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On This Day in Ancient History – The Future Augustus Caesar’s Birthday
(Sep 22nd 2013)
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@About.com Ancient / Classical History
On This Day in Ancient History – The Future Augustus Caesar’s Birthday
(Sep 22nd 2013)
[category classical blogosphere)
Caedes factae sunt in tribus stationibus ...
… militaribus in Iemenia meridionali.
The Mindy Project: Harry & Sally/Harry & Mindy
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On This Day in Ancient History – The Death of the Roman Poet Virgil
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Review of Maximinus Thrax Exhibition in Braunschweig
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Latin Proverbs and Fables Round-Up: September 10
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What Did Cleopatra Look Like?
posted with permission:
Geography in Classical Antiquity. By Daniela Dueck with a chapter by Kai Brodersen. Key Themes in Ancient History. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. xvi + 142. Paper, $29.99. ISBN 978-0-521-12025-8.
Reviewed by Brian Turner, Portland State University
Pliny the Elder (NH 3.1.1-2) long ago bemoaned the near impossible task of writing about geography, an assignment which was, he wrote, “not easily handled without any criticism.” Recognizing the difficulty of encapsulating so much of human knowledge in a single volume, he claimed that he would neither “blame nor refute” any of his sources. Alas, Pliny did not have to write book reviews. It is, then, a relief to recommend Dueck’s brief but effective primer on the topic of geography in the Greek and Roman world. The pace and breadth of the text will require an active and prepared instructor (not to mention an array of supplementary readings) to help guide students through topics that are often only introduced and then overwhelmed by new concepts, developments, and items of evidence. But the topic of geography in antiquity relies on so much and so varied evidence-even (as I note below) more than the text emphasizes-that the authors can hardly be faulted for brevity in such a concise and necessary introduction.
The book consists of five chapters. A bibliography and index are by no means exhaustive but should at least offer students a starting point for the pursuit of further study. There is also a chronological table listing authors, texts, and principal events. Polybius might have preferred to be included in the 2nd rather than 3rd century bce (xi), and certainly Ammianus Marcellinus, since he is discussed in the text itself (50), deserves inclusion. But such quibbles aside, the table will helpfully introduce new students to the large number of texts available for the study of ancient geography.
The bulk of the volume is organized according to groups of sources rather than chronological development, so that the three main chapters deal with as many different approaches to the study of geography in antiquity. Chapter 2, “Descriptive Geography,” explores the presentation of geographic material in poetry, prose, and even travelogues including periploi, itineraria,and other more detailed travel narratives. The next chapter, “Mathematical Geography,” examines how ancient scientists “used numbers and calculations” (69) along with theoretical approaches regarding form and symmetry to determine the shape and size of the world as well as the nature of the peoples who inhabited it.
A description of how geographic coordinates, principally longitude and latitude, were calculated or estimated closes the discussion and offers a neat transition to the next chapter on the practice (or lack) of cartography in classical antiquity. Kai Brodersen (who wrote the chapter) warns readers of the dangers of applying a modern worldview that is too map-centric onto the ancients, and quite rightly concludes that the “pre-modern Greco-Roman world generally managed without maps” (109). The argument against the use of maps for practical purposes (e.g. for travel or military plans), however correct, tends to overpower the fact that cartographic depictions did exist in antiquity, even if only for the illustration of power and might. Even discounting the difficult problem of the form of Agrippa’s famous depiction of the orbis terrarum, there is more than enough evidence to illustrate mapping on a grand scale, especially during the Roman imperial period (for which see Richard Talbert’s chapter in Ancient Perspectives: Maps and Their Place in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome (Chicago 2012)). Although the precise form of such maps is beyond reconstruction, their existence and value should not be doubted.
Three principal themes, outlined in the first (“Introduction”) and final (“Geography in Practice”) chapters, underpin the entire work. Two of the themes are specifically introduced as such in the introduction (5). The first notes the reciprocal relationship between expansion, whatever its principal motives, and geographic knowledge. The second focuses on the comparison between Greek and Roman geographic knowledge, its development and its practical uses.
