Bones From an Ankara Opera House

I seem to have the ‘before’ and ‘after’ articles of this one, both from Hurriyet … first, the before … from August 30:

Human bones and a skull have been discovered under the stage at the historical Ankara Opera House, home of the Ankara State Opera and Ballet (ADOB), during renovations, daily Hürriyet reported yesterday.

Restoration work at the building has been halted to permit archaeologists a chance to examine the venue.

ADOB performs most of its pieces in the historical opera building, which was built in 1933 as an exhibition house and turned into an opera house in 1984. The State Theaters also use the building under the name Büyük Tiyatro (Great Theater). Since it is an old structure, the stage was insufficient for the needs of the opera and underwent a restoration process at the end of the last opera season.

During the renovations, a skull, arm, leg bones and pottery were discovered 25 to 30 meters under the stage. The directorate informed the Culture and Tourism Ministry about the findings and archaeologists from the Cultural Heritage and Museums General Directorate investigated the area.

ADOB director Aykut Çınar told Hürriyet that the stage elevators were being renovated. “There is a platform approximately 25 to 30 meters under the stage where the elevator hoist mechanism is. The mechanism was removed to be changed since these machines are very old. Excavation was necessary for their removal.”

After learning about the discovery, Çınar said he and ADOB General Director Regim Gökmen stopped the excavation, installed a safety line and requested an anthropologist and archaeologist from the ministry to inspect the findings.

Çınar said the team arrived at the building the same night and began examinations. “They determined that there were no more remains and gave us permission to continue excavations under the supervision of an archaeologist. The area was already very small and the excavations continued two more days.”

Noting that there were no further discoveries, he said, “There were only a few human bones like legs, arms and a skull, as well as very small pieces of pottery from old periods.”

He said a report would be prepared about the findings. “We have heard that the finds are most probably from the Roman period, but we are waiting for the official report. The excavation work is done and the archaeologist has left the site. We have delivered the bones to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations,” Çınar said.

According to some resources, the area was an Armenian cemetery during the Ottoman Empire, which might be the source of the remains.

The next day:

The mystery of the human bones that were discovered under the stage at the historical Ankara Opera House, home of the Ankara State Opera and Ballet (ADOB), during renovations, seems to have been solved.

As a result of the examinations by archaeologists and anthropologists from the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, the discovered skull belongs to a 25-30 year-old man, while the bones belong to a woman, whose age could not be determined, daily Hürriyet reported yesterday. The experts said the ceramic pieces, also found during the same renovations, dated back to the late Roman period. “The bones and the skull are most probably from this period too,” they said.

Meanhile, at a press conference held on Aug. 29, ADOB General Director Rengim Gökmen said the building had been undergoing a comprehensive restoration process for the first time, and that the discoveries would not prevent the continued restoration of the building. “The restoration will continue during the summer months for the next four to five years,” he said.

Gökmen said the new season would be opened with the newly-renovated stage. “The Phantom of the Opera has become real,” he joked.

I’m curious about the 25-30 metres below the stage thing … how deep is this compared to ground level? Seems awfully deep …

Hockey in the Pula Amphitheatre Followup

A while back we mentioned plans to hold a hockey game in the ancient Roman amphitheatre at Pula (Hockey in the Pula Amphitheatre!) … here’s an update with some photos of the ice surface in progress:

… I hope someone posts some video at Youtube when the time comes …

CONF: Cultural F(r)ictions in Hellenistic Literature

Seen on the Classicists list:

CULTURAL F(R)ICTIONS IN HELLENISTIC LITERATURE (University of Exeter 27th-28th September 2012)

On 27th-28th September, the Centre for Hellenistic and Roman-Greek Culture and Society, in the Department of Classics and Ancient History (Exeter), will host a conference to celebrate Hellenistic literature and raise provocative new questions about the interaction between Greek and other cultures through a series of research presentations and reading-workshops. We particularly welcome postgraduate students who are working in this subject to attend. Details of the programme are included below. The conference is generously supported by funding from the Leventis Foundation, as part of an initiative to promote research on the impact of Greek culture on non-Greek cultures.

There is no charge to attend the conference, but to register your intention to attend, please contact me at the email address below.

Thanks to the generosity of the Classical Association, bursaries are available to postgraduate students to assist with travel-costs to attend the conference; enquiries to K.Ni-Mheallaigh AT


3-4.30pm Reading workshop, Longus Daphnis and Chloe, led by Professor Ewen Bowie
4.30-5pm Tea/coffee
5-7pm Professor Flora Manakidou (Democritus University ofThrace), ‘Callimachus’ Iambi: modes of travelling and politics’.

