Communism In and Out of Fashion: The American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the Cold War

Posted by Jack L. Davis

Jack L. Davis, Carl W. Blegen Professor of Greek Archaeology at the University of Cincinnati and a former director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (2007-2012), here contributes an essay about attitudes of the ASCSA and its members toward Communists and Communism in the 20th century.

“Feeling they were witnessing the demise of capitalism, many writers moved left, some because their working class origins helped them identify with the dispossessed, others because they saw socialism or Communism as the only serious force for radical change, still others because it was the fashionable thing to do; they went where the action was.”
Morris Dickstein, Dancing in the Dark (2009), pp. 16-17.

DancingDark_smallIn 1974, when I first arrived at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter), we youngsters were told that we should not express our political views in public. The ASCSA’s institutional mission might be hurt, were it perceived not to be neutral. In September 1974 that was certainly a reasonable position for the ASCSA to assume. Yet I was curious. In 1974, I was myself radicalized, and had definitely headed left. I could not condone U.S. policy in respect to the Junta, or the suppression of the Left in Greece. Could I say nothing? Had the ASCSA always maintained a position of strict neutrality? Or were its postures more convenient than sincere?

A decade ago I explored ASCSA’s decision to excavate at Colophon, politics aligned with the Megali Idea (Μεγάλη Ιδέα) and Greece’s annexation of Asia Minor. More recently, in a special issue of Hesperia titled Philhellenism, Philanthropy, or Political Convenience: American Archaeology in Greece, we (Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan, our colleagues, and I) studied unofficial relationships between the ASCSA, the U.S. State Department, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), and quasi-governmental institutions, such as the American Red Cross.

Here, as another case study in ASCSA policy, I examine attitudes of the ASCSA and its members toward Communists and Communism. Early in the 20th century Marxism and Russia attracted the attention of some members of the ASCSA, reflecting the more general phenomenon described by Morris Dickstein in Dancing in the Dark (2009). But mounting tensions between the U.S. and Russia in the Cold War restricted the expression of divergent opinions by School members.

Poster by Hugo Gellert, 1935

Poster by Hugo Gellert, 1935

On July 1, 1954, faculty and alumni of the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton released a joint statement to the New York Times. Harold Cherniss, head of the School of Historical Research, cabled Homer A. Thompson (professor at IAS and director of the Athenian Agora Excavations) in Athens to ensure that the joint statement was unanimous. Physicist Robert Oppenheimer, the so-called “Father of the Atomic Bomb” and director of the IAS, after days of grueling testimony, had been found blameless by the House of Representatives Un-American Activities Committee. The McCarthy witch-hunts were in overdrive. Now was the time for faculty of the IAS (among them archaeologists Hetty Goldman, Benjamin Merritt, and Homer Thompson) to affirm their devotion:

 We, who have known him [Oppenheimer] as a colleague, as Director of our own institution, and as a neighbor in a small and intimate community, had from the first complete confidence in his loyalty to the United States, his discretion in guarding its secrets, and his deep concern for its safety, strength, and welfare.

Robert Oppenheimer

Robert Oppenheimer’s most recent biography.

Oppenheimer was an extraordinary polymath, a brilliant theoretical physicist and founding director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. At Los Alamos, he had evolved into a gifted leader (recommended reading is American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer). Born in Manhattan into a wealthy, secular Jewish family, educated at Felix Adler’s Ethical Culture School, precocious and obnoxious, by his own account, he excelled in nearly ev ery academic subject. Oppenheimer loved rocks, poetry, and languages. At the age of nine he challenged an older girl cousin: “Ask me a question in Latin and I will answer you in Greek.” Oppenheimer was accused of betraying his country because of previous associations with the Communist Party and its members, including a former lover. He only admitted to being a “fellow traveller,” sympathetic to the beliefs of the party.

At least a couple students of the ASCSA also flirted with Communism in the first half of the 20th century. Ida Carlton Thallon (Mrs. Bert Hodge Hill), was certainly intrigued by socialism, captivated by the passion of her more famous friend, Jane Harrison. Mary Beard dismisses any notion that Harrison’s ideas represented an “incipient communism,” but she certainly was enthralled by potential of the Soviet Union. To the Russian literary critic Dimitry Mirsky, Harrison “described herself as a philosophical Radical, with a dash of the Bolshevik.” She herself wrote: “The Bears [Russian] revolution has made me so happy—it is the best and biggest thing the War has brought and does justify our faith in them and it is splendid that there has been so little bloodshed.” (After her death, Mirsky died in a gulag!)

Thallon met Harrison in Athens in 1901 and described her as “charming.” They corresponded, and in August 1916 saw each other at the so-called Russian meeting in Cambridge. A bit earlier, on June 29, 1916, Harrison had written to Thallon: “… We are still immersed in war and personally I am immersed in Russian. I really think you must take up that fascinating tongue. It is the most repaying language — barring Greek — I have ever worked at” (ASCSA Archives, Ida Thallon Papers Box 3, folder 5).

Heinrich (Henry) Immerwahr (director of the ASCSA, 1977-82), a committed Marxist prior to the Stalinist purges, escaped Nazi death camps with help from the U.S. Embassy and the ASCSA. So far as I know, his former leftist politics made him no less welcome in Athens or in the U.S.

