AMT: I am Alice-Mary Talbot, Director of Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, and I have the great pleasure of interviewing Professor Ihor Ševčenko on May 6, 2008, about his relationships with Dumbarton Oaks over many decades. Ihor, next year it will be sixty years since you arrived in America and first came to Dumbarton Oaks. That was 1949, and I’d like to begin by asking you how you first heard about Dumbarton Oaks and how you happened to be offered a fellowship here.
IS: Oral history is treacherous. I will first tell you how I remember it. And then if I have a chance, I will tell you what others wrote and printed about the state of it. To my best recollection, I heard about Dumbarton Oaks from Peter Topping, a librarian here. Peter Topping at that time was a Russian [sic] medievalist working on these Assises de Romanie, or some legal text, connected with the Crusaders, and he got a Fulbright to Brussels. And he also was a frequent guest, but not a daily guest, to Grégoire’s seminar – Henri Grégoire having a professorship at the Université Libre de Bruxelles – having a seminar close to the library, Royal Library of Belgium. And this was called Petite Rue de Musée 5 – neither the Petite Rue nor number 5 exist anymore; neither Grégoire nor Peter Topping exist anymore, so really oral history should be now very important. The short answer is I heard about Dumbarton Oaks from Topping. And Topping, as many people in that stage of my life, noticed me. And he was, to my recollection, the first who said that that was an interesting place and that I should apply. Why should he have said it in ’48? Eh, I’ll explain when it comes to your question about why did you come to the United States and not to Patagonia, and so on. But I think the decisive moment of my coming, which brought about my coming here, was not connected with the fact that I knew that there was a Dumbarton Oaks and that I should apply for it. This event was 1948. There was a World Byzantine Congress with two venues, one in Paris and one in Brussels. And it was in Brussels that, you know, I kind of ran around with Grégoire, that I was connected with the Congress. Parenthetically, I will tell you something connected with this Congress and with Grégoire, which is perhaps of some relevance to your question. I wanted to give a paper. Why not? And I went to Grégoire and I told him, “I have a general topic, which I’ve forgot by now, and I have a very concrete topic. Which one should I choose?” And the answer was: “Choose the general topic. You don’t have to be right. If you choose a precise topic, you must be right.” I chose the precise topic. And without knowing it, I made a decision for my whole life – although as you’ll know tomorrow, I do essays which are very general. So – that much about the choice of topic for the Congress. The Congress was a small affair. First of all because many people who went to Paris did not go on to Brussels, and so on, and secondly, because as you know, the practitioners of this field grew in number. Notice the diplomatic way in which I tell you the truth. I went to my lecture – it was a twenty-minute lecture – I had something new to say – it was published. It was my first – I think – Byzantine article, or the second. That can be checked, because this volume with a critique of my “Two varieties” is in my Festschrift, and the Festschrift has bibliographies. And there were in the audience – which numbered perhaps twenty, twenty-five people – there were three persons whom I remember pretty well. One was a man of huge size. Another was a small lady with a hat with an enormous brim. And the third I cannot describe, but I gather was Milton Anastos. I suppose that I had no reason to ask the questions – they come; everybody comes. I attribute my success in applying to Dumbarton Oaks to the fact that these people came and found that this man gave a good paper. Now why they came, this I don’t know.
AMT: Was the big man Robert Blake?
IS: Yes. This was Robert Pierpont Blake. A long story with him: he died in the spring of ’50 – Blake. But there’s a long story with his widow, you know, who liked me – she was a Kuban Cossack woman.
AMT: And who was the woman? Sirarpie?
IS: Yeah, Sirarpie der Nersessian. And the link there was of course that we spoke French. With Pierpont Blake I don’t remember speaking at all. But since he spent some time in St. Petersburg studying with Marr, the great funny linguist, he spoke Russian. And since he was married to a Russian, it was clear. And with Milton Anastos I spoke English – such English as I could bring forth. And he gave me the proofs of his article on Pletho’s calendar. It was a very long article. And I must have really – beginning to put two and two together, because I made a point of reading this article and being on my best behavior.
AMT: So it worked.
IS: Sorry – I’m too long. Now we come to the documentation. In my Festschrift – first Festschrift – is an article of Charanis about Byzantine studies in the last 30 years – yes? And he speaks of many things, including people who influenced him and his own peregrinations. You’ll be as surprised as I was that in 1982, recalling the late ’40s, and recalling his stay in Brussels, which I of course remember, he said later that the person who influenced him the most in the Byzantine sense was Cyril Mango. And then he said, “And there also was Ševčenko, whom I helped to get into Dumbarton Oaks.” Well, he didn’t. I had no idea about it – and whether it is true or not. So, I think that would be the answer to your first question.
AMT: So you came here – you were working on early Paleologan cultural/intellectual history at that point? What had you done your dissertation on at Louvain?
IS: I wrote it on the polemic between Choumnos and Metochites –
AMT: – so, that’s what eventually turned into your book? So, you worked on that during that year. You continued to work on it…or, others?
IS: Hmmm. Of course I prepared it for publication. Publication occurred in ’62, I remember. It’s not my problem at that time, but the problem of the death of Grégoire, which didn’t prevent my appearing in the series of – I don’t know – corpus or the Byzantium series in which Ostrogorsky appears, Vasiliev appears. I was lucky in that sense.
AMT: Now I think you will probably be the only Fellow who was here in the ’40s whom we will be interviewing.
IS: Ok, so let me –
AMT: – and therefore I do want to ask you some specific things about what it was like to be a Fellow in these early post-war years at Dumbarton Oaks.
IS: Well we will – I will have to view things with my eyes. And my eyes had to be, were opened to America. I came to America on a “Liberty ship” – you remember what it is, they were mass-produced ships for the war. Liberty is the word – quick transport of soldiers and so on. And they were then used also for transporting grain and such things and they had place for twelve passengers.
AMT: Only twelve?
IS: Yes. I got in, a rather young Romanian got in – we will not pursue it – because it’s for memoirs and not for answering your question. And after the shock of getting on the dock, after the shock of a very rough voyage, you know, vomiting and so on, because it was a ship not for passengers, I spent three days in New York and – well that was under the Ukrainian milieu; doesn’t matter for us. And then traveled by train and was absolutely fantastically impressed by those refineries of Newark and New Jersey. I never saw so many burning – eh, what is it? – flames growing out of nowhere. Then I came to Dumbarton Oaks, which for a long time gave me a false impression of America. There was no rough handling by the dock hands and so on. No brutality of the – what’s the word? – Ellis Island immigration. There was an evening in which I made those steps, looked up, and there was Dvornik standing, whereupon we started speaking Czech, everything was okay (everything was not okay later), but there was a feeling that of course that America is a very interesting country, but where are the Americans, you see? The later contacts were, I think – second contact was after spending the night in excellent conditions, I thought, you know, one of those narrow rooms, number 7, maybe.
AMT: You were staying in this building in the summer?
IS: Yeah, yeah. As even until ’73, when I left, Fellows were staying, I mean, many of them lived there – of course, no Dvornik, because there was no faculty by that time. My second contact with Dumbarton Oaks – official Dumbarton Oaks – was a visit by – with Jack Thacher. It was a rather interesting visit. You probably have only a vague recollection or none of Jack Thacher.
AMT: No, I remember Jack Thacher.
IS: You remember Jack Thacher. So, I don’t have to go into details. I’ll simply say what struck me most at this first meeting – tell you what struck me most – it was his sentence, “I am not a scholar.” And I misinterpreted this sentence, of course. But this was the beginning of this painful process of superficial acculturation which never became complete. So I – in other words – I didn’t know how to interpret a very simple sentence in a language which I thought I knew, yes? I don’t think it’s necessary to pursue; it’s very much of interest, but if you give me two hours…I better stop. Then there was the dining room – the one which is not there. There was – and other Fellows – everybody lived here. By Fellows I mean Junior Fellows – which I never was. Very interesting – they made me “Fellow.” And this was where there were lunches and dinners for a few people who were inmates of the house, and of course, the service was there. You were served as if it were an upscale – I don’t know – restaurant or hotel. This was also – since I tell you everything from my point of view – the first time of my having made my first pun in English. And it shows you about this simultaneity of inventions of discovering the wheel. My first pun was “I scream for ice cream.” I thought it was such a wonderful invention. And that’s why I remember it. Now the inmates of this place varied. Although they were always the same – they varied in quality and in my reactions. There was Vasiliev – Vasiliev lived there – there was Dvornik, who I think lived there and then moved to a cottage – which is the West Cottage – and there were various guests. In the first year, of course, I remember un russe savant, André Grabar, and that was a saving element for me. And then there was the then-Director of Studies, already in my day existed, unless Koehler was that. But Koehler is a historian known to Kitzinger, you know. The first big shot here was him – art historian, I mean, world fame. But in my day that was Albert Mathias Friend. Much shrewder person than I thought, but it turned out that everybody was shrewder than I thought, for at least the first three or four years of my stay in America. It was very slow and I begin to realize how matters work and I still haven’t learned the finest details of it. So...
AMT: If I can interrupt it, I’ve looked, and the number of actual fellows is quite small.
IS: Four, four, four, four – of whom I remember only three, including myself. There was an American – a very nice man – but, you see, he didn’t count in my eyes. It was one of those observations which were not false but which were fatal. He didn’t know Greek. How can you be at Dumbarton Oaks without knowing absolutely...? – an anomaly which ruins my universe. Correct? So let’s move. I mentioned all these names, but I will then talk…
AMT: There was Deno Geanakoplos.
IS: No, there was Deno Geanakoplos, and him I don’t mention. Excuse me, don’t record it, but Alzheimer. I’m like Goering. Goering said, “Who is a Jew, I decide,” you know? So, I decide when Alzheimer kicks in. Laourdas is much more important. Basil Laourdas was there, and there was Deno Geanakoplos, who was basically a Greek convert to Byzantium, but a violinist in some very important symphony orchestra – I don’t know, with Koussevitzky or something, you know? – who became a Western medievalist and moved to Byzantium. It depends on how you want to structure it, because there is a possible remark that the difference between the foreign population on the level of Fellows and the native population was that the native population went into Byzantium, for reasons which are not so bad, from Western Middle Ages, while the foreign population went from classical philology. So, of course, it’s also obvious that I thought that anybody who doesn’t know Greek was very stupid. Now the evenings were interesting... No! Grabar and I established immediate rapport. Vasiliev was rather reserved as a person, but he had this quality of the love for music and knowledge of music. We played a lot – every evening we played a lot of music here, owing to Vasiliev. Friend was a Western medievalist, basically – he came here once a week…
AMT: From Princeton.