9.30-10.15 Dr Karen Ní Mheallaigh (Exeter), ‘Textual transmission as cultural exchange: the story of the Kyranides.’
10.30-11.15 Dr Ivana Petrovic (Durham), ‘The representation of court society in Hellenistic poetry: Persia, the Greek world, Rome.’
11.30-12 Coffee/tea
12-12.45 Professor Tim Whitmarsh (Oxford), ‘Cultural Hybridity: the Alexander Romance’.
1-2 Lunch
2-2.30 Daniele Sberna (Durham), ‘Λεπτός/lepidus: proclamations of liberty in Callimachus and Catullus.’
2.45-3.15 Christian Djurslev (Exeter) ‘Alexander Kerasphoros – the horned Alexander in Hellenistic culture and beyond.’
3.30-4.15 Professor Barbara Borg (Exeter), ‘A cup of stories: art and text on the ‘Homeric bowls’.
4.15-4.45 Tea/coffee
4.45-5.30 Professor Ewen Bowie (Oxford), ‘Philicus’ Hymn to Demeter.’
5.45-6.45 Reading-workshop, led by Dr Ivana Petrovic: ps.Longinus, On the Sublime
Digression: Genius versus Mediocrity (32.8-36.4)
Appendix 44.1-end.

CFP: Theoretical Roman Archaeology conference (TRAC) 2013

Seen on the Classicists list:

Session proposals are invited for the 23rd Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference which will take place on 5th-6th April 2013 at King’s College London ( Proposals and any queries should be sent to the conference email address (trac AT and should comprise an abstract (max. 250 words) as well as the names and contact details of the proposer(s), and of any individual proposed speakers. We are interested in panels on any of the various aspects of current theory and practice in the field of Roman archaeology, particularly those of a cutting edge or controversial nature. Please do foward this invitation to any interested colleagues.

CFP: Staging Death: Funerary Performance, Architecture and Landscape in the Aegean

Seen on Aegeanet


2nd circular and call for publication papers

A recent colloquium at the 113th Archaeological Institute of America Annual Meeting (Philadelphia,January 5-8, 2012) explored the notion of funerary place as an intuitive concept with which to approach landscapes, buildings, bodies, societies and identities in the Aegean. In this espoused ‘archaeology of place’, funerary monuments may be regarded as an intrinsic part of the human landscape. The built and unbuilt environments together form social, lived, ideational landscapes inhabited by people. Funerary places are not fossils of past behavior frozen in time through construction and the deposition of bodies, but are inherently performative: they are continuously reworked, revamped, rebuilt, remembered, or turned to ruins, obliterated, abandoned, and forgotten.

Recent scholarship in the Aegean attempts to move beyond a perceived divide between nature and culture, object and subject, body and mind, focusing on the multisensorial, somatic, social/intersubjective experience of mortuary place; the study of funerary landscape and architecture as abstract behavior and space, is being tempered with experience and a sense of place, while there is a growing interest in interpreting landscape as something other than a passive backdrop of behavior or specular representation.The colloquium sought to identify directions for further research along these lines of inquiry; and to expand upon themes of study such as the use of funerary monuments as arenas for social and political competition, as instruments for the proclamation or contestation of status,and as vehicles for the legitimization of power and ancestral rights.

We are now soliciting papers for an edited volume that will address questions such as these:

· Affordances of place:What determines locality? What are some affordances and potentialities of particular landscapes? How do landscape configurations create distance and difference? Might some of these affordances and their perception be cross-cultural and universal, or are they entirely context-specific?

· ‘Landscaped’ buildings, ‘architectonic’ landscapes: What do inherent, sensible qualities of the landscape (e.g. forms, color and texture) impart on the experience of built space? To the extent that the environment is also a source of building materials, what can we say about the qualities of the latter as architectonized pars pro toto of landscape? How do buildings mimic, incorporate, substitute, subvert, compete with landscape? How does landscape structure and compete with architectural arrangements?

· Movement and interplaces: How does movement, directionality, and approach construct ‘flows of the mind’ in a given context? What kinds of spatial stories are created through architectural design, structured movement, different perspective or sequence of approach?How can we better understand ‘interplaces’, i.e. the pathways between settlements and cemeteries, different cemeteries, different tombs within cemeteries, and the various spatialities of the tomb?

· Places and bodies: How are bodies contained within buildings and the pathways that connect them? Can buildings be seen to function as surrogates of people’s bodies? What might some anthropomorphic and human-metaphoric qualities of buildings and landscapes be?