Not all students of the ASCSA were so enamored with Russia and Marxism. Suzanne Allinson (member 1910-11), daughter of Francis G. Allinson, professor of Classics at Brown University, married Henry Crosby Emery, an economist and professor at Bowdoin and Yale. In 1917, they toured Russia as he studied the health of its industries and financial institutions, but fled the outbreak of the Revolution (and were briefly taken prisoner by the Germans), departing with very negative impressions of Communism. In 1919 Emery published an essay in The Yale Review that was harshly critical of the Bolsheviks (“Bolshevism: An Analysis of a World Movement after Experiences in Russia during the Revolution”).


With the end of WW II, in Greece Communism became more real than theoretical, as struggles for power between the government and former resistance forces erupted. The U.S. supported the government of George Papandreou and the ASCSA supported the U.S. in its efforts to rebuild and stabilize Greece. Both Alison Frantz and Carl Blegen held appointments at the American Embassy and Loring Hall was rented to the State Department. (An earlier post to this blog by Despina Lalaki, titled “On Communism and Hellenism: An Archaeologist’s Perspective,” examined the role that Carl Blegen played in promoting U.S. policy in the years following WW II, with particular reference to his unpublished book manuscript, “The United States and Greece.”)

German forces withdrew from Greece in October 1944, and the Greek government in exile returned to Athens from Egypt. But Communist EAM (The National Liberation Front)-ELAS (The Greek People’s Liberation Army) controlled most of the country. On December 3, 1944, a pro-EAM demonstration in Athens ended in violence and a house-to-house struggle with British and monarchist forces followed (the so-called Dekemvriana). The Varkiza Agreement of February 12, 1945 suspended the conflict, ELAS was disarmed, and a coalition government was formed.

Homer A. Thompson, Director of the Athenian Agora Excavations (1947-1967)

Homer A. Thompson

In the midst of the “Dekemvriana,” on December 6, 1944, Homer Thompson (not yet director of the Athenian Agora excavations) stumbled across an unmarked frontier and entered ELAS-controlled Athens; he was on his way to the Austrian School of Archaeology to visit archaeologist Kostantinos Kourouniotis. The fact that he wore his Canadian officer’s uniform no doubt contributed to his four-day detention by ELAS.

Thompson’s classified report to his superiors emphasizes that he does not intend to present “an apology for EAM-ELAS but rather a record of their state of mind at the time in question.” He does to set forth their grievances in an objective manner, concluding that: “… the British policy was right in principle” in supporting the Papandreou government but “… frequently suffered from lack of tact in its application or through misunderstanding of the Greek temperament.”

The “Dekemvriana” had been all but inevitable: “… All through the ages, the Greeks when under strain have given way to what they themselves call ‘stasis,’ that is, factional rivalry which is aggravated by intransigence in their political relations and inevitably ends in civil strife.” He was reminded that Byron had written from Messolonghi (University of Toronto Quarterly 15.2 [1945-46] 170-181): “The Greeks appear in more danger from their own divisions than from the attacks of the enemy.”

Excerpt from H.A. Thompson's "Athens During the Civil War: 1944," University of Toronto Quarterly, 15:2, 1946, p. 173. ASCSA Archives, Homer A. Thompson Papers.

Excerpt from H.A. Thompson’s “Athens During the Civil War: 1944,” University of Toronto Quarterly, 15:2, 1946, p. 173. ASCSA Archives, Homer A. Thompson Papers.



Democratic elections in March 1946 were supervised by international monitors (AMFOGE, The Allied Mission to Observe the Greek Elections) — and members of the ASCSA played an important role. A plebiscite would decide if Greece was to be a monarchy or republic, after parliamentary elections.

April 1946: US Cultural Relations Attache Carl W. Blegan (R) and J. W. Foster standing in headquarters of the Allied Mission For Observing Greek Elections (AMFOGE). (Photo by Nat Farbman/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

April 1946: US Cultural Relations Attache Carl W. Blegan (R) and J. W. Foster standing in headquarters of the Allied Mission For Observing Greek Elections (AMFOGE). (Photo by Nat Farbman/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

AMFOGE was a project of America, Britain, and France. Five senior American monitors, holding ambassadorial status, reported to Henry Grady, chief of the American President Line shipping company. One of them, Herman Wells, president of Indiana University (IU), supervised Thessaloniki. In his biography, Being Lucky: Reminiscences and Reflections, Wells wrote:

“I think our mission could not have been successful without the knowledge that the archaeologists imparted to us about Greece, both ancient and modern. In truth, American archaeologists became our most important informational resource in observing the Greek elections. The happy outcome of this delicate and significant task represented America’s first diplomatic victory on behalf of the West in the series of Cold War events…”

Peter Topping (from 1952, director of the Gennadius Library of the ASCSA) was Wells’ personal assistant. Shirley Weber, director of the Gennadius Library, Carl Blegen, and Alison Frantz were the critical “archaeologists” he mentions.

Not all members of the ASCSA considered AMFOGE a success. David Moore Robinson of Johns Hopkins University (and also the excavator of Olynthus) and Robert Scranton of the University of Chicago, both visiting professors in 1946-47, criticized U.S. policy in American newspapers.

In a contribution to the Baltimore Sun in November 1947, titled “Dr. Robinson Finds Greece Graft Ridden,” Robinson reported that Greeks believed that America was acting in its own self-interest. He claimed that United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation (UNRAA) grants (largely funded by the U.S.) accomplished little, and he reported extravagant waste (even lavish parties at the Grand Bretagne Hotel). As for ELAS bands, Robinson wrote: “All these bands are not necessarily Communist. There have been bands in the hills of Macedonia since medieval times so this is nothing new. They are simply the descendants of those people.”

