CJ Online Review: Ewald and Noreña, eds., The Emperor at Rome

posted with permission:

Björn C. Ewald and Carlos F. Noreña, eds. The Emperor and Rome: Space, Representation, and Ritual. Yale Classical Studies 35. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. xviii + 365. Hardcover, £60.00/$99.00. ISBN 978-0-521-51953-3.

Reviewed by Jennifer E. Thomas, Hamilton College

(Note: The Table of Contents of this volume appears at the end of the review.)

In September 2005, I had the pleasure of attending a conference in New Haven on “the Emperor and Rome.” It stood out for excellence in two categories: the high quality of the papers and the frequency with which Yale’s caterers brought out meals, snacks and coffee—perfect panem et circenses for a grad student. Over the years I have frequently consulted my notes from the conference for both research and teaching. I was pleased to see that those excellent papers have not only now been published, but also supplemented by two additional essays. The result is a thought-provoking collection that will benefit readers in a number of disciplines.

The essays examine “the relationship between … the Roman imperial monarchy, as a particular configuration of power, and the nexus of actors, practices, images, and spaces” of the city of Rome (xxi). Imperial presentation and the interconnection of place and politics in Rome are trendy topics, but this book goes beyond the normal focus on monuments to include factors like the urban plebs, public rituals and “ephemeral” structures, and private commemorations. The essays examine a city beyond concrete and marble, one that was not just built by emperors, but grew together with them. They also weave together different disciplines and methodologies, mixing theoretical approaches with the more positivist style of traditional topographic studies. Some of the ideas expressed here are not new, but several are presented in English for the first time, either as a new translation of an article or a revisiting of work previously published in German, French, or Spanish, a welcome development on both counts.

In their introduction, Ewald and Noreña connect the dots between the diverse topics and approaches of the volume and contextualize it in current scholarship. Their nuanced, rapid discussion may leave non-specialists a bit confused, but there are rewards here for anyone interested in the Principate’s public guise. In particular, their argument that the term “propaganda” “should ideally be given up altogether” (33) is cogent and ought to be read by anyone considering using it in the context of the emperors’ public representation.

Although the introduction deals individually with the themes of the subtitle (space, representation, and ritual), the volume is not similarly subdivided, and each essay combines the themes. The first is the only one not written for the volume; instead, Zanker’s Der Kaiser baut fürs Volk (1997) is offered in English as “By the Emperor, For the People” with updated bibliography. His examination of leisure, liberalitas, and urban space remains pertinent after 15 years, and his discussion of amusement parks complements recent scholarship, for instance, Spencer 2005 [[1]] on Nero’s “Disneyfication” of Rome, but with a more positive, less condemning conclusion.

Similarly, although written for this volume, Flaig’s essay on Nero presents in English arguments he has previously published in French and German. Although his treatment of the plebs tends to create a political monolith of a group that must have been fragmented and inconsistent, his reading of Tacitus offers a convincing case for his model of the Principate as an “acceptance” system with no real legitimacy. Arce’s examination of imperial funerals in effigie also revisits a topic from his previous work in Spanish, but its presentation here in English allows him to respond to recent work on the imperial cult, notably Gradel.[[2]] Fittschen’s essay on portraits focuses on the issue of Kopienkritik and offers Anglophone readers a snapshot of his four decades of publication in German on the subject. I found his chapter an engaging introduction to the subject.

The other essays feature original work on smaller areas of research. Eck focuses on the ways in which the elite adapted to new rules of public display under the Caesars, and his discussion of small equestrian statues and trapezophora was particularly fascinating. Mayer emphasizes that social roles limited the choices Romans had in praising the emperor and offers an alternative to viewing the uniformity of praise as centrally determined propaganda. Both chapters valuably give other Roman actors more of a voice in the representation of the emperor.

