- 2013.06.12: Gianfranco Nuzzo, Publio Papinio Stazio, Achilleide.
- 2013.06.11: Pierre Sauzeau, André Sauzeau, La quatrième fonction: altérité et marginalité dans l’idéologie des Indo-Européens. Vérité des mythes.
- 2013.06.10: Benjamin W. Millis, S. Douglas Olson, Inscriptional Records for the Dramatic Festivals in Athens: IG II2 2318-2325 and Related Texts. Brill studies in Greek and Roman epigraphy.
- 2013.06.09: Simon Goldhill, Sophocles and the Language of Tragedy. Onassis series in Hellenic culture.
2013.06.08: Gregson Davis, The Interplay of Ideas in Vergilian Bucolic. Mnemosyne supplements. Monographs on Greek and Latin language and literature, 346.
2013.06.07: Danielle Gourevitch, Pour une archéologie de la médecine romaine. Collection Pathographie, 8.
- 2013.06.06: Rachel Barney, Tad Brennan, Charles Brittain, Plato and the Divided Self.
- 2013.06.05: Sherry Lou Macgregor, Beyond Hearth and Home: Women in the Public Sphere in Neo-Assyrian Society. Publications of the Foundation for Finnish Assyriological Research, 5; State Archives of Assyria studies, 21.
- 2013.06.04: W. R. Paton, F. W. Walbank, Christian Habicht, S. Douglas Olson, Polybius: The Histories. Volume VI, Books 28-39 (revised edition), Unattributed fragments. Loeb Classical Library, 161.
- 2013.06.03: Andrew Monson, From the Ptolemies to the Romans: Political and Economic Change in Egypt.
- 2013.06.02: Anthony Kaldellis, Dimitris Krallis, Michael Attaleiates: The History. Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, 16.
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Community Identity and Archaeology: Dynamic Communities in Aphrodisias and Beycesultan. By Naoíse MacSweeney. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2011. Pp. viii + 266. Hardcover, $75.00. ISBN 978-0-472-02765-1.
Reviewed by Christoph Bachhuber, The Free University of Berlin
There has been a welcome trend in the archaeology of Anatolia to synthesize material from previously published excavations. Much of this is being done by Anglophone archaeologists with interpretive frameworks developed in Anglophone archaeology. The book under review is such a study. More specifically it is an engagement with M. A. Canuto and J. Yaeger’s edited volume, The Archaeology of Communities: A New World Perspective (London, 2000).
The book is divided into three parts: 1) theoretical development of the concept of community in archaeology; 2) the Late Bronze Age (LBA) and Iron Age (IA) at Beycesultan in southwestern Turkey; and 3) the LBA and IA at nearby Aprhodisias. The structure of the volume reveals its origins as an Anglophone PhD dissertation in archaeology: theory, followed by case studies where theory is applied.
The first part of the book (Chapters 1–5) was a pleasure to read and a useful overview of the concept of “community,” as a potentially ambiguous term in the social sciences, and archaeology in particular. It succeeds in explaining how “communities” have been studied in the historical development of Anglophone archaeology through its culture historical, processual, and post-processual phases. For MacSweeney, recent theoretical developments offer an opportunity to study communities in the late prehistoric/early historic periods in western Anatolia, in particular the relationship between material culture and the self-conscious creation of identities.
The book hinges on the creation of one kind of community identity in particular: a spatially focused “geographic community” defined by a shared identification with places and territories. MacSweeney suggests convincingly: “It is the spatial and emplaced nature of the geographical community that makes it particularly appropriate for study in archaeology.” The concept of the geographic community allows MacSweeney to divide all relevant material culture from Beycesultan and Aphrodisias into two categories: 1) material culture which is used to create a sense of “Us”; and 2) material culture which is used to create oppositions between “Us” and “Them.”
As regards the former, community identities are strongest when material culture is used to foster cohesion and downplay social differentiation. As regards the latter, oppositions between “Us” and “Them” can also strengthen community identities in situations when a social group defines itself in opposition to “the external Other.” The external Other is a non-local social entity that can be represented in the presence of non-local material culture. Alternatively, “Us”-versus-“Them” oppositions can weaken community identities, in particular when material culture is used to emphasize differences in rank/status or affinity within a given settlement.
Chapter 6 introduces the broader archaeological and historical context of western Anatolia during the LBA and IA. This is a thoughtful discussion of how western Anatolia has existed in a geographical margin between two regions that have enjoyed more academic attention: the (Classical) Aegean and the Anatolian Plateau (of the Hittite kingdom and empire). Consequently, most previous research in western Anatolia has been framed by questions that ask to what extent the societies of this region have been influenced by the Aegean or the Anatolian Plateau. As such, societies in western Anatolia have become passive responders to “historical” forces emanating out of the west and the east. MacSweeney acknowledges the salience of distant influences on material culture and societies, but asks how and why social groups in western Anatolia chose to embrace, modify or reject material culture from distant origins. These choices relate directly to the creation, strengthening or dissolution of community identities/bonds in western Anatolia.
Chapter 7 is a case study based on the LBA and IA material culture of Beycesultan, when the settlement likely existed as a regional center. Two broad trends were reconstructed: 1) towards greater community identity during periods of external threat (from the LBA Hittites) or during periods of regional instability (Early IA). This is manifest in more homogenous, more local and less stratified material culture, and in evidence for socially integrative activities like feasting; and 2) towards a weakening of community identity, in periods of relative stability and prosperity that benefitted emergent local elites, who strove self-consciously to differentiate themselves from non-elites in the same settlement.
Chapter 8 is a case study based on the LBA and IA material culture of Aphrodisias. Compared with Beycesultan, Aphrodisias was more like a village during these periods. Similar criteria were used to distinguish phases of more community or less community, though the settlement of Aphrodisias responded to the historical circumstances of the LBA and IA in different ways to Beycesultan (indeed in opposite ways). MacSweeney attributes this to the relative size and geo-political importance of Beycesultan vs. Aphrodisias.
Reading Chapter 7 and Chapter 8, I was left wondering how much community (or lack of community) can be reconstructed from the limited horizontal extent of excavation from the two sites. At Beycesultan, excavation trenches on the LBA and IA uncovered at most three buildings from one level in a single trench. At Aphrodisias, only fragments of a single building were uncovered from each level. There is never enough data in archaeology, but this narrow data set appears to have been too easily inserted into MacSweeney’s interpretive framework. Long passages/discussions with minimal or no citation in Chapters 7–8, and redundancy in argumentation were two manifestations of this.
The volume will be valued for its thoughtful treatment of communities in archaeology (alongside Canuto and Yaeger’s Archaeology of Communities), but less so for insights into the LBA and IA settlements of Beycesultan and Aphrodisias.
- 2013.05.50: Carole E. Newlands, Statius, Poet between Rome and Naples. Classical literature and society.
- 2013.05.49: Denis Searby, Ewa Balicka Witakowska, Johan Heldt, ΔΩΡΟΝ ΡΟΔΟΠΟΙΚΙΛΟΝ: Studies in Honour of Jan Olof Rosenqvist. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Studia Byzantina Upsaliensia, 12.
- 2013.05.48: Lucio Cristante, Luciano Lenaz, Martiani Capellae De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii. Vol. 1, Libri I – II. Bibliotheca Weidmanniana, 15.1.
- 2013.05.47: Francesco Montarese, Lucretius and his Sources: A Study of Lucretius, De rerum natura I 635-920. Sozomena, 12.
- 2013.05.46: Mauro Tulli, L’autore pensoso: un seminario per Graziano Arrighetti sulla coscienza letteraria dei Greci. Ricerche di filologia classica, 6. Biblioteca di Studi antichi 95.
- 2013.05.45: Iain McDaniel, Adam Ferguson in the Scottish Enlightenment: The Roman Past and Europe’s Future.
- 2013.05.44: Philip Freeman, Marcus Tullius Cicero. How to Run a Country: An Ancient Guide for Modern Leaders.
- 2013.05.43: Cécile Morrisson, Trade and Markets in Byzantium. Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine symposia and colloquia.
- 2013.05.42: Vanna Maraglino, Scienza antica in età moderna: teoria e immagini, Biblioteca della tradizione classica, 1
- 2013.05.41: Norman B. Sandridge, Loving Humanity, Learning, and Being Honored: The Foundations of Leadership in Xenophon’s Education of Cyrus. Hellenic studies, 55.
- 2013.05.40: Bonna Daix Wescoat, The Temple of Athena at Assos. Oxford monographs on classical archaeology.
- 2013.05.39: Paul Ryan, Plato’s Phaedrus: A Commentary for Greek Readers. Oklahoma series in classical culture, 47.
- 2013.05.38: James Renshaw, In Search of the Romans.
- 2013.05.37: S. P. Vleeming, Demotic and Greek-Demotic Mummy Labels and Other Short Texts Gathered from Many Publications (Short Texts II 278-1200) (2 vols.). Studia demotica, 9 (A-B).
- 2013.05.36: Peter Pavuk, Barbara Horejs, Mittel- und spätbronzezeitliche Keramik Griechenlands. Sammlung Fritz Schachermeyr, Faszikel III. Denkschriften der philosophisch-historischen Klasse, 439; Veröffentlichungen der Mykenischen Kommission, 31.
- 2013.05.35: Tim Stover, Epic and Empire in Vespasianic Rome: A New Reading of Valerius Flaccus’ Argonautica.
- 2013.05.34: Brian Campbell, Rivers and the Power of Ancient Rome. Studies in the History of Greece and Rome.
- 2013.05.33: Giovanni Roberto Ruffini, A Prosopography of Byzantine Aphrodito. American studies in papyrology, 50.
- 2013.05.32: Enrica Sciarrino, Cato the Censor and the Beginnings of Latin prose: From Poetic Translation to Elite Transcription.
- 2013.05.31: Lâtife Summerer, Pompeiopolis I: eine Zwischenbilanz aus der Metropole Paphlagoniens nach fünf Kampagnen (2006–2010). Schriften des Zentrums für Archäologie und Kulturgeschichte des Schwarzmeerraumes, Bd 21.
- 2013.05.30: Roman Müller, Antike Dichtungslehre: Themen und Theorien.
- 2013.05.29: Grazia Maria Masselli, Riflessi di magia: virtù e virtuosismi della parola in Roma antica. Studi latini, 81.
- 2013.05.28: Éric Rebillard, Christians and Their Many Identities in Late Antiquity, North Africa, 200-450 CE.
- 2013.05.27: Paolo d’Alessandro, Varrone e la tradizione metrica antica. Spudasmata, Bd. 143.
- 2013.05.26: Jean MacIntosh Turfa, Divining the Etruscan World: the Brontoscopic Calendar and Religious Practice.
- 2013.05.25: Nikos Giannakopoulos, Θεσμοί και λειτουργία των πόλεων της Εύβοιας: κατά τους ελληνιστικούς και τους αυτοκρατορικούς χρόνους. Πηγές και Μελέτες Ιστορίας Ελληνικού και Ρωμαϊκού Δικαίου, 7.
- 2013.05.24: Luc Brisson, Platon. Oeuvres completes (nouvelle édition revue; first published 2008)
- 2013.05.23: Christian Zgoll, Römische Prosodie und Metrik: Ein Studienbuch mit Audiodateien.
- 2013.05.22: Norbert Eschbach, Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Archäologisches Institut der Universität Göttingen, 4, Attisch rotfigurige Keramik, Deutschland, Bd 92.
- 2013.05.21: Evan Hayes, Stephen Nimis, Lucian’s ‘On the Syrian Goddess’: An Intermediate Greek Reader.
- 2013.05.20: Richard Evans, A History of Pergamum: Beyond Hellenistic Kingship.
- 2013.05.19: Christoph Helmig, Forms and Concepts: Concept Formation in the Platonic Tradition. Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca et Byzantina, Bd 5.
- 2013.05.18: Rhiannon Ash, Tacitus. Oxford readings in classical studies.
- 2013.05.17: Timothy A. Joseph, Tacitus the Epic Successor: Virgil, Lucan, and the Narrative of Civil War in the Histories. Mnemosyne Supplements. Monographs on Greek and Latin Language and Literature, 345.
- 2013.05.16: Bernd Manuwald, Sophokles. König Ödipus. Griechische Dramen.
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Platonic Drama and its Ancient Reception. By Nikos G. Charalabopoulos. Cambridge Classical Studies. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. xxi + 331. Hardcover, £60.00/$99.00. ISBN 978-0-521-87174-7.
Plato and the Traditions of Ancient Literature: The Silent Stream. By Richard Hunter. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. vii + 279. Hardcover, £60.00/$99.00. ISBN 978-1-107-01292-9.
Reviewed by Ruby Blondell, University of Washington
Two books of similar length, by two scholars with close ties to Cambridge, published by the same press, in the same year, and treating related topics from a similar methodological perspective. Both are deeply learned (though Hunter’s 16-page bibliography is dwarfed by Charalabopoulos’, which weighs in at 48). Both, too, are Janus-faced, looking back at Plato’s engagement with the cultural traditions that formed him as well as on to later writers who engaged with him in turn. One of our authors is, however, a seasoned scholar, the other a neophyte. Charalabopoulos’ book still bears—for better or worse—the imprint of its origins in a Cambridge PhD dissertation, while Hunter’s joins the distinguished bibliography of that university’s Regius Professor of Greek.
Platonic Drama and its Ancient Reception is intended to show that “there was throughout antiquity a tradition of interpreting the Platonic dialogue as a piece of dramatic performance literature” (256). The key phrase here is “throughout antiquity.” Charalabopoulos does, as we would expect, discuss the evidence from the Roman period for the dialogues as sympotic entertainment; but he argues that such performance was not an imperial invention but a practice instituted by Plato himself. When he claims that Plato’s “authorial identity” was that of an “alternative dramatist” (104), Charalabopoulos means not only that the dialogues are in their essence dramatic (in some sense), but also that they were composed for performance by multiple speakers in theatrical style—or even “a full production in the manner of plays” (20). These two points are logically distinct (though Charalabopoulos does not always separate them). But he believes that the latter, no less than the former, was intrinsic to the philosopher’s purpose in creating the dialogues to challenge and supplant the cultural authority of theater.