IS: From Princeton. And lived first here – I claim, but it may be not true. But then in the main building, there was some little room where he resided, you know, with bath and so on. It was on the first floor – on the what – second floor, you would say. Now, why Friend was who he was has to do with his problems, which precede Dumbarton Oaks. He had problems with over-boldness and fear, a last-moment fear, to show the results of what he did. Beautiful papers, general papers, and nothing from that published. I don’t know; he is known for one article, “The Traces...” – of course his Festschrift – wonderful people there. And one, I mean, it’s very easy to become a sinner in the eyes of an insecure and therefore critical newcomer. The unforgettable sin of Friend was to have told me, with a smile – I don’t know; the English words fail me now – after a musical performance where Grabar performs, I mean playing, where André Grabar spoke of the “moonshine” Sonata.
AMT: Did Geanakoplos play for you?
IS: Not – no. Not here. But he was full of stories about the conductor. I hope. No, no, no. It was a Greek. It was a famous Greek starting with “D”: Dimitri...
IS: Maybe Mitropoulos. So, he was an admirer, let’s say, of Mitropoulos. Now the interesting person, perspicacious and basically un-understandable in the sense of the Near East, was Laourdas. Laourdas’ great supporter was Kenneth Setton, if you know that name – you must know that name. And Laourdas was brought for Photius, yes, and Photius was there because Dvornik was there. And there were some things which are later than – slightly later than my first year, which had been his quarrels over the rights to his translation, his not staying on, and which I think led to the fact that Cyril Mango stayed to continue with this translation of the homilies – translation of the homilies, which in part already – it was his final days somehow overlapped, I think, with Jenkins’ arrival. That can be checked. So I described all these things. It was very informal and still a problem for me. I mean, this new America, where everything was like in the film 2001 – the same, and not the same, yes? – the same in that they spoke English and were polite at table, and so on. This is not about Dumbarton Oaks any longer, you understand, but this type of reaction – kind of reaction – was not unique to me. Not Geanakoplos, who was born in that country.
AMT: Let’s move over to the Main House, because I want to know...
IS: Main House? Ah, over there!
AMT: The Main House.
IS: Yeah. Where we sit –
AMT: Did you have an office there, or were you in that big reading room?
IS: No, no, no. The only people... I mean, the answer to your question is “no.” The only people who had offices were members of the faculty. I was not a member of the faculty. And they were in enormously small cubicles on the floor where the periodicals were. In the –
AMT: On the third floor?
IS: On the third floor. No air-conditioning. Although air-conditioning already existed in theory, because I remember going to an Alec Guinness movie and leaving it and suffocating from this heat, so there was... I think that at some time – and here this is not oral history – they introduced this.
AMT: They didn’t really completely air-condition it until Giles Constable came.
IS: Well they must have air conditioning in the – in the other –
AMT: They had individual room air-conditioners. Now tell me about the library, because it must have been very small, wasn’t it?
IS: Good, good, good, very good. Now you didn’t – may I supply to your – a detail to your question? You asked whether – had there been offices. No. No, no, no Fellows had offices. All Fellows sat in the wonderful spacious bedroom of the foundress. That’s where later for long years Fellows also were sitting. And I was one of those. There was more than four places, because there were occasional visitors – one of whom was, for instance, Kenneth Setton – at that time at the University of Manitoba – which he called Civitas Monohippica, “one-horse town.” But that was all – and we had, relative for my own experience – even at the Bibliothèque Royale in Brussels, where I go to the professors’ room – I was sitting in the professors’ room – it was spacious. In Brussels I could have thirty books, and here I could have I don’t know how many, but I never complained. The problem – now we move to the library, because you mentioned that – true, the library was small. The library had some amateurish aspects, but they didn’t apply to me, because they had to do with the art. You see, here is where the Alzheimer begins to be victorious, because there was a number of advisors of Mrs. Bliss pre-1940, yes? Royall Tyler, of course, everybody knows, yes? And everybody knows about the relationship. Not everybody – I didn’t. And then there were these two famous gurus of French art – art in general. So he comes…and he doesn’t come…it’s there. And then there were librarians. Librarians were, I suppose, a choice of Mrs. Bliss. I remember only the name of only one. Maybe Louise or Lois Hassler. And the other one started with “R.” And then there were the parents of Leontief, the Noble Prize winner, economist, who were wonderful. Why? – because they spoke Russian. Of course they must have been wonderful. And they did something to the Russian collection, yes? And then very soon there was the aristocratic lady for the Slavic collection, and this is Natalia Petrovna Wolkonskaya. Wolkonsky is a Bolkonsky in War and Peace – is a Wolkonsky, and so on. What her enemies said, “Wolkonskaya – she is a Wolkonskaya because of the husband, but in fact her maiden name is Lukina.” And you cannot say anything worse. No, she was – Lukina is very good for her. So this – I am telling you there was a certain aspect of amateurishness to it. But except for the Russian wing, again, I perceived the library part as usually unfriendly. And that was the – Laourdas was very cagey, but that was the impression of Geanakoplos, you see. And that is the beginning of the formation of my own opinion about Dumbarton Oaks. And I could compare it to Brussels, you know. People would see me and say, “Why don’t you go to the professor?” – to the salle de professeur, yes? Nobody told me that. The attitude was, “Who do you think you are? You make demands?” yes? and “You don’t deserve to make demands.” Well, at that time I had reasons, you know, to say, “yes, diploma here, diploma there.” But I had the other experience of my life – namely, to be always a foreigner, which I instinctively remain and in fact am perceived deep down as a foreigner. So a foreigner has to know his place. Correct? Remember métèque in the discussion of yesterday. So, I did know my place. Except that I didn’t – that I would have preferred that this place be a user-friendly place.
AMT: Was the faculty better treated by the librarians?
IS: I don’t know. No, I mean, of course. I mean, this is a strange society, but it obeys some universal laws. I don’t have any proof. Of course they were. But do you want to know anything about the library? You see, I tell you more than you want to know. But you will cut it out. The library was small. The library was amateurish, as I told you, but the library had a remarkably well-selected collection. Now for art I attribute this to the tailors of all kinds and to the art advisors of Mrs. Bliss. For the other part, I have only a guess. And the guess is that Milton Anastos helped there, because Milton Anastos was not a productive scholar, as you know. You know, because you’re teaching. He was this mind of Byzantium, the mob man, I don’t know – of which I don’t know what remains. But he was absolute nuts about buying books for the library. And I remember these boring discussions after luncheons where he, like Cato senior, said, “We must acquire Mansi.”
AMT: Well, that was good advice.
AMT: That was good advice.
IS: Yes, well, I mean – extremely. Since I am a professor, I expect that people remember every word of what I said. And three minutes ago I said that it was a good thing about him. So, I attribute the reasonable character of the collections of the early period to him. Now it did grow. At a certain stage, which must have been ’66 or so (and here I may be completely wrong), but the institution of the position of librarian was created. And the first librarian was the Princeton religious history person – a very well known – died of cancer – and I talked to him as a Director of Studies when he was in the hospital already. So, in theory it could help, and maybe it did, though I have my pets, I had people whom I didn’t like, but I cannot, I think that that was a good move.
AMT: Well let’s – I think we need to move on to your experience of the Blisses in 1949-50. Did you see them very often?
IS: Her, teas. She was dominating the teas. Him –
AMT: Were the teas daily?
AMT: Were the teas daily?
IS: Daily? As far as I remember, it was daily. It was a good idea. I mean, this, Dumbarton Oaks – you are going to ask me the last question, but maybe I will anticipate it. Dumbarton Oaks grew in my experience from a relative generosity of a rich patroness’ house into what I call an unnecessary stinginess, and I see from your question that you wonder, “Why does one have tea every evening after five o’clock?” So, yes. And, you know, service for the Fellows here. Why a service, you know? You can go and get your – fill your plates with a spoon.
AMT: With your cornflakes, yes.
IS: The short answer is yes. And of course you would come often. So, I had an opportunity to see her. One thing that of course made her quotation-marks “acceptable” to me – it is an astonishing answer because how can you – that was the way I was and the way I remain – was that she spoke excellent French. It was, as I reconstructed later, a French of a young girl who was sent to Europe and who came from a rich California basically parvenu family and who made the money on this Castoria for the children. Which didn’t mean that her French was any worse, but now for the thing which I couldn’t accept, she had – she was the greatest person – the person with the greatest talent in my experience – long experience – to put you at ill ease. Now I had some perils. I don’t know – I lived – I had dinners with, I forgot what, not the husband of Queen Juliana, but some brother of the Princess, not dowager, but successor to her. And that is a recollection of people who know how to put you absolutely at ease. Second was the wife of Isaiah Berlin. She was not a royal child, but she was a Ginsburg. And the luncheon with her was a delight. Now, maybe my conditions were different, but that was the impression which colored my attitude towards her. It is very interesting that the woman who comes to mind in that sense is Margaret Thatcher. But Margaret Thatcher’s French was not as good as Mrs. Bliss’s. Also imperious – but doesn’t matter. So, him, I saw much less. I saw him at a dinner, here and there, at some speech here, probably connected with the foundation, if I’m not mistaken, as a pre-Columbian collection, which I understood as her gesture towards her husband so that he would have a wonderful, best, most beautiful toy he ever had – is me saying it, it is. And I exactly remember there his joke about maybe his falling deadly in love with her, but in any case, he said, “Socrates died of,” and he made a pun on the poison. You remember the official name of the poison?
AMT: I just remember hemlock.
