Jacqueline de Romilly

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Jacqueline de Romilly
Jacqueline de Romilly died 2010.jpg
Jacqueline de Romilly
Born(1913-03-26)26 March 1913
Died18 December 2010(2010-12-18) (aged 97)
Nationality French
Education Lycée Louis-le-Grand
Alma mater École Normale Supérieure
University of Paris
Known forMember of the Académie française

Jacqueline Worms de Romilly (French:  [ʁɔmiji] ; née David, [1] 26 March 1913 – 18 December 2010) was a Franco-Greek philologist, classical scholar and fiction writer. She was the first woman nominated to the Collège de France, and in 1988, the second woman to enter the Académie française.


She is primarily known for her work on the culture and language of ancient Greece, and in particular on Thucydides.


Born in Chartres, Eure-et-Loir, she studied at the Lycée Molière. As a schoolgirl, she became the first female to qualify for a prize in the Concours général, taking the first prize in Latin to French translation and second prize in Ancient Greek in 1930. [2] She then prepared for the École Normale Supérieure at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. She entered the class of 1933 of the ENS Ulm. She passed the agrégation in Classics in 1936; however, because she was of Jewish ancestry, the Vichy government suspended her from her teaching duties during the Occupation of France. [3] She became a doctor of letters at the University of Paris in 1947. Her doctoral thesis, a "masterful" [4] treatment of Athenian imperialism in Thucydides, was published as Thucydide et l'impérialisme athénien, and subsequently translated into English as Thucydides and Athenian Imperialism.

After being a schoolteacher, she became a professor at Lille University and subsequently at the Sorbonne, between 1957 and 1973. She later was promoted to the chair of Greek and the development of moral and political thought at the Collège de France — the first woman nominated to this prestigious institution. In 1988, she was the second woman (after Marguerite Yourcenar) to enter the Académie française, being elected to Chair #7, which was previously occupied by André Roussin.

She published dozens of works on Greek philosophy, language and literature but her lifelong passion was Thucydides, the historian of the Peloponnesian War.

Outside academia she was best known to the French public for touring French schools and giving talks about the culture of ancient Greeks. She was a staunch defender of teaching of humanities in French schools, believing that an understanding of the classics was essential to understanding democracy, the liberty of the individual and the virtue of tolerance. [5] In 1984 she published L’Enseignement en détresse, a book about declining standards in French schools. [6] Her position in the Académie française enabled her to mount a defence of classical languages and literary culture, which she stated “may well be as endangered as the fauna of the oceans or the water of our rivers”. [7]

She was horrified by the 1988 vote to simplify aspects of the French language in primary schools and in 1992 she founded an Association for the Defence of Literary Studies. [8]

In 1995, she obtained Greek nationality and in 2000 was named as an Ambassador of Hellenism by the Greek government. A one-time president of the Association Guillaume Budé, she remained an honorary president until her death at a hospital in Boulogne-Billancourt at the age of 97. [9]

After having only received baptism in 1940, she fully converted to Maronite Catholicism in 2008, aged 95. [10] [11]


De Romilly's two monographs on the ancient Greek historian Thucydides have been credited with "alter[ing] the landscape of Thucydidean scholarship" [12] and "the beginning of a new era". [13] In 2002, Danish classical scholar Anders Holm Rasmussen described her views on Thucydides' ideology of empire as still "one of the most important viewpoints" with which modern scholars can engage. [14] Published first in 1956, her work Histoire et raison chez Thucydide is still in print in the original French today, and was translated into English as The Mind of Thucydides after her death. [15] [16] De Romilly believed that Thucydides's intelligent, reflective approach held lessons relevant to the Europe of today.

De Romilly also published outside the field of Greek historiography. In recent years, the value of her work Time in Greek Tragedy has been recognized by scholars working not only on Greek drama but also on Aristotle's metaphysics of time. [17] [18]

In 2016, Rosie Wyles and Edith Hall edited a volume called Women Classical Scholars: Unsealing the Fountain from the Renaissance to Jacqueline de Romilly, a history of pioneering women born between the Renaissance and 1913 who played significant roles in the history of classical scholarship. [19]

Honours and awards

Jacqueline-de-Romilly Square, (Paris) Entree Ecole polytechnique.JPG
Jacqueline-de-Romilly Square, (Paris)

Personal life

De Romilly's father, a philosophy professor, was killed in action in the First World War when De Romilly was only one year old. Her mother was a novelist who published under the name Jeanne Maxime-David.

