“If a Jesuit should prove not to know Latin we’d better shut our doors!”: Catholic Clergy at the ASCSA, Pt. IPosted: December 1, 2017
Posted by Dylan Rogers
Dylan Rogers holds a PhD from the University of Virginia, and he has been Assistant Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens since 2015. The essay he contributes to “From the Archivist’s Notebook” was inspired by recent research in the ASCSA Archives about the Summer Session program.
Last summer, I began researching the life of Professor Gertrude Smith at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or School), particularly in her role as Chairman of the Committee on Admissions and Fellowships. (On Smith see D. Rogers, “Gertrude Smith: A Classic American Philhellene.“) Smith guided the selection process of students during the Academic Year and the Summer Session (SS) deftly for nearly 20 years (1945-1963). Delving into her correspondence with various people associated with the School, I was struck by one letter in particular, as she was discussing Fr. Raymond Schoder, S.J. (1916-1987), and his desire to be a SS Director at the School in 1961:
I wonder with him just what the Roman Catholic situation would be. Don’t think I have anything against the R.C.’s. I haven’t, but I do not want the summer session turned into an adjunct of the church, and, if he once does the school, I foresee an avalanche for that particular summer of applicants for that particular summer of applicants from people who have used his dratted Homeric Greek books and who will be urged by their priest or nun teachers to take the session when they can have it under his guidance. In the two sessions which I have done I have had each time four or five Roman Catholics, but I could usually control that and get them meatless meals when they had to have them and get them to places where they could get to church on time and so on. But we do not want the summer session dependent of the Roman Catholic church, and I think it might be if Father S. were leading around people, the majority of whom were R.C.’s. (ASCSA ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 3, 26 October 1960)
Did this mean that the School, as a whole, had a bias against Roman Catholics? Certainly this would not be unheard of in American academic circles. Even as late as 1977, Catholic priests were still noticing a bias in academia, which stemmed from deep-roots in America against Catholics (particularly immigrants from Catholic countries of Europe, creating a so-called nativism, or bias, in society). Fr. Andrew Greeley noted that people often told him not to wear his collar, or he would not be taken as serious as his lay counterparts. Indeed, he questioned:
Is the nativism in education conscious or unconscious? I suppose the best answer is that it doesn’t matter. Those who ask, Isn’t Catholicism incompatible with independent intellectual activity? might as well be asking, Isn’t it true that blacks have a distinctive body odor? Or, Isn’t it true women are happier at home raising children? The person who asks the question is prejudiced whether or not he knows it. (Greeley 1977, 43)
Further, the School has been noted for occasionally making less-than-polite comments about religious groups outside of Protestantism, particularly Judaism. In correspondence in the early twentieth century, if an applicant was Jewish, oftentimes that was noted in their files (See J. L. Davis, “A Preamble to the Nazi Holocaust in Greece: Two Micro-Histories from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.”) While this did not hinder students and scholars of Jewish origin from coming to the School, it is disconcerting to a modern academic audience that such issues would indeed be brought up.
So I began to go back through the Archives to see if there were any anti-Catholic tendencies in the School’s past, as Smith’s letter of 1960 had the potential to suggest. What I did find was a fascinating history of Catholic religious figures (of both genders) coming to the School as students and scholars and flourishing. Almost from the beginning of the School’s foundation in 1881, Catholic clergy had been part of our history, with the first Catholic priest in 1887-1889, Fr. Daniel Quinn.
