Monday, November 30, 2015


Cinzia Arruzza, Plotinus, Ennead II.5: On What Is Potentially and What Actually. The Enneads of Plotinus with philosophical commentaries. Las Vegas; Zurich; Athens: Parmenides Publishing, 2015. Pp. 201. ISBN 9781930972636. $37.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Sui Han, Beijing (

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Ennead II.5 is a crucial text for understanding Plotinus' use of the terminology of potentiality (τὸ δυνάμει), actuality (τὸ ἐνεργείᾳ), active power (δύναμις) and activity (ἐνέργεια). This treatise begins with an exposition of Aristotelian theses concerning these terms, unfolds in criticising the Peripatetic schemes, and comes to Plotinus' re- interpretation: potentiality is excluded from intelligible being on the one side and actuality from sensible matter on the other side; actuality and activity are considered identical in the intelligible world, but are to be differentiated in the sensible world: the one is the compound of matter and form, the other the immanent form. The anti-Aristotelian conclusions are two. While sensible reality, according to Aristotle, involves continuity of change based on the actualisation of proximate matter, Plotinus breaks this continuity by defining matter only as prime matter which can never be actualised. While Aristotle mentions in De Anima II.5 a certain potentiality in the soul, Plotinus argues that it is rather active power than passive potentiality.

This text is difficult due to Plotinus' dense style. Based on the inclusion of important research in recent years, such as that of Narbonne1 and Kalligas2, and on the author's own contributions, Cinzia Arruzza's new English translation is an improvement compared with the older ones. And her clear commentary not only sheds light upon the difficult text, but also offers innovative investigation of and answers to the controversial problems in this treatise.

In some cases, Arruzza's reading and translation of the text differ from that of Armstrong, but reflect the current understanding of Plotinian scholarship. In 1.4 for example, Arruzza adopts the emendation suggested by Henry- Schwyzer 33 and Narbonne4: εἴ τί ἐστιν ἐνεργείᾳ, τοῦτο καὶ ἐνέργεια ('is what is in actuality also activity?'), not following Henry-Schwyzer 1-2 and Armstrong: εἴ τί ἐστιν ἐνέργεια, τοῦτο καὶ ἐνεργείᾳ. Her references to 1.5-6 and 3.34-5 support this reading (pp. 63-4).

1.17-20: Δεῖ τοίνυν τὸ δυνάμει τι ὂν ἄλλο ἤδη . . . δυνάμει λέγεσθαι. In contrast to Armstrong ('already potentially something else') and Harder ('welches potentiell etwas anderes ist') who construed τι ὂν ἄλλο ἤδη with δυνάμει, the new generation of translators regard τι ὂν ἄλλο ἤδη as a circumstantial participle to τὸ δυνάμει: 'a potential being must be called potential, while already being something else in actuality' (Arruzza), 'tout en étant déjà en acte quelque autre chose' (Narbonne). 'In actuality' and 'en acte' here are the interpretation of the translators. Plotinus here exposes Aristotle's definition of potential being. To say that potential being is from another point of view 'already in actuality' is sound according to Aristotle. But to say that potential being is already potentially something else is not so usual: already (ἤδη) adds nothing in this translation. The fact that Harder has not rendered ἤδη suggests this. Arruzza's argument based on this word ἤδη is convincing (p. 71). As evidence in support of her understanding, one can refer to 1.15 ἤδη παρῆν as well. 'Already' here is connected with 'presence', that is to say 'actuality', not with 'potentiality'.

In 3.13, Arruzza follows the manuscript family y and Narbonne in reading ἐροῦμεν instead of ἐροῦσιν in Henry- Schwyzer and Armstrong. Contextualized, this reading is better. Since intelligible matter is acknowledged by Plotinus himself (II.4), the question raised here should be: what will we say, what will we refute, if someone were to infer potentiality in the intelligible world from our acceptance of intelligible matter? And the following lines 3.14-5 are Plotinus' own answer.