· Beyond the specular: Can we do more than just ‘look at’ buildings, and sense them as well by incorporating soundscapes, feelscapes etc.? How can we augment the specular paradigm of architectural study? Can we regard ‘monumentality’, permanence and quality of construction from a perspective other than conspicuous consumption and the display of power?

· Modes of containment and knowledge: How does architecture structure taskscapes and guide social practice? How does architecture include or exclude, group or ungroup, constrain or allow, reveal or conceal? What do modes of containment tell us about participation and the control of knowledge? How do funerary places mediate and manage specialized knowledge?

· Aesthetics and politics of the hidden: What are some ludic qualities of architectural design? How are the dynamics of presence/absence, welcome/exclusion, familiarity/risk, knowledge/ignorance deployed, and what other dynamics might be relevant in context? Does architectural design cultivate an aesthetics of the hidden and for what purpose?

· Boundaries and divisions: What are the metaphoric and liminal associations the built environment, such as processional accesses, entrances, thresholds? What kinds of worlds do entrance divide and blend? What is the source and nature of culture-specific hidden imaginaries beyond? What do boundaries do to ‘porous places’?In what sense can we speak of ‘homes’ and ‘cities of the dead’ in the Aegean? How does verisimilitude help create unitary spaces of human experience? What are some purposes of architectural isomorphism in specific contexts?

· Biographies and memory: How are biographies of monuments constituted through revisitations, alterations, obliterations? What is the afterlife of places, if any, in the notional landscapes of memory? What explains particular topophilias or topophobias? Why are some places ‘more persistent’ than others?How are mnemoscapes constructed? How do funerary places retain their cognitive ‘stickiness’ when not in sight? What is special about walking in or reusing ruins and ‘abandoned’ places?

· Contested places: If places are maintained, when and why are they questioned? What alternate meanings might arise from the point of view of exclusion? What do the landscapes and places of resistance look and feel like? How does place construct identity? How do autotopographies emerge and how might they acquire intersubjective status?

· Performance: Can we incorporate notions of ‘performance’ into a holistic approach to the structuring of mortuary ritual within the enabling and constraining aspects of buildings and topography?

Scholars with proposals related to the prehistoric and early Iron Age Aegean are encouraged to submit an abstract of about 300-400 words to Anastasia Dakouri-Hild and Michael Boyd, at stagingdeath AT by October 1st, 2012. Authors will be notified by October 30th. The deadline for full-length submissions of accepted proposals is May 30, 2013 (8,000-10,000 words; more details TBA). Full-length submissions will be subject to peer-reviewing by the publisher and thus are not guaranteed inclusion in the volume.

CFP: Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers

seen on the Classicists list … sessions 5 and 6 seem of especial interest

Nineteenth Annual Conference
April 4-7, 2013 at The University of Georgia
Athens, GA

Call for Papers

The Program Committee for the 2013 Convention:

Margaret Amstutz, University of Georgia
John Burt, Brandeis University
Christopher Ricks, Boston University
Hugh Ruppersburg, University of Georgia
Sarah Spence, University of Georgia
Jeff Stachura, Athens Academy
Elizabeth Wright, University of Georgia

The call for papers for each session is given below; the practice is that at least one participant at each plenary session should derive from this call and that all of the participants in the concurrent seminars will do so. Please note: everybody who participates must be a current member of the ALSCW. The 2013 introductory rate for new members is $37 and renewals are $74.

Proposals of 300 words should be sent as email attachments to Sarah Spence (sspence AT on or before October 1, 2012.

Plenary sessions: All the plenary sessions will be held in the UGA chapel, which is adaptable for many types of presentations, including Power Point and the performance of live music.

Session 1: Literary Impersonation
Organizer: Greg Delanty, St. Michael’s College, VT

This session will explore the benefits and possibilities of poetic ventriloquism, which, in the tradition of Pessoa, Nabokov’s Pale Fire, and Kipling’s fifth book of Horace’s Odes, permits sustained acts of impersonation, such as pseudonymous volumes and invented histories. The panel aims to investigate whether literary impersonation allows poets to explore outside the borders of the more conventional styles of writing, and how writing in other voices affords a release from current fashion and personal inhibitions.

Session 2: Southern Literature on the World Stage
Organizer: Joel Black, University of Georgia

Proposals are invited which situate southern literature and literary traditions in a global context. We are especially interested in submissions tracing neglected linkages between southern and non-southern works. Besides historical and influence studies, papers are welcome which examine thematic correspondences (e.g., familial and dynastic relations, provincialism, racial oppression and violence), as well as stylistic and artistic parallels (e.g., polyphony, gothicism, the carnivalesque) and studies in literary geography that focus on north/south relations in the Americas and elsewhere.