Fr. Daniel Quinn: An Overt Philhellene
Daniel Quinn (1861-1918) completed his A.B. and M.A. at Mount St. Mary’s College (Maryland) in 1883 and 1886 respectively. Fr. Quinn would then go to the ASCSA as a student from 1887-1889. At the School, he was reported to be one of the students that excelled in learning Modern Greek, while focusing on Greek philology, including research on topographical elements important in Greek mythology, such as the hills of the Aegiplanctus and the Arachneum (Annual Reports 7 (1887-1888), pp. 8 and 43-45; 8 (1888-1889), pp. 38-39). After two years in Athens, Fr. Quinn returned to the US, where he was subsequently appointed as a Professor of Greek at the newly established Catholic University of America in 1891. As was the custom in America at the time, Fr. Quinn was sent back to Europe to complete his PhD, working at the University of Berlin (1891-1892), and finishing his studies at the University of Athens in 1893 (Klingshirn 2016). Fr. Quinn’s dissertation was written in Modern Greek, and the subject of which was based on Christian epigraphy in Greece, evident in later articles he published (Quinn 1902).
Upon completion of his dissertation, Fr. Quinn returned to Catholic University, where he began to build up the Department of Greek and Latin. Around that time, he helped to establish the Washington Society of the Archaeological Institute of America (Klingshirn 2016). And it was clear that his love of Greece, especially its history and language, was a prominent part of his teaching at Catholic: “An overt philhellene, Quinn’s zeal was manifested in his spelling habits (Keramics, Mykenaean, Sophokles) and in his Academy of Hellenic Studies, which students were eligible to join upon completion of a thesis of four thousand words, written in Greek or Latin. In 1895-96, Academy discussions (to take place in Greek!) centered on Aristophanes’ Acharnians and Sophocles’ Antigone, and were reported in the quarterly in-house journal Deltion” (Klingshirn 2016).
Quinn continued at Catholic University until 1897, when he resigned his position, “dissatisfied with the University’s level of support for Greek studies” (Klingshirn 2016). In all likelihood, Fr. Quinn quit his post, because the university would not hire his brother as an instructor of Greek, despite the fact that there were only three students at the time (Nuesse 1990, 112). In a letter to John Gennadius of 27 December 1897, Fr. Quinn informed him of these new developments: “Since the time of my last writing to you I have undergone a number of changes of circumstances; I have resigned my professorship at the University, forced to do so by motives that appealed to my sense of duty and honor. This step brings with it a number of temporary loses; and I must begin life anew. I leave America for Greece early in February. There I shall study everything that pertains to Hellenism. I shall be among friends, I am sure” (Joannes Gennadius Papers, Box 10.3, Folder 3).
Indeed, it seems that Fr. Quinn made it back to Athens. There he continued to work on his studies of the Greek language, including a number of articles that appeared in American magazines—and later collected in a volume aptly titled, Helladian Vistas (Quinn 1908). From 1900-1902, Quinn was again a member of the ASCSA. In 1902, he was appointed the rector of the Leonteion (Lycée Léonin/Λεόντειο Λύκειο), on 4 Sina Street, which was originally established by Pope Leo XIII as a secondary school for children of Catholic parents in Greece and later acted as a Catholic seminary for Catholic priests of the Greek East (Quinn 1907; Quinn 1908, 40). (The Leonteion continues to operate today, in a different location, as a Marist Roman Catholic School, which has taught numerous Greeks, including the late Greek Orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos and the composer Vangelis.) Fr. Quinn returned to his birthplace of Yellow Springs, Ohio, where he became the pastor of St. Paul’s Church there, in addition to being a professor at Antioch College there, until his death in 1918.
