d.m. Martin Bernal

From the New York Times:

Martin Bernal, whose three-volume work “Black Athena” ignited an academic debate by arguing that the African and Semitic lineage of Western civilization had been scrubbed from the record of ancient Greece by 18th- and 19th-century historians steeped in the racism of their times, died on June 9 in Cambridge, England. He was 76.

The cause was complications of myelofibrosis, a bone marrow disorder, said his wife, Leslie Miller-Bernal.

“Black Athena” opened a new front in the warfare over cultural diversity already raging on American campuses in the 1980s and ’90s. The first volume, published in 1987 — the same year as “The Closing of the American Mind,” Allan Bloom’s attack on efforts to diversify the academic canon — made Mr. Bernal a hero among Afrocentrists, a pariah among conservative scholars and the star witness at dozens of sometimes raucous academic panel discussions about how to teach the foundational ideas of Western culture.

Mr. Bernal, a British-born and Cambridge-educated polymath who taught Chinese political history at Cornell from 1972 until 2001, spent a fair amount of time on those panels explaining what his work did not mean to imply. He did not claim that Greek culture had its prime origins in Africa, as some news media reports described his thesis. He said only that the debt Greek culture owed to Africa and the Middle East had been lost to history.

His thesis was this: For centuries, European historians of classical Greece had hewed closely to the origin story suggested by Plato, Herodotus and Aeschylus, whose writings acknowledged the Greek debt to Egyptian and Semitic (or Phoenician) forebears.

But in the 19th century, he asserted, with the rise of new strains of racism and anti-Semitism along with nationalism and colonialism in Europe, historians expunged Egyptians and Phoenicians from the story. The precursors of Greek, and thus European, culture were seen instead as white Indo-European invaders from the north.

In the first volume of “Black Athena,” which carried the forbidding double subtitle “The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization: The Fabrication of Ancient Greece — 1785-1985,” Mr. Bernal described his trek through the fields of classical Greek literature, mythology, archaeology, linguistics, sociology, the history of ideas and ancient Hebrew texts to formulate his theory of history gone awry (though he did not claim expertise in all these subjects).

The scholarly purpose of his work, he wrote in the introduction, was “to open up new areas of research to women and men with far better qualifications than I have,” adding, “The political purpose of ‘Black Athena,’ is, of course, to lessen European cultural arrogance.”

He published “Black Athena 2: The Archaeological and Documentary Evidence” in 1991, and followed it in 2006 with “Black Athena 3: The Linguistic Evidence.”

Another book, “Black Athena Writes Back,” published in 2001, was a response to his critics, who were alarmed enough by Mr. Bernal’s work to publish a collection of rebuttals in 1996, “Black Athena Revisited.”

One critic derided Mr. Bernal’s thesis as evidence of “a whirling confusion of half-digested reading.” Some were more conciliatory. J. Ray, a British Egyptologist, wrote, “It may not be possible to agree with Mr. Bernal, but one is the poorer for not having spent time in his company.”

Stanley Burstein, a professor emeritus of ancient Greek history at California State University, Los Angeles, said Mr. Bernal’s historiography — his history of history-writing on ancient Greece — was flawed but valuable. “Nobody had to be told that Greece was deeply influenced by Egypt and the Phoenicians, or that 19th-century history included a lot of racial prejudice,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday. “But then, nobody had put it all together that way before.”

The specific evidence cited in his books was often doubtful, Professor Burstein added, but “he succeeded in putting the question of the origins of Greek civilization back on the table.”

Martin Gardiner Bernal was born on March 10, 1937, in London to John Desmond Bernal, a prominent British scientist and radical political activist, and Margaret Gardiner, a writer. His parents never married, a fact their son asserted with some pride in interviews.

“My father was a communist and I was illegitimate,” he said in 1996. “I was always expected to be radical because my father was.”

His grandfather Alan Gardiner was a distinguished Egyptologist.

Mr. Bernal graduated from King’s College, Cambridge, in 1957, earned a diploma of Chinese language from Peking University in 1960 and did graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1963 and Harvard in 1964. He received his Ph.D. in Oriental studies from Cambridge in 1966 and remained there as a fellow until he was recruited by Cornell.

His other books, which also focused on the theme of intercultural borrowing, were “Chinese Socialism Before 1907” (1976) and “Cadmean Letters: The Westward Diffusion of the Semitic Alphabet Before 1400 B.C.” (1990).

Besides his wife, he is survived by his sons, William, Paul and Patrick; a daughter, Sophie; a stepson, Adam; a half-sister, Jane Bernal; and nine grandchildren.