The third theme is not specifically introduced like the others, but it nevertheless dominates the volume and illustrates a fundamental element of modern discussions about the nature of ancient geography. With minor exceptions, the volume emphasizes text as the dominant medium through which geographic knowledge was created and transmitted. Though such a view appears throughout, it is, perhaps, best summed up in the volume’s final line: “All these [the motives, methods, and tools of geography] enabled these pre-modern societies to break new ground and to record their experience and thoughts in writing” (121). Brodersen’s warning (100) that pre-modern societies lacked the ability to copy and transmit illustrations such as maps should be taken as a warning against such textual emphasis and should offer a reason why we ought to expand and emphasize that non-literary evidence which does exist. As it stands, discussions of artistic creations do appear in the volume, but only fleetingly. The geographic and ethnographic information presented on the Sebasteion in Aphrodisias, for example, makes only a brief appearance at the beginning and end of the work (9 and 121) and is overwhelmed by the text’s conclusion that “geography” is predominantly understood as the “writing” about the earth.
In the end, this little book successfully enhances the curiosity of the reader. Even though it is meant to be a basic introduction, the book sparks debate. It is, therefore, a reflection of the difficulty and the potential of the topic, and is a most welcome addition to the ongoing discussion.
©2013 by The Classical Association of the Middle West and South. All rights reserved.
In Hurriyet we read:
A 2,000-year-old skeleton with a mask on its face has been found in the Aizanoi ancient city in Kütahya, during excavations in the area which have been continuing for two years now with new findings emerging.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, excavation group president Pamukkale University Archeology academic Elif Özer said the excavations had been ongoing since 2011, and many findings had been excavated from the area. The skeleton was excavated from the northern part of the necropolis eras.
The mask of the skeleton was found along with the face and the body. This mask is thought to have been used in the burial ceremonies in Aizonoi, said Özer. The mask was put on the face of the dead and this might signify the relation of the dead with the ceremony of Dionysos.
At the same time, excavations in Rome, Italy also uncovered masks. These masks have been related to ancestor cult, according to Özer. “We are doing research on this issue,” she added.
Özer said the information about the findings was yet to be determined, and the masks that had been excavated from the theater area and necropolis area were different. The theater area excavations also revealed Eros masks and Eros sculptures.
Full marks to the archaeologists on this one for not falling into the easy suggestion that this is a theatre mask (cf, e.g. Theatre Masks from Ilisu?) … we might note that the DAI page on Aizanoi has some issues with regards to the location of the site, including the ‘geonavigation’ (i.e. someone might want to check into that)
Last Chance for Pompeii Exhibition!
Caroline Lawrence has just put up an interesting board at Pinterest that should be of interest to many readers of rogueclassicism:
seen on the Classicists list:
Call for Papers: Women’s Ritual Competence in the Ancient Mediterranean
Bates College, Maine, USA, April 25-27, 2014
This conference will examine the evidence–literary, visual, archaeological, epigraphic–for the ritual competence of women in the ancient Mediterranean.
Papers will explore the nature of and role played by women’s expertise in contexts that involved communication with the supernatural–be they usually described as ‘religious’ or ‘magical’. This expertise may have been demonstrated in very different ways, for example, in oral or written expression or particular activities; it may emerge from sources created directly by women, or in the responses made by others.
We are interested in case studies from ancient Greece, and in tracing connections between Greece and neighboring cultures, as relevant. Papers that include comparanda from the Near East and/or the ancient Mediterranean are especially welcome.
Please send the title of your proposed paper, with an abstract of 300-500 words to Lisa Maurizio (lmaurizi AT bates.edu) by November 25th, 2013; decisions will be made by December 20th 2013.
Professor Matt Dillon (University of New England, Australia)
Dr Esther Eidinow (University of Nottingham, UK)
Professor Lisa Maurizio (Bates College, USA)
This message and any attachment are intended solely for the addressee and may contain confidential information. If you have received this message in error, please send it back to me, and immediately delete it. Please do not use, copy or disclose the information contained in this message or in any attachment. Any views or opinions expressed by the author of this email do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Nottingham.
Some Other Reasons to Publish Your Archaeological Data
… apparently there’s going to be a mock trial do decide which of the potamonial (if that isn’t a word, it should be) claimants’ cases hold water. Excerpts from the Guardian’s hype:
On Saturday, in the usually peaceful town of San Mauro Pascoli, near Rimini, the centuries-old debate will be reopened in a mock trial that aims to deliver a verdict, once and for all, on the identity of the real Rubicon. It is a battle that pitches neighbouring towns against each other and divides impassioned locals into three equally zealous camps – one for each river in question.
