Caucus for the best article published in the last three years relating to their mission of ‘fostering the study of gender, sexuality, feminist theory, or women’s history’.
The winning article by Professor King, Professor of Classical Studies at the OU called Galen and the widow, questions existing orthodoxy on the history of masturbation as something practised by doctors on women in the ancient world and beyond.
Professor King challenges assumptions made by Rachel Maines in her book published in 1999, The Technology of Orgasm. Maines argued that therapeutic masturbation had a very long history even before technological change enabled the development of the object at the centre of her research, the vibrator.
“I have found that Maines’ work obscures female agency,” Professor King said. “She uses a translation of Galen’s text from which female healers and midwives are absent. Galen presents women’s desire as based on expelling their ’female seed’: Maines too assumes that this is all about an orgasm modelled on the male, playing into a male fantasy of passive women waiting for men to give them pleasure.”
The Women’s Classical Caucus was founded in 1972 to foster feminist and gender-informed perspectives in the study and teaching of all aspects of ancient Mediterranean cultures and classical antiquity. Based in the USA, it works to advance the goals of equality and diversity within Classics. For further information, visit: http://wccaucus.org/
Distinguished historian Professor Zvi Yavetz, who was the 1990 Israel Prize for Humanities laureate, died Tuesday. He was 88-years-old.
Yavetz, who co-founded the Tel Aviv University, was a world renowned historian, and received honorary doctorates from various universities worldwide.
Born in 1925 in Chernovitz, now in southwestern Ukraine, he lost most of his family in the Holocaust. He managed to escape Romania in 1944, with 20 other Jewish refugees. He was able to arrive in then-British ruled Palestine later that year.
At the age of 29, just after finishing his doctorate, he was asked to help form Tel Aviv University. In 1956 he was named head of the general history department and dean of the Humanities Faculty in TAU.
He would later become instrumental in the founding of the colleges at Beit Berl and in Tel Chai. In 1960, at the government’s request, he traveled to Ethiopia, where he helped found the Faculty of Humanities at the Addis Ababa University.
Specializing in the history of ancient Rome, Yavetz penned dozens of books and articles including a series focusing on the Roman emperors: Augustus, Julius Caesar, Caligula and Tiberius, Cicero, Claudius and Nero.
“He’ll be remembered as an extremely charismatic man, sharp and funny. He had a phenomenal memory and he was a compelling public speaker,” one of his colleagues said Tuesday.
Prof. Zvi Yavetz will be laid to rest on Thursday at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak.
- via: Israel Prize laureate Prof. Zvi Yavetz dies (Ynet)
Nice little video on the BBC:
… and Dr Beard, OBE reflects on the production:
[question in passing: does the UK have a semi-religious 'Thought for the Day' programme on TV early in the a.m.? Such used to be the case in Calgary when I was a wee lad ... it was always the thing you were waiting to end (it was only 15 minutes long or so) so the cartoons could start]
An excerpt from the concluding half of a piece in the Valley News:
[ ...] In the archaeological universe, there are people who prefer to sit at a remove from a site, analyzing material in a lab: these are, said Rutter, the “cleans.” Then there are the other people, who like nothing better than getting out to a dig and sifting through the layers of civilizations: these are, said Rutter, the “dirtys.”
“I am definitely a dirty,” he said.
Or to put it another way: out in the field, said Roger Ulrich, a professor of Classics at Dartmouth and a colleague of Rutter’s, Rutter is “what we simply call a pot person.”
In the excavations Rutter has done in his life, Ulrich said, the thousands or hundreds of thousands of pottery fragments coming up in excavation are like “fingerprints or markers.” If you know what you’re looking at, and can piece them together, they can reveal much about these old civilizations: their rituals, their gods, their social and economic structure, their arts, aspirations and pretensions, what they ate and drank, how they lived, how they died and what they believed about an afterlife.
The trick, Ulrich said, is that to understand and interpret the minutiae of pot sherds requires years of training, a breadth and depth of knowledge and knowing when to go with your gut instinct.
“It takes a certain type of mind to look at this highly detailed stuff… and (Rutter) has become very accomplished about this. He’s one of a handful of people on the planet who can sort through this material and make sense of it,” Ulrich said.
Technically speaking, Rutter said, his specialty is the pottery of the Bronze age in Greece, from roughly 3000 to 1000 B.C.E, give or take a century or two. Asked to elaborate on the kinds of ceramics he’s studied and his doctoral dissertation, which has the weighty title, “The Late Helladic IIIB and IIIC Periods at Korakou and Gonia in the Corinthia,” Rutter, a wiry man who wears glasses and has close-cut hair, looked incredulous. “Oh my God! Do you want to fall asleep?”
Then he roused himself to an explanation of how he ended up in a profession that has been essentially devoted to what he calls “a treasure hunt.” The short version is that he hails from an old Pennsylvania family that dates back to the early days of the commonwealth. His father worked as a diplomat for the State Department so Rutter was raised in both the Washington, D.C. area and in Italy, Austria, England, Germany and Ghana.