IS: Hemlock. Yeah, [whispers] “wedlock.” Socrates – “I, like Socrates, died of ‘wedlock.’” At that stage in my life I thought that puns were the highest – the English – was the highest form of humor. That’s why I remember it. I have most pleasant recollections of him because on the scale of making you feel ill at ease, he was one on a scale of one to ten. Vasiliev told me some stories about the dark past of Ambassador Bliss where he was supposed to have either killed or seriously wounded some person while driving. No? It’s not spread? I thought this was...well, Vasiliev may have invented it, but that he said it, I guarantee, because Alzheimer is now on vacation, correct? And this is – was somehow – what’s the word?
AMT: Hushed up.
IS: Hushed up. Bravo. But this is not about my impresion of him, of Bliss. It is simply that when you are in a certain position – social position – hushing up is easier when you’re in the other position. Correct? Now whether I saw her or not, I saw her as everybody saw her. After some big occasions – mostly symposia – she then received people at this house on 28th.
AMT: She did invite Fellows to her home? Occasionally?
IS: Of course I was invited, but very occasionally. Maybe there were, what’s the word, favorites. I must say that what I remember well is her saying to me, “Venez, on va casser la croûte ensemble.” And I noticed she knows French idioms. “Let’s break the crust together,” yes? She took her opinions of us very much from Jack Thacher. Now she told me that she fell for Jack Thacher. Told me, I mean, this is a joke, yes? She was very devoted to Jack Thacher. I don’t know how it was – through which connections – it was not a family connection. Now after having calumniated Mrs. Bliss, I will tell you that I owe her something very important. And it has something to do with your question – you allow me to make some fun of the great interviewer when you come to it. I had no future. I was on some visa which had a number which allowed me to stay in this country only for the period of my connection with a learned institution or something, or being employed. And I don’t remember exactly the date, but it may have been either before planning or after my application for the second year was refused. And that is worth telling you how it was done. And I went to Thacher and I told him, “Listen, I’m going to be removed from this country. To go…where? To the Soviet Union – son of a white bandit? To Poland, where socialism has triumphed? To Belgium, where I had to go to the police every month and answer the ritual question, ‘When are you going to leave Belgium?’ The answer was, ‘next month.’” I didn’t say all this as I’m telling it to you, but he understood.
And I knew – and here Alzheimer comes in, but he can be helped – that the former governor of Massachusetts, and for some reason a friend of Mrs. Bliss, was a congressman. And as such, he was entitled to introduce private laws – bills, private bills. The private bill passes, then the person involved can stay for the duration of the Congress, you see. My chance was not so bad – one in seven, I was told later. But he did it; Herter was his name. He did it, not knowing… [speaking of the camera man] he has to go, yes?
AMT: No, no, keep on going.
IS: And I was saved. I was technically, and I have reluctantly to admit it, I owe it to her.
AMT: And you think Mrs. Bliss was instrumental in this?
IS: Yes, I think, I mean, Jack said, “I’ll see what can be done.”
AMT: And then he talked to Mrs. Bliss.
IS: He didn’t tell me, he was no Charanis. He didn’t brag, after all. Louisa, I think, Bellinger, the sister of the Bellinger of the collection, said, when somebody asked why Thacher’s name is spelled...why did he lose the “T”, her answer was, he lost the “T” at the Boston Tea Party. I thought it was a wonderful pun.
AMT: We’re going to take a short break so Joe can change the tape.
AMT: So I think now we should leap ahead ten years, to 1960, when you came back to Dumbarton Oaks as a Visiting Scholar in the spring, and I believe this was in connection with the preparation of the symposium.
IS: Yes, but I came as a Visiting Scholar, and I owe it to Sirarpie der Nersessian. Yes, but why don’t you ask me how I left Dumbarton Oaks after the first year?
AMT: Oh, in 1950?
IS: 1950, yes. ’50.
AMT: Oh, because you had gotten this extension of your visa.
IS: No, no, I speak of Dumbarton Oaks. It’s not so that one got an extension and I told them, “to hell with you, and so on.” No, this thing is worth knowing, although you can reconstruct it from the Archives. I think that if there are Dumbarton Oaks archives, after this talk you can go back and make it much better.
AMT: They’re excellent archives.
AMT: They’re excellent archives.
IS: Oh, so you’ll ... there will be all the decisions and the correspondence concerning...
AMT: And you started teaching then, right? After your fellowship there?
IS: No, no, no, no, no. But that is out of ... no, it’s really very interesting from the point of the biography of a newcomer in America, but it’s not interesting from the – but of course I was not...ah yes, one thing will be interesting. Now, Dumbarton Oaks, no...I committed a number of sins and I didn’t know that they would be so fatal. Now it’s my reconstruction. First of all, at luncheon, Dvornik said, “Grégoire is not a historian.”
AMT: And you defended him?
IS: I said, “I knew.” I said, “It’s very interesting, because Grégoire told us that Dvornik is not a historian.”
IS: Which was true, I mean... I don’t think it gives you brownie points, does it? The second was that I think that all these coats of arms of Mrs. Bliss are not as good as the one which I would – which I propose. It is Castor and Pollux. Helps little, yes? But Greek, nobody can do that, yes? And Grabar is on the Board of Scholars that I’m – there was such a Board of Scholars. I was the head of the Board of Scholars. Board of Scholars is the ancestor of Senior Fellows, and he was on it. And I got a letter saying, “With great pleasure we inform you that you have been renewed.”
AMT: Oh, that you were renewed.
IS: Yes, letters signed, maybe by Friend, whoever. And I came to Grabar and I told him it is such a wonderful thing and relief, and he was very gloomy. He said, “You know, it’s not so clear. There are procedures.” Two weeks ago – later, I think, let’s say a week ago, two weeks ago – let the Archives tell you – I got a letter from Mr. Sachs, who I think perhaps was the head of the administrative board, you know the one which is now headed by the President. There were – I was a member – are you a member? Probably not. You know, there are three or four guys.
AMT: No, you have to be at Harvard for that.
IS: Ah, so I was a member because I had a letter from Mr. Sachs from the Fogg Museum, big millions, and we are very sorry, because for I don’t know, financial reasons, we did not approve the decisions of the Board of Scholars. This I really – as an observer from the outside – did admire. I understood Grabar. And I remember Sirarpie der Nersessian coming either here or somewhere where we were alone and said, “Je suis navrée.” I am... disconsolate. Then there was a question, “What to do? What to do?” And then we move into my history, which is that people noticed me, you see. By complete accident an unknown person to me came to Dumbarton Oaks, who was probably then connected with it in one way or another. His name was Ernst H. Kantorowicz. And it so happened that there was the oath controversy, which was a great event in American history – now the oath controversy in middle McCarthy era. So he moved – well, let’s make it simple, he was to move to Princeton – Institute, yes? And he did so that I replaced him. I was –
AMT: And this was in California?
IS: Yeah, Berkeley. My first teaching job was Berkeley. But in the meantime I had to live somewhere – I was with nothing, no future, no money, and no place. So, I must say that I owe also to Susan Kitzinger the suggestion to go to the International House at I don’t know – 1825 something street – let’s say R Street – which was held, which was presided by a Quaker – in other words, that’s how my position towards the ex-Soviets is weak, because I say, “In America, there is no favoritism.” Of course there is. And then – that’s an interesting story, because the next phase is – so Kantorowicz remained until the end of his life. Now after Berkeley – same thing – no future, no nothing. And I get a fellowship, probably, I don’t know, research program on the USSR or something like that. I said, “Splendid,” – and that was fellowship. And I go to Washington and I go to Thacher, and I say, “Listen, you know, you have outside readers.” And his answer was, “You know,” he said, “we are a public institution. You can use the library.” At that time I wrote many things, including this hundred-page article about the history of Byzantine studies. It was the end of World War I and throughout the whole Soviet period. This article was called in the periodical “Questions of History” as belonging into the dustbin of history – everything was. The reason why I dwell on that was that I did the normal thing, which of course my past taught me: never ask for anything. So, I would come...the den of the teas – Jenkins comes out and says, “why don’t you come in?” I never entered that room, and that gave me a feeling of purity, if you want. Then how do I get back? There must be something earlier, because when I was in Cambridge, at Harvard, without any position, any future, and so on, I know, I remember Sirarpie der Nersessian came to the guest house where she stayed and she asked me to do something, and in her eyes, at least, I was needed, and that was before ’60, because at ’60, I was already a big man at –
AMT: At Columbia.
IS: Columbia, I mean. It was not when we met, but it was the time... So, so this is the exit, I think that I was – that I didn’t fit in Dumbarton Oaks, and I didn’t realize it. I said, “What do you mean I don’t fit? You don’t fit; how is your Greek?” You understand? So that it is an illustration of the extent to which certain outsiders are – what’s the word? – cheated or by this superficial identity of the world’s, you know – she speaks excellent French; I speak maybe not as excellent, but I speak good French – what has changed? So now you want to jump to ’60?
AMT: ’60, mhm.
IS: ’60, I think – I say I think, which is always to underline – was Sirarpie, because she was the one, in my fantasy, to offer me a prolonged stay in Dumbarton Oaks. ’60.
AMT: But wasn’t Kitzinger Director of Studies?
AMT: But Kitzinger was Director of Studies then.
IS: Yes, but she was the one who came to Cambridge, you know. Oh no, probably on all the – all the letters will be signed by Thacher, I think. You know, that is one other thing which is basic for me and which I think you will – hope when we come to the Director of Studies. But she was the one who went to Cambridge for some other reason. I think that the symposiarch, as it was later called, was Underwood, in 1960, the man who ran it –
AMT: Underwood – yes, he was.