Fierce as Caesar’s battle with Pompey was, it may have nothing on this. The judge, however, is expected to draw the line at severed heads.
In 1933, a time when Benito Mussolini was fully versed in the rehabilitation of Rome’s ancient glory for contemporary political purposes, he decided the debate over the Rubicon had gone on long enough. The fascist dictator renamed the little Fiumicino river in his native Emilia Romagna the Rubicone, and decreed that the town through which it ran should also henceforth be known as Savignano sul Rubicone.
But the official ruling did nothing to deter those who believed that their river – either the Uso or the Pisciatello – was the genuine article. “There was no definitive proof. The debate, which had been going on for centuries, was still open,” said Paolo Turroni, a teacher and journalist from Cesena who will present the case for the Pisciatello on Saturday. “In reality, Mussolini had political reasons for doing what he did. At that time the podestà [mayor] of Savignano was an important figure in the Fascist party.”
Over time, however, the Fiumicino’s credentials have convinced many that it is indeed the right choice. Giancarlo Mazzuca, a newspaper editor, writer and former MP for Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right People of Freedom party, will argue at the mock trial that the Fiumicino deserves to keep its title due, among other things, to the Tabula Peutingeriana, a medieval copy of a Roman road map, which places the Rubicon 12 miles from Rimini on the Via Aemilia. The river also, he notes, has a bridge built in Roman times.
“This history is often overlooked due to the fact that the person who gave this order was Benito Mussolini. On the other hand, the foreign press, including the Times of London, had already said in 1932 … that the real Rubicon of Julius Caesar is indeed that of Savignano,” he wrote in notes for the Sammauroindustria cultural association, which is organising the event.
For others, though, this is a historical injustice. Turroni says he will use various pieces of evidence including Vatican maps, ancient parchments and even Giovanni Boccaccio, author of The Decameron, to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Pisciatello is the closest thing to the ancient Rubicon as is possible given the huge territorial changes that have taken place since 49BC. He and his fellow believers say they have evidence identifying their river as the Rubicon dating as far back as the 10th century, and claim that its colloquial name – the Urgòn – could easily have evolved from Rubicon.
Meanwhile, archaeologist Cristina Ravara Montebelli will fight the case for the Uso, which she says has long been regarded by historians and writers from Rimini as the original river. Her argument will hinge, among other points, on the existence of Roman-era ruins in the area. Even in 1750, she says, the spot had come to be considered by some to mark the ancient border with Cisalpine Gaul – in other words, the Rubicon.
The mock trial on Saturday will not be the first set up by the Sammauroindustria, whose president, Gianfranco Miro Gori, came up with the idea as a means of exploring history in an inventive and exciting way. Past years have put on trial issues surrounding characters such as unification hero Giuseppe Garibaldi and Mussolini himself. “The Rubicon is very local in one way, but has international dimensions,” he said.
Turroni said the Rubicon issue had regained its prominence over the past 20 years. Locals, he added, were proud of their river’s origins. But, despite the rivalry, “it’s always in good cheer and never anger,” he added.
… hopefully we’ll get some followup coverage …
posted with permission
CJ-Online ~ 2013.07.07
Peoples of the Roman World. By Mary T. Boatwright. Cambridge Introduction to Roman Civilization. New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. xix + 256. Hardcover, $90.00/£55.00. ISBN 978-0-521-84062-0. Paper, $25.99/£17.99. ISBN 978-0-521-54994-3.
Reviewed by Karen Klaiber Hersch, Temple University
Mary Boatwright’s important book should be required reading for anyone new to the complexities of ethnicity in antiquity. The diversity of its population, Roman writers were prone to boast, was the source of Rome’s enduring success, but Boatwright shows that incorporation and assimilation were never straightforward, and concepts of ethnicity varied and shifted over time. In her introductory chapter, she shows that for some, ethnicity was a matter of language or dress; for some, ethnicity did not equal “otherness.” Identity depended upon the identifier: a person’s beliefs about belonging to a group would not necessarily match the opinions of the larger society. Boatwright asks us to consider whether the opinions of elite male authors (representing the majority of written evidence) were known to, or shared by, many in the Roman world, an estimated 80–90% of whom could not read. Could the average Roman identify which conquered people were depicted on triumphal monuments any better than we can today?