It is apparent that Fr. Quinn was able to learn Modern Greek with ease and facility, given his background in classical languages. And this must have been case with a number of other students of the ASCSA in the 19th century, when Katharevousa (a form of Modern Greek developed in the 19th century as a cross between ancient Greek and Demotic Greek, and often spoken in literary and scholarly circles) was flourishing. Indeed, Fr. Quinn remarked that:
The stranger will find that if he is able to speak classical Greek he can, by using modern pronunciation, converse with any scholar in Greece. He will discover that Sokrates and Demosthenes would be understood by the literati who to-day frequent the club rooms of the Parnassos. (Quinn 1895, 70)
With his training as a scholar of Classical Greek and Modern Greek, Fr. Quinn was aptly in a place to write on the state of the Greek language at the turn of the 20th century. In 1901, in the US Bureau of Education’s “Report of the Commissioner of Education for 1899-1900,” Fr. Quinn, tracing the historic development of the Greek language, analyzed the “diglossy” phenomenon of the language, where both Katharevousa and Demotic Greek were spoken by the same people. Fr. Quinn, in his conclusion, stated that the rise of the Demotic was “a sign of the decay of the historical national consciousness and a bad omen for the future,” but the “Philhellene will always be glad to learn that [the Greeks] take a high and noble care of their historic tongue, and that they do not intend to let it wither itself out into a few interesting glossematic dialects” (Quinn 1901, 1319). I wonder what Fr. Quinn would think of the adoption in 1976 of Demotic as the national language of Greece, and the further abolition of the polytonic system in 1982.
“The soul is Hellenic”: On the Greek Education System
Because Fr. Quinn attended the University of Athens, attending lectures in Greek and writing a dissertation in Greek, he was familiar with the Greek education system. In a long article for the US Bureau of Education, Fr. Quinn traced the development of the Greek education system from its ancient origins until his time, particularly with the rise of the university system in Greece after the Greek War of Independence (Quinn 1898). In addition to using his own experiences at the University of Athens (and presumably discussing issues with his faculty), Fr. Quinn corresponded with Greeks who had ties to the education system of the time. One example is how Fr. Quinn reached out to John Gennadius, the Greek diplomat living in London and later would give his own personal library to the ASCSA, about Gennadius’ father, George Gennadius (George Gennadius Papers, Box 10.3, Folder 3). In their correspondence of 1897, John Gennadius provided Fr. Quinn with a concise biography of his father. Fr. Quinn would then later include it in his report, highlighting the fact that George Gennadius was instrumental through his own teaching in instilling in Greek youths of the early to mid-19th century a sense of patriotism for Greece (Quinn 1898, 290-291, 309, 332).
Fr. Quinn’s discussion of the Greek education system, especially after the independence of Greece from the Ottomans in the 1830s, illustrates how Greece at the time was at a crossroads, particularly in how they were going to build their new nation and educate its inhabitants. Indeed, early on in his discussion, he prompts readers that they will think that the education system has foreign influences, but is unique: “the outward form of modern Greek education is German and French in character, but the soul is Hellenic” (Quinn 1898, 267). A true philhellene himself, the text is full of various admirations of Greece and its people, in addition to its growing commitment to education. For example, in discussing education in the last years of Ottoman rule, Fr. Quinn describes the situation of the Parthenon:
Yea, within the very Parthenon itself a school was opened in the year 1824 for little tots of girls whose fathers were fighting the war of freedom. We love the Parthenon for its beauty; but it is more worthy of being loved on account of having been a shelter to education than because of being the Parthenon. (Quinn 1898, 295.)
Fr. Quinn, the product of higher education system in at least three different countries, was truly a proponent of the importance of education, particularly in the humanities. In his 1898 report on education, Fr. Quinn pardoned the famous Greek general of the War of Independence, Theodoros Kolokotronis: “Old Kolokotrones said on a certain important occasion that ‘books could not be used for better purposes than for gun wads.’ We forgive him, because Kolokotrones’s gunshots were intended to protect home and altar” (Quinn 1898, 295). But more broadly, Fr. Quinn argued in 1896 that higher education, especially from his viewpoint in the US, was to publicly educate a populace to help train new leaders. And the bedrock of such an education was the humanist tradition, and he still regarded “the philosophic and classic studies, which have created the modern university, as the studies best suited to remain its centre” (Quinn 1896, 21). Thus, with classics at the core of public education, we could build a society that was well equipped to better itself.