Scranton had already described similar conditions in Greece in a letter to the New York Times (July 10, 1947), titled“Cessation of Oppression”:

[In Greece] “… difficulties are aggravated and exploited by foreign powers for their own national and international ends… The present Greek government is almost hysterically afraid of communism — a word which has come to mean, in Greece, any but an extreme rightist stand … most people live in fear for life and liberty. Many of them join the guerrillas, where Communists are doubtless to be found, simply as the only effective means they see of opposing the Government … The chief and exceedingly difficult objective of the American loan to Greece must be to serve the people, and no part of it should be used in the suppression of their just rights and Liberty.”

Scranton 1947

Excerpt from Robert Scranton’s  letter to the New York Times in 1947.

Such frank public statements put the ASCSA in a particularly uncomfortable position when Moscow radio began to quote Scranton. Thallon had been “left-curious.” Immerwahr was also an idealist. But in the Cold War expressions of sympathy with the Left, in opposition to official U.S. policy of the U.S., had practical consequences, which leadership of the ASCSA found threatening.


Former ASCSA director Charles Morgan wanted to know “… what steps have, or can be, taken to put the perennial bad boy [Robinson] in restraints.” Louis Lord, chairman of the Managing Committee of the School was furious and sent an open letter to staff (ASCSA AdmRec, box 310/8, folder 2, November 14, 1947). In it he invoked Section II, paragraph 1, of the Regulations of the Managing Committee:

“No communication, even of an informal nature, should be made by any member of the School to the public press unless it has been approved and its publication authorized by the Director … The American Government is supporting, at a great deal of expense, the present government in Greece. However faulty that government may be, and however inefficient may be our efforts to help, it seems to me that our duty as members of the School is to help our government’s efforts if we can… .”


The ASCSA professors of the IAS defended free speech in a time of oppression. Scranton and Robinson favored tolerance of ideas and opposed U.S. policy. Two members of the ASCSA (Emily Grace and Kevin Andrews), however, were much more vocal in their opposition to American policy, and both took action, albeit in very different ways.

Emily Grace Kazakevich (ASCSA member 1936-37), sister of Agora amphora-scholar Virginia Grace, was born into a well-to-do New York City family of cotton importers. After Bryn Mawr College, Emily received a Ph.D. from Yale, her thesis titled The Sparta of Agis and Cleomenes: A Study of the Ancient Literary Sources. Her husband, Vladimir Kazakevich, though a White Russian, dreamt of receiving Soviet citizenship. Both Emily and Vladimir were committed Marxists (in the 1940s they had translated Communist works into English). They both believed that the U.S. was capable of starting a third world war.

Emily Grace, Doreen Canaday, Margaret (Miggy) Hill, and Lucy Shoe

(From left to right), Emily Grace, Doreen Canaday, Margaret (Miggy) Hill, and Lucy Shoe, Malia, Crete 1938. ASCSA Archives, Doreen Canaday Spitzer Papers.

While employed at the U.S. Army’s Russian Institute at Cornell University, Vladimir began to feed high-quality intelligence to Russian operatives. When exposed in 1949 by fellow spy Elizabeth Bentley, he and Emily fled to Moscow.

John Watson, Canadian chargé d’affaires in Moscow and later ambassador, described the pair in chatty letters to the Canadian State Department (Moscow Despatches). (1948-1951): “Their apartment [in Moscow] was ‘very comfortable, and Emily, who is a complete blue-stocking and loathes housework, would have been happy, I think, to have lived there indefinitely ….” Trunks were covered with her mother’s Oriental rugs. In 1954-1956, however, he found her lonely. She worked mostly at home for the Institute of Ancient History and her spoken Russian was not excellent.

Emily was an important and collaborative scholar. Deborah Kamen (Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 48, pp. 343–380), describes her life in a preface to an English translation of her article: “Were the χωρίς οἰκοῦντες slaves?” She corresponded with Moses Finley, Mike Jameson, and Ronald Stroud.

Last winter, Stroud, professor emeritus at Berkley, wrote me: “I never met Emily Grace Kazakevich, for she was still living in Moscow during the time of our acquaintance. I think that it was Moses Finley who first brought her work on Athenian homicide law and slavery to my attention … I corresponded with her for several years about Athenian law and exchanged offprints. … Parenthetically, I never mentioned Emily to her sister Virginia and, although she knew that we were often working on the same topics, VG [Virginia Grace] never mentioned her to me.”

Daniel Tompkins, professor emeritus at Temple University, sent me scans of Finley’s correspondence with Kazakevich, noting that it is disappointingly lacking in political context. Dan writes: “MIF [Finley] and EGK (Kazakevich] had an intermittent but interesting correspondence. It has interesting flashes, but sadly perhaps, as with many of these exchanges of letters, there is hardly anything about the Party, politics, Stalin, etc. I’m sure Emily had to be careful, and the old communists of Finley’s era seem to have been drilled to stay quiet.”

Emily voted with her feet, and left the U.S.


