Bryn Mawr Classical Reviews ~ 07/22/14

  • 2014.07.23:  Jeffrey C. Anderson, The Christian Topography of Kosmas Indikopleustes: Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, plut. 9.28. The Map of the Universe Redrawn in the Sixth Century. Folia picta: manoscritti miniati medievali, 3.
  • 2014.07.22:  Timothy J. Moore, Wolfgang Polleichtner, Form und Bedeutung im lateinischen Drama/ Form and Meaning in Latin Drama. Bochumer Altertumswissenschaftliches Colloquium, Band 95.
  • 2014.07.21:  Jürgen​ Leonhardt, Latin: Story of a World Language (First published 2009; translated by Kenneth Kronenberg).

Bryn Mawr Classical Review: 7/21/14

  • 2014.07.19:  Claus Ambos, Lorenzo Verderame, Approaching Rituals in Ancient Cultures. Questioni di rito: rituali come fonte di conoscenza delle religione e delle concezioni del mondo nelle culture antiche. Proceedings of the conference, November 28-30, 2011, Roma. Rivista degli Studi Orientali, nuova serie, 86, supplemento no 2.
  • 2014.07.18:  Carl Nylander, Börje Blomé, Lars Karlsson, Angela Bizzarro, Giuseppe Tilia, Stefano Tilia and Alessandro Tilia, San Giovenale, vol. 5, fasc. 1: The Borgo. Excavating an Etruscan Quarter: Architecture and Stratigraphy. Skrifter utgivna av Svenska Institutet i Rom, 4, 26:5,1.
  • 2014.07.17:  Gregory Nagy, The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours. Cambridge, MA;
  • 2014.07.16:  Ken Dark, Ferudun Özgümüş​, Constantinople: Archaeology of a Byzantine Megapolis. Final Report on the Istanbul Rescue Archaeology Project 1998-2004.

Reviews from BMCR ~ 07/17/14

[catching up a bit]

  • 2014.07.15:  Peter Agócs, Chris Carey, Richard Rawles, Reading the Victory Ode.
  • 2014.07.14:  Mariette de Vos Raaijmakers, Redha Attoui, Alessandro Battisti, Rus Africum, Tome II. Le paysage rural antique autour de Dougga: l’aqueduc Aïn Hammam-Thugga, cartographie et relevés (avec la collaboration de Marijke Boeijen). Bibliotheca archaeologica, 34​.
    Mariette de Vos Raaijmakers, Redha Attoui, Rus Africum, Tome I. Le paysage rural antique autour de Dougga et Téboursouk: cartographie, relévés et chronologie des établissements. Bibliotheca archaeologica, 30​.
  • 2014.07.13:  Radcliffe G. Edmonds III, Redefining Ancient Orphism: A Study in Greek Religion. bmcr2
  • 2014.07.12:  Pat Getz-Gentle, Personal Styles in Early Cycladic Sculpture. Wisconsin Studies in Classics.
  • 2014.07.11:  Christine E. Meyer, Latin Synonyms for Language Lovers: A Select Thesaurus.
  • 2014.07.10:  Marianne Pade, Plutarchi Chaeronensis: Vita Dionis et Comparatio et de Bruto ac Dione iudicium Guarino Veronensi interprete. Il ritorno dei classici nell’umanesimo, 8.
  • 2014.07.09:  Sylvia Gray, Ask the Ancients: Astonishing Advice for Daily Dilemmas.
  • 2014.07.08:  Paulo Farmhouse Alberto, David Paniagua, Ways of Approaching Knowledge in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages: Schools and Scholarship. Studia classica et mediaevalia, Bd 8.
  • 2014.07.07:  Jean MacIntosh Turfa, The Etruscan World. Routledge worlds.
  • 2014.07.06:  Nina Mindt, Martials ‘epigrammatischer Kanon’. Zetemata, 246.
  • 2014.07.05:  Barbara E. Borg, Crisis and Ambition: Tombs and Burial Customs in Third-Century CE Rome. Oxford studies in ancient culture and representation.
  • 2014.07.04:  Florence Bertholet, Christopher Schmidt Heidenreich, Entre archéologie et épigraphie: nouvelles perspectives sur l’armée romaine. Echo, 10.
  • 2014.07.03:  Isabelle Torrance, Metapoetry in Euripides.
  • 2014.07.02:  Scott McGill, Plagiarism in Latin Literature.

Bryn Mawr Classical Review ~ 05/16/14

  • 2014.05.28:  Riccardo Chiaradonna, Gabriele Galluzzo, Universals in Ancient Philosophy. Seminari e convegni, 33.
  • 2014.05.27:  Jeroen Poblome, Daniele Malfitana, John Lund, HEROM. Journal on Hellenistic and Roman Material Culture, vol. 1.
  • 2014.05.26:  Giovanna De Sensi Sestito, Stefania Mancuso, Enotri e Brettii in Magna Grecia: modi e forme di interazione culturale. Società antiche: storia, culture, territori.
  • 2014.05.25:  Owen Hodkinson, Authority and Tradition in Philostratus’ ‘Heroikos’. Satura, 8.
  • 2014.05.24:  Ennio Sanzi, Iuppiter Optimus Maximus Dolichenus: un “culto orientale” fra tradizione e innovazione: riflessioni storico-religiose.
  • 2014.05.23:  Lin Foxhall, Studying Gender in Classical Antiquity. Key themes in ancient history.

Reviews from BMCR ~ 05/14/14

  • 2014.05.22:  Robert Mondi, Peter L. Corrigan, A Student Handbook of Greek and English Grammar.
  • 2014.05.21:  Euangelia N. Mimidou, Ευριπίδη Αίολος: ερμηνευτικός σχολιασμός των αποσπασμάτων της τραγωδίας Αίολος του Ευριπίδη.
  • 2014.05.20:  Carolina López-Ruiz, Gods, Heroes, and Monsters: A Sourcebook of Greek, Roman, and Near Eastern Myths in Translation.

Bryn Mawr Classical Reviews ~ 05/13/14

  • 2014.05.19:  Alexander Riddiford, Madly After the Muses: Bengali Poet Michael Madhusudan Datta and his Reception of the Graeco-Roman Classics. Classical Presences.
  • 2014.05.18:  Phillip Sidney Horky, Plato and Pythagoreanism.
  • 2014.05.17:  R. W. Burgess, Michael Kulikowski, Mosaics of Time: The Latin Chronicle Traditions from the First Century BC to the Sixth Century AD. Volume I: A Historical Introduction to the Chronicle Genre from Its Origins to the High Middle Ages. Studies in the Early Middle Ages, 33.

Bryn Mawr Classical Review ~ Catching up a bit …

[n.b. I'm resuming including these ... they might be a daily thing so I don't fall behind]

  • 2014.05.16:  Sandrine Dubel, Alain Montandon, Mythes sacrificiels et ragoûts d’enfants. Mythographies et sociétés.
  • 2014.05.15:  John Nicols, Civic Patronage in the Roman Empire. Mnemosyne supplements. History and archaeology of classical antiquity, 365.
  • 2014.05.14:  Gudrun Klebinder-Gauß, Keramik aus klassischen Kontexten im Apollon-Heiligtum von Ägina-Kolonna. Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie, 70; Contributions to the chronology of the eastern Mediterranean, 30.
  • 2014.05.13:  Nathan Rosenstein, Rome and the Mediterranean 290 to 146 BC: The Imperial Republic. The Edinburgh history of ancient Rome.
  • 2014.05.12:  Francesca Murano, Le tabellae defixionum osche. Ricerche sulle lingue di frammentaria attestazione, 8.
  • 2014.05.11:  Valéry Berlincourt, Commenter la Thébaïde (16e-19e s.): Caspar von Barth et la tradition exégétique de Stace. Mnemosyne supplements. Monographs on Greek and Latin language and literature, 354.
  • 2014.05.10:  Michael C. Hoff, Rhys F. Townsend, Rough Cilicia: New Historical and Archaeological Approaches. Proceedings of an international conference held at Lincoln, Nebraska, October 2007.
  • 2014.05.09:  Richard Stoneman, Tristano Gargiulo, Il Romanzo di Alessandro, Volume II. Scrittori greci e latini.
  • 2014.05.08:  Gregory Recco, Eric Sanday, Plato’s ‘Laws': Force and Truth in Politics. Studies in continental thought.
  • 2014.05.07:  Walter Burkert, La religion grecque à l’époque archaïque et classique. Traduction et mise à jour bibliographique par Pierre Bonnechere. Antiquité/Synthèses 13.
  • 2014.05.06:  Anthony Kaldellis, Ethnography after Antiquity: Foreign Lands and Peoples in Byzantine Literature. Empire and after.
  • 2014.05.05:  Carlos R. Galvão-Sobrinho, Doctrine and Power: Theological Controversy and Christian Leadership in the Later Roman Empire. Transformation of the classical heritage, 51.
  • 2014.05.04:  Ludwig Koenen, Jorma Kaimio, Maarit Kaimio, Robert W. Daniel, The Petra Papyri II. American Center of Oriental Research Publications, 7.
  • 2014.05.03:  Carl Deroux, Studies in Latin Literature and Roman History, XVI. Collection Latomus, 338.
  • 2014.05.02:  J. van der Vliet, J. L. Hagen, Qasr Ibrim, Between Egypt and Africa: Studies in Cultural Exchange. (NINO symposium, Leiden, 11-12 December 2009). Egyptologische uitgaven, 26.
  • 2014.04.60:  Richard Sorabji, Perception, Conscience and Will in Ancient Philosophy. Variorum collected studies series, CS 1030.
  • 2014.04.59:  David L. Kennedy, Settlement and Soldiers in the Roman Near East. Variorum collected studies series, CS 1032.
  • 2014.04.58:  Alain Blanchard, Ménandre, tome II: Le Héros; L’Arbitrage; La Tondue; La Fabula incerta du Caire. Collection des Universités de France. Série grecque, 495.
  • 2014.04.57:  Caroline Vout, Sex on Show: Seeing the Erotic in Greece and Rome.

CJ~Online Review of Falcon, Aristotelianism in the First Century BC

Posted with permission:

Aristotelianism in the First Century bc: Xenarchus of Seleucia. By Andrea Falcon. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. xi + 227. Hardcover, $95.00. ISBN 978-0-521-87650-6.

Reviewed by Han Baltussen, The University of Adelaide

This is an engaging and scholarly study which illustrates that fragmentary texts can be studied coherently and profitably. Falcon manages to bring to light the importance of Xenarchus, a neglected philosopher active in the first century bc when Aristotelian thought made a come-back. As with the other evidence for Peripatetics from Theophrastus (d. 287 bc) down to Aspasius (fl. 100 ad) the evidence is mostly fragmentary, extant in much later sources.

Recent decades have seen a lively debate on what constitutes a “fragment” in ancient philosophy (and other areas). Many standard editions produced in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century by, e.g., Diels (Vorsokratiker) and von Arnim (Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta), operated with a cut-and-paste method, ignoring the philosophical entanglement of quoted and paraphrased passages, often leaving out the context when it came to identifying “quotations.” Falcon offers an interpretation fully sensitive to the historical, philological and conceptual context. For this to be possible, he makes good use of other recent scholarship: the increased study of the Neoplatonists (sources for Xenarchus’ thought), and his own wider study of Aristotle and his interpreters.

The three separate parts of the book do justice to the material and its particular problems: Part 1 is an introduction on Xenarchus’ life and work, conveniently collecting together for the first time what we know about him in one place. (I note that this Xenarchus is not mentioned in the OCD.) Part 2 presents the fragmentary texts with translation and brief commentary, a meticulous and important undertaking which requires knowledge of much of the tradition from Aristotle’s successors down to the Neoplatonists. Lastly, Part 3 offers three short essays on the reception of Xenarchus. This arrangement -biography, texts and translation, and reception-creates a stimulating example for others to interpret the fragmentary remains of an ancient author. Its clear argument, balanced judgment and original structure make this an invaluable study for Aristotelianism.

Interestingly, Xenarchus is a very vocal critic of Aristotle, but Falcon aptly explains that this does not necessarily mean that his loyalty as a Peripatetic is at stake (2). To understand the historical and philosophical significance of Xenarchus we need to be aware that the study of Aristotle’s works had waned and ongoing debates between schools had led to syncretistic tendencies. The renewed interest now focused on exegesis of written materials, leading to canonization (a pre-condition for evaluative commentary). Falcon argues forcefully for the literary diversity of works that engaged with Aristotle.



Xenarchus, it emerges, is not a commentator in the strict sense. His evaluation of Aristotle is critical and philosophical rather than purely explanatory and philological. Falcon suggests at the outset that Xenarchus is called “Peripatetic” as “an indication of his commitment to a careful study of Aristotle’s works” (2-3). But later he adds, “critical engagement with Aristotle’s works … did not imply a commitment to his doctrines” (40). Thus the criticism of Aristotle cannot be fully understood “unless we dissociate fidelity to Aristotle’s ideas from critical engagement with his works” (2).

Falcon also raises some important issues with regard to the modern approach to this period. The disruption to philosophy resulting from the Mithradatic wars must have been considerable. The capture of Athens and Sulla’s transportation of Aristotle’s library to Rome (Plut. Sulla 26; cf. Cic. Att. 4.10.1) also changed the approach to philosophy. For the analysis of the renewed study of Aristotle, Falcon warns that we should adopt a perspective “that does not project what we know about Alexander of Aphrodisias back onto the first century bce” (21). Falcon points out that we need to be sensitive to the differences in exegetical style among those who studied Aristotle and to the fact that “Xenarchus is a counterexample to any monolithic account of the origins of philosophical exegesis” (ibid.).