Session 3: Two Takes on Verse Composition
Organizer: Ernest Suarez, Catholic University

Cleanth Brooks, John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren and their Circle: The New Criticism and Creative Practice

It has often been claimed that the New Criticism—exemplified by Brooks’ The Well Wrought Urn (1947)—is most effective for considering lyric poetry. Ransom, Warren, Allen Tate, and later John Hollander with other New Critics were accomplished poets who had a profound influence on the proliferation of creative writing programs. We would like to invite papers that consider the interactions between the values, assumptions, and practices associated with the New Criticism and how they relate to creative practice. What do New Critical approaches reveal about creative practice, and how do those qualities manifest themselves in the work of particular critics and poets? How has the New Criticism affected subsequent generations of poets (John Berryman, Donald Justice, James Dickey, Adrienne Rich, Charles Wright, Dave Smith, Ellen Bryant Voigt, Louise Glück or Carl Phillips, for instance)?

Singing the South: Blues and Verse Composition

In the ground-breaking history American Literature: The Makers and the Making (1973), Robert Penn Warren asserted that the blues “represent a body of poetic art unique and powerful” and that “much of the poetry recognized as ‘literature,’ white or black, seems tepid beside it.” The blues are the most indigenous form of southern verse, and have served to integrate poetry and music, influencing a host of poets—including Langston Hughes, the Beats, Sonia Sanchez, and Yusef Komunyakaa—as well as rock lyricists, including Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Wonder. We invite papers that consider the artistic and historical dimensions of blues verse composition. We particularly welcome papers with a focus on Georgia artists, including Ma Rainey, Willie McTell, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Otis Redding, James Brown, Johnny Mercer, REM, The Allman Brothers Band, and Widespread Panic.

Session 4: Translating Asia
Organizer: Jee Leong Koh, The Brearley School

“A good translator is an exquisite ambassador,” writes poet and scholar Waqas Khwaja in his introduction to the 2010 anthology Modern Poetry of Pakistan. “Just as the creative artist suggests new ways of looking at the commonplace, the translator opens up to readers a whole new world, a whole new mode of perception and experience, they may hardly have suspected of existing.” The comparison with an ambassador suggests that a translator be conversant not only with the languages of composition and translation, but also with the different cultures. As Khwaja puts it, “How, despite what are seen as virtually insurmountable odds, can translation happen so that it does not undervalue, misrepresent, or (not an unknown phenomenon) utterly dispense with the original?” The panel aims to consider literature from South, East, and South-east Asia.

Sessions 5 and 6: Power and Persuasion in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Boccaccio’s Decameron
NB: These two sessions will run back to back and conclude with a comparative discussion. The papers will be chosen separately for each session, though some consideration will be given to the compatibility of the two panels.
Organizer: Peter Knox, University of Colorado

The possibilities for deploying the resources of rhetoric and artistic illusion to assert power are topics central to Ovid’s Metamorphoses which recur in the narratives of Boccaccio’s Decameron. Papers are invited that explore these issues in two independent, but coordinated, panels on Ovid and Boccaccio.

Session 5: The debate between Ulysses and Ajax in Book 13 of the Metamorphoses is the most prominent exploration of how a skilled practitioner might manipulate the resources of language to exercise control over an audience. But the potentially deceptive influences of the arts are subjected to a similar exploration in characters such as Arachne, Minerva, Daedalus, and Pygmalion. Readers are challenged to consider whether the text offers an affirmation of the practices of rhetoric and the potential for persuasion in the visual arts, or invites a more nuanced interpretation of the artist’s power over the audience in Ovid and his reception in antiquity or later periods.

Session 6: Characters like the painters Bruno and Buffalmacco, or the itinerant preacher, Frate Cipolla, are masterful manipulators of their audiences. To work their effects, they make use of the latest developments in illusionistic art and rhetorical trickery. One major theme of the Decameron, then, is the unscrupulous artist’s deployment of technique to gain kind of power over others. One reader might think Boccaccio admired such characters and emulated them in his own work, while another might see a complex debate in his text about the power of art to impress for good or ill.

Seminars: The seminars will be held in the special collections library at UGA, where participants are invited to consult the holdings.