Chapter 2 (“Gauls, Celts, Germans and Other ‘Northerners’”) dashes all hope of easy answers. These northerners left no written record, a loss that would not be so devastating if Roman testimony were not so ambiguous. Roman writers misidentified whole groups, or lumped them together while at the same time recording a mixture of opinions—admiration, fear and suspicion—about those misidentified barbarians, and often enough in the same text (problems reiterated in subsequent chapters). The ghosts of the Gallic Sack of Rome (390 bce) haunted Rome’s collective imagination, but by the late Republic Cispaline Gaul had become “quintessentially Italian” (45). Tacitus both admired and feared German military prowess, perpetuating the paranoia following the famous loss in the Teutoburg Forest in 9 ce, after which Germans and Gauls were deported from Rome. Can we judge the assimilation of northerners successful because, by the 2nd c. ce, Gaul had produced an emperor?
Boatwright’s discussion of Greeks in Chapter 3 provides an effective counterpoint. Greeks seem never to have suffered from the reputation of barbarity, but still the Roman evidence is conflicted: were Greeks ardent admirers of all that was good and noble, or dissipated lovers of luxury? Were Greeks cultured, or were they corrupters of morals? We are especially hampered by the ubiquity of Greek slave names that conceals slaves’ true origins. Did the Romans believe that Greek names lent a whiff of luxury and class, or by using them did the Romans determine to humiliate all Greeks? Boatwright does not hazard a guess, but she shows us that we can suspect a host of motives. The suspicion arising from the enthusiastic Hellenizing of a number of Roman emperors is illustrative; the fact that Greeks were members of the senate by the beginning of the 1st c. ce, yet no Greek became emperor, speaks volumes.
Egypt was the exotic “other” in the Greco-Roman world, but who was Egyptian? From the time of Alexander the Great, Greek language and Greek culture held sway in city centers, but Boatwright notes that no one has satisfactorily explained how far removed the ruling Greek elite were from the common folk. Boatwright questions the extent to which the “Egyptomania” of the early Empire infected average Romans. While many Roman writers expressed derision for Egyptian religion, the popularity of these very practices had attracted negative attention in Rome by the 50s bce. The dire conflict with Cleopatra marked the beginning of a new phase of Roman mistrust; Augustus claimed Egypt as his own personal property and instituted restrictions which kept Egypt “estranged from the rest of the Roman world” (117). A “hierarchy of ethnicity” came into play, with Romans at the top (excepting Antinoopolis, in which Greek, Roman and Egyptian culture flourished). Boatwright ends by exploring Roman worship of Isis and Serapis and the testimony of Egyptians themselves, made more problematic because it is left to us by “Greco-Egyptian” elites.
What constituted successful assimilation is thrown into high relief in Chapter 4, which Boatwright begins by noting that while Jews lived everywhere (and often received official accommodation from the Roman government), they also resisted assimilation everywhere, seeking to be, and remaining, a people apart. We possess more literary evidence concerning Jews than other groups, yet we are hampered by Romans’ hazy definition of them. Jews were recognized as a distinct group by the mid-first century yet fifty years later, Jewishness was an unrecognizable quality, and correspondingly Jews suffered (expulsions were not uncommon) or benefitted from the lack of a “consistent Roman policy” (145). A parade of Roman triumphal art celebrating the end of the First Jewish Revolt (begun 66 ce) illuminates the important turning point this insurrection represented, and the nightmare of Domitian’s reign is made frighteningly clear. The horrors of the Second and Third Jewish Revolt end in the telling observation that hardly any evidence survives about Jews in the Empire in the second century.
Christians (Chapter 5), incorporated “outsider” status into their self-representation, identifying themselves as a “new race” (171). Early Christian writers asserted that Christianity enjoyed widespread worship, yet Boatwright reports that by ca. 100 ce Christians represented perhaps 0.01% of the Empire’s population. The Gospels’ account of Jesus’ death provides a useful backdrop to the problems his worshippers would encounter later. Not surprisingly, many Romans had difficulty differentiating Jews from Christians, and one result of the Jewish Revolts was to separate the two. Boatwright guides us with care through the literary evidence, examining the famous letters between Pliny and the emperor Trajan that mark a period of an official “hands-off policy” (179). This time of comparative peace was followed by dreadful persecutions, and here our evidence is made stronger by martyrologies. Boatwright asserts that while the Edict of Milan granted freedom of worship to all, Constantine in all probability did not seek a unified Christian empire.
