“From ‘Warriors for the Fatherland’ to ‘Politics of Volunteerism’: Challenging the Institutional Habitus of American Archaeology in Greece.Posted: February 1, 2020
Disciplinary history is not a miraculous form of auto-analysis which straightens out the hidden quirks of communities of scholars simply by airing them publicly. But it does force us to face the fact that our academic practices are historically constituted, and like all else, are bound to change.
Ian Morris, Archaeology as Cultural History, London 2000, p. 37.
“Archives may be even more important than our publications” said Jack L. Davis in his acceptance speech on January 4, 2020, at the Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) in Washington D.C. Recognizing his outstanding career in Greek archaeology, the AIA awarded Davis, a professor of Classics at the University of Cincinnati and former Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (and a frequent contributor to this blog), the Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement. Earlier that day, in a symposium held in his honor, eight speakers highlighted Davis’s contributions to the field. Honored to be one of them, I presented a paper about a lesser known aspect of his career: his scholarship concerning the history and development of American Archaeology in Greece. An updated version of my paper follows below.
“Warriors for the Fatherland” (2000)
Jack Davis made his debut as an intellectual historian and historiographer in 2000 when he published “Warriors for the Fatherland: National Consciousness and Archaeology in ‘Barbarian’ Epirus and ‘Verdant’ Ionia, 1912-1922” (Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 13:1, 2000, pp. 76-98). Following “Warriors,” he published more than twenty essays of historiographical content in journals, collected volumes, and online platforms. Today I have chosen to review the ones that, in my opinion, offered counter-narratives challenging the institutional habitus of American archaeology in Greece.
Allow me to spend a bit more time with this essay because it contains the seeds for Davis’s growth as an intellectual historian and the directions he followed afterwards. In it he discussed two cases of state-supported archaeology, challenging the processes by which notions of cultural identity had been shaped, as well as the role that archaeologists had played in the advancement of ahistorical claims in the lands of Epirus and Ionia.
In the case of Southern Albania, Davis argued that during its brief occupation by Greece in 1912-1913, the Greek State employed archaeology to claim age-old cultural ties with Greece. This was done by promoting the study of Byzantine monuments, by assisting in the Hellenization of local place-names, and by prioritizing the excavation of Hellenistic cemeteries. In Asia Minor, during the brief period from 1919 until 1922, the Greek state once again employed archaeology to support nationalist agendas. Like soldiers fighting for the liberation of the fatherland, Greek archaeologists were sent to Asia Minor to promote the cultural unity of the two sides of the Aegean by excavating ancient Greek and Byzantine sites. On the heels of the Archaeological Society, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or School hereafter) also sent a team of archaeologists to excavate ancient Colophon, thus mixing science with political opportunism.
By revisiting cases where archaeologists had either consciously or subconsciously contributed to the promotion of nationalistic agendas, Davis was about to join a group of archaeologists and historians who actively sought to avoid repeating past mistakes in the future.
“It was a hard paper to get the right tone for. And it was then that I realized that the future lay in examining our role as foreigners, not that of Greeks and Greece,” Davis recently admitted.
“Warriors for the Fatherland” was initially submitted to Hesperia. The Publications Committee, however, did not think that Hesperia, which represents the School’s work in Greece, was the right place to publish an essay that criticized state-supported archaeology.
To be fair to the School’s concerns, let me remind you that the 1990s was a highly charged decade for Europe, the Balkans, and Greece in particular. For the first time in many decades Greece was facing issues of national identity: with the collapse of the Eastern Bloc hundreds of thousands of immigrants had entered Greece challenging the national and religious cohesion of the Greek state, while the re-appearance of the Macedonian Issue led millions of Greeks into street for rallies. Once again it was nation-building time for the Balkan Peninsula, and the American School having suffered from the intense anti-Americanism of the 1980s opted not to step out of its own policy of political neutrality, by publishing an article that criticized policies of the host country.
Davis also admitted that he benefited considerably from the comments of Hesperia’s anonymous reviewers that warned him of the dangers of presentism, and, most importantly, pointed out the absence of primary sources in his research.
“This was all new turf for me… I was coming at it from the wrong direction and was too emotionally involved. [Yannis] Hamilakis who was a Tytus [fellow] pushed me in the better direction. As did [Michalis] Fotiadis. I hadn’t found my voice when I wrote Warriors” Davis commented.
Yet “Warriors for the Fatherland” laid the foundations for Davis’s subsequent scholarship in historiography, which would focus exclusively on a critical examination of American archaeology in Greece; in order to do that, he embarked on an-in-depth study of the School’s institutional records.