In 3.15, Ἢ οὔ· εἶδος γὰρ ἦν αὐτῆς, Arruzza rightly translates ἦν 'we did say', against Armstrong who treated the imperfect as unreality 'would be'. It is not counter-factual that the intelligible form is the form of intelligible matter, but a fact that Plotinus has recognized as true. The imperfect here is a philosophical imperfect. This use of imperfect is not rare in Plotinus (cf. III.2.2.9).

Arruzza's commentary is also praiseworthy. First, she enriches the citation of ancient sources beyond the range given in the previous commentaries. For example, in adopting Corrigan's 1996 research,5 she refers Plotinus' description of matter as πάντα δυνάμει (4.4) to Alexander of Aphrodisias, On Aristotle's Metaphysics 292.25 (pp. 136-7, 158). This is important information that clarifies the background of Plotinus' writings.

Secondly, she introduces several thorny issues that are discussed in the academic debates and gives her own comments on and solutions to these. For example, it was noticed by scholars that the description of matter in II.5, III.6 and I.8, and that in IV.8, were inconsistent. In II.5, III.6 and I.8, matter is said to be 'separated', 'non-mixed' with form; but in IV.8.6.18-23, Plotinus speaks of the continuity of causality, in which matter should not be isolated from the soul. This passage is very controversial and has prompted a variety of interpretations.6 After reporting the solutions of other scholars, Arruzza explains this inconsistency by the various contexts: in IV.8, from the viewpoint of the soul, forms bestows something on matter, but in II.5, III.6, I.8, from the viewpoint of the matter, participation in form is impossible because of its own incapacity (pp. 159-62). This interpretation is subtle.

Thirdly, some investigation in the commentary is innovative and merits more attention and discussion. In interpreting 1.17-21, Arruzza offers a different understanding than that of Narbonne in his commentary. According to Narbonne, Plotinus here exposes the Aristotelian distinction between qualitative change (1.18, μένον μετὰ τοῦ ἐκεῖνο ποιεῖν) and substantial change (1.19, παρέχον αὐτὸ ἐκείνω ὃ δύναται φθαρὲν αὐτό), and illustrates qualitative change with the example of the bronze becoming a statue (1.20), and substantial change with the example of water becoming bronze and air becoming fire.7 Arruzza considers the transformation of bronze into a statue a particular kind of substantial change or generation. She bases this interpretation on Physics 7.246a 1-4, where change of shape (e.g. transformation of bronze into a statue) is to be distinguished from qualitative change or alteration. Hence, the distinction made in 1.17-21 is, according to Arruzza, between two different kinds of substantial change in the Aristotelian tradition and not between qualitative change and substantial change (pp. 72-8).

Since the three passages, 1.17-21, 2.12-5 and 3.4-8, are correlative, the divergence of interpretation with 1.17-21 leads to different understanding concerning 2.12-5 and 3.4-8 as well. Since Arruzza holds that the change of bronze into statue is a substantial change, she concludes that Plotinus in 2.12-5 only means that there is no actualisation of what is potential in substantial change. One can not infer, according to Arruzza, that Plotinus denies the actualisation of what is potential in every kind of change (pp. 91-5). On the contrary, Narbonne holds that every kind of change in the sensible world can be understood along the lines of the change of bronze becoming statue, and Plotinus' critique concerns every kind of change without exception.8 This divergence in interpretation already touches what is significant to the understanding of Ennead II.5. Arruzza has incisively grasped Plotinus' main intentions in this treatise and has noticed the correlation between this treatise II.5 [25] and the following two treatises: III.6 [26] and IV.3 [27]. Plotinus' critique in II.5 is, according to Arruzza, directed to Aristotelian hylomorphism (pp. 41, 141); and this point will be developed in III.6, where matter is compared to a mirror without affection, and the sensible object to the reflection in the mirror that lacks its reality. Meanwhile, she has also noticed some subtle problems that are not as evident as the main topics.

