All Scholars

TAYLOR, Lily Ross

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  • Date of Birth: August 12, 1886
  • Born City: Auburn
  • Born State/Country: AL
  • Parents: William Dana & Mary Forte Ross T.
  • Date of Death: November 18, 1969
  • Death City: Bryn Mawr
  • Death State/Country: PA
  • Education:

    A.B. U. Wisconsin, 1906; Litt.D., 1950; study at AAR, 1909-10; fell. Arch. AAR, 1917, 1919-20; Ph.D. Bryn Mawr, 1912; D.Litt. Wilson Coll., 1944; Mills Coll., 1947; Columbia, 1954; Smith Coll., 1961.

  • Dissertation:

    "The Cults of Ostia" (Bryn Mawr, 1912); printed, Bryn Mawr College Monograph Series II (1912).

  • Professional Experience:

    Reader, Bryn Mawr, 1910-2; instr. to prof. Lat. Vassar, 1912-27; Red Cross work in Italy & Balkans, 1918-9; prof. Lat. Bryn Mawr, 1927-52; chair dept., 1927-42; dean grad. sch., 1942-52; Sather prof., 1946-7; prof.-in-chge. class, sect. AAR, 1934-5, 1952-5; natl. lctr. Phi Beta Kappa, 1956-7; del. Nat. Comm. UNESCO, 1956-8; vis. prof. Lat. Harvard, 1959; Bryn Mawr, 1960-1; U. Wisconsin, 1962-3; Jerome lctr. U. Michigan & AAR, 1964-5; mem. IAS, 1959; pres. APA, 1941-2; trustee, Wellesley Coll., 1943-9; Guggenheim fell., 1952, 1960; Achievement Award Am. Assn. Am. Women, 1952; Goodwin Award, 1962; Cultori di Roma Gold Medal of the City of Rome, 1962; mem. APhS; fell. AAAS; hon. mem. Soc. Promo. Rom. Stud.; corr. fell. British Academy; corr. mem. Pontificia Accademia di Archeologia; Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften.

  • Publications:

    "The Worship of Augustus in Italy in his Lifetime," TAPA 51 (1920) 116-133; "The Altar of Manlius in the Lateran," AJA 25 (1921) 387-395; Local Cults in Etruria, Papers and Monographs of the American Academy in Rome 2 (Rome, 1923); "Horace's Equestrian Career," AJP 46 (1925) 161-70; "Tiberius' Refusals of Divine Honors," TAPA 60 (1929) 87-100; The Divinity of the Roman Emperor, APA Philol. Monogr. 1 (Middletown, CT, 1931); "New Light on the History of the Secular Games," AJP 55 (1934) 101-20; "On the Chronology of Cicero's Letters to Atticus, Book XIII," CP 32 (1937) 228-40; "The Opportunities for Dramatic Performances in the Time of Plautus and Terence," TAPA 68 (1937) 284-304; General Index, An Economic Survey of Ancient Rome, Vols. 1-5, Tenney Frank, gen. ed., with T. R. S. Broughton, A. A. Boyce, et al. (Baltimore, 1940); "Caesar's Early Career," CP 36 (1941) 113-32; "Caesar's Colleagues in the Pontifical College," AJP 63 (1942) 385-412; "The Election of the Pontifex Maximus in the Late Republic," CP 37 (1942) 421-4; "Caesar and the Roman Nobility," TAPA 73 (1942) 1-24; Party Politics in the Age of Caesar, Sather Classical Lectures 22 (Berkeley & Los Angeles, 1949); "The Order of the Two Consuls in the Yearly Lists," with T. R. S. Broughton, MAAR 19 (1949) 1-14; "Degrassi's Edition of the Consular and Triumphal Fasti," CP 45 (1950) 84-95; "New Indications of Augustan Editing in the Capitoline Fasti," CP 46 (1951) 73-80; "On the Chronology of Caesar's First Consulship," AJP 72 (1951) 254-68; "Lucretius on the Roman Theater," in Studies Norwood, 147-55; "Objectives of the Graduate School," Journal of Higher Education 23 (1952) 18-23; "Trebula Sufenas and the Plautii Silvani," MAAR 24 (1956) 9-30; "In Praise of Curiosity," Boston University Graduate Journal 8 (1959) 35-43; The Voting Districts of the Roman Republic: The Thirty-five Urban and Rural Tribes, Papers and Monographs of the American Academy in Rome, 20 (Rome, 1960); "Freedmen and Freeborn in the Epitaphs of Imperial Rome," AJPh 82 (1961) 113-32; "Forerunners of the Gracchi," JRS 52 (1962) 19-27; "Magistrates of 55 B.C. in Cicero's Pro Plancio and Catullus 52," Athenaeum 42 (1964) 12-28; Roman Voting Assemblies from the Hannibalic War to the Dictatorship of Caesar, Jerome Lectures, 8th Series (Ann Arbor, 1966); "Republican and Augustan Writers Enrolled in the Equestrian Centuries," TAPA 99 (1968) 466-86; "The Dating of Major Legislation and Elections in Caesar's First Consulship," Historia 17 (1968) 173-98; "Seating Space in the Roman Senate and the Senatores Pedarii," with R. T. Scott, TAPA 100 (1969) 529-82.