The most significant point of criticism concerns the fifth substance, which Aristotle allocated to the heavens to account for celestial motion, thus adding one to the standard set of four substances. These criticisms resemble those by other Peripatetics (Theophrastus, Strato). Simplicius provides six assumptions on which the argument in Aristotle may be based (the framework is neither Simplicius’ nor Philoponus’, but probably also not Xenarchus': 27-32). The material is complex and cannot be repeated here, but Falcon’s conclusion is significant: “the long and tortuous discussion that Simplicius offers in his commentary on the De caelo indicates that the ancient debate on these arguments never stopped in antiquity” (31). Xenarchus seems to have offered a positive alternative as well, arguing that there is no need to introduce a fifth simple body that naturally performs circular motion.

Falcon is right to highlight Xenarchus’ importance for the development of Aristotelianism in the post-Hellenistic era (though his title should not be taken to suggest that Xenarchus was the most important Peripatetic in the first century bc). The overall significance of this original study lies in the rigorous method, the well-thought out structure and the tightly argued and insightful discussion of the fragments for Xenarchus. It not only fits well into current scholarship to analyze the complex evidence for Peripatetic thought after Aristotle on the basis of fragments, but also creates a new format which goes beyond a standard edition (text and translation). The book sets a new standard for contextualized scholarly analysis of philosophical fragments.

[©2013 by The Classical Association of the Middle West and South. All rights reserved.]

CJ~Online Review of Ruppel, Absolute Constructions

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Absolute Constructions in Early Indo-European. By Antonia Ruppel. Cambridge Classical Studies. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Pp. xiv + 255. Hardcover, $99.00. ISBN 978-0-521-76762-0.

Reviewed by D. M. Goldstein, Institut für Sprachwissenschaft der Universität Wien

Absolute participles are a prominent feature of archaic Indo-European morphosyntax: the ablative absolute of Latin, the Greek genitive absolute, and the locative absolute of Sanskrit are notable both for their functional overlap as well as their divergences. Ruppel’s study, which is based on her 2008 University of Cambridge dissertation, takes an amphichronic approach to this family of constructions. Synchronically, she offers a new definition of what constitutes an absolute participial phrase (discussed briefly below). Diachronically, she argues that the absolute constructions of the daughter languages developed from a Proto-Indo- European locative absolute (208). This is a useful volume written in an accessible style, and equipped with an ample collection of data and rich bibliography. Its success is, however, limited by some unreliable syntactic and semantic generalizations, which range from unclear to untrue.

Chapter 1 justifies the need for a study of absolute constructions by demonstrating that their basic properties have not yet been established. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 form the empirical heart of the work, and are devoted to expositions of absolute constructions in Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit, respectively. One of the more notable claims of chapter 2 (33, also earlier at 21) is that the genitive absolute has grammaticalized (my term, not Ruppel’s) further than its Latin or Sanskrit counterparts.

Building on this tripartite foundation, chapter 5 then looks back in time to consider the absolute construction in Proto-Indo-European. Ruppel argues (210) that “the development toward ACs started from nouns referring to time-day, night, year, months, dusk, dawn, etc.-standing in a case through which they expressed the notion ‘at [that time]‘.” The construction was then extended to other classes of lexical items. This original temporal meaning also motivates the view that the original case of the absolute construction was locative.

This book has an anachronistic feel (as witnessed for instance by the bibliography: about 25% (94/373) of the literature antedates the First World War). Although it investigates a linguistic topic and aims to answer linguistic questions, there is little engagement with any of the methods or theories developed within modern linguistics, be it syntax, semantics, typology, grammaticalization, or corpus linguistics.[1] Ruppel’s study would have benefited from the insights into absolute participles (as well as various other adverbial constructions) achieved in these fields.

On the methodological side, for instance, it would have been helpful if Ruppel had laid out a dossier of diagnostics for the question of when an absolute participle has independent clausal status and when it does not (e.g. the presence of certain discourse particles, the distribution of pronominal clitics, scopal properties, etc.). To be sure, Ruppel does this when discussing individual passages but more in this direction was necessary. As it stands, the new definition of the absolute construction that Ruppel offers (206) does not make clear predictions: “an ‘absolute’ construction is a nominal phrase of temporal dimensions whose head noun does not have such dimensions, or for short: a temporal expression with a non-temporal head.” This pseudoparadox is more likely to confuse than aid the reader.

While the diachronic portions of the book are to my mind the more successful, here too the reader should be cautious. On page 41, I do not understand why Ruppel equates innovation (specifically, of a non-adnominal participial phrase) with ungrammaticality. On p. 207 we read: “Given the nearly one-to-one relation between formal and functional case that we can reconstruct for PIE especially on the basis of Vedic…” but The form-function relationship of Vedic case morphology is anything but one-to-one. The remark that “The number of cases we can reconstruct for PIE survives unaltered into Sanskrit” glosses over the facts, for which see, e.g., the recent discussion of Kim (216).[2] The title of the book is broader than its empirical scope, since branches of archaic Indo-European other than those mentioned above are not considered.[3]

In sum, this book offers a number of interesting observations on absolute constructions in the languages investigated, and provides a foundation for the further exploration of absolute constructions in archaic Indo-European.

[1]                Cf. e.g. the recent dissertation of Lowe on Sanskrit participles, which one can now add to the bibliography: John J. Lowe, “The syntax and semantics of tense-aspect stem participles in early Ṛigvedic Sanskrit” (Diss. Oxford, 2012).

[2]                Ronald Kim, “The Indo-European, Anatolian, and Tocharian ‘secondary’ cases in typological perspective,” in Jeremy Rau, Adam I. Cooper, and Michael Weiss, eds., In Multi Nominis Grammaticus: Festschrift for Alan J. Nussbaum (Ann Arbor: Beech Stave Press, 2012) 121-42.

[3]                For absolute constructions in Gothic, see recently Tonya Kim Dewey and Yasmin Syed, “Case variation in Gothic absolute constructions,” in Jóhanna Barðdal and Shobhana L. Chelliah, eds., The Role of Semantic, Pragmatic, and Discourse Factors in the Development of Case (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2009) 3-21; for Slavic, Daniela Hristova, “Absolute constructions in Slavic: Case diversity and originality,” Journal of Indo-European Studies 32 (2004) 297-317 and Daniel E. Collins, “The pragmatics of ‘Unruly’ dative absolutes in early Slavic, in Erik Welo, ed., Indo-European Syntax and Pragmatics: Contrastive Approaches (Oslo: University of Oslo, 2011) 103-30.).

[©2013 by The Classical Association of the Middle West and South. All rights reserved.]

CJ~Online Review of Elmer, The Poetics of Consent

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The Poetics of Consent: Collective Decision Making and the Iliad. By David F. Elmer. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013. Pp. x + 313. Hardcover, $55.00. ISBN 978-1-4214-0826-2.

Reviewed by Dean Hammer, Franklin and Marshall College

David Elmer’s book addresses two interpretive strands of the Iliad: one that explores its politics, the other the poetics of its transmission. Noting the fluidity of the “collective dynamics” of decision making, Elmer contends, “The formalization of these dynamics is rather a matter of the language and conventions of Homeric poetry,” conventions that permit the reader to see “more deeply into the process of collective decision making than the actors themselves seem capable of doing” (2-3).

Elmer addresses attempts to situate the Iliad in a particular historical context, critiquing the view of the poem as providing some window into, or reflecting on, the archaic or pre-polis world (9-10). Elmer, instead, draws on Nagy’s evolutionary model to understand the processes of “composition and textualization” (11) that both extend the poem’s composition into the sixth century and suggest the importance of this later reception in organizing the theme of consensus in the Iliad. The Iliad’s “representation of politics,” Elmer claims, does not reflect any particular historical context but is the result of a “long-term collective decision-making procedure” by which the poem is itself shaped by different audiences and performers. That is, the politics of the Iliad reflects its “implicit theory of reception” (12). To the extent that there is a political context, it is the Panhellenic festivals that provided “a real-life occasion for the assembly of large groups of people with divergent interests” (12).

The book is divided into three sections. The first section (comprised of four chapters) focuses on the formulaic conventions that govern scenes of collective decision making. In the first chapter, Elmer identifies five constituent elements of what he calls the “grammar of reception,” that is, the collective responses of others: silence, approval (by Achaeans), shout (by Achaeans), shout (by Trojans), and praise (26). Elmer situates these phrases within broader linguistic and cultural patterns to identify how formulaic discourse reveals ingrained patterns of speech and thought. Elmer extends the analysis in Chapter 2, focusing on the importance of epainos as not just a statement of praise, but also connected to notions of consensus.

In the third chapter Elmer argues that the opening scene frames the importance of collective decision making. In this chapter, provocatively titled, “Achilles and the Crisis of the Exception,” a reference to both Schmitt and Agamben in their respective discussions of the “state of exception,” Elmer contends that the opening scene operates as an exception to “traditional norms of decision making” (67). Elmer argues that while the state of exception does not apply to the politics since there is not “a formally constituted set of legal rules and governmental powers” that can be suspended, it does apply to the suspension of “the grammar of reception” (67).

In the suspension of a rule, the norm is reasserted (68-9). But in the meantime there is a crisis of interpretation: in how to respond and how to interpret those responses. Imposing “the state of exception” on the epic feels strained at times. Elmer, for example, contends that the “initial state of exception is, at its core, a failure of language” that extends to the disruption of poetic language “to the point that the ability of the formulaic medium to communicate the meaning of political action is undermined” (77). But the poetic language is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do; namely, communicating the disruption of political understanding and, most of all, trust. And it is doing so in a way not uncommon for social dramas, which function by revealing tensions or breakdowns in norms that are then reaffirmed or critically reassessed.

In the final chapter of this first section, Elmer reads the turmoil of Book 2 as a narrative trajectory for the crisis of the poem as a whole. There are moments where Elmer’s fusion of the poetic with the political leads him to treat the formulae as the foundation of community life. For example, Elmer argues that the “danger posed by Thersites” is “not just that he will undermine the stability of the Achaean confederacy but that he will undermine the poetic conventions that support the narrative of their expedition against Troy” (95). One of Elmer’s interesting insights in this chapter is a political (more than a poetic) one, though. He argues that quieting the “noise” of someone like Thersites is a precondition for opening up a space for “properly political speech” (97).

In the second section, Elmer explores the development of the epainos motif in the context of the Iliad’s three political communities: the Achaeans (Chapter 5), the Trojans (Chapter 6), and the gods (Chapter 7). He argues that consensus is never reached in the Achaean community but is displaced to the Trojans (in which there is consensus about an innovation that seals the fate of the Trojans) and the gods, who, Elmer suggests, function as “a kind of stand-in for the poem’s real-world audience” (173). It is this “fourth community,” the real-world audience, onto which “the Iliad projects the ultimate fulfillment of the epainos motif” and “which bears ultimate responsibility for the Iliadic narrative, just as the gods appear to do within the narrative itself” (173).

In the final section, Elmer seeks to provide evidence of how the epainos motif is resolved. In Chapter 8, Elmer interprets the final scene of Trojan mourning as “some indication of the perfected experience it projects onto its implied audience, but it cannot situate it among those [the Achaeans] who must remain imperfect” (203). It is “only in the later world of the poleis that their potential is fulfilled” (203).

In the final chapter, Elmer provides evidence for how we are to understand the audience or the dynamics of the transmission of the text, which is what the argument largely hinges on. Elmer explores aspects of the Iliad as a Panhellenic epic: the role of “passive tradition bearers” (206) as a check on tradition as performed, as well as what traditions go forward; interesting allusions in Plato to the epainos motif as referring to the role of collective values in the reception (and shaping) of the poem; and some suggestions about how this motif plays itself out in the Odyssey.

The book is remarkably well written and engaging, always seeking clear explanations of complex concepts. The book also synthesizes and extends the current state of scholarship on the Iliad, addressing, as well as any recent book, the different (often divergent) approaches to the politics and poetics of the epic. The argument is ultimately about the politics of poetics in which the Iliad appears as a meta-poem, reflecting more on the act of making poetry than on organizing political communities. To that extent, the analysis (and the themes) might be applied to all performances. Elmer even notes, “From this point of view, any performance can be thought of as a collective decision, insofar as its success-its ability to embody the tradition and so to shape future performances-requires the approval of the audience” (207). The claim is true in many respects, underlying how both politics and poetics are types of performances. But it is a much stronger claim to argue that the poetic themes of the Iliad emerge as a reflection on its own transmission. The reader will judge the plausibility of that connection but will be stimulated by the claim.

[©2013 by The Classical Association of the Middle West and South. All rights reserved.]

CJ~Online Review of Littlewood, Silius Italicus’ Punica 7

Posted with permission:

A Commentary on Silius Italicus’ Punica 7. By R. Joy Littlewood. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp. xcix + 276.Hardcover, $150.00. ISBN 978-0-19-957093-5.

