Sphinx Recovered

Almost missed this one as something for rogueclassicism (as opposed to the ANE section of Explorator) … from the Gazzetta del Sud:

Italian police on Thursday recovered an antique Egyptian sphinx sculpture that was about to be exported out of Italy. The sphinx, recovered near an Etruscan necropolis, measures 120 x 60 cm and is made of African granite. Police found the object already wrapped and packed in a box and hidden in a greenhouse. According to investigators, the sphinx was probably part of the decorations of an Etruscan nobleman’s tomb or country villa. Chance played a part in the find. Police uncovered the sphinx after a stopping a truck for a check and found it was carrying antique ceramics from an archaeological site along with a series of pictures which depicted the sphinx. After searching the driver’s house, other elements related to the sphinx were found, all taken illegally from archaeological sites. Aside from its possible economic value, the presence of the sphinx is, according to experts, an indicator of the thriving trade that took place among Mediterranean countries. Italy began importing objects from Egypt around the 1st century BC, when Rome conquered the North African country. Trade grew during the imperial years, in particular between the end of the 1st century and the beginning of the 2nd century AD.

… kind of nice that the attendant speculation on this one seems reasonable for a change.

CJ Online Review: Burton, Friendship and Empire

posted with permission:

Friendship and Empire: Roman Diplomacy and Imperialism in the Middle Republic (353–146 BC). By Paul J. Burton. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. xi + 393. Hardcover, £65.00/$110.00. ISBN 978-0-521-19000-8.

Reviewed by Nathan Rosenstein, The Ohio State University

William Harris’ War and Imperialism in Republican Rome (1979) followed shortly by Erich Gruen’s The Hellenistic World and the Coming of Rome (1984) began a long-running debate about the nature and dynamics of the Republic’s conquest of an overseas empire in the third and second centuries. Were the Romans unusually prone to violence and incited to war by greed and the demands of a competitive political culture? Or were they largely disinclined to become too involved in eastern affairs and only dragged reluctantly into conflicts by the actions of smaller powers and at times their own miscalculations? Or were they captive to the structural imperatives of their Italian hegemony, which necessitated continuous war to maintain its existence, as John North argued in an important response to Harris (JRS 1981)? Arthur Eckstein’s Mediterranean Anarchy, Interstate War and the Rise of Rome (2006) fundamentally reshaped that debate by shifting the focus of analysis to the international system within which Rome and other states found themselves. They operated within a “tragic” anarchy in which fear, lack of information about other states’ intentions, and the utter annihilation that could follow military defeat compelled them to follow a course of ruthless self-interest and self-help, especially preemptive war. To Eckstein’s approach, based on Realist or neo-Realist theories of modern international relations (IR), Paul Burton has now offered a response based on a different strand of IR theory, Constructivism. Constructivists argue that the words and ideas that states use in their dealings with one another are not mere masks for a cynical machtpolitik as the (neo-)Realists would claim but in fact shape and constrain the actions of both parties. That is, words and ideas matter; they “construct” the real substance of international relations. Or as Burton puts it, Constructivism views “the international system as a social construction shaped by discursive practices” (19).

Burton’s approach might be called “Constructivism-lite.” He accepts that the Mediterranean was an anarchic international system but insists that a Constructivist approach to mid-Republican foreign relations provides an added layer of analysis that makes greater sense out of events than a purely (neo-)Realist reading. So while states’ fears and self-seeking shaped events, so did the language they used in their dealings with one another and the ideas it embodied. Key for Rome was amicitia and especially the fides that it embodied. For Burton, when the Romans established friendly relations with another state, the amicitia that their words called into being required both parties to abide by their understanding of what friendship and fides required and to treat one another accordingly. He argues further that amicitia must be analyzed in terms of the same practices and processes (hence a “processual” approach) as amicitia between individuals, which falls into three distinct phases: establishment; maintenance; and (sometimes) breakdown and dissolution. Central to all three phases is the moral component of the relationship. As with interpersonal friendships, amicitia between states was ideally based on a similarity in character and virtues, but in practice friendly powers did favors for one another, both material and symbolic, which played a vital role in its preservation over time. Termination however came swiftly and decisively. Finally, Burton points out that just as genuine amicitia could exist between friends who were unequal in power, wealth, and/or status, the same was true of states. Therefore the conventions and processes of interpersonal amicitia rather than clientage (as in Badian’s Foreign Clientelae) can properly be applied to an analysis of amicitia between Rome and its weaker friends.