  • Notes:

    Lily Ross Taylor, Professor of Latin at Bryn Mawr College, was a brilliant teacher, scholar, academic administrator, and public servant, who received international recognition for her studies in Roman religion, history, and institutions. She was a person of wide interests, with a gift for friendship, whose unflagging energy and whose vivid and outgoing personality won an immediate response from people of widely varying interests, young and old alike.

    She was born in Auburn, Alabama, on 12 August 1886, of old Southern stock, and retained vivid memories of her childhood there, still having to face problems of the postbellum South. She attended the University of Wisconsin, where her father was Professor of Railway Engineering. A course on Lucretius with Professor M. S. Slaughter (1860-1923) led her to change her major from mathematics to classics, which became the field of her scholarly career. Receiving her A.B. in 1906, she came to Bryn Mawr College and studied Latin literature and Roman history with Professors Arthur Leslie Wheeler (1871-1932) and Tenney Frank (1876-1939). A year (1909-1910) at the American School of Classical Studies in Rome initiated her into the study of Roman topography, antiquities, and religion and aroused heriifelong love of Rome and Italy. Her Ph.D. dissertation on The Cults of Ostia (1912), begun in Rome at the suggestion of Jesse Benedict Carter (1872-1917) and completed at Bryn Mawr under the direction of Tenney Frank, provided a firm beginning for further study of Roman religious institutions and of the people they served.

    Appointed to the faculty of Vassar College (1912-1927), she rose from Instructor to Professor of Latin, in the meantime holding fellowships at the American Academy in Rome (1917, 1919-1920). During and immediately after the First World War she served with the Red Cross in Italy and Yugoslavia. In 1927 she moved to Bryn Mawr as Professor of Latin and chairman of the department, and from 1942 until her retirement in 1952 she was Dean of the graduate school. During this period she returned for a year (1934-1935) to the American Academy as acting Professor in charge of the Classical School, was President of the American Philological Association (1942), was appointed a Trustee of Wellesley College (1943-1949), served during the Second World War as Principal Social Science Analyst in the Office of Strategic Services in Washington (1943-1944), and was Sather Professor of Classics at the University of California at Berkeley (1947).

    Retirement merely initiated a still greater variety of services. She returned for three years (1952-1955) to the American Academy as Professor in charge of the Classical School, was appointed National Lecturer for Phi Beta Kappa (1956-57), delegate to the National Committee of UNESCO (1958-1959), Visiting Professor of Latin at Harvard University (1959), and Member of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton (1959). She was also Visiting Professor of Latin at Bryn Mawr College (1960-1961), Visiting Professor of Classics at the University of Wisconsin (1962-1963), and Jerome Lecturer at the American Academy in Rome and the University of Michigan (1964-1965). She died in a motor accident near her home in Bryn Mawr on 18 November 1969, at the age of eighty-three, in full possession of her physical and intellectual powers, and still an actively productive scholar.

    Many honors expressed the respect and admiration felt for her in this country and abroad. Listed in Life magazine as one of America’s great teachers, she also received from Bryn Mawr College the Lindback Award for distinction in teaching. She was awarded many honorary degrees: D. Litt. from Wilson College, Mills College, The University of Wisconsin, Columbia University, and Smith College. She held Guggenheim Fellowships in 1952 and 1960. She received the Achievement Award from the American Association of University Women (1952), the Goodwin Award of the American Philological Association for her book The Voting Districts of the Roman Republic (1962), and in the same year the award of the Medaglia d’Oro of the Cultori di Roma recognized her achievement in Roman studies. She was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society; Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Honorary Member of the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies; and Corresponding Member of the British Academy, of the Pontificia Accademia di Archeologia, and of the Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften.