Reviewed by Alison Keith, University of Toronto (akeith AT

Silius Italicus is enjoying a sustained revival of interest in European and Anglo-American scholarship, after centuries of scholarly disdain. His increasing appeal to scholars of Latin epic is perhaps most decisively confirmed by the publication of Antony Augoustakis’ Brill’s Companion to Silius Italicus in 2010; but the same year also witnessed the appearance of two Oxford monographs on Silius as well as the proceedings of a 2008 Innsbruck conference.[[1]] Although François Spaltenstein has authored a full-length commentary on the Punica in French-and other European scholars have produced commentaries on individual books-these volumes are not widely available in the UK and North America.[[2]]

Indeed, as the first commentary on an individual book of Silius’ Punica to appear in the English language, Littlewood’s commentary on Book 7 constitutes a welcome landmark in Anglo-American scholarship. [[3]] For the volume finally makes a book of the poem available to English-speaking scholars and graduate students (if not, at that price-point, to undergraduate students) as a self-contained example of Silius’ epic style, and thereby allows Silius to be studied in conjunction with his younger Flavian contemporaries, Valerius Flaccus and Papinius Statius. This is all the more important, because the most recent translation of the Punica available in English is that by J. D. Duff in the Loeb series. [[4]]

An excellent Introduction offers wide-ranging discussion of such standard features of the commentary genre as the author’s life; the poem’s literary models; protagonists of Punica 7; epic style; and the transmission and reception of the epic. Silius’ biography is well known, but is of particular interest because he lived through signally turbulent times and yet enjoyed a public career spanning three imperial dynasties and a literary career that brought him to the attention of the leading contemporary men of letters, including Martial, Statius, Tacitus and the younger Pliny (the latter two, of course, also important politicians contemporary with, though younger than, Silius). In her discussion of the younger Pliny’s obituary notice (Epist. 3.7), Littlewood unpacks its biases, which she attributes to the younger politician’s rivalry with Silius in the Centumviral courts; apparently there was no literary rivalry.

The centerpiece of the Introduction, however, is her discussion of Silius’ literary models in the poem both in general and, especially, in Book 7 (xix-lxii). Here Littlewood makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of Silius’ poetic project in the Punica by documenting his narrative, thematic, and stylistic debts to a wide range of authors and genres, including the prose genres of rhetoric and historiography and the verse genres of epic and didactic poetry. She sensibly charts Silius’ navigation of the famous accounts of the second Punic war by Polybius and Livy, but it is to Silius’ poetic tastes that she is particularly sensitive throughout, showing that he drew not only on Homer and Vergil (in the Aeneid), but also on Ennius, Lucan, Statius and Valerius Flaccus amongst Roman epic poets and, further afield from martial epic, on Vergilian didactic (in the Georgics) and Ovidian aetiology (in the Fasti).

Littlewood is especially helpful in elucidating Silius’ narrative and thematic debts to the Georgics and the Fasti, and she carefully articulates these poems’ definitive structural importance to the shape of Punica 7. Given her sensitivity to Silius’ Vergilian and Ovidian antiquarian verse, it is a pity that she does not devote a separate section in the Introduction to Silius’ metre and prosody. Over forty years ago, Duckworth’s studies definitively demonstrated Silius’ metrical commitment to the composition of dactylic hexameters in accordance with Vergilian norms,[[5]] but it would have been very interesting to bring that evidence into line with Littlewood’s analysis of Silius’ metrical use of the Georgics by comparison with that of the Aeneid and the Fasti, the latter composed in elegiac distichs. Throughout, Littlewood is well up-to-date with contemporary bibliography and literary scholarship on Silius and the Punica.

The Latin text is taken unchanged from that of J. Delz’s 1987 Teubner edition,[[6]] and, although there is no facing commentary she translates every lemma in the commentary proper, with the result that this volume provides an excellent modern translation of Punica 7. Littlewood has a sure sense of Silius’ Latinity and a very good ear for his poetry, and her translation is both accurate and idiomatic. The commentary itself focuses, like the Introduction, on literary and, to a lesser extent, historical issues, and Littlewood offers throughout a wealth of information about Silius’ engagement with his literary sources and the artistic design of his narrative.

The one omission from the otherwise admirably thorough coverage of Silius’ intertextual debts is Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Her extensive treatment of the impact of Ovidian mythmaking in the Fasti on Punica 7 made this reviewer all the more alert to the almost casual Ovidianism in Silius’ references to a variety of myths familiar from the Metamorphoses. Stephen Hinds has recently noted that “for any formal Roman poet of the mid- to late-1st century ce, the whole system of Greco-Roman myth has an important and inescapable post-Ovidian dimension,”[[7]] and several important articles have shown that to be the case even with the arch-Vergilian Silius.[[8]] Littlewood also tends to eschew commentary on Silius’ metapoetics (as, for example, at 7.239ff.), though she has a nice note on the so-called “Alexandrian footnote” at 7.177. These are very minor blemishes, however, and more than compensated for by the provision of so much useful information throughout the Introduction and Commentary.

The occasional misprint has crept into the volume, but these are nugatory and in no way confusing for the reader, worth noting only because of the expense of the volume, as with other Oxford University Press commentaries. Littlewood’s exemplary work on Punica 7 offers English-speaking students of Silius an opportunity to move beyond the opening Saguntine books of this complex poem and constitutes an attractive point of departure for the study of Hannibal’s epic campaign in Italy. It is very good news that she is now preparing a commentary on Punica 10, which will afford an entrée into the Capuan campaign and advance our understanding and appreciation of the Punica still further.

[[1]]A. Augoustakis, Motherhood and the Other: Fashioning Female Power in Flavian Epic (Oxford, 2010); B.Tipping, Exemplary Epic: Silius’ Italicus’ Punica (Oxford, 2010); and F. Schaffenrath, ed., Silius Italicus (Frankfurt am Main, 2010).

[[2]] F. Spaltenstein, ed., Commentaire des Punica de Silius Italicus, 2 vols. (Geneva, 1986 and 1990); E. M. Ariemma, ed., Alla vigilia di Canne: commentario al libro VIII dei Punica di Silio Italico (Naples, 2000).

[[3]] But note that Elizabeth Kennedy Klaassen is preparing a commentary on Punica 14 for publication with Bryn Mawr in 2014.

[[4]] J. D. Duff, ed., Silius Italicus, 2 vols. (Cambridge Mass., 1934).

[[5]] G. E. Duckworth, Vergil and Classical Hexameter Poetry (Ann Arbor, 1969), 100-10; cf. id. “Five Centuries of Latin Hexameter Poetry: Silver Age and Late Empire,” TAPA 98 (1967) 77-150, at 88-100.

[[6]] J. Delz, ed., Sili Italici Punica (Stuttgart, 1987).

[[7]] S. Hinds, “Seneca’s Ovidian Loci,” SIFC 9 (2011) 5-63, quotation at p. 9.

[[8]] See, e.g., R.T. Bruère, “Color Ovidianus in Silius’ Punica 1-7,” in N.I. Herescu (ed.), Ovidiana: Recherches sur Ovide (Paris 1958), 475-99; id. “Color Ovidianus in SIlius’ Punica 8-17,” CP 54 (1959) 228-45; and M. Wilson, “Ovidian Silius,” Arethusa

37 (2004) 225-49.

[©2013 by The Classical Association of the Middle West and South. All rights reserved.]


CJ~Online Review of Kamen, Status in Classical Athens

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Status in Classical Athens. By Deborah Kamen. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2013, Pp. xiv + 144. Hardcover, $35.00. ISBN: 978-0-691-13813-8.

Reviewed by Peter Liddel, University of Manchester

 It was Moses Finley who suggested that there existed a “spectrum” of status-groups in ancient Greece; this book sets out and assesses the implications of this perspective in classical Athens. Kamen identifies ten distinct groups, devoting a chapter of this meticulously-organized book to each of them. The groups are as follows: chattel slaves, privileged chattel slaves, freedmen with constitutional freedom, metics, privileged metics, bastards, disenfranchised citizens, naturalized citizens, and both female and male citizens. In her introduction, Kamen outlines some of the challenges facing her approach: the Marxist critique which points to the hermeneutic limitations of the idea of status, and the fact that ancient writers tended to focus on the tripartite division between citizens, metics, and slaves.

 Combining succinctness with attention to detail and controversies, Kamen describes the rights, duties, privileges of, and restrictions on, members of each of the status groups; she judiciously weighs up the possibilities where certainty is impossible (for instance, on the extent to which disenfranchised citizens may have faced military obligations). Accordingly, Kamen provides a learned but highly accessible guide to the experience of the individual in ancient Athens.

 At the same time, this book assesses the workings of status at Athens, analyzing the relationship between civic ideologies and historical dynamics: as she observes in her chapter on chattel slaves, one reason why the de-socialization of slaves was emphasized in Athenian literature was that their status appears to have been physically invisible. But social experiences sometimes undermine the ideologies of legal status: the existence of privileged slaves, who may have enjoyed economic conditions better than those of the poorest citizens, made ancient beliefs about the value of freedom and citizenship highly problematic. Moreover, some freedmen, regarded simply as “freed slaves,” suffered contempt equal to that of a slave.

 Kamen, in a sensitive way, demonstrates how experiences of status would have depended on gender, wealth, and other factors including the ability of the individual to negotiate the challenges and burdens they faced; indeed, as she observes, metroxenoi may well have wanted to highlight their pedigree, at least until the mid-fourth century when the ideology of the pureblooded Athenian was at its strongest. Kamen also highlights the significance of social mobility within (and sometimes) across the social groups; such mobility, Kamen makes clear at several points, was downward as well as upward.

 Despite the tidiness of her classificatory scheme, one of the things that Kamen succeeds in doing is showing that status-groups were far from being clear-cut: the existence of freedmen with conditional freedom, for instance, explodes the neatness of the distinction between free person and slave. Kamen acknowledges that there may well have been finer distinctions between different types of nothoi (bastards) than the sources allow us to securely draw; her Chapter 5 makes a good case for hierarchies within the broad set of privileged non-citizens.

 The message of the book-that there was a discrepancy between the rigidity of Athenian ideologies about status and the flexibility of status boundaries-is convincing. The book raises wider implications, too, leading its readers to ask whether Greek thought (about status, and other subjects too) was as binary as it is sometimes reputed to have been. This is a book that deserves to be read closely and can be recommended to historians of every status.

[©2013 by The Classical Association of the Middle West and South. All rights reserved.]


CJ~Online Review of Cairns, Tragedy and Archaic Greek Thought

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Tragedy and Archaic Greek Thought. Edited by Douglas Cairns. Swansea and London: The Classical Press of Wales, 2013. Pp. liv + 262. Hardcover, $100.00. ISBN 978-1-905125-57-9.

Reviewed by Justina Gregory, Smith College

This volume of essays sets itself apart from much current Anglophone scholarship on Greek tragedy. In his introduction, Douglas Cairns notes that from the 1980s on many critics focused on the genre’s “contemporary civic, political, ritual, and performative contexts” (ix; I would be inclined to date this development to the 1960s, when J.-P. Vernant’s initial publications appeared). The 1990s brought increasing critical attention to the afterlife of tragedy as manifested in performance and reception studies, and that trend continues to this day. Without rejecting these approaches, Cairns aims to direct attention to the archaic thought-world of the plays-a staple of earlier scholarship.

The work under review originated in a conference, jointly organized by Cairns and Michael Lurje, that took place in Edinburgh in 2008. Cumulatively its eight essays suggest that even as the performance and reception waves are cresting, a revisionist counter-movement has begun. This counter-movement focuses on “questions of the role of the gods and fate in human action; of the justice or otherwise of the gods and of the world over which they preside; of the causes of human suffering and of the stability, indeed of the nature and possibility of human happiness” (x). These questions are raised either explicitly or implicitly in every tragedy that has survived, and they repay the attention they receive here.

More than many collections, this volume reflects the editor’s influence and conveys a unified point of view. Cairns’ introduction does not merely weave together the essays that follow, but also features a discussion of atê in Sophocles’ Antigone that could easily have been a freestanding article.  Additionally, he contributes a polemical chapter on the decisive role of Apollo in Oedipus Tyrannus.

 Cairns never equates archaic belief with intellectual backwardness; he is at pains to distinguish his approach from the “progressivist and teleological” (x) assumptions of earlier studies (such as Bruno Snell’s Discovery of the Mind [English translation New York, 1960] or A. W. H. Adkins’ Merit and Responsibility [Oxford, 1960]), and his contributors follow suit.  In “‘Archaic’ Guilt in Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus and Oedipus at Colonus,” Bill Allan argues against the easy assumption that Sophocles updated his thinking about guilt and responsibility between Oedipus Tyrannus and Oedipus at Colonus.

 Two subsequent critics deal with intellectual development and replacement: in “Atê in Aeschylus,” Alan Sommerstein considers the evolution of the term atê from a secular to a religious concept, and in “Aeschylus, Herakleitos, and Pythagoreanism,” Richard Seaford argues for a shift over the course of the Oresteia from a Heraclitean- to a Pythagorean-inflected cosmology. Neither discussion, however, suggests that a primitive outlook is giving way to a more advanced one.

 Within his thematic framework, the editor leaves room for fruitful divergences of opinion. In “Divine and Human Action in Oedipus Tyrannus,” Cairns excoriates E. R. Dodds, while Michael Lloyd opens his essay (“The Mutability of Fortune in Euripides”) with a virtual homage to that influential scholar. As Lloyd sketches the chronological parameters and the characteristic thought patterns of the archaic age, he quotes from The Greeks and the Irrational (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1951) three times in succession.

 The distribution of articles is revealing. Three focus on Aeschylus, four (not counting Cairns’ introduction) on Sophocles, and one on Euripides. Aeschylus is the most obvious candidate for inclusion, since his archaic credentials are taken for granted. Euripides is perhaps the hardest sell because, as Lloyd observes, “a long tradition of interpretation treats him as an innovator both in thought and in dramatic style, whose commitment to the ideas of the sophists implies a corresponding rejection of earlier modes of thought” (207).  Sophocles was presumably the most appealing to the contributors because his affiliations are contested: side by side in his plays can be found pessimistic assumptions about the mortal condition that hark back to archaic determinism, and optimistic views of human agency that evoke the fifth-century enlightenment. Although Cairns claims Sophocles for the archaic view, his arguments are not without their difficulties, as we shall see.