Romans may have congratulated themselves on their diverse world—the result of conquest and forced assimilation, but also of peaceful migration—but depending upon the time period or the place in the Roman world in which they found themselves, the people who provided this diversity could be subjected to a wide range of reactions, from praise to mild tolerance to blame and finally violence. At best those determined to be “other” living in the Roman world would be left at peace to live and work; at worst, their lives would be in mortal peril. Through centuries of empire-building, depending on the whim of those in power, the Roman world could, with alarming swiftness, shift beneath the feet of its denizens.
posted with permission:
Class in Archaic Greece. By Peter W. Rose. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. xiii + 439. Hardcover, £70.00/$120.00. ISBN 978-0-521-76876-4.
Reviewed by Jonathan M. Hall, University of Chicago
Scholarship over the past thirty years has hardly neglected the Archaic period of Greece (here, c. 800–500 BCE) but, according to Rose, what has been missing is a single, unifying explanation that can account for Dark Age society, the rise of the polis, colonization, tyranny, territorial expansion, and ultimately—though not everywhere—the emergence of democracy. For Rose, the driving factor behind developments in these three centuries is the struggle that ensued when a class of wealthy landowners monopolized the means of production. On this reading, conflicts over land ownership between free citizens, such as those documented for early sixth-century Attica, are just as significant as divisions between freemen and slaves.
In the Introduction, Rose bemoans the tendency of classicists either to avoid engaging with issues of class or to treat it as a deeply compromised analytic that needs to be encased in “scare quotes.” The blame for this is attributed in part to Engels’ insistence on the “scientific” status of Marxist approaches to history (14) but also to Moses Finley, whose substitution of Weberian notions of status for Marxist definitions of class was, Rose suggests, a consequence of his need to distance himself from Marxism in the political climate of the U.S. in the 1950s (5). Rose, instead, following the lead of Geoffrey de Ste. Croix’s magisterial The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World (1981) advocates an unabashedly Marxist reading of the period—albeit with some refinements offered by the likes of Althusser and Gramsci. Whereas status consciousness is subjective, “the relationship of individuals to the mode of production is objective whether they are conscious of it or not” (9)—a perfect example of the “naturalizing” tendencies of Marxist ideology if ever there was one!
Dark Age society (Ch. 1) is characterized as lacking much social differentiation, with small communities dominated by basileis—a cross between “big-men” and chieftains. The polis is treated as the creation of a newly emergent aristocracy that responded to demographic increase and a shift toward a more agriculturally focused subsistence regime by forging a self-conscious community of small landowners while simultaneously insisting on its own distinctiveness and superiority. Each of the six chapters that follow pursues a largely chronological narrative, normally based on close readings of a specific text. So, the Iliad (Ch. 2) is interpreted as a stand-off between the consensus-based rule of charismatic Dark Age basileis, represented by Achilles, and the more recent collective leadership of big landowners, embodied in the figure of Agamemnon. The Odyssey (Ch. 3) reflects the recourse to commerce and colonization on the part of the impoverished and dispossessed and expresses “the long build-up of rage at the arrogance of the leisure-loving, stay-at-home suitors viewed from the perspective of a man who has traveled widely, who knows intimately what it is to do the hard labor of a small landowner …” (165). Hesiod (Ch. 4) represents the perspective of an alienated middling farmer and the first symptoms of a festering class struggle that Solon tried to address through a modest expansion of political privileges and the tyrants by curbing aristocratic excess and creating a more centralized state (Ch. 5)—though, in both cases, without drastically altering the relations of production. The surviving fragments of Tyrtaeus (Ch. 6) are plausibly interpreted as an attempt to instill in Spartan citizens a homogenizing ideology while the final chapter offers a welcome—if not necessarily approbative—rehabilitation of the Peisistratids’ role in the future development of democracy at Athens.