Mr. Bernal was asked in 1993 if his thesis in “Black Athena” was “anti-European.” He replied: “My enemy is not Europe, it’s purity — the idea that purity ever exists, or that if it does exist, that it is somehow more culturally creative than mixture. I believe that the civilization of Greece is so attractive precisely because of those mixtures.”

d.m. David West

From the Telegraph:

From the 1960s onwards, despite declining numbers taking Latin at school, Latin literary studies experienced something of a renaissance. Summer schools and courses in translation were making the classics newly accessible to students who had not previously studied Latin and Greek. At the same time, the rise of New Criticism in classical scholarship encouraged close readings of the texts. West’s intensely literary approach put him at the forefront of the emerging movement, concerned with bringing out the richness and variety of the language.

In him the classical Roman poets, Lucretius, Horace and Virgil, found a most accomplished interpreter and translator. His translation of Virgil’s Aeneid (Penguin Books, 1990) is remarkably true to the Latin, and has brought Virgil’s epic to life for a generation of modern English readers.

Unlike his immediate predecessors Robert Fitzgerald and CH Sisson, West believed that prose suited his task better than verse, since “I know of nobody at the end of our century who reads long narrative poems in English, and I want the Aeneid to be read.” In order not to interrupt the flow, he avoided using footnotes or a glossary . Scholarly “furniture”, he felt, would only distract the eye and diminish the vitality of the text.

This vitality extended to West’s three-volume edition of Horace’s Odes (published between 1995 and 2002), perhaps the most accessible guide to Horace’s poems now in print. In rendering such dense and lyrical Latin into English verse, West aimed to create a translation that could appeal both to non-classicists and to students. He followed each ode with a commentary describing how the Latin worked, with close attention to rhythm and sound.

David Alexander West was born in Aberdeen on November 22 1926 and educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and Aberdeen University, and then, after National Service, at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he took a first in the Classical Tripos. He began doctoral work on the Greek comic poet Aristophanes. While doing research on manuscripts in Rome, during a stay at the British School, he met his future wife, whom he married in 1953.

Having held lectureships at Sheffield University and Edinburgh, David West was appointed to the Newcastle chair in 1969 . That same year he published The Imagery and Poetry of Lucretius. During his tenure at Newcastle University the Classics department was described as a “powerhouse of classical learning where they still know how to tell it like it is”, and he became a prominent voice in the classical community nationwide, most notably through his work with the British Classical Association .

Later he co-edited, with Tony Woodman, two collections of essays, Quality and Pleasure in Latin Poetry (1974) and Creative Imitation and Latin Literature (1979).

Following his retirement in 1992 he continued to teach for nearly a decade, and worked not only on his Horace commentary, but also on English poetry. His “exaugural” lecture was on George Herbert, and he then published a detailed commentary on Shakespeare’s sonnets. More recently, combining Classics, English literature and his own Scottish roots, he was working on an edition of part of Gavin Douglas’s great Scots translation of the Aeneid.

He was President of the Classical Association in 1995, and a Vice-President of the Association for Latin Teaching.

Like the Epicurean poets whose work he expounded, David West found delight in friendship, family, the countryside , wine (strong, red, Italian), music, the cultivation and enjoyment of home-grown vegetables, and perhaps above all, wide-ranging conversation, in which rationality and imagination were combined in equal measure.

He married, in 1953, Pamela Murray, who predeceased him in September 1995. He is survived by two daughters and three sons.

David West born November 22 1926, died May 13 2013

Others:

d.m. Geza Vermes

From the Telegraph:

Professor Geza Vermes, who has died aged 88, was from 1965 to 1991 first Reader, then Professor, of Jewish Studies at Oxford and the foremost world authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls — early manuscripts of some Old Testament scriptures, the first of which were discovered accidentally in 1947 by a young Arab shepherd in a cave near the Dead Sea.

Vermes led a long and sometimes bitter battle with the Israeli archaeological authorities to secure publication of all the manuscripts and fragments, copies of which were eventually lodged in the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies in 1992. His own The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, first published in 1962, had four editions, the latest in 1997, and sold 300,000 copies. He was the first to identify the Scrolls as belonging to the middle of the 2nd century BC.

That Vermes was able to achieve anything in this area and in other important fields of Jewish history and religion owed everything to the fact that during the darkest days of the Second World War he was, in his native Hungary, a Roman Catholic priest and, although of Jewish family background, just managed to escape deportation to a German death camp. Both his parents, who had converted to Catholicism in the 1930s, were less fortunate: he never saw them again after their arrest in 1944.