 Two essays set themselves the limited task of identifying the archaic precursors of specific passages from tragedy. As noted above, Seaford detects similarities to Presocratic cosmology in the Oresteia, finding special significance in Aeschylus’ predilection (shared with Pythagoras) for the number three.  Since three is also a number ubiquitous in mythology and folk-tale, this explanation may be unnecessarily elaborate.  In an article (“Sophocles and the Wisdom of Silenus”) reprinted from a hard-to-find Festschrift, P. E. Easterling displays her characteristic gift for close reading as she disentangles intertextual references in the third stasimon of Oedipus at Colonus. In particular, she traces the Chorus’ claim that “not to be born trumps every consideration” (OC 1224-5) to the counsel of an unlikely wisdom figure-Silenus, father of the satyrs-as filtered through Theognis and Bacchylides.

 The most far-reaching of the articles on Aeschylus is Fritz-Gregor Herrmann’s discussion of “Eteocles’ Decision in Aeschylus’ Seven against Thebes.” Herrmann minutely analyzes the shield scene in that play and makes the intriguing suggestion that Eteocles chose the warriors for each gate by lot and that (as in Eumenides) the process of drawing lots was enacted on stage. Such a tableau brings fifth-century Attic military and democratic practice into visual juxtaposition with archaic belief in the inevitability of destiny (59-60).

 The essays on Sophocles, all of which concern the three Oedipus plays, can sometimes be tendentious in their focus on the archaic substratum.  Bill Allan astutely notes the rhetorical considerations that underpin Oedipus’ revised explanation of his crimes in Oedipus at Colonus, but he might have given more weight to the mental alterations brought about by time, which Oedipus in the play’s opening lines identifies as his teacher.  Both Cairns in his introduction and Vayos Liapis in “Creon the Labdacid” judge Antigone with unwarranted severity.  Liapis characterizes her as immoderate in her loyalty to her doomed family and transgressive in her behavior. Although he recognizes that by the end of the play Antigone has been vindicated, while her adversary Creon has deteriorated until he becomes a virtual Labdacid himself, Liapis fails to acknowledge Antigone’s lovableness. That quality is not the projection of sentimental modern readings, but attested in the play by her sister, her fiancé, and even the Theban citizens.

 In “Divine and Human Action in Oedipus Tyrannus,” Cairns proposes that Apollo motivates not only Oedipus’ parricide and incest, but also his self-blinding. At OT 1331-2, however, and again at OT 1369-70, the text makes it clear that this act is not over-determined, as Cairns argues (“Oedipus’ self-blinding is … something that Apollo causes; but it is also something that Oedipus … causes,” 136), but Oedipus’ alone. It is he who improvises this unexpected, drastic, but efficacious punishment-cum-remedy, and he vehemently defends his choice to the horrified chorus.

 Equipped with an index locorum as well as a subject index, the volume lends itself to rapid spot-checking as well as to sustained perusal. Its emphasis is productive not only because the most popular approaches to tragedy may now be starting to wear thin, but also for practical reasons that bear on the survival of classics as a discipline. As any instructor quickly realizes, it is the existential questions posed by tragedy that draw students in-and inspire some of them to study ancient Greek and become classicists in their turn.

 [©2013 by The Classical Association of the Middle West and South. All rights reserved.]


CJ~Online Review of Seaford, Cosmology and the Polis

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Cosmology and the Polis: The Social Construction of Space and Time in the Tragedies of Aeschylus. By Richard Seaford. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. xiii + 366. Hardcover, $110.00. ISBN 978-1-107-00927-1.

Reviewed by Vayos Liapis, Open University of Cyprus

This bold and complex book develops a line of argument that Seaford has been pursuing since Reciprocity and Ritual (1994) and Money and the Early Greek Mind (2004). It shows how essential elements of the Greek polis-ritual, money, spatio-temporal structures-are also reflected in Greek drama and philosophy, with particular emphasis on Aeschylus.

Essential to Seaford’s analysis is the notion of the chronotope, a spatio-temporal unity that correlates socially constructed conceptions of uniform and analogous spatial and temporal frameworks. These frameworks are cognitive structures corresponding to communal and socially integrative practices, such as ritual, which articulates both space (in the form of, e.g., space covered by sacred processions) and time (through, e.g. sacred calendars). Earlier (Homeric) chronotopes, configured by reciprocity and plunder rather than by spatially fixed (landed) property as the basic means for wealth acquisition, show little interest in consistently articulating spatial relations, and construct time principally in terms of genealogies and of reciprocal relations between ruling families.

By contrast, the ascendancy of the “aetiological” chronotope in the context of the polis foregrounds the interconnection of cultic, political, and cosmic space, by emphasizing comprehensiveness (it embraces all components of the cosmos) and collectivity (the community appropriates and structures space). Aetiological time, too, unites mythic past and cultic present, especially as ritual regularly re-enacts events of the mythic past in the present, and homogenizes, through repeated circularity, the perception of time as a linear sequence.

Finally, in the “monetized” chronotope, time and space are imagined as potentially unlimited, insofar as money has the same purchasing power at any place or time, and also (unlike pre-monetary wealth) the capacity to accumulate unlimitedly, as well as being unlimited in scope qua universal standard (it can be exchanged with all things). This is the chronotope informing some Presocratic philosophy (esp. Anaximander and Heraclitus) but also the political reforms of Solon.

Seaford is particularly interested in the tension between the (socially integrative) aetiological chronotope on the one hand and the (potentially disruptive) monetized chronotope on the other. By articulating distinctions, ritual imposes order on mythic or social chaos, and thus limits the potentially unlimited. Money, on the contrary, by collapsing distinctions through its imposition of a universal standard, permits unlimited exchanges and unlimited accumulation over space and time.

Seaford’s insights into the tension between these two chronotopes are subsequently applied on Aeschylus, in what is perhaps the most engaging part of his book. In Supplices, he argues, the multiple crises caused by the Danaids’ rejection of marriage-and their interstitial state as reflected in the location of their supplication at an altar that is neither in the royal abode nor in the agora-would have been resolved at the end of the trilogy, with the establishment of polis cult ordering gender relations, as well as relations between oikos and polis.

In Septem, the tension between the chorus’ ritual lament, which integrates the polis, and its rejection by Eteocles, who embodies the introversion of the royal household, is resolved by the annihilation of the latter but also by its subsequent commemoration in hero cult and concomitant lamentation. Especially stimulating here is the discussion of how the new frame of thought represented by monetization is grafted onto older mythico-religious patterns, so that the ancestral curse is conceived (as it is in the Oresteia) in terms of a debt to be exacted in due time.

In Agamemnon, Clytemnestra’s initial control both of ritual and of geographic space (through the beacon sequence) perverts these into instruments of the royal house’s destruction. Likewise, in Choephori, allusions to mystic ritual at the climactic scenes surrounding the tyrannicide are again perverse, since they facilitate matricide in a distinctly non-public context (the introverted royal house). In Eumenides, however, Orestes’ supplication of Athena’s image takes place in civic space, in contrast to his earlier supplication in the god’s “house” in Delphi. Likewise, the Erinyes, who had threatened to pursue Orestes over limitless space, are eventually contained, through public ritual in civic space, within the confines of the earth, thereby linking polis and cosmos.

The same ritual also distinguishes and imposes order on the perverse unity of opposites represented earlier in the trilogy by the unending cycle of violent reciprocity. This unity has a parallel in the non-differentiation inherent in monetary transactions and in the accumulation of monetary wealth. It is embodied by the Erinyes, who stand for both chronological homogeneity (their power to exact punishment is equally valid at all times) and spatial homogeneity (they can exact punishment anywhere). In moments of crisis in tragedy, spatial and temporal homogeneity are emphasized: the remote space brings crisis into the immediate space (royal house), and structurally similar actions (e.g. violent revenge) are cyclically repeated. Ritual brings resolution by differentiating the opposites: space is reclaimed by the community, and cyclical, repetitive suffering gives way to permanent well-being.

The book also offers a wealth of insights into a variety of topics related to the interplay between the limitedness of ritual and the unlimitedness of monetized wealth. I single out the discussion of “form-parallelism”-the juxtaposition of words or phrases that are parallel and often antithetical-as a vehicle for conveying ideas both of antithesis and of a deeper unity. For instance, in Septem 911-14 form-parallelism in lamentation for the fratricidal brothers assimilates their unnatural opposition to their unnatural unity in both origin (incest) and death. In Aeschylus, this rhetorical device signifies the deferral or subversion of completion by emphasizing that the opposites are bound together in a relationship of endless tension- a conception (also Heraclitean) associated with the homogenizing power of money, which assimilates different commodities by remaining in itself always the same.

This is an important work that redefines our conception of central categories of early Greek thought: space, time, ritual, and money. It will be of interest to scholars and advanced students working in the areas of classical Greek literature, Greek history, philosophy, and theatre.[[1]]

[[1]]Though generally well produced, the volume has a high number of typos. Most are relatively unobtrusive (e.g., “facilated,” p. 119; Κύκλο<ϋ and στεφάνο for Κύκλō and στεφάνō, p. 227). In a few cases, however, they may hinder comprehension (e.g., “seeing gain,” p. 198; “penalties imposed the polis,” p. 251; “benefaction combined with hostility,” p. 268). On p. 211 delete n. 22 (it reappears, correctly, as n. 23). The coinage “endophony” (= intrafamilial murder, from endon and phonos) can be misleading, esp. since “antiphony” is also used in the book.

[©2013 by The Classical Association of the Middle West and South. All rights reserved.]


CJ~Online Review ~ Arena, Libertas

posted with permission:

Libertas and the Practice of Politics in the Late Roman Republic. By Valentina Arena. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. ix + 324. Hardcover, $99.00. ISBN 978-1-107-028173.

Reviewed by Robert Morstein-Marx, University of California, Santa Barbara

Valentina Arena’s important book, a revision of her dissertation written at University College London, is at its heart a study of how the concept of libertas was (or might have been) theorized so that it could effectively be deployed in political debate between the termini of Sulla’s victory and the Caesarian civil war. This naturally first entails (Ch. 1) defining the concept of libertas as it was generally understood (“a status of non-subjection to the arbitrary will of another person or group of persons,” (6), taking a leaf from the “Cambridge School” of modern republican theorists), then (Ch. 2) reviewing the various “rights” or iura that expressed and protected that freedom, i.e. suffragium, provocatio, the rights of the tribunes and the rule of law generally.

Arena contends that while all parties in Rome understood the core definition of libertas in the same way (“non-domination” rather than “non-interference”-language drawn from P. Pettit and Q. Skinner in their rebuttal to the doctrine of purely “negative liberty”),[[1]] the same concept could be theoretically or ideologically articulated in two divergent directions by optimates and populares respectively. These constituted two “discourses,” “intellectual traditions,” or “families of ideas” (5, 7) about how to realize and protect libertas in political life both at the level of constitutional arrangements and of specific debates over distinct kinds of policy, such as land distribution. At the constitutional level (Ch. 3), Arena argues, for instance, that optimates insisted that the “mixed constitution,” in which power was divided and spread over three parts, was essential for the preservation of libertas,and while the People remained sovereign, direction and leadership was left in the hands of the Senate. Populares on the other hand assigned a far more robust role to the popular assembly and even are supposed to have claimed “that, in order to preserve political liberty, every citizen should not only participate in political affairs, but also play a central role in governance” (117).

Turning to the level of policy and public debate, Arena notes that only certain types of disputes consistently encouraged notable invocation of libertas (at least by optimates): proposals for “extraordinary commands,” the so-called senatus consultum ultimum, and plans for agrarian distribution (Ch. 4). She sketches out the saliency of the idea of freedom for each one: in brief, optimates objected to “extraordinary commands” as inevitably undermining freedom by investing excessive power in individuals and waiving real accountability; they advocated the s.c.u. as a necessary defense against tyranny or domination, while on the other hand opposing agrarian distribution as another way of concentrating unchecked power in the hands of an individual or group. Optimates resorted to the language of libertas because they needed “legitimation” of their opposition by means of arguments that might plausibly construe their opponents as undermining the fundamental Roman value while correspondingly representing themselves as its protector (Ch. 5).

Finally, in an Epilogue, Arena suggests that in the 40s, which is, strictly speaking, outside the period she has defined for her study, libertas underwent an important “conceptual change” along the lines of a process modeled by Skinner. As a result of debates over the s.c.u., libertas came to be invoked in a new way, as being dependent on an individual’s moral judgment rather than on the laws; and when this new application of the old concept came to be accepted by the community of language-users (the Roman People), then the concept itself could be said to have changed.

The argument is ambitious and elegant but is vulnerable to several objections. Above all, Arena’s cherry-picking of doctrines and principles enunciated, often implicitly, in a variety of genres (historiography, speeches, and essays) without controlling for the varying rhetorical demands imposed by their audiences leads to a vision of public debate that suggests far greater ideological polarization than what we find when actual debates are examined. Nothing in Tiberius Gracchus’s defense of his removal of a tribune from office (for Arena, a paradigm case of the popularis ideology of the absolute sovereignty of the popular assembly) conflicts with Polybius’ sketch of the functioning of the “mixed” or “balanced” constitution, supposedly the bedrock of a partisan, optimate constitutional ideology: Gracchus’s key point that the tribune must carry out the People’s will (not its “true interest” as judged paternalistically by the Senate) is indeed contained explicitly therein.