Rose displays a dazzling command of the relevant scholarship—especially in his treatment of the literary evidence but also, despite several disclaimers, in his familiarity with the archaeological material. Readers will, of course, find their own reasons for disagreement—be it the sharp distinction drawn between subjective representations and objective conditions “on the ground,” the conventional dating of Homer and Hesiod, the “autobiographical” readings of Hesiod and the Archaic poets, the traditional explanation for colonial ventures and the failure to consider how impoverished farmers secured the capital for overseas voyages, the seemingly timeless or primordial character of Spartan institutions, or the notion that the architects of Athenian democracy appealed to the memory of the charismatic leadership of Dark Age basileis. To my mind, details aside, Rose makes a persuasive case for the heuristic value of a Marxist definition of class to the study of Archaic Greece even if I am less confident that a struggle for control of the means of production is the only underlying thread that accounts for developments in this period. But Rose’s class-based analysis does not really generate any radically new interpretations of the evidence—as opposed to setting existing interpretations on a more explicitly theoretical footing—which might suggest that scholars have already incorporated, however unconsciously, Marxist approaches into their working methodologies. Indeed, reading this book can sometimes feel like receiving a stern dressing-down from a card-carrying member of the party brandishing the official rule-book. Overall, however, this volume is as rewarding as it is dense—which makes it all the more regrettable that it is marred by an unacceptably high number of editing errors (I had to abandon my intention of logging all the typos, spurious cross-references, and ungrammatical constructions long before reaching the misspelling of even the word “class” on p. 348
Seen on the Classicists list:
CALL FOR PAPERS: BETWEEN LYRA AND AULOS, MUSICAL TRADITIONS AND POETIC GENRES
Università degli Studi di Urbino "Carlo Bo"
Dipartimento di Scienze della Comunicazione e Discipline Umanistiche (DiSCUm)
Scuola Estiva di Metrica e Ritmica Greca
MOISA-International Society for the Study of Greek and Roman Music and its Cultural Heritage
;Between Lyra and Aulos, Musical Traditions and Poetic Genres; is a multi-disciplinary international
conference to be hosted by the University of Urbino ;Carlo Bo, Department of Sciences of
Communication and Humanities (DiSCUm), Summer school in Greek Metrics and Rhythmics, on 5-6
Calls for individual papers (duration 20 mins) are now invited. A title and abstract of 300-400 words
should be provided by 31st January 2014. The languages of the conference are Italian and English.
Proposals are welcome from researchers in Ancient Greek Literature, Latin Literature, Classical
Philology, History of Ancient Music, History of Ancient Art, Archaeology and Iconography of Ancient
Instruments, Anthropology of Ancient World.
The meeting will focus on the relationship between the poetic genres of Archaic, Classical and
Hellenistic Greece and the instrumental accompaniments traditionally associated with them. In
particular, the idea would be, on the one hand, to re-read the poetic genres and their history in the
light of the more technical aspects of practice and instrumental performance and, on the other hand,
to reconsider more carefully the performance and instrumental practice in closer relationship to the
genera and poetic forms that are inextricably linked to it. Possible lines of research could be, among
1. Literary Genres and Instrumental Accompaniment: Ethos of a Given Instrumental Accompaniment
in Relation to Different Literary Genres; Literary Genres between Lyra and Aulos: Dominance of Lyra
over Aulos (and vice versa) in the History of Literary Genres, and Its Meaning; Literary Genres
accompanied by both Lyra and Aulos
2. Instrumental Music within the Classification of Literary Genres
3. Iconography and Archaeological Evidence
4. Evidence from Ancient Sources: Technical and Scholarly Writings, Historiography and Literature
5. Lyra and Aulos in Poetic Imagery
Please send proposals and queries by email to: liana.lomiento AT uniurb.it
Deadline: 31 january 2014
Andrew Barker (University of Birmingham)
Antonietta Gostoli (Università di Perugia)
Pauline LeVen (Yale University)
Liana Lomiento (Università di Urbino)
Angelo Meriani (Università di Salerno)
Eleonora Rocconi (Università di Pavia-Cremona)
Deadline for confirmation of acceptance by the scientific committee: March 31, 2014
Deadline for final confirmation of participation at the Meeting: May 31, 2014
The organization will not be able to cover speakers’ meals and accommodation in full. More
information on this aspect will be communicated as soon as possible.
If you are interested in participation but are not a MOISA member, you can join the Society at
where more detailed information on the conference will be available soon.
