Purpose & History

Founded in 1996, The American Society of Greek and Latin Epigraphy (Société americaine d’épigraphie grecque et latine) is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to further research in, and the teaching of, Greek and Latin epigraphy in North America. The Society fosters collaboration in the field and facilitates the exchange of scholarly research and discussion, both in the public forum and in published form. The Society is associated with L’Association Internationale d’Epigraphie grecque et latine (AIEGL).

The Society maintains a web site for the posting of news of interest to epigraphers, it publishes a hard-copy newsletter, and it sponsors panels at the annual joint meetings of the Society for Classical Studies (Previously known as the American Philological Association) and the Archaeological Institute of America. The first such panel was held during the meeting in Chicago in December of 1997 and the last in San Francisco in January of 2016. The Society will undertake further activities, including the sponsoring of local or national meetings, in accordance with the needs and interests of its members.

HISTORY OF ASGLE:

Below is an adapted excerpt from the introduction to J. Bodel and N. Dimitrova, eds., Ancient Documents and their Contexts: First North American Congress of Greek and Latin Epigraphy (2011) (Brill SGRE 5) 2015.

Details on the volume HERE. 

American Society of Greek and Latin Epigraphy /
Société americaine d’épigraphie grecque et latine

During the early months of 1995 a young Canadian scholar, B. H. (at the time “Hudson”) McLean, then serving as Executive Director of St. John’s College of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg and already at work on the well-known handbook of Greek epigraphy of the Hellenistic and Roman periods that he would publish several years later, conceived the idea of founding in North America a society of epigraphers similar to the international organization created in Paris in 1972, L’Association Internationale d’Épigraphie Grecque et Latine (AIEGL), the principal activities of which had been (and continue to be) centered mainly in Europe.[1] Over the following months McLean approached half a dozen epigraphers in Canada and the United States and one from the United Kingdom to canvass their potential interest in starting a North American association. Receiving positive replies all around, McLean pursued the idea and by the end of the summer had secured from the sitting President of AIEGL, Silvio Panciera, provisional support for the formation of a North American association of epigraphers that would complement rather than compete with the international association, and he had assembled an Executive Committee of eight that comprised a nearly equal balance of Canadian and American members: John Bodel (Rutgers University), George W. Houston (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), Barbara M. Levick (University of Oxford), B. Hudson McLean (University of Manitoba), Léopold Migeotte (Université de Laval), James Russell (University of British Columbia), Stephen V. Tracy (The Ohio State University), and John S. Traill (University of Toronto).

At the end of the year, at the annual gathering of the American Philological Association (APA) and the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) in San Diego, an initial organizational meeting of the Executive Committee resulted in the appointment by consensus of three officers, whose terms of office were to begin on January 1, 1996: a President (B. Hudson McLean), a Vice–President (John Bodel), and a Secretary-Treasurer (George W. Houston). Collectively, the three officers would constitute the Executive Committee, and the remaining members would make up an advisory council of Members–at–Large. It was also agreed that annual business and planning meetings, at least for the foreseeable future, should be scheduled in conjunction with the annual AIA/APA meetings, wherever held. The first formal business meeting was convened the following year in New York City on December 28, 1996.

Throughout 1996 and the first half of 1997, this group (minus Barbara Levick, who did not participate in any of the discussions and withdrew from the committee at the end of 1996, when a similar organization was founded in Britain), in consultation with the President and executive officers of AIEGL, drew up a constitution, which was first adopted by the ASGLE membership and was then formally endorsed by the Bureau and Comité of AIEGL at the Eleventh International Congress of Greek and Latin Epigraphy in Rome in September 1997.[2] The ASGLE constitution provided for an Executive Committee of three officers (a President, Vice–President, and Secretary–Treasurer), the immediate Past President, a Senior Editor, and two Members–at–Large to be elected by popular vote by the membership. The terms of the President, Vice–President, and Past President were set at two years, those of the Secretary–Treasurer, the two Members–at–Large, and the Senior Editor at three years, with terms to be staggered in order to provide for a rotation of elected members each year.[3] An invitation to join the new association was sent out to North American epigraphers and ancient historians in the summer of 1996, and by the end of the year the nascent American Society of Greek and Latin Epigraphy had enrolled 82 members (for calendar year 1997) and had mounted a simple website under the direction of an Information Coordinator (later Web-Editor), Tom Elliott, then at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

