A.B. U. California, 1925; M.A., 1928; Ph.D., 1933.
Instr. class. Cornell, 1931-3; asst. prof. Gk. & Lat. U. Oregon, 1934; instr. to prof. Gk. U. California, Berkeley, 1934-70; ACLS fell., 1935-6; Sterling fell. Yale, 1936-7; sr. fell. AAR, 1951-2; Guggenheim fell., 1958-9; chair class, dept., 1962-6.
“The Cults of the Milesian Didyma” (California, 1934)
“Zeus Didymaeus,” TAPA 63 (1932) 245-55; “Apollo Philesius,” TAPA 64 (1933) 98-108; “Notes on Milesian Inscriptions,” AJP 57 (1936) 55-57; “Peirithoos,” RE 19 (1937), coll. 114-40; “Apollo and Sol in the Latin Poets of the First Century B.C.,” TAPA 70 (1939) 439-55; “Apollo and the Sun-God in Ovid,” AJP 61 (1940) 429-44; “On the Particle iru in Homer,” AJP 62 (1941) 65-79; “Notes on some Didymaean Inscriptions,” Univ. Cal. Publ. Class. Phil. 12 (1942) 165-74; “The Garden of Phoebus,” AJP 64 (1943) 278-85; “The Meaning and Use of Sed Enim,” TAPA 75 (1944) 168-95; “The Sorrows of Ino and of Procne,” TAPA 79 (1948) 125-67; Python: A Study of Delphic Myth and Its Origins (Berkeley & Los Angeles, 1959); John Steinbeck: An Introduction and Interpretation (New York, 1963); “Typhon among the Arimoi,” Studies Caplan, 64-82; “The Gods Invoked in Epic Oaths: Aeneid XII, 175-215,” AJP 89 (1968) 20-38; “The Hero as Athlete,” CSCA 1 (1968) 73-104; “Gods and Men in the Oresteia,” TAPA 102 (1971) 71-109; “Work, Justice, and Hesiod's Five Ages,” CP 69 (1974) 1-16; The Delphic Oracle: Its Responses and Operations with a Catalogue of Responses (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London, 1978); Steinbeck's Unhappy Valley:A Study of The Pastures of Heaven (Berkeley, 1981); Classics at Berkeley: The First Century, 1869-1970 (Berkeley, 1982); “The Building of the City Walls: Troy and Asgard,” Journ. Am. Folklore 96 (1983) 53-63; “The Oracular Response as a Traditional Narrative Theme,” Journ. Folklore Research 20 (1983) 113-20.
Joseph Fontenrose published widely on Greek mythology and religion, especially on the traditions associated with Delphi. He decided upon Greek religion as his special field from the outset. His doctoral dissertation stirred in him a special interest in oracles, and in time his interest was extended to mythology as well. In 1934 he made a decision about his life's scholarly work: he would make the same thorough study of Delphi that he had made of Didyma—oracle, cults, myths, etc. His most important studies on Delphi are Python and The Delphic Oracle. Python begins as the study of the combat of Apollo and the dragon Python—the origin myth of Apollo's shrine at Delphi—and ends up as a massive survey of the Eurasian combat myth. In The Delphic Oracle he catalogues the oracular responses from Delphi and Didyma, relates the supposed dates of the responses to the lifetimes of the writers who first attest them, and shows that most reported oracles are fabrications. He considered these the first two books of a trilogy, but he died before he could write the third, on the cults of Delphi.A socialist, Fontenrose had a keen interest in history and politics, especially in events that affected the working classes, ancient and modern. He was also instrumental in starting a local of the American Federation of Teachers at Berkeley. His publications outside of classics include two studies of the California novelist John Steinbeck.
DAS 1982:166; Fontenrose, 59-61 et passim; WhWh 1966-7:699.
AUTHORWilliam F. Hansen