IS: – and not her. You see, you didn’t ask me about the faculty, so I never came to every member of the faculty; I just spoke about those people who were here...and not her, certainly not Thacher, who had no special reason to like me, although at that time I never really offended him, in my eyes. I have my scale of values, and a man like Thacher doesn’t have to know Greek. This is, you know, since you laugh, you realize that half of what I’m saying are metaphors and jokes. So I thank her, as during every stay in Dumbarton Oaks I did other things in addition to what I was brought in for. The very first time, instead of preparing my book for publication, I wrote the first article which an American periodical published. Kenneth Setton was the intermediary; it was in Speculum. It was about the Imprisonment of Manuel Moschopulos, dating it, I think, small letter, yes, but it’s true, yes. Grégoire’s ghost still hovers. But I did also the Metochites thing, and this was one of the things which I considered to be the first in American Byzantine studies as to the form and to conceptions. Who psychologized before? It’s not Ljubarskij. Ljubarskij doesn’t know yet that he’s going to be a Byzantinist, you understand. And it was well-researched, because I had time to do it. You remember that you wrote the index to something.
AMT: I remember helping you do something with it; I can’t remember.
IS: No, no, you wrote the index of whatever. And I remember that you were there, and I think that maybe you even brought it to the security office. So, that would be the answer to year 1960, and in anticipation, I’ll say that I think that on some level – not on the level of discovery, because there are some little discoveries – but the big discovery I made when I was a very young man and, again, penniless, in Brussels, it was – but in the sense of conception, in the sense of writing things the way nobody wrote before, that is, flight of fancy plus footnotes –
AMT: Plus very long footnotes.
IS: Okay. And Grégoire had enormous flights of fancy. And that was also a triumph, basically. First of all, this paper lasted for one hour, ten minutes. There was a silence throughout: no shuffling of feet, you understand. And then I remember Turyn, you don’t know – this famous Pindar editor, of course, from Warsaw, comes with a beaming, a beaming smile, and he says, “so over-subtle,” and so, and then Kantorowicz – it was evening, because when he came to the symposium he had wine and so, but I don’t know whether it was that evening or when we were alone – he said, “Sirarpie didn’t give a damn about her own paper, but she was so happy about yours.” Well, I can understand it, because her man was vindicated, you know, the man whom you didn’t appreciate. So, that’s the answer to ’60, yes, unless you have some more. I lived in the East Cottage, which was different –
AMT: At that point. That’s where you’re staying.
IS: Oh, I’m sorry, I lived in the East Cottage; Dvornik lived in the – I lived in the East Cottage. I remember reading the Tropic of Capricorn, which was an indecent book and was nothing special, in the evenings, it was a happy, happy, happy year. I wrote most of the final text in the Dumbarton Oaks gardens. I found a bench where nobody went.
AMT: [sound of airplane in the background] The airplane going up.
IS: Yes, yes. I wrote it in the gardens and of course I finished it three days before the symposium. Some people would have long had the second bypass.
AMT: What I didn’t ask you about 1960 was that Kitzinger was Director of Studies by that time, and when you came back in ’65, or whatever it is, he was just finishing up as Director of Studies, so I wanted to ask you a little bit about how you perceived his role as the Director of Byzantine Studies.
IS: You didn’t ask me how I first met Kitzinger and what my impression was, because my judgment of the role depends on it. It will show you something not only about Kitzinger, but about me, when I tell you that a few days after I installed myself, I came in, there was a fellow with whom I think I wanted to speak German, because he’s Kitzinger, and didn’t understand that he didn’t very much like to do it, and when I learned that he was a Byzantine art historian, I told him, why don’t you show me the collection? Imagine, you know. He may have thought, “Who do you think you are?” – and he showed me the collection. He showed me the collection, and it was wonderful, and balanced judgment, much of it is new to me and so, a nice illustration: you tell him, and he does, yes? Now, as a Director of Studies, he was a very careful man. Very important to take into consideration was what Mrs. Bliss would or would not like, and never any tension with Thacher. Now his role model and idol was Koehler, I think, because he spoke in glowing terms about him, and I don’t know the details of Koehler’s fall, but at least some of them have to do with scholarship, you see. As you notice, we speak very little – we have been speaking for one hour – and very little about scholarship.
AMT: That’s for tomorrow morning.
IS: You see, there will be – no, no, no Dumbarton Oaks’ scholarship – the scholarship and Dumbarton Oaks. It’s a fact for the time being, unless there will be a question which I forgot. So Koehler wanted to organize, inherited from Kitzinger, Dumbarton Oaks, there has to be some order, and he wanted to create a team which would work on projects, and there was, presumably, rebellion of the masses. I remember that the chief opponent was Milton Anastos. I remember Kitzinger telling me, because it was all before my time, and the project died. Why Koehler left back to Harvard, I don’t know. He didn’t tell me, and it probably will not be in the Archives.
AMT: Well, there’s a very long article by David Wright about Koehler, about a 20-page article.
IS: While he was a student. But this was –
AMT: No no, at Dumbarton, about his –
IS: Correct, at Dumbarton Oaks. How does he know? Archives?
AMT: I guess.
IS: No, he couldn’t know personally. Aha! Oh, good!
AMT: Or you can read that.
IS: No, I mean what I told her was a memory, so maybe I remember at least to ask questions so that you will give me the bibliography or some other things you told me. Now let’s return to Kitzinger, although I think that talking about Koehler, his view of Koehler, tells you something about him. Devoted to the work, you know, doesn’t cut corners as administrator. I mean, of course, you see that there is a silent parallel being drawn, certainly not with me, yes? Now, devoted to Dumbarton Oaks Papers but letting in fact, is my recollection, essentially Dumbarton Oaks Papers to be run for substance by Cyril and myself and for the details by Julia Warner, whom I remember having seen last in my life in your place, because he invited her for dinner once. Well, therefore, under Kitzinger, I remember Dumbarton Oaks Papers as a relatively natural thing, i.e. intellectually, i.e. Kitzinger, let’s assume, because I don’t remember his input, there must have been his input in art articles, correct? Cyril and myself decided what should be done. If we don’t know anything, we send it to somebody who does. If it’s an article by Pingree about something which we don’t know anything, publish it, you understand? That’s how it worked. Julia Warner, slow, everybody’s mad at her, but the results are excellent, you understand it? So what is there to be discussed, you know? And in that sense Kitzinger was not cowardly or imperious, and I don’t remember what his views on the nuts and bolts things were. I think that that was simple enough to be run simply – sorry, cross out simply – it was run by Thacher and his assistant, who was a teacher at Beard College, or is that the way, in New York, a progressive college, very?
AMT: Oh, Bard.
IS: Bard College. And they understood each other very well. Kitzinger as a host I think did the right thing. I think I personally and I think the Fellows cared less about being invited by Mrs. Bliss, but they enjoyed being invited by Kitzinger, and Susan, so I saw those children grow, and so on, I saw them making their own puns. “Why is Tony” – Tony’s the younger son – “Washingtonian?” “Because Mommy is washing Tony.” Get the joke, no? “Washingtonian” and “washing Tony.” It was a rather non-stiff atmosphere, but it was not so cozy, warm, Slavic soul – it’s impossible, given his past.
AMT: Now, was he the one who brought you to Washington to join the faculty? Was it Kitzinger, or whose idea was it?
IS: Oh, well that’s very important. I can tell you that the chief negotiator was Kitzinger, but my interpretation is that Dumbarton Oaks must have decided, or even Kitzinger, psychologically normal, I am going instead of the world, as though the institution, so we must do something, and we have a savior, who’s going to save the institution, and knows Greek, blah blah blah, other things, energetic, yeah – always that, you know, lots of energetics know Greek; lots of Greeks know energetics – you know what I’m going through. So, I was really wooed, and I’ll give you one example. I must give that. See, these things, plannings are very long at Harvard. That Laiou was going to be Director – for reasons which are accidental – I knew years before she became director. Thacher told me once that, you know, “Maybe once you’ll be Director of Dumbarton Oaks.” I’m telling you that to explain the ’60s. Now, of course, this – basically I was not interested in being director of anything, not of anything, I was very much interested in being Director of Studies, but I was interested at that time as being the – if not the greatest, then the most intelligent – Byzantinist in the world, I think. It’s an allusion to what was said in Krakow. So, wooed. But on the other hand, I lived in a dream world. 1960, you remember. I lived in the greatest suburb of Warsaw in the world. I was at Columbia. I was in New York. There everything was clear. The things which were not clear were so far away, but I was introduced to art collections, art owners, you know, all those apartments on Park Avenue, Park and Fifth, which I suspected to exist, but that is not – my New York is the New York of the Jewish Quarter of Warsaw, you see? I mean for the sake of transparency I am as un-Jewish as DNA can prove, but that was the world where I grew up, the world with the Jewish intellectuals. In the rich part there were no Jews, but there were Jews who were of Polish culture. That was the world. It was where everybody appreciated my jokes and who were sought out by one another, where one third of the faculty of history spoke with a foreign accent. It’s a fact, yes? That’s why I hesitate – I refused, you know that, you don’t know – archives, yes – I refused the offer, and a year later I returned. So, I was to be the savior, yes? Dumbarton Oaks wanted me. I will give you now the example which I promised to give. This was the time of what I now, I call Kumluca treasure, the silver, and I was taken to the basement and shown the treasure, I was told, “Here are the inscriptions; you will write the inscriptions,” you understand? There was even kind of a sloppiness on the part of the administration, because they left, they left, I looked at it, and then on a chair there was a yellow piece of paper signed by Zakos which was a receipt for one million dollars – put that there. So I knew what they paid, and yet I was stupid enough to say – it’s not to say, to act, and let’s say, it’s not a good thing for Dumbarton Oaks’ future. Well, this is one of those illustrations of a general truth, that it’s not important what is being said, but when, who, and on behalf of whom. I was pretty good on the first; very bad on all the three others. So that was the situation, and then very soon I was made Director of Studies. I don’t know why Lemerle, at the Congress of Cambri – at the...
IS: Oxford – already alluded – he wanted me to become a member of some internal thing – and he alluded to the fact that I am going to have some position at Dumbarton Oaks. Now that must have been rumored, but I think that in ’60, six years ago, maybe, I don’t know – in ’60 I refused, I don’t – the first offer – if you want, you’ll find out.
AMT: No, you left Columbia in ’65, I think.
IS: Yes, I know that, yes! But no, before I left Columbia, it was the second time, you understand. The first time was very important for the history of wooing, you know: he refused, to hell with him! We go to somebody else.
AMT: Kitzinger retired in ’66.