It is Cicero, not some firebrand tribune, who in court before a jury of senators, equites, and other well-off citizens, praised a tribune for not recognizing a veto and therefore preventing one man’s voice-albeit a sacrosanct tribune’s-from suppressing the judgment of the entire citizenry (Corn. I 31 Cr.). Arena adduces the Pseudo-Sallustian Second Letter to Caesar (here treated as an authentic document of 50 bc) as testimony for the optimate “preoccupation with a morally strong senate, to which a central role in the government of the commonwealth is assigned” (99)-yet a dozen pages later she acknowledges that it “focuses on a democratizing reform of the comitia centuriata” as well as other popularis-sounding initiatives (112).

Even the senatus consultum ultimum, which Arena presents as an exclusively optimate weapon, does not appear to have been opposed as such after the acquittal of L. Opimius in 120; neither Caesar (B.C. 1.7.5-6) nor Sallust (Cat. 29.2-3) challenges its legitimacy as an emergency measure to protect the Republic from violent insurrection. (It is, by the way, surprising that Arena can still assert without argument that the execution of the so-called “Catilinarians” was legally justified by reference to the s.c.u. after A. Drummond’s effective demolition of this idea: Law, Politics and Power (Stuttgart, 1995), 95-105.) And it is quite a stretch to assume (again, without argument) that the “democratic” speech mouthed by “Scipio” in the De re publica (Rep.1.47-50) reflects actual contemporary political discourse rather than the lecture-hall, which after all must be the source of Scipio’s subsequent assertion that monarchy was the best political system (Rep. 1.54-64: just try that in a contio!). Can any Roman popularis honestly be called a “democrat”? (So at pp. 172, 181.)

Far from the sharp contestation of political principle in public debate that Arena’s analysis would imply, orators in contiones competed by positioning themselves as the authentic heirs of Roman political tradition: popularis politicians never openly objected to the auctoritas of the Senate in principle but to the failure of corrupt senators of the present to uphold it, while optimates never openly disputed the principle that the decisions of the assembly of the People were sovereign (though they might claim that the People’s sovereign will had been subverted by procedural failures such as violence or religious neglect). No popularis is ever known to have publicly advocated a truly fundamental change of the traditional institutions that would eliminate the great influence of the Senate or subordinate it to the People, much less actually try to bring it about that “every citizen should … play a central role in governance” (above).

In her introduction Arena declares that the voting audience of the plebs will not be included in her analysis and therefore that her book “is not meant to be a direct contribution to the very lively debate on the nature of Roman political culture” (12). It may be churlish to complain that Arena did not write the kind of book she did not intend to write, but what is missing in my view is, unfortunately, the very core of the matter. It was the audience of voters, the Roman People, who were the chief persuasive target of the major political debates reviewed in this book, and consequently they indirectly determined what arguments could and could not successfully be made.

It is not enough to assert that optimates needed to invoke libertas “if they wished to entertain any serious hope of success” (255); why exactly, and within what parameters? No optimate could hope to persuade the majority of tribes that land distribution was unjust and therefore destroyed the very foundations of the community (as Cicero argues outside the public eye in De off.2.78-84), but there was just a chance-not, in fact, a very good one, statistically speaking-that, like Cicero in the de lege agraria speeches, he could succeed by exploiting his audience’s incomplete knowledge by representing a land bill as an insidious plot against their freedom.

Nor, for all the lavish attention Arena gives to this ill-fated line of argument, did optimates ever actually succeed in persuading the majority of the tribes that “extraordinary commands” were likely seriously to undermine libertas. What is even more important than L. Catulus’ arguments against the lex Gabinia (detailed here at inordinate length given that Dio 36.31-6 is a relatively free composition by the third-century historian) is the fact that few voters believed them. By leaving the audiences of public debate mostly out of the picture Arena’s long-and certainly thoughtful-exegesis of possible or real political theory fails to get real “traction” on what is, after all, expressly a study of “the practice of politics” (as expressed in her subtitle).

However, these are matters for respectful debate. The quarrel I have with the way in which Arena carries out her project should not obscure the many valuable contributions made by the book. She offers an interesting new view of the fundamental Roman conception of freedom which accepts M. Roller’s claim that political libertas derived its meaning essentially from the contrasting metaphor of legal slavery but develops it in a manner inspired by Skinner and Pettit: there was consensus across the political spectrum that libertas consisted in a status of “non-subjection to the arbitrary will of another person or group of persons” (6). But, contra Roller and Bleicken before him, she holds that this does not mean that the Romans lacked an abstract political idea of freedom-that is, that the concept was undeveloped or relatively empty. Arena has given us a thoughtful and intellectually challenging survey of the connection between the contemporary conception of libertas and some of the most persistent and bitterest controversies in the history of the late Republic. Her book serves as a highly salutary reminder of the absolute centrality of a strong concept of libertas in the political ferment of the Late Republic.

[[1]]A classic essay that will help orient readers to understand the terms and implications of this larger debate is Q. Skinner, “The Idea of Negative Liberty: Machiavellian and modern perspectives,” in Visions of Politics, vol. 2 (Cambridge 2002) 186-212.

[©2013 by The Classical Association of the Middle West and South. All rights reserved.]

CJ~Online Review ~ Gardner, Gendering Time in Augustan Love Elegy

posted with permission:

Gendering Time in Augustan Love Elegy. By Hunter H. Gardner. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. viii + 285. Hardcover, $110.00. ISBN 978-0-19-965239-6.

Reviewed by Sara H. Lindheim, University of California, Santa Barbara

Hunter Gardner’s book, which began its life as a doctoral dissertation, is a welcome addition to scholarship on Augustan love elegy. Situated simultaneously within the debate about the dynamics of gender and power in elegiac poetry and interpretations that seek to explore the contradictions at the heart of the elegiac amator’s subjectivity, Gendering Time in Augustan Love Elegy argues that the genre, obsessed as it is with time, offers a different experience of temporality to (male) lover and (female) beloved.

Drawing on the theories of the French psycholinguist and feminist Julia Kristeva, Gardner suggests that, on the one hand, the elegiac amator, faced with the newly emerging prescriptions governing the lives of young, elite, Roman males in the early Principate (in particular the pressures to marry and rise to political responsibility at an increasingly young age), attempts to eschew the demands of male time-historical, teleological, linear. Instead, he seeks to embed himself firmly within the repetitive, cyclical, a-teleological “women’s time” that marks the puella. Embarking on a circuitous relationship of ever-deferred pleasure with an unattainable puella, the elegiac amator sidesteps the pressures of the Roman political, social, and cultural expectations for a man’s life course. Emphasizing the generic connection between amor and mora (Prop. 1.3, Tib. 1.3, Ovid’s Remedia Amoris), the amator finds the antidote to linear time in his pursuit of his beloved.

On the other hand, however, Gardner shows that the amator constantly raises the specter of hideous old age for his beloved, both through threats of what the future holds for her, and the recurring presence of the physically decrepit lena. Female subjectivity, posits Gardner, is linked in its cyclicality to the cycles of nature, and in this way circularity becomes “a sign of mortality and decay rather than eternity” (28). Cynthia (Prop. 2.15, 2.18, 3.24/25), Delia (Tib. 1.6), Phloe (Tib. 1.8) are all subject to the ravages of time, on the verge of becoming wrinkled, sagging, and erotically unappealing.

But woman’s decay does not imply man’s; on the contrary, the amator aligns himself with culture, rather than with nature. Through ars, through his poetry, he provides himself with the means to escape the grasping hands of time. The puella, trapped within the elegiac genre, may reach her expiry date, but the poet can grow up, can write about other subjects, can evolve poetically from erotic elegy to “celebrating Messalinus’ priesthood [Tibullus] … memorializing the matron Cornelia’s virtues as a Callimachus Romanus [Propertius], and spinning out a carmen perpetuum in hexameters from the world’s origins to the Augustan era [Ovid],” (223). In the end, however, freedom to join the teleological march toward responsible, male adulthood and citizenship is not all it is cracked up to be, and Tibullus, Propertius and Ovid all regress, through “various tropes of recantation” (255), to “a posture of eternally arrested development” (250), firmly ensconced within the demands of the elegiac genre.

Gardner’s reading of elegy is intelligent and persuasive. Rather than obfuscating or explaining away contradictions that emerge so clearly from the genre of erotic elegy, she invites us to focus our interpretive attention squarely on the inconsistencies. The puella provides the amator with a means to deny temporal imperatives, either when he discovers a refuge from linear time in her arms, or, antithetically, when he underscores her limited shelf-life along with that of erotic elegy by promising to grow up and choose other poetic forms. When he highlights the process of aging that awaits her, Gardner argues, the amator aligns the puella with the natural world and thus with decay. At this point, somewhat surprisingly, Gardner supplements her arguments based on Kristeva’s theories of “women’s time” with concepts drawn from the work of feminist anthropologist Sherry Ortner, who famously points out the alignment of the feminine with (perishable) nature and the masculine with (immortal) culture (“Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?,” orig. published 1972, revised version in Making Gender: The Erotics and Politics of Culture (1996: 21-42). This seems to me an unnecessary and confusing blending of theoretical models.

Much closer to hand are Lacanian theories of desire that would serve more seamlessly to illuminate the contradictory representations of the ageless and aging puella; indeed one could argue that the works of Kristeva, influenced by, and in constant conversation with Lacan’s, must always already be read in intimate connection with his. The workings of desire as Lacan sets them forth make clear that the puella, as a representation of all the lover aspires to be and also, conversely, all he denies in himself, tells us little about the feminine and remains for the amator no more than a strategy and a signifier that he manipulates for his own purposes.

Despite my quibbles about mixing theoretical frameworks and my preference for a more bleak reading of the feminine in the poems, this book will sit on my shelf right beside my current favorite pieces of scholarship on elegy, Paul Allen Miller’s Subjecting Verses: Latin Love Elegy and the Emergence of the Real and Micaela Janan’s The Politics of Desire: Propertius IV. It is a must-read for both students and scholars of Augustan love elegy.

[©2013 by The Classical Association of the Middle West and South. All rights reserved.]


CJ~Online Review ~ Hayes and Nimis, Lucian

posted with permission:

Lucian’s The Ass: An Intermediate Greek Reader. Greek text with running vocabulary and commentary. Evan Hayes and Stephen Nimis, eds. Oxford, OH: Faenum Publishing, 2012. Pp. xii, 230.  ISBN 978-0983-2228-28.  $14.95 (pb).   

Katherine Panagakos, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

Hayes and Nimis have self-published five intermediate Greek readers since January, 2011, as part of a series funded by the Joanna Jackson Goldman Memorial Prize through the Honors Program at Miami University. These include: Lucian’s A True Story (2011); Plutarch’s Dialogue on Love (2011); Lucian’s The Ass (2012); Lucian’s On the Syrian Goddess (2012); and Hippocrates’ On Airs, Waters, and Places and The Hippocratic Oath (2013). The editors should be commended for their dedication and daring to provide relatively cheap textbooks of less mainstream works for the undergraduate Greek student.

The intended audience for these textbooks is the student who has completed the first year sequence of ancient Greek and is embarking on the often daunting task of reading either their first work in toto or selections of a work. Commonly, a student’s first intermediate course is in the fall term after a summer that may have miraculously removed all knowledge of both simple and more difficult grammatical constructions as well as a good portion of their vocabulary. Students, therefore, will frequently require a comprehensive review of grammatical and syntactical constructions.

The advantages of the all-inclusive reader are manifold, and the student will have nearly everything s/he will require at her/his fingertips, thus allowing and encouraging them to read a fair amount of Greek at a steady pace. The instructor, therefore, is free to offer whatever reviews s/he deems necessary. One of the best aspects of the all-inclusive textbook is that it requires little or no need to consult a lexicon. I acknowledge that knowing how to use a lexicon is an important skill for students to have, but perhaps the intermediate level is not the ideal time to introduce it.

Another helpful feature of the all-in-one textbook is that students will rarely have to refer to their introductory Greek text or a Greek grammar, such as Smyth, for grammatical explanations. Admittedly, knowing how to use Smyth or any Greek grammar is fundamental for the success of language students beyond a certain level.  But I would argue that the intermediate student does not need this additional challenge. Finally, graduate level and scholarly commentaries tend to provide too much information for the undergraduate’s needs and often bring about an understandable frustration to the student. For an undergraduate to be required to not only read through extensive explanations but also determine what is useful for their primary purpose is not the goal of an undergraduate reading course, and this process often discourages students. At the intermediate level, we want to do all we can to help the student read as much Greek as possible while reviewing grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. The all-inclusive reader makes this possible for intermediate Greek students.

Hayes and Nimis, in their very short introduction (IX-XI), include a discussion on the aims of the work, a brief summary of the story itself, its connection to Apuleius’s Metamorphoses, a “How to use this book” section, their use of “translationese,” and a disclaimer concerning its “Print on Demand” status. The editors make sure to point out how appropriate Lucian’s The Ass is for the intermediate level, citing its fast-paced, relatively easy vocabulary as well as its comedic topics and tales. And I would agree.

Although the connections between The Ass and Apuleius’ Metamorphoses are only mentioned briefly, a few sources are included for those interested in further reading. The editors then explain how to use their book, which sets forth what is and what is not included in the page-by-page glossary, e.g. particles, common nouns, and adjectives are omitted. These vocabulary items, however, are included in the full glossary at the end of the book. Verbs, though, are treated more fully than any other part of speech, and there is a list of verbs with unusual forms in an appendix. The editors caution readers that they have employed “translationese” in their commentary in order to keep as close to the original grammatical constructions as possible. The text itself is based on C. Jacobitz’s Teubner (Leipzig, 1907), and the editors indicate that they have made only slight modifications to the text.