    Her published works include seven books, over seventy articles, and more than sixty reviews. As a whole they show a wide range of interests and are witness also to a consistent development, closely connected with the advances in Roman studies in her time. Mommsen’s Römisches Staatsrecht had laid a firm basis for the study of Roman public institutions, and the vast collections of the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum provided a great mass of evidence, official and private, that touched upon the interests and concerns of human beings, great and humble alike, of every class. Her work in Rome and on the cults of Ostia brought her into contact with this evidence at a time when Rodolpho Lanciani(1845-1929), C.K.F. Hülsen (1858-1935), Samuel Ball Platner (1863-1921), and Thomas Ashby (1874-1931) renewed the study of Roman topography and monuments, while Georg Wissowa (1859-1931), William Warde Fowler (1847-1921), and Franz Cumont (1868-1947) were doing the same for the religions and religious rites of Rome and the communities of the Empire. Tenney Frank and Mikhail Rostovtzeff (1870-1952) were soon to direct interest toward social and economic history. These influences, combined with her love of Latin literature (she could recite long passages from Lucretius, Horace, and Virgil from memory) and her enthusiasm for Rome and Italy laid the foundation for a consistent scholarly achievement, which was characterized throughout by an insistent emphasis on how institutions work and how people function in them. She admired Mommsen’s work greatly (the Staatsrecht was the reading she chose when confined for a time in hospital with a broken ankle), but this emphasis places her firmly in the generation of his successors.

    After her study of Ostia, it was natural for her to share in the American Academy’s plan for a series of regional studies of the cults of Italy in ancient times. Her book on Local Cults of Etruria (1923) was in its time a significant contribution to knowledge of that mysterious land and people, most notable perhaps for her personal knowledge of the land, for the careful collection of the evidence, and for the demonstration that in religious matters little that was purely Etruscan survived.

    Meantime, studies of the history and culture of the Hellenistic East were drawing attention to the ideas and the rituals connected with the cult of kings as gods of the state, though with less interest in its appearance in Rome. The problem of the influence of the Hellenistic ruler cult in Rome and the Roman adaptation, processes that became evident with the deification of Caesar and Augustus’ gradual acceptance of worship of himself, had been brought into sharp relief in 1919 by Eduard Meyer (1855-1930) in Caesars Monarchie und das Principat des Pompeius with a full presentation of his controversial view that the acts of Caesar and the honors that he accepted during his dictatorships looked toward establishing him as a divine monarch in Rome. Miss Taylor discussed aspects of the problem in several preliminary articles: “The Worship of Augustus in Italy in his Lifetime” (1920); “The Altar of Manlius in the Lateran” (1921); and “Tiberius’ Refusals of Divine Honors” (1929). Her book The Divinity of the Roman Emperor (1931) arose directly out of this controversy. Accepting Meyer’s thesis (“Caesar,” she wrote, “was the first divine ruler in Rome, and Augustus gave the divinity of the ruler the form under which it was destined to endure for three centuries”), she approached the problem as a study also of Roman background and of stages in the development of the feelings and ideas of the people until Augustus, princeps, as he claimed, of a restored res publica, was deified and enshrined in a public cult. This work was the first comprehensive investigation of the subject that took the whole body of varied evidence into account, and it has been reprinted and kept available as a basic study. But once the cult had become a formal convention, used by courtiers for flattery, and for some emperors a source of delusion, even though it was a symbol of imperial unity and a recognition of the emperor’s providence, Miss Taylor lost interest: “I have no interest,” she said, “in cataloguing the forms of flattery,” and “I abandoned the study of ruler cult when it was in danger of affecting my sanity.”

    Roman religious institutions are so essential to Roman political life that the transition to studies of Roman politics was easily made. She herself was interested all her life in social and political movements, ancient and modern, and in Rome of the late Republic there was besides the dominating figure of Caesar. Hence a series of articles: “Caesar’s Early Career” (1941); “Caesar’s Colleagues in the Pontifical College” (1943); “The Election of the Pontifex Maximus in the Late Republic” (1942), as Caesar had won it in a surprising electoral upset in 63; and “Caesar and the Roman Nobility” (1942), her address as President to the American Philological Association. These were, in effect, preliminary studies for her next major work, Party Politics in the Age of Caesar.