IS: Yes, and he retired –
AMT: – and then you immediately succeeded him, is that correct?
IS: Immediately – well, I immediately became Director of Studies? I don’t know, because there was a long negotiation between Ford and Pusey and myself.
AMT: Because I seem to have a – because that was my first year as a Junior Fellow –
IS: And was I Director of Studies?
AMT: And I seem to have a memory that Carl Kraeling was the acting Director –
AMT: – and that he died.
IS: No, Kraeling was the librarian.
AMT: No, but he was made something like acting, and then he died within a month or something.
IS: No no, he died as a librarian, and within a year, but you are close. It’s quite possible, but I don’t have that recollection. I know that Kraeling had prostate cancer and that up to seven years it flared up, and he insisted on running the library from his hospital bed. I must have probably made the librarian mad by that time, no? So, listen, as when it comes to the precise dates, the rule which – the observation which I learned from Mr. Kennan, George Kennan, holds. Mr. George Kennan was a newcomer to the Institute in Princeton, it was ’56 or something, I was a member, a year member, and he was insecure, you know, “I am not a historian type,” so we met relatively often, and once he said, “I am going to interview Kerensky,” head of the provisional government which was kicked out by Lenin and the Bolsheviks – it’s 1917. Kerensky – I saw he was on Park Avenue, by the way – I talked with him; Columbia, I really just triumphed, because people told me, “Kerensky? You want Kerensky? Nobody will come.” 150 people – we had to change our waiters, and he said upon return, which was the same day, “Kerensky doesn’t know anything; he mixes up dates.”
AMT: That’s – We can check the dates. But I know you were certainly Director of Studies for a while...
IS: I think, yeah, you said a brief –
AMT: A brief –
IS: Sorry, what?
AMT: A brief period.
IS: Ah yes, that was hurt to me, because to me it was an eternity, and secondly you used the word “replaced,” which hurt me. I resigned to everybody’s surprise, and the fact that the truth, which is determined by what people say, is that I was replaced, of course hurts. Of course I was replaced; everybody who resigns is replaced, so technically this is no problem. But you didn’t ask me, “why you were replaced,” you understand, and I think that this is an important answer first of all for the conceptions or misconceptions of Dumbarton Oaks that I held. If one doesn’t have misconceptions, one doesn’t resign, yes? And for your last questions: how Dumbarton Oaks changed, yes? Well, since the time is late, I would say that the superficial answer that is acceptable was that I imagined that I was a head of an institute – I, you know, not anybody else – or rather of a Byzantine branch of an institute, Byzantine branch being the main branch. My reality support was that it was seventy percent of the budget. Well, you come to the last questions, perhaps. And therefore that together with my colleagues, I have a budget which I distribute according to the decisions of my colleagues, which of course has to be approved, as all the budgets at Harvard, by the dean here, I also thought by the dean, but I knew that the realities are that it will be – have to be approved by the Director, or whatever you want, yes? – who, I hoped, like all the intelligent presidents of everything, says, in ninety percent of the cases, “yes,” once the budget is allotted, you know. In other words, I know in advance what I have to do. Then the policy had to be archaeological exploration on the surface. You know this type of... And the expanding of the limits of the unknown, that is, including excavations, correct? And then the concept of what I invented and which died, unfortunately, and in part died because it happened by itself, Byzantinologie totale, that there is no such thing as Byzantine philology, etc. In other words, I was practicing what I of course even today despise, interdisciplinarity, what is not a discipline of interdisciplinarity? Because I didn’t compare the Eskimos with the folklore, and of course the library policy – Byzantine library policy – is within the province of the Director. Well, I don’t know whether you wish on this side... My first step was, without asking anybody, to call the Secretary of the University, in Cambridge, and saying – asking – what is the budget of Dumbarton Oaks, yes? – thinking that, you know, I’d be able to see the budget, I will say how much is spent already on Byzantine Studies. The secretary goes, “Absolutely wonderful.” I forget the name of the secretary, but never mind. She said, “Yeah, Mr. So-and-so will call you back very soon.” Mr. So-and-so did call me back very soon, and he said, “Why do you want to know the budget? You don’t need to know the budget in order to function.” That was the first sign that I didn’t understand anything about how things really work. Well once I don’t know how the budget looks, how can I demand a budget, correct? How can I demand excavations when the Kumluca treasure is here and when it is the hap – this is the Turkish word for “pill” – on which Dumbarton Oaks will choke? I am quoting Nezih Firatli at night returning from the south coast, and I said, “Well, you know, the Turks don’t like what we did. They swallowed the hapı,” and he said, “It’s Dumbarton Oaks that swallowed the hapı,” and...yes? Of course what happened later was – it has nothing to do with me, because I’m out; no I’m not, really – and it is Giles Constable’s open statement that you have to finish with what about it, I don’t know – drunken bout about archaeo – excavations, you know – drunken bout was not there, but something to this effect – you can read it! So Dumbarton Oaks Papers was probably not important enough to be controlled, you see? I don’t tell you everything, but... because of the time, but I outlined my conceptions, and I didn’t know that there were insane conceptions in terms of the system. Now, there are ways; there are ways a) to accommodate yourself in the name of saving the institution. I knew that too many administrators do it in the past; the head of the Warsaw Ghetto under the Germans did it and had to commit suicide, you know, so of course, resignation. Now Jenkins came in very quickly.
AMT: I think, Ihor, maybe we’d better stop there for today; sorry.
IS: No, no sorry, no sorry. I have to finish the sentence. Then Jenkins dies – the circumstances, you may know – and what to do? Mr. Tyler comes or will come, so no Director of Studies. But I am the senior faculty member, and there we can stop, because then comes Loerke, and that’s already done.
AMT: Because what I want to start with tomorrow is this era when Mrs. Bliss dies and Thacher retires and Jenkins dies, because a lot of things are happening at the same time.
IS: No, Jenkins is first. According to me, death of Jenkins.
AMT: No, it’s actually –
IS: Thacher dies before Jenkins?
AMT: Not dies, he retires.
IS: Oh, that’s true! That’s absolutely right.
AMT: So, we’ll start with that tomorrow, then, because I think that’s in a very interesting time.
IS: Anything you say.
AMT: So let’s pick up where we left off yesterday: that we were talking about the crucial – what I consider the crucial transitional period of around ’68-’71, when many, many changes happened at Dumbarton Oaks, and according to my information, Paul Underwood died in September ’68, Mrs. Bliss died in January ’69, Romilly Jenkins died in September of ’69, and John Thacher retired in December of ’69. So you had three deaths and one retirement within 15 months.
IS: Retirement is Thacher.
AMT: Yes. So I wanted to ask you if indeed this was a period of, shall we say, extreme dislocation at Dumbarton Oaks, were…
IS: Well, you will get an answer of a witness. And the great authors who gave, in anticipation of what I’m going to say, were Stendhal in the Chartreuse de Parme – to show you how useless I am for that – and of course Tolstoy in the War and Peace, who copied from Stendhal. The witnesses of great events have not necessarily an idea that events were great. I am referring to the famous discussions of the battle where the guy in the battle has no idea what happens – he’s wandering around. And so, with this as a background, I will tell you that the results of these events were, I think, objectively felt two or three years later, namely with the demise of the faculty.
AMT: Mhm. That’s what I was getting at.
IS: But the demise of the faculty – since I’m a self-centered – start with the last member of the faculty leaving. It was after Mango, I think. There was nobody left. Kazhdan who to me –
AMT: There was Loerke –
IS: Loerke lasts very shortly. And is not mentioned, yeah. So, that, from my point of view, was one of the decisive events in the history of Dumbarton Oaks.
AMT: But what caused the decision to not have a faculty anymore?
IS: Well, you have to go to the archives of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. First of all, I mean, my interpretation is that first of all, nature helped. Jenkins, Underwood, blah blah blah, died. Faculty diminishes. So, if you have already a previous conception that this faculty is doing something – what are they doing, really – that gives you not only food for thought, but start for action, future action. Then there comes – I don’t know whether chronology bears me out – Mango’s departure. Then there comes my outspoken desire to become a foot soldier in saying, “I want to be in – I want to go to Harvard.” What I really say I want – to leave the atmosphere out... exposed to the dangers – psychological dangers – of small groups. Such dangers are very easily defused in a milieu where the alternatives are there. To what extent my departure was so subtly engineered that I thought, “how wonderful it is,” I don’t know. Constable would know, but he probably will not tell you.
AMT: But you were the first so-called “Dumbarton Oaks Professor” at Harvard. The system began –
IS: Yes, and then come Laiou, Laiou, and of course Ioli.
AMT: Yes, and John.
AMT: John Duffy.
IS: But John Duffy, that is –
IS: Later…John Duffy is me, in other words, the same, you know, the spot, the spot was created with my departure, but the spot can be replaced by other people.
AMT: But am I correct that you found yourself in a situation that your colleagues had either died or were leaving? You were left here almost alone.
IS: Well, not alone. I was left with Loerke.
AMT: [laughs] Yes.
IS: At least, you didn’t mention the appointment of Loerke – because it would be very interesting to place it chronologically, you see.
AMT: I think it’s about ’71.
IS: ’71 – that is quite possible, because Jenkins dies in ’69, correct?
IS: As I told you, I know about it sitting in that expensive cabin of a Polish ship, returning from abroad. I get this telegram. So, everything is okay, as I said before. Let’s say, the powers that be don’t know what to do. And therefore the solution is found. Kitzinger is still there. ’69.
AMT: No –
IS: Already, already –
AMT: He left ’66.
IS: Ah – to become the Porter – the Porter – but he is somehow instrumental –
AMT: – but he is probably at the Harvard end.
IS: Yes, yes. So, I am named the senior faculty member. It is impossible – there must have been more than two. But that’s what I remember and I remember already Mr. Tyler’s time. So, that must be after Thacher’s retirement. Which year is it?
AMT: Thacher retired in December ’69. So, Tyler must have come in 1970, I would guess.
AMT: So, I did want to ask you what this transition meant.