Fr. Quinn evidently loved practically every aspect of Greece, which began with his early education in Greek and Latin. And the ASCSA was Fr. Quinn’s entrée into the world of Athens and Greece—a point he never forgot. In his 1898 report on education, while he mentions the other foreign archaeological schools of the time, he naturally spent more time describing the mission of the ASCSA, as:
American archaeological or classical students and scholars visiting Athens have found at the foot of the southeast slope of Lykabettos an institution that they may take just pride in. They find there an excellent library, adapted especially for the study of the art, topography, epigraphy, language, and literature of Ancient Greece. They find a small knot of young, enthusiastic men, who find highest delight in delving, now by book and now by spade, into the marvelous life of the people which has been the civilizers of the world. (Quinn 1898, 336.)
As one of the first prominent example of the Catholic clergy, Fr. Quinn could have been the exception to the rule, as Smith’s invective at the beginning was quite harsh against Roman Catholics at the School. But we will delve further into this problem in next month’s post, and offer a resolution…
I would like to thank Eleftheria Daleziou of the Gennadius Library Archives for helping me with documents related to the Gennadius family—and her willingness to reach out to other archival institutions in Athens on my behalf. Further, I must thank Shane MacDonald of the Catholic University of America’s Archives for providing a photograph of Fr. Quinn in their Photographic Collections. And, finally, I thank Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan for always supporting my intellectual journeys in the Archives of the ASCSA.
Greeley, A.M. 1977. “Anti-Catholicism in the Academy.” Change 9.6: 40-43.
Klingshirn, W.E. 2016, 3 October. “Early History of the Department, 1891-1918.” The Catholic University of America, Department of Greek and Latin. http://greeklatin.cua.edu/about/earlyhistory.cfm
Nuesse, C.J. 1990. The Catholic University of America: A Centennial History. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press.
Quinn, D. 1895. “The American School at Athens.” Catholic University Bulletin 1: 65-72.
Quinn, D. 1896. “The Duty of Higher Education in Our Times.” Transactions of the American Social Science Association 34: 15-28.
Quinn, D. 1898. “Chapter VIII—Education in Greece.” Report of the Commissioner of Education for the Year 1896-97 Vol. 1: 267-348. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Press.
Quinn, D. 1901. “Chapter XXIII: The Language Question in Greece and Some Reflections Suggested By It.” Report of the Commissioner of Education for 1899-1900 Vol. 2: 1297-1319. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Press.
Quinn, D. 1902. “Των τελευταίων αιώνων επιγραφαί Ζακυνθιακαί.” Αρμονία 553-600.
Quinn, D. 1907. “Modern Diocese of Athens.” In The Catholic Encyclopedia, edited by C.G. Herbermann, Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
Quinn, D. 1908. Helladian Vistas. Yellow Springs, OH.
The American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter) has an interesting, albeit odd, art collection. It comprises mostly oils and watercolors, with a few three-dimensional exceptions, such as Paul Manship’s bronze Actaeon. The card inventory that George Huxley and Mary Lee Coulson created in the late 1980s was replaced by a database I developed in the 1990s, in order to record the whereabouts of the artworks which frequently moved from building to building without any notice.
While some of the objects were bequeathed to the ASCSA by former staff and members, most of the material lacks provenance. My first database was short on content, but the more I delved into the School’s institutional records and collections of personal papers, the more interesting information I discovered about the origin of some of the art pieces. In the case of Amory Gardner’s fine portrait by Anders Zorn, I found that it was a gift from the Groton School in 1938.
The sources of some of the modern paintings (e.g., those by Martyl Langsdorf or Tita Fasciotti) were puzzling at first because I could not connect them with any gifts. The advent of the internet, however, has solved many of these mysteries. Searches for artists’ names revealed that some of the modern paintings were connected with Saint Louis, suggesting that some may have come to the School together with the personal papers of archaeologist George Mylonas, who taught at the Washington University in Saint Louis for several decades. (See “The Spirit of Saint Louis Lives in Athens“.)