First, she mentions the tension between Plotinus' two attitudes: he speaks of potential being in the case of sensible realities (1.6-7), but according to II.5 prime matter is not itself ever actualised as it takes on a succession of different forms (pp. 64-5). Furthermore, concerning the evaluation of sensible beings, one can ask, if Plotinus' rejection of Aristotelian hylomorphism is really consistent with his own interpretation of sensible compound as actuality and immanent form as activity in II.5.2. If the rejection of hylomorphism is thorough, there is no room to interpret the sensible compound as actuality.

Secondly, Arruzza has called attention to the fact that Plotinus has not addressed in II.5 all aspects of the terminology of potentiality, actuality, and so on (pp. 41-2). While Plotinus in II.5 rejects the use of the term 'potentiality' (τὸ δυνάμει) in the case of intelligible being, he uses it in IV.8.3.14-6. The theme of intelligible potentiality has not escaped the notice of the scholars.9

These two difficulties, the inconsistency inside II.5 and between II.5 and other treatises concerning the evaluation of sensible being and the intelligible potentiality, are not discussed in detail in the commentary, but belong among the most challenging issues in the interpretation of the Enneads.


1.   Jean-Marc Narbonne, Traité 25 (II, 5) (Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 1998).
2.   Paul Kalligas, The Enneads of Plotinus. A Commentary, Volume I. Translated by E. K. Fowden and N. Pilavachi (Princeton and Oxford, Princeton University Press, 2014).
3.   Addenda and Corrigenda in Paul Henry and Hans-Rudolf Schwyzer, Plotini Opera (Paris; Bruxelles, 1951-1973).
4.   Jean-Marc Narbonne, Traité 25 (II, 5) (Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 1998), 39.
5.   Kevin Corrigan, Plotinus' Theory of Matter-Evil and the Question of Substance in Plato, Aristotle, and Alexander of Aphrodisias (Leuven, Peeters, 1996).
6.   See the five interpretations listed in Plotin. Traités 1-6, traductions sous la direction de Luc Brisson et Jean-François Pradeau (Paris, GF Flammarion, 2002), 266.
7.   Jean-Marc Narbonne, Traité 25 (II, 5), (Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 1998), 26, 79.
8.   Jean-Marc Narbonne, Traité 25 (II, 5), (Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 1998), 79, 87.
9.   Richard Dufour, 'Actuality and Potentiality in Plotinus' View of the Intelligible Universe', Journal of Neoplatonic Studies 9 (2004), 193-218.

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Vasily Rudich, Religious Dissent in the Roman Empire: Violence in Judaea at the Time of Nero. Routledge Monographs in Classical Studies. London; New York: Routledge, 2015. Pp. xxiv, 350. ISBN 9780415161060. $160.00.

Reviewed by William den Hollander, Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (

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The monograph under review is in more than one way a bold one. While his expertise as a Roman historian certainly provided Rudich with a valuable foundation for the present study, and his earlier examinations of dissident psychology led naturally to this analysis of violent religious dissent,1 his focus on Roman Judea necessitated a brave plunge into unfamiliar territory, a virtual quagmire of scholarly literature that he admits to having underestimated initially (xi-xii). The high degree to which he immersed himself in the ancient texts and modern scholarship is, however, a credit to his industry and a direct benefit to the depth of his contributions—although it should be noted that he closed his 'dossier' by the end of 2011, so that the book does not necessarily reflect the latest trends in scholarship.

Despite his position as a relative newcomer, Rudich is also unflinching in engaging in the dizzying number of debates within the field. While some of this takes place in the body of the book, much of it happens behind the scenes in the footnotes, which are extensive to a fault. Rudich wades in on virtually every scholarly disagreement, including those that are marginal to his overall argument (e.g., the Essene-Qumran hypothesis). The result is that the scholarly apparatus, which appears only online (a questionable trend), is massive and unwieldy. That being said, the notes are thankfully not essential to the overall flow of the argument. This was by design, since the volume is aimed not only at experts in the field, but also 'lay educated and interested readers'.