1. 1863: What does that date conjure for literary scholars, critics, and writers? In the year in which Sam Clemens began writing as Mark Twain, Jules Verne published his first novel, C. P. Cavafy was born, and Thackeray died, there was also the Emancipation Proclamation, the embattled address at Gettysburg, and the opening of the American prairie to the US Homestead Act. In Britain and on the European continent a new era of arts and letters was encountering the consequences of industrial and political revolution in an expanding world. What about the dawn of the age of expositions and world fairs might be brought forth at an ALSCW seminar 150 years later?

2. Can You Read Poetry on a Kindle?: If the invention of the printing press fundamentally changed literature, is the present age a second Gutenberg Revolution? Are we living through another transformation of the modes of creation and reception of literature? On the other hand, have we misunderstood the nature and effects of these eras? What happens to literature when it is created and read online, through instantly conjured archives, amidst perhaps billions of digitized voices? Should something happen? What are the implications of these and other fundamental or superficial changes, especially for the young? This seminar invites papers on all aspects of such questions about literature and technology.

3. Occupying the Margins: Since the advent of history of the book, marginalia have attracted more positive attention than they used to get; aspects of the practice of writing in the margins of books and other documents from the classical period to the present, whether official or personal, and whether in manuscript or in printed form. . The nature and practice of marginalia will be queried in terms of current and past practices. As we become more aware of the value—for them and for us—of the investment that writers and readers of the past made in marginalia, should we be working actively to reintroduce their practices in ways adapted to modern technology?

4. Editing Diaries: Diaries are highly valuable to researchers seeking to understand the history, religion, economics, politics, and literature of a period. The editing of diaries is a complicated task; what decisions are made and by whom are some of the key questions to be broached in this seminar. We seek papers on any aspect of the editing of diaries. Paper topics might include: the historical, political, economic, or social forces influencing the editing of diaries; the selection or dismissal of editors of diaries; the particular responsibility perceived or assumed by editors of diaries of victims of tragedy; the conflicts over time between subsequent editors of diaries; the self-editing of diaries and the texts resulting from such decisions; the unexpected challenges facing the editors of diaries.

The Rise of Roman Numerals in Hollywood

We often bring up Roman numerals during Super Bowl time (when at least one sports writer has to come up with something at a deadline), but Slate has a really interesting piece on the popularity of Roman numerals when designating sequels and the like … here’s a bit in medias res:


It began with the greatest sequel of all time, The Godfather Part II. Until the mid-1970s, sequels weren’t usually numbered at all. Instead, they took names like After the Thin Man (1936) and Another Thin Man (1939), or Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Son of Frankenstein (1939). One of the first sequels was The Fall of a Nation, Thomas F. Dixon’s sequel to the blockbuster The Birth of a Nation. And this continued through the early ’70s. The Planet of the Apes franchise, for instance, used names like Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) and Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971). Even in the rare case that a title was numbered—think of Henry IV Part 2, originally The Second Part of Henry the Fourth—Arabic numerals were used.

The tremendous success of The Godfather Part II, both at the box office and Oscars, would revolutionize Hollywood nomenclature for the next 15 years. There were rumblings of a return to Roman numerals in the lead up to 1974—they were used by the NFL beginning with Super Bowl V in 1971, and by Led Zeppelin starting with Led Zeppelin II in 1969—but after the Godfather sequel Hollywood began to slap a II on just about any hit it could get its hands on. This began with the French Connection II the following May, and continued with movies like Exorcist II in 1977 and Damien: Omen II in 1978. None of these films lived up to the originals at the box office, though, and it wasn’t until Rocky II (1979) and the Star Wars sequels (beginning with Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back in 1980) that Roman numerals really took off. […]

… the Expendables sequel is bucking the trend …

Todd Akin and Ancient Rome

I meant to post this one earlier, but, as often, it was lost in my email box … Classicist Lauren Caldwell (Wesleyan U) comments on a certain American politician’s medical claims in the Hartford Courant:

Students in my course on ancient medicine assume — often rightly — that the writings of Soranus of Ephesus, an eminent physician of the Roman Empire who wrote in the second century A.D., will have little in common with modern ideas and conversations about health. But that was before Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri offered his thoughts on women’s ability to control reproduction.

Akin, in a recent interview, brought ideas about women’s health from 2,000 years ago roaring back into view.

“From what I understand from doctors,” Rep. Akin said with a comment that created a political storm, in instances of “legitimate rape” women can keep themselves from becoming pregnant. Akin referred obliquely to having heard this remarkable medical information from unnamed experts. (He subsequently went to some lengths to take back his theory.)

Perhaps Rep. Akin had been consulting “Gynecology” by Soranus, who, like other Greco-Roman physicians, believed a woman could control what happened at conception. Like Rep. Akin, Soranus was guided by a belief that the goal of sexual activity is not recreation but procreation — a stance that made sense to the Roman male aristocrats who were Soranus’ audience, as it does to a socially conservative audience today.