“Politics of Archaeological Practice” (2003)
Davis published his next article in 2003. “A Foreign School of Archaeology and the Politics of Archaeological Practice: Anatolia, 1922” (Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 16:2, 2003, pp. 145-172) is a long, well-researched article about the School’s excavations at Colophon, in the summer of 1922, in collaboration with Harvard’s Fogg Museum. In it Davis was able to demonstrate how decisions made by key members of the School during the interwar period were still defining the practice of American archaeology in Greece at the dawn of the 21st century. When I asked him about this new turn in his intellectual pursuits, Jack told me: “The key for me was institutional reproduction.” In addition to having discovered the value of archival research, Davis had also been introduced to the work of French sociologist and anthropologist Pierre Bourdieu. Bourdieu’s notion of academic habitus, “the unwritten set of shared assumptions that constrain an institution’s choices and options and shape its policy” (“Politics of Archaeological Practice,” p. 13), would form the theoretical basis of Davis’s subsequent scholarship on institutional history.
In the first volume of the History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (Cambridge, Mass. 1947), Louis E. Lord dedicated less than half a page to describe the Colophon excavations, focusing on factual information and avoiding any reference to the exportation of antiquities from Sardis, which occurred at the same time. It was perhaps too soon for Lord, who wrote most of the School’s history during WW II, to evaluate the long lasting effects of the Colophon experiment. Davis’s scrupulous research into the School’s institutional records produced a new reading of the Colophon excavations, the aftermath of which would affect for decades the institutional policies of the American School.
Having launched the School’s first endowment campaign in 1920, Edward Capps, who chaired the School’s Managing Committee from 1919 until 1939, relished the idea of a fresh excavation in the newly acquired Greek territories, and welcomed a partnership with Harvard’s Fogg Museum. He needed to create excitement in America through press releases, and Hetty Goldman, the director of the excavation, and her cousin Paul J. Sachs (1878-1965), director of the Fogg Museum, were part of the East Coast elite that Capps intended to tap for his campaign. With one drawback, however. This elite was willing to fund American archaeology abroad so long as antiquities from these ancient lands were available to enrich the collections of the American museums.
Davis discovered that, while negotiating for Colophon, Capps and Bert Hodge Hill, the School’s director from 1906 to 1926, entered into discussions with the Greek administration in Izmir for the exportation of antiquities from Sardis to America. It is probably not preposterous to say that if Greece had not lost the war in 1922, Capps and Goldman would have facilitated the exportation of antiquities from Colophon as well. As a result, the Turkish authorities, who were upset with the American School’s opportunism, denied its return to Colophon in 1923.
“…the High Commissioner [Aristeides Stergiades] will oppose no objection to the American excavators [of Sardis] transferring to Smyrna and exporting what they think wise and right. He could not issue a formal permit for their export; but would either just allow them to go, or –more probably– turn them officially to the care and disposal of the American Consul [George Horton],” communicated Bert H. Hill to Edward Capps, April 28, 1922.
This unsuccessful experiment at Colophon led the American School on a change of course that would define American archaeology in Greece for several decades: a) it would restrict its operations within Greece’s geographical boundaries, unlike other foreign schools in Athens which continued to sponsor out-of-Greece projects; and b) it would concentrate all its resources, intellectual and financial, on two excavations: Ancient Corinth and Athenian Agora, thus becoming a center concerned almost exclusively with the study of Classical Greece and Rome. (The excavations at Lerna in the 1950s was the exception that proved the rule.)
From studying the aftermath of the Colophon excavations, it struck Davis that the American School he was looking at in the early 2000s had been shaped in the interwar period. In the last section of his article, titled “Towards a Reflexive History of Greek Archaeology,” Davis criticized the School for its “myopic vision that continued to foster and reproduce neocolonial stereotypes of Western Hellenism”; and called for a reconsideration of its current archaeological practices that would allow for “a series of other (and allegedly) lesser archaeologies” within Greece but also outside the Greek boundaries (pp. 163-166).
When I commented on the critical tone of the Colophon paper, Jack told me: “I am still amazed that the School appointed me as Director three years later. Could they have not read my paper?” I doubt it. His promotion to the helm of the American School shows that the School had (and has) the reflexes to fight academic habitus formations and resist dominant discourse.
“Birth of Hesperia” (2007)
Soon after the Colophon article, Davis had another opportunity to challenge institutional reproduction when he accepted an invitation by the then Editor of Hesperia, Tracey Cullen, to write an essay about the origins of the journal, as part of a celebratory volume for its 75th anniversary. “The Birth of Hesperia: A View from the Archives” appeared in 2007 (Hesperia 76, pp. 21-35) just as Davis was about to start his directorship at the American School.
“Birth of Hesperia was all about my reactions to my experiences when first on the Publication Committee… the priority system which put Agora and Corinth in first place, regardless of anything much. I wondered: Was this really the original vision of Hesperia? How had this happened, since it seemed to stifle creativity and diversity of ideas…” Davis said.
Since published reports present policies as finally established, Davis embarked on further archival research to find “the debate and discussion that led to their creation” (p. 22).
