North American Scholar

DOWNEY, Robert Emory Glanville

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1908-06-14
  • Born City: Baltimore
  • Born State/Country: MD
  • Parents: Emory Kelly & Katherine Joyce Downey
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1991-12-18
  • Death City: Sacramento
  • Death State/Country: CA
  • Married: Sarah Sawyer Atherton, 9 August 1942.
  • Education:

    A.B. Princeton, 1931; Ph.D., 1934.

  • Professional Experience:

    Member excavation expeditions in Antioch, 1932; asst. Gennadius Library, ASCSA, 1934-35; member, Inst. Adv. Stud., Princeton, 1935-40; librarian, Sch. Fine Arts, Yale, 1940-42; fell. Dumbarton Oaks, res. lib. & coll. of Harvard (Washington), 1945-6; asst. prof, to prof. Byz. lit., 1946-64; bd. scholars, 1953-65; actng libr., 1961-4; prof, history & classical stud. Indiana U., 1964-73; dist. prof. 1973-8; Guggenheim fell. & mem. IAS, 1956-7; Bedell lectr. Kenyon Coll., 1956; vis. lectr. Princeton, 1957-8; guest prof. Princeton Theol. Sem., 1957-9; vis. prof. grad. sch. theol. U. of South, 1960-1, 1964; ed.-in-chief, AJA, 1949-52; vis. lectr. church hist. Va. Theol. Sem., 1962; assoc. sect. Hist. & Lit. Royal Belgian Acad., 1965-91; mng. comm. ASCSA, 1956-64; Semple lectr., 1968.

  • Dissertation:

    “A Study of the Comites Orientis and the Consulares Syriae” (Princeton, 1934); printed (Princeton, 1939).

  • Publications:

    “Greek and Latin Inscriptions” in Antioch-on-the-Orontes 2: The Excavations, 1933-1936, ed. R. Stillwell (Princeton, 1938) 148-65; and Antioch-on-the-Orontes 3: The Excavations 1937-1939, ed. R. Stillwell (Princeton, 1941) 83-115; Procopius vol. 7, trans. B. H. Dewing with the collaboration of Downey, LCL (Cambridge & London, 1940); The Chronicle of John Malalas, ed. with M. Spinka (Chicago, 1940); “Notes on Procopius' De Aedificiis, Book I,” Studies Robinson, 2:719-25; Nikolaus Mesarites, Description of the Church of the Holy Apostles at Constantinople (ed. & trans.) (Philadelphia, 1957); “The Byzantine Church and the Presentness of the Past,” Theology Today 15 (Apr. 1958) 84-99; “The Christian Schools of Palestine; A Chapter in Literary History,” Harvard Library Bulletin 12 (1958) 297-319; “The Claim of Antioch to Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction over Cyprus,” PAPhS 102 (1958) 224-28; “Themistius' First Oration,” GRBS 1 (1958) 49-69; “The Tombs of the Byzantine Emperors at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople,” JHS 79 (1959) 27-51; “Ekphrasis,” Reallexicon für Antike und Christentum 4:922-43; Constantinople in the Age of Justinian (Norman, OK, 1960; repr. 1968); Belisarius, Young General of Byzantium (New York, 1960); History of Antioch in Syria from Seleucus to the Arab Conquest (Princeton, 1961); Antioch in the Age of Theodosius the Great (Norman, 1962); Aristotle, Dean of Early Science (New York, 1962; repr. as Aristotle and Greek Science [London,1964]); Ancient Antioch (Princeton, 1963); Gaza in the Early Sixth Century (Norman, 1963); Stories from Herodotus (New York, 1965); Themistii Orationes quae supersunt, vol. 1, ed. H. Schenkl, completed by Downey (Leipzig, 1965), vols. 2 & 3, ed. with A. F. Norman (Leipzig, 1970, 1974); Justinian and the Imperial Office, Semple Lectures (Cincinnati/ 1968); The Late Roman Empire (New York, 1969; repr. Huntington, NY, 1977); “Aristotle as an Expert on Urban Problems,” Talanta 3 (1971) 56-73.

  • Notes:

    Glanville Downey received a thorough grounding in classics at St. Paul's School in Garden City, Long Island. He owed his Episcopal school to the profound faith that stayed with him all his days and would attract him to Antioch and Byzantium rather than to Athens or Rome. His piety shaped his view of the ancient world. He believed that Constantine saw what Eusebius said he saw. He was at Princeton during the excavations of Antioch, the cradle of gentile Christianity, and from 1932 shared in them. His great teacher was Charles Rufus Morey. He learned too from G. W. Elderkin, A. C. Johnson, David Magie, W. K. Prentice, E. Baldwin Smith, and D. R. Stuart. A severe stutter made lecturing almost impossible and even graduate teaching difficult, but reading and research welcome. This explains his editorial, library, and research positions until his call toIndiana. With great courage he persisted and in good part overcame his handicap. Because teaching was so painful for him, he turned to writing books that taught undergraduates. These are his small volumes on Antioch, on Constantinople in the time of Justinian, on Gaza, and, unexpectedly, on Aristotle, the dean of early science intended for intelligent schoolboys of the sort he had been.His masterpiece remains A History of Antioch in Syria. Paul Petit in Gnomon 34 (1962) 72, called it “indispensable and fundamental for all that concerns the history of Antioch in antiquity ... a mine of information . . . [which] will serve for a long time as an instrument of work and of any profound study.” Downey had published widely in the subject and the literary sources, Libanius, Malalas, and Procopius. One finds profound and careful erudition. He had mastered epigraphy, numismatics, architecture, philology, even Byzantine travelers' reports to create the tale of a great city from its founding in 300 B.C. by Seleucus I until its destruction by the Arabs in 641 A.D. We meet all sorts of people: poets, kings, philosophers, saints, scholars, and martyrs, Hannibal and Origen, Caesar and Paul, Julian and St. Simeon Stylites. Antony and Cleopatra married there. There Germanicus was foully murdered.Antioch led Downey to the Loeb Procopius De aedificiis and to his city's most prolific writer, Libanius. His annotated translations did much to make that neglected author available to scholars. For historical purposes he controlled Greek sources competently. He lacked sufficient expertise in palaeography and in the language to edit them. In an unreflecting moment he agreed to complete for Teubner Heinrich Schenkl's unfinished critical edition of Themistius. Dindorf s incompetent edition faute de mieux had long held the field. The catastrophic weaknesses of Downey's edition were exposed by G. C. Hansen in an annihilating review published in Gnomon 38 (1966) 662-6. The review destroyed Downey. “Vir de litteris Graecis optime meritus, morbo gravissimo oculorum afflictus est” (A. F. Norman, Themistius II [Leipzig, 1970] vii). The affliction was the excuse that allowed him to give up. His scholarly productivity ceased almost entirely. He sold his library. After a long battle with Parkinson's disease, he died in his 84th year.

  • Sources:

    DAS 1982:194; WhAm 1980-1: 913.

  • Author: William M. Calder III