Another student of the ASCSA also vociferously opposed U.S. policy, particularly in Greece, and made Athens his home. Kevin Andrews, fellow of the ASCSA in the later 1940s and author of Castles of the Morea, acquired (in the words of Glenn Bugh, who prefaced the book’s new edition), “… a passionate hatred for American interventionism.” Under the Colonels “… he clearly felt the American School, staying true to its educational mission and its longstanding policy of non-involvement in Greek politics, was not vocal enough about the suspected CIA complicity with the Colonels. Andrews was consistent in his leftist political views: even before the Junta he had been critical of what he perceived as social coziness that existed between the School and the Monarchy.” (Andrews did present a copy of his book to Queen Frederika, who invited him to a party the next day.)

He was in his own words “a pain in the neck” for the ASCSA, but his political views were not an embarrassment for the ASCSA prior to publication of The Flight of Ikaros (1959). Director Jack Caskey gave him free room and board in Loring Hall and, in 1951, wrote: “Kevin is doing what I consider a very fine piece of work, which will be a credit to the School and will call attention to the Gennadeion.”

In November 1973 Andrews joined the Polytechnic strike and was beaten badly. After the fall of the Junta he renounced his U.S. citizenship in favor of Greek.

The Flight of Ikaros by Kevin Andrews.

The Flight of Ikaros by Kevin Andrews

Neither fish nor foul, the ASCSA is a private, non-governmental, non-profit institution, yet it is also the legal representative of all American archaeology in Greece. Good relations with the Greek state (the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Culture) have been key to the ASCSA’s success. And close ties to the American Embassy have benefited the School in tangible and intangible ways. An American institution operating in a foreign environment that has at times been hostile to its existence may reasonably be concerned lest individual opinions be construed as reflections of institutional policy. But in the 21st century is there still no room at the ASCSA for political discussions? Given its independent, educational mission, might the ASCSA be, in fact, an ideal location for such debate?

Gertrude Smith: A Classic American Philhellene

Posted by Dylan Rogers

Dylan Rogers holds a PhD from the University of Virginia, and he has been Assistant Director at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens since 2015. The essay he contributes to “From the Archivist’s Notebook” was inspired by his summer experience at the School.

“Summers at the ASCSA are a vibrant time for the School, full of students and scholars, with the buzz of activity and chats at Ouzo Hour. Taking on the role of the Assistant Director of the School last year, I was intrigued to learn that each Summer Session Director is given the title, “Gertrude Smith Professor.” At first, I was only vaguely familiar with Smith’s scholarship on Greek law. So, why would the School associate SS Directors with her? This led me on a quest to find out more about Smith—and to find out what her story exactly was. She must have had a passion for Greece, but why? And in what ways did she spread this love to others?”

Gertrude E. Smith in her office at the University of Chicago, ca. 1950.

Gertrude E. Smith in her office at the University of Chicago, ca. 1950. Photo: University of Chicago Library, Special Collections Research Center.

Gertrude Elizabeth Smith (1894-1985) spent most of her adult life in Illinois. Born and raised in Peoria, Smith would later go on to receive her education at the University of Chicago, writing a PhD dissertation on Greek law– after which Smith would begin teaching at the university, eventually becoming the Edwin Olson Professor of Greek in 1933. From 1934 until her retirement in 1961, Smith was the Chairman of the Department of Classics at Chicago, making her a prominent female figure in the field of Classics in America in the 20th century. Smith also served as a founder of Eta Sigma Phi, the national Classics honor society, was the first woman to serve as the president of both the Classical Association of the Middle West and South (CAMWS, 1933-1934) and the American Philological Association (1958), and was a long serving member of the editorial board of the journal, Classical Philology (1925-1965). After her retirement from Chicago, Smith would go on to teach briefly at the University of Illinois, Loyola University in Chicago, and Vanderbilt University (Gagarin 1996-1997).

Gertrude Smith with her good friend H. Lloyd Stow in 1932.

Gertrude Smith with her good friend H. Lloyd Stow at a Eta Sigma Phi meeting in 1932


While Smith was a prominent scholar and professor of ancient Greek, it was not until 1948 that she first made it to Greece. That summer, she was an ASCSA Summer Session (SS) participant, which provided her six weeks with nine other students to travel throughout Greece. Despite the post-War conditions of the country, particularly the fact that many of the museums were still closed, it was clear that Smith was hooked (AR 67 (1947-1948), 50).

The following academic year, in 1949-1950, Smith served as the Annual Professor of Greek Literature at the School. The annual professor offered a course to students of the Academic Program—the main goal of which was to expose American students to the history and archaeology of Greece on site. Smith decided to offer a seminar on Thucydides, which focused on examining the topography in person mentioned by the author (e.g., the siege of Potidaea). In addition, Smith became an integral part of the life of the School, as the then School Director, John L. Caskey, mentioned: “Giving up her right to one of the private houses, she has lived in Loring Hall [the School dormitory] with the students and taken part in their activities with great good humor. This fact in itself has contributed notably to the success of the year’s undertakings” (AR 69 (1949-1950), 30). That year’s students included Kevin Andrews, Anna Benjamin, Evelyn Harrison, Michael Jameson, Evelyn Lord Smithson, and Frederick Winter.

ASCSA students at Sparta, Sept. 1949. One can discern Evelyn Harrison (5th from right) and Anne Benjamin (in pants standing against the back side of the bus). ASCSA Archives, Evelyn Lord Smithson Photographic Collection.

ASCSA students at Sparta, Sept. 1949. One can discern Evelyn Harrison (5th from right) and Anne Benjamin (in pants standing behind the bus). ASCSA Archives, Evelyn L. Smithson Photographic Collection.