The book commences with a thorough and well documented survey of current work in “literary” Plato studies, especially the now substantial bibliography on Plato’s relationship to drama. Chapter 2 treats the “dramatic” nature of Plato’s dialogues in general terms, ending with more detailed discussions of the Republic and Laws. Chapter 3 examines the evidence—such as it is—for the performance of the dialogues in Plato’s own time. Finally, the very long Chapter 4 analyses several intriguing pieces of post-classical evidence linking Plato’s dialogues with dramatic performance. The most substantive of these are the remarks about Plato as “dinner theater” in Plutarch and Athenaeus, together with a mosaic from Herculaneum juxtaposing scenes from Menander with a panel of Platonic characters (handsomely reproduced on the jacket).
One can learn about many things from this extraordinarily learned book—from dinner parties at Plato’s house (224) to the intricacies of Byzantine musical notation (226-38). Not all of what one learns is, however, strictly pertinent to the author’s thesis. Chapter 4, for example, includes a great deal of technical detail regarding various statues of Socrates, whose relevance is tenuous at best. The detailed summary of the evidence on such points, fully documented in lengthy footnotes, will be valuable for scholars, especially those new to the field; but it is unclear what some of these surveys contribute to the book’s central argument.
That argument itself suffers from a certain imprecision regarding the “dramatic” or “performative” nature of Plato’s dialogues, by which Charalabopoulos sets such store. It is clear enough that Plato engages with drama at every turn, both discursively and through his choice of form. It is likely, too, that he intended at least some of the dialogues for performance (though not all necessarily in the same way or for the same kind of audience). As Charalabopoulos is well aware, however, virtually all classical texts were originally “performed” in some sense. He therefore needs to clarify what, in his view, makes these specific texts “performative” in a way that distinguishes them from (say) the performances of a Homeric rhapsode, or even of Thucydides or Herodotus (whose speeches likewise involve the “role-playing” that Charalabopoulos treats as a touchstone of theater). He needs to say more, in particular, about the distinction between “theatrical” performance by multiple actors and histrionic recitation by a single narrator (which seems appropriate, for obvious reasons, to the narrated dialogues).
Charalabopoulos seems to have left no stone unturned in his quest for traces of the ancient fascination with “dramatic” aspects of Plato’s dialogues. Chapter 4, in particular, is a mine of obscure information from the byways of Platonic reception. Yet despite this assiduous collection and analysis of the evidence, at the end of the day what he does prove is not new (no doubt at least some of the dialogues were recited or otherwise performed upon occasion) and what he wants to prove is not convincing (“a full production in the manner of plays”). That said, Chapter 3 ends with an appealing suggestion. Here Charalabopoulos relates the performance of the dialogues to the founding of the Academy, which “as a community of like-minded individuals … offered an alternative to civic institutions” (141). As such, he suggests, the Academy provided for the performance of Platonic dialogues, displacing the traditional institutional framework of theatrical festivals. This attractive idea remains, however, little more than speculation. When Charalabopoulos describes Thrasyllus’ procedure as “wishful guesswork” (184), the phrase, alas, applies all too accurately to his own.
Since Charalabopoulos’ work is marked by scrupulous intellectual honesty, this results in a palpable tension. His most characteristic rhetorical maneuver is a kind of intellectual seesaw, where he acknowledges that the evidence he has just outlined does not prove his point, but goes on to insist that, since it doesn’t disprove it either, his desired conclusion could be true (e.g. pp. 194-6, 222, 228, 230, 248-9). He has done himself a disservice, however, by binding his evidence to the Procrustean bed of his overarching thesis, instead of seeing where it may lead in its own terms. As he himself remarks (256), his work has interesting potential for the history of Platonic reception. There is much to be said about the perception of Plato’s works as “dramatic,” and about the history of Platonic performance (which is by no means dead), without resorting to dubious claims about Plato’s own time. The book is, then, rather less than the sum of its parts. Yet many of those parts remain intriguing.
Richard Hunter’s new book, Plato and the Traditions of Ancient Literature: The Silent Stream, begins, appropriately, with Lucian’s rewriting of one of the most famous literary beginnings of all time: the opening of Plato’s Phaedrus, which, as Hunter argues, became a marker of Hellenic cultural identity in the Roman period. As this opening signals, the “traditions” referred to in Hunter’s title are primarily those of the Second Sophistic. His enigmatic subtitle alludes to Longinus’ characterization of Plato’s style as a “noiseless flow” (7 n. 28). For the most part, however, the book focusses on texts where the flow is quite noisy—not to say a deafening roar—that is, where there can be no mistake about these writers’ conscious engagement with Plato’s texts. Hunter guides us expertly on a series of more or less interrelated journeys along that abundant river.
Plato stands at the heart of the Second Sophistic’s intense preoccupation with classical literature, not only for reasons of style and theme but also, as Hunter shows, because of his concern with textuality, voice and narrative. But the overwhelming cultural prestige assigned to the philosopher by authors of this period also obliged them to come to terms with such awkward matters as his rejection of Homer and elevation of pederasty—not to mention his embarrassing departures from the very pure, lucid style for which he was admired. Hunter is concerned with the complex negotiations that this entailed, and the resulting role played by Plato’s texts in the formation of the distinctive literary culture of the 2nd century ce. Yet he also casts an eye back towards Plato’s own use of tradition, arguing that for the ancient critics, the philosopher’s attention to earlier literature means that “engagement with Plato always entailed also Plato’s own relationship with other texts” (9).
After a far-ranging introductory chapter Hunter turns, in his lengthy Chapter 2, to Plato’s problematic relationship with poetry, and above all Homer. He is most interested in the way that relationship was construed by later authors, especially their need to defang the philosopher’s critique of the divine Homer (for example through allegory). Yet there are also perceptive comments about Plato in his own right, especially in the discussion of certain Platonic images. He situates the Republic’s Ship of State, for example, in the context of Theognis, Aristophanes, and Thucydides, showing how “deeply veined” it is “with the heritage of classical literature” (79).
The four remaining chapters each maintain a tighter focus. Chapter 3 begins with Plato’s Apology, then traces that dialogue’s reception from Isocrates to Apuleius. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 reverse this critical perspective, to study the multifarious use of Plato by specific authors of the Roman period. Chapter 4 is devoted to Dionysius of Halicarnassus’ engagement with Phaedrus and the challenges that dialogue posed to orators. In Chapter 5 Hunter elucidates the bountiful Platonic menu from which Plutarch drew in his Amatorius. Finally, Chapter 6 parses ways in which the novelists—specifically Apuleius and Petronius—reacted to Plato’s erotic dialogues from the perspective of narrative. There the book ends, rather abruptly.
A broad spectrum of Second Sophistic genres and authors thus fall within Hunter’s purview. Where Plato himself is concerned, the Symposium and Phaedrus naturally play a starring role, thanks to the abiding significance of eros for both philosophers and novelists. Phaedrus is important for additional reasons (including its iconic opening). As for the Symposium—the subject of a short introductory book by Hunter published in 2004—a highlight among its several appearances here is the discussion of Petronius’ vulgar riff on Alcibiades’ notorious failure to seduce Socrates (246-55). An impressive number of other dialogues are also grist to Hunter’s mill. His treatment of the Apology is particularly valuable. Chapter 3 shows deftly how this work was simultaneously “genre-defining” and “genre-defying” (118), an observation that comes sharply into focus when the speech is viewed through its multiple receptions.
The early history of literary criticism was not only driven by the need to respond to Plato’s critique of Homer but foreshadowed in Plato’s own writings. In Chapter 1 Hunter argues that Plato’s Ion launched the literary scholarship of Homer, including certain modern concerns such as authorial intention (89-108). Subsequent chapters show repeatedly how later authors used Plato “as a chief witness against Plato” (183)—a tactic also employed, for example, by Nietzsche, who “turns a specifically Platonic dagger against Plato himself” when he characterizes the dialogues as a “mixture of all available styles and forms” (224-5). In short, Plato himself invented the tools that were later used to attack/defend/interpret him—tools of which we are in many cases the heirs. For as Hunter makes clear, we are still swimming in the stream of his title. He rightly warns against easy dismissal of early interpretive practices, which bear close relationship to some of our own (51), and urges a generous spirit in approaching our ancient forebears (67). As scholars, we live in glass houses from which we cannot afford to cast stones at the seeming naivete of our predecessors.
By way of preface to his project, Hunter worries that Plato is “too often left to ‘the philosophers’,” fearing that “our” distinction between “literature” and “philosophy” is at risk of becoming sclerotic (10). This seems at first blush rather odd, given the current state of Plato scholarship. “Literary” Plato is thriving (not least at Cambridge University Press). Countless scholars, including many of “the philosophers,” have grasped the importance of approaching Plato as a writer—one with a complex and fraught relationship to “literature”—for understanding him as a thinker (a trend well documented by Charalabopoulos). But this is not, in fact, what Hunter has in mind. He wants, rather, to reclaim Plato for the kind of unabashedly “literary” study that does not aspire to elucidate Plato’s thought as such. There is plenty of room for such scholarship, considering the multiple strands—or streams—of Platonic influence that have wound through every aspect of European intellectual traditions. As Hunter freely acknowledges, there are “many Platos” (10). Yet the slightly defensive presentation of his case buys into and reinforces the problematic dichotomy of which he complains—just at a time when the sclerosis in question seems to be softening.
In contrast with Charalabopoulos’ book, where I noticed a handful of typographical errors, along with some linguistic oddities and solecisms, Hunter’s is impeccably written, produced, and edited. I caught only one small error (Fernández-Galiano, cited in n. 209 on p. 106, is missing a date and absent from the bibliography). His lucid scholarly style is smoother than Charalabopoulos’ rather awkward prose, but equally old-fashioned (both use ad instead of ce, and “men” for “human beings”), and a magisterial “of course” is sprinkled rather too freely through the text. Hunter’s book also differs from Charalabopoulos’ in its lack of a strong unifying thesis (the absence of a concluding chapter seems symptomatic). As a whole, it offers less a cohesive, focussed argument than a series of explorations, dipping into a stream that Hunter would be the first to admit is inexhaustible. There is more than enough here, however, to demonstrate the towering importance of Plato’s oeuvre, which stands as a massive rock or island in the gathering flow of early literary criticism, one that diverted and transformed its course forever.
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A Companion to Hellenistic Literature. Edited by James J. Clauss and Martine Cuypers. Oxford and Malden MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Hardcover, £136.00/$218.95. Pp. xxv + 550. ISBN 978-1-405-13679-2.
Reviewed by J. Andrew Foster, Fordham University
This addition to Blackwell’s “Companions to the Ancient World” sports thirty essays from a wide array of European and North American scholars. Following Droysen’s traditional historical dating of the Hellenistic period (323–31 BCE) as coterminous with a literary epoch, the editors have arranged the essays in four sections. A substantial “Poetry” and a smaller “Prose” sections comprise the bulk of the volume while a brief overview of “Contexts” of literary production introduces the work and a rapid and very select multi-cultural survey of non-Hellenic, but Hellenistic literary traditions oddly entitled, “Neighbors,” closes it. Clauss then provides a closing coda that outlines Roman literature’s debts to Hellenistic Greek literature.
After the editors’ “Introduction,” which offers and overview of the contents and the rationale for the Companion’s organization, the “Contexts” section opens with Erskine’s wonderfully succinct overview of the history “From Alexander to Augustus.” Strootman (“Literature and the Kings”) describes the dominant cultural institutions and practices that promoted and privileged certain forms of literary and artistic expression. Stephens (“Ptolemaic Alexandria”) narrows Strootman’s focus as she surveys Alexandria as a particularly rich site in which we can observe how a long established indigenous civilization thoroughly infuses the conscious construction of a “Greek” identity within Alexander’s cosmopolis. Wissmann (“Education’) offers a more specialized sociology of education during the period. The first three are essential reading for anyone interested in a broad overview of the period and its cultural institutions, but Wissman’s contribution, which relies heavily upon Cribiore’s ground-breaking work (e.g. 65–8) seems only tangentially related to the rest of the Companion’s subject matter.
The “Poetry” section, as the nature of preservation and transmission dictates, comprises nearly half of the entire volume. Acosta-Hughes’ opening “The Pre-Figured Muse” provides a synthetic overview of Hellenistic poetics that the advanced undergraduate and/or non-specialist will welcome. The subsequent contributions are ostensibly organized by genre most broadly conceived (cf. xiv–xv), but the section vacillates irregularly between individual works of specific poets (“Callimachus’ Aitia” and “Apollonius’ Argonautica”), individual poets (“Aratus,” “Nicander”—in lieu of a single entry on “Didactic Poetry”?), individuals as exemplars of particular genres (“Herodas and the Mime” “Menander’s Comedy” “The Bucolic Fiction of Theocritus,” “Idyll 6 and the Development of Bucolic after Theocritus”), individuals as the closest approximation of genre whose remains have been virtually obliterated (“Hellenistic Tragedy and Lycophron’s Alexandra). Three of the contributions provide the more straightforward accounts of particular genres that the editors’ introduction had led us to expect (“Epigram” “Hymns and Encomia” “Iambos and Parody” ) though even here we find Fantuzzi’s highly specialized (and for the specialist highly stimulating), “Sung Poetry: The Case of the Insribed Paean.” Murray’s “Hellenistic Elegy” also surveys a much narrower tranche of poetry while Ambrühl serviceably overviews hexameter poetry that is not the Argonautica, didactic, or a hymn (“Narrative Hexameter Poetry,” 151–65), even if it reads as an a nearly arbitrary construct necessitated by the eclectic organization of the volume.
