Adam T. Foley, a classicist, historian, and a 2016 Rome Prize Fellow in Renaissance and early modern studies, died on March 7, 2023. He was 36 years old.
Foley’s year at the American Academy in Rome was transformative, personally and professionally. As the Donald and Maria Cox Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize Fellow, he conducted archival research at the Vatican Library and across Italy and Europe and completed his dissertation, “Homer’s Winged Words and Humanist Latinity: The Task of Translating Homer in the Italian Renaissance,” for the Department of History at the University of Notre Dame. Foley also began several creative-writing projects, beginning with a list of nearly one hundred aphorisms and two essays. Upon his death, he left additional drafts of aphorisms and an incomplete novel.
Foley’s research centered on the reception of Homer in the Italian Renaissance, translation studies, and the history of hermeneutics. In a letter of recommendation for his Rome Prize application, Foley was called “a great linguist and polymath” with “insatiable curiosity.” Another letter identified him as “quite simply the brightest and best graduate student I have encountered in fourteen years of teaching….” The young scholar had advanced proficiency in Greek and Latin—he was self-taught in both—and was also confident in German and Italian. Foley’s career path had an unusual start: he took the GED after dropping out of high school. He later earned a BA in classical languages and history magna cum laude from John Carroll University in 2011 before studying at Notre Dame.
After his time at the Academy, Foley became an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wolf Humanities Center in 2017–18 and a Villa I Tatti–Bogaziçi University Joint Fellow in Florence from January to June 2019, where he researched “The Latin Homer at the Twilight of Hellas.” Foley also earned a Fulbright Grant to Italy, a Ford Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, and a CLIP Fellowship for Research in Original Sources.
Foley’s recently published work includes an essay, “Aeneas Interpres: Landino’s Earliest Allegory of the Aeneid and Ficino’s First Ten Dialogues,” in the edited anthology Virgil and Renaissance Culture (2018), as well as “Raphael’s Parnassus and Renaissance Afterlives of Homer” in Renaissance Quarterly (2020), “A Partial Interlinear Translation of the Iliad from the Fifteenth Century” in Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies (2018), and “Miltonic Sublimity and the Crisis of Wolffianism before Kant” in Journal of the History of Ideas (2017). His last piece was a review of Thomas R. Nevins’s book Nietzsche’s Protestant Fathers: A Study in Prodigal Christianity for the Journal of Nietzsche Studies (2022).
Foley came to the Academy during a dark moment in his life. Reflecting on his year, he wrote, “The fellowship has jump-started my life with electric intensity. For the first time in my life I started eating healthy, exercising, cultivating friendships with people who made me want to be a better person…. [T]he academic side of things was great, but the real areas in life I need help in were not academic, and the scholarly advantages of being here pale in comparison to the real transformative experience that I had and hope to continue having.”
“Most importantly,” he continued, “while at the Academy I learned what really matters in life and have been able to find a kind of health and happiness that I’ve never known. So, thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ll never be able to thank you enough.”
Foley is survived by his wife, Silvana Farina, whom he met in Rome.