North American Scholar

STARR, Chester Gibbs, Jr.

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1914-10-05
  • Born City: Centralia
  • Born State/Country: MO
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1999-09-22
  • Death City: Ann Arbor
  • Death State/Country: MI
  • Married: Gretchen Daub, 15 July 1940
  • Education:

    A.B. U. of Missouri, 1934; M.A., 1935; LL.D., 1981; Ph.D., Cornell U., 1938; LL.D., U. of Illinois, 1987; St. Michael's Coll., 1992.

  • Professional Experience:

    Asst. prof. to asso. prof. history, U. of Illinois, 1940-53; prof. history 1953-70; chair, div. humanities, 1953-5; chair, dept. history, 1960-1; prof. history, U. Michigan, 1970-85; A.M & H.P. Bentley Professor of History, 1973-85; Hudson prof., 1981-2; fell. AAR 1938-40; Guggenheim fell., 1950-1; 1958-9; fell. Amer. Acad. Arts & Sciences; distinguished, scholars. American Historical Association (1961-7; distinguished. sch., 1991; pres. Assoc, Ancient Historians, 1974-8. 

  • Dissertation:

    "The Roman Imperial Navy to the Age of Diocletian" (Cornell, 1938). 

  • Publications:

    “Subsidization of Athletes,” CJ 31 (1936) 444-5; “Rhodes and Pergamum 201-200 B.C.,” CP 33 (1938) 63-8; “The Ancient Warship,” CP 35 (1940) 353-74; “Vases bequeathed by E. B. Van Deman to the American Academy in Rome,” with W.T. Avery & F. Blank, MAAR 17 (1940) 57-65; The Roman Imperial Navy 31 B.C.-A.D. 324  (Ithaca: Cornell U. Press, 1941; 2nd ed. Cambridge: Heffer, 1960; London: Lowe & Brydine, 1960; 3rd ed., Chicago: Ares Publishers, 1993). REVS : Latomus XXI 1962 207-210 de Saint-Denis | CB XLII 1965 31 Korfmacher | AHAM XII 1963-1965 145-147 Labastie). REVS: CR 1942 125 Tarn | JRS 1943 110-112 Sherwin-White | AHR XLVII 1942 829 Jones | CW XXXV 1941-1942 136-137 Casson | CPh 1943 148-150 Thomas | CJ XXXIX 1944 304-306 Boak; “Verna,” CP 37 (1942) 314-17; “Coastal Defence in the Roman World,” AJP 64 (1943) 56-70; From Salerno to the AlpsA History of he Fifth Army 1943-1945 (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1948); The Emergence of Rome as a Ruler of the Western World (Ithaca: Cornell U. Press, 1950). REVS: JRS XLIII 1953 165 Adcock; “The Perfect Democracy of the Roman Empire,” AHR 58 (1952-3) 1-16; Civilization and the Caesars. The Intellectual Revolution in the Roman Empire (Ithaca: Cornell U. Press, 1954). REVS: AC XXIV 1955 530-534 Aymard | JHI XVI 1955 281 | Latomus XIV 1955 485-487 Rogers | G&R 2nd Ser. II 1955 137 | AHR LXI 1955-1956 97-98 McDonald | CR N.S. VI 1956 283-285 Balsdon | Athenaeum XXXIV 1956 160-163 Gabba | RPh XXX 1956 160 Ernout | GIF IX 1956 378-380 Forni | Mnemosyne IX 1956 278-280 Thiel | Gnomon XXVIII 1956 69-70 Tibiletti | JRS XLVII 1957 250 Brunt | CPh LII 1957 51-53 Oliver | TG LXIX 1956 246 Thiel | HZ CLXXXII 1956 354-356 Maier | BO XIV 1957 58 den Boer; “Virgil's Acceptance of Octavian,” AJP 76 (1955) 34-46; “The Myth of the Minoan Thalassocracy,” Historia 3 (1955) 282-91; “Aurelius Victor, Historian of Empire,” AHR 61 (1955-6) 574-86; “The Roman Emperor and the King of Ceylon,” CP 51 (1956) 27-30; “How Did Augustus Stop the Roman Revolution?,” CJ 52 (1956) 107-12; Laistner M. L. W., The Intellectual Heritage of the Early Middle Ages. Selected Essays (ed.) (Ithaca: Cornell U. Press, 1957). REVS: RFIC XXXV 1957 330-331 Rostagni | RB LXVII 1957 234 | MA LXIV 1958 151-154 Silvestre | BiblH&R XX 1958 454 Bergier | CHR XLIII 1957-1958 380-381 McGuire | History XLIII 1958 220-221 Wallace-Hadrill | RBPh XXXVI 1958 994-995 Favez | CPh LV 1960 64-65 Boyer | AB LXXVIII 1960 464-466 Grosjean | AHR LXVI 1960-1961 499 Arragon; “The Early Greek City-State,” PP 12 (1957) 97-108; “An Overdose of Slavery,” Journ. of Economic Hist. (1958) 17-32; The Roman Imperial Navy “The History of the Roman Empire 1911-1960,” JRS 50 (1960) 149-60; “The Decline of the Early Greek Kings,” Historia 10 (1961) 129-38; The Origins of Greek Civilization 1100-650 B.C. (New York: Knopf, 1961; London: Cape, 1962; Italian edition:  Le origini