In general, that organizational variety does not lead as much to repetition (for which a proleptic apologetic had been issued (xiv) as a lack of balance. Callimachus’ Aitia receives outsized treatment (Acosta Hughes, Harder and Murray each attend to it) while other works are relegated to cursory treatment in the more panoramic accounts of a particular genre (e.g. Callimachus’ Hecale receives only scant attention). Theocritus suffers a somewhat similar fate though neither Payne’s highly specialized discussion of Theocritean bucolic mimesis nor Reed’s survey of his bucolic successors give as useful an introduction to Theocritus as found in Harder’s excellent account of the Aitia (92–5); however, Bulloch’s section of “Hymns and Encomia” devoted to Theocritus (174–8) admirably illustrates and summarizes the vividly episodic nature of his densely allusive poetry.
The editorial decision to divorce some works from their authors but not others renders this Companion a rather unwieldy instrument, but the very thorough index can readily assist the reader interested in stitching together a comprehensive survey of a particular author or genre. Be that as it may, a number of the “Poetry” contributions offer the best of both worlds: succinct, synthetic overviews of authors, works and themes and close reading of particular passages. Sens’ heroic effort to rehabilitate Lycophron (“Hellenistic Tragedy and Lycophron’s Alexandra”) in particular furnishes an excellent example of a well-organized, close reading of a text that exemplifies the difficulties of making large swathes of Hellenistic literature accessible to undergraduates. “Lycophron’s riddling style, often denigrated as a mark of Hellenistic self-indulgence, requires patience …” (309). Indeed. As always a multi-authored collection will provide plenty with which a specialist would quibble, but on balance the essays dedicated to a genre or author provide even-handed and up-to-date overviews of their subjects while those dedicated to a specific work or particular facet of an author’s praxis will be of interest and use to the more advanced.
The “Prose” section confronts the twin challenges of poor preservation and overlap with existing Blackwell Companions. Cuypers directly confronts those issues in her introductory overview of how indirect transmission constrains the scholar’s ability to construct a literary history for the prose literature of the period (318). The abundant scientific literature of the period receives only the barest of summaries although there is a fine selection of specialized studies in the “Suggestions for Further Readings.” Whitmarsh’s “Prose Fiction” offers a fine overview of select variety of texts, motifs and story forms that are indicative of the cross-cultural exchange that informs literary production both within native/indigenous literary traditions and mesh well with the subsequent contributions in the “Neighbors” section. Gowing (“Historiography from Polybius to Dionysius”) devotes most of his attention to examining the impact of Roman conquest on the Greek historical imagination (385) and so is primarily concerned with the transformation of Hellenistic historiography. Gutzwiller’s “Literary Criticism” provides a measured and focused synopsis of the topic. She cleverly does so by raising two trenchant questions—“What is the Function of Literature?” and “How to Divide the Poetic Art?”—to organize the essay. She then well summarizes Euphonist, Stoic and more eclectic responses to these perennial questions. Her contribution in particular will serve any reader well.
“Neighbors” is an innovative attempt to survey the cross-cultural influences precipitated by Alexander’s conquests and his successors’ varying administrative regimes and cultural programs within a highly distinct cultural contexts, although I am not sure the choice of title is appropriate to the realities experienced. Gruen’s selective study of specific Jewish texts (“Jewish Literature”) is masterful reading of particulars (see especially “The Third Sibyl,” 423–5) but one wonders if a broader discussion of Wisdom and Apocalyptic literature—two genres of Jewish literature that are clearly products of a changed cultural and political landscape—would have been as useful as Dieleman’s and Moyer’s overview of Hellenized Egyptian literature is (“Egyptian Literature”). Knippschild’s similar survey of literary production within more or less Seleucid domains (“Literature in Western Asia”) seems to strain to find native literature let alone literature with a pronounced Hellenistic influence. Berossos may have written in Greek but, as the author concedes, he hewed very closely to established indigenous literary forms (i.e. list-making (457–8)).
The “Suggestions for Further Reading” at the close of each essay are very helpful, but it might have been more useful if the comprehensive bibliography had been organized into a general bibliography followed by specific ones organized by article under the assumption that no one reads a Companion cover to cover—especially one covering such a variegated collection of literary remains. The index is crucial for this Companion’s functional utility. In this respect it does not disappoint. Undergraduates will particularly appreciate that each individual work discussed is listed under the entry devoted to the relevant ancient author.
In sum, Hellenistic literature resists a synoptic survey. Fragmentary remains of such disparate provenance, form and purpose make it hard to offer a panoramic survey. The nature of the material coupled with a “polyphony” (xiv) of scholarly voices and an eclectic arrangement create a Companion that, like so much of the literature it selectively surveys, furnishes some real gems even as it pushes beyond the limits of the genre.
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Saints and Symposiasts: the Literature of Food and the Symposium in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Culture. By Jason König. Greek Culture in the Roman World. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. xii + 417. Hardcover, £70.00/$115.00. ISBN 978-0-521-88685-7.
Reviewed by Simon Swain, University of Warwick
This book explores how “telling stories about eating and drinking … was a way of conjuring up idealized images of community and identity (or in some cases images of aberrant or transgressive community)” (6). The specific focus is the literature of the Roman period. For despite recent work on Plutarch and Athenaeus, further progress needs to be made “with reference not only to the philosophical table-talk tradition, the main aim of Part I, but also to the novelistic and satirical prose literature of the Roman empire,” which is the focus of Part II. A good part of this focus and undoubtedly a strength of the book is the inclusion of Christian texts and their “function as narratives” and the “ideals and provocations” they dangle before their readers (14–15).
König turns to texts in Ch. 2, starting with Plutarch’s interesting prefaces in the Symposiaka and then does what he can to dignify Athenaeus. As he notes, Athenaeus has suffered from a feeling that he is not very good. One can counter this by suggesting that his miscellanist/encyclopedist skills were “highly prestigious” to contemporaries (but that does not answer the objection). Miscellanism certainly has “dynamic potential,” but we might ask what proportion of literature did it form and how far did major authors go in for it (cf. p. 227: “these were not necessarily texts with an enormously wide readership”)? König theorizes his discussion in two ways. First, that the shuffling of quotations is a mode of engaging directly with dead authors. This is all overdone. Next Bakhtin and Todorov are invoked; but as he admits, for symposiac-miscellanist literature (as opposed to the novel) there isn’t much to this. With Baktin’s “carnival” König is on safer ground which features profitably later.
So to Plutarch (Ch. 3). König’s focuses on how Plutarch establishes “ideals of coherence and community,” noting that the “chaotic, miscellaneous” material makes it difficult to sum up the Symposiaka. The main point is the freedom of conversations to compete with one another. He draws on Books 2–3 as examples. He follows this with a useful discussion of the vocabulary used to engage with texts and authors. Ongoing civic commitment to banquets attested through inscriptions is nicely related to Plutarch’s own information on the occasions of his dinners.
Ch. 4 moves to the Deipnosophists, “a difficult text to generalise about.” Recourse is had to Bakhtin—and not persuasively because the “tension between monologic authority and unfinalisable multiplicity of perspective” takes us way beyond Athenaeus.
“Studying early Christian feasting is a difficult business”: so begins Ch. 5. Some may find surprising the suggestion of “a very specific engagement with Greco-Roman sympotic writing” in Luke; indeed Luke’s Jesus is a “sympotic sage, philosophising in Platonic manner.” The Letter of Aristeas and its banqueting scene is cited, but this is a different, Hellenizing beast. The Gospels, like any text, have conversation near food—but might one say, So what? Clement of Alexandria is taken as an example of someone who shows Christian aversion to symposiac literature while being very much aware of eating in company. Given his well-heeled audience, one might conclude that his presentation of what constitutes good taste and conversation at dinner is more typical than what we find in symposiaka. Ch. 6 bravely tackles Methodius’ Peri hagneias and indeed has some interesting discussion of Platonic and other literary reflexes in the text. Ch. 7 moves forward to the 4th c. Christians who were not tempted into exploring their differences through symposium literature. Here as elsewhere in the book we get into meals in the absence of literature. Unluckily Julian’s Symposium (Caesars) does not deliver for König’s purposes and is more or less ignored. By contrast Macrobius (rightly) merits a whole chapter (8). He is “difficult to summarise”; but König does a good job exploring the nostalgic “performance of Roman identity” in the Saturnalia and the author’s distaste for “competitive and speculative speech.”
Part II looks at transgressive texts on eating and the way they “blur boundaries between high and low culture,” beginning with a selection of items from the Tavern of the Seven Sages at Ostia to the figure of the parasite in Lucian and Alciphron, who according to König “offers us self-reflexive images of our own literary desire.” Ch. 10 takes us to dining in the Greek and Roman novels, with many observations on the deformation of food and eating in these texts, especially Apuleius. König is here a little over-dependent on somewhat humorless theoretical perspectives. Ch. 11 on the “apocryphal acts of the apostles” contains important readings of material alien to most classicists, including comparison with the Greek novels. But to say ascetic apostles advertise “the transgressive, shocking quality of the new Christian faith” pushes things too far, for these works were written when Christianity was well established or official and its shock-value had largely worn off. Ch. 12 takes the discussion forward to the hagiographical writings of the 4th and 5th centuries.
In sum König’s book is impressively scholarly with a massive and read bibliography. It is impressively wide-ranging at the cost of being in some ways a book of two parts between symposiac literature and literature that mentions food or its rejection.
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The Gift of Correspondence in Classical Rome: Friendship in Cicero’s Ad Familiares and Seneca’s Moral Epistles. By Amanda Wilcox. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2012. Pp. xi + 223. Hardcover, $34.95. ISBN 978-0-2992-8834-1.
Reviewed by Yasuko Taoka, Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Dear Amanda (if I may),
Convention has long dictated how one reviews a book. But much as you have shown Seneca to be antithetical to conventions of social practice in his letters, so too will I depart from expectations.
Your brisk book efficiently demonstrates how Cicero and Seneca utilize their letters as gifts which enmesh them in a nexus of social relations: friendship, community, obligation, debt. Cicero you view as the model par excellence for the sociopolitical use of letters to build and exploit relationships. Seneca then modifies the genre to question those very relationships, proposing instead the life of philosophy.
I applaud the book’s accessibility. While you garner your inspiration and theoretical underpinnings from Bourdieu and Mauss, your analyses focus squarely on primary texts; at the close of chapters you draw connections to theories of gift-exchange. Non-classicists will find plentiful translations and introductions.
To wit, your Introduction presents such background material as the practice of letter-writing, biographies of Cicero and Seneca, and the basics of gift-theory. Your account of the correlation between the exchange of letters and the economy of gifts may, however, be somewhat brief at two pages. A more substantial unpacking of the concepts may pay off for us throughout the remainder of the book. Nonetheless I recognize that you resist overburdening readers unfamiliar with these theorists; for the curious, the relevant works are cited.
The body of the book proper divides neatly in two: the first half (Chapters 1–4) explicates Cicero’s use of letters as social technology, while the second (Chapters 5–8) focuses on Seneca’s dismantling and repurposing of the mechanisms.
In the first half (“Cicero: The Social Life of Letters”) you describe the tactics with which Cicero builds his social network. Chapters 2 and 4 focus on subtypes of epistles, letters of consolation and recommendation, respectively. In these types, either the letter itself or the recommendee is the gift that binds Cicero and his addressee. Chapters 1 and 3 discuss topoi of letters. Chapter 1 treats euphemism, which allows interlocutors to elide the threatening or obligatory nature of letters; your attention to this Bourdieuian euphemism strikes me as an important contribution. In Chapter 3 you highlight the thematization of absence for the purpose of friendship, building upon Janet Gurkin Altman’s work (Epistolarity: Approaches to a Form (Columbus, Ohio, 1982)) on intimacy in the epistolary genre. As Altman has noted, letters simultaneously recognize, bemoan, and perpetuate the distance between correspondents. And distance, so we are told, makes the heart grow fonder.
The second half (“Commercium Epistularum: The Gift Refigured”) demonstrates how Seneca appropriates for philosophy the very genre Cicero had used for sociopolitical purposes. Seneca, you argue, uses the technologies against themselves to critique the networks and friendships Cicero modeled. Euphemism doesn’t work as its effectiveness makes debtors and slaves of us interlocutors (Ch. 5). True friendship, unlike the political do ut des, is not to be found in social exchange (Ch. 6) or the generic tropes of consolationes (Ch. 8). Even the fixity of identity (“I,” “you,” “friend”) are interrogated in Seneca’s rehabilitation of interpersonal relations (Ch. 7). Security comes not from the insistent Ciceronian reiteration of one’s position and identity, but rather from disengaging from the rat race altogether. It is ironic, as you note, that Seneca espouses such in letters (115).
In all this Cicero is the expert, and Seneca the upstart. Cicero sets the standards for the proper deployment of epistolary tactics. And Cicero’s prominence in the sociopolitical life of Rome is the proof that lies in the pudding and the putting on of appropriate airs, genres, and faces. And yet I wonder whether Cicero is merely the Bourdieuian virtuoso. He is, as Jon Hall shows (Politeness and Politics in Cicero’s Letters (Oxford, 2009)), also one to mock and modify epistolary convention. Although a static Cicero better foregrounds Seneca’s dialectical relationship with him, I feel that Cicero’s own relationship to letter-writing was more fluid and complicated. Indeed, you note that you don’t treat the letters Ad Atticum because their friendship was not ideal by Ciceronian standards (15), but could these letters evince a more complex relationship with the function of letters in friendship?
To some final matters of format. Your text is laudably free from errors—I only noticed one, perhaps merely an odd translation of visne tu as “Do you not you wish” (53).
Amanda, your contribution brings a fresh perspective, informed by anthropological theory, to these epistles, and highlights not only Seneca’s inheritance, but also his rejection, of Ciceronian epistolary purpose and practice. A scholarly book is something of a gift of knowledge one bestows upon the world, one for which the repayment is not so much financial as metaphorical. So that I may begin making payments on the intellectual debt as interest compounds, I’ve found an apt line from our man Seneca, who himself purloined it from Epicurus: haec ego non multis, sed tibi; satis enim magnum alter alteri theatrum sumus.
Peter Heather. Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the
Birth of Europe. New York Oxford University Press, USA, 2012. 752
pp. $24.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-19-989226-6.