In “Gynecology,” Soranus wrote to an audience of males interested in enhancing their wives’ ability to provide them with offspring. One strategy for success was to condition a woman’s body, and mind, during intercourse.

Soranus prescribes that “women must be sober during coitus because in drunkenness the soul becomes the victim of strange fantasies,” and the fetus will come to resemble the mother. For example, he notes, “some women, imagining monkeys during intercourse, have borne children who look like monkeys.”

For a Roman male aristocrat of the second century (a period known, incidentally, for its relative peace and prosperity), worries about the physical characteristics of offspring stemmed not primarily from concerns about birth defects or the sanctity of life beginning at conception — for embryology was not well understood — but from the uncertainties of paternity in a world that had no DNA testing. If a male member of the elite sought advice for ensuring that his wife was having his child and no one else’s, Roman physicians, often dependent on wealthy patrons for their livelihood, were ready to oblige by prescribing conduct that might produce a child who physically resembled his father.

Such concerns seem remote from the social and sexual lives of American women today. More women than men are enrolled on college campuses, preparing for careers. Many women are childless by choice, as confirmed by the recent dip in the fertility rate in the U.S. to 1.9 children per woman, according to the Economist.

Yet our own national political debate reveals that a contingent of Americans take a position not so different from that of Soranus’ audience of Roman male aristocrats: They perceive an urgent need to control the reproductive behavior of women. A statement like Todd Akin’s marshals medical “facts” that are about as credible as those put forward by a predecessor of Soranus, the unknown author of the “Diseases of Women,” who maintained that women’s wombs wandered in their bodies, ready to suffocate them at any moment.

The next time I teach my course, I will be able to bring in the example of Rep. Akin to illustrate the ways in which “medical understanding” continues to be used with the aim of social control. I will do so with mixed emotions. On one hand, as an instructor, I am always pleased to find a modern parallel that provides an entry point for my students into the world of Greco-Roman writers such as Soranus. On the other hand, I wish it were a little more difficult to find a parallel that demonstrates so vividly how the use of “medical authority” to justify limitations on women’s choices has persisted through the centuries.

… personally, I think Dr Caldwell gives the U.S. Rep too much credit …

CFP: Tracking Hermes/Mercury

Seen on various lists:

Tracking Hermes/Mercury: An interdisciplinary conference at the University of Virginia, March 27–29, 2014

Keynote speakers: Henk Versnel (Leiden), H. Alan Shapiro (Johns Hopkins), Joseph Farrell (Penn), and Deborah Boedeker (Brown).

Of all the divinities of classical antiquity, the Greek Hermes (= Roman Mercury) is the most versatile, complex, and ambiguous. His functions embrace both the marking of boundaries and their transgression, commerce and theft, rhetoric and practical jokes; he also plays the role of mediator between all realms of human and divine activity, embracing heaven, earth and the netherworld. This conference at the University of Virginia aims to bring together scholars of Greek and Roman religion, art, literature, and history to assess this wide-ranging figure. We hope also to include attention to early reception of the god and his myths outside of Greece and Rome proper—for instance, Hermes as the Egyptian Thoth, the worship of Mercury in syncretistic forms in Rome’s imperial provinces, and allegorical interpretations of the god in late ancient and early medieval times.

If you are interested in presenting a paper (20 minutes), please send an abstract of approximately 500 words by February 1, 2013 at the latest.

Abstracts or requests for information may be sent to one of the organizers:
John F. Miller (jfm4j AT
Jenny Strauss Clay (jsc2t AT

CJ Online Review: Baumbach et al., Archaic and Classical Greek Epigram

posted with permission:

Manuel Baumbach, Andrej Petrovic and Ivana Petrovic, eds. Archaic and Classical Greek Epigram. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Hardcover, £63.00/$104.00. ISBN 978-0-521-11805-7.

Reviewed by Deborah Boedeker, Brown University

In his renowned handbook of Greek literature, first published in 1957, Albin Lesky devoted a scant page to pre-Hellenistic Greek epigrams (a corpus of some 900 verse inscriptions dating from 800 to 300 BCE). Lesky felt it necessary to justify even this much attention, given the genre’s status as “craft” rather than “art.” Recent decades have been more hospitable to the topic, thanks in part to Peter Allan Hansen’s two-volume edition of Carmina Epigraphica Graeca (Berlin and New York, 1983/89). In addition to many articles, not a few of them by contributors to the present volume, two monographs on archaic and classical epigrams have recently appeared: Christos Tsagalis, Inscribing Sorrow: Fourth-Century Attic Funerary Epigrams (Berlin and New York, 2008) and Joseph W. Day, Archaic Greek Epigram and Dedication (Cambridge, 2010). The present edited volume, based on a conference on Greek epigram held in Castle Rauischholzhausen, Germany in 2005, provides the most comprehensive introduction to early elegy. The useful bibliography generally extends through 2007, with scattered citations of some later scholarship.