IS: No, you did ask me. Now man’s servitude to Dumbarton Oaks is beyond my purview, but not beyond my judgment. He was a grand – the godson of the foundress. From the point of view of a man for whom the glory starts in 1200 Sorbonne with the fights between the magistri and the archbishop, this is a throwback to the time of patronage of the obviously post-Renaissance and post-Renaissance, yes? From the eighteenth century and the great reforms of the university which my hero, Alexander von Humboldt, was participating, ended all that, you know. And that’s where I grew up. And that’s my reaction. Is understandable. But this is the reaction of somebody who doesn’t get it, you understand. Thacher was already bad because he was a – because as Mrs. Bliss said, “I fell for him.” Yes? Now my personal answer is the indirect answer to what you said. You may know the changes that you considered important. Now you may remember the story of my first encounter with Thacher. It was – quotation marks – “I am not a scholar.” Mr. Tyler told me that he was a scholar because he wrote a history of some castle in Burgundy.
AMT: The castle where he lived.
IS: Maybe the castle which he owned and to which he retired. He had views. I brought Guillou in. Guillou knows it. The Archives know it. I brought many people in. Hunger, Beck, and so on. I want a history of Dumbarton Oaks’ visitors. And who came. Comes Guillou and tells me, “J’ai apporté une niece.” Une nièce, nièce – nepotes – is mistress, yes, pas ma nièce, mais la nièce. What’s new? I invite, for instance – in short, Mr. Tyler took it very amiss.
AMT: I remember that.
IS: You remember that?
AMT: I remember it was a great scandal, at least for some people, yes.
IS: Well, it was still the time where the clock in Dumbarton Oaks ran on a different time than it ran in France. It ran on a different – was running on a different time since the Liaisons Dangereuses, which describes the world of 1760’s. Good. With Guillou, I invited him to dinner. He did come. But he didn’t drink a glass of wine from me. Come, it means la nièce was there and Fellows and so on. You can imagine that having been already partly acculturated I didn’t say anything – I didn’t say, “Why don’t you drink this Chateau de Beychevelle which is – costs so much?” – you know? Then there were the meetings. I’m describing indirectly the mind of the new Director. The meetings, obviously, in my case, had to do with the Byzantine section – whom to invite, to write and so on. Senior faculty member [points to himself]. Is asserted Mr. Tyler,
“you write the drafts, and I shall sign it.” Now the whole acculturation disappears in a second. “Mr. Tyler, you write the draft.” I know that he’s an ambassador at Bonn. I know that this is the way ambassadors act, correct? But I say, “You come into a different milieu. If I have to adapt, you may also adapt a little bit, you know.” “I write a letter, but I’ll submit it to you, because you know these things, maybe it will…correct, of course, I’ll sign it.” I mean, that is a variant that never happens. So, that I am a scholar and I have somebody who writes drafts for me. Mango, who I think still is there, obviously is of the same view, although he does not think of the Sorbonne or the fact that St. Andrew’s is the third oldest university in America. But he don’t like it, yes? And that is one of the reasons why he left. After, as you remember, returning as the – leaving the Toynbee chair, I claim, after this fantastic discussion at the top of Acropolis in an enormous heat where he taught me the sentence that this is the weather in which only mad dogs and Englishmen venture out. I sold him, I sold him the Brooklyn Bridge, because you didn’t ask me. But I knew that the new era in Dumbarton Oaks begins. You come, we shall build something – new era to which I would have added, when you asked me what my conception was, would be long projects, would be an encyclopedia of Byzantium, and would be long systematic archaeological activity. Well, things did happen. The O.D.B. came into being. So, this is perhaps our fault. Whatever we said was blocked. Well, maybe if you said exactly the same thing, you would have been immediately accepted, you know? We didn’t know how to solve the personal problems.
AMT: In your personal view, was it better to have the permanent faculty here?
IS: I would say, yes, if it were a better faculty than it was, and if it had a vision, a common vision. So, I don’t know how to do it. The faculty as it was, was a kind of All Souls College. No students, obviously, no common projects, but All Souls managed to create excellence. Maybe because it was not limited to a field, you know. So, my answer is unclear. At that time I wanted out because I wanted to have a larger group of colleagues and intellectuals. And it worked – I mean, it’s a proof that I’m not quite neurotic, because I’m kind of a success at Harvard.
AMT: Well, I think it was definitely the right decision.
IS: Maybe it was engineered, but only Constable will tell. I didn’t feel it.
AMT: Now let me ask you something else. I believe it was just at this time, perhaps around 1970, that the idea of moving Dumbarton Oaks to Cambridge was raised.
IS: I have an answer to it, but before I do it, I want simply to say that Tyler was not the big catastrophe, subjectively. Subjectively, the big catastrophe was Loerke. It was an accidental appointment during some stops between two places by President Pusey with whom I had a lot to do. Pusey liked him. And I don’t remember if I can do the right example, but for me a man who uses loca sancta as if it were a masculine plural – I wasn’t able to answer the question. Listen, but he’s going to be a superb administrator, because Dumbarton Oaks Director of Studies is not about administration, so of course, a horrible insult to you. I mean I’m speaking of administration, maybe Thacher if you want, a Thacher. So that was an injustice of cosmic dimensions. It’s probably – we’ll cut it out, but it was a time when Beck, important friend, was here. Because when I said they took – I know, but why? And he knows all that I felt, and he said to me once in his office, “Why don’t you make up with Loerke?” Make up possible? And I exploded internally with enormous hatred towards Beck, and then I said, “If I hate Beck, it means that it’s something really the matter with me.” And then I could always control it. For he was the intellectual modal inhabitant. Loerke, Shmoerke, as long as he has what he needs, it’s perfect. But the question of vision, the question of quality, the question of understanding, and so on – ach, terrible things. And that was one also of the reasons of trying to have an alternative. If the chairman of my department is a nincompoop, big deal. You know, I can make jokes. But if the Director of Studies of a small, small group who decides in theory about the intellectual direction – is a Mr. Loerke, then this is a collapse of the world. Is correct? So that I want to introduce. Now I’m ready to answer the question of transfer.
AMT: I’ll just mention one thing about Loerke and that is about ten years ago, I did contact him after I interviewed Philip Grierson to try and do something similar with Bill Loerke – and that would have been the late nineties – and he told me that he couldn’t remember anything about his period as Director of Byzantine Studies.
IS: Maybe he repressed it, no?
AMT: Either he repressed it or his mind was gone. I’m not sure, I haven’t seen him.
IS: No, he should be about my age, so it is perfectly likely, yeah.
AMT: I think he’s been in probably really declining health. So, we won’t have his version –
IS: – to have his version.
AMT: Yeah, but…maybe now we can go to the move to Cambridge.
IS: What is your dating of the birth of the idea?
AMT: I’m not sure, but I do seem to remember reading something about the year 1970 and a committee to discuss this.
IS: Ah, there was the committee, of course, of the Smolensk man, started with an “F.” It will come. No, it was about a conception of the future of Dumbarton Oaks. Of course I was on it.
AMT: I mean, you were still here.
IS: Oh yes, yes. But that – see what a difference between ’72 and ’70 – is enormous. Now if ’70 is the date, then I can better answer your question, yes? Yes, such an idea was considered. And again, it collapsed. The proponent of the idea, the great proponent, was myself. The willing member of the club was Mango. And that is it.
AMT: Kitzinger was not in favor?
IS: No no, Kitzinger was...well, neutral. He was not against it.
AMT: Because from reading his dossier I gathered that –
IS: He wanted it too. Maybe. But I don’t remember him meeting with us and saying…whatever.
AMT: So, tell me why you and Cyril thought it was a good idea.
IS: Wanted it. Into, into – end of the psychological problems of a small milieu and big pond alternatives. And I even knew the building where it would come, and of course, compromise, because leaving anything at all that is from my point of view ballast – the gardens which should not be neglected, or the old Mediterranean tradition, the beautiful chairs on which already during my time it was not advised to sit, you understand. And big building which could accommodate everything – it was – in short. The opposition was enormous and I understood it towards the end – I didn’t approve of it but intellectuals, so – why we provoked it. A) There were the old surviving friends of Mrs. Bliss. They were a power with Keenan even who didn’t want the library because it would ruin the landscape. B) There was the staff. I just woke up and said, “I propose to uproot a number of families or make them unemployed.” And then there were the satellites – all the Majeskas of this world. For them this was the end of the world, now they were close to a very comfortable, even scholarly center, and then they would have to go to Cambridge, where they never would go to. So, the answer is – there were three groups of opposition.
AMT: Do you think it might be fair to say that this was an idea which would have more favor with the permanent faculty than with Fellows who came for one year?
IS: I don’t know, because this permanent faculty acquired houses, and so I never even considered, because there was – I mean, there were not enough of –
AMT: Because it seems to me that for the permanent faculty it was more of a problem, this rather, you know, small, ingrown atmosphere, that you might want the broader university community.
IS: No, I think – I see your point – but I think that the problem is seen when you, personally, are uncomfortable. I don’t think that Paul Underwood was uncomfortable.
AMT: Mhm. But he died.
IS: And he died, yes. No, so I cannot say –
AMT: But I think that from the point of view of the Fellows, who came here for a short period of time, that they liked the isolation, as it were, because many of them spent all their lives at big universities, and they relished the opportunity to get away for a year. So it’s a –
IS: And here we come again to the definition of research. Service versus research. So that is, I mean – whatever it is, it was the time of Bok, I think, with whom I had contacts, and well, was a very reasonable man, he just [sniffs] smelled and he saw the opposition as such, and that it’s not worth his while.
AMT: Mhm. But my memory is that the controversy dragged on for several years.
IS: Well, certainly, I am out from ’73.
AMT: Yeah, but after you had moved to Harvard there was still some discussion of it.
