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12/19/2010

French scholar Jacqueline de Romilly dies at 97

December 19, 2010 | 10:18 am

French scholar Jacqueline de Romilly, a specialist on ancient Greece, a prolific writer and one of the first women to join the prestigious Academie Francaise, has died. She was 97.

Romilly died Saturday at a hospital in the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt, said her publisher, Bernard de Fallois.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Romilly "a great humanist whose voice we will miss." The scholar was known for her works on ancient Greek literature, tragedy and thought. She wrote several books on ancient historian Thucydides.

At age 91, Romilly told French magazine Lire that she had spent more time with "Pericles and Aeschylus than with my contemporaries. They fill my life, from morning to night."

Romilly was the first woman to teach at the College de France. In 1988, she became the second woman to join the Academie Francaise, the institution that safeguards the French language, after writer Marguerite Yourcenar.

"I had the luck of being part of a generation where women could get up on the podium for the first time, where the gates opened at last," she told Le Point magazine in 2007.

Romilly was born Jacqueline David in Chartres, southwest of Paris, in 1913. Her mother was Jeanne Malvoisin, an author, and her father was Maxime David, a philosophy professor who was killed during World War I.

She began teaching in high schools in the 1930s. Because her father was Jewish, she was forced to stop teaching during World War II, when France's Vichy regime collaborated with the Nazi occupiers. After the war, she taught at the University of Lille and the Sorbonne before joining the College de France in 1973.

In her later years, Romilly defended the study of the classics and often spoke and wrote about the importance of education. In 1995, she was given Greek nationality. Among her many honors, she held a Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor from the French government.

Her marriage to Michel Worms de Romilly ended in divorce.

--Associated Press

 

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