At the end of the year, Smith was worried that her students at the School were not as well qualified in the Greek language as she might expect. She also observed, however, the hard work of the students and the benefits of a year at the School afforded them:

“They have learned to study and to travel with independence. I am happy to report their keen interest in modern Greek life and affairs, an attitude which is a healthy one for the best interests of the School” (AR 69 (1949-1950), 57).

Thus, with Smith’s first extended amount of time in Greece in the late ‘40s, she learned a number of things, particularly as a scholar of ancient Greek. Students of the ASCSA should be well-rounded, especially in their language skills—but perhaps more importantly, they should be given the opportunity early in their career to experience the splendor of Greece and all that it had to offer. Smith herself even stated that she relished the: “several months in the midst of the beauty of Greece in the delightful and stimulating surroundings afforded by the School. This year will be of inestimable value both in my teaching and in my scholarly investigation” (AR 69 (1949-1950), 55).

Evelyn Harrison and Anna Benjamin at Monemvasia, Sept. 1949. ASCSA Archives, Evelyn L. Smithson Photographic Collection.

Evelyn Harrison and Anna Benjamin at Monemvasia, Sept. 1949. ASCSA Archives, Evelyn L. Smithson Photographic Collection.



By 1950, Smith was in a prime position to be able to get students to Greece in the Academic Program and the Summer Session of the ASCSA. Smith was the Chairman of the Committee on Admissions and Fellowships (CAF) from 1945-1963—nearly 18 years! The CAF processed and evaluated the students who wanted to attend the School, whether during the year or in the summer. For the Academic Program, of paramount importance was a strong background in the ancient Greek language, demonstrated after 1952 through examinations taken by prospective students. Smith in her correspondence with various School Directors and Chairmen of the Managing Committee (MC) constantly refers to the necessity of language training, especially for archaeologists (ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 4, 28 May 1959). Indeed, the debate rages on today—with new structural changes to the Greek exam recently announced. (On the issue also see an older post by Jack L. Davis, “Barbarians at the Gate”.)

Smith describing to John Caskey, ASCSA director (1949-1959) the atmosphere at the May MC Meeting in 1958.

Smith describing to John Caskey, ASCSA director (1949-1959), the atmosphere at the May MC Meeting in 1958. ASCSA Archives Administrative Records.

Smith’s Chairmanship had wide-ranging effects on the School. While concerned with the Greek language, Smith’s main goal was to be able to afford an opportunity for students from a variety of backgrounds to travel to Athens. Smith herself states that one of the main functions of the School is “to afford the opportunity to the uninitiated to get some acquaintance with Greece and really to learn something of its history, art, literature, and monuments” (ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 3, 16 September 1957). She was also concerned about the fellowships that the School offered, especially how the School promoted the study of many parts of Greece’s history, including the Byzantine period. In order to help students of Byzantine history, Smith explored: “… the possibilities of diverting one of the School fellowships to Byzantine studies. Louis [Lord] tells me that this is impossible. They were established as fellowships for classical studies and with classical studies they must remain. […] So I think what we have to do is to raise a fellowship which is primarily for Byzantine studies or else get some students over there on special fellowships from their own universities” (ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 3, 27 May 1955). It would not be until 1963, however, that the first Gennadeion Fellowship in Post-Classical Greece was awarded (Meritt 1984, 323).

Smith's letter raising awareness to the need for a Gennadeion fellowship. ASCSA Archives, ADM REC.

Smith’s letter to Charles Morgan, Chair of the Managing Committee, raising awareness to the need for a Gennadeion fellowship. ASCSA Archives, Administrative Records.

The School’s Summer Sessions was another conduit through which Smith could ensure that students were able to go to Greece. The SS only had an application, without exams (unlike the Academic Program), which allowed for a wide variety of students who applied, from undergraduate and graduate students, college professors, to secondary school teachers—which is still the case today. By 1960, for the 20 available spots, the CAF had 70 applications (AR 80 (1960-1961), 44). Application numbers perhaps went up starting in 1958 with the dissemination of a new SS brochure by Smith, aimed at promoting the program and decreasing the amount of correspondence she received from potential students (ADM REC Series 1000, Box 1001/5, Folder 4). While the tuition, room, and board for the SS were not prohibitively expensive in the 1950s (roughly $500 for the summer), Smith wanted to ensure that it would be made available to the most qualified students through a series of fellowships. Eta Sigma Phi started a matching-grant program with the ASCSA in 1957 (ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 2, 4 December 1956).   Smith herself also provided funds to start the Bert Hodge Hill Scholarship for students. In 1958, seeing the need for a very well-qualified student, Howard E. Oagley, to attend, Smith anonymously gave money to start the fund (ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 3, 2 February 1960). The Hill Scholarship continues to this day for SS students.

SS 1958 Brochure outside

SS 1958 Brochure inside

ASCSA Summer Session 1958 Brochure

By the end of her tenure, Smith was instrumental in paving the way for non-Americans to apply for School membership, including well-qualified Greek students at U.S. universities (ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 3, 15 March 1962). In 1962, the School began to question whether or not it could accept students who were not American or Canadian citizens to the School. One of the first times the issue came up was in 1961, when Elly Travlos, the daughter of the School’s architect, John Travlos, applied for membership to the School (ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 3, 13 February 1961). Despite beginning her own graduate work in the U.S., the CAF had to deny her admission, because she was a Greek citizen, as per the rules of the MC (ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 3, 6 March 1961). The issue came up again the following year, when a Greek student at Bryn Mawr College, Maria Coutroubaki (the future wife of Joseph Shaw), who was on their Riegel Fellowship, inquired about School membership, under the advice of her supervisors, Machteld Mellink and Mabel Lang (ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 3, 15 March 1962). The Bryn Mawr professors cited precedent, namely the cases of Brunhilde Sismondo Ridgway and Claireve Grandjouan, who, according to Smith, received membership before the rule was in the MC Handbook and the fact that they did not apply directly to the CAF. Smith liked Coutroubaki’s qualifications and had no problem admitting her, in a letter to Bellinger, but:

Joe Shaw and Maria Coutroubaki Shaw, 1960s

Joe Shaw and Maria Coutroubaki Shaw, 1960s.

