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French scholar of ancient Greece Romilly dies at 97

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-12-19

French scholar Jacqueline de Romilly, an expert on ancient Greece who in 1988 became only the second woman to enter the Académie Française, died Saturday aged 97. President Nicolas Sarkozy called her "a great humanist whose voice we will miss".

AFP - The distinguished French classical scholar Jacqueline de Romilly, who was only the second woman to enter the elite Academie Francaise, has died aged 97, her publisher Bernard de Fallois said Sunday.

What is the AcadÉmie FranÇaise?

The Académie Française was given official status by Cardinal Richelieu in 1639.

It has always been essentially a linguistic jury whose role it is to make decisions on how French should be used, with the aim of making the language "pure, eloquent, and capable of dealing with Art and Science".

There are 40 members, elected by their peers and who hold the position for life. Becoming one of the “immortals”, as its members are known, is considered one of France’s highest intellectual honours.

Members have included Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Eugène Ionesco, Joseph Kessel, and Claude Lévi-Strauss. Simone Veil became only the sixth female member in 2010.

“Immortals” wear a uniform that includes a ceremonial sword as well as the French national motto “Liberté, Egalité, Fraterité” and the European Union's, “United in Diversity”.
 

De Romilly, who died on Saturday, was a philologist and expert on the civilisation and language of ancient Greece, who over a period of 60 years wrote a large body of work.

She was the first woman to be nominated to the prestigious College de France, a research and teaching institution in Paris, and was elected to the Academie Francaise in 1988, only the second woman after the writer Marguerite Yourcenar.

A foreign guest member of the Athens Academy, she obtained Greek nationality in 1995 and was named ambassador of Hellenism by the Greek government. As well as being an academic, she also wrote fiction.

"It is a real loss for our country," permanent secretary of the Academie Francaise Helene Carrere said on French radio France info on Sunday.

"She is a woman who devoted her entire life to Greek language and culture because she considered it an education in the comprehension of the liberty of the individual and the importance of democracy," she said.

"She suffered enormously to see the study of Greek decline, that was a source of great distress to her," she added, saying that the best way to honour her memory would be "to give greater importance to the Greek language, for which she was our country's greatest advocate".

 

Date created : 2010-12-19

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