della civiltà grecai (Rome: Ed. dell'Ateneo, 1964). REVS: AC XXX 1961 639-641 Delvoye | RPh XXXVII 1963 107-110 Will | RA 1963 II 219-220 Picard | CR XIII 1963 95-97 Cook | CJ LVIII 1963 273 Combellack | Arion II, 1 1963 103-108 Avery | History XLVIII 1963 47 Burn | HZ CXCVI 1963 639-646 Buchholz | REA LXV 1963 149-152 Gallet de Santerre | JHS LXXXIV 1964 197-198 Desborough | RBPh XLII 1964 244 Béquignon | Archeologia XIII 1962 141 Majewski | ZAnt XV 1965-1966 497-500 Stevanović | Zephyrus XVII 1966 152-154 López Eire | JCS X 1962 125-128 Fujinawa [Japanese] | AJA LXVI 1962 212-214 Mellink | CW LV 1962 118 Liebermann | Gnomon XXXIV 1962 201 Raubitschek | CPh LVII 1962 203-204 Robinson | AHR LXVII 1961-1962 381-382 Dow | Athene (Chicago) XXVII, 4 1967 30 Rexine; “Why Did the Greeks Defeat the Persians?,” PP 17 (1962) 321-32; “The Rediscovery of Early Greek History,” The Historian 24,2 (1962) 137-52; “Reflections upon the Problem of Generalization,” in Generalization in the Writing of History, ed. L. Gottschalk et al. (Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1963) 3-18; “La storia greca arcaica. Saggio sul metodo di ricostruzione,” RFIC 92 (1964) 5-23; A History of the Ancient World (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1965; 2nd ed., 1974; Italian trans.  of 2nd ed., Storia del mondo antico, intro by A. La Penna, (Rome: Ed. riuniti, 1977) ). REVS: CJ LX 1965 322-323 MacKendrick | CW LIX 1965 10 McGregor | JR XLVI 1966 337 Lessly | CR XVI 1966 379-380 Murray | NRS L 1966 523-524 | EHR LXXXII 1967 815 Meiggs | AntJ XLVII 1967 116 Hawkes | RPh XLIX 1975 342 Richard ; Hermathena CXX 1976 88 Parke ; CR XXVII 1977 298 Hammond; “The Credibility of Early Spartan History,” Historia 14 (1965) 257-72; “The Awakening of the Greek Historical Spirit,” NC 6 (1966) 1-7; “Homeric Cowards and Heroes,” in The Classical Tradition. Literary and Historical Studies in Honor of H. Caplan, ed. L. Wallach (Ithaca: Cornell U. Press, 1966) 58-63; “Pindar and the Greek Historical Spirit,” Hermes 95 (1967) 393-403; “Naval Activity in Greek Imperial Issues,” SNR 46 (1967) 51-57; The Awakening of the Greek Historical Spirit (New York: Knopf, 1968). REVS: CW LXII 1968 60 Farber | AHR LXXIV 1968 554 Brown | Gymnasium LXXVII 1970 324-325 Erbse | AJPh XCI 1970 357-367 Ostwald; “Ideas of Truth in Early Greece,” PP 23 (1968) 348-59; “Horace and Augustus,” AJP 90 (1969) 58-64; Athenian Coinage, 480-449 B.C. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970). REVS: AHR LXXVII 1972 1421-1422 Hamilton | NC XII 1972 313-317 Kraay | Hermathena CXIII 1972 68-69 Parke | RBN CXVII 1971 312-314 Hackens | CW LXV 1971 97-98 Farber | TLS LXX 1971 429AJPh XCIV 1973 308-310 Eddy | Gymnasium LXXXI 1974 222-223 Klein | RPh XLVIII 1974 132-134 Nicolet | REA LXXV 1973 186 Nony | Mnemosyne XXVII 1974 98-101 Guépin | ArchClass XXIV 1972 179-182 Petrillo Serafin | CPh LXVIII 1973 76-77 Oost | CR XXIII 1973 252-254 Healy | RH XCVII 1973 N° 249 167-168 Will | RA 1973 339-340 Lacroix ; HBN Nr. 24-26 1970-1972 [1977] 305-308 Chantraine | AAHG XXVIII 1975 77-79 Göbl | CJ LXIX 1974 276-277 Moon; The Ancient Romans (New York: Oxford U. Press, 1971). REVS: AHR LXXVII 1972 754-755 Gruen | RPh XLVIII 1974 164 Chanut | JRS LXIV 1974 280 Balsdon | HAnt III 1973 476-477 Pastor Muñoz | BO XXX 1973 282-283 Jonkers | G&R XX 1973 205-206 Wilkes; The Ancient Greeks (New York: Oxford U. Press, 1971). REVS: BIEH V,2 1971 67-68 Demetrius | G&R XVIII 1971 227 Sewter; “The Roman Place in History, I, 1,” in ANRW I,1 (1972) 3-11; Political Intelligence in Classical Greece, Mnemosyne Suppl. 