The volume incorporates a wide range of approaches. In particular, the anthropological turn in Hellenic studies, as well as the integration of material culture and philology, have had a great and profitable impact on the study of early inscriptions. The editors introduce the volume with a substantial essay, valuable not least for its succinct summary of the history of scholarship on Greek epigrams. The rest of the book is divided into two parts of unequal length, Contextualization (Chapters 2–13) and Literarization (Chapters 14–17), with further sub-groupings within these divisions. I will address the chapters in each sub-section, and conclude with a few general comments.

The first section, “Speaking and Reading: the Dialogue between Epigram and Passer-by,” plunges into a long-standing and still controversial debate. Thomas A. Schmitz (“Speaker and Addressee in early Greek Epigram and Lyric”) asks how written texts engage their audiences in comparison with performed texts. Focusing especially on the second-person discourse of Sappho and Alcaeus, he concludes that both kinds of discourse seek to “create a special space for communication that is clearly demarcated from pragmatic, everyday discourse.” Schmitz argues that both kinds of discourse feature a fictional addressee: epigrams establish an imaginary future reader, while the putative addressee of lyric (e.g. Alcaeus’ reviled Pittacus) is not actually present in the performance context. Michael A. Tueller continues the discussion with a catalogue and analysis of the developing role of the passer-by in early epigram—a figure mentioned only occasionally, and only in Attica, before 500 BCE. Gjert Vertrheim’s paper on “voice in sepulchral epigrams” again uses early lyric poetry as a comparandum. He notes that first- and second-person characters in both lyric and epigrams are poetic constructs, and points out that epigrams are more likely to affirm communal values than personal lyric, where the speaker is often given a counter-cultural persona.

A second group of papers deals with “Art and Viewing: the Spatial Context.” Barbara E. Borg writes on the elaborate sculpted and inscribed “chest of Kypselos” dedicated at Olympia, no longer extant but elaborately described by Pausanias (5.17.5–19.10). Borg argues persuasively that the scenes on the chest are accompanied by epic-influenced hexametric inscriptions which not only identify the scene but also “guide the viewer” in how to receive it. She hypothesizes that the chest was designed by/for the Kypselids of Corinth, but does not examine how their interests would connect with the content. A fine chapter by Catherine Keesling focuses on the Callimachus monument on the Athenian Acropolis. The inscriptions on this Nike-topped column include a problematic change of perspective that suggests they consist of two separate epigrams. Keesling argues that the entire monument was dedicated by the city of Athens to commemorate the battle of Marathon—the first public monument for a victory in a military “contest,” and one that already stresses the Hellenic component of the Persian Wars. Very different is Katharina Lorenz’ contribution, “‘Dialectics at a Standstill’: Archaic kouroi-cum-epigram as I-Box.” Lorenz adopts techniques of media-studies to discuss the ever-shifting relationship among the object inscribed, the text, and the audience. To the experience of viewing inscribed archaic kouroi she compares such self-consciously dialectical works as Robert Morris’ 1962 I-Box and Maya Lin’s 1982 acclaimed Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.

Chapters 8 and 9 make up the sub-section on “Epigram and Performance: the Religious Context.” William D. Furley contends that “a dedicatory epigram represents a symbolic caption to an act of worship” and does not attempt to record what was actually said at the occasion. In this context Furley also considers the function of korai and kouroi dedications; like Lorenz and other contributors, he focuses on the objects dedicated as well as the inscriptions. Catherine Trümpy’s chapter on the beginnings of dedicatory and sepulchral epigrams surveys the geographical range, themes, and functions of early inscriptions; in fact, her contribution would make a good introduction to the topic. Trümpy ends by comparing early epigram and choral lyric; she has good observations on their similarities, but might have given more attention to fundamental differences in how the two forms communicate (reading vs. performance).