The creation of Hesperia in 1932 was a disruptive act by itself. Until then the School members used the American Journal of Archaeology to publish the results of their work in Greece. By launching Hesperia, Capps would cut the last remnants of the umbilical cord that once connected the School with the Archaeological Institute of America. Although original discussions between Capps and Rhys Carpenter, the School’s director 1927-1932, entertained the idea of also accepting “contributions from others,” and viewed the journal as a vehicle to elicit “criticism and suggestions from the ablest specialists,” Hesperia over the years, especially after WW II, increasingly confined publication rights only to present or past members of the School. That lasted until 1976. It also did not become a fully refereed journal until 1990, thus depriving the School’s projects from the benefit of criticism. Davis argued that, by having a limited scope for many decades, Hesperia played a role in insulating American Archaeology in Greece “from developments in world archaeology.”
“Politics of Volunteerism” (2013)
Davis continued to conduct research in the School’s institutional history during his directorship from 2007 to 2012. His article “The American School of Classical Studies and the Politics of Volunteerism” was part of a conference we organized together in 2011 and was published in 2013 (Hesperia 82, pp, 15-48). In Philhellenism, Philanthropy, or Political Convenience: American Archaeology in Greece we invited a broad spectrum of scholars to research the School’s Archives and present papers that examined American philhellenism in the first half of the 20th century; how it manifested itself and where it intercepted with philanthropy; the social capital it created, and how the School benefited from it.
“Politics of Volunteerism” reexamined another forgotten chapter in the School’s history: the relief-aid that its members, as part of the Greek Commission of the American Red Cross (ARC), offered to Greece in 1918-1919. Highly appreciated by the Greek State, it created substantial social capital for the School and allowed Capps to negotiate the land expropriation for the Gennadius Library and the concession for the Athenian Agora excavations.
The School throughout its history never failed to respond to times of crisis: in 1923 Capps would establish the American Friends of Greece to seek U.S. support for Greece after the Asia Minor catastrophe, while his daughter Priscilla organized the Near East Industries offering work to hundreds of refugee women for many years. (On Priscilla Capps and the Near East Industries, read “Dollies and Doilies: Priscilla Capps Hill and the Refugee Crisis in Athens, 1922-1941.”)
The culture of volunteerism that the School nurtured in its grounds continued during and after WW II. But for all their commitment to Greece, most American archaeologists continued to keep Classical Greece on their right hand and Modern Greece on their left, thus reinforcing a polarization that lasted until the end of the 20th century reflecting Cold War realities: on the one hand, the U.S. needed institutions such as the School to reinforce American cultural values abroad, and, on the other, Greece needed projects such as the Agora excavations to remain part of the Western world.
“Politics of Volunteerism” is less critical than the Colophon article because by the time of its publication the School (2013) had already taken steps to expand its mission. A study of three of the School’s mission statements spanning three decades (1991, 2001, and 2008) document a series of institutional changes that took place in the early years of our century as a response to the “new world systems and global economies,” as well as to Greece’s new role in the enlarged European Union. Subtle changes, sometimes unnoticeable at first reading, such as by replacing “pre-Hellenic” with “earliest” times, “post-classical” with “present,” by prioritizing archaeology, art, and history over languages, or by adding “dissemination” next to “publication,” define the School’s new enlarged and multi-faceted scope, as it developed during the first decade of the 21st century.
In this paper I attempted to map Jack Davis’s growth as an intellectual historian, as well as to re-contextualize some of his landmark essays concerning the School’s institutional development, by adding a new level of interpretation to his counter narratives. I am also taking the liberty to invite him to revisit the Colophon article in the context of the School’s current mission, appending a meta-reflexive history of American archaeology in Greece. Finally, anyone who doesn’t believe that there are lessons to be learned from delving into institutional history should start by reading Davis’s scholarship on this subject. Through this work he has inspired many others, including myself, to follow in his footsteps by tracing our present paths into the past.
Posted by Christopher Richter
Christopher Richter, Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Hollins University, with research interests in visual and textual narratives, here contributes to From the Archivist’s Notebook a story about a woman traveler, Gertrude Harper Beggs (1874-1951), who, after attending the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in 1911-1912, published a travel book about Crete in 1915. Richter, who co-teaches travel abroad courses in the Mediterranean with his wife and fellow faculty member, Christina Salowey (ASCSA student 1990-1992), has developed a special interest in past travelogues about Greece and Turkey.
A few years ago while I was researching 19th and early 20th Century North American women’s travel narratives about Greece, I found 24 relevant accounts in books and magazines (a few of which included references to The American School of Classical Studies at Athens, hereafter ASCSA or the School). The chapter that I eventually published dealt with only six of the narratives (“Exceptional perspectives: National Identity in US Women’s Travel Accounts of Greece, 1840-1913,” in Politics, Identity and Mobility in Travel Writing, ed. M. A. Cabanas, J. Dubino, V. Salles-Reese, G. Totten, New York 2015, pp. 69-82). But among those that I did not include, one particularly intrigued me, leading to more research on the book and its author. Among other discoveries noted below, I found that it is particularly appropriate to remember the author now, as Loring Hall, in its 90th year, is undergoing an extensive renovation.