Reviewed by Christopher Gennari (Camden County College)
Published on H-Diplo (April, 2013)
Commissioned by Seth Offenbach
Peter Heather’s compendium _Empires and Barbarians_ is an impressive
work in its scope, ambition, and sheer size. At 734 pages, this is a
serious academic work, yet its tone and language remain admirably
accessible and engaging for the interested, if uninitiated, general
audience. _Empires and Barbarians_’_ _subject is the events occurring
in Europe after the third-century crisis in the Roman Empire. This is
not an easy subject to cover. There are fewer primary sources than
for the imperial period and there are a lot of different and
not-well-understood characters and nations entering the narrative.
The Huns, Vandals, and Visigoths are well known by reputation but
Heather deals with the Suevi and the Taifali as well. Likewise,
Attila the Hun is notorious for his exploits but fewer people will
know the deeds of Radagaisus and Fritigern. Heather’s ability to tell
an engaging story of the famous and the forgotten is admirable.
Heather also deserves credit for wading into a subject matter already
covered by the likes of Edward Gibbon. In _Decline and Fall of the
Roman Empire_’s_ _six volumes (1776-88) Gibbon discusses Rome from
Marcus Aurilius to the fall of Constantinople to the Turks. Heather’s
work is less ambitious, nesting within that period, and adding modern
additions, such an archeology, genetics, and linguistics, for the
modern audience. This will make a good reference book for people
interested in the after-Rome-not-quite-the-Middle-Ages period of
Heather’s work will also fit nicely next to Gibbon’s masterwork. The
academic audience will find it a well-written and thoroughly
documented reference book. It modernizes Gibbon by having less
flourish but more science and modern theory. Medieval historians will
find it a useful addition as a general text of the period. It covers
all the parts of Europe, all the major migrations, and Heather has a
special focus on the future Russian areas of Europe. It gives the
literature a fresh perspective by concentrating on the Slavic world
though, without, denying the successes of the future West. As a
reference book it is hampered by a poor index which leaves out major
figures and events that are mentioned in the text. There’s no mention
of Saints Cyril and Methodius, who brought Orthodoxy and an alphabet
to the Slavic world; nor any mention of Princess Olga, who converted
the Kievan Rus to Orthodoxy after witnessing mass in the Hagia
Sophia. Yet all are mentioned in the text. A book this large and with
such a sweeping scope requires an overly detailed index–and
unfortunately this version does not contain one.
Heather’s update to the mountainous literature concerning the fall of
Rome is to turn the tables on the narrative. Most works, like
Gibbon’s, deal with the fall of Rome from the Roman perspective and
try to explain the melancholy tale of greatness turned to rust and
ash. It is the sad history of the losers and the defeated; one of the
few places in historiography where the defeated perspective dominates
the narrative. It makes sense since the Romans were the literate
peoples and the barbarians were illiterate, unable to tell the tale
of their success to future generations. The survival of the Christian
church as a literate institution also assured that barbarian success
was portrayed in apocalyptic terms by the likes of St. Ambrose and
Heather, on the other hand, takes the perspective of the winners–the
illiterate, reputedly uncivilized, pagans who overwhelmed the Roman
defenses, squatted on the Roman land, and absorbed Mediterranean
culture while imparting their own Germanic, Slavic, and Scandinavian
customs to Europe–creating, Heather argues, the Middle Ages and
modern Europe along the way.
Heather divides the book roughly into three parts. In the first part
(approximately the first three chapters) he sets up the situation
concerning the late Roman world by describing the various tribes,
their situations, and their motivations before the migrations into
the Roman Empire. He also describes the larger economic and political
unit he calls “barbarian” Europe–stating that the word is meant to
describe the Europe separate from Mediterranean Europe (the
Greco-Roman world) and is not a statement of moral value and
inferiority (p. xiv). He also uses “barbarian” Europe as a way of
describing a world encompassing more than just the Germanic-speaking
peoples of Europe who had connections to the Roman world (including
the Goths and, most importantly for Heather, the Slavs). Heather’s
argument is that this was a well-connected and civilized world simply
outside of, but not apart from, Mediterranean culture. He also shows
that far from being unsophisticated the tribes were able to raise
professional retinues, collect taxes, and create laws. Heather uses
the modern concept of globalization to describe the
interconnectedness of the barbarian and Mediterranean worlds.
The second part discusses the migration of peoples into new
zones–the Germans and Goths enter into western Europe, the Huns
carve out a piece of central Europe for a time, and eastern Europe is
taken over by the Slavic peoples who began to displace several older
peoples from the lands between the Dneiper and the Oder Rivers.
Heather charts how the act of migration created these larger units
that protected their inhabitants from and enabled them to negotiate
with Rome. Heather shows a period of Europe in flux; the passing of
one age but not yet the formation of the next. He describes a Europe
in the act of becoming, a story that is often overlooked, as Heather
points out, in favor of the national origin myths which emphasize,
mistakenly, ancient continuity and unity.
Heather also discusses the coalescence and expansion of Frankish and
Anglo-Saxon civilizations–a brief respite before the smashing hammer
of the Viking invasions and migrations. He seems to have an affinity
for the rise of Slavic Europe, which is a topic not normally detailed
in the usual West-centric historiography. His affinity for Slavic
Europe, and his detail work on its rise and importance, is impressive
but makes the lack of a Byzantine narrative puzzling. Saints Cyril
and Methodius are passed over with barely a mention, Princess Olga’s
conversion is treated as a minor event, and I did not read any
mention of the Battle of Kliedon or the conversion of the Bulgars. It
is surprising that the Slavic achievements are treated as separate
from the larger Christian-Roman-Greek world. In fairness, Heather
does deal with the decline of East Rome after Justinian to explain
why a Roman imperial recovery (political, cultural, and economic)
turned out to be quixotic, yet never relates the Byzantine cultural
importance during the Macedonian dynastic period (867-1056 CE). The
Byzantine impact on the Slavic world is a surprising omission for
such a detailed work.
The final section is the settling of European culture after the
migrations. In this section Heather deals with the cultural and
political connections of the new hybrid societies, which are both
barbarian and Mediterranean. For Heather these connections are
exemplified in the Viking trade networks which Heather describes as
the “first European Union” for their depth, breadth, and importance
(p. 515). Labor and goods flowed from northern Europe and
manufactured and luxury goods came in from the Byzantine and Arab
world. In this section, Heather discusses the beginnings of state
formation, national kings, imperial pretensions, and the spread of a
core European culture to periphery areas. This is the “Birth of
Europe” section of the subtitle. This is the chapter where the reader
begins to see references to the Carolingians, the Ottonians, Hungary,
Poland, Cnut, and other states and persons with long, well-known
futures ahead of them. This section had the feeling of an astronomy
metaphor, the creation of planets from the coalescing of dust and
rock and debris; out of the movement of many separate parts comes the
union of something larger and more enduring. In fact, Heather’s last
chapter is an allusion to Isaac Newton’s third law of motion. Heather
argues that imperial action has an opposite reaction among periphery
states–thus creating the forces of future imperial demise and giving
warning to all present and future empires who believe they are
designed to last forever.
Heather tells a complicated story well and in a way that a general
audience will be able to understand and enjoy. He makes allusions to
famous historical events in other centuries in order to help present
his position to the audience–which people will find helpful. There
is a large section of detailed maps in the back and chapters are
broken down into subchapters so that the reader will not worry about
advancing through the 700-page tome. Heather makes an important
addition to the literature of the late Roman world/early Middle Ages.
This work emphasizes depth and accessibility instead of cutting-edge
theoretical arguments. I have come across some of the positions
before in other venues and works (for instance, that the Romans
created their own enemies by forcing the Germanic tribes to organize)
but not in so complete and detailed a manner. This work will be a
welcome addition to any early medieval collection.
Citation: Christopher Gennari. Review of Heather, Peter, _Empires and
Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe_. H-Diplo, H-Net
Reviews. April, 2013.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
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Macrobii Ambrosii Theodosii Saturnalia. Recognovit brevique adnotatione critica instruxit Robert A. Kaster. Scriptorum Classicorum Bibliotheca Oxoniensis. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp. lvi + 540. Hardcover, £50.00/$99.00. ISBN 978-0-19-957119-2.
Reviewed by Andrea Balbo, Università di Torino
This new critical edition of Saturnalia is the last milestone of a long research itinerary that Robert Kaster has devoted to Macrobius. The OCT text has been prepared for by his Studies on the Text of Macrobius’ Saturnalia (Oxford, 2010; hereafter STMS), an important book containing a new survey of the manuscripts with some improvements of the results obtained by Marinone (second UTET edition of 1977) and Willis (third Teubner edition of 1994); moreover, Kaster has also published an edition with English translation of the Macrobian major work in 2011 for the Loeb Classical Library. This OCT book aims to become a reference work and surely shows the great competence and cleverness of the editor. The Preface (v–xlvi), written in English instead of Latin according to the new (but lamentable) tradition of Oxford Classical Texts, gives a short summary of Kaster’s studies concerning Macrobian manuscripts, building a stemma codicum for each family (α and β) and integrating them into a general stemma at page xxvi []. In the preface I would call attention to the importance of the rich repository of Greek errors in manuscripts (xxxi–xlv), a very useful dossier for the comprehension of scribal culture and of diffusion of Greek knowledge in Western Europe.
After the preface and the list of quoted editions, we find a Bibliography; although useful, Kaster should nonetheless have maintained some references already included in Marinone’s rich bibliography [].
Let us pass to the text. Kaster shows a decisive improvement in comparison with Willis: his edition is based on a better evaluation of manuscripts and on a more careful consideration both of the former editions and of the loci similes; in particular, this apparatus—very valuable if we consider the typology of Macrobian work—achieves the goal of combining rich information with simplicity, and gives information that could greatly help future Macrobian commentators: see, for instance, 3.9.4 on Servius’ reference on the name Luam, where Kaster notes that he accepts the conjecture Luae of Preller instead of Lunae given by the manuscripts; or at 3.14.12, where Kaster underlines a misunderstanding in Macrobius, who confuses Quintus Roscius with Roscius Otho; or at 3.16.13, where the Macrobian duos pontes are explained as “Aemilium et Fabricium, LTUR iii. 106-7, iuxta os Cloacae Maximae.”
To understand Kaster’s ideas of editing Macrobius, it is necessary to read the OCT edition side by side with his STMS, where he explains in a convincing way the results of his research. From a methodological point of view he chooses correctly to preserve Macrobian quotations of former authors, even if corrupted, avoiding the mistake of standardizing the text. In the critical apparatus Kaster offers about 290 differences from Willis and many agreements with Marinone (exactly as listed in STMS 29 n. 1), but continues to re-evaluate the text of Saturnalia: Mario De Nonno has carefully discussed many loci in a review that appeared in BMCR 2012.11.05 and, in general, I agree with him on their correctness and validity; here I briefly discuss only some other examples. At 1.11.7 Kaster accepts Madvig’s quos ius tuos vocat instead of quos ius tuum vocas, but I think that it is difficult to connect the verb vocare with ius because vocare is more suitable to a person, and so I prefer Marinone 1977’s quos iure tuos vocas (in Nota critica); at 2.2.17 Kaster and Marinone show an appreciable difference in dealing with iambic verses, attested both by Gellian and Macrobian manuscripts: Kaster prefers Gellian readings against Marinone, but, at least in one situation, I think that vi transilire nititur of Havet (Manuel de critique verbale appliquée aux texts latins (Paris, 1911) 140), accepted by Marinone, is syntactically better than ut transiliret nititur. At 2.4.12, Marinone’s solution with ellipsis, carbunculum … habeas, is better than carbunculum †habeas† printed by Kaster and surely preferable to Hadriae given by Willis, a trace of the attempts to find a geographical location of every name in the sequence of this Augustan epistolary fragment; at 5.15.12, I think with Marinone that it is not necessary to integrate as Jan did, because the text is coherent without any quotation; at the same time, the form rursus of the manuscripts is weaker than the correction Nisus of editors.
Nonetheless, in spite of my different evaluations of many points of the text, Kaster’s edition makes a great contribution to the exegesis of the Macrobian text. The only real drawback of this work—already highlighted by De Nonno—consists in the copious misprints, that require the book to be used with care. If the publisher were to bring out a corrected edition, it would allow the effective use of this rich and important tool of research that Kaster’s deep competence has put at the disposal of the scholarly community [].
[] In the stemma there are some minor mistakes: in the section concerning family β1 the subarchetype ς printed at page xviii disappears; a π that should be placed over V has been inserted in the wrong position; in family β2 there is no more trace of a subarchetype δ; clearly, the choice to do a one page layout of the stemma was not the best, in view of its complex architecture.
[]The bibliography lacks both some textual (e.g., G. Lögdberg, In Macrobii Saturnalia adnotationes (diss. Uppsala, 1936)) and exegetical (e.g. all Marinone’s articles and books excepting the UTET edition) contributions.
[] To the list of mistakes I would add Mallium instead of L. Mallium in 2.2.10; Cassium instead of C. Cassium in 2.3.13.
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Medusa’s Gaze: The Extraordinary Journey of the Tazza Farnese. Emblems of Antiquity. By Marina Belozerskaya. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. xvii + 292. $24.95/£14.99. ISBN 978-0-19-973931-8.
Reviewed by Duane W. Roller, The Ohio State University
The Tazza Farnese is a sardonyx cameo made from a geode, 21.7 cm. in diameter, carved into the form of a shallow bowl. On the inside are representations of Isis, her son Horus, and a personification of the Nile: the entire scene is open to various interpretations but seems to relate to the abundance of the river. On the outside is the head of Medusa. Of exceptionally high artistic quality, it belongs in the flourishing Hellenistic/Roman tradition of carved stones, and is the largest of its genre to survive. It seems to have originated in the Ptolemaic court, and since the eighteenth century (with some exceptions due to warfare) has resided in the Naples archaeological museum. It acquired its modern name when in the possession of the Farnese family.