31 (Leiden: Brill, 1974). REVS: CW LXIX 1976 479-480 Connor | ASNP V 1975 1611-1612 Piccirilli | Mnemosyne XXVIII 1975 448-450 Pleket; “Greeks and Persians in the Fourth Century B.C. A Study in Cultural Contacts before Alexander, I,” IA 11 (1975) 39-99; “A Sixth-Century Athenian Tetradrachm Used to Seal a Clay Tablet from Persepolis,” NC 16 (1976) 219-22; The Economic and Social Growth of Early Greece, 800-500 B.C. (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1977). REVS: AHR LXXXIII 1978 694-695 Sealey | CW LXXII 1978 57-58 Grimaldi | TLS LXXVII 1978 957 Humphreys | AJPh XCIX 1978 402-403 Figueira ; JCS XXVII 1979 101-104 Iwata | EMC XXIII 1979 107-109 Alston | Phoenix XXXIII 1979 354-357 Cartledge | VDI 1980 N° 152 179-191 Košelenko | Sic Gymn XXXII 1979 709-717 Citti | ASNP X 1980 1407-1410 Fantasia; “Greeks and Persians in the Fourth Century B.C. A Study in Cultural Contacts before Alexander: II: The Meeting of Two Cultures,” IA 12 (1977) 49-116; “Thucydides on Sea Power,” Mnemosyne 31 (1978) 343-50; “An Evening with the Flute-Girls,” PP 33 (1978) 401-10 Essays on Ancient History. A Selection of Articles and Reviews, ed. A. Ferrill & T. Kelly (Leiden: Brill, 1979). REVS: AC LI 1982 517-518 Verdin | RSA XII 1982 278-281 Martelli; The Beginnings of Imperial Rome. Rome in the Mid-Republic (Ann Arbor: U. of Michigan Press, 1980). REVS: TG XCIV 1981 257-259 den Boer | G&R XXVIII 1981 102 Shotter | AHR LXXXVI 1981 116-117 Bourne | Gnomon LIV 1982 279-282 Rilinger | Gymnasium LXXXIX 1982 564 Burian | Mnemosyne XXXVI 1983 442-446 Pleket; Early Man: Prehistory and the Civilizations of the Ancient Near East (New York: Oxford U. Press, 1980); “New Specimens of Athenian Coinage 480-449 B.C.,” NC 22 (1982) 129-34; The Roman Empire 27 B.C.-A.D. 476. A Study in Survival (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1982). REVS: LEC LI 1983 374 | Gnomon LVII 1985 572-574 Vittinghoff | RSI XCVI 1984 722-727 Sartori; “Minoan Flower Lovers,” The Minoan ThalassocracyMyth and Reality. Proceedings of the Third International Symposium at the Swedish Institute in Athens, 31 May-5 June, 1982, ed. R. Hägg & N. Marinatos, N., Acta Inst. Athen. Regni Sueciae Ser. in 4° 32 (Stockholm, 1984) 9-12; Individual and Community. The Rise of the Polis, 800-500 B.C. (London: Oxford U. Press, 1986) REVS:  CW LXXX 1987 451 Donlan | G&R XXXIV 1987 95 Sherwin-White | HZ CCXLVIII 1989 406-408 Stahl; Past and Future in Ancient History, Publ. of the Assoc. of Ancient Historians I (Lanham, MD: Univ. Press of America, 1987). REVS:  Platon XLI 1989 124-125 Rexine; “Athens and Its Empire,” CJ 83 (1988) 114-23; “Why We Can Write Early Greek History,” EMC 32 (1988) 285-8; “The Birth of History,” PP 44 (1989) 446-62; The Influence of Sea Power on Ancient History (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1989). REVS: JRA II 1989 331-333 Reddé | CR XL 1990 506-507 De Souza | AHR XCV 1990 1503 Casson | CW LXXXIV 1990-1991 402 Culham | CB LXVII 1991 56 Devine | HZ CCLIII 1991 409-410 O. Höckmann | Gnomon LXIV 1992 258-259 D. Kienast | JHS CXII 1992 198-199 Morrison; The Birth of Athenian Democracy: The Assembly in the Fifth-Century B.C. (New York: Oxford U. Press, 1990). REVS: BMCRev II 1991 46-50 Lateiner | CR XLI 1991 388-390 Hornblower | CW LXXXV 1991-1992 117 Rosivach | Ploutarchos VIII, 1 1991-1992 23-24 Marasco | LEC LX 1992 381 H. Leclercq | REG CV 1992 278 J.-N. Corvisier | Gnomon 65 (7) 1993 640-642 K.-W. Welwei | CO 70 1992-1993 70 G. Gottlieb; “Ancient History in the Twentieth Century,” CW 84 (1990-1) 177-85; The Aristocratic Temper of Greek Civilisation (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1992). REVS: AH 22 1992 168-169 J. Maitland | CR 43 1993 448-449 C. Tuplin | G&R 40 1993 97-98 J. Salmon. | Gnomon 66 (7) 1994 628-630 F. Gschnitzer | LEC 62 (1) 1994 92 K. Vanhaegendoren | Athenaeum 82 1994 578-579 L. Boffo; “History and Archaeology in the Early First Millenium B.C.” in Greece between East and West : 10th-8th centuries BC: Papers of the Meeting at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, March 15-16th, 1990, ed. Günter Kopcke & Isabelle Tokumaru (Mainz: von Zabern, 1992) 1-6; Lo spionaggio politico nella Grecia antica, ed. & trans. Corrado Petrocelli; intro. Luciano Canfora (Palermo: Sellerio, 1993). REVS: PPol 1994 27 (3):455 I. Marchi | PPol 1995 28 (2):311-312 F. Ingravalle | RPL 1994 17: 222-224 Pierpaolo Fornaro.