In keeping with this processual approach to amicitia, the three core chapters that follow focus on the establishment, maintenance, and termination of Rome’s friendships with other states. They are rich in detail and dense with analysis, offering a wealth of insights into the Republic’s dealings with other states during the third but especially the first half of the second century. Overall, Burton offers powerful evidence that the Romans and their international partners described and enacted their relationships in the language and ideals of amicitiae. What gives a reviewer pause though is the fact that Burton finds much of that evidence in the texts of Livy and Polybius, in speeches they reproduce in oratio recta or indirect discourse where Romans or foreign statesmen deploy the language and morality of friendship. Burton argues that because such evidence matches closely interpersonal amicitia as described by Cicero in the De Amicitia as well as modern sociological studies of friendship, it must reflect how Romans a century or two earlier conceived of and conducted their international relations. But two thoughts occur. Livy certainly knew Cicero’s works and possibly constructed his accounts based not on what the senate or its representatives and generals actually said but what conventional notions of amicitia suggested they ought to have said. Even where Livy drew on the accounts of Polybius, the latter may reproduce not the ipsissima verba of the actors themselves or even their general sense but the same commonplaces of Hellenistic philosophy about friendship that Cicero drew on. Ultimately, the argument seems faintly circular in that the language by which the middle Republican Romans and their partners supposedly constructed and carried out their amicitia is not theirs but that attributed to them by Polybius and Livy which nevertheless must reflect what they said and did because that was what amicitia as Cicero defined it would have required them to do and say. But this leads to a second concern, which is the extent to which IR theory analyzes states as if they are people. This ignores the fact that the Roman “state” was a senate of 300 members and—sometimes—an assembly of several thousand citizens. Should we imagine that 300 senators all felt the same way or that each senator’s or citizen’s attitude as he considered his position on any question of foreign policy before him was uncomplicated? Acting as he imagined fides dictated while simultaneously and equally motived by fear or Rome’s self-interest or a variety of other factors does not seem at all implausible. Multiply him by 300, and could any single motivation be consistently paramount among them? Nevertheless Burton has written an important and provocative book, a worthy and optimistic challenge to the “tragic” (neo-)Realist vision.

Roman ‘Chianti’ Research

From an FSU press release:

Call it a toast to the past.

A Florida State University classics professor whose decades of archaeological work on a remote hilltop in Italy have dramatically increased understanding of the ancient Etruscan culture is celebrating yet another find.

This time around it’s not the usual shards of pottery and vessels, remnants of building foundations or other ancient artifacts unearthed in past years, but rather a treasure that’s far more earthy: grape seeds.

Actually, Nancy Thomson de Grummond has discovered some 150 waterlogged grape seeds that have some experts in vineyard-grape DNA sequencing very excited.

The tiny grape seeds, unearthed during a dig this past summer in Cetamura del Chianti, were discovered in a well and are probably from about the 1st century A.D., roughly about the time the Romans inhabited what is now Italy’s Chianti region. The seeds could provide “a real breakthrough” in the understanding of the history of Chianti vineyards in the area, de Grummond said.

“We don’t know a lot about what grapes were grown at that time in the Chianti region,” she said. “Studying the grape seeds is important to understanding the evolution of the landscape in Chianti. There’s been lots of research in other vineyards but nothing in Chianti.”

Nearly every summer since 1983, de Grummond, the M. Lynette Thompson Professor of Classics, has shepherded teams of enthusiastic Florida State students into Italy’s Tuscany region to participate in archaeological digs at Cetamura del Chianti, a site once inhabited by the Etruscans and later by ancient Romans.

Over the years, she and her students have unearthed numerous artifacts that have reshaped current knowledge of the religious practices and daily lives of a long-gone people.

De Grummond is a leading scholar on the religious practices of the Etruscans, a people whose culture profoundly influenced the ancient Romans and Greeks. Her book “Etruscan Myth, Sacred History, and Legend,” the first comprehensive account of Etruscan mythology, was published in 2006. She also co-wrote another book, “The Religion of the Etruscans,” with fellow Etruscan scholar Erika Simon; that book was published the same year.

The Etruscans, who once ruled most of the Italian peninsula, were conquered and absorbed by the Romans in the second and first centuries B.C.E. (“Before the Common Era”). Prior to that time, however, they were a highly advanced civilization that constructed roads, buildings and sewer systems and developed the first true cities in Europe. They also built large, complex religious sanctuaries.

De Grummond, who next summer will celebrate her 30th anniversary of taking Florida State students on research trips to Cetamura, said that fellow scholars at the site now include professors who were her former students at FSU. And those professors are now leading their own teams of students.

“We’re now getting the ‘grand-students,’” de Grummond said — a fond reference to the third generation of researchers she now works with in Cetamura.

Florida State’s international archaeological summer program in Italy features field trips to sites and museums that help enrich students’ knowledge of the cultures under excavation at Cetamura. It’s open to all interested students and is particularly recommended for students majoring in anthropology, art history and classics. Learn more about the program at http://international.fsu.edu/Types/College/Italy/Cetamura/Archaeology.aspx.

De Grummond said researchers in southern France who are compiling a database of vineyard seeds will study the grape seeds from this year’s dig.

“It’s kind of hard for me as an art historian who studies religion to think that these grape seeds might be my finest hour,” de Grummond said with a laugh. “But they might be.” […]

via: Classics professor unearths archaeological clues about ancient Roman vineyards

Classical Words of the Day