Vermes remained a priest until 1957, when marriage required his resignation and, having also renounced Catholicism, he returned to his roots and became a non-practising Jew. Eventually, however, he became a member of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London and a member of the academic committee of Leo Baeck College, though he declared himself to be uninterested in “organised religion of any description”.

Geza Vermes was born at Mako, southern Hungary, on June 22 1924. When he was four the family moved to Gyula, where his father was the owner and editor of the town’s weekly newspaper until it was closed down by anti-Jewish laws in 1938. Geza was sent to a Roman Catholic school where in 1942 he obtained top marks in every subject and qualified easily for university entry. He decided, however, that because of his Jewish origins he would never secure a university place, so he opted instead for the Catholic priesthood.

He was in the second year of a theological seminary when the Germans invaded Hungary and rounded up all Jews and those of Jewish origin.

Although not yet ordained, he was carrying out the functions of a deacon under the certification of the local bishop, enabling him to escape arrest. The remainder of the war was spent in hiding, protected by the Salesian and Dominican Orders in Budapest.

Although refused admission to the Dominican Order because of his Jewish background, Vermes was accepted by the Fathers of Sion — a community dedicated to prayer for the Jews. By this time he had recognised his calling to be a scholar and was at the community’s house in Louvain, Belgium, from 1946 to 1952 before moving to its central house in Paris, where he remained until 1957.

Having decided to specialise in Old Testament studies, he became particularly interested in the discovery of what became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and from 1950 he began translating and interpreting the new texts. He took a doctorate, with the highest honours, in their historic framework at the Institut Orientaliste in Louvain. The doctorate was published as Manuscripts from the Judaean Desert (1953).

Following his move to Paris, Vermes became assistant editor of Cahiers — a journal devoted to the furthering of Catholic-Jewish relations — and began campaigning for an end to anti-Semitism in the Church. This was influential in the reconciling statements of Vatican II. Although still a young priest, he was becoming widely recognised as a scholar of distinction, and it was after attending an international conference in Oxford in 1954 that he went to stay with a friend at Ottery St Mary in Devon.

There he made the acquaintance of an Exeter University professor and his wife Pam . Vermes and Pam fell in love, and her marriage broke down soon afterwards. After much soul-searching, she and Vermes married in 1958 — a union that brought great happiness and fulfilment to both until Pam’s death in 1993.

On leaving the priesthood, Vermes secured an appointment as a lecturer in Divinity at King’s College, Newcastle upon Tyne — then part of Durham University . The teaching duties were light, and over the next eight years he devoted a good deal of time to research and writing. Besides work on the Dead Sea Scrolls, he became interested in the ways in which the Old Testament was interpreted at different points in Jewish history and how this affected the New Testament — discussed in his Scripture and Tradition (1961).

In 1961 he responded to an advertisement for a Reader in Jewish Studies at Oxford, and such was his reputation that he was appointed without interview. He also became a Fellow of the newly-founded Wolfson College .

A major undertaking was the co-editing of a revised edition of The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ — a classic three-volume 19th-century work by a German scholar. This occupied him, on and off, for several years and encouraged him to embark on a trilogy devoted to the Jewish background of the life and work of Jesus — Jesus the Jew (1973), Jesus and the World of Judaism (1983) and The Religion of Jesus the Jew (1996).

These portrayed Jesus as a typical 1st-century Jewish holy man — a preacher, healer and exorcist — who was executed because it was feared that his words and deeds might lead to insurrection: “He died on the cross for having done the wrong thing (causing a commotion) in the wrong place (the Temple) at the wrong time (just before the Passover). Here lies the real tragedy of Jesus the Jew.”

The trilogy was followed in 2000 by The Changing Faces of Jesus, a survey of the various representations of Jesus in the New Testament; and, in 2003, a companion volume, The Authentic Gospel of Jesus .

Although Vermes did not share the Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus, he acknowledged him to be “second to none” among the Jewish teachers and prophets, and the trilogy was found illuminating by many Christian scholars.

Notwithstanding his high reputation worldwide and his popularity in Oxford, Vermes — a distinguished-looking, bearded figure — always craved further recognition, and this came almost at the end of his academic career when he was elected to the British Academy in 1985 and awarded an Oxford DLitt in 1989 — in the same year he was appointed to the chair of Jewish Studies.

In 1998 he published an autobiography, Providential Accidents, and he continued to write and lecture until he was well into his eighties. In 2012 he published Christian Beginnings from Nazareth to Nicaea AD30–325.

He married secondly, in 1996, Margaret Unarska, a Polish scientist, who survives him with a stepson and two stepdaughters.

Professor Geza Vermes, born June 22 1924, died May 8 2013

d.m. Peter Walsh

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)

d.m. Kathryn Bosher

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)