In memoriam Leslie Threatte, February 1, 1943 – March 25, 2021
It is with great sadness that we received the news that Leslie Threatte (1943–2021) passed away in Athens, Greece, on March 25, 2021. A classical scholar with a firm grasp of linguistics, he was educated at Oberlin College before moving to Harvard to undertake a PhD under the supervision of Sterling Dow. He was a member of the Department of Classics at UC Berkeley from 1970 until his retirement in 2002. During these 32 years, he taught a variety of courses on Greek and Latin at all levels. Together with W. Kendrick Pritchett, Ron Stroud and Sara Aleshire, he played a major role in establishing Berkeley as one of world’s foremost centers of Greek epigraphy. After his retirement, although he kept his house near Berkeley, he spent most of his time in his beloved Athens, which effectively became his second home. He had first visited Athens in 1965 and was the Seymour Fellow at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in 1966–67.
Leslie Threatte’s high status in the history of classical scholarship rests securely on his masterpiece The Grammar of Attic Inscriptions. These two gigantic volumes on phonology and morphology, published in 1980 and 1996 respectively, offered a major boost to the study of Attic epigraphy and remain the single most important treatment of the subject. In the words of Ron Stroud: ″Many a reader, after consulting Threatte’s analysis of a particular grammatical twist or turn, has asked: how did we ever get by with just Meisterhans-Schwyzer’s Grammatik der attischen Inschriften?”
In 2018, the Greek Epigraphic Society organized a three-day international conference in his honor entitled “Attic Fourth-Century Laws and Decrees and the Attic Orators”. The conference was held, appropriately, at the Epigraphical Museum, where Leslie Threatte had spent dozens of hours as a young scholar inspecting numerous Attic inscriptions in his endeavor to decode the mysteries of Attic grammar. Less-known to scholars was his regular participation in informal epigraphical gatherings of friends and colleagues in old Athenian taverns. There, enthusiastic symposiasts would present their latest work on Greek inscriptions, from newly discovered texts to new readings and restorations, before inevitably inviting Leslie to elucidate what appeared to be obscure grammatical puzzles. It was in these merry settings of retsina-imbibing that Leslie would open up and talk about his other passions, including piano.
Leslie Threatte will be missed by Prakash and his numerous friends, former students and colleagues around the world.