Posted with permission\:
After Thermopylae: The Oath of Plataea and the End of the Graeco-Persian Wars. By Paul Cartledge. Emblems of Antiquity. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. xxx + 240. Hardcover, $24.95/£16.99. ISBN 978-0-19-974732-0.
Reviewed by Peter Krentz, Davidson College
Not Marathon, not Salamis, but Plataea was “the decisive battle.” In this addition to Oxford University Press’ “Emblems of Antiquity” series, Paul Cartledge tackles the challenge of “paying due homage to the Battle of Plataea as a key and pivotal moment not just in ancient or classical Greek history but in all Western history.” There could hardly be a better person for the job: Cartledge has established himself as an excellent scholar who can write for the public too. Here he aims at a general audience.
The title is not the only quirky thing about this book. The chosen emblem is one of two oaths inscribed on a stele erected in the village of Acharnae outside Athens perhaps a century and a half after the battle of Plataea. But Cartledge sides with the majority of scholars who think that the inscribed oath is not authentic in the sense that it was not sworn before the battle. So the emblem is not an emblem of a pivotal moment in all Western history, but of Athenian thinking in the fourth century about that pivotal moment, then long past. “The main point of this book,” Cartledge says in Chapter 2, “is to try to identify and to explain the function(s) the Oath of Plataea was designed to serve in its immediate monumental context” following the Athenians’ defeat by Philip II of Macedon at the battle of Chaeronea in 338.
After a brief introduction, Chapter 2 gives a translation of the inscribed oath, a commentary on the text, a brief discussion of authenticity (not of much importance for Cartledge’s purpose, and in fact “in a crucial way,” he says, “that [verbal inauthenticity] is beside the point”), and a longer survey of the “contexts” of the inscribed oath, touching on history, religion, and politics.
Subsequent chapters expand on these contexts. Chapter 3 treats the Oath as a document of ancient Greek religion, arguing that the Athenians in particular liked oaths that fostered community. Chapter 4 gives a succinct synopsis of the events that led to the battle of Plataea. Chapter 5, “The Face of the Battle of Plataea,” will disappoint readers looking for the definitive treatment of the great battle based on autopsy of the terrain. Cartledge gives only a single sketch map of the conflict, taken from William Shepherd’s Plataea 479 BC: The Most Glorious Victory Ever Seen (Osprey 2012). The map and its legend are printed horizontally rather than vertically, in such a way that both have edges that disappear into the binding.
In Chapter 6, “The Greeks Invent the Persian Wars,” Cartledge suggests that Greek competitiveness determined how the Greeks remembered and commemorated the wars. He discusses first the monuments erected by the Athenians, the Plataeans, and the Spartans, and then surveys literary texts from Simonides to Pausanias, adding a note at the end about the relocation of the Serpent Column from Delphi to Constantinople. He places the Acharnae stele into its fourth-century context, following Athens’ disastrous defeat at Chaironeia, when the Athenians instituted a new system of compulsory military service for young men. The “Oath of Plataea” reminded the young men who swore the oath that precedes it on the stone that Athenians fighting together had in the past achieved a glorious victory. (As befits an honorary citizen of modern Sparta, he has no patience for my suggestion that the inscribed oath ought to be known as the Oath of Marathon rather than the Oath of Plataea. He dismisses the idea on the grounds that I did not “take the fourth-century bce ideological-commemorative context sufficiently into account.” But it seems to me that an oath supposedly sworn before Marathon fits the fourth-century Athenian context sketched by Cartledge better than an oath supposedly sworn before Plataea. See Danielle L. Kellogg, “The Place of Publication of the Ephebic Oath and the ‘Oath of Plataia’,” Hesperia 82 (2013) 263–76.)
A brief concluding chapter considers how the themes of the book resonate today. Cartledge does not try to explain why Plataea has been “forgotten” compared to Marathon and Salamis and even Thermopylae, given that famous ancient authors such as Herodotus and Plato clearly agree that Plataea “actually decided the Persian Wars.”
The book includes three maps, nine black-and-white photographs, a six-page timeline, a masterful literature review, and a bibliography.
To sum up: an interesting, accessible study of the oath in particular and the Greek mythologizing of the Persians Wars in general.
Sophocles the politician
Spartacus War of the Damned: Separate Paths
Professor Wallace-Hadrill interviewed about Herculaneum at Ideas Roadshow
TURIA, LEPIDUS, AND ROME