IS: Very nice, because I remember pointing out the exact building where I thought it would have to be moved – only the research part, you know. And that must have been already when I was there – if I could have chosen the building. Kitzinger was, yes – Kitzinger, it was true, was already there on this Waterhouse Street and so on, yeah. So it’s very – this is new to me that there was this – of course Villa Bellagio, of course, Hellenic Center, very nice, but Hellenic Center has a director, yes. It has no problems of patronage, because the lady left this money by mistake, she didn’t say, “I want the Mediterranean civilization.” “Whatever remains,” she thought, “maybe five dollars, goes to the Center.” And there were more than five dollars. So, that was a very much simpler thing. May I interpolate – maybe you will replace it – the contacts, you know, it was all matter of contacts with the bigger world, yes, was established, they were established in my time – once a week, an exchange visit. One Fellow goes to the Hellenic Center, and one Hellenic Center Fellow comes here.
AMT: Which we continue to do –
AMT: Although we do it in groups. We have three go.
IS: Well, you continue to do like Chinese railroad workers, because it was done before. End of this – also the fact that it was continued is important – that some anonymous traces that… Seen from the perspective of this year, I think it was an attempt which required much more support and much more awareness of the interests of various groups. Joe Alsop was a man who liked me very much; I visited him practically once a week for – doesn’t matter. He needed me because he was writing his Mellon lectures. He wasn’t so sold on moving. He was sold on my returning as Director of Studies. Because, you know, I mean, doesn’t –
AMT: Was he on the advisory committee or whatever it was?
IS: Oh no. That is a future story that goes to Constable’s time – big tragedy there. And Constable is after Tyler.
IS: No, I was – he warned me – Joe Alsop’s solution is it stays here, but I come back as Director of Studies. I told him, “Sorry, the world and Dumbarton Oaks are not entirely overlapping.” Yes. Now, that’s the answer. Now if you want to speak about Constable or later things – Constable is the time when I am in, yes? Now, real love. Which starts somewhere in the past. There must be some past where I – no, no, no. When did Giles Constable become Director?
IS: Ah, good. Three years of absolute romance.
AMT: At Harvard.
IS: At Harvard. I remember Giles Constable in his own hands bringing the Bonn Corpus to my door, which he got from the Athenaeum, the Boston Athenaeum. So, that’s the extent of love, correct? And then he becomes Director; from my point of view, it’s not perfect, because perfect is a Byzantinist. You hear this sequel? But someone medieval understands things.
AMT: But I remember he invited you down to do a joint seminar on hagiography.
IS: Yes. No no, but – I said romance. Period. This joint seminar, I think, was a repeat of – here – was repeated at Harvard. Now, he becomes Director and I am automatically a member of the Senior Fellows and I am even a secretary. It’s a very nice move.
AMT: A secretary of what?
IS: Of minutes.
AMT: Of the Senior Fellows?
IS: I take minutes.
AMT: Oh, I didn’t know there was such a position.
IS: Well, it’s probably very quickly…very quickly...so it’s very nice. Two friends, everything. And then comes one event. He wanted to appoint Mr. X – sorry I repressed the name, but I – no – as a sidekick, as an equivalent to the teacher at Bard College who was associate director to –
AMT: Baird, Thomas Baird. That was Thacher’s sidekick –
AMT: That was under Thacher.
IS: Ah yes, we discussed fishing in the Great Tetons and so on, so on. And he asked my opinion, and I said, “No.” I thought, senior faculty. And there was a discussion of I don’t know how many hours in the refectory with Evie listening in when finally I left and said, “No.” But it doesn’t mean that I had a power. For some reason this man who later became dean of everything was a specialist in church history. You know, easy to find.
AMT: This isn’t Franklin Ford?
IS: No, Franklin Ford is my man. He is the Dean. He was a dean of students. No, Franklin Ford was a man who was witness to every – this dramatic period. I can say something good about him. I think he’d refused, and somebody else was appointed, and that was the end. I stopped being a secretary. My turn on the Senior Fellows expired. Very nice.
AMT: Could it be a man called Graham?
IS: Sorry? Graham is the man.
AMT: William? Who is an Islamic –
IS: Yes, exactly. You see, you may remember it, or maybe you know it from the Archives, I guarantee it was him. Our conception is if you want to have an assistant, you have either somebody who knows only nuts and bolts, or you have a Byzantinist, you know. So, that was the end of the friendship. But I kept the Bonn Corpus. So, that was a very big difference. He needed me as a right hand in a field – an area – where he was a newcomer, yes – not intellectually, but really, physically. And I needed him because he was an improvement over his predecessor.
AMT: Now this was the time at which Giles abolished the position of Director of Byzantine Studies – in 1976.
IS: He did it?
AMT: He did. He abolished it.
IS: So, this is after Loerke, yes?
IS: It’s possible. There was this protest of the – led by Meyendorff.
AMT: Very briefly, yes.
IS: I was not in it at all. Now it’s true. Because after Loerke – what happens after Loerke…yes. Now that’s where you begin to probably…wake up. Now I forget what – he was his own Director of Studies?
IS: Yes, well, I – you know, Freud is always victorious, because I repressed this fact.
AMT: Well, that’s where they’ll interview me to pick up. Okay.
IS: Well, I remember these things from various angles and I don’t want to make you cringe about what I did, that’s all. So, you asked this question just to refresh my memory? My memory represses the date.
AMT: No, I wondered if you knew anything in particular about the decision to abolish the position of Director of Byzantine Studies.
IS: No, because I’m out. I’m out and happy. I knew whom to support and it doesn’t – maybe in spite of my strong support they made you Director. Were you made Director under him?
AMT: No. Under Giles for two years, I was made something called Associate for Academic Affairs –
IS: – under him?
AMT: Under him. I did about a third of the job of the Director of Studies, mainly in connection with organizing symposia, for example – the logistics of the symposium, of public lectures – all the academic events, essentially. I had nothing to do with the publications, because Peter Topping was still here at that time.
AMT: And then I get sort of fuzzy, but I remember at some point there was John Duffy, and Irina Andreescu was involved. I can’t remember. I have to do my homework on that. Anyway, there was a long period until 1991, when Henry Maguire became once more Director of Byzantine Studies.
IS: No, no, but where are you – where do you come in?
AMT: I was this “Associate for Academic Affairs” between ’78 and ’80.
IS: No, when do you become a candidate for the position of Director of Studies?
AMT: Well, in 1997. So, many, many, many years later.
IS: I see.
AMT: I was here working on projects. I was here with the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium beginning in ’84 until ’91 and then from ’91 to ’96, on the hagiography project, so I was here.
IS: That’s what I remember. I was involved at a stage where you were a candidate for the Directorship of Studies. So, very late. How did it come, if I may ask, to the decision to reestablish the Directorship of Studies? Do you know that?
AMT: All I know is that Robert Thomson, who did know Greek, and was Director from 1984 to ’89, recommended at the end of his tenure that a Director of Byzantine Studies be appointed – he said that it was ridiculous for there not to be one because there were directors of Pre-Columbian Studies and Garden Landscape Studies. So, he recommended that. And then when Angeliki became Director, she, I think, came in with the idea that there would be such an appointment.
IS: Oh, so she was implementing, implementing the –
AMT: That’s my understanding, but it took two years to institute it and to hire Henry. So that was the –
IS: Very good to know your answer. But Thomson was an example which I always mention in the fact that he was in the field because he said, “I’m going to be four or five years and no more,” because he was not accessible until ten AM, because at seven or something he came and he worked –
AMT: He worked from six in the morning.
IS: Six. Beck did the same thing in Munich, by the way – and because he was the man with the smallest chip on his shoulder in my career. But such people stay for five years and go. Ah, good. Now it’s Laiou, and now we are in business and now I’m really completely out. The last time when I was involved was with you – and I think that it’s a monument to Laiou’s impartiality that this letter didn’t finish you completely. Very good.
AMT: Mhm. So, I know that you’ve certainly been back. I remember with great fondness that month we had of the seminar with Henry Maguire on the epigrams on art –
IS: Oh – because I had something I thought to say –
AMT: – which I enjoyed enormously. I think –
IS: Hörandner was there.
AMT: Hörandner, you, and I, and Henry. And I thought it was a wonderful seminar to have –
IS: Continue, continue that, that kind –
AMT: Yes, so it was terrific, you can come back on –
IS: Oh yes, it was a pleasure because I respected everyone, you see, and why not? You were doing the Philes thing, Hörandner started his epigrams on monuments, and I think I remember having coined one of those winged words which will have to enter the collection of my winged words, and the word was “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” I was against too many conjectures. And proponent of the method of deciding that it “ain’t broken.” And I knew something about things – it was really really, in fact – was Henry Maguire – was before you as the director of studies?
AMT: Yes, he was ’91 to ’96.
IS: Well, it is not my turn to ask you questions, so I will simply, now keep going because there’s some last question, yes?
AMT: Yes, well, the last question is just if you’d like to sum up what you’ve seen are the changes.
IS: What is the question?
AMT: the changes over the years –
IS: From ’49 ’til now?
AMT: Well, more since the time you left. But of course, you weren’t here. But from what you observed from outside – you’d come to symposia, you came back briefly as a Senior Fellow –
IS: Yes, I mean, no – ’60... This epigram seminar is also after, yes?
AMT: Yes, that’s part of it. But you had a chance to observe Dumbarton Oaks – at least for a month. It was in June, though, so it was perhaps not during the academic year. But the –
IS: I can say it, but you may not want to – cut it out. As I remember it from after ’73, yes – that is your question really – it was a development in the direction of which I experienced the culmination at the time when everybody was very nice to me. In order to get this [grabs the microphone] – judging by the letter I got, you had to contact four people. That was it for me, you understand? And I realized where the power in Dumbarton Oaks was – it is in my house. Immediate reaction: I made a scene yesterday, but it means it’s possible to do something with scenes. Security runs the place. Harvard University has five million books in Widener, correct? Of course there is security. And they survive, no? And the books, after all, were stolen, but they were stolen by great specialists with an inside contact. As I said the very first time, already when I came, I was of two minds. On the one hand, all those nice black ladies served me, but already very soon I thought the library was an – this was the first year – user-unfriendly place, already a Fellow didn’t have all the freedoms. And then the question of – the symptomatic question – of the copier, of the Xerox, of allotments, and so on, or something that struck me: I had even in our discussion of these two hours – between friends – I didn’t have any questions about “how do you view the contributions of Dumbarton Oaks in these years to the widening of the territory of what is known?”