     

  • Notes:

     

    Chester G. Starr was a distinctive and influential figure in American historical studies. He was particularly at home in Italy and Greece, where he embarked upon a highly original research program that wedded a careful reading of classical literature to the evidence of ancient art and archaeology. Starr’s interests ranged across a wide span of ancient history, from pre-Homeric Greece to Achaemenid Persia to the Roman Empire of Constantine and Theodosius. He was remarkably well-read in modern history and sociology. No American historian before him had written so much and so well about such a wide span of ancient history, and (given modern tendencies to specialization) perhaps none ever will.

    Starr published in part to support his wife and four children and he was forthrightly proud of the substantial income he earned by writing. But he was also motivated by a conviction that historians must share the fruits of their research with non-professionals.

     

    Starr was convinced that antiquity could not be adequately apprehended by the study of ancient literature alone; indeed, he believed that too literal acceptance of literary sources had led scholars into error. As a corrective, he championed the historical analysis of physical evidence. His approach to interweaving art and literature was inaugurated in Civilization and the Caesars: The Intellectual Revolution in the Roman Empire (1954), a treatment of the transformation of Roman society that owed a debt to Hegel.

     

    His next, and perhaps greatest book, The Origins of Greek Civilization (1961) was a ground-breaking assessment of the emergence of a distinctively Greek mentality, based upon a close analysis of painted pottery from the Greek Dark Ages (ca. 1100-800 BCE). Starr’s seminal work on this period has recently been rediscovered by a younger generation of archaeologists. He is justly lauded for demolishing the notorious “Nordic thesis” that sought to explain classical Greek culture in racial terms. 

     

    Starr was fascinated by the practice of history writing. In The Awakening of the Greek Historical Spirit (1968) and The Flawed Mirror (1983) he probed the relationship between a radically new social conception of time and the capacity to write an analytic narrative of the past. His concern with proper historical method and practice helped lead to the creation in 1974 of the American Association of Ancient historians; Starr was its first President. In 1987 he authored the Association’s first assessment of the state of the profession as Past and Future in ancient History. When, a decade later, a new survey of the field was called for, it had to be authored by a team of five scholars and was dedicated to Starr.

     

    In person, Chester Starr presented a complex mix of earthy good humor and military formality; of personal vanity and Midwestern lack of pretension. His profound pleasure in the lifelong companionship of his wife, Gretchen (a skilled weaver of art tapestries), was manifest; they drove matching Mercedes Benz sedans and cleared their front walk in the Michigan winter with matching snow-shovels.

     

     

  • Sources:

    WhAm 52 (1998) 4142; Josiah Ober, The Independent (15 October 1999); “Introduction. Chester G. Starr as a Historian,” in The Craft of the Ancient Historian. Essays in Honor of Chester G. Starr, ed. J.W. Eadie & J. Ober (University Press of America: Lanham, MD, 1985: University Press of America, 1985) 1-20; Antonio La Penna, “Introduzione” to Storia del Mondo Antico. (Rome, Editori Riuniti, 1975), iii-xxxii.

  • Author: Josiah Ober