The next essays shift the focus from the people back to the buildings. Packer links Pompey’s theater with the Temple of Concord, as restored by Tiberius, showing how Pompey offered the Julio-Claudians a model for imperial behavior; this chapter is notable for beautiful illustrations, particularly the digital models of the theater. Boatwright’s title puns on “homeland security” to argue that Antonine monuments reflect a mood of anxiety, but her focus is mainly on the period’s temples, columns, and funerary monuments. Marlowe argues that Constantine usurped not only Maxentius’ throne, but also his building program, which had emphasized the conservation of Rome after a period of neglect. These chapters masterfully illustrate how exemplum-minded emperors exploited the palimpsest of the Roman cityscape.

The concluding chapters, including Fittschen, Flaig, and Arce, focus on the emperor himself. Koortbojian examines statues depicting Caesar and Augustus as imperatores, as opposed to traditional triumphator statues, and argues for anti-triumphal imagery in these innovative public portraits. D’Ambra, like Arce, focuses on imperial funerals, particularly the pyre and the sensory stimulation provided by the cremation, including the running colors of encaustic paintings, the burning of incense and other fragrant offerings as a buffer from the smell of the burning corpse, and the loud snaps and hisses as the massive wooden pyre collapsed. She marshals evidence from both literature and material sources to provides vivid testimony to how memorable these ephemeral monuments would have been to witnesses.

In sum, The Emperor and Rome brings together an impressive roster of experts from different fields, resulting in a well-rounded exploration of the complex relationships between Rome and its residents. The book contains many high-quality illustrations and is generally free from errors. I enjoyed reading it very much and find it a fitting monument to the equally enjoyable, albeit ephemeral gathering of seven years ago.

Table of Contents

Björn C. Ewald and Carlos F. Noreña, “Introduction.”
1. Paul Zanker, “By the emperor, for the people: ‘popular’ architecture in Rome.”
2. Werner Eck, “The emperor and senatorial aristocracy in competition for public space.”
3. Emanuel Mayer, “Propaganda, staged applause, or local politics? Public monuments from Augustus to Septimius Severus.”
4. James E. Packer, “Pompey’s Theater and Tiberius’ Temple of Concord: a Late Republican primer for an early Imperial patron.”
5. Mary T. Boatwright, “Antonine Rome: security in the homeland.”
6. Elizabeth Marlowe, “Liberator urbis suae: Constantine and the ghost of Maxentius.”
7. Klaus Fittschen, “The portraits of Roman emperors and their families: controversial positions and unresolved problems.”
8. Michael Koortbojian, “Crossing the pomerium: the armed ruler at Rome .”

9. Egon Flaig, “How the Emperor Nero lost acceptance in Rome.”
10. Eve D’Ambra, “The imperial funerary pyre as a work of ephemeral architecture.”
11. Javier Arce, “Roman imperial funerals in effigie.”


[[1]] D. Spencer, “Lucan’s Follies: Memory and Ruin in a Civil-War Landscape,” G&R 52 (2005) 46-69.

[[2]] I. Gradel, Emperor Worship and Roman Religion (Oxford, 2002).

Headless Statuary from Aphrodisias!

All of a sudden my email box is full to bursting with good stuff … this one’s from Hurriyet:

The ongoing excavation works at one of Turkey’s most important archaeological sites, the Karacasu Aphrodisias Ancient City, have revealed two headless statues.

According to information provided by the Culture and Tourism Ministry, one of the statues is in 1.76 meters in height and the other is 1.68 meters. One of the statues holds a roll in its left hand and its right hand is on its chest. There is a pack of documents behind its left foot, but the fingers and head are broken.
The second statue is also headless. Its right hand is broken from the humerus down, and the left hand is broken from the elbow. There is also a pack of documents next to its right hand.

U.S. professor R. Roland Smith is heading the excavations at the site. The city of Aphrodisias, is one of the country’s most visited places. It is included in UNESCO’s world heritage permanent list.

