After being a schoolteacher, she became a professor at Lille University and subsequently at the Sorbonne, between 1957 and 1973. She later was promoted to the chair of Greek and the development of moral and political thought at the Collège de France — the first woman nominated to this prestigious institution. In 1988, she was the second woman (after Marguerite Yourcenar) to enter the Académie Française, being elected to Chair #7, which was previously occupied by André Roussin.

In 1995, she obtained Greek nationality and in 2000 was named as an Ambassador of Hellenism by the Greek government. A one-time president of the Association Guillaume Budé, she remained an honorary president until her death.