In 1940 she married Michel de Romilly, a marriage that ended in divorce in the 1970s. [22]

Works published in English translation

De Romilly's work was largely published in French, but some of her works were written in or translated into English: [23]



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  1. "French Scholar Jacqueline de Romilly Dies at 97" Los Angeles Times 20 December 2010
  2. Webb, Ruth (2016). "Jacqueline de Romilly". In Wyles & Hall (ed.). Women classical scholars : unsealing the fountain from the Renaissance to Jacqueline de Romilly'. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 377. ISBN   9780198725206.
  3. "D’origine juive, elle est suspendue de ses fonctions par le régime de Vichy en 1941."
  4. Munn, Mark (2002). The School of History: Athens in the Age of Socrates. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press. p. xi. ISBN   9780520236851.
  5. "Jacqueline de Romilly". 2011-01-27. ISSN   0307-1235 . Retrieved 2019-08-09.
  6. "L'Enseignement en détresse (1984)". www.samuelhuet.com. Retrieved 2019-08-09.
  7. "Jacqueline de Romilly". 2011-01-27. ISSN   0307-1235 . Retrieved 2019-08-09.
  8. "Jacqueline de Romilly". 2011-01-27. ISSN   0307-1235 . Retrieved 2019-08-09.
  9. "Jacqueline de Romilly, helléniste et académicienne, est morte". Le Monde. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
  10. "Dossier. Jacqueline de Romilly, une Athénienne au XXe siècle". La Croix. Archived from the original on December 24, 2010. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  11. "Réaction du P. Mansour Labaky au décès de Jacqueline de Romilly". La Croix. Archived from the original on 24 December 2010. Retrieved 20 December 2010.
  12. Lee, Christine (20 March 2014). "(J.) De Romilly The Mind of Thucydides. Translated by Elizabeth Trapnell Rawlings. Edited and with an introduction by Hunter R. Rawlings III and Jeffrey S. Rusten. Pp. xx?+?195. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2012 (originally published as Histoire et raison chez Thucydide, 1956). Cased, US$35" . The Classical Review. 64 (01): 44. doi:10.1017/S0009840X13002266. ISBN   978-0-8014-5063-1.
  13. Rijksbaron, Albert (2011). "Introduction". In Lalot; Rijksbaron; Jacquinod; Buijs (eds.). The historical present in Thucydides: semantics and narrative function'. Leiden: Brill. p. 1.
  14. Holm Rasmussen, Anders (2002). "Thucydides' Conception of the Peloponnesian War I. Imperialism". Classica et Mediaevalia. 52: 85.
  15. "The Mind of Thucydides'". Cornell University Press (blurb).
  16. http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2013/2013-04-53.html
  17. Laurent, Régis (2015). An introduction to Aristotle's metaphysics of time : historical research into the mythological and astronomical conceptions that preceded Aristotle's philosophy. Paris: Villegagnons-Plaisance Editions. p. 53. ISBN   9782953384611.
  18. Magnus, Erica W. (2016). "Time, Cognition, and Attic Performance: Tracing a New Approach to Theatre History's "Vexing Question"". In Gross, S.; Ostovich, S. (eds.). Time and Trace: Multidisciplinary Investigations of Temporality. Leiden: Brill.
  19. Wyles, Rosie; Hall, Edith, eds. (2016-10-27). Women Classical Scholars: Unsealing the Fountain from the Renaissance to Jacqueline de Romilly. Classical Presences. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN   9780198725206.
  20. "Reply to a parliamentary question" (pdf) (in German). p. 626. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
  21. "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter D" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 25 July 2014.
  22. "Jacqueline de Romilly". 2011-01-27. ISSN   0307-1235 . Retrieved 2019-08-09.
  23. Compiled from L'Année Philologique