Inventorying purposes aside, my preoccupation with the School’s art collection did not stem from an art historical interest but instead from a need to contextualize it: for it seemed that each piece had a biography that continued past the death of its creator and owner(s). With patience, some luck, and a good amount of research in the School’s archives, I soon concluded that there was an interesting story to be told about many of these objects, a story that connected them with men and women once intimately bound up with the ASCSA. Read the rest of this entry »
This is a guest post by Robert L. Pounder
Robert L. Pounder, Emeritus Professor of Classics at Vassar College, here contributes a review of Barbara McManus’s posthumous book about Grace Harriet Macurdy, titled The Drunken Duchess of Vassar. Pounder, who has been conducting in-depth research on the social history of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) in the 1920s-1930s, writes that Classics was “dominated by unaware, myopic, smug, unsympathetic men, men who viewed academic accomplishment by women with condescension and skepticism.” Women in academia, like Macurdy, were thought to be anomalies–a different species. Based on his work at the ASCSA Archives, Pounder has also published an essay, “The Blegens and the Hills: A Family Affair,” in Carl W. Blegen: Personal & Archaeological Narratives, ed. N. Vogeikoff-Brogan, J. L. Davis, and V. Florou, Atlanta 2015.
Born in 1866 in Robbinston, Maine, Grace Harriet Macurdy was the sixth of nine siblings whose parents had immigrated to the United States from the nearby Canadian province of New Brunswick just a year before her birth. Her father, Angus McCurdy (the spelling of the name was later changed to Macurdy because he did not want to be thought Irish) was a carpenter who barely eked out a living. After leaving his children in the care of their mother and paternal grandmother for long periods and thus improving his situation somewhat, he was able to move the family to Watertown, Massachusetts by 1870; there they grew. Watertown provided a better series of houses and slightly improved material circumstances for the Macurdy children. Moreover, they profited greatly from the guidance of their mother and grandmother, both of whom encouraged the children, including the girls, to read, write, and pursue their educations. Read the rest of this entry »
An African American Pioneer in Greece: John Wesley Gilbert and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1890-1891.Posted: August 1, 2017
Posted by John W. I. Lee
John W. I. Lee, Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara, here contributes an essay about John W. Gilbert, the first African-American student to participate in the Regular Program of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) in 1890-1891. Lee is writing a book about John Wesley Gilbert, the early history of the ASCSA, and the development of archaeology in Greece.
In his official report to the Managing Committee of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter) for academic year 1890-1891, Director Charles Waldstein praised students Carleton Brownson, Andrew Fossum, John Gilbert, and John Pickard, who had “proved themselves serious and enthusiastic” throughout the year. Waldstein went on to describe the School’s 1891 excavations at ancient Eretria on the island of Euboea. While Fossum and Brownson excavated Eretria’s theater, Pickard and Gilbert “undertook the survey and careful study of all the ancient walls of the city and acropolis, and will produce a plan and an account which… will be of great topographical and historical value.”
Waldstein’s report gives no indication that one of the students, John Gilbert, was African American—the first African American scholar to attend the ASCSA. With the passage of time, memory of Gilbert’s pioneering contribution was forgotten at the School, until Professor Michele Valerie Ronnick of Wayne State University searched for him in the ASCSA Archives in the early 2000s. Ronnick’s work on Gilbert, featured in the School’s Ákoue Newsletter, forms the foundation of my research.
John Wesley Gilbert was born about 1863 in rural Hephzibah, Georgia; his mother Sarah was enslaved. After Emancipation, Sarah took her young son to the nearby city of Augusta. From childhood Gilbert thirsted for learning. An 1871 Freedman’s Bank register bearing his signature gives his occupation as “go to school to Miss Chesnut.” Read the rest of this entry »
For the really significant history is that grass roots history which reveals the everyday life of people, in their homes, and at their retreats, in their work and in their play, in turbulence and in repose.