The Four in Crete
Gertrude Harper Beggs’s The Four in Crete, published in 1915 (New York: Abingdon Press), tells the story of four traveling companions identified only by nicknames: the Western Woman, the Coffee Angel, the Scholar and the Sage. The narrative begins and ends in Athens, but otherwise focuses on their journey to archeological sites on Crete, which at the time of their visit was not yet technically part of Greece. Beggs employs some standard devices of travelogues of the era. She illustrates the rigors and exoticism of travel through amusing reports of sea sickness, flea infested bedding, and the anxieties of the customs house.
“The [Piraeus] harbor, ever a busy place, was unusually animated that afternoon, with several men-of-war and many merchant vessels lying near the quays and numerous small craft plying busily among them. It was rather an exciting little race to the steamer, for it was already sailing time, and a warning whistle indicated that for once the Four had counted too confidently on the habitual tardiness of Greek vessels” (p. 16-17).
But she also tells in detail of visiting Knossos and the Candia museum, of being guided across rough Cretan terrain on horseback, of what the four saw and discussed at Gortyn, Phaestos and Hagia Triada, and how a seemingly chance encounter in the village of Vori led to a sumptuous dinner as guests of Federico Halbherr (1857-1930), the Italian archaeologist who discovered the famous Gortyn Code in 1884 (pp. 162-165). Halbherr’s diaries have recently become available on the Italian Archaeological School’s webpage.
“Dr. Halbherr himself, as well dressed and immaculate as if he had just stepped in from some Rue de Rivoli, soon put the Four at ease with his perfect courtesy… . The conversation began in Greek, but only the Scholar could make any adequate response in that language. Then their host tried them in Italian; blank silence. Next in French; the Coffee Angel feebly ventured on ‘Oui, monsieur,” and then relapsed into exhausted embarrassment. It seemed doomed to be a silent meal. But at last Dr. Halbherr surprised them all by saying, “Perhaps you can speak English? And from then on they chatted easily, as the host related many witty stories about his thirty years’ experiences in Crete…” (pp. 163-164).
The book received several positive reviews in the popular press, including The New York Times (Oct. 31, 1915, p. 72). It also garnered two scholarly reviews, one by D[avid] M. Robinson (Art and Archaeology 3, 1916, p. 123), the other by Monroe N. Wetmore (The Classical Journal 11, 1916, pp. 375-378). Both reviewers comment on the value of the discussions of the sites. Wetmore also states that “the style is so easy and graceful, the story is so charmingly told… that one can lay the volume down only when he has finished it” (p. 375).
This charm derives in part from Beggs’s sense of humor and her portrayal of camaraderie among the characters. The action and information in the book is driven by their dialogue. Though disparate in age (more on this below) they banter easily on various topics, including their relative mastery, or lack thereof, of Modern Greek, their meals and accommodations, Modern Greek politics, and, especially, their shared interest in the ancient sites.
The “Western Woman” at the American School in 1911-1912
The narrative also hints at the four being members of a larger community. It describes the trip to Crete as an “aftermath of their long season in Athens,” (p.12) and states that they had almost been “‘scared off’ by the reports of friends who had made the trip” before them (p. 11). These dynamics felt strangely familiar, even across a century, so I should not have been surprised when investigation revealed that Beggs was an associate member of the School in 1911-1912 (Annual Report of the Managing Committee, p.22).
This discovery stoked my curiosity about Beggs and the trip. Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan located Beggs’s application in the ASCSA Archives. Apparently, she attended only the second half of the school year, as the repurposed Fellowship application identifies the place and date of applying as Athens, January 19, 1912. According to the Directory of Fellows and Students in the appendices of Louis Lord’s history of the ASCSA (A History of the American School of Classical Studes at Athens, 1882-1942, Cambridge Mass. 1947), she received her PhD from Yale in 1904. An internet search led me to the 1920 Yale publication Alumnae, Graduate School, Yale University, 1894-1920, which reveals that her dissertation was entitled The Adnominal Genitive in Lysias, and that at the time of her enrollment at the ASCSA, she was Professor of Greek at the University of Denver, which had been her undergraduate alma mater (Corwin, Margaret Trumball, 1920, pp. 14-15).
The 1911-1912 ASCSA Annual Report also notes that “three trips were made to Crete by different members of the School” that year (p. 218). Presumably, Beggs describes one of these. Her trip took place in the spring—she makes repeated references to wildflowers (e.g., pp. 34, 35, 91), and Emerson H. Swift’s description of a trip to Crete, which occurred in early April a year later, offers a useful comparison (Youthful Rambles: On the Trail of the Classics, Privately published, 1975, pp. 38-40).