Finally, the authors explain the text’s “Print on Demand” status, and this may be one of the more important aspects for instructors to keep in mind. “Print on Demand” texts often have a number of typographical errors since the editorial stage is omitted. While many might consider this a negative feature, I suggest that instructors turn this into a teaching moment. By inducing students to become typographical detectives, they will be compelled to examine the text very closely. In my experience, the majority of Greek (and Latin) students get a thrill out of pointing out incorrect breathing marks, accents, or forms (sometimes to our chagrin). By urging students to keep a list of errors that they can submit to the editors at the end of the term, we are teaching them a valuable lesson in proofreading and editing, and including them in the larger community of classical scholars. In fact, the editors themselves suggest and encourage users to share any corrections to the text.

The Greek text of Lucian’s The Ass is found on pages 3-147; Apuleius’ Metamorphoses on 151-194; a list of irregular verbs on 199-207; and the full glossary on 211-230. The pages with the Greek and Latin texts are divided horizontally into three or four sections. The topmost register is reserved for the original text, which ranges from 2-10 lines of text, but is usually between 5-8 lines; vocabulary is just below this, divided into two columns and listed alphabetically; and the bottom third is reserved for the grammatical commentary in the order that they appear in the text. If there is a specific grammar review (such as those found on pages 5, 7, 16, 19, 24, 30, 41, 70, and 85), it is placed beneath the commentary. The only exceptions to this are pages 9 and 36, which include full-page grammar reviews (Defective Verbs and Indirect Statement).

As mentioned above, the Greek text is based on Jacobitz (in the public domain and accessible online) and, therefore, warrants no further discussion. The editors, however, have included short English headings that alert the reader to the upcoming events in the story. The vocabulary is listed alphabetically except for page 144 where they are listed in the order in which they appear in the text. Noun entries include the nominative singular form and gender, while those with stem changes also include the genitive form: e.g. ἵππος, ὁ/ἡ vs. ἀνήρ, ἀνδρός, ὁ. Adjectives are listed with all their nominative forms: e.g. πλήσιος, -α, -ον: παράδοξος, -ον, while adverbs and prepositions are simply listed with a definition. Particles and conjunctions are not listed in the running vocabulary but can be found in the full glossary (starting on page 211).

No parts of speech are included in the running vocabulary, but students should know the difference between an adverb and a preposition by this point in their studies. Finally, verbs are listed with their first principal part only. Definitions are limited to 1-3 possible choices: e.g. πάγος, ὁ: a rock; συμπόσιον, τό: a drinking-party, symposium; and ὁδός, ἡ: a way, path, road.

The majority of errors in the vocabulary section are minor: e.g. Δεκριανὸς, ὁ should have an acute not a grave accent (6); λόγος is missing its definite article (10); and a sprinkling of missing commas between nominative and definite article: ἱμάτιον τό (11); μάγος ὁ (13).

One noteworthy item in the vocabulary section for instructors is that a word is included every time it occurs no matter how often it has arisen in the text, e.g. “γυνή, γυναικός, ἡ: a woman, wife” is listed on pages 5, 6, 11, 13, 15, 30, 54, 76, 87, 88, 103, 104, 131, 132, 134, 135, 136, 137, and 141. While some might argue that a vocabulary item should be removed after its third entry, thus compelling the student to learn the word, I would venture to guess that the authors chose to include a vocabulary item every time it occurs because that would allow an instructor to pick and choose passages and not be concerned that a vocabulary item would already be excised due to its earlier frequency.

On the whole, the commentary is sufficient for the needs of intermediate students, helping them with both forms and translations. Again, a number of errors are found, the majority being accentuation: e.g. ἦμεν: impf. of  ἐιμί (breathing on wrong vowel in diphthong) (3); and ἀσπασάμενοί: ao. part. of ἁσπάζω (should not have hard breathing) (4); but also an inconsistency in listing the verb a form is from: συνέκειτο: impf. (but no verb is listed) (19); and ἐστεφανούμεθα: imp. mid. (no verb listed) (29). The only other critique for the commentary I offer is that imperfect and aorist tenses are both translated as the simple past with no distinction between the two.

In the ten grammar reviews, I also found a number of minor typographical errors. In the review of αὐτός(5), the heading has αὐτὸς listed with a grave instead of an acute; in the review of Defective Verbs on page 9 has the Aorist of λέγω as ἕλεξα (should be a smooth breather); in the Future Conditions review on page 16, the more vivid example includes an extra “.” in the ellipsis; in the review of Potential ἄν (70), ἂν is listed with a grave in the heading and throughout the English explanation, but correctly in the Greek examples and in the full glossary (212); and in the final grammatical review on Indirect Statement in Secondary Sequence (85), φημι is lacking its acute accent on the ultima.

Following the Greek of The Ass are ten passages from Apuleius’ Metamorphoses, which highlight the striking parallels between the texts. The Latin selections, as I mentioned above, are divided similarly into a three-part register: text; vocabulary; and commentary. The inclusion of selections of Apuleius is one of the most useful and exciting aspects of this textbook, for it is extremely rare that students are provided with Greek and Latin textual parallels, especially at the intermediate level. Students reading Apuleius’ Metamorphoses will certainly know its literary background and expansion on a now-lost Greek original. Hayes and Nimis have provided us with a textbook that allows this comparison to be evaluated with relative ease.

The “List of Verbs” (199-207) is useful for students as it lists verbs with irregular forms as well as its common compounds. The list is based on that from Smyth’s Greek Grammar. One glaring error is the spelling of Smyth with an “e” (199). Other very minor errors include an extra colon after the definition of δέω and δέομαι; a missing space between the definition of ἔπομαι and the future form; and a missing comma after the definition of χέω.

Overall, I would highly recommend this textbook for instructors of intermediate Greek. Despite some minor issues (mainly typographical) the edition put forth by Hayes and Nimis provides a unique opportunity for students to read a highly entertaining story with relative ease. For those instructors whose students are familiar with Apuleius and/or have completed an equivalent level of Latin, this all-in-one textbook is a rare find and should be seriously considered for an intermediate Greek class. 

[©2013 by The Classical Association of the Middle West and South. All rights reserved.]

Bryn Mawr Classical Reviews

  • 2014.02.53:  Stuart Elden, The Birth of Territory.
  • 2014.02.52:  Paulos Kalligas, Πλωτίνου, Εννεάς Πέμπτη. Αρχαίο κείμενο, μετάφραση, σχόλια [Plotinus’ Fifth Ennead. Ancient Greek text, translation, commentaries]. Βιβλιοθήκη Α. Μανούση, 12. bmcr2
  • 2014.02.51:  Mary Nyquist, Arbitrary Rule: Slavery, Tyranny, and the Power of Life and Death.
  • 2014.02.50:  Gernot Michael Müller, Lectiones Claudianeae: Studien zu Poetik und Funktion der politisch-zeitgeschichtlichen Dichtungen Claudians. Bibliothek der klassischen Altertumswissenschaften, Bd 133.
  • 2014.02.49:  Anna Leone, The End of the Pagan City: Religion, Economy, and Urbanism in Late Antique North Africa.
  • 2014.02.48:  Tim Whitmarsh, Beyond the Second Sophistic: Adventures in Greek Postclassicism.
  • 2014.02.47:  Silvia Ottaviano, Gian Biagio Conte, P. Vergilius Maro: Bucolica; Georgica. Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana, 2011.
  • 2014.02.46:  Ladislav Stančo, Greek Gods in the East: Hellenistic Iconographic Schemes in the Central Asia.
  • 2014.02.45:  Saskia Hin, The Demography of Roman Italy: Population Dynamics in an Ancient Conquest Society (201 BCE – 14 CE).

Bryn Mawr Classical Reviews

… more catching up:

  • 2014.02.41:  Mario Iozzo, Iacta stips: il deposito votivo della sorgente di Doccia della Testa a San Casciano dei Bagni (Siena).
  • 2014.02.40:  Paul Schubert, Pierre Ducrey, Pascale Derron, Les Grecs héritiers des Romains : huit exposés suivis de discussions. Entretiens sur l’Antiquité classique, 59.
  • 2014.02.39:  Bonnie Honig, Antigone, Interrupted. bmcr2
  • 2014.02.38:  Jean-Claude Cheynet, Turan Gökyildirim​, Vera Bulgurlu, Les sceaux byzantins du Musée archéologique d’Istanbul. İstanbul Araştırmaları Enstitüsü kitapları, 21​.
  • 2014.02.37:  Frank Feder, Angelika Lohwasser, Ägypten und sein Umfeld in der Spätantike: vom Regierungsantritt Diokletians 284/285 bis zur arabischen Eroberung des Vorderen Orients um 635-646: Akten der Tagung vom 7.-9.7.2011 in Münster. Philippika, 61.
  • 2014.02.36:  Gabriele Cifani, Tra Roma e l’Etruria: cultura, identità e territorio dei Falisci.
  • 2014.02.35:  Deborah Kamen, Status in Classical Athens.
  • 2014.02.34:  Johnny Christensen, An Essay on the Unity of Stoic Philosophy.
  • 2014.02.33:  Nikolaos Chr. Konomis, Από την ιστορία της λατινικής γλώσσας [From the History of the Latin Language]. 5η έκδοση αναθεωρημένη και επαυξημένη.
  • 2014.02.32:  Hélène Vial, Poètes et orateurs dans l’Antiquité: mises en scène réciproques. Collection Erga, 13.
  • 2014.02.31:  Victoria Emma Pagán​, A Companion to Tacitus. Blackwell companions to the ancient world.
  • 2014.02.30:  Audrey Becker, Les relations diplomatiques romano-barbares en Occident au Ve siècle: acteurs, fonctions, modalités. Collections de l’Université de Strasbourg. Études d’archéologie et d’histoire ancienne.
  • 2014.02.29:  Emma Buckley, Martin T. Dinter, A Companion to the Neronian Age. Blackwell companions to the ancient world.
  • 2014.02.28:  C. W. Marshall, George Kovacs, No Laughing Matter. Studies in Athenian Comedy.
  • 2014.02.27:  Peter Scholz, Uwe Walter, Fragmente Römischer Memoiren. Studien zur Alten Geschichte, 18.
  • 2014.02.26:  Sergio Castagnetti, Le leges libitinariae flegree: edizione e commento. Pubblicazioni del Dipartimento di diritto romano, storia e teoria del diritto F. De Martino dell’Università degli studi di Napoli Federico II, 34.
  • 2014.02.25:  Marie-Hélène Marganne, Bruno Rochette, Bilinguisme et digraphisme dans le monde gréco-romain: l’apport des papyrus latins. Actes de la Table Ronde internationale (Liège, 12-13 mai 2011). Collection Papyrologica Leodiensia, 2.
  • 2014.02.24:  Tracey E. Rihll, Technology and Society in the Ancient Greek and Roman Worlds. Historical perspectives on technology, society, and culture, 10.
  • 2014.02.23:  Kevin W. Wilkinson, New Epigrams of Palladas: A Fragmentary Papyrus Codex (P.CtYBR inv. 4000). American Studies in Papyrology, 52.
  • 2014.02.22:  Massimo Blasi, Strategie funerarie: onori funebri pubblici e lotta politica nella Roma medio e tardorepubblicana (230-27 a.C). Studi e ricerche, 1.

Bryn Mawr Classical Reviews

[n.b. I've missed a month and a half's worth ...]

  • 2014.01.48:  Christos Tsagalis, From Listeners to Viewers: Space in the Iliad. Hellenic studies, 53.
  • 2014.01.47:  Peter F. Bang, Walter Scheidel, The Oxford Handbook of the State in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean. Oxford handbooks
  • 2014.01.46:  Response: Levene on Fronda on Levene, Livy on the Hannibalic War.
    Response by D.S. Levene.
  • 2014.01.45:  Christoph Sauer, Valerius Flaccus’ dramatische Erzähltechnik. Hypomnemata, Bd 187. bmcr2
  • 2014.01.44:  Dominique Kassab Tezgör​, Sinope: The Results of Fifteen Years of Research. Proceedings of the international symposium, 7-9 May 2009 / Sinope: un état de la question après quinze ans de travaux. Actes du symposium international, 7-9 May 2009​.
  • 2014.01.43:  Lloyd P. Gerson, Plotinus, Ennead V.5: That the Intelligibles Are Not External to the Intellect, and On the Good. The ‘Enneads’ of Plotinus with Philosophical Commentaries.
  • 2014.01.42:  Sara Brill, Plato on the Limits of Human Life
  • 2014.01.41:  John Miles Foley, Oral Tradition and the Internet: Pathways of the Mind.
  • 2014.01.40:  Egbert J. Bakker, The Meaning of Meat and the Structure of the Odyssey.
  • 2014.01.39:  Marja Vierros, Bilingual Notaries in Hellenistic Egypt: A Study of Greek as a Second Language. Collectanea hellenistica, 5.
  • 2014.01.38:  Livia Radici, Nicandro di Colofone nei secoli XVI-XVIII; edizioni, traduzioni, commenti. Biblioteca di Technai, 2.
  • 2014.01.37:  Richard Bouchon, Pascale Brillet-Dubois, Nadine Le Meur-Weissman, Hymnes de la grèce antique: approches littéraires et historiques. Collection de la Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée, 50; Série littéraire et philosophique, 17.
  • 2014.01.36:  Salvatore Monda, Ainigma e griphos: Gli antichi e l’oscurità della parola. …et alia, 2​.
  • 2014.01.35:  Walter Scheidel, The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Economy. Cambridge companions to the ancient world.
  • 2014.01.34:  Francisco Marco Simón, Francisco Pina Polo, José Remesal Rodríguez, Vae Victis! Perdedores en el mundo antiguo. Collecció Instrumenta, 14.
  • 2014.01.33:  Christian Jacob, The Web of Athenaeus. Hellenic studies, 61.
  • 2014.01.32:  Theodore D. Papanghelis, Stephen J. Harrison, Stavros Frangoulidis, Generic Interfaces in Latin Literature: Encounters, Interactions and Transformations. Trends in Classics – Supplementary Volumes, 20.
  • 2014.01.31:  Shane Hawkins, Studies in the Language of Hipponax. Munich studies in historical linguistics, Bd 14.
  • 2014.01.30:  Umberto Laffi, In greco per i Greci: ricerche sul lessico greco del processo civile e criminale romano nelle attestazioni di fonti documentarie romane. Pubblicazioni del Cedant, 12.
  • 2014.01.29:  Véronique Boudon-Millot, Galien de Pergame: un médecin grec à Rome.