As kids, he and his two brothers were marched around to museums and historical sites, and his interest in the ancient world derives partly from that early exposure but also from a child’s innate curiosity in exploring, digging, uprooting and unearthing, only kicked up a number of levels.
He graduated from Haverford College in suburban Philadelphia in 1967 with a degree in Classics, and then went on to get his doctorate in Classical Archaeology in at the University of Pennsylvania in 1974, with a stint from 1969 to 1971 as a radio operator in the Army north of Saigon during the Vietnam War. Then began the round-robin of trying to secure an academic appointment, a process that he said “was no easier then than it is now.”
Eventually he ended up at Dartmouth in 1976, and during his tenure there led numerous archaeological expeditions to Greece for students, and earning, Ulrich said, the admiration of both peers and students for his dedication to teaching at the undergraduate level rather than pursuing a career teaching graduate students.
On the one hand, Rutter frequently runs into people who tell him they wanted to grow up to be archaeologists, imagining the glory of the big find. On the other hand, Rutter has heard some of the skepticism directed at archaeology as a professional pursuit, including from his own father, who was, Rutter said, not pleased when his son told him he was going into the field because “he didn’t see any point in looking backward.”
“What’s wrong with you people in archaeology?” Rutter said, parroting some of the bafflement he’s heard. “Everything’s about may or might or maybe. Isn’t there an end point?” But archaeology isn’t just about scraping dirt and mud off objects, said Rutter. It is “about the full range of human life and human behavior back then. … It’s about storytelling.”
What he tried to convey to his students, he said, was that studying archaeology had benefits beyond learning about old civilizations. “It’s an issue of trying to teach them to observe, to see what’s in front of them and to have confidence in their observational skills and to train them to write about this in a logical, coherent fashion. All of that would apply to any evidence-based profession,” he said.
“One of the things I try to teach my students is that we have been encultured to think of progress as a linear phenomenon, but in detail if you look at it, it goes up and down, and every time, out of the ruins of the collapse something entirely new arises.”
Ancient Greece, he said, is a “wonderful lab” in which to look at how humans have measured the idea of progress.
He recalled the dig he went on when he was 22 and 23, to the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples, which also was the site of the first Greek colony to the west of the Greek mainland. Called in Greek, Pithekoussai, and in Latin, Pithecusae, it was essentially a trading post. The Greeks had erected a town, temples, a cemetery, and the speculation is, Rutter said, that they had based a colony there to get at metals to the north on the Italian mainland.
“Greek archaeology was more interesting to me than Roman,” Rutter said. “If you’re going to do architecture, Roman is more interesting but if you’re going to do pottery, Roman is some of the most uninteresting the world has ever seen, while Greek pottery is fascinating. … There was a time when the finest Greek artists were working in ceramics.”
During his second summer there he went to the dig director and proposed opening up a trial trench off to one side of where the town site was. After getting the go-ahead Rutter and a colleague began to dig, delving down to where pottery fragments were denser. It was an area that seemed to have been the center of the town’s metallurgy industry. Over the course of the summer, they exposed some of the ancient buildings and the ceramics in and around them. Although Rutter says that “all evidence is good evidence,” most of the sherds they were bringing up were not terrifically interesting, with a notable exception.
One fragment, on close inspection, turned out to have a figure on it. Rutter eventually determined that it was a fragment of the rim of a krater, or large mixing bowl, in which people would have mixed wine and water for a symposium, the Greek term for a convivial gathering of people.
The fragment, which dates roughly to 700 B.C.E., showed a frontal bearded figure with wings and above it was a partial inscription, which turned out to be the artist’s signature. All that could be seen of his name were the letters, “inos,” but it was still a stirring moment. “That was very cool. There’s nothing like an inscription to make you feel close to the people,” Rutter said. It continues to be, as far as he knows, the oldest found fragment with the name of a Greek artist on it.
Which brings him to the serious ethical arguments that rage in archaeology, questions of cultural patrimony and whether to repatriate objects removed or looted from their original sites, the Parthenon (also called the Elgin) Marbles in the British Museum being a case in point. Greece wants the sculptures taken from the Parthenon in Athens back; the British have so far refused, citing concerns over whether the Greeks can adequately preserve them.
And then there is the cruel irony that even as archaeologists in every field make new discoveries all the time, there is a constant race between the archaeologist’s shovel and the developer’s backhoe, and the shovel doesn’t always win out. “A thousand years from now we will be crushed when there’s no original landscape to be found,” Rutter said. “What we’ll have lost will be huge. Thousands of archaeological sites are being lost every year.”
That aside, Rutter can’t complain about the direction his life has taken. “I never had to get out of the sandbox,” he marveled. “Boy, what a cool thing to do.” And while America is a culture perpetually criticized for its adolescent preoccupations, Rutter found a niche in a profession that places great value not only on conserving and understanding the past, but on the wisdom of the people doing it.
“There’s something to be said for an aging archaeologist,” he said. “It’s hard to bottle simple experience.”
- via: Honoring a Treasure Hunter (Valley News)
… not sure if I’d like the ‘treasure hunter’ epithet, but it’s nice that his work is being recognized …