Assuming the trip was one of those noted in the report, I wondered whether the pseudonymous characters represented other ASCSA members. Beggs overlapped with several luminary figures in 1911-1912, including Carl W. Blegen, William B. Dinsmoor, Hetty Goldman, Clyde Pharr, and Alice Leslie Walker. Research revealed that although the narrative is in the third person, the Western Woman is undoubtedly a portrayal of Beggs herself, as Wetmore implies in his review. Denver and Colorado are repeatedly referenced as the character’s home (pp. 29, 44, 61, 98), and she reveals that her “father is a Methodist clergyman” (p. 76). Although born in Missouri, Beggs moved to Denver as a teen, when her father, a Methodist clergymen, was assigned to a Denver church (“Denver Girl a Professor,” Rolla Missouri Herald, June 23, 1904, p.4)
The Scholar, the Sage, and the Coffee Angel
Identifying the inspiration for the Scholar was also comparatively straightforward. He was almost certainly based on Clyde Pharr. He sardonically alludes to his Texas background (p. 106), and when the Western Woman is amazed at his ease in riding a difficult horse over rough terrain, she remarks to herself “of course that boy can ride anything! I’d forgotten that he used to be a Texas cowboy! Busting Broncos was good training for this” (p. 100). According to the Biographical Dictionary of North American Classicists (ed. Ward Briggs, Jr., Westport 1994), Pharr “was raised on a combination farm and ranch in Texas, where, in his words, “we had much hard manual labor the whole year long. At an early age my younger brother Frank and I developed the habit of running away from home,” (pp. 498-99). That quote even aligns with the Scholar’s portrayed wry sense of humor. (Pharr taught classics at Vanderbilt University from 1924 until 1950 and ended his academic career at the University of Texas at Austin.)
Possible identities of the Sage and the Coffee Angel have proven more elusive. A line in the book led me to believe the Sage was based on Carl Blegen: “The Sage, who had devoted one summer of enforced leisure to botanizing in the Minnesota woods, kept a loving eye on the countless blossoms, exclaiming now and then when he spied some special favorite” (p. 34). Vogeikoff-Brogan documents the formative summers of Blegen’s youth at Saga Hill, in the Minnesota woods, and his botanical interests (“The Life of Carl. W. Blegen from a Grassroots Perspective,” in Carl W. Blegen: Personal and Archaeological Narratives, ed. N. Vogeikoff-Brogan, J. L. Davis, and V. Florou, Atlanta 2015, pp. 17-38). But other details in the text quickly undermined this identification. On the next page Beggs states “The dear Sage! They sometimes wondered which he loved best, his flowers, or his wife, or his Greek!” (p. 35). And about 100 pages later the Sage asks that one of his companions photograph him on horseback for his wife, because “’the last time I took a horseback trip was thirty-seven years ago, when I rode eighteen miles to court my girl’” (p. 139). Not only was Blegen single in 1912, but the Sage is portrayed as courting his wife 12 years before Blegen was born (Blegen was born in 1887).
While the portrayed ages of the characters confounded my attempts to identify the Sage, I thought they might offer parameters for identifying the Coffee Angel. The Scholar’s youth as compared to the other characters is a consistent theme of humor in the book (Pharr was 27 in 1912). One of his conversations with the Coffee Angel emphasizes this, and also provides her specific age. She has made her eponymous beverage at Phaestos—she shields her alcohol lamp from the wind inside a pithos—and the scholar effuses:
“‘Coffee Angel . . . when I grow up will you elope with me? My heart tells me that any woman who can serve coffee from a Minoan jar is my affinity’. . . . ‘Well,’ acquiesced the Coffee Angel, ‘I was fifty last month, and when you catch up to me, we’ll elope’” (p. 151).
I first assumed that the Coffee Angel might be based on Louise Foucar Marshall (1864-1956), who contributed the frontispiece and other drawings in the book. Although she had no affiliation with the ASCSA, she and Beggs had been close friends as undergraduates at the University of Denver, and they stayed in touch, as attested in a letter Beggs wrote to her in July 1914, lamenting the latter’s inability to attend an informal UD reunion (courtesy of the archives, University of Arizona Special Collections). In 1912 she was 48, at least close to the described age. Foucar Marshall proved fascinating in her own right. She was the first woman professor at the University of Arizona, later a successful Tucson real estate developer and a philanthropist. And she briefly achieved national notoriety in 1931, when at the age of 67, she shot her sleeping husband multiple times at point blank range, yet was acquitted of his murder by a jury, after testifying that he had had an affair with their housekeeper, and had tried to poison her (See Louise Foucar Marshall and Tom Marshall Collection, University of Arizona Special Collections splash page; also, Eubank, Johanna. April 27, 2018. “Tales from the Morgue: Shots in the dark,” Arizona Daily Star. )
But further research revealed that she was not in Greece with Beggs in 1912. In a biography of Marshall, Trial and Triumph: the Life and Accomplishments of Louise Foucar Marshall, (2008, Privately published), Patricia Stephenson, who had been Marshall’s personal assistant, recounts that Beggs sent Marshall a manuscript of The Four in Crete, along “with photographs and asked her friend to illustrate it” (p. 66). She also mentions a 1912 letter from Beggs about her travels in Greece “with a group of professors who taught language and history at American universities” (p. 66). This letter might have shed light on the identity of Beggs’s companions in Crete, but unfortunately was not among the extensive Marshall papers that Stephenson eventually donated to the University of Arizona Library’s Special Collections (Personal correspondence with Roger Meyers, Archivist, University of Arizona, July 3, 2018).