    In the background of this work two factors deserve special mention. The first was the discovery, made independently by her and by Attilio Degrassi (1887-1969), that the Capitoline Fasti, the Augustan lists of the higher magistrates from the beginning of the Republic, and the triumphators, had been displayed on the arch that Augustus erected in the Forum to celebrate the return of the standards captured by the Parthians. These lists, and Degrassi’s splendid publication of them, no less than her own papers, drew special attention to the long parade of names, patricians and plebeians, families ennobled for generations and new men, that represent here, as in Livy’s History, the governing class of the Roman Republic. The second was the better understanding of the composition and relationships of that class attained when Matthias Gelzer (1886-1974), going beyond Mommsen’s (1817-1903) description of political and constitutional forms, asserted that these forms become understandable only through understanding of the society that used them. His discovery that the term nobilis referred only to consuls and descendants of consular families revealed more clearly the meaning of rivalries for office, and helped to create the picture of an aristocratic society in which the winning of support and the attainment of power depended on such personal relationships as amicitia, performance of officia, fides, patrocinium, and clientela, and hospitium (Der Nobilität der römischen Republik, 1912, published in English translation by Robin Seager, 1969). Building on Gelzer’s work, Friedrich Münzer (1868-1942) in Adelsparteien und Adelsfamilien(1920) found evidence of political combinations, often lasting ones, in intermarriage of prominent families and in collegiality or succession in office. He applied these criteria too rigidly, as Gelzer was one of the first to point out, but his work remains important because it is soundly based on the structure of Roman society. Syme’s use of the new approach in The Roman Revolution (1939) provided a convincing, and for its time somber, account of the formation of the personal parties of Pompey, Caesar, and Augustus. In this context, the story of Caesar’s rise to power demanded a fresh analysis, a challenge that Miss Taylor accepted in her Sather Lectures. Robin Seager (b. 1940), in the introduction to his translation of Gelzer’s monograph, cites this work as the one in which “the lessons to be learned from Nobilität were first applied on a large scale in English to the Republic.”

    To this task she brought her skill in recreating the feelings and atmosphere of a time when older structures, though still functioning, were breaking down under the impact of the extension of citizenship to the whole of Italy and of the vast followings of the great military leaders, while political attachments and expediency often clashed with the claims of family solidarity and personal loyalty; and she brought also her insistence on seeing just how things functioned. Some of her contributions may be briefly summarized. An analysis of the complex systems of voting in different assemblies showed more clearly why elections and legislative programs had so little relation to each other. Elections to the higher magistracies continued to take place in the comitia centuriata with personal followings prominent, but without emphasis on programs. Legislation was usually introduced by the tribunes of the plebs, now the most active legislative magistrates, to the tribal assembly of the plebs, where within the tribe one man’s vote was as good as another’s. The campaign for a measure, unlike that for election, consisted largely of speech-making at public meetings (condones). “The popular tribune and his associates,” she wrote, “would declare that this measure would liberate the people from slavery to an oligarchy, and opposing optimates that the popular group was setting up a monarchy.” Modes of opposition and delay, manipulation of the state religion for political purposes, and the use of the courts for personal and political advancement were all freshly interpreted. Against this background she set a historical review of three major contrasts: first, Cato against Pompey, Caesar, and Crassus, who used popular leadership to overcome the Senate; second, the optimates against the dynasts, while they were fomenting divisions that led to the civil war; and third, the political ideals that set Caesarism against Catonism. “My subject in this chapter,” she wrote, “is the ideal of the Republic that became associated with Cato’s name, the conflict of that ideal with Caesarism, and the manner in which Augustus resolved that conflict by laying claim to the republicanism of Cato.” Thus, by using the new approach to Roman social and political problems, and the material provided by prosopography, she made a special contribution to the understanding of the political structures and the modes, propaganda, and ideologies of the Late Republic and the Augustan Age.

    Study of party politics led almost inevitably to a study of the basic component of the Roman assemblies, the territorial tribe, the unit in which every citizen had to be registered. There had been no comprehensive study since the treatise by Wilhelm Kubitschek (1858-1936), Imperium Romanum tributim descriptum, published in 1889, although Plinio Fraccaro (1883-1959) had contributed individual items. Masses of new evidence had become available. The inscription on the bronze tablet from Heba, found in 1947 and published in 1949, showed how tribal groups could be combined to form centuries, while the irregularities in the distribution of the tribes again raised questions regarding their origin and their extension on the map of Italy. In The Voting Districts of the Roman Republic (1960) her detailed knowledge of the land of Italy was combined with her study of practical political forces to produce a full-scale history of the tribes from their origin until the whole of Italy had been registered in them, along with an interpretation of their expansion in terms of political and military history, and a reassessment of the recurrent disputes about the registration of freedmen in the four urban tribes. There is presented the first full list of the senators whose places of origin and whose tribes are known. Extensions of Roman citizenship and changes in the tribal registration of senatorial families appear as responses to changing political forces and needs.