In 1997 honorary lifetime memberships in the Society were awarded by unanimous consent of the Executive Committee to Joyce S. Gordon, the noted Latin palaeographer, and Christian Habicht, whose history of Hellenistic Athens, then newly published in English, provided a focus for the first ASGLE paper session at the December meetings of the AIA/APA in Chicago.[4] In the following year an honorary lifetime membership in the Society was similarly awarded to Herbert Bloch, whose lifetime work on the epigraphy of Roman Italy was celebrated in the second annual ASGLE paper session, in Washington, D.C., in December 1998. Both Habicht and Bloch attended (and in the former case participated in) the paper sessions held in their honor. November 1997 saw the publication of the first issue of the ASGLE Newsletter, bearing in its masthead the distinctive palindromic acronym-within-a-stele-frame (designed by John Traill) that continues to serve as the emblem of the bilingual association (American Society of Greek and Latin Epigraphy / Société americaine d’épigraphie latine e grecque).[5] The Newsletter also included an introductory Letter from the President, who had taken up a new professional position in Ontario, a region where he was (and remains) better known as Bradley H. McLean. By the end of the year, membership had grown to 116 members.

At the end of 1997, in order to bring the ASGLE Executive Committee as it then existed into conformity with the newly ratified constitution, McLean asked the two ASGLE Committee members then also serving as North American delegates to the AIEGL Comité to continue in office as members at large: Migeotte for an additional two years, with a term ending at the end of 1999, Tracy for three years, with a term ending at the end of 2000. Russell and Traill agreed to step down from the Executive Committee at the end of 1997, and McLean announced that he would end his term as President at the end of 1998, in order to implement fully the desired recruitment of new members into the organization’s leadership. The first regular ASGLE elections in spring 1999 thus brought into office a new Vice–President (Kevin Clinton, replacing Bodel, who had become President at the start of the year), a new Secretary–Treasurer (Timothy Winters, replacing Houston, whose administrative efficiency had been instrumental in getting the Society off the ground), and the first elected Member–At Large (Diane Harris–Cline).[6] Thereafter, elections to positions on the Executive Committee proceeded more or less regularly at the scheduled intervals, with candidates sometimes standing for office unopposed and special elections occasionally held in order to fill positions vacated prematurely for one reason or another.[7]

In 1998 ASGLE applied for and was granted recognition as a chartered “Category II” affiliate of the American Philological Association, a status that provided a meeting space and a place in the program for a sponsored paper session annually at the joint meetings of the APA and AIA. In that year, as in 1997 and every year until 2010, the ASGLE paper session at the annual meetings was sponsored jointly by both associations, but in 2010 the Program Committee of the AIA declined to endorse the ASGLE panel on the grounds that the selected papers held insufficient archaeological interest. The ASGLE leadership protested, and efforts were made over the next two years to reconcile the positions of the two organizations, but in the end the AIA agreed only to sponsor a session of epigraphic papers in its own annual program, and the formal relationship between the two associations languished.

During the first half of 1999, ASGLE members responded to the Executive Committee’s solicitation of suggestions for the use of the ASGLE funds that had accumulated over the years through the collection of membership dues; later in the summer they voted on a referendum concerning the most popular proposals. Of these, only one—to sponsor a small monograph series devoted to the publication of North American collections of Greek and Latin inscriptions—received strong support, and that initiative, though formally implemented, was quickly overtaken and superseded by the rapidly evolving pace of electronic publication.[8] Another, to provide small grants to researchers to visit epigraphic collections, was approved and implemented at the end of the year with a three–person committee of ASGLE members empaneled to evaluate proposals. A third, to offer a dissertation prize for doctoral theses at North American universities on epigraphic topics met with moderate support but also measurable opposition and was ultimately tabled for further discussion. Far down the list of possible worthwhile uses of ASGLE funds, with only two members suggesting it, was the idea of partially subsidizing epigraphic workshops or conferences in North America. No one imagined a solely ASGLE-sponsored international congress of the sort that was eventually realized in San Antonio more than a decade later.