Theodore C. Blegen, 1948
“I suppose you have heard about the Revolution which is taking place here. It began last Friday night -March 1st. During dinner we heard various rumblings and shots out in the city, but didn’t think much about it, believing them just the ordinary noises of the city. But afterwards they became so pronounced that we knew something was happening. So Betty [Dow] and I went down-town, in the direction from which the shots came. We met many troops marching through the streets, and finally came to the region where the firing came from – near the Akropolis. A revolution is such a strange thing here – everyone takes it as a matter of course, and a little as a joke – and the firing isn’t widespread at all. We were able to approach so near –without any danger – that we witnessed a tank storming a barracks for soldiers, and saw the firing on both sides… after the attacks on the barracks which we saw (we were in a crowd of about 25 – the sole witnesses), we saw other tanks, at close range and finally came upon battalions of soldiers drawn up with guns and bayonets in the streets and ready for action… ” wrote Richard (Dick) H. Howland, age 25, to his family back in America.
On February 17, 1901, a young American archaeologist and member of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter) was “roaming over the city in search of Mr. Kavvadias, the general ephor of antiquities in Athens, in order to get a permit to begin work at Vari tomorrow” (letter of Charles H. Weller to his wife). Together with a small group of students from the School, he had conceived of the idea of conducting a small excavation at the Vari Cave on the southern spur of Mount Hymettus, near the ancient deme of Anargyrous. Known since the 18th century, the cave had been visited and described by several European travelers who were particularly taken by the reliefs and inscriptions carved on its walls.
Have you noticed that in the last ten days the press has been flooded with articles about the Doomsday Clock? Here are some of the titles: “The Doomsday Clock is the closest to midnight since 1953” (Engadget, Jan. 28, 2017), “Nuclear ‘Doomsday Clock’ ticks closest to midnight in 64 years (Reuters), “Doomsday Clock Moves Closer to Midnight, Signaling Concern Among Scientists (The New York Times, Jan. 26, 2017), and “The Doomsday Clock is now 2.5 minutes to midnight, but what does that really mean? (Science Alert).
The Doomsday Clock was created in 1947 by members of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’s Science and Security Board; several of them were part of the “The Manhattan Project” that led to the creation of the first atomic bomb. (For those of you who want to learn more about “The Manhattan Project,” I recommend a drama series that premiered in 2014; although the series was discontinued after the second season, it featured good acting and it was fun to watch. Also see Jack Davis’s Communism In and Out of Fashion, Sept. 1, 2016.) “Originally the Clock, which hangs on a wall in The Bulletin’s office at the University of Chicago, represented an analogy for the threat of global nuclear war; however, since 2007 it has also reflected climate change and new developments in the life sciences and technology that could inflict irrevocable harm to humanity… The Clock’s original setting in 1947 was seven minutes to midnight. It has been set backward and forward 22 times since then, the smallest ever number of minutes to midnight being two in 1953, and the largest seventeen in 1991” (after Wikipedia, accessed 28/1/2017). As of January 2017 (and this explains the flurry of articles in the press), the Clock has been set at two and a half minutes to midnight, a reflection of President Trump’s comments about nuclear weapons: “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” Trump posted this remark on Twitter on December 22, 2016, and followed it with an even more worrisome comment: “Let it be an arms race,” he said, referring to the Russians.
While reading the history of the Doomsday Clock my eyes happened to fall on the cover of the 1947 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which featured for the first time the Clock (at seven minutes to midnight), and the name of the artist who had designed it: Martyl Langsdorf. Martyl is an unusual name, and I had seen it before. I went to the Archives Room of the American School of Classical Studies (ASCSA or the School hereafter), where we keep the School’s administrative records, and personal papers of its members. There, hanging on one of the walls, was an abstract painting depicting a mountainous landscape, and signed in the bottom left corner: “Martyl.” To my surprise, when I checked our inventory, there was a second work of art, an etching, by “Martyl” in the Archives of the ASCSA. But this one also carried a personal dedication: “To George and Lela with affection and admiration, Martyl.” This meant that Martyl’s other painting had also originally belonged to George and Lela Mylonas. Read the rest of this entry »