Darby Scott: A Personal Reminiscence

A black and white photo in which a man in a tie speaks with another man
Russell "Darby" Scott greets Frank E. Brown at a reception at Villa Aurelia, 1982 (photograph from the American Academy in Rome, Institutional Archive)

Helen “Ili“ Nagy (1986 Fellow, 2009 Resident) has kindly allowed AAR to publish her reminiscence of Russell “Darby” T. Scott Jr., who died on May 28 and whose death the entire AAR community notes with deep sorrow.

The sad news of Darby Scott’s (1966 Fellow, 1979 Resident) death reached me a few days ago. I offer these remarks with deep gratitude for sharing his knowledge of Rome and for his extraordinary kindness. I met Darby in the sixties, but I came to know him during my AAR Fellowship in 1985–86. Darby was the Andrew W. Mellon Professor-in-Charge of the School of Classical Studies. His duties included the weekly Walks and Talks in and around Rome, supplemented by longer excursions. These site visits stand out among my memories of that magical year as the most outstanding on-site talks I have ever experienced. They were not only factually informative, but they brought to life the long history that enveloped the given site under consideration. We saw the monuments “in context.” Darby’s walks were attended by fellows from diverse fields. The writer Oscar Hijuelos comes to mind. He was so fascinated with the ancient sites, that he returned to Rome several summers after our fellowship year to help on Darby’s excavation in the Forum. I also did the same. 

Darby knew many Italian and foreign scholars in Rome and he made it his responsibility to introduce fellows to experts in their field. I remain grateful for all of the contacts he facilitated on my behalf by invitations of scholars to lunch or dinner, cocktails, letters of introduction, and so on. It was a young scholar’s paradise.

Professor Frank E. Brown (1933 Fellow, 1954 and 1955 Resident) was Director and Mellon Professor at AAR during Darby’s fellowship from 1964 to 1966. Brown was also the director of the excavations at the Latin colony of Cosa, where a number of fellows, including Darby and his wife-to-be Ann, excavated during the summer. Darby’s dedication to Cosa lasted a lifetime. His devotion to the site was matched by his admiration for Brown, who continued to work at his desk in the “Cosa room” into his old age. As a Fellow, I witnessed Darby’s kind respect for his now diminished mentor. He would visit Brown at his desk in the Cosa room to help him make sense of the piles of notes in front of him. Brown was invited to all events at the Scotts’ house and respectfully introduced to important visitors. Ann paid daily visits to the Browns’ apartment to help Jacky with chores and a persistent wound on her foot that needed attention. The Scotts’ kindness was accompanied by unflagging respect. At evening meals I often sat next to Frank Brown. I don’t remember the topics of our conversations, but I do remember that always the gentleman, after each meal he offered me a digestivo.

In addition to the excavations at Cosa, Darby also continued work on a couple of sites in the Roman Forum where he welcomed help from a number of amateur archaeologists. I was fortunate to be among these, along with Oscar Hijuelos, Linda Bettman, and others. We provided some help and learned much. Darby’s kindness extended not only to his friends on the site, but to the workmen. Never a harsh word.

I owe a great deal to Darby Scott. I learned how to teach on site, I learned so much about the history and topography of Rome, I met fellow Etruscologists. But most of all, I learned how to be a kinder human being. By the end of my fellowship, I had forged a deep friendship with Darby and Ann. I am grateful to them.

Editor’s note: The American Academy in Rome provides additional biographical information about Darby Scott below.

Russell T. Scott Jr. was born in Lewiston, Idaho, in 1938. He received his BA in 1960 from Stanford University in classics and philosophy and earned an MA and PhD from Yale University, both in classics, in 1962 and 1964, respectively. At Yale, Scott held the predoctoral Sterling Fellowship from 1963 to 1964; the following year he was awarded a Fulbright to travel to Italy. He next won the Rome Prize Fellowship in classical studies and archaeology, which allowed him to remain in Italy until 1966.

Scott’s association with the American Academy was deep. For one, it was during his Rome Prize Fellowship that he met his wife, Ann Reynolds Scott, a 1967 Fellow; they both participated in Frank E. Brown’s excavations at Cosa. Scott later held multiple other positions at the Academy: Director of the Classical Summer School from 1974 to 1976; Resident in 1979; Andrew W. Mellon Professor-in-Charge from 1984 to 1988; and codirector of the Academy’s summer program in archaeology during most of the 1990s. He edited or published multiple volumes from AAR’s monograph series, including The Hellenistic, Roman, and Medieval Glass from Cosa (2017), Excavations in the Area Sacra of Vesta (1987–1996) (2009), and Religion and Philosophy in the Histories of Tacitus (1968). 

Scott’s expertise was in Roman archaeology and history of the republican and imperial periods with special reference to Italy and the western provinces. He mentored countless undergraduate and graduate students at Bryn Mawr College, where he taught for over fifty years. Scott joined Bryn Mawr’s faculty as assistant professor in 1966, became a professor in 1978, and was lately Doreen C. Spitzer Professor Emeritus of Latin and Classical Studies. Until recently, Scott served as director of the Cosa Excavations and was editor of the Cosa publications from 1984 up to the time of his death. He is survived by his wife, Ann Scott; his son, Charley (who is married to Emily); and his grandchildren, Billy and Lizzy.

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