Over the first decade of the new millennium, the organization settled into a rhythm of regular annual business meetings and thematically–organized paper sessions jointly sponsored by APA and AIA at their combined annual meetings.[9] Occasional awards of small subsidies to younger scholars for travel to collections or to pursue epigraphic research and the minimal expenses associated with producing and mailing the semi–annual Newsletter did not offset the gradual accumulation of funds accruing from membership dues and an occasional donation. Nor did new ASGLE initiatives, such as the sponsorship of students to attend an intensive summer school in (mainly) Greek and Latin epigraphy offered in 2003 and then every other year throughout the decade at the Center for Epigraphical and Palaeographical Studies at The Ohio State University, substantially reduce the balance. Toward the end of the decade, the need formally to incorporate ASGLE as a non–profit (and therefore tax–exempt) institution within the United States (where ASGLE funds were held in a credit–bearing savings account), became ever more urgent, and the Secretary-Treasurer was empowered to consult a tax attorney in order to undertake the necessary filing. After a few minor adjustments to the ASGLE Constitution in order to meet United States tax requirements were unanimously approved by the membership, the Society was legally incorporated in 2009 and was officially granted “501c3” (non-profit) tax-filing status by the federal government in 2010.

 

Bibliography

Gordon J. S. and A. E. Gordon 1957. Contributions to the Palaeography of Latin Inscriptions. Berkeley: University of California Press.

– – – – – . 1958–1965. Album of Dated Latin Inscriptions. Rome and the Neighborhood (Augustus to Nerva). Berkeley: University of California Press.

 

Habicht, Chr. 1997. Athens From Alexander to Antony, translated by D. L. Schneider. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

McLean, B. H. 2002. An Introduction to Greek Epigraphy of the Hellenistic and Roman Periods from Alexander the Great down to the Reign of Constantine (323 B.C. – A.D. 337). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

 

[1] McLean 2002.

[2] The British Epigraphy Society was established at a meeting in London on November 16, 1996.

[3] From 1996 to 2012 the position of Senior Editor was filled by the Secretary-Treasurer. In that year a Junior Editor, Laura Gawlinski, was appointed to assist the Senior Editor in preparing the Bulletin; in 2013 she became the first independent Senior Editor. The ASGLE Constitution is available upon request from the Secretary-Treasurer.

[4] Habicht 1997. Gordon is perhaps best known for her work with her husband and collaborator of fifty years, Arthur E. Gordon (obiit 1989), on the paleography of Latin inscriptions on stone in Italy of the first century CE: see Gordon and Gordon 1957, Gordon and Gordon 1958–1965, and the memorial note by Charles Babcock in the ASGLE Newsletter 3.1 (August 1999) 9.

[5] From 1997 through 2008 (vols. 1.1 through 12.2), the Newsletter was published twice a year, normally in late fall and late spring or summer, under that title. Since 2009 (vol. 13.1), the semi-annual publication has been styled the Bulletin, as it is identified in the original Constitution.

[6] For regularly updated fasti of the members of the ASGLE Executive Committee, see the ASGLE website (currently http://ASGLE.org)

[7] At the end of 2002, when the sitting Vice-President declined to assume the Presidency in 2003, the Executive Committee recruited Leslie Threatte to fill the position. At the annual business meeting in January 2005, a regular election was pre-empted by the Executive Committee by an ad hoc adlection to the Vice–Presidency of a candidate standing unopposed: see ASGLE Newsletter 9.1 (May 2005) 1–2 (Secretary-Treasurer’s report).

[8] Although limited–run print catalogues of Greek and Latin inscriptions in North American museums and universities continue to be produced, the aims of this ASGLE initiative are now pursued mainly through digital publication at the U.S. Epigraphy Project (http://usepigraphy.brown.edu).

[9] There were no joint APA/AIA meetings, and hence no ASGLE business meeting or paper session, in 2000 because it had been decided to move the annual meetings from late December (of which the last was in 1999) to early January (of which the first was in 2001).

Updated on January 18, 2016. Posted with the approval of John Bodel.