North American Scholar

CARPENTER, Rhys

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1889-08-05
  • Born City: Cotuit
  • Born State/Country: MA
  • Parents: William Henry, provost of Columbia U., & Anna Morgan Douglass C.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1980-01-02
  • Death City: Devon
  • Death State/Country: PA
  • Married: Eleanor Houston Hill, 23 Apr 1918
  • Education:

    AB Columbia, 1908; PhD, 1916; BA Oxford (Balliol Coll) (Rhodes Scholar), 1911; MA, 1914; Litt D Rutgers, 1941; study at ASCSA, 1912-3

  • Professional Experience:

    Instr. to prof. classical archaeology, Bryn Mawr, 1913-55; dir. ASCSA, 1927-32, 1946-8; vis. prof. 1956-7; in charge of class, AAR, 1939-40; Sather prof., University of California, Berkeley, 1945

  • Dissertation:

    “The Ethics of Euripides” (Columbia, 1916); printed as Archives of Philosophy VII (New York, 1916)

  • Publications:

    The Aesthetic Basis of Greek Art of the Fifth and Fourth Centuries BC (New York, 1921); “Dynamic Symmetry, a Criticism,” AJA 25 (1921) 18-36; The Greeks in Spain (London, 1925); Korinthos A Guide to the Excavations and Museum (Athens, 1928); The Sculpture of the Nike Temple Parapet (Cambridge, 1929); “Who Carved the Hermes of Praxiteles?,” AJA 35 (1931) 249-61; “New Material for the West Pediment of the Parthenon,” Hesperia 1 (1932) 1-30; The Humanistic Value of Archeology (Cambridge, 1933); “The Antiquity of the Greek Alphabet,” AJA 37 (1933) 8-29; “The Lost Statues of the East Pediment of the Parthenon,” Hesperia 2 (1933) 1-88; “Early Ionian Writing,” AJP 56 (1935) 291-301; Corinth III ii The Defenses of Acrocorinth and the Lower Town with A Bon & A W Parsons (Athens, 1936); “The Greek Alphabet Again,” AJA 42 (1938) 58-69; Art: A Bryn Mawr Symposium (Bryn Mawr, 1940); Observations on Familiar Statuary in Rome Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, XVIII (Rome, 1941); “The Alphabet in Italy,” AJA 49 (1945) 452-464; “The Identity of the Ruler,” AJA 49 (1945) 353-57; Folk Tale, Fiction, and Saga in the Homeric Epics, Sather Lectures 20 (Berkeley & Los Angeles, 1946); “The Greek Penetration of the Black Sea,” AJA 52 (1948) 1-10; “Argeiphontes A Suggestion,” AJA 54 (1950) 177-83; “Tradition and Invention in Attic Reliefs,” AJA 54 (1950) 323-36; “A Contribution to the Vergil-Menander Controversy,” Hesperia 20(1951) 34-44; “The Postscripts to the Hermes Controversy,” AJA 58 (1954) 1-12; “A Trans-Saharan Caravan Route in Herodotus,” AJA 60 (1956) 231-42; “Houses Built of Salt,” AJA 61 (1957) 167-77; “Phoenicians in the West,” AJA 62 (1958) 35-53; Greek Sculpture: A Critical Review (Chicago, 1960); Greek Art: A Study of the Formal Evolution of Style (Philadelphia, 1962); Art and Archeology, with J.S. Ackerman (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1963); Beyond the Pillars of Heracles (New York, 1966); Discontinuity in Greek Civilization (Cambridge, 1966); The Architects of the Parthenon (Baltimore, 1970)

  • Notes:

    A poet in his youth, an aesthetician to the last, and always an ardent student of Greek archaeology and literature, Rhys Carpenter initiated great and originative changes in all the many fields of his interest by the very breadth of his view and the depth of his understanding. Happily ignoring disciplinary boundaries, he imported into classical purviews new methods and showed the ways in which light from other sources could be focused on the dark corners of some particular field. Because of his extraordinary range and creative comprehension he gave to every subject that he touched a stimulus toward new and productive growth. During his year at the American School in Athens, following his Rhodes Scholarship at Balliol, he began to find in the study of archaeology a way of seeing from the inside, as it were, the many-sided genius of the Greeks. In his first archaeological publication (1921) his induction of general aesthetic principles from an examination of Greek sculpture and architecture showed the kind of originality that was to characterize all his work in a variety of fields. At this same time he entered the lists against the stylish but improbable theory of dynamic symmetry as a characteristic of Greek vases, wielding his weighty arguments of practicality and aesthetics with devastating effect. Returning to Bryn Mawr from Athens in 1932, he almost singlehandedly turned the trend of scholarly opinion from a very early dating of the Greek alphabet in the 11th century B.C. to the now generally accepted 8th-century date. Similarly, a series of articles on the Parthenon pediments broke new ground in both the understanding of pedimental composition and the recognition of sculptural styles. His work on Homer expanded in various directions from his Sather Lectures, with new insights in the uses of myth and into ancient views of Mediterranean geography. The years after his retirement were perhaps his most productive. All who were lucky enough to be his students or colleagues remember with intense enjoyment the stimulating contact with a mind that acknowledged no disciplinary boundaries and did not hesitate to show which sacred cows of classical scholarship had feet of clay.

  • Sources:

    Bibliography in Hesperia 38 (1969) 123-32; memoir in APhS Yearbook 1980 (Philadelphia, 1981) 555-60; NYTimes (4 Jan 1980) A15; WhAm 7:99

  • Author: Mabel L. Lang