“I don’t want trouble with other institutions if their darlings are rejected. The rule as stated in the Handbook has proved useful in a number of cases in rejecting undesirables, but one does not want to blight a really good potential archaeologist. I think the matter should be discussed at some length” (ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 3, 15 March 1962).

In direct response to the issue, director Henry Robinson did not think that the CAF should bend the regulations, as Bryn Mawr professors should know them, especially Mabel Lang (ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 3, 6 April 1962). Robinson elaborates his concerns, which by the end, seem more like diplomatic issues than anything else, as he could potentially admit:

“… a Spaniard, a Belgian, a Hollander, a Pole, or the like. I wonder, however, whether it is wise to make an exception in the case of a student of Greek nationality. We may in that case be infringing upon the prerogatives of the Greek archaeologists and in particular on those of the Department of Archaeology of the Universities of Athens and Salonica. I am sure the professors at those schools feel that they are amply equipped to provide the archaeological training necessary for students of Greek nationality” (ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 3, 6 April 1962).

At the May MC meeting of 1962, however, the issue came up for discussion and action. In the end, the MC would allow foreign nationals to apply for membership to the School. This was to be the last major School decision that Smith would have a hand in.


1959-1960 proved to be a big year for the CAF. In the early months of 1959, the front-runners for the White and Seymour Fellowships, given to archaeologists and philologists respectively, were T. Leslie Shear, Jr. and Ronald S. Stroud (ADM REC Series 1000, Box 1001/6, Folder 4, 11 February 1959). Both students would win the respective fellowships for their fields. Shear, the son of the late Agora Excavations Director, was still finishing his last year of undergraduate studies. Only a year before had the ASCSA Managing Committee begun allowing well-qualified college seniors to apply and to take the examinations for School membership. Even if the MC had not changed its rules, Smith remarked to then School Director, Henry Robinson: “If Leslie had been refused as ineligible I think that there would have been an explosion that would have rocked the School to its foundations. It is unfortunate that he came along as the first test case. He has much more training in Latin and Greek than a great many graduate students have when they write the examinations and of course he has had unusual opportunities in the archaeological field” (ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 4, 30 April 1959). Other well-qualified students admitted that year included David G. Mitten, James R. Wiseman, and Joseph W. Shaw. Shaw was the last student admitted that year, for whom Smith made special efforts that summer to admit (Shaw, private conversation, 4 February 2016). The year was a success, as Robinson informed Smith: “It is true that we have several prima donnas this year; but they are intelligent, even though trying. In fact, the intellectual caliber of this year’s group is much higher than that of last year’s—so is their self-esteem” (ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 4, 23 January 1960).

William Bell Dinsmoor lecturing on the Acropolis. Yound T. Leslie Shear to the right of Dinsmoor, and William (Bill) Wyatt to the left of Dinsmoor. Ione Mylonas to the right of Shear. Photo: Patricia Lawrence, 1959-1960.

William Bell Dinsmoor lecturing on the Acropolis. Young T. Leslie Shear to the right of Dinsmoor, and William (Bill) Wyatt to the left of Dinsmoor. Ione Mylonas to the right of Shear. Photo: Patricia Lawrence, 1959-1960.



Serving nearly twenty years on the committee allowed Smith to shepherd generations of students through the School, many of whom have gone on to great careers in the field of Classics—in turn promoting Greece, just as Smith did.  She herself led three Summer Sessions in 1958, 1960, and 1961. Smith worked with the staff in Athens to coordinate her summer itineraries for her students, which included: orientations around Athens; a Northern Trip (as far north as Boeotia); a Crete Trip, which included flying there and staying three nights to see the Mesara, Herakleion, and Knossos; the Peloponnese; Piraeus/Salamis; and a final day in Aegina for swimming after an examination (ADM REC Series 1000, Box 1001/5, Folder 13). In 1960 and 1961, Smith even added Delos to show students the amazing archaeological site there.

Like the students that Smith admitted to the School in the Regular Program, the rosters of students in Smith’s own sessions went on to great things in and out of the field of Classics—although all with strong feelings for Greece. Many former students recount their summer with Smith with wonder, respect, and longing. Nancy de Grummond mentions:

“[Smith] struck me as very experienced and wryly skeptical about what she saw around [Greece].  As I recall she smoked heavily but managed to trip lightly across the hills and rocks, always wearing a pink hat.  I remember the group saying ‘just follow the pink hat’ over the hill” (personal correspondence, 6 April 2016).

