Emily Vermeule

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Emily Vermeule
Born11 August 1928
Academic background
Alma materBryn Mawr College Radcliffe College
Thesis (1956)
Academic work
InstitutionsHarvard University

Emily Dickinson Townsend Vermeule ( August 11, 1928 – February 6, 2001) was an American classical scholar and archaeologist. She was a professor of Classical Philology and Archaeology at Harvard University.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Emily Dickinson Townsend was born on August 11, 1928 in New York City to Clinton Blake Townsend and Eleanor Mary Meneely.[1][2] She was named for her grandmother, a relative of the poet Emily Dickinson.[1]

She received an undergraduate degree in Greek and philosophy from Bryn Mawr College in 1950.[1] She earned a master's degree in classical archaeology from Radcliffe College in 1954, and a Ph.D. in Greek from Bryn Mawr in 1956.[1] Her doctoral dissertation, supervised by Richmond Lattimore, was entitled 'Bacchylides and Lyric Style'.[2][3]


Vermeule attended the American School of Classical Studies at Athens as a Fulbright Scholar in 1950–1951, where she took part in the excavation of a Mycenaean tomb.[4] Three years later, in1953-54 she studied at St Anne's College, Oxford Oxford University as a Catherwood Fellow.[3] she was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1964–1965.[4]

She taught at Bryn Mawr and Wellesley College from 1956-58, and 1958 she became an assistant professor of Classics, and then from 1961 associate professor, at Boston University.[4] In 1965 she returned to Wellesley, holding the position of professor of Art and Greek until 1970.[1][4] She was the James Loeb Visiting Professor of Classical Philology at Harvard University in 1969.[3] In 1970, she was appointed the Samuel Zemurray Jr. and Doris Zemurray-Stone Radcliffe Professor at Harvard University, where she taught in both the departments of Classics and the History of Art and Architecture.[1] She retired in 1994.

In 1995 Vermeule served as the president of the American Philological Association (now Society for Classical Studies).[5] She delivered a presidential lecture at the 1995 annual meeting in San Diego entitled 'Archaeology and Philology: The Dirt and the Word'.[6]

Vermeule excavated at many sites in Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and Libya, including Gordion in the early 1950s, and Kephallenia, Messenia, Coastal East Libya, Halicarnassus, and Thera-Santorini in the 1960s.[7] She was director of the excavations at Toumba tou Skourou, Cyprus, in 1971-74.[8]


Vermule was awarded the Radcliffe Graduate Society Gold Medal in 1968. In 1980, she received the American Philological Association's Charles J. Goodwin Award of Merit.

In 1982 the National Endowment for the Humanities selected Vermeule for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government's highest honor for achievement in the humanities. Her lecture was entitled "Greeks and Barbarians: The Classical Experience in the Larger World,"[9] and dealt with the relationship between the Greeks and their "less civilized" neighbours.[10]

In 1983 Vermeule received a Doctor of Letters from Bates College.[citation needed]

Personal life and legacy[edit]

She married the archaeologist Cornelius Clarkson Vermeule III in 1957.[2] Together they had two children: Blakey Vermeule, a professor of English literature at Stanford University, and Adrian Vermeule, a professor at Harvard Law School.[7]

She died of heart disease-related issues in Cambridge, Massachusetts on February 6, 2001 at the age of 72.[1][4] Vermeule was one of the earliest female academics at Harvard University and helped shaped the faculty.[4] Vermeule was also a published poet, whose poems appeared in The New Yorker and Poetry Magazine.

Selected publications[edit]

  • The Trojan War in Greek Art (1964)
  • Greece in the Bronze Age (1964)
  • The Mycenaean Origin of Greek Mythology (1972) with Martin P. Nilsson
  • Toumba Tou Skourou. The Mound of Darkness. A Bronze Age Town on Morphou Bay in Cyprus (1974) with Florence Z. Wolsky
  • Aspects of Death in Early Greek Art and Poetry (1979)
  • Mycenaean Pictorial Vase Painting (1982) with Vassos Karageorghis


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Honan, William H. (2001-02-23). "Emily Vermeule, 72, a Scholar Of Bronze Age Archaeology". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  2. ^ a b c Carter, Jane B.; Morris, Sarah P. (1998). The Ages of Homer: A Tribute to Emily Townsend Vermeule. University of Texas Press. p. 11. ISBN 0292712081.
  3. ^ a b c Lang, Mabel L. (2002). "Emily Dickinson Townsend Vermeule: 11 August 1928 · 6 February 2001". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. 146 (4): 426–429.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Emily Dickinson Townsend Vermeule". Harvard Gazette. 2004-06-03. Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  5. ^ "Past Presidents". Society for Classical Studies. 2010-05-21. Retrieved 2018-10-22.
  6. ^ Vermeule, Emily. "Archaeology and Philology: The Dirt and the Word" (PDF).
  7. ^ a b Faculty of Arts and Sciences (18 May 2004). "'EMILY VERMEULE'" (PDF).
  8. ^ "Department of Antiquities - The Looting of Cultural heritage in Occupied Cyprus". www.mcw.gov.cy. Retrieved 2018-10-22.
  9. ^ Jefferson Lecturers at NEH Website (retrieved January 22, 2009).
  10. ^ David M. Rosenfeld, Classics Professor Vermeule To Deliver Jefferson Lecture, Harvard Crimson, February 22, 1982.

External links[edit]