Another candidate for the role of the Coffee Angel is Minnie Bunker (1867-1959). She is listed in the Directory of Fellows and Students in Lord’s book as an ASCSA member for 1911-1912 (also in 1900-1901 and 1906-1907). She and Beggs were probably acquainted before their time at the ASCSA, as both taught in Denver High Schools from 1894-1896. (For Beggs, see J. W. Leonard, ed. Woman’s Who’s Who of America : a Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915; and for Bunker, Colby College General Catalog, 1820-1920.) As with Marshall, her age is not a precise match. According to a memorial page for the Oakland, CA High School, where she taught for many years, she was born in September 1867, making her 44 in spring 1912. Furthermore, the Coffee Angel makes an ambiguous reference to New York as her possible home (p. 124), but Bunker, who was born in Maine and eventually moved to California, appears not to have ever resided there.
It is possible that Beggs exaggerated the age difference of her characters for comedic effect. She may also have created composite characters for the Sage or the Coffee Angel, e.g. for the former, combining the age and marital status of some other individual with the Minnesota background and botanical tendencies of Blegen. It is possible that one or both were entirely fabricated, though I am skeptical of this, or they may have been based on individuals with no traceable association with Beggs or the ASCSA. Swift’s account is again useful for comparison. It seems that participation by outsiders in school trips was not unusual. On Crete, he abandoned a larger group that included ASCSA members and set off with an independent “retired American classicist” (p. 38). And earlier he describes how members were accompanied by “five amateurs” for part of the official southern trip in November 1912 (pp. 16-17).
Beggs, Pi Beta Phi, and a Women’s Hostel in Athens
After her time as a member of the School, Beggs had a wide ranging and fast paced career in academia. According to the aforementioned Yale Alumnae publication, she earned an LL.D. degree from the University of Denver in 1914, and then went on to serve as Dean of the Chicago Kindergarten Institute, as Social Director of the Martha Cook Building at the University of Michigan, as Dean of Women at the University of Minnesota, and finally, starting in 1919, as Professor of Latin at Westhampton College, the all-female affiliate of the University of Richmond in Virginia.
Her association with the ASCSA did not end with her time as a student. In The Annual Report of the Managing Committee to the Trustees for 1919-1920 (pp. 17-18), Edward Capps notes that she resigned that year from the Board of Directors of the Auxiliary Fund Association “after rendering splendid service. . . because she was taking up a new work in China.” The Auxiliary Fund Association Directors are also thanked “for their vision of the possibilities of the undertaking and their unremitting zeal in working for their realization.” During her last year on the board the fund was increasingly important for the financial well-being of the School, and both subscribers and revenue more than tripled.
An announcement in the June 1920 issue of The Arrow, the official publication of Pi Beta Phi, offers a perspective on Beggs’s own vision and unremitting zeal on behalf of the ASCSA. Pi Beta Phi describes itself as the first fraternity for women, and Beggs had been inducted as an undergraduate at the University of Denver. Her professional advancements, and her service to that organization, were regularly reported in The Arrow. In the same issue as the announcement, her service on two different Pi Beta Phi committees is noted (pp. 444 and 448). A year and a half earlier, in the December 1, 1918 issue, her role as chair of the Committee on War Work is recorded (p.179), but more significantly, the entire text of an address she gave to the membership at the annual convention is reproduced (“The Daughters of Atlas,” pp. 190-196). In short, by the time that she was on the ASCSA’s Auxiliary Fund Board, Beggs was an influential member of Pi Beta Phi.
The 1920 announcement states, in part that “Prof. Edward Capps of Princeton University, Chairman of the Managing Committee of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, has acknowledged in his last report on The Auxiliary Fund, ‘a handsome subscription of $300.00 a year from the Pi Beta Phi National Fraternity.’ Grand Council has thought it expedient to identify Pi Beta Phi with this project of advanced scholarship for women and has authorized the above subscription.” It goes on to name the members of the Auxiliary Fund Board, including Beggs, and to explain the women’s scholarship connection by stating that revenues raised by the Auxiliary Funds Committee “will make it possible to increase the facilities of the school, by the addition, particularly, of a dormitory for women students who may be pursuing research work in Athens” (pp. 517-518). Presumably it was Beggs herself who argued for and secured this subscription, worth almost $4,000.00 in 2019 dollars.
