Ahdaf Soueif has published a brief discussion of the reasons for her recent resignation from the board of trustees of the British Museum. I think she makes some very important points about the role of encyclopedic museums in modern society, and I highly recommend reading her piece.
Last night I received the sad news that Professor Matthew Trundle of the University of Auckland died a few days ago from leukemia. I first encountered his scholarship on Greek mercenaries when I was writing my ANS Summer Seminar paper. One of the topics I dealt with was whether or not imitation Athenian tetradrachms were struck in order to pay Greek mercenaries, which is the standard. In his handy and concise Greek Mercenaries, Matt makes a key point, namely that mercenaries were generally in no position to make demands of their paymasters, and were thus grateful to receive payment in any form. (Incidentally, this question has been given a definitive treatment by Peter van Alfen in the Revue belge de numismatique 2011.)
Armed with this crucial tidbit I made my argument about the role of coinage in the political economy of Late Period Egypt, and in the fall of 2011 I presented it at my first specialized international conference, which took place at Macquarie University. And that’s when I met Matthew in person. He was very friendly and supportive, and we had some interesting conversations about coinage and social history in the ancient world.
Several years later I received an email advertising a talk he was giving at the Classical Studies department at Michigan. When I turned up for the talk he immediately greeted me warmly, as if it had only been a few weeks since the Macquarie conference, not years. Over the few weeks that he spent in Ann Arbor (I don’t even remember why he was there) we went to the bar several times (where he picked up many tabs), and we had wonderful wide-ranging discussions, and not only on academic topics. He really liked American football, for example. And I wasn’t the only one — he befriended several other Michigan students during his brief stay there. He was good at making people feel welcome, even though he was far from home.
I can’t claim to have known him especially well. But I enjoyed his company and his intellect a great deal, and I very much appreciated the way he treated me and my fellow grad students like colleagues. I am very sad that I won’t run into him again at another conference or on another university campus. The field has lost one of the people who helped to make it human, and not solely academic.