The American School of Classical Studies at Athens is pleased to announce a room in Loring Hall in memory of W. Kendrick Pritchett, Professor of Greek at the University of California at Berkeley. The room, situated on the first floor of the Annex, is a gift from William T. (Rob) Loomis, President of the School’s Trustees.
Pritchett was one of the most prolific and innovative classical scholars of the twentieth century. He published 29 books and over 100 articles and reviews on a wide range of topics, including not only major works on Greek history, epigraphy, and topography, but also important contributions on grammar, religion, and political institutions.
In recalling Pritchett, Rob Loomis said, “My personal contact with him was limited to several evenings in which we savored a wine of his choosing, but I shall never forget his Southern manners and accent, his sense of humor, and his spirited commentary on a wide range of topics, both ancient and modern. His personality was also on vivid display in his many publications, where he established himself as a world authority on Greek epigraphy, topography, military science and practice, and the Athenian calendar. He approached problems in all of those fields from a solid foundation as an impeccable philologist who had mastered all of the relevant scholarship extending back to the Renaissance. I hope that, when students walk into the Pritchett Room and examine its scrapbook, they will become aware of the range and quality of his scholarly achievements and will be inspired to make their own contributions to our knowledge of ancient Greece.”
On many of his topographical investigations, Pritchett was accompanied by John McK. Camp II, emeritus Mellon Professor and Director of the School’s Agora Excavations, who recalled him as follows: "Pritchett regarded himself as a historian and his core idea was straightforward: the best way of assessing our ancient sources is to check their accounts of the topography. If the description and location of the mountains, passes, rivers, sites, and distances are reliable, then perhaps that source is more trustworthy than others. If he did not invent it, Pritchett certainly mastered the concept of one-man topography, in stark contrast to the large teams of personnel assembled for many survey projects. For five decades he spent eleven months of the year researching in the library at Berkeley, and one month walking the countryside, assessing ancient accounts and later commentaries. A student or colleague would usually accompany him, and we were blessed with the richest possible seminar on the landscape of Greece.”
ABOUT W. KENDRICK PRITCHETT
William Kendrick Pritchett was born in 1909 in Atlanta, Georgia, where he attended a public high school that gave him “four years of Latin and three of Greek.” He received his A.B. from Davidson College in 1929, his A.M. from Duke University in 1930, and his Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University in 1942.
Although he had received American School appointments as Edward Capps Fellow (1940/1) and Instructor in Epigraphy (1942–1946), World War II prevented him from actually getting to Greece until 1951. By then he had published 3 books and 20 articles and reviews on Greek chronology and epigraphy and had joined the Classics Department at the University of California at Berkeley, where he rose to become Professor of Greek, Chairman of the Department, and founding father of the Graduate Group in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology.
During his time at Berkeley, Pritchett spent five sabbatical years at the American School (twice as Annual Professor), producing 9 more books and 75 articles and reviews. But his most productive period came after his retirement in 1976, when he was able to come to Greece almost every year, resulting in 17 books and 13 articles—for a total scholarly output that is unlikely to be equaled by any other American classicist.
Pritchett is best known for his five volumes on The Greek State at War and his eight-volume Studies in Ancient Greek Topography, which have significantly influenced the choice of sites visited by American School students. But he is also remembered for his wide-ranging work on Greek inscriptions (including his meticulous publication of the ten Attic Stelai, which recorded the public auction of the confiscated properties of Alcibiades and his associates), on Greek historians (particularly Herodotos and Thucydides), on the Athenian calendar, and more generally as a combative scholar who flourished in the rough and tumble of scholarly debate.
Pritchett was elected an honorary Fellow of the British Academy, the Royal Irish Academy, and the German Archaeological Institute. In 1976 his The Greek State at War, Part II was awarded the Charles J. Goodwin Award of Merit by the American Philological Association, and in 1987 he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Davidson College.
Pritchett died in 2007 at the age of 98.