• Date of Birth: November 7, 1939
  • Born City: Oakland
  • Born State/Country: CA
  • Parents: Mario Simone, a chef, & Pierina Giuseppina Cassaleggio V.
  • Date of Death: November 19, 2021
  • Death City: Michigan City
  • Death State/Country: IN
  • Married: Evelyn Moore, January 3, 2004
  • Education:

    A.B. (summa cum laude) Columbia, 1961; Ph.D., 1966; hon. Woodrow Wilson Fellow, 1961-2; Marshall Scholar (Oxford), 1961-3; B.A. Oxford (first class honours), 1961; M.A., 1967

  • Dissertation:

    “Studies in Aristophanes’ Knights” (Columbia, 1966).

  • Professional Experience:

    Instr. Columbia, 1964-7; asst. prof., 1967-71; acting co-chair, Columbia University Seminar in Classical Civilization, 1967, 1871, 1973-4; co-chair, 1974-5; asst. prof. Hunter College (CUNY), 1971-4; asso. prof., 1974-5; asso. prof., U. of Illinois at Chicago Circle, 1975-2003; chair, dept. classics, 1975-7; interim dir. grad. Studies, 2000-1, 2002-3; prof., 2003.

  • Publications:

    “The Authenticity and Relevance of Propertius 2:14.29-32,” CP 57 (1962) 236-8; “The New Fragments of Euripides’ Oedipus,” GRBS 5 (1964) 43-55; “The Unity and Historical Occasion of Horace, Carm. 1.7,” CP 61 (1966) 168-75; “Babrius 143.1 Perry,” CR n.s. 18 (1968) 149; “Four Notes on the Text of Babrius,” CP 64 (1969) 154-61; “An Alleged Paraphrase of Babrius,” GRBS 11 (1970) 49-52; “Aristophanes’ Wasps: The Relevance of the Final Scenes,” GRBS 12 (1971) 335-51; “Babrius 110.3-4,” Philologus 117 (1973) 140-1; “The Manipulation of Theme and Action in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata,” GRBS 14 (1973) 369-80; “Aeschylus, Frag. 223aq.1M: a Note on Metrical Usage,” Philologus 118 (1974) 158-9; “A New Manuscript of Babrius: Fact or Fable?,” ICS 2 (1977) 175-83; “New Non-Evidence for the Name of Babrius,” Emerita 48 (1980) 1-3; “Another Forgery from the Pen of Mynas? (Paris. Suppl. Gr. 1245),” Corolla Londoniensis (Amsterdam: 1981) 113-26; “The First Prologue of Babrius: Lines 14-16,” ICS 7 1982) 233-8; “ “Babrius and the Byzantine Fable,” in XXXes Entretiens sur l’antiquité Classique: la fable, ed. O. Reverdin (Vandoeuvres: Fondation Hardt, 1984) 197-244; “Gladstone and the Early Reception of Schliemann in England,” in Heinrich Schliemann nach hundert Jahren, ed. W.M. Calder III & J. Cobet (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1990) 415-30; “Seventy Years before The Golden Bough: George Grote’s Unpublished ‘Essay on Magick’  in The Cambridge Ritualists Reconsidered, ed. W.M. Calder III, Illinois Classical Studies  Suppl. 2 (1991) 263-74; “Schliemann and Gladstone: New Light from Unpublished Documents,” in Heinrich Schliemann: Grundlagen und Ergebnisse moderner Archaeologie 100 Jahre nach Schliemanns Tod, ed. J. Hermann (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1992) 73-6; Alexander Turyn,” Biographical Dictionary of North American Classicists, ed. W.W. Briggs, Jr. (Westport, CT & London: Greenwood, 1994) 654-6; “Babrius Fab. 78: a New MS,” ICS 19 (1994) 205-8; “Babrius,” Ancient Greek AuthorsDictionary of Literary Biography 176, ed. W.W. Briggs, Jr. (Detroit, Washington & London: Gale, 1997) 85-8; “George Grote and James Mill: How to Write History,” in George Grote Reconsidered, ed. W.M. Calder III & S. Trzaskoma (Hildesheim: Olms, 1996) 59-74; “Ben Edwin Perry,” American National Biography (New York & Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1999) 17:361-2; “Alexander Turyn,” American National Biography (New York & Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1999) 22:2-3; Babrius’ Mythiambi: Notes on the Constitution of the Text. Spudasmata83 Hildesheim: Olms, 2001); Teaching the English Wissenschaft: The Letters of George Cornewall Lewis to Karl Otfried Müller (1828-1839), Spudasmata 83 (Hildesheim: Olms, 2002); “W.E. Gladstone,” “George Cornewall Lewis,” “W.J.M. Starkie,” Dictionary of British Classicists, ed. R.B. Todd (Bristol: Thoemmes, 2004); “The ‘Aesop’ of Ambrose Bierce: a Newly Discovered Source.” CML 26 (2006) 1-7.

  • Notes:

    As a high-school student, Vaio found his language teachers “incomprehensibly incompetent,” so he taught himself Latin and Greek as well as French and Chinese. In college he translated a third of Dante’s Inferno which Gilbert Highet (1906-78) called “beautiful—extraordinarily lively and poetic.” As a senior at Columbia, John Vaio was recognized in the New York Times as “considered the most outstanding classics major in the college in the last decade.” Shortly before he graduated first in his class (with the highest grade average of any student since 1952) and therefore valedictorian, he announced that on College Class Day he would be giving the valedictory in Latin for the first time since the turn of the century. When some fellow students objected that they and their families would not be able to tell what was being said, the Senior Week Committee resolved the issue by agreeing to hand out English translations to the audience. On the day, June 5, 1961, the New York Times covered the address on its front page. The Daily News entitled its coverage “Et tu, John Vaio?” Following a salute to the officials present, Vaio said, “Perdifficile est enumerare quanta beneficia in nos contulerit haec Academia” (It is very difficult to enumerate the benefits that the College has conferred upon us.). He intended the address to be “in a fairly ornate style,” hoping to reach his audience “if not per verba then per vocem.” He took a swipe at Harvard for ceasing in that year to write their diplomas in Latin (noting that Columbia diplomas would continue to be in Latin) and even included an aphorism in Greek. The full text and translation was given by the New York Times. The story was also covered by Time magazine.

    Vaio’s professional specialization lay in the fabulists, particularly Babrius, but after some fallow years, he revitalized his research program with an interest in the history of classical scholarship under the influence of his teacher, William M. Calder III (1932-2022). He particularly enjoyed working on the career of the historian of Greece George Grote (1794-1871), especially in the context of nineteenth-century British politics. An encyclopedic oenologist and a lover of good food, Vaio was valued by his friends for his exacting taste, his dry humor and his engaging conversation on virtually any topic.

  • Sources:

    “Columbia Revives a Dead Language for a Valedictory,” New York Times (May 22, 1961) 33; Philip Benjamin, “Columbia Valedictorian Salutes Alma Mater in Her Own Tongue,” New York Times (June 6, 1961) 1, 34; “Et Tu, John Vaio,” Daily News (June 6, 1961) 78; “Education: Top of the Heap,” Time (June 16, 1961) . 

  • Author: Ward Briggs