The fourth section, “Propaganda and Memorial: the Historical and Political Context,” discusses material that has been much debated by historians as well as literary scholars. Carolyn Higbie provides a basic overview of inscriptions and other poetry about the Persian War, including the question of how this poetry might have been transmitted. She also pays special attention to inscriptions cited by Plutarch. In a lively essay on “True Lies of Athenian Public Epigrams,” Andrej Petrovic extends his earlier work on historical epigrams by placing them in the framework of “intentional” history. Inter alia, Petrovic suggests that an epigram was seen as more trustworthy when it was connected with the name of a famous author (usually Simonides), and analyzes the connection between the past deeds celebrated (typically introduced with ποτε “once upon a time”) and the future audience of citizens who should be inspired to emulate those deeds.

Chapters 12 and 13 are grouped under the heading “Generic and Literary Contexts: the Rise and Reception of Epigrammatic Subgenera.” Kathryn Gutzwiller’s learned contribution highlights the relationship between inscribed and literary epigrams. She takes as a starting-point the “Aristotelian” Peplos, which she argues was a prose work that included a number of short sepulchral epigrams for panhellenic heroes. From this compilation and others, as well as from texts on vase paintings, Gutzwiller makes a strong case that there was cross-fertilization between inscribed and literary epitaphs as early as the fifth century. Both kinds of funerary epigrams increasingly memorialized even the ordinary dead in terms similar to hero-cult. Rudolf Wachter’s chapter uses linguistic and grammatical evidence to argue for a more differentiated interpretation of inscribed stones, pinakes, or pots (especially the famous Nestor’s cup) as “speaking objects.” Wachter maintains that as Greek literacy increases, dedications can be seen to shift from a more oral/formulaic to a more written style.

The book’s second and shorter division, “Literarization,” begins with an illuminating section called “Losing Context: Intertextuality and Poetic Variation.” Richard Hunter questions how certain stylistic traits of Hellenistic epigrams can usefully be compared to earlier Greek poems. He considers not only (indeed, not primarily) early epigrams, but also archaic lyrics to which the later works allude. Noting for example that the trope of a whole city mourning its dead is attested in the Iliad, archaic lyric, classical funerary epigrams, and Hellenistic poetry, Hunter asks provocatively how we are to recognize “the emergence of ‘the literary’” in a corpus that evidently is always interconnected and allusive. Marco Fantuzzi’s contribution focuses on classical monuments that bear more than one inscription. He concludes that “Hellenistic epigram most likely derived its taste for the art of variation from its non-book origins,” the highly repetitive language of archaic funerary and dedicatory inscriptions. Along the way Fantuzzi offers insightful observations on developments in the “slow” medium of stone vs. the “official” but quicker poetry composed for books.

The volume ends with two papers grouped under the title “Inventing Contexts: Ecphrasis and Narration.” Ewen Bowie’s essay, with over sixty pages the longest in the collection, deals with “Epigram as Narration” as part of the larger question of whether literary genres exist, and how they influence each other. Bowie observes that narration is an essential component of dedicatory epigrams, since the act of dedication must be communicated, but it is not necessary for funerary epigrams—and yet nearly all early epigrams include some narrative material. Bowie explores this fact in a detailed analysis, with welcome attention to meter among other criteria, and even an appendix on the length of all verse inscriptions 750–400 BC. Jon Steffen Bruss’ paper on ecphrasis in epigrams finishes off the collection. After reviewing the Homeric description of Achilles’ shield, Bruss uses reader-response criticism to examine the multiple functions of ecphrasis in classical inscriptions. He notes that inscribed epigrams by nature have an ecphrastic character, since they refer to the object of which they are a part. Bruss also addresses relationships between classical and Hellenistic epigrams, and ends the chapter with a clear summary of his points.

Altogether, this is a most timely and valuable collection of essays in a well-produced volume. The illustrations are few, but clear and varied. Greek text is generally translated, although this has been overlooked in a few passages (several examples on p. 32). Some typographical mistakes slipped through, most of them minor (e.g. Naeram for Neaeram, p. 203 n. 3; exstinguish on p. 345). Errors I spotted in the Greek include περιβάρναται for περιμάρναται and γα for τε on p. 86; phi for koppa in CEG 391 on p. 325; and on p. 234 βασίλεια is translated (nom.) “queen” instead of (acc.) “palace.” Two editorial decisions of larger scope would have made the volume more user-friendly: the absence of an index locorum is disconcerting, and more cross-references would have enriched the discussion of topics (e.g. future audiences, the first-person speaker) pursued by a number of contributors.

These quibbles aside, the editors deserve applause for producing a marvelous sampler of current work in a (still) under-studied area. While not a book for the casual reader, Archaic and Classical Greek Epigram is essential reading for scholars interested in Greek epigraphy, the beginnings of alphabetic writing, and early Greek poetry whether or not inscribed on stone.