There are some rather small photos accompanying the original article … for some background to the project: Aphrodisias.

Amphora 10.1 (Summer 2012) Available!

The APA’s Amphora has resumed publication and it’s chock full of outreachy goodness — this is a great issue … here’s the TOC:

Tales from the Triclinium:How to Be a Hit at a Roman Dinner Party
The Glory that was greece
Capital Campaign News
Summer Beach Reading for Classicists
Book Review: “Diogenes”
Goethe and Tacitus
Where in Athens Did Paul See the Altar of the Unknown God?
Ajax in America
A Tale of Two Neropoleis: Social Networking in Ancient Rome
Love Is a Rhythmical Art: Ovid in Limericks
Book Review: “The Horse,The Wheel, and Language”

Personally, at this point in the development of the internet, I’d be setting up something with iTunes newsstand or something (if possible) so people can subscribe to this thing for free and read them on their iPads or Kindles or whatever …

CJ Online Review: Duckwitz, Reading the Gospel of St. Mark

posted with permission:

Norbert H. O. Duckwitz, Reading the Gospel of St. Mark in Greek: A Beginning. Mundelein, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci, 2011. Pp. xxi + 333. Paper, $19.00 ISBN 978-0-86516-776-6.

Reviewed by Wilfrid E. Major, Louisiana State University

This latest reader for intermediate students of Greek will serve a niche in the 21st century, although it is fundamentally a throwback to much older textbooks.

Anyone who has seen the author’s previous reader on the Gospel of St. John [[1]] will find this offering familiar. The book comprises four components: an introduction (xiii–xxi) which surveys the Greek alphabet, pronunciation, and the structure of Greek nouns and verbs; the text of the Gospel of Mark (1–257), with vocabulary and plentiful notes below the text on each page; a reference grammar (258–308); and full vocabulary section (309–33). This arrangement repeats that of the John reader, and, indeed, the introduction and grammatical appendix are identical to those in the earlier one.

A brief preface explains the genesis and intended learning strategy of the book. Duckwitz developed both the John and Mark readers at Brigham Young University to enable students to read a substantial amount of the New Testament in Greek at the beginning and intermediate levels. Such a goal can at first seem as if he is providing a “reading approach” in contrast to a “grammar approach,” but such a categorization misrepresents his method, for Duckwitz intends students to build their comprehension of the text using quite traditional building blocks. Every few lines of text (no page reaches even ten lines of text) are followed by vocabulary entries, detailed information about the morphology and syntax, and some exegesis.

Insofar as Duckwitz’s goal is to have all the information students need at hand in a single volume, so that they do not have to consult a lexicon or grammar separately, his presentation is successful, valuable, and sure to be treasured by novice readers, who tend to approach large swaths of Greek text with trepidation. Although unstated, Duckwitz seems to have constructed his reader in opposition to textbooks like William Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek, the textbook used most widely for introducing students to Biblical Greek.[[2]] No one would deny the virtues of Mounce’s materials: precision of detail and clarity of presentation. The knock on Mounce comes with syntax and comprehension, or rather the near absence of them. Despite the presence of short passages and brief examples of exegesis, Mounce’s book is dominated by phonology and morphology. Students can thus legitimately feel that they come to master an extraordinary amount of detail and still walk away with only a tender feeling for a simple Greek sentence or clause. Duckwitz’s readers are a welcome counterbalance.

Teachers and students should nevertheless be aware of blemishes and missed opportunities in the current volume. In the setting of the Greek text, stray spaces all too often split words, which can easily confuse novice readers who might think the two parts are separate words (e.g., on p. 28, Mk 1:34, ᾔδεισαν is split across lines as ᾔ and δεισαν, with no hyphen). The wealth of information provided in the notes on each page will be a substantial part of the book’s appeal, but sometimes Duckwitz and his editors seem to lose track of what they are saying (e.g., on p. 32, twice in a long paragraph comes the note that the verb governs the genitive), and there are errors (e.g., on p. 18, ὀλίγον is an accusative of duration, so the detailed explanation of it as a cognate accusative will confuse inexperienced readers).