This intriguing book is, interestingly, not really about the Tazza Farnese. Rather it is a fascinating account of how one piece of ancient art survived the vicissitudes of over 2000 years to be visible in a museum today. Information about the Tazza itself, at least before the Renaissance, is exceedingly sparse and speculative. Although it can confidently be said that it was carved in late Hellenistic times, the piece is not documented until a drawing was made at the beginning of the fifteenth century by a calligrapher at the court of the Mongol leader Timur (or Tamurlane), perhaps in Samarkand (99). Samarkand is a long way from Alexandria, and how the Tazza got there is the focus of the first half of the book.
Belozerskaya’s account of this extraordinary journey is almost totally speculative, but somehow that does not matter, as she has presented a rich and thoroughly absorbing account of plausibilities, with solid attention to the environment of the art collecting world. Since there is no documentation of the piece before the fifteenth century, when and how it left the Ptolemaic court is its first mystery. Belozerskaya may certainly be excused for fixating on the most famous Ptolemy, Kleopatra VII, but the only hint that the Tazza may have belonged to her is its subject matter, as Isis was the queen’s alter ego. It may have been among the spoils that Octavian brought to Rome after her death, but there are other possibilites that Belozerskaya outlines (and some that she does not): it may have already been in Rome (Kleopatra’s father, Ptolemy XII, had many debts to prominent Romans), or even remained in Alexandria when the Romans took over, eventually to move to Constantinople. The possible locations of the bowl after the end of the Ptolemies are so tangled that it is difficult for Belozerskaya to choose, but this does not diminish the quality of her narrative. Whether or not the cameo belonged to Kleopatra VII, Belozerskaya later places it in Constantinople, eventually in the hands of the noted collector Constantine VII in the tenth century. Then she identifies it as the “large dish of onyx” owned by the emperor Frederick II in the thirteenth century. One can see that the spottings of the Tazza are infrequent, but Belozerskaya has filled out her narrative by absorbing vignettes of the world in which the object necessarily moved. There is a tendency to turn speculation into fact (see p. 80)—although to be sure healthy and astute speculation is a necessary part of good scholarship—but what is most interesting is the picture that Belozerskaya has presented of the world of art collectors in late antiquity and medieval times, supplemented with a good account of the Christianizing of ancient art, a strange world view that nonetheless insured its survival. One can sometimes lose sight of the Tazza itself, for its environment is so well described, with solid character studies of the personalities who probably saw or acquired it.
But it is in the early fifteenth century that the object emerged from obscurity, only to create another mystery: how did it end up at the Timurid court? This is perhaps the most remarkable event in its history, since it was now incredibly far from the locale of its origins (although Timur went as far west as Damascus and Aleppo). Belozerskaya describes well the world of the Timurid court and its interest in art, and offers—again—several different ways in which the piece could have made this latest extraordinary journey. But then it was back in Europe, perhaps the “dish of carved chalcedony” owned by Lorenzo di Medici in 1471 (p. 143). From this time—although sightings remain rare—the history of the Tazza is more linear, moving into the Farnese family and eventually to the Naples museum.
This is an exciting book. It is well written, literally hard to put down, with good illustrations and solid notes and bibliography. In many places it is a work of speculation rather than fact, but such is the nature of the Tazza itself, and anyone who reads the book and then sees the object, or has seen it, will never look at it in the same way again.
I think I missed a week:
- 2013.04.55: Edward McCrorie, Homer. The Iliad. Johns Hopkins new translations from antiquity.
- 2013.04.56: Nadia Scippacercola, Il lato oscuro del Romanzo Greco. Supplementi di Lexis, 62.
- 2013.04.57: Therese Fuhrer, Almut-Barbara Renger, Performanz von Wissen: Strategien der Wissensvermittlung in der Vormoderne. Bibliothek der klassischen Altertumswissenschaften, nF, 134.
- 2013.04.58: Stefano Maso, Carlo Natali, Gerhard Seel, Reading Aristotle’s Physics VII.3: “what is alteration?” Proceedings of the European Society for Ancient Philosophy conference organized by the HYELE Institute for Comparative Studies, Vitznau, Switzerland, 12/15 April 2007.
- 2013.04.59: Liz James, Constantine of Rhodes, On Constantinople and the Church of the Holy Apostles. With a new edition of the Greek text by Ioannes Vassis.
2013.04.60: Evina Sistakou, The Aesthetics of Darkness: A Study of Hellenistic Romanticism in Apollonius, Lycophron and Nicander. Hellenistica Groningana 17.
- 2013.04.61: Umberto Roberto, Le ‘Chronographiae’ di Sesto Giulio Africano: storiografia, politica e cristianesimo nell’età dei Severi. Collana dell’Ambito di Storia dell’Università Europea di Roma
- 2013.04.62: Costis Davaras, Philip P. Betancourt, Hagia Photia Cemetery II: The Pottery. Prehistory monographs, 34.
- 2013.05.02: Martti Leiwo, Hilla Halla-aho, Marja Vierros, Variation and Change in Greek and Latin. Papers and monographs of the Finnish Institute at Athens, 17.
- 2013.05.03: Andrew Crislip, Thorns in the Flesh: Illness and Sanctity in Late Ancient Christianity. Divinations: rereading late ancient religion.
- 2013.05.04: M. G. L. Cooley, Tiberius to Nero. Lactor, 19.
- 2013.05.05: Joseph E. Skinner, The Invention of Greek Ethnography: From Homer to Herodotus. Greeks overseas.
- 2013.05.06: Sarah J. Butler, Britain and Its Empire in the Shadow of Rome: The Reception of Rome in Socio-Political Debate from the 1850s to the 1920s.
- 2013.05.07: Florence Yoon, The Use of Anonymous Characters in Greek Tragedy: The Shaping of Heroes. Mnemosyne Supplements. Monographs on Greek and Latin Language and Literature, 344.
- 2013.05.08: Thomas M. Brogan, Erik Hallager, LM IB Pottery: Relative Chronology and Regional Differences. Acts of a workshop held at the Danish Institute at Athens in collaboration with the INSTAP Study Center for East Crete, 27-29 June 2007. (2 vols.). Monographs of the Danish Institute at Athens, 11.1-2.
- 2013.05.09: Andrea Cucchiarelli, Alfonso Traina, Publio Virgilio Marone. Le Bucoliche. Lingue e letterature Carocci, 141.
- 2013.05.10: Vladimir F. Stolba, Eugeny Rogov, Panskoye I, Volume 2: The Necropolis. Archaeological investigations in Western Crimea
- 2013.05.11: William E. Metcalf, The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage
- 2013.05.12: Giovanna Tedeschi Grisanti, Heikki Solin, “Dis Manibus, pili, epitaffi et altre cose antiche” di Giovannantonio Dosio: il codice N.A. 618 della Biblioteca Nazionale di Firenze.
- 2013.05.13: Christine Walde, Lucans Bellum Civile. Studien zum Spektrum seiner Rezeption von der Antike bis ins 19. Jahrhundert. Bochumer Altertumswissenschaftliches Colloquium, 78.
- 2013.05.14: Lesley A. Beaumont, Childhood in Ancient Athens: Iconography and Social History. Routledge monographs in classical studies.
- 2013.05.15: Ralph J. Hexter, David Townsend, The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Latin Literature. Oxford Handbooks.
A review from the TLS of a couple new studies (I don’t think they’re quite biographies) of that guy who keeps coming up in Classics departments every now and then:
posted with permission
Invisible Romans. By Robert Knapp. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2011. Pp. 400. $29.95. ISBN 978-0-674-06199-6.
Reviewed by Sandra R. Joshel, University of Washington
Robert Knapp’s Invisible Romans presents an engaging and informed picture of the lives of “the great mass of people who lived in Rome and its empire” in the first three centuries ce (1): for Knapp, these men and women who seem “invisible” in the elite sources. He uses the term “ordinary people” to distinguish them from the elite and to leave “their definition open to the wide range of their existence, from fairly wealthy to modestly well-off and downright poor, male and female, slave and free, law-biding and outlaw” (3). This wide range of lives extends not only chronologically over some three hundred years but also geographically to include evidence and people from the entire empire. The latter offers up a rich mixture of human lives, though at points a conflation of times and places obscures some of the developments that altered those lives. This is a highly readable book aimed primarily at an interested, general audience, but individual sections also will engage the interests of classicists in various specialties (though they may debate some of Knapp’s observations in their own fields of expertise).
Knapp organizes the material effectively, moving from chapters on free men and women, with a separate chapter for the poor, to slaves and ex-slaves, and then to soldiers and their families. He ends with three chapters on those who might be considered socially and legal on the margins—prostitutes, gladiators, and bandits (and pirates). Though the concerns of every chapter are roughly similar topically, they are approached in distinct ways appropriate to the particular conditions of the group under consideration and following the emphases in recent scholarship. In defining its subjects, each chapter deals with the complications of overlapping categories, locating them in the large social order. Knapp sketches the economic and material conditions of each group, attuned especially to the variety of limiting conditions that characterized the lives of “ordinary” people and shaped their values and perceptions. The latter, what Knapp calls the “mind world,” is the book’s special focus: “the aim will be to get, so far as we can, inside the minds of these different people: what attitudes and outlooks they had, what fears haunted and what hopes inspired them” (3).
Knapp is acutely aware of how the limits and nature of the ancient sources make this project difficult. To this end, he reads the elite sources critically, but above all he draws on other literature—fables, proverbs, novels. He makes good use of documents authored by “ordinary people”—inscriptions (especially epitaphs) and papyri (letters and contracts). And he deploys works whose audiences were ordinary Romans: magical texts, the Carmen Astrologicum, and Artemidorus’s Intrepretations of Dreams, for example, trace the worries and hopes of men and women, free and slave. Interweaving bits and pieces from this variety of sources produces passages of thick description that enliven the lives of the businessman anxious about financial success, the poor man ever on the edge, the slaves “forging spaces of action” (147), or the bandit dividing the gang’s loot into equal piles (21–2, 104, 147, 306). In many places, Knapp lines up passages from a series of documents that address a similar concern but with a difference: for example, several epitaphs in which ex-slaves commemorate their origins or multiple dedications in which slaves act as a group (139–40 and 143; cf. 22–3, 92–3, 107–9, 113). In doing so, Knapp conveys the general point without sacrificing all the particularity of varied, individual lives. The effect perhaps is especially important for non-specialists used to “big men” histories of ancient Rome, but whose interest in “ordinary” people has been piqued by the picture of lower-class life in HBO’s Rome. Knapp takes one more step. Not only does he provide a guide to the sources and their use at the end of the book (“Sources”), he also constantly engages his readers in the problems of the sources and his own use of them throughout the substantive chapters of the book.
A book on such a large topic, and one accessible to non-specialists, has its limitations. Though the book has thirty color plates and thirty-two black and white images, Knapp barely refers to them and omits material evidence from his discussion almost entirely, as he himself observes, leaving it to “another more versed in the material.” In addition, the book mentions a few scholars at points in the text, though not with any consistency, and it lacks footnotes. In “Further Reading” at the end of the book, Knapp gives a fairly extensive list of relevant scholarship for each chapter (with few exceptions, scholarly work in English, as is appropriate for the English-speaking general readers who are the book’s intended audience). The absence of scholarly apparatus creates a smooth and more readable narrative for a general audience; however, the drawback is the reader’s inability to see the scholarly work relevant to particular points in the discussion.
In short, Robert Knapp’s Invisible Romans is a well-written and well-researched account of the lives of ordinary Romans living in the Roman empire, intended especially for the non-specialist.
posted with permission
Callimachus in Context: From Plato to the Augustan Poets. By Benjamin Acosta-Hughes and Susan A. Stephens. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. xiv + 328. Hardcover, £60.00/$99.00. ISBN 978-1-107-00857-1.
Reviewed by Marco Fantuzzi, Columbia University
Callimachus’ poetry has become the perfect touchstone for classicists against which to determine other authors’ self-positioning in the cultural arena. In turn, the defenses he mounts against anonymous “rivals” are now more and more often investigated as a means of fictionally projecting a positive image of his own intellectual peculiarity (P. Bourdieu’s original ideas; see J. Klooster, Poetry as Window and Mirror (2011)). However, the “context” to which Benjamin Acosta-Hughes and Susan Stephens refer in their title has an ampler range of meanings than Bourdieu’s “cultural arena”; it includes not only the contemporary concerns and individuals Callimachus engages in his poetry, but also the way in which Latin poets of the 1st c. bc adapted Callimachus’ positions.
The first three chapters of the book are a full review of Callimachus’ allusive reactions to other writers and the issues they address. First, there is an individual rival, Plato, whose relevance for Callimachus had so far been substantially unexplored. Then, there is the discussion of Callimachus’ interaction with his ‘ally’ Hipponax in Iamb 1, and the stance he takes on the matters that were ‘hot’ in his day (or at least Callimachus presents them as such). Callimachus’ self-positioning here helps define his poetics in much greater detail. Only a few years ago, Callimachus’ “rivals” were the “Telchines,” supposedly jealous opponents reprimanded by Apollo at the close of the Hymn to Apollo, and the writers of monumental epic (or, as Alan Cameron or Ewen Bowie posit, of narrative/catalogic elegy). The varied challenges and differentiations Acosta-Hughes and Stephens now delineate come to form a much broader context than used to be the case.
From Ch. 1 we learn (irrefutably, I think) that Plato was among the intellectual predecessors whom Callimachus challenged most frequently. Callimachus’ own position in the quarrel between poetry and philosophy is, understandably, quite different from Plato’s. An obvious starting point is Callimachus HE 53, which features Cleombrotus, who commits suicide after reading Plato’s Phaedo on the topic of the soul’s immortality (is he the character of the same name featured in the Phaedo?). The connection is so obvious, in fact, that the authors omit to observe that this epigram not only reveals Callimachus’ attention to Plato, but also mockingly blames him—a philosopher who had so often decried the danger that readers/spectators might imitate the evil characters they encounter in poetry—for not understanding how dangerous his own philosophical works could be. The authors’ next step leads to an original and convincing re-reading of the Aitia prologue. Here, Acosta-Hughes and Stephens see Callimachus defend an idea of musicality that may be reacting to Plato’s appropriation of μουσική for philosophy. It is rooted in fact in an aesthetical appreciation of “lightness” that is diametrically opposed to both Plato’s opinions about poetry’s educational value and the taste for sublimity displayed by Dionysus in Aristophanes’ Frogs. A similar dialogue with Plato surfaces in Pollis’ banquet in Aitia 2, which constitutes a re-writing of the Symposium and of sympotic etiquette, as well as a criticism of Plato’s ideas about the ideal state and the ideal ruler. Having unveiled the rivalrous role Plato plays in Callimachus’ oeuvre, the authors suggest that Hipponax, the “ally” of Iamb 1, may have served Callimachus as a model of non-philosophical wisdom to oppose to Plato’s “professional” philosophy. Besides, Hipponax agrees to “time-travel” to Alexandria to intervene in the fights among the scholars of the Museum and modify his original topics to fit Callimachus’ ideas and his contemporaries’ issues. This formerly archaic, now fully “Alexandrianized” poet thus serves as a brilliant illustration that one need not be from the same century as one’s great literary predecessors in order to imitate them successfully (Iamb 13).
Chap. 2 investigates Callimachus’ positioning towards different forms of literary performance and the relevant authors: dramatic genres; lyric meters and sympotic poetry; spoken meters. About dramatic genres, Acosta-Hughes and Stephens insist that Callimachus’ epigrams on tragedy, tragic masks, and dramatic competitions—HE 26, 57, 58, 59—do not prove that he despised theatrical genres; he may simply be criticizing their excessive weight in education, or conveying his disdain for popular occasions of performance, or his preference for Euripides and the New Music; but I do believe one should not simply dismiss the more generally scornful tone that is prevalent in these epigrams, which may have something to say about Callimachus’ negative views of the theater-genres (it seems a point of agreement with Plato, though with totally different motivations that confirm the most substantial difference: Callimachus would simply hate the mob audiences of the theaters and their unruly reactions that conditioned the correct aesthetic appreciation of the poets, whereas Plato appears to care about the way these large audiences could be ethically affected by poets). Extremely interesting is the suggestion that the etymology of ῥαψῳδός, discussed in the fifth aition of Aetia 1 as derived from ῥάβδος, is meant to suggest that Callimachus’ role in the composition of the Aitia resembles that of the ῥαψῳδοί stitching together epic tales; Callimachus would then be pursuing his own “continuous” διηνεκὲς ἄεισμα, albeit one quite distinct from the suggestions of the Telchines.
Ch. 3 focuses on the way Callimachus draws lines of continuity between continental Greece on the one hand, and Alexandria or the Ptolemaic kingdom on the other. He thereby “ennobles” recent geo-political developments and (re-)constructs his own poetic landscapes in tune with the encomiastic “Ptolemaic” geography that has in recent years been made more familiar by texts like the New Posidippus. For example, Callimachus moves the newborn Zeus to Crete (after his birth in Arcadia) in HZeus and emphasizes that Ptolemy was born at Cos in HDelos. Callimachus thereby opts for spaces that are located halfway between the Macedonian “homeland” and Egypt. Similarly, he describes Thera as the motherland of Cyrene in HApollo, with Thera being between Sparta and Libya. And two of Callimachus’ lost works, Arrival of Io and Foundation of Argos, probably connected the Macedonian kings to Argos, via the city’s Egyptian founder, Danaus. Above all, the Aitia are brimming with stories that place Alexandria-related mythological characters or landmarks on the map of Greek mythology and lore (the relevant pages are supported by a final “Appendix” on the stories’ arrangements within the Aitia, which is useful not only to newcomers to Hellenistic literature). Finally, the Hecale includes a radical Callimachean appropriation of a most prominent character of Athenian myth and drama (Theseus), inasmuch as the focus of the narrative is the humble life of the old lady Hecale, rather than the deeds of Theseus.
Ch. 4 is an excellent addition to Richard Hunter’s The Shadow of Callimachus (2006), as it offers a thorough study (not exhaustive, of course) of the way Latin poets of the 1st c. bc—mainly the Neoterics, Catullus, Virgil, Propertius, and Ovid—re-contextualize the Callimachean model to have it fit their own cultural agendas. For example, they erase the Egyptian connections that Callimachus had encomiastically pursued, and they often replace them with more familiar Greek images. They also adjust their new texts to specifically Roman occasions. Acosta-Hughes and Stephens’ emphasis on the female voice of Sappho as added or magnified in Catullus’ translation of Callimachus’ “Lock of Berenice” is especially thought-provoking.
This book discusses anew or re-discusses an awesome number of understudied texts of Callimachus, and the discussions are thoughtful, well-informed, well-written, and substantially accurate—the zeugma identifying the four-syllable past and passive verbal forms expolitum and ποτέπλασθε (aorist) as both “participles” (224) is the biggest lapsus I could find. I am sure that it will have a long shelf-life, and I hope it will inspire similarly holistic research on Theocritus. Of course, Richard Hunter’ pioneering Theocritus and the Archaeology of Greek Poetry (1996) has covered already much of the field, but one would in particular hope to see a study of Theocritus’ engagement with Plato. Theocr. 14, after all, is just another miniature Symposium mainly about love, thought it chooses not to eulogize an idealized educative love in the Platonic mode. Instead, it investigates how to cope with unfulfilled love in everyday life; as such, it is in tune with the presentation of love as despair that is ubiquitous in the Theocritean corpus, and the effects of “realism” regularly pursued in the bucolic poems.
Frank Lee Holt. Lost World of the Golden King: In Search of Ancient
Afghanistan. Hellenistic Culture and Society Series. Berkeley
University of California Press, 2012. xxi + 343 pp. $39.95 (cloth),
Reviewed by Nathan Albright
Published on H-War (April, 2013)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey
A Numismatic History of the Bactrian Realm
At first glance, a work entitled _Lost World of the Golden King: In
Search of Ancient Afghanistan_ appears to promise a narrative history
of the obscure realm of the Bactrian Greeks who once ruled over that
troubled part of the globe for about one hundred years between their
successful rebellion against the Seleucid rulers in about 260 BC and
their fall to Sakas and other nomadic tribes a little more than one
hundred years later. This misconception grows when one realizes that
this book is part of the large Hellenistic Culture and Society
series. Nonetheless, any reader who expects to find narrative
history, or even an appreciation of narrative history, will be sorely
disappointed by this work, which in fact provides almost no narrative
history of the Bactrian realm in over two hundred pages of writing
(with over one hundred additional pages of supporting endnotes and
Instead, most of Frank Lee Holt’s book focuses on the subject of
numismatics, particularly the study of coins and what the coins of
the Bactrian period (260-150 BC) can tell us about the lives of
people in that period and afterward. To that end, after an
introduction that deals with the echoes and memories of the Bactrian
realm within scattered historical and literary references, the book
examines various types of numismatics and explains how they were
practiced by (mostly) European and American coin collectors and
explorers over the last 350 years. First, Holt addresses checklist
numismatics; coins are checked against known king lists to make sure
that everyone has been accounted for. Then, he covers framework
numismatics, in which coins are used to uncover the bare facts of
history necessary to frame a historical narrative. Finally, he turns
to novelty numismatics, which focuses on unusual and distinctive
coins that are often appreciated for artistic reasons without any
concern or interest in their historical and cultural context.
At this point, Holt stops his discussion about coins and coin
collectors to examine the lengthy and mostly fruitless search for any
of the thousand Greek cities in what is now Afghanistan and
neighboring countries over which the Bactrian kings ruled. Eventually
one city (Al Khanoum) was found and excavated for over one decade
before political problems in Afghanistan arose. The site was nearly
completely destroyed by native looters who were unappreciative of the
reminders of Greek culture in their nation and who reused the ruins
that had been dug up for their own homes and village buildings. Next,
Holt discusses the scattered epigraphy that demonstrates a highly
complicated picture of multilingual people, some of whom were at
great pains in those backwoods parts of Hellenistic civilization to
show off their erudition in memorials, as well as the more mundane
records of tax collections and accounts of Scythian mercenaries.
The book returns to its general focus on coins, arguing that the lack
of scientific archeology in much of Afghanistan has led to the need
for revisionist numismatics, which attempts to uncover as much as
possible about the provenance of the coins that have ended up in
private collections across the world based on when they were brought
to auction or when rumors about them began to spread. Two chapters on
cognitive numismatics follow, in which Holt draws strong conclusions
from the evidence of errors on coins, showing that the stresses of
civil disorder or environmental disaster have led to increasing
errors on coins at key moments. By assessing the location of coin
hoards and the amount of coins left behind, he seeks to demonstrate
the frustrated hopes and dreams of people of Bactria as their
civilization fell and their lands and coins were appropriated by
various successor peoples who imitated what they appreciated in
Hellenistic culture with their own cognitive maps.
The conclusion points to both the hopes and aims of this work and the
frustration that many readers are likely to find with it. Holt
briefly recounts the narratives as they have been constructed by
leading historians of Bactrian history, including William Woodthorpe
Tarn, Awadh Kishore Narain, and Homayun Sidky, showing that these
subjective narratives conflict because the basic facts that should
undergird a narrative history are simply not present when it comes to
Bactrian history. Instead of a typical narrative history, Holt
advocates for a look at subaltarn groups in light of his own
ideological bias. He creates a picture of ecological collapse and
immense civil disorder from the fragmentary facts that can be found
on coins, making his criticism of narrative historians for engaging
in the same sort of subjective analysis more than a little
Despite the flaws of this work, including its focus on the narrative
history of Bactrian numismatics and its clear bias for subhistorical
figures whose motives and activities can only be subjectively read
from the limited evidence and against elite figures who created much
of the available evidence from the ancient realm of Bactria, this
work remains of some value. Mainly, Holt looks closely at the raw
materials with which historians work when attempting to explain the
past, such as archeological sites, coins, other cultural artifacts,
and primary documents. Compared to other areas of ancient history,
like the study of the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, or Hittites, or
even the somewhat more obscure people of Ugarit and Mari (all of whom
left large amounts of written evidence), the Greeks of Bactria left
meager written evidence. Nonetheless, historians and other
researchers must work with the evidence at hand, and have an ethical
responsibility to admit where evidence ends and where fancy and
subjectivity begin. Holt does well in showing that the previous
writers of Bactrian history have fallen short of the highest
standards of intellectual honesty and tentativeness in their claims,
although he fails to live up to his own lofty standards by making the
same errors in the desire to find some sort of truth from the slim
evidence that has survived the Hellenistic age in remote and troubled
Citation: Nathan Albright. Review of Holt, Frank Lee, _Lost World of
the Golden King: In Search of Ancient Afghanistan_. H-War, H-Net
Reviews. April, 2013.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
- 2013.04.55: Edward McCrorie, Homer. The Iliad. Johns Hopkins new translations from antiquity.
- 2013.04.54: Nils Rücker, Ausonius an Paulinus von Nola: Textgeschichte und literarische Form der Briefgedichte 21 und 22 des Decimus Magnus Ausonius. Hypomnemeta, Bd 190.
- 2013.04.53: Jacqueline de Romilly, The Mind of Thucydides (first published 1956). Cornell studies in classical philology.
- 2013.04.52: Marco Beretta, Francesco Citti, Lucia Pasetti, Seneca e le scienze naturali. Biblioteca di Nuncius. Studi e testi, 68.
- 2013.04.51: Marco Rocco, L’esercito romano tardoantico: persistenze e cesure dai Severi a Teodosio I. Studi e progetti.
- 2013.04.50: Yelena Baraz, A Written Republic: Cicero’s Philosophical Politics.
- 2013.04.49: Adeline Grand-Clément, La fabrique des couleurs. Histoire du paysage sensible des Grecs anciens (VIIIedébut du Ve siècle av. n. è.). De l’archéologie à l’histoire.
- 2013.04.48: Basil Dufallo, The Captor’s Image: Greek Culture in Roman Ecphrasis. Classical culture and society.
- 2013.04.47: Benjamin Fourlas, Die Mosaiken der Acheiropoietos-Basilika in Thessaloniki. Eine vergleichende Analyse dekorativer Mosaiken des 5. und 6. Jahrhunderts (2 vols.). Millennium-Studien 35.
- 2013.04.46: Nicolas Monteix, Les lieux de métier: boutiques et ateliers d’Herculanum. Collection du Centre Jean Bérard, 34.
- 2013.04.45: Henry Maguire, Nectar and Illusion: Nature in Byzantine Art and Literature. Onassis series in Hellenic culture.
- 2013.04.44: Christopher A. Faraone, F.S. Naiden, Greek and Roman Animal Sacrifice: Ancient Victims, Modern Observers.
- 2013.04.43: Ray Laurence, Roman Archaeology for Historians.
- 2013.04.42: Christian Mann, Peter Scholz, “Demokratie” im Hellenismus: Von der Herrschaft des Volkes zur Herrschaft der Honoratioren? Die hellenistische Polis als Lebensform, 2.
- 2013.04.41: Anna Bonifazi, Homer’s Versicolored Fabric: The Evocative Power of Ancient Greek Epic Word-Making. Hellenic studies, 50.
- 2013.04.40: Erika Manders, Coining Images of Power: Patterns in the Representation of Roman Emperors on Imperial Coinage, A.D. 193-284. Impact of empire, 15.
- 2013.04.39: Jolivet on Sewell on Jolivet on Sewell, The Formation of Roman Urbanism.
Response by Vincent Jolivet.
- 2013.04.38: Gabrielle Frija, Les Prêtres des empereurs: le culte impérial civique dans la province romaine d’Asie. Histoire.
- 2013.04.37: Angela Maria Andrisano, Ritmo, parola, immagine: il teatro classico e la sua tradizione. Atti del Convegno Internazionale e Interdottorale (Ferrara, 17-18 dicembre 2009). Dionysus ex machina.
- 2013.04.36: Bonnie Maclachlan, Women in Ancient Greece: A Sourcebook. Bloomsbury sources in ancient history.