Louis Lord’s account in his history of the ASCSA suggests that fundraising for the women’s hostel was actually entirely separate from that of the Auxiliary Fund. Nevertheless, evocation of a dormitory for women to justify Pi Beta Phi’s contribution ultimately links Beggs, at least in spirit, to Loring Hall, which opened in 1929 and was, as Lord notes, “the final and most satisfactory solution of the ‘Hostel for Women Problem’” (p. 210). (About the Women’s Hostel and Loring Hall, see also: “Clash of the Titans: The Controversy Behind Loring Hall.”) As for her endeavor in China, the Richmond Collegian, the University of Richmond’s student newspaper, reported on September 29, 1922, that Beggs had “resumed her teaching at Westhampton College after returning from China” where she taught in “the English schools of Kuling.”
In closing, the inspirations for two of Beggs’s characters, the Sage and Coffee Angel, remain a mystery, and I remain interested in any information or theories that might shed light on their identities. In addition, I hope that my efforts have helped bring Gertrude Harper Beggs out from the shadows. Like some of her more renowned ASCSA contemporaries, she seems to have been formidable, and is especially worthy of remembrance now, as Loring Hall is renovated. Finally, I recommend her book. It offers a window on the camaraderie of the School, and on Minoan archaeology in that era, and I found it is as entertaining as Wetmore’s review suggested. A copy is in the Gennadius Library’s rare book collection, hard copies can be obtained from vintage booksellers, and a free downloadable PDF is available from the Internet Archive.
“In Rhodes the days drop as softly as fruit from trees. Some belong to the dazzling ages of Cleobolus and the tyrants, some to the gloomy Tiberius, some to the crusaders. They follow each other in scales and modes too quickly almost to be captured in the nets of form,” wrote Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990) in the first pages of his acclaimed memoir Reflections on a Marine Venus: A Companion to the Landscape of Rhodes (1953). More than seventy years later, if Durrell were still alive, he would have added “… some to the crusaders, some to the Italians.”
Durrell was stationed in Rhodes for two years when the Dodecanese was under British Administration (1945-1947). As Information Officer, he supervised the publication of three daily papers, in Greek, Turkish, and Italian. (I found copies of the Greek one, ΧΡΟΝΟΣ, in the Nicholas Mavris Papers in the ASCSA Archives. Mavris, a prominent member of the Greek American community, in 1948 became the first governor commissioner of the freed Dodecanese.)
WW II had just ended and the fate of the Dodecanese was still uncertain. Despite their Greek past, these islands in the southeastern part of the Aegean (also known as Southern Sporades) did not join Greece until 1947, having passed from the Ottomans directly to the Italians in 1913, from the Italians to the Germans in 1943, and from them to the British. In 1946, the Allied Forces in Paris finally agreed upon the integration of the Dodecanese with Greece. It was not until the 31st of March 1947, however, that the British officially delivered the administration of the Dodecanese to the Greek State.
Durrell did not write Marine Venus while on Rhodes but a few years later, relying on his memory and “sifting into the material, now some old notes from a forgotten scrapbook, now a letter” (Marine Venus, p. 3).
“Of Paradise Terrestre” Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Curtis Runnels
Curtis Runnels, Professor of Archaeology at Boston University and an expert in Palaeolithic archaeology in Greece, here contributes to From the Archivist’s Notebook a story about how Americans first heard Modern Greek being spoken in the early 19th century. An aficionado of antiquarian shops, Runnels has frequently discovered unique documents of great historical and informational value, such as the four documents presented below, which tell us the story of a Greek merchant, Nikolaos Tziklitiras, who, after landing by accident in Boston in 1813, became the first Greek teacher in town and laid the foundations for the spread of Modern Greek studies in America.
On a late autumn day in 1813 the ship Jerusalem made its way slowly into Boston harbor. She was a long way from home. The 750-ton ship began her journey in Smyrna with a Greek-speaking crew bound for Cuba to take on a cargo of coffee, sugar, copper, and hides for Boston. Unfortunately, things did not go exactly as planned. Contemporary reports in the Niles Weekly Register, a popular news periodical of the day, relate that the Jerusalem was detained in September on her way to Boston by the British on account of the copper ingots in her cargo, and the ship was diverted to Halifax, Nova Scotia. She evidently put into Boston on her way to Canada (“September 18: The Greek Ship Jerusalem”). Now, in November, having sorted out her difficulties with the British authorities, she was at last bringing her cargo to Boston (“November 27: The Greek Ship Jerusalem”).
The arrival of the Jerusalem in Boston was newsworthy because as far as the authorities knew she was the first Greek ship to reach the United States. It was something of a sensation, and members of the public, along with officials, merchants, students, and at least one Harvard College scholar, Edward Everett, flocked to the dock to see the ship. One man in the throng, however, was not interested in the story of her voyage and capture, nor was he interested in her cargo of Cuban sugar and coffee. John Pickering (1777-1846) had come to hear the crew talk.
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 writes the biography of three objects, modern copies of Mycenaean originals, which once belonged to Carl W. Blegen and Alan Wace, the “Govs” of Mycenaean archaeology. These objects were once woven in some way into the personal relationship of these two individuals who shaped the field of Mycenaean studies.