CJ~Online Review | Kagan and Viggiano, Men of Bronze

posted with permission:

Men of Bronze: Hoplite Warfare in Ancient Greece. Edited by Donald Kagan and Gregory F. Viggiano. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2013. Pp. xxv + 314. Hardcover, $35.00. ISBN 978-1-400-14301-6.

Reviewed by Robin Osborne, University of Cambridge

There are two questions about hoplite warfare about which scholars have proved unable to agree. One is what the circumstances and consequences of the invention of hoplite warfare were, and the other is how hoplites fought battles. Unless we know what was special about hoplite warfare we will not understand the implications of its invention; but most of the best evidence on the nature of hoplite warfare it comes from the classical period, and the most explicit ancient theorizing about it from Hellenistic historian Polybius. This raises a further issue: did the nature of hoplite warfare change over time?

If the scholarly slate were blank, then surely one would start by analyzing the theorizing of an intelligent historian personally acquainted with warfare. From this one would work back through the relatively rich, but never more than partial and particular, descriptions of classical hoplite battle. And only from there would one turn to what very fragmentary literary testimony, plus the evidence of material remains and representations in art, can suggest about the hoplite in the archaic Greek world.

But the scholarly slate is not blank, and Kagan and Viggiano start from the existing scholarship. The conference in April 2008 on which this book is based, summoned the scholars who have been most vocal on the issues, and the book starts by re-telling, not once but twice, in the Introduction and in the editors’ first chapter on "The hoplite debate," the story of scholarly views.

The point of this repeated telling of the story is to persuade the reader that understanding hoplite warfare involves a choice between "the traditional narrative" and the revisionists (see, most explicitly, xxi). The consummate statement of the traditional narrative is taken to be that by Victor Davis Hanson, not simply in the wonderful The Western Way of War, but in the highly problematic The Other Greeks. It is a reflection of this choice that the index entry for Hanson runs to 29 lines, that for Hans van Wees to 23 lines; by contrast the entry for Herodotus runs to 15 lines, that for Xenophon to 13 lines, and that for Polybius to just one line.

This way of framing the question proves unhelpful. Contributors concentrate on commenting on the scholarship rather than the evidence, and no one who does not already know the evidence will be in a position to judge their comments. The debate on whether the development of the hoplite effected a political revolution (Chapters 2 to 6) precedes the discussion of what hoplite warfare was like (Chapter 7 to 12), which makes sense chronologically but not analytically.

Several chapters are either narrow in their focus (e.g. exactly how heavy heavy armor was) or slight in their contribution-Lin Foxhall’s survey of what archaeological survey tells us about "the small farmer" is excellent, but relevant only to those who have believed Hanson’s The Other Greeks. John Hale’s insistence on the importance of mercenary service is well taken, but the substantive point adds little to Nino Luraghi’s 2006 Phoenix paper which inspired it ("Traders, pirates, warriors: the proto-history of Greek mercenary soldiers in the eastern Mediterranean", Phoenix 60: 21-47). Nor is the book rendered easy to use by the failure to consolidate the bibliography-or even to apply a uniform format.

The strongest essays here are by Peter Krentz and by Hanson himself. Krentz has a measured assessment of past views that notes that there was much less uniformity to the "traditional narrative" than the editors have claimed. Hanson, though avoiding comment on areas where his views have become untenable, usefully rubs the various claims made by recent scholars up against problematic items of ancient evidence. From both of these contributions the reader begins to get a clearer notion of what is really at stake in the modern debates for our understanding of the Greek city.

There is no doubt that the dust of battle significantly impeded the ability of ancient participants to see and understand exactly what happened to give victory or bring about defeat. A lot of dust of battle is kicked up by this book, but by the end of it neither the history of modern scholarship nor the significance of the Greek hoplite is any clearer. Ironically what all contributors agree on is that from the very beginning hoplite armor was mixed, so that "only about one in ten hoplites wore a bronze cuirass" even in the archaic period; whatever hoplites were, they were not "men of bronze."

CJ Online Review: Brodd and Reed, Rome and Religion

posted with permission:

Rome and Religion: A Cross-Disciplinary Dialogue on the Imperial Cult. Edited by Jeffrey Brodd and Jonathan L. Reed. Society of Biblical Literature Writings from the Greco-Roman World Supplement Series, Vol. 5. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011. Pp . xiv + 261. Paper, $37.95. ISBN 978-1-58983-612-9.

Reviewed by Roberta Stewart, Dartmouth College

The collection Rome and Religion: A Cross-Disciplinary Dialogue on the Imperial Cult promises a dialogue, a “wide-ranging treatment of issues and interrelated themes” that brings together “classicists, biblical and religious scholars, historians, and archaeologists.” Part One addresses the definition of “religion” as an analytical category. Part Two studies the variously successful penetration of imperial ideology in the Eastern Mediterranean. Part Three the intersection of Roman imperial religious practice and thinking with Jewish and Christian communities. Part Four offers final comments on the importance of cross-disciplinary research.

Collectively the papers illustrate the use of literary, numismatic, epigraphic, and archaeological evidence to consider questions of religious policy, practice, and belief. A religious institution emerges as sets of historical actions, situated in place and time, and the product of historically situated actors,

In the opening essay, Galinsky emphasizes the need to study imperial cult not as a single monolith but as a “paradigm”; to conceptualize imperial cult as a negotiated product of “religious pluralism”-rather than a polarity of religious accommodation or resistance-embedded within distinct communities possessing their own political, religious and social histories in a diverse Roman Empire; and to evaluate “the Jesus movement” similarly within the “religious pluralism” of the Empire. Galinsky highlights the value of language (e.g. theos ek theou and soter) to locate “imperial cults more precisely within the associative spectrum” (10) and to understand the Christian appropriation of Roman ideas.

In Part One, James Hanges (“To Complicate Encounters”) reframes Galinsky’s claims in terms of post-colonial discourse: the processes of identity formation of subordinated groups; the concept of identity as multivalent and the product of an ongoing, negotiated interrelationship, with a salutary awareness of negotiation implying the views and actions of the subordinated; and the appropriation by the subordinated of the symbols of domination. He claims that local quarrels influenced the evolving character of ancient cult (31 n. 15, where one misses a discussion of comparative material for understanding the local negotiation) and concludes provocatively with the transformative function of myth and ritual to conjure up the ideal reality within the imperfect, mundane existence (33, which lacks citation of ancient evidence and Vernant’s analysis of Hesiod’s Myth of Prometheus).

Jeffrey Brodd (“Religion, Roman Religion, Emperor Worship”) considers the definition of “religion” with three interlocking premises: the need for “conceptual clarity,” for distinguishing modern and ancient definitions of religion, and for confronting theoretical definition with data. He surveys anthropologists and their critics grappling with definitions of religion and concomitant terms, both to illustrate the debate and to identify what is at stake in defining the categories.

Given the claims, I missed-perhaps revealing my Classical, disciplinary perspective-the philological bibliography on the Roman terms, especially A. K. Michel’s study of the term “religio” and its historical evolution (“The Versatility of Religio” in The Mediterranean World: Papers Presented in Honour of Gilbert Bagnani (1976) 36-77) and more recent treatments (R. Muth ANRW 2.16.1 (1978) 290-354; J. Rüpke Les Études classiques 75 (2007): 67-78).

Eric Orlin (“Augustan Religion: From Locative to Utopian”) uses Galinsky’s claim about religious pluralism to explore the religious context of the development of imperial cult and Christianity. He divides ancient religious practice into categories of “locative religion” or “religion of place” by contrast with “utopian” religious experience and traces a change in “religion of place” during the Augustan principate. Augustan religious reforms broke the traditional identification of place and cult: Augustus relocated the Republican rituals of Roman militarism from the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus to the new temple of Mars Ultor and removed the Sibylline books from there to the new temple of Apollo on the Palatine, so that “the chief deity of the Roman Republic was dislodged from his position theologically, ritually, and physically.” The expanding political definition of the Empire transmuted the definition of locative religion, as Roman cults were adopted beyond Rome and peninsular Italy throughout Roman Mediterranean. Imperial cult emerges as another example of the extended locative religion.

In Part Two, Barbette Spaeth (“Imperial Cult in Roman Corinth”) illustrates the utility of Galinsky’s ideas of “religious pluralism” and the interpenetration of religious and political/social life, in order to think about imperial cult in Corinth. Coins pairing obverse portraits of Nero with reverse images of deity (the Genius of the colony, Fortuna) and inscriptions giving gods the adjective “Augustus/a” illustrate the “‘intertwining’ of the cult of the emperor with those of other gods in the city” (67). The particular configuration of imperial cult at Corinth emerges as stamped by the religious and political history of the Roman colony.

In “Embedding Rome in Athens,” Nancy Evans delineates an Athenian local history to appraise cult from the perspective of the Athenian, the Roman, and the non-Athenian tourist at Athens. Evans locates imperial cult at Athens on a religious continuum that included rare cult to the Hellenistic successors of Alexander and to the late Republican generals, and deliberate revocation of cult for those subsequently deemed unworthy, by contrast with the explosion of imperial cult locations (94 altars identified), whereby Athens demonstrated allegiance to “external authority” and garnered imperial benefaction.

For the Romans Augustus exploited the Athenian historical antagonism of Greeks v. Persians to formulate his own imperial policy v. Parthia, and Paul’s journey establishes a thinking man’s reactions to imperial cult at Athens in the first century. For this paper and the entire Part Two, Kantiréa’s book (Les dieux et les dieux Augustes. Le culte impérial en Grèce sous les Julio-claudiens et les Flaviens, 2007) and richly documented, comparative study of imperial cult at Pergamum, Athens, and Ephesus (“Étude comparative de l’introduction du culte imperial à Pergame, à Athènes et à Éphèse,” in More Than Men, Less than Gods. Studies on Royal Cult and Imperial Worship, 2011: 521-51) are useful and should be consulted.

Daniel Schowalter (“Honoring Trajan in Pergamum: Imperial Temples in the ‘Second City'”) illustrates Galinsky’s ideas of “religious pluralism” and a non-monolithic imperial cult with a discussion of the diverse honors given to Trajan at Pergamum. Pliny’s letters from Bithynia illustrate “how honors offered to the emperor (along with honors to the traditional gods) were a natural part” (100) of provincial existence. The enormous Trajaneum gave topographic and architectural emphasis to the emperor; the city’s second neokorate shows how a city and its wealthy elite affirmed their prominence through ostentatious civic deference to imperial power. Comparing the honors given to Augustus and Trajan reveals continuity and allowable change (Greek versus Roman temple architecture) in the imperial cult.

James McLaren (“Searching for Rome and Imperial Cult in Galilee”) follows Galinsky’s exhortation not to create a monolith of imperial cult or of local responses and provides a richly contextualized explanation of Galilean participation in the Jewish war of 66-70 ce. McLaren defines a maximalist approach to imperial cult that recognizes its ubiquity and assesses it as part of the broader Roman presence (administrative, military, and economic) in the region. Galilean participation in the Jewish war emerges within a context of minimal Roman intrusion in Galilean life, and so not as a direct result of Roman policy or action. Moreover, the diversity of perspective among different peoples in Galilee regarding relationship with Rome shows Galilean participation in the war, not as a product of zealotry but instead a recognized identity of interest among Jews and Galileans regarding the temple in Jerusalem, an action not a reaction (128).

Warren Carter (“Roman Imperial Power: A Perspective from the New Testament”) argues that Jesus’ followers “did not negotiate the empire and its cult in a monolithic manner” (142). He examines the characterization of “Jezebel” in Revelation: she engages in idolatry, eats sacrificial food, and, like Satan and Rome, deceives. The character and the critique represent the difficult negotiation of Christians in a Roman world, where “cultic activity was intertwined in socioeconomic activity” (144), required strategic decision-making, and produced a different theological point of view that “societal and cultic participation did not compromise faithfulness” (145).

The analysis and its development owes much to James Scott’s analysis of power relationships. Carter compares 1 Peter which similarly recommends accommodation to defuse criticism and conflict and shows that Jesus believers were deeply embedded culturally in a Roman world, although the logic of accommodation implied a simultaneous devaluation of imperial cult practice. Finally Carter considers scenes of worship described in John 4-5 to show the appropriation of Roman ceremonial and its reinscription as rightful worship of a Christian God.