Charles Frazee describes Smith as “a person of great wisdom and someone immersed in ancient Greek History. Her judgment was sound and her concern for her students great” (personal correspondence, 22 February 2016). Smith indeed touched the lives of her students, whether they knew it at the time or not. De Grummond, who was still an undergraduate at the time of her SS, mentions that: “Years later continued to gasp as [she] learned what an array of the famous and great or soon-to-be-great [she] had encountered on that summer in 1961: Dinsmoor, Vanderpool, Smithson, Harrison, Blegen, Mylonas, the Vermeules.  [She] did not know that Prof. Smith was great and famous either!” (personal correspondence, 6 April 2016). Frazee, intending to study U.S. history in graduate school, was inspired by Smith to switch to Greek history—although modern, not ancient (personal correspondence, 22 February 2016).


At Delphi with Gertrude Smith crowing a student, summer of 1960. Geraldine Gesell on the left.

At Delphi with Gertrude Smith, summer of 1960. The smiling young woman with the camera is Geraldine (Gerry) Gesell.


By 1963, Smith had been on the MC for nearly 28 years. And by this point, it is clear that in her correspondence she was tiring of her duties and obligations on the MC. In April 1963, just before she stepped down, she wrote to Henry Robinson: “I hope this letter does not sound too cranky. But I am getting awfully tired of this job. Nobody should undertake it who is trying to do a full time teaching load and at the same time do a little scholarly work. Of the latter I have not done a tap this year. The person who takes over must know what he is getting into. I think the Executive Committee should take some time to discuss what type of student we want instead of spending all the time on budget and sites to excavate. And the Managing Committee ought to get educated which they never have done” (ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 4, 24 April 1963).

Gertrude Smith's Cross of the Commander of the Royal Order of Beneficence. ASCSA Archives.

Gertrude Smith’s Cross of the Commander of the Royal Order of Beneficence. ASCSA Archives.

Smith wanted to leave before any criticisms of her work were raised, and she, like many academics, wanted simply to get back to research, although she never published a great deal. In addition to her published dissertation, she only wrote 11 articles, but co-wrote the influential two-volume work, The Administration of Justice from Homer to Aristotle, with Robert Bonner, her mentor at Chicago. Most of her published works came before 1946, when Bonner died, turning at that point to administration and teaching (Gagarin 1996-1997, p. 176). But was Smith, like many female scholars of her time, given these busy positions, so that their male colleagues could have more time to do research and be prolific scholars?

Smith passed away in 1985. Like her efforts to ensure that SS students received funding to attend, Smith left a gift of over $100,000 to the School (ASCSA Newsletter, Fall 1985, p. 9). To honor Smith’s dedication to the School and its students, let alone her devotion to Greece itself, in 1986, the MC decided to designate the SS Directors as the “Gertrude Smith Professor and Director of the ASCSA Summer Session”. The gift that Smith left to the School was allocated for SS scholarships, ensuring that future SS students may benefit from the program, as Smith intended.

Smith wanted to ensure that Greece, including its history, language, and archaeology, was studied with not only respect, but also passion. Indeed, it was her actions as Chairman of the CAF at the School, in addition to her thousands of students she taught over 48 years at various institutions, students in Eta Sigma Phi, and scholars active in any of the Classics-related organizations she touched, that have impacted countless numbers of people. Who knows how many people came to Greece for the first time because of Smith’s diligence.

And what we all share with her is a love of Greece. In her presidential address to CAMWS on 10 April 1941, she altered a fragment of Simonides to illustrate how much Greek culture has impacted modern life, saying that:

“Pericles said that Athens was the school of Hellas. Just as truly is now the school of the world” (Gagarin 1996-1997, 167).

After Smith’s death in 1985, her ashes were later scattered on the Athenian Acropolis, so that she would, in fact, always remain in Greece.

Works Cited:

ADM REC: Administrative Records, Archives, American School of Classical Studies at Athens
AR: American School of Classical Studies at Athens Annual Report
Gagarin, M. 1996-1997. “Gertrude Elizabeth Smith (1894-1895).” The Classical World 90.2/3: 167-177.
Meritt, L.S. 1984. History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1939-1980, Princeton


I would like first to thank the ASCSA Archivist, Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan, for the opportunity to tell Smith’s story, using the archival records of the School. The Archives of Eta Sigma Phi, housed at Hewes Library of Monmouth College, were helpful in providing scans of Nuntius, the ΗΣΦ newsletter, for which I thank Lynn Daw and Tom Sienkewicz.  I also had the pleasure of reaching out to a number of Smith’s former SS students and colleagues, who were generous with their memories and impressions of Smith and their own time in Greece: Nancy de Grummond, Charles Frazee, Geraldine Gesell, Ross Holloway, Suzanne Kilpatrick, Edgar Krentz, Joseph Shaw, Ron Stroud, and Susan Ford Wiltshire.

“Dollars and Dreams”: American Archaeologists on the Hunt for Greek American Money in Chicago

A still from The Aunt from Chicago (Η θεία από το Σικάγο) with the eccentric aunt (played by Georgia Vasileiadou) in the middle.

A still from The Aunt from Chicago (Η θεία από το Σικάγο) with the eccentric Greek American aunt (played by Georgia Vasileiadou) in the middle.

The Aunt from Chicago is one of the most beloved films in the history of Greek cinema. Produced in 1957, it became an instant hit and remained in demand for many decades. The movie had all the ingredients of a successful production: a great set and superior performances by the best actors of its time. As much as the film is a satire on the conservatism of the Greek family, it is also a subtle mockery of the “aunt’s” Americanization.