AMT: Would you like to end with that?
IS: I’m sorry?
AMT: Would you like to end with that? I think that’s a very appropriate topic.
IS: Good enough.
AMT: It’s better than ending with the security.
AMT: It’s better than ending with the security issues.
IS: But the security issue is – I am willing to be recorded on that. Because that’s the reaction. And if you want, I will end with the general observation that – it’s in many places, the system forms people, and the system always wins. But it is possible, in a very small group, to change the system. You can put it wherever you want. That is a wish, you see. So, thank you.
AMT: Thank you.
I wanted to say something positive about the institution which influenced me and to which I was connected for so long. The first thing good about Dumbarton Oaks and myself – because what I will be saying is Dumbarton Oak’s impact upon myself and not a general appreciation of Dumbarton Oaks which belongs to a different context. The first good thing then about Dumbarton Oaks is that it gave me the opportunity of meeting a number of people who were prominent, stars on the firmament of that time, who passed by D.O. and who either took some interest in me or whom I had occasion to admire. I’ll mention some names: first of all, André Grabar – a man of no pretense, a man of warmth, a man of such chips-on-his-shoulder that absolutely didn’t concern me because they had to do with his position in France, a man whom I admired for the width of his perspectives, whom, being a young and foolish man, I pardoned for the inexactitude of his footnotes, and who I remember remained devoted as a reader till a month or so before the end of his life. Then there was Ernst Kantorowicz, the important historian of the twentieth century – as it was said in my day but is no longer said – whose approach was diametrically opposed to what I considered as my scholarly credo. That is, he was a man of the history of ideas, a current in which he grew up while I was always a kind of neo-positivist. Still, he taught me that, although the ideas did not float in the clouds or by themselves, following them is one of the most fascinating aspects of research – to which – which in part I myself later followed. These two people in addition to being scholars were also gentlemen and the remnants of the elite of their respective countries. There were other visitors because both Grabar and Kantorowicz were visitors: a person who comes to mind is Hans Peter L’Orange – a man within the mainstream or the cutting edge of research of the fifties, still the fifties, namely the late antiquity.
I’ll tell you what comes to mind at this moment although I am sure you are not going to print it, I especially would not wish that you do. L’Orange was the author of a book which was called Der späatantike Bildschmuck des Konstantinbogens. D.O. duly accessioned it and the then librarian classified it – after having looked up the word Schmuck in the dictionary – under the category of Jewelry. It means Ornament of the Arch of Constantine. So, now with this parenthesis to be erased, I’ll continue with my list. There was Alföldi, Andreas Alföldi, who in the forties was described by Kantorowicz as a man who has introduced a new field, namely Late Antiquity. And Kantorowicz referred to the late thirties of the last century. He was a man who gave me an insight in the ability of systematic work, namely he showed me his boxes of cards which were forty years old, so that at that time I was not even thirty, I couldn’t imagine that someone would do such a foolish thing. Now, I have reached the age of which is more than forty years later – they are not continued because of the advent of the computer age. Alföldi also revealed to me some motivations in the scholarly activity of which I hadn’t been thinking before. Namely, the secret of the positive role of the chip-on-the-shoulder.
He told me once that his motivation in his studies on some medallion of the late fourth century called Die Kontorniat-Medaillons was to show those people in Vienna that in Budapest one can also do a good work. From the perspective of history it was astonishing because the Hungarian Academy of Sciences was founded in 1825, several decennia, I think, before the Academy of Sciences in Vienna was founded. There were also meteoric figures like Roman Jakobson by whom I was struck as dozens of other people were and whom I began to challenge as some other people were but whose brilliance and talent were something both to admire and to emulate. Then there were people in Dumbarton Oaks. Here I may have been not very impartial or just. In part, it may have been due to the fact that I consider myself as a pupil of Henri Grégoire who at that time was universally considered to be the most brilliant Byzantinist of the period, a view which is no longer wide-spread because of the changing currents in scholarship so that his name is practically forgotten today. From the perspective of 1949, however, that was somebody who had no equals in my mind. Therefore, I had rather limited capacity to appreciate the qualities of the permanent members of Dumbarton Oaks, with clear exceptions: Sirarpie der Nersessian, of course a student of Charles Diehl and of Gabriel Millet, passed the grade and gotten A from a thirty-year-old man.
Then there was Ernst Kitzinger about whom I spoke before. He was, again, certifiably of the good German school. He was tolerated under Hitler so that he could finish his dissertation. Even if he refused to speak German with me at first, he relented afterwards. And I never doubted the value of his work even if I faulted him for the same thing for which I faulted Kantorowicz, namely for believing that ideas somehow float in the air, that they float especially to his conception of the Hellenistic background of Byzantine art. Then there was an honest yeoman, Paul Underwood. His job oversaw the archaeological publications, and he supervised the activity of Dumbarton Oaks and previously the Byzantine Institute in Istanbul and on whom one could rely.
At the end I want to mention an encounter which left an imprint on my life more than all the other stellar figures that I just described. It was Cyril Mango. He didn’t know that he was to be a star of first magnitude on today’s firmament. I think our meeting happened after I stopped being a Fellow at Dumbarton Oaks. And he had just come to be a Junior Fellow. The Archives will testify to the exactitude of my statement. Cyril, who is the most reserved of men, came up to me and said that since we were going to see each other we may as well acquaint ourselves with each other. Well, it turned out very quickly that he spoke excellent and practically native Russian; that I spoke accented Ukrainian-type of Russian although this Ukrainian accent has disappeared with the course of the years, with a rather rich vocabulary; and that we had very similar views on our surroundings. And also very similar views of what Byzantine studies are and should be. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that has lasted at least until June of this year. I was very influenced by Cyril, his scholarly precision. And I was happy to push him in the right directions as a person who was more aggressive than he was – and I mean more courage in exploring the outside world, including Turkey, of which, although a native of Istanbul, he had very little knowledge of at first.
Without these people, my life would have turned differently. In part, because some of them were very instrumental in helping me when I was out of the loop or in a parlance which you, Alice-Mary, would not approve, “on-the-skids.” My first job, at Berkeley, was provided by Kantorowicz, whom I met at Dumbarton Oaks. My other job in Michigan – Ann-Arbor, Michigan – was facilitated by Roman Jakobson, whom I first met at Dumbarton Oaks but with whom I had later contacts in Cambridge. And Kantorowicz was the person who provided me with the membership at the Institute for Advanced Study. I spoke only of my scholarly contacts but I would be remiss in not mentioning the person on whom I made a number of critical remarks, if I remember, in our main interview and these are two persons. One is Mrs. Bliss and another is John Thacher. I certainly was not their cup of tea, neither were they mine. But when it came to my being threatened with expulsion from the United States because my visa had expired, I turned to Jack Thacher, telling him that there is such a thing as a private bill in the Congress and a member of the Congress can introduce such a private bill which postpones deportation for the duration of a given Congress. And the former Governor of Massachusetts, Mr. Herter, was a Congressman. Therefore, would he help? Jack Thacher said he would talk to Mrs. Bliss. I don’t know what he told Mrs. Bliss. Mrs. Bliss didn’t tell me anything, but Mr. Herter introduced a private bill which was a first step in my establishing myself in this country. There had to be another private bill but that doesn’t belong here.
Another point which I would like to mention has to do with the horizons and perspectives which being a member of Dumbarton Oak’s faculty gave me. They fall into two categories, first of all the ability to participate in the archaeological activities of Dumbarton Oaks, either together with Cyril Mango or as a Director of Studies which you would call a short-lived Director of Studies. This opportunity went beyond learning about the world of Istanbul, of the archaeological bureaucracy of Ankara and Istanbul, of the hinterland from Nicaea in the West to Rize in the East and, of course, Kumluca in the south but also the opportunity to put in practice what we, that is Cyril Mango and myself, considered to be a goal of modern Byzantine Studies.
Remember, the perspective I am talking about is that of the sixties of the past century – we called it Byzantinologie totale, that is Total Byzantinology – did not limit itself to various branches – classical philology, archaeology, numismatics – that should be pursued independently. The Total Byzantinology was to be a field of total study, recognizing that all the aspects which I just mentioned are interconnected as a part of a sometime living whole. And here, of course, surface archaeology which we practiced with Cyril was a very important part. And that involved travel in the Dumbarton Oaks-owned Land Rover, that involved long-stays in the Cihangir Flat, from which one could contemplate the Bosporus, which was a pied-à-terre of Dumbarton Oaks, and where we could savor contacts with the non-Turkish population, the so-called Franks of the Sweet Waters. And it ended in the importance of archaeological activity as a part, an important part, of the mission of Dumbarton Oaks. The other effort was a little bit less objectively valid but of course connected with Dumbarton Oaks. Owing to my position at Dumbarton Oaks, I could initiate and undertake a number of activities which otherwise would not have been undertaken. In order not to prolong this addendum too much, I’ll simply say that I could make or cause to be made the entire recording of the inscriptions in the Sergius and Bacchus Church done on the level of the inscription itself. Such things, as far as I know, never were undertaken afterwards.
I’ll close by quoting a few happy moments that were or, I’ll say, that I inextricably connect with Dumbarton Oaks. Here belong first of all the pleasures that came from delivering successful lectures that were, in most part, later printed also in Dumbarton Oaks Papers and that would not have taken shape without the stimulus that came from those whom I respected at Dumbarton Oaks. There were the moments of preparing those lectures in the rather unusual ambiance of Dumbarton Oaks gardens in the balmier spring days in some corner where I was encouraged to jot down irresponsible statements which I would not have made at my desk and which later I was glad to have made. So, the recognition of the people I admired in Dumbarton Oaks and those visitors I revered like the famous paleographer Alexander Turyn. Then finally the happy afternoons which I shared with everybody who spent some time in Dumbarton Oaks. The afternoon teas where I felt most of the time at ease and where I exercised my abominable puns, the abomination of which I was at that time not aware, and, finally, there was the Dumbarton Oaks pool and my obligatory five laps along that pool every afternoon. That will be all, Alice-Mary, for the nonce.