Robin Jensen (“The Emperor as Christ and Christian Iconography”) examines the representation of the emperor and of Christ in fourth-century art. Analysis of the labarum, “chi rho,” crown, or seated captives in various media (sarcophagi, public architecture, coins) before and after Constantine suggests the multivalent meaning of iconography and a competitive appropriation and redefinition of Roman imperial symbols.

Michael White (“Capitalizing on the Imperial Cult”) looks at a series of inscriptions from Ostia, Cyrenaica, Lydia, and Phrygia that illustrate what he terms the “negotiated symbiosis” whereby Jews, despite their religious difference, appropriated and manipulated the Hellenistic and Roman systems of civic euergetism and patronage in order to attain and secure their status within their own hierarchical, local, Roman communities.

So Galinsky’s paper provides the focus for three distinct series of investigations about the nature of ancient religion, about the diversity of imperial cult at the local level, and about Christian and Jewish responses to imperial religious practices. The book emerges almost as a Festschrift that celebrates the work of Karl Galinsky.

CJ~Online Review | Hughes, Performing Greek Comedy

posted with permission:

Performing Greek Comedy. By Alan Hughes. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. xiv + 311. Hardcover, £55.00/$99.00. ISBN 978-1-107-00930-1.

Reviewed by G. M. Sifakis, University of Crete and New York University

This is an extraordinary work about the performance of Greek comedy placed in its historical and social context from the time it first “came to sight” (as Aristotle puts it) and down to Hellenistic times. Alan Hughes is an emeritus professor of theater arts (British Columbia) and formerly a theater artist himself. He was a specialist in Shakespeare and the English theater of the 19th century when he turned his attention to Greek drama and its archaeology, where he found a good number of images comparable to modern theatrical pictures. 

As Hughes suggests, such images of actors, costumes, sets etc., often are more revealing about the theater of their own time than texts. Moreover, as we have no description of “how the komodos sat, stood, walked, gestured, … our best resource [for his style of movement] is the static figurines and pictures on vases that show actors in characteristic action” (147). This is the reason he decided to spend many years of studying not photos, but the dramatic monuments themselves (mostly Athenian terracottas and South Italian “phlyax” vases) in no fewer than 75 museums and private collections all over the world. As he writes, “I have never examined a comedy vase without learning something new” (xiv). His “Catalogue of objects discussed” lists more than five hundred dramatic monuments.

Unlike Classical scholars and archaeologists-since the time of Webster, Trendall and their successors-who tried to learn from theatrology in order to understand ancient dramatic monuments, modern theater critics and artists have usually moved in the opposite direction: they have been using ancient plays and theaters as vehicles for their own creative ideas and ‘original’ performances. Exceptions are few and far between, although a famous exception that confirms the rule, Peter Hall’s Oresteia (1981), must be mentioned in this connection.

Another unprecedented exception is Hughes’ scholarly work that began appearing in academic journals in 1996-when his seminal paper on “Comic Stages in Magna Graecia” (Theatre Research International 21) was published-and eventually resulted in the publication of the comprehensive work under review.

The book includes chapters devoted to general subjects such as the origins of comedy, festivals, theaters, and comic poets, because the author apparently wants his work to be useful to theater arts students and scholars. But its most original parts are those devoted to actors and acting style, masks and costumes, gestures and body language, and women on the stage. All suggestions and conclusions are based on specific images perceptively interpreted with regard to dramatic action.

The author begins with the symbolic notion of the passage from poet to actor and from lyric to the “double consciousness” (the term is borrowed from the French actor François-Joseph Talma (1763-1826)) of the actor, who does not “build a character from within” but has to act various parts, sometimes in quick succession. Obviously, masks encouraged “doubling,” and by transferring expression from the face to the whole body also encouraged creativity in regard to an acting style that was not representational but presentational and metatheatrical. The appearance of the actors (masks with distorted features, padded costumes, artificial phalli) was emblematic of the social inferiority of comic characters as opposed to the socially superior tragic heroes and stories (spoudaioi and phauloi, respectively, as Aristotle has it) (170-1).

When discussing attitudes and gestures, Hughes uses the behaviorist term ‘emblem’ to distinguish between “symbolic, culturally specific action that expresses an idea rather than an emotion” (154), and affective gestures which are more difficult to decode. However, because ancient comedy was highly conventional in terms of its characters and plot structures, and the author has a great power of observation, his analysis of images is impressive. This is true of general examinations of the evidence, say, for comic costumes and how they were donned or manipulated on stage, or for wooden stages which could be dismantled and reassembled, but could not be carried by traveling troupes from city to city, and which, therefore, it has to be assumed belonged to the cities themselves. Occasionally, a single image may be enough to support a valuable conclusion, e.g. the “Perseus dance” on a low wooden stage illustrated on an Attic oinochoe (Athens ΒΣ518, c. 420), which shows that such stages originated in Attica (the same picture also offers a unique indication of a theatron opposite the stage).

Character types are identifiable by mask and “the generalized style of body language” (147). “Low” types may have been perceived as such “simply because they kept their bodies close to the ground. Actors cultivated this impression by adopting an angular, knee-bending walk, or by stooping and crouching” (151). Yet “portraits from Taras show how, within the comic convention of inverted ideals, actors could set their individual stamp on old types.” A wonderful example is “an old fellow named Derkylos [who] dances a ‘soft shoe,’ gracefully pointing his toes. A charming figure with black mask and tights seems to shrug, looking over his shoulder as he sidles” (150: Apulian situla, 360-350, Getty Museum, 96.AE.118).

In general, while masks often divide women into “three broad categories” (maiden, wife and crone), depictions in vase scenes situate women in relation to men in terms of modesty (158). However, in the chapter on “Comedy and Women” the author discusses the introduction of leading female roles to comedy (Lysistrata, Praxagora), which were individual cases since there was no tradition behind them; and because such heroines inverted “custom and propriety by abandoning the woman’s realm (oikos) for the man’s (polis)” the author wonders whether their appearance was also inverted so as to make them appear attractive in order to be taken seriously by the audience (204).

Lysistrata and Praxagora were played by Aristophanes’ protagonist actors, but Hughes believes that real women were also used as performers in mute roles of dancers, musicians, and allegorical abstractions. He lists a dozen or so cases from Aristophanes, of which worthy of special note is the aulos player brought home by reveling Philokleon at Wasps 1326, because Bdelykleon recognizes her as person (not a character of the play) and mentions her name, “Dardanis.” Does a reference to a real (and perhaps renowned) aulêtris amount to cogent evidence for her presence on stage? 

I remain skeptical about the possibility of mixing real young women with the grotesque and sexually repulsive old men of comedy, inasmuch as such a practice seems to me incompatible with the style of comic performance. Indeed, as Hughes elsewhere says, “given the way female characters are defined, surprisingly few scenes express even muted sexuality” (158). On the other hand, I recognize his point that certain of the above figures have some rejuvenating effect on protagonists (add Ach. 1198, Eq. 1390). Besides, sexually explicit paratheatrical performances featuring dancers and tumblers in partial or total nudity have been documented by Xenophon (Symp. 2.1-2, 8, etc.) and by phlyax vases, and the author refers most of them to acrobatic and mime shows, although in a few cases some relationship to comedy is also possible. Regarding the unnecessarily vexed question of whether women were admitted to theater as spectators, Hughes reasonably sides with those who believe that they were admitted.

The value of this remarkable book lies in the close examination of a multitude of dramatic monuments interpreted, not as archaeological objects, but as pictorial evidence for the performance of Old and Middle comedy in Athens and South Italy and Sicily. This kind of approach–and achievement–was possible precisely because the author is a professional theater historian and self-taught–though by no means an amateur–archaeologist.

[©2013 by The Classical Association of the Middle West and South. All rights reserved.]


CJ Online Review | Thommen, An Environmental History of Greece and Rome

posted with permission:

An Environmental History of Ancient Greece and Rome. By Lukas Thommen. Translated by Philip Hill. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp xi + 186. Paper, $29.99. ISBN 978-0521-17465-7.

Reviewed by Jeremy McInerney, University of Pennsylvania

Thommen’s work illustrates both the strengths and shortcomings of a short handbook designed to introduce readers to the study of the environmental history of the Greek and Roman worlds. Constraints of the handbook format, especially length, make it unfair to compare it to more theoretically sophisticated works like Horden and Purcell’s The Corrupting Sea, or more exhaustive tomes such as Sallares’ magnificent 1991 volume, The Ecology of the Ancient Greek World, and in the space of a scant 142 pages of text Thommen is able to touch upon a broad range of topics, from deforestation to changes in shore-line, with short chapters on topics as varied as Fire, Water, Animals and Food, which is not to exhaust the list. Also, the work has a very thorough summary, in the Introduction, briefly noting various modern works devoted to environmental history. Thommen is admirably lucid in laying out the key ancient and modern terms used for discussing environmental matters. The section on further reading is also very helpful and the volume will be a good jumping off point for undergraduates working on environmentally-themed term papers.

A more difficult question to answer, however, is whether such a format is really desirable for a topic as immense as the environmental history of the Ancient Mediterranean. Time and again questions are raised, or more commonly, assertions are made, that one would like to have seen more fully teased out. For example, after a half-page discussion of the Greek understanding of climatic zones and meteorology, Thommen declares, “No concrete effects of this teaching on settlement activity are apparent” (25) This is strictly not true. Lothar Haselberger has shown quite convincingly that classical urban planning took account of Aristotelian notions of the winds. [[1]] Rather than a closed avenue, as Thommen’s comments suggest, this is a new line of inquiry that deserves much more attention. Similarly, a statement such as “During the Augustan period, the poets Vergil and Propertius praised the superior strength of the Roman Empire precisely because of its better environment” (76) borders on oversimplification. Debellare superbos et parcere subiectis is not an environmental manifesto!

A second reservation concerns Thommen’s decision to base his work primarily on literary sources (16) and to take into account “natural-scientific investigations” (which I take to mean archaeology in its fullest sense) “only to a limited degree.” Thus we get Oliver Rackham on the capacity of pine trees to regenerate and the revisionist view that widespread deforestation was not responsible for the degradation of the Greek countryside, and a passing reference to Hans Lohmann’s Atene survey, but no mention of the Nemea Valley Area Project, the Pylos Regional Area Project or the nearly fifty year old Minnesota-Messenia Project. Similarly, on the Roman side, an influential 2010 Dutch landscape and archaeological project entitled Regional Pathways to Complexity is simply absent. Such omissions are a concern: Thommen’s analysis of Roman agriculture relies far too heavily on Columella and Varro, while his treatment of Rome as an urban environment is skewed towards Horace and Martial’s familiar complaints about the noise, traffic and smell of the city. Once again, archaeology is being reduced to a bowl of cherries, to be picked for the juiciest bits but not systematically digested. That’s a step backwards.

Even if we follow Thommen and restrict the analysis to literary sources, there’s much here to cause raised eyebrows. It is not controversial to say that “In Greece the gods took anthropomorphic form,” but recent studies have explored the animal nature of Hera and Zeus, as well as the obvious cases of Athena Hippia and Poseidon Hippios in much greater depth. Accordingly, the statement that Poseidon “was primarily held responsible for earthquakes” is not wrong but only skims the surface, since the cult of the Earthshaker was central to the religious, political and ethnic identity of central Greece. [[2]] Another lost opportunity is the omission of any discussion of the Mycenaean draining of Lake Copais, despite a short section on drainage that mentions a similar, though more modest project under Alexander the Great. One might have expected the greatest engineering feat performed on the Greek mainland in three millennia to have warranted a mention.

The second half of the book is dedicated to Rome and in particular the environmental changes associated with the growth of imperial power. The section on roads is clear, if somewhat weighted towards the physical connections made between Italy and Germany without much attention to other provinces or regions. The same can be said of an interesting section on timber that makes some keen observations about Roman forestry practices in southern Germany. Here too, however, the highly selective nature of Thommen’s argument, which is assembled somewhat serendipitously, leaves the reader dissatisfied. For example, Thommen cites a lugubrious passage from Pliny on the human dilemma: man is weak, threatened by the environment, aided only by his technical resources, which, ironically, leave him even more exposed to destruction. Yet what qualifies this passage as programmatic (an illustration of “the fundamental dilemma of people in antiquity with respect to nature” (78)) rather than, say, Sophokles’ famous ode to man from the Antigone, in which human ingenuity is seen as a continuous triumph over nature?

So light is Thommen’s engagement that at times his pages read more as aperçu than argument. Page 97, for example, begins with bans on animal fights in the arena before moving to depictions on arches and sarcophagi of animal hunts, five lines on the Piazza Armerina mosaics, Vergil on bee colonies, Pliny on zoology in general, Neopythagoreans and vegetarianism, Plutarch on animal reason, Porphyry on avoiding carnivory, and finally, the New Testament, the Lamb of God and the Good Shepherd: a veritable smorgasbord!

Overall, students will find a good deal of useful information here but despite Thommen’s laudable concern for the environment his volume can hardly be said to have ascertained “the interactive complexes of effects between people and their environment” (15) in the ancient Mediterranean. Such a work remains to be written. A final note: Philip Hill’s translation is fine, although there are occasional missteps. “For whenever anyone was belated by a sacrifice …” (51) is not a happy expression.

[[1]] Lothar Haselberger, “Geometrie der Winde, windige Geometrie: Städtebau nach Vitruv und Aristophanes,” in Stadt und Umland-Diskussionen zur Archäologischen Bauforschung 7 (Mainz,1999) 90-100.

[[2]] See Sabine Szidat, Poseidon als Erderschütterer (Munich, 2001).

[©2013 by The Classical Association of the Middle West and South. All rights reserved.]