    Roman Voting Assemblies, the Jerome Lectures published in 1966, was also a response to the discovery of new evidence. In the splendid new edition (1960) of La Pianta Marmorea di Roma Antica the Saepta Iulia, the major voting area built by Caesar, and the Diribitorium, where the votes were counted, had been precisely identified, thus making possible a new study of the voting arrangements. At the same time the identification of the Comitium and the Curia at Cosa by analogy threw fresh light on the relation between Comitium, Curia, and Forum in Rome. The inscription on the bronze tablet of Heba had revealed how tribal units could have been combined to form voting centuries in the comitia centuriata and illustrated the working of the lot to determine combinations of units and order of voting. Other details were supplied by the Spanish municipal charters and by scenes on coins. Miss Taylor’s aim was to present, in the light of the new evidence, a precise description of the procedures in the different assemblies as they performed their elective, legislative, and judicial functions. Characteristically, as questions arose she turned to modern analogies. The shape and dimensions of the voting area provided a reason for visiting the British House of Commons in order to see and feel the effect of an oblong space too small to hold all the members. Colleagues at the American Academy in Rome shared amusedly with her the fun of testing the working of the lot by drawing wooden lots from jars of water themselves. Among her contributions are the noting of the distinction between the procedures in public meetings for speeches (condones) and those in the voting itself, the definition of the use and working of the lot, and the demonstration that the plebeian tribal assembly (concilium plebis), presided over by the tribunes of the plebs, remained distinct from the tribal assembly of the people as a whole (comitia tributa), presided over by consuls and praetors. There had not been such a description of the assemblies in action before. She was planning a study of the Roman Senate at the time of her death, but only a preliminary study of “Seating Space in the Roman Senate and the Senatores Pedarii,” prepared with the collaboration of Professor Russell T. Scott, was available for publication.

    A stately series of articles and reviews illustrates the breadth of her interests in literature, history, and education. They range from datings of various letters of Cicero (CP 32 [1937] 228-40; 44 [1949] 217-21), to “The Opportunities for Dramatic Performances in the Time of Plautus and Terence” (1937); “New Indications of Augustan Editing in the Capitoline Fasti” (1951); “On the Chronology of Caesar’s First Consulship” (1951); “Lucretius on the Roman Theater” (1952); “Freedmen and Freeborn in the Epitaphs of Imperial Rome” (1961); “Forerunners of the Gracchi" (1962); and “Republican and Augustan Writers enrolled in the Equestrian Centuries” (1968). On the contemporary scene, “Objectives of the Graduate School (1952) is a statement of her educational creed, and “In Praise of Curiosity” (1959) is a defense of the grant of free play to the desire to know. These, like all the rest of her works, make evident the energy and zest, power of analysis, and combination of knowledge and imagination that made her a great and inspiring teacher for whom teaching and research went hand in hand, supporting each other. “My aim as a teacher,” she often said, “is to make my students feel that they are walking the streets of Rome, and seeing and thinking what Romans saw and thought.” Even in her eighties she could establish immediately a sympathetic and understanding relationship with students and youngscholars, and colleagues from all over the world turned to her for advice and help. Her interest in events of the modern world never flagged, and she eagerly participated in the duties and demands of citizenship.

  • Sources:

    T. Robert S. Broughton, Studi Romani 10 (1962) 369-72; idem, The Year Book of the American Philosophical Society (1970) 172-79; idem, Gnomon 42 (1970) 734-35; idem, "Lily Ross Taylor," Classical Scholarship: A Biographical Encyclopedia, ed. Ward W. Briggs, Jr. & William M. Calder III (New York, 1990), 454-61; K. von Fritz, Jahrb. Bay. Akad. Wiss. (1971) 1-4; Giancarlo Susini, RPAA 42 (1969-70) 41-5; WhAm 5:714.Bibliography: Lily Ross Taylor. A Bibliography. Compiled for the celebration of her eightieth birthday, 12 August 1966 (Bryn Mawr, 1966).

  • Author: T. Robert S. Broughton