- 2013.04.35: Gerard O’Daly, Days Linked by Song: Prudentius’ Cathemerinon.
- 2013.04.34: Jacques Jouanna, Greek Medicine from Hippocrates to Galen: Selected Papers. Studies in ancient medicine, 40.
- 2013.04.33: Pascal Payen, Les revers de la guerre en Grèce ancienne: histoire et historiographie. L’Antiquité au présent.
- 2013.04.32: T. M. Hickey, Wine, Wealth, and the State in Late Antique Egypt: The House of Apion at Oxyrhynchus. New texts from ancient cultures.
- 2013.04.31: Calum Alasdair Maciver, Quintus Smyrnaeus’ Posthomerica: Engaging Homer in Late Antiquity. Mnemosyne supplements. Monographs on Greek and Latin language and literature, 343.
- 2013.04.30: Eugene Garver, Aristotle’s Politics: Living Well and Living Together.
- 2013.04.29: Howard J. Curzer, Aristotle and the Virtues.
- 2013.04.28: Rachel Feig Vishnia, Roman Elections in the Age of Cicero: Society, Government, and Voting. Routledge studies in ancient history, 3.
posted with permission:
Orosius and the Rhetoric of History. By Peter Van Nuffelen. Oxford Early Christian Studies. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. 252. £60.00/$110.00. ISBN 978-0-19-965527-4.
Reviewed by David Rohrbacher, New College of Florida
Orosius and the Rhetoric of History is an exciting book about the fifth-century ce historian Orosius, an author who very rarely evokes excitement. Van Nuffelen provides not only a reevaluation of the nature and purpose of Orosius’ seven-book Historiae adversus paganos, but also sets a productive new direction for future work in the Christian authors of late antiquity.
It has always been difficult to classify Orosius among late antique historians. He is not a breviarist like Eutropius, or a historian of the church, like Eusebius, but his focus on the distant past and his Christian apologetics differentiate him from a pagan historian like Ammianus. Scholars have often concluded that he was not really a historian at all, but rather a theologian of history, offering a triumphalist vision of Christian empire.
In contrast to this traditional “theological” reading, Van Nuffelen argues for a “rhetorical” reading, which includes the study of Orosius’ use of literary allusion and other elements of eloquence, and also Orosius’ direct engagement with the exempla-tradition of the rhetorical schools. When Orosius is read rhetorically, we can see that he is not a radical innovator but a classicizing historian after all, in the mold not of Ammianus or Tacitus, but of the “tragic” Hellenistic historians.
Orosius and the Rhetoric of History argues for the historian’s classicism in two ways. First, Van Nuffelen demonstrates that scholars have failed to recognize Orosius’ extensive use of traditional historiographical tropes. Second, he argues that the apparently unusual features of the text which have dominated the critical commentary can actually be assimilated to traditional historiography.
The earlier chapters of the book are dominated by demonstrations of Orosius’ use of allusion and exempla. In the first chapter, Van Nuffelen shows how the historian uses Vergilian allusions in his preface as a purposeful literary strategy to enhance his authority. Intertextual engagement with Vergil is also highlighted in Chapter 2; in particular, Orosius’ linguistic parallels with Vergilian descriptions of the fall of Troy serve to remind the reader that Rome would have shared Troy’s fate in the recent sack if not for God’s help. In Chapter 3, Van Nuffelen emphasizes Orosius’ use of classical, rather than Christian, exempla. The historian aims to defeat his rivals on their own turf, by contrasting negative exempla drawn from Roman rhetorical practice with the more commonly deployed positive exempla. In Chapter 4, Van Nuffelen makes it clear that Orosius is not a simple transcriber of his sources. Instead, he amplifies, conflates, and at times distorts sources for his own purposes.
More bold are Van Nuffelen’s attempts to show that those elements of the Historiae which have been traditionally considered striking innovations can better be interpreted as variations of classicizing themes. For example, in the beginning of Book 2, Orosius offers his own version of the “four empires” theory found in other Christian works. Van Nuffelen argues that the extensive but somewhat incoherent parallels Orosius proposes between Rome and Babylon should be understood in the context of earlier examples of synchronism, such as that of Timaeus between east and west Greeks. The panegyrical elements at the end of Orosius’ work, Van Nuffelen argues in Chapter 6, do not present a radical new vision of Christian empire, as has been suggested. Instead, the use of panegyric in late antique historiography is typical, and Orosius’ innovation lies only in Christianizing its subject. Van Nuffelen also shows in Chapter 7 that Orosius’ claims of universalism are more rhetorical than realistic, and do not represent a new, Christianized view of history. The Historiae remain strongly Romanocentric, and while the figure of the barbarian is used at times to “destabilize” the perspective of the audience, Orosius’ manipulation of the barbarian to achieve his narrative aims is not uncommon in late antique historiography.
Sometimes Van Nuffelen seems too intent on denying the unusual features of Orosius’ work. The Christianization of traditional historiographical elements and the theological presuppositions that undergird the work do point the way to a new type of history. But Van Nuffelen is convincing in his systematic argument for the importance of reading Orosius as a classical historian, not as a Christian apologist. He shows that Orosius’ explicit insistence that he would not to rely on biblical authority but would remain within limits of classical historiography (1.1, 7.1) is more than mere rhetoric. Students and scholars of all periods of ancient historiography have much to learn from this important book.
Fred Eugene Ray Jr. Greek and Macedonian Land Battles of the 4th
Century B.C.: A History and Analysis of 187 Engagements. Jefferson
McFarland, 2012. 244 pp. $45.00 (paper), ISBN 978-0-7864-6973-4.
Reviewed by Nathan D. Wells (Quincy College)
Published on H-War (April, 2013)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey
The fourth century BC was a seminal period in military history,
especially with regard to the Western way of war. From the period of
Spartan dominance in the wake of the Peloponnesian War to the initial
wars waged by Alexander the Great’s successors, the fourth century
saw multiple variations of the Doric phalanx on battlefields, in the
Greek heartland, in the Mediterranean, and on its border with India.
These formations were initially used by rival city-states, then
crafters of empires. Such a pivotal period deserves a thorough
analysis, and Fred Eugene Ray Jr., a retired geologist and oil
industry executive, has gamely accepted the challenge.
This is not the first time that Ray has explored the subject of
warfare in the classical Greek world. In his _Land Battles in 5th
Century B__.__C__.__ Greece: A History and Analysis of 173
Engagements_ (2008), Ray covered the century preceding the current
volume’s subject. Ray’s knowledge of geology and topography are
evident in both books.
While _Greek and Macedonian Land Battles of the 4th Century B.C._
provides an analysis of engagements and military developments, it is
also examines what led to those developments. Indeed, this may be the
strongest asset of Ray’s volume. When the fourth century began,
Sparta was the dominant land power in Greece, as it had been in the
previous century. Sparta had emerged victorious in the Peloponnesian
War, and the Greek world looked to be in for a long-term Lacedaemonic
hegemony. Yet, by mid-century, the fulcrum had shifted first to the
up-and-coming Thebans and then to the even more up-and-coming
Macedonians. This was a fascinating and critical period, and Philip
II’s time as a hostage in Thebes during the glory years of that polis
has rightly so often been remarked on. Ray recounts all of this, with
Philip, his son Alexander III (the Great), and the Theban strategists
Pelopidas and Epaminondas who inspired them each getting their due.
Ray also draws attention to a lesser-known Athenian general,
Iphicrates. While most historians look to Thebes, and especially to
Epaminondas as the inspiration for Philip’s reforms of the Doric
phalanx, Ray believes that Iphicrates was perhaps more deserving of
credit, especially with regard to tactical deployment of the oblique
assault. Learning strategy from Epaminondas and tactics from
Iphicrates would prove to be a deadly education, ironically so for
their native poleis. Ray also does an excellent job in discussing the
Persian kardakes, which was a stopgap attempt to deal with the
phalanxes, both mercenary and Macedonian.
This is a fine book overall, but I have three major criticisms. The
first is that the volume is strictly chronological. Given the nature
of warfare in the fourth century with hoplite armies, often mercenary
based, fighting simultaneous wars throughout the Mediterranean and
Near East, the same characters appear and reappear often. Focusing on
regions might have made the narrative less confusing. The second
criticism relates to citation. As noted above, this volume is a
companion to a work on the fifth century BC. In his review of _Land
Battles in 5th Century B__.__C__.__ Greece_, A. A. Nofi comments that
“the chief flaw of Ray’s book is that he fails to provide proper
foot-notes, using instead in-text ‘documentation’ which is often too
brief to permit easy checking of references, not to mention disrupts
the narrative flow.” Ray follows the same pattern in this volume
and it is similarly distracting. His sources are also primarily drawn
from period material whose numbers must be used with caution. The
final criticism is the most glaring, though whether the blame goes to
Ray or the publisher is unknown. While the author clearly understands
the importance of geography and topography in military affairs, maps,
especially detailed maps, are few and far between in this book. This
is most acute in covering the “Sacred War” between city-states, as
well as trying to follow Alexander’s march from the Aegean to India.
All criticisms aside, I would certainly recommend the book to anyone
interested in ancient warfare or the classical and Hellenistic world.
Just make sure that you have an atlas within arm’s reach.
. A. A. Nofi, review of _Land Battles in 5th Century B__.__C__.__
Greece: A History and Analysis of 173 Engagements_, by Fred Eugene
Ray Jr., http://www.strategypage.com/bookreviews/395.asp.
Citation: Nathan D. Wells. Review of Ray Jr, Fred Eugene, _Greek and
Macedonian Land Battles of the 4th Century B.C.: A History and
Analysis of 187 Engagements_. H-War, H-Net Reviews. April, 2013.
Robert Knapp. Invisible Romans. Cambridge Harvard University
Press, 2011. 400 pp. $29.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-674-06199-6.
Reviewed by Alison Jeppesen (Red Deer College)
Published on H-Albion (March, 2013)
Commissioned by Jeffrey R. Wigelsworth
Investigating the Mind-set of Ordinary Romans
What was life like in ancient Rome? For a slave in Rome, were the
conditions horrific or tolerable? Did women yearn for a better life
or were they satisfied with what society gave them? Julius Caesar and
Cleopatra are well-known figures from antiquity but what about Marcus
Volcius Euhemerus and Posilla Senenia? These two Romans, known only
from their tombstone inscriptions, are examples of the 99.5 percent
of Romans who lived below the level of the upper-class elite who are
often associated with Rome. These are the “ordinary” Romans that
Robert Knapp seeks to make visible to the modern reader (p. 3). What
were their hopes and dreams? What were their fears? What did they
think and believe, individually or as part of a group? What was their
“mind world” (p. 105)? The difficulty of this type of project lies in
finding a common mind world for such diverse groups as “the poor” and
“women,” and one questions if these groups would have had the same
Whether male or female, slave or free, poor or moderately wealthy,
the lives of these people are difficult to recreate. In his efforts
to make these Romans visible, Knapp combines a variety of sources for
a nonspecialist audience. He brings together recent work and presents
it in an accessible way. For a general reader, this work will be both
inspiring and depressing as it breaks down the romanticized view of
ancient life that has plagued the perception of ancient history and,
instead, highlights the realities of life in the empire. For the
student, this work provides an excellent overview of the ordinary
with avenues for further investigation. Overall, Knapp succeeds in
presenting a readable text with excellent illustrations and a very
good list of further readings for each chapter (necessitated in part
by the lack of footnotes, which, though adding to the readability for
nonspecialists, will likely irritate anyone looking for the exact
reference to an idea).
In nine chapters, Knapp discusses ordinary Romans: men from the
middle (not the poor and not the rulers), women, the poor, slaves,
freedmen, soldiers, prostitutes, gladiators, bandits, and pirates.
This is a daunting list of invisible people to make visible in some
three hundred pages. There is bound to be overlap. Knapp makes clear
distinctions between ordinary men and the absolute poor whom he
defines as those with no “resource cushion,” but between ordinary
women, the female poor, and prostitutes, there is definite repetition
(p. 95). The four chapters separating the chapters on women (chapter
2) and prostitutes (chapter 7) seem like an odd delay (both male and
female prostitutes are discussed in chapter 7 but as the focus is
mostly on female prostitutes the two chapters might have been better
placed together). Some readers may also take issue with Knapp’s
terminology, as he casually switches between calling ancient
sex-trade workers “prostitutes” and “whores.” Some discussion of the
nuances of Latin terminology would have been beneficial for all
readers as would some clarity between chlamydia and genital herpes,
which he treats as the same sexually transmitted infection. Notably
absent is a chapter devoted to children. Children appear in various
chapters (on women, soldiers, and freed people) but there has been
enough research done on children in Rome that a chapter bringing the
evidence together would have been a welcome addition.
Where Knapp achieves his goal of presenting the mind-set of the
ordinary Roman is in his portrayal of the drudgery of life in
antiquity and the struggle for survival. Even a trip to the often
glamorized baths might end poorly: the description of the putrid
waters is bound to affect all readers as is the account of the young
woman beaten at the baths in Egypt. The lives of women come across as
particularly dismal. Certainly the slave collar found with a woman’s
skeleton requiring the return of the “adulterous prostitute”
indicates a horrid life, but the overall portrayal of women seems
more negative than other topics (p. 244). Interestingly, Knapp
illustrates his points with multiple sources for other groups in the
book. For women, however, the larger scale well-known monuments, such
as Aurelia Philematium’s epitaph, receive the greatest attention
while elite women are seen as “accounterments” rather than “partners”
(p. 96). Together, these two chapters would have benefited from
additional context and greater nuance in assessing the evidence.
Knapp’s use of ancient evidence is commendable. Throughout the book,
he avoids the use of the usual suspects (e.g., Suetonius, Tacitus,
and Cicero) and turns, instead, to the less usual: inscriptions;
papyri; fables and proverbs; astrological works, such as the Carmen
Astrologicum by Dorotheus of Sidon (a first-century astrologer) and
the Interpretation of Dreams by Artemidorus (a second-century
astrologer); and other nonelite sources, including the New Testament.