Proud of their successful relatives in America, but also feeling uncomfortable with their rapid assimilation by American culture, Greek intellectuals such as novelists Elias Venezis and Yorgos Theotokas tried to rationalize the loss of national identity by the Greek migrants.  If, before WW II, stories of hardship and suffering prevailed over stories of success, after the war America’s new supremacy left little room for a narrative of failure. Instead, a new transnational narrative wanted Greek migrants — with their age-old values and in light of the bravery they had demonstrated during the war — to have contributed to the building of a new America. Novelist Yorgos Theotokas in his Essay on America (Δοκίμιο για την Αμερική), in the wake of a visit to the United States in 1953, would go so far as to claim that “From now on, the American people will be—to a small, but considerable extent—descendants of Greeks also” (Laliotou 2004, p. 86). (For a thorough study of the Greek migration in America, see Ioanna Laliotou, Transatlantic Subjects: Acts of Migration and Cultures of Transnationalism between Greece and America, Chicago 2004.)

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Skyromania? American Archaeologists in 1930s Skyros

Skyros, house interior, 1931. ASCSA, Dorothy Burr Thompson

Skyros, house interior, 1931. ASCSA Archives, Dorothy Burr Thompson Photographic Collection

“The island of Skyros is fairly remote and inaccessible, on account of the winds. One consequence of its geographical location is that there is very little information about the island in the ancient authors, and the picture also given by the travelers is also fragmentary,” archaeologist Efi Sapouna-Sakellaraki could write in her archaeological guide to Skyros, as recently as 1998. Before her, American archaeologist Hazel Hansen, in writing about prehistoric Skyros in 1951, similarly described the island as “one of the most solitary islands in the Aegean for nearly all the other islands are nearer to one another or to the mainland.” Its isolation and the capricious sea between it and the mainland and Euboea are the reasons why Skyros is far less frequently visited…”.

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Dorothy Burr Thompson’s Love for the Spirit of the Primitive

Dorothy Burr photographing wedding dance at Parapoungia 1924.

Dorothy Burr photographing wedding dance at Parapoungia 1924. ASCSA Archives, Dorothy Burr Thompson Photographic Collection.

“By myself in a Boeotian village, with the cry of the wind and drunken men in my ears! I love this place; it is so full of interest and a sense of real thing – seeing weddings whereat one reddens a finger… plodding one’s weary way homeward over purple fields to the din of bells like an organ cadence, knowing villagers… Oh, it is so full of life…” scribbled Dorothy Burr in her personal diary on November 9, 1924.

She was twenty-four years old and had come to Greece the year before, to study at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter). Before that, she had lived in Philadelphia and studied at Bryn Mawr College. After attending the year-long program of the ASCSA, she and Hazel Hansen, another student of the School, were invited by archaeologist Hetty Goldman to dig at the Neolithic site of Eutresis, not far from Thebes, in Boeotia. Read the rest of this entry »

Clash of the Titans: The Controversy Behind Loring Hall

Loring Hall on 61 Speusippou (Souidias today), 1929. Source: ASCSA Archives

Loring Hall at 61 Speusippou (Souidias today), 1929. Source: ASCSA Archives

Reading Louis Lord’s History of the early years of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (hereafter ASCSA or School), one gets a sanitized and condensed account of the building’s history (Lord 1947, 203-204). From his description, which largely concentrates on the final  phase of the project, one could hardly imagine that 16 years of complicated negotiations preceded its official opening in February of 1930; in fact, a women’s hostel had been the dream of several important women, including the exceptional but controversial M. Carey Thomas, President of Bryn Mawr College (1894-1922), before various forces finally named it after a man, Judge William Caleb Loring, and made it co-ed. Read the rest of this entry »

On Communism and Hellenism: An Archaeologist’s Perspective

Posted by Despina Lalaki

Despina Lalaki holds a PhD in Historical Sociology from the New School university while she currently teaches at the The New York City College of Technology-CUNY. The essay she contributed to ‘From the Archivist’s Notebook’ is largely an excerpt from her article “On the Social Construction of Hellenism: Cold War Narratives of Modernity, Development, and Democracy for Greece,” in The Journal of Historical Sociology, 25:4, 2012, pp. 552-577. Her essay draws inspiration from an unpublished manuscript by archaeologist Carl W. Blegen, titled “The United States and Greece” and written in 1946-1948.

Carl W. Blegen (1887-1971) is one of the most eminent archaeologists of the Greek Bronze Age. Nevertheless, he intimately knew Modern Greece, too. In 1910, at the age of twenty-three, he first visited the country as a student of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (hereafter ASCSA), and by the time of his death in 1971 he had made Greece his home and his final resting place, having experienced first hand the land and its people in the most troublesome moments of their modern history. In 1918, for instance, he participated in the Greek Commission of the American Red Cross, assisting with the repatriation and rehabilitation of thousands of refugees who during the war had been held as prisoners in Bulgaria. During WWII, he was recruited by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) to head the Greek desk of the Foreign Nationalities Branch (FNB) in Washington D.C., which was following European and Mediterranean ethnic groups living in the United States and recording their knowledge of political trends and conditions affecting their native lands.

April 1946: US Cultural Relations Attache Carl W. Blegan (R) and J. W. Foster standing in headquarters of the Allied Mission For Observing Greek Elections (AMFOGE). (Photo by Nat Farbman/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

J. W. Foster (left) and Carl W. Blegen (right) standing at the headquarters of the Allied Mission for Observing the Greek Elections (AMFOGE), 1946. Photo by Nat Farbman. The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images/Ideal Image.

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