Rudich is also refreshingly forthcoming with regard to his methodological approach and even the degree to which his Weltanschauung affects his craft as historian. He is openly critical of present trends within the guild, demonstrating clearly the extent to which postmodernism, especially through language studies, has (negatively, in his view) affected historical methodology. He is self-conscious throughout regarding his own attempts to sidestep the logical and methodological traps that exist (41). He places great emphasis on the existence of contemporaries who would be able to corroborate or falsify details, suggesting that they operated as a control over the extent to which historians could fictionalize their narratives. This approach has its merits but, apart from a clear understanding of the actual audience, can become rather arbitrary. In addition, he brings to the table a greater openness to the dynamics of religious experience, which tend to be rationalized in modern secular scholarship. This is essential to his overall aim to explore violent dissent in Judea, since much of it is incomprehensible without appreciation for the very real religious sentiments of those involved.

After his opening preface and introduction, which set the parameters of his analysis and provide the most focused discussion of methodology, Rudich includes a chapter ("The Vibrant Faith") that sets the broader scene for his more concentrated interest, the role of the violent form of religious dissent in Second Temple Judea. In this chapter he takes aim at the current trend to speak of 'Judaisms', which he dismisses as unduly influenced by "relativist cultural anthropology and postmodernist argumentative procedures" (11). He argues, in contrast, for the existence of an essential unity to Judaism that can be described as the religious establishment, while acknowledging the existence of variety within that group (e.g. Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes).

The second significant part of this opening chapter is devoted to tackling the source problems for Second Temple Judaism. Here Rudich is most critical of recent trends in scholarship. He observes, "The amount of modern scholarship on Josephus is virtually beyond grasp and is fraught with irreconcilable contradictions" (41). He is especially critical of 'composition- criticism', suggesting that it "privileges the literary aspects of the narrative at the expense of their historical value" (47). While Rudich is certainly correct in pushing back against radical historical skepticism, he does not do justice to the insights that have been achieved, regarding, for example, Josephus' literary aims, which are equally historical concerns. In any case, it is when Rudich turns his attention to his own area of expertise, psychological history, that his most valuable contributions are made.

The following chapter ("The Breaking Point") marks the real beginning of Rudich's analysis. The focal point is the cessation of sacrifices on behalf of the emperor, which served as the casus belli for the Romans. Rudich takes seriously the religious motivations of those involved, especially their conviction that their justifiable actions would engender divine support. Also covered are the disputes between the Jews and gentiles in cities such as Caesarea, and the disastrous relations between the Jews and the procurator Gessius Florus, whose disastrous actions Rudich identifies as qualitatively different from those of his predecessors. While this chapter does less to advance Rudich's main concern, violent religious dissent, than to present a thorough psychological investigation of Florus' behaviour, it does advance the overall profile of the revolt.

The subsequent chapter ("The Conquered Land") is somewhat oddly placed in that it provides an historical outline of Rome's involvement in the affairs of Palaestina up until the revolt. A more natural placement would have been before the foregoing analysis of the opening scenes of the revolt. Of particular importance is Rudich's discussion of Pompey's desecration of the Temple by his entry into the Holy of Holies. He observes that our modern sensibilities, our loss of a sense of the 'sacred', may cause us to miss the significance of this act for the Jews in terms of inspiration and propaganda. In terms of religious dissent, however, these earlier periods were not particularly noteworthy. Quirinius' controversial census of AD 6 forms the first significant manifestation of the religious dissent movement, since it gave rise to the so-called 'fourth philosophy' begun by Judas the Galilean. But Rudich devotes an entire later chapter to this episode. For the rest, then, he focuses on further moments of breakdown in the relationship between Jews and Romans (e.g. Pontius Pilate, Caligula), although he cautions against the impression that Roman Judea was in perpetual turmoil. He suggests that throughout this period there were those who practiced religious dissent, but their influence waxed and waned.

In the following chapter ("The Fragile Balance"), Rudich turns his attention to the opening stages of the revolt, particularly the emergence of a leadership core in Jerusalem, 'the first regime', and the conduct of the war in Galilee. Throughout the chapter Rudich is forced to wrestle with the difficulties