Furthermore, while Duckwitz understandably wants to retain the features of his previous reader, he misses opportunities to capitalize on advances in Greek pedagogy over the last decade. Vocabulary is one such area. Duckwitz is to be commended for providing a vocabulary section for each page, but his strategy could be improved. At first, the vocabulary is complete for every word, and then lemmas drop out after about ten appearances. For those reading the entire Gospel continuously, this arrangement has benefits, but it can be counterproductive for those who read only selections. Moreover, there is no list of high-frequency words (a list of all the words occurring ten times or more would make sense, given Duckwitz’s approach). The bar for the pedagogical deployment of vocabulary has been raised since Duckwitz completed his John reader. For example, Mounce’s beginning Greek book purposefully builds a student’s high-frequency vocabulary comprising roughly 80% of the New Testament, and chapters even give a student’s statistical progress toward this goal. Two complete intermediate readers of the entire New Testament now provide vocabulary with the text for all lemmas which occur fewer than thirty times in the corpus, along with occasional parsing information.[[3]]

Likewise, the phonological, morphological (parsing) and syntactical information eases from very full to less detailed, but Duckwitz never explains the arc to this pattern. For teachers, then, it is not clear how to guide and prioritize grammatical topics. Finally, the piling of information makes finding any given datum a challenge. The vocabulary entries are given in their own section, so why not analogous sections for the phonology, morphology, syntax and exegesis? In an age of digital layout, this is a reasonable expectation, but these pages have the look of a dense 19th-century schoolbook.

Overall, however, there are many positives that recommend this book. It does make an entire Gospel compact, accessible and affordable. For the price and the comprehensive annotation, there is nothing better for a course devoted to, at least in part, introducing readers to extended reading in the New Testament. It is thus a very welcome addition to the growing set of excellent intermediate readers for Greek.


[[1]] Norbert H. O. Duckwitz, Reading the Gospel of St. John in Greek: A Beginning (New York: Caratzas, 2002), ISBN 978-089241-584-3.

[[2]] William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), ISBN 978-0310-287681.

[[3]] Richard J. Goodrich and Albert L. Lukaszewski, A Reader’s Greek New Testament, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), ISBN 978-0310-273783; and Barclay M. Newman, The UBS Greek New Testament: A Reader’s Edition (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007), ISBN 978-1598562859.

Marathon Comic!

The incipit of a review over at Comic Book Resources:

Marathon is exactly what it sounds like: an account of the battle of Marathon in 490 B.C., brought to us by filmmaker Boaz Yakin (I don’t know why he wrote a comic; his most recent movie was the Jason Statham vehicle Safe, and he doesn’t appear to have an ancient Greek movie in the pipeline) and artist Joe Infurnari. The comic is published by First Second and costs $16.99.

There’s not much to say about the way Yakin writes Marathon. It’s a very straight-forward account of the battle and of Eucles, the legendary Athenian runner who supposedly ran all over Greece before and after the battle (he’s an invention of ancient historians – Herodotus, for instandce – but a pretty cool one). Early on, we get flashbacks to Eucles as a boy, winning a race and impressing the Athenian tyrant, Hippias, who kills his own son for finishing second to a lowly slave (Hippias is not a nice guy). Eucles becomes his personal messenger, but with one condition: If he fails, his parents will be killed. So of course he does fail – once – because the other boys, including Hippias’ son Philon and Philon’s best friend, Antigonos, are jealous of his rise and beat him up. Later, Hippias is defeated by the Spartans and driven into exile – Eucles begs the Spartan king to have him killed – but years later, he returns as part of the Persian army under their king, Darius. He has been promised Athens as a client kingdom if he helps retake it. And so the stage is set! […]

The rest: