Chest Plate (?) Recovered

A brief, and as always, tantalizing item from Hurriyet:

An armor plate, worn by ancient warriors on their chest, has been seized in the northwestern province of Çanakkale’s Lapseki district. The man in possession of the plate, which is thought to have historical importance, has been taken into custody.

Following a tip off, the Lapseki gendarmerie observed a carpenter named M.S., who was allegedly attempting to smuggle historical artifacts, for a week. Then he was seized with the armor plate, which is made up of three pieces. The plate was delivered to the Archaeology Museum Directorate. An examination will reveal the period of the armor plate.

The original article is accompanied by this image:

… clearly not Roman, but we’ll hopefully hear more about this because Lapseki is the ancient Lampsacus, so we have Greek settlers in the area from the 6th century B.C. or thereabouts. The pose of the warrior might seem Hellenizing, at least, but I can’t recall a Greek cuirass which isn’t ‘muscled’ …

CJ Online Review | Van Nuffelen, Orosius and the Rhetoric of History

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.

H-Net Review: Ray, Greek and Macedonian Land Battles of the 4th Century B.C.

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.”[1] 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.


[1]. 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.,

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.

H-Net Review: Knapp, Invisible Romans

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
overarching concerns.

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.