They will honor him in their heart as if he were a god
And send him to his dear homeland in a ship
With gifts of bronze, gold, and fabrics in such abundance
As Odysseus would never had taken from Troy
If he had arrived home unscathed with his share of booty.
Such is Zeus’s prediction of Odysseus’s fate among the Phaeacians. And guest gifts are a phenomenon not only well-known to Classicists, but a concept that has had an impact on anthropological thought for nearly a century — at least since the publication in L’Année Sociologique of Marcel Mauss’s “Essai sur la donne” in 1925 — and, through it, on the interpretation of patterning in archaeological data. Mauss demonstrated that in pre-modern exchange systems there were obligations to give and receive, but especially to reciprocate in the presentation of gifts, practices deeply embedded in social systems. In the field of archaeology, gift exchange has been seen, prominently since the 1970s, as a mechanism that accounts for distributions of material goods (e.g., T.K. Earle and J.E. Ericson eds., Exchange Systems in Prehistory, New York 1977), and studies of the cultural biographies of exchanged artifacts have been popular (A. Appadurai, The Social Life of Things, Cambridge 2013).
This post is not, however, concerned with archaeological finds, but rather with the histories of a few mementos owned by two of the most famous Greek prehistorians of the 20th century, Alan Wace and Carl Blegen, best friends and colleagues,“the Govs” as they called themselves (see Y. Fappas, “The ‘Govs’ of Mycenaean Archaeology: The Friendship and Collaboration of Carl W. Blegen and Alan J. B. Wace as Seen through Their Correspondence,” in J.L. Davis and N. Vogeikoff, eds., Carl W. Blegen: Personal and Archaeological Narratives, Atlanta 2015, pp. 63-84). The copies of Mycenaean artifacts that I consider here have sometimes been thought to have been material manifestations of their friendships, mutually reciprocated gifts. But were they really? Read the rest of this entry »
To Live Alone and Like It: Women and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens Between the Wars.Posted: August 5, 2019
“But it is not education only that is needed. It is that women should have liberty of experience… to idle and loiter, the mental space to let your mind wonder,” wrote Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own in 1929. The work was based on lectures she delivered in October 1928 at Newnham College and Girton College in Cambridge (both for women). She further advised her female audience “to drink wine and have a room of their own.” I will not dwell on the issue of wine because women of all classes had access to alcohol, at least privately, but for a woman to have a room of her own was highly unusual before WW II, especially for women who had not inherited wealth. Woolf would be eternally grateful to her aunt for leaving her a lifelong annual stipend of 500 pounds.
That a woman could live alone by her own choice was almost unheard of. Young women who moved to the big cities in search of work were usually sharing apartments with others of the same sex, for a few years at most, until they got married. However, WW I upset traditional demographics by creating a population imbalance in the western world: more women than men. To put it bluntly, for these extra women it meant that the prospect of marriage was less attainable (Scutts 2017). If Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) was fighting her own battles in ultra conservative England, Marjorie Hillis (1889-1971), an American writer and contemporary of Woolf, was sufficiently daring to publish in 1936 a book that encouraged single women to take control of their lives and Live Alone and Like it. “A Lady and Her Liquor,” “Pleasures of a Single Bed,” and “Solitary Refinement?” were some of the chapter titles. Her book became an immediate best-seller and remained popular for many years.
Exploring the Relationship of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens with the Greek Omogeneia in the United States in the 1940s.Posted: July 4, 2019
In 1947, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter) produced a color movie titled Triumph over Time; it was directed by the archaeologist Oscar Broneer and produced by the numismatist Margaret E. Thompson with the aid of Spyros Skouras (1893-1971), the Greek American movie mogul and owner of Twentieth Century Fox (see Spyros Skouras Papers at Stanford University). Triumph over Time portrays Greece rebounding from World War II and the staff of the ASCSA preparing archaeological sites for presentation to postwar tourists. The film was made to promote the first postwar financial campaign of the ASCSA, the direct goal of which was to increase its capital and finance the continuation of the Athenian Agora Excavations. Indirectly, the ASCSA was hoping to contribute to the rehabilitation of Greece by providing employment for the Greek people and by promoting the economic self-sufficiency of Greece by developing the country’s tourist assets (Vogeikoff-Brogan 2007).
Triumph over Time begins with a brief overview of impressive Greek antiquities, such as the citadels of Mycenae and Tiryns and the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, before continuing with rare ethnographic material capturing parts of rural Greece that no longer exist. It then moves from the Greek countryside to the buildings of the ASCSA, especially the Gennadius Library with its rare treasures. The story then covers the ASCSA’s two most important projects, the excavations at the Athenian Agora and at Ancient Corinth, explaining all stages of archaeological work. The documentary ends with a hopeful note that financial support of the ASCSA’s archaeological work will contribute to an increase in tourism so that this major source of revenue for Greece’s economy can “restore stability and well-being to this simple pastoral land.”