Knapp argues that these works, since they were aimed at a wide
audience of ordinary people, encompass the “actual concerns of real
people” (p. 320). The variety of evidence used is good and
illustrates how these materials can be used to investigate what
average Romans may have thought and felt, though the degree of common
ground found in any one of these groups may be a topic of debate.
More discussion of the temporal and cultural context is given in the
sources section, but additional discussion would have been worthwhile
in the main body as it can be confusing to the reader when various
authors and their works are treated largely synchronically. Knapp is
up-front about the “problematic insights” granted by some of his
sources, but this comment appears at the end of the work and would
have been useful at various points in the main text (p. 315).
Overall, however, Knapp has made visible the invisible by presenting
the lives of everyday Romans. These are Romans who have more in
common with us than the Caesars and Cleopatras of antiquity but have,
until relatively recently, been less studied. Ordinary Romans, such
as those presented in this work, will make Rome more real to modern
readers, and Knapp’s attempt to help these marginalized members of
ancient society speak to us will benefit many.
Citation: Alison Jeppesen. Review of Knapp, Robert, _Invisible
Romans_. H-Albion, H-Net Reviews. March, 2013.
- 2013.04.27: Lucreţiu Mihailescu-Bîrliba, Ex toto orbe Romano: Immigration into Roman Dacia; with Prosopographical Observations on the Population of Dacia. Colloquia antica, 5.
- 2013.04.26: Maurizio Bettini, Vertere: un’antropologia della traduzione nella cultura antica. Piccola biblioteca.
- 2013.04.25: Peter White, Cicero in Letters. Epistolary Relations of the Late Republic (paperback reprint; first published 2010).
- 2013.04.24: Nicholas Baker-Brian, Shaun Tougher, Emperor and Author: The Writings of Julian the Apostate.
- 2013.04.23: J. Albert Harrill, Paul the Apostle: His Life and Legacy in Their Roman Context.
- 2013.04.22: Andrew Keller, Stephanie Russell, Learn to Read Greek Part 2 (Textbook and Workbook Set).
Andrew Keller, Stephanie Russell, Learn to Read Greek Part 1 (Textbook and Workbook Set).
- 2013.04.21: Joseph L. Rife, Isthmia IX: the Roman and Byzantine Graves and Human Remains.
- 2013.04.20: Denise Eileen McCoskey, Race: Antiquity and Its Legacy. Ancients and Moderns.
- 2013.04.19: Anne Van Arsdall, Timothy Graham, Herbs and Healers from the Ancient Mediterranean through the Medieval West: Essays in Honor of John M. Riddle. Medicine in the medieval Mediterranean, 4.
- 2013.04.18: Luc Brisson, Gwenaëlle Aubry, Marie-Hélène Congourdeau, Françoise Hudry, et al, Porphyre. Sur la manière dont l’embryon reçoit l’âme. Histoire des doctrines de l’antiquité classique, 43.
- 2013.04.17: Norbert Kramer, Keramik und Kleinfunde aus Diokaisareia. Diokaisareia in Kilikien: Ergebnisse des Surveys 2001-2006, Bd 1.
- 2013.04.16: Ángel Martínez Fernández, Επιγραφές Πολυρρηνίας. Δημοσιεύματα του Αρχαιολογικού Δελτίου / Publications of the Archaiologikon Deltion, 103.
- 2013.04.15: Richard King, Dennis Schilling, How Should One Live?: Comparing Ethics in Ancient China and Greco-Roman Antiquity.
posted with permission:
Homer’s Versicolored Fabric: The Evocative Power of Ancient Greek Epic Word-Making. By Anna Bonifazi. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies, 2012. Distributed by Harvard University Press. Pp. x + 350. Paper, $24.95/ £18.95. ISBN 978-0-674-06062-3.
Reviewed by Alexander C. Loney, Yale University
The “versicolored fabric” of the title of Anna Bonifazi’s book refers to the way certain objects change color when viewed from different perspectives, which means they can truthfully be said to be one color for one viewer and one color for another. The situationally dependent status of such an object is an analogue for the aspects of Homeric language Bonifazi examines in her book. Using the tools of the field of linguistics known as pragmatics, she focusses on third-person pronouns and adverbs/particles with the element αὐ-. Although Bonifazi sidesteps the issue, simply defining pragmatics can be controversial. (See Mira Ariel, Defining Pragmatics (Cambridge, 2010).) But, essentially, pragmatics can be thought of as the study of the role context plays in generating meaning. All language, as actually used, is spoken (or written) by someone to someone in some setting.
In her first chapter, Bonifazi brings her pragmatic approach to anaphora. Following linguists Catherine Emmott and Francis Cornish, Bonifazi calls for a “radical change” (19) in how anaphora is understood. She calls this the “referent in the mind” model (20). Anaphors do not refer to words but to “mental representations.” Regarding the much-discussed first word of the poem, ἄνδρα, she finds it is not “vague,” though it has no verbal antecedent; rather, “the referent of ἄνδρα is in the mind” of both the poem’s narrator and audience “as a relevant shared knowledge” (66). This example is programmatic for Bonifazi. Just as Odysseus is on the mind of the poem’s external audience, whose sympathies lie with him right from the proem, so also is Odysseus on the mind of the internal characters and “emotionally near” them. In the first four books of the poem, Homer thematizes the anaphoric/deictic pronoun (ἐ)κεῖνος as a signal of Odysseus’ emotional and (imagined) visual significance as a “cognitive presence,” despite his physical absence.
In her second chapter, Bonifazi reads Odysseus’ visit to Eumaeus’ hut in Book 14 as a “layered” scene, in which multiple dramatic situations co-exist and are communicated by the same text. The traditional interpretation of the scene sees dramatic irony at work: the audience knows Odysseus’ identity and Eumaeus does not. Some interpreters, however, have seen Eumaeus as, on some level, aware of his guest’s identity. Though contradictory, these interpretations are not incompatible, according to Bonifazi. Both realities (plus a third ritual layer) are present in our text. They are “multiple readings that the performer deliberately enables for the multiple pleasures of the audience” (83). Bonifazi’s third chapter offers further layered readings of Odysseus’ encounters with allies and foes on Ithaca. In this context, she introduces a pragmatic analysis of Homeric αὐτός. It can act as an intensifier, marking out a center (the referent of αὐτός) distinguished from a periphery; it can also act as a demonstrative of identity. Bonifazi sees a dialectic between αὐτός and (ἐ)κεῖνος, which culminates in Odysseus’ self-revelation to Laertes at 24.321: κεῖνος μὲν δὴ ὅδ’ αὐτὸς ἐγώ, “That one is here, it is myself, here I am …” (Bonifazi’s translation). This coincidence of pronouns “summarizes a fundamental fact, which is personal and social, private and public, at the same time: Odysseus cannot be either κεῖνος or αὐτός; he is both” (180).
On Bonifazi’s “layered” reading, each interaction between the disguised Odysseus and his Ithacan subjects exhibits an unresolved ambiguity: they both recognize and do not recognize him. Although some of her readings are clever, I cannot accept Bonifazi’s argument in its entirety. Her insistence on the multiple status of these scenes depends on a slippage between the idea that, e.g., Philoetius could be imagined “as if” he “really had recognized his master” (162, emphasis mine) and that he actually had. The poem we have does allude to alternative narrative paths in which characters become aware of Odysseus’ identity at different points, but these remain hypothetical and unrealized alternatives. To be sure, Bonifazi would find my critique too literalistic and “unitary” (see 169–70). Despite my sympathy with her approach, I remain unpersuaded on this point, as I expect some other readers will as well.
In the final two chapters, Bonifazi gives pragmatic accounts for adverbs beginning with αὐ-. Eschewing the term “particle” (properly, in my view), she classifies αὖ, αὖτε, and αὐτάρ as discourse markers. They do not affect the propositional content of language, but function at two other levels: the “presentational” level, relating an utterance to what comes before or after and the “interactional” level, relating speakers and interlocutors. At the presentational level, these words “primarily mark a shift from what is ‘on the one side’ to what is ‘on the other side’” in the addressee’s “visual framework” (218). This applies especially to characters in different locations (e.g., across a battlefield), but can also apply to different threads of narrative (e.g., in transitions from one scene to another). At the interactional level, these words can indicate the emotional force of an utterance. The other adverbs beginning with αὐ- are more likely to have propositional functions, but they can still function at the presentational or interactional level: e.g., αὐτίκα can propel the action of a narrative.
In the end, Bonifazi succeeds at providing a richer account of how, why, and to what effect speakers of the Homeric texts use these pronouns and adverbs/particles. As a result, now anyone interested in the Homeric usages of these words will want to consult this book closely. Bonifazi has advanced our appreciation of the nuanced pragmatics of Homeric diction.
posted with permission:
The Codrus Painter: Iconography and Reception of Athenian Vases in the Age of Pericles. By Amalia Avramidou. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2011. Pp. xiii + 237. Hardcover, $65.00. ISBN 978-0-299-24780-5.
Reviewed by Judith M. Barringer, University of Edinburgh
The Codrus Painter (fl. c. 440–420 bc) takes his name from one of the 106 painted vessels, mostly kylikes, assigned to his hand or to that of one of his circle. The vase paintings are less noteworthy for their technical skill than for their often unusual subject matter, which, together with their mostly non-Attic provenance (when known), makes them remarkable. Avramidou addresses all these topics—style, subject, and provenance—in this volume derived from her doctoral dissertation. Like most dissertations, this is a book for specialists—graduate students and scholars. This monograph devoted to a single vase painter follows a long tradition although there has been markedly less of this type of study in recent years. Avramidou’s text offers a model of its kind.
The text begins with a review of the history of the “creation” or the “recognition” of the Codrus Painter and his oeuvre and the establishment of a chronology of his works. In this (perhaps overly) detailed treatment, every step in the process is articulated as one scholar after another recognized one set of works by the same hand, then refined the group. Avramidou then takes up precisely this issue, establishing the oeuvre, as—in true Beazley spirit—she offers a meticulous study and definition of the painter’s style and that of painters similar to him (“Near the Codrus Painter”). The author may be a fan of John Beazley, but to her credit she is not shy about challenging some of his attributions, as well as those made by other notable scholars. There follows a chronological ordering of the painter’s output; changes over time in shape, composition, and subject matter; and a comparison of the products of the Codrus Painter to that his contemporaries—the Eretria Painter, Aison, the Meidias Painter, and the workshop of Polygnotos—with regard to subjects, shapes, markets. The subsequent consideration of subjects is thorough, considering literary versions of mythological subjects, earlier and contemporary visual examples, changes in iconography, provenance, social and historical context, as well as the impact of current political events, drama and other visual media, such as public sculpture and wall painting. Avramidou seeks meaning from a unified reading of all images on any given vase, which is successful in most cases. Finally, the author devotes an entire chapter to the leitmotif throughout the text, the relationship between the Codrus Painter and the “Etruscan market.”
This last subject has become an overriding concern of scholars working on vase painting iconography and especially iconology in the last few decades. How did all those Athenian vases end up in Etruscan graves? Were they made for Attic “consumption” or solely for export to the Etruscan “market” and therefore for Etruscan tastes? Vase shape and subject matter are key matters in this debate. Avramidou ties the Codrus Painter’s choice of subject matter to current Athenian events so, for example, warriors’ departures are painted because of the frequency and familiarity of this event in contemporary Athenian life. Accordingly, such images served as models and exhortations for the Athenians as they prepared for war. Elsewhere, she explains the Codrus Painter’s choice of mythological themes as having connections with current politics: the appearance of Medea and Aigeus on the exterior of the “Codrus cup” (32; pl. 1c) refers to tension between Athens and Corinth prior to the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War. Likewise, the presentation of Aias to his father Telamon on another cup refers to Athens’ appropriation of Aias “as a figure proving the legitimacy of the Athenian claim over Salamis,” where Telamon had settled after his exile from Aigina (41–2). Such political readings of Attic vase paintings are problematic because of the provenance of the vessels (usually not Athens) and, more critically, the complexity of the interpretations and erudition required to decipher them. What is the chain of thinking required of an ancient viewer to get from Telamon’s reception of the baby Aias to Aias as a vehicle to justify Athens’ political claims to the island where his father was resettled? Some of Avramidou’s proposals stretch credibility: the images on the Cassandra cup “… invoke parallels with the upcoming Peloponnesian War and remind the viewer of the wrongdoings that occur in such conflicts” (49). If the war hasn’t happened yet, how can it invoke parallels? Here, the zealous interpreter seems blind to implausibility.
With such proposals in mind, one must question the intended viewers of the vase paintings when the vessels were found outside of Attika. Avramidou adopts a “polyvalent” approach: the vases and their decoration were intended for an Athenian audience, but were also legible in a different way to Etruscans who purchased them in Etruria. According to the author, the vases were produced so as “to evoke an Etruscan interpretation” (69) of Greek themes. The link between the Codrus Painter’s depiction of Themis’ augury and Etruscan recognition of the augury scene because of Etruscan practices works well (40) but other themes, such as the story of Erichthonios, are less convincing.
Likewise, claims about the Theseus cup—“The owner … advertised his own knowledge of Athenian culture and his potential connection to the Greek city” (39)—are hard to square with an Etruscan owner. To whom was such cultural sophistication advertised, and would it be recognizable? It is possible, even plausible, as some scholars suggest, that the Etruscans could not read the dipinti on Attic vases, and did not know the Greek myths, but simply wanted Attic products. On the other hand, if the vessels were intended for an Athenian owner, one must question how many people saw these images, which were (presumably) designed for use in the symposion.
A catalogue and numerous b/w plates follow the text. Most images are of good quality but there are some poor ones that do not help the author’s argument (e.g., pl. 17, 28a, 70, 72). Unfortunately, the numerous comparanda are rarely illustrated, making it difficult to follow the author’s points. The text is elegantly written although the organization sometimes is illogical, and some chapters, e.g., Chap. 11, could have been abbreviated (or presented as a table or chart) without losing anything. Nonetheless, this thought-provoking study raises the right questions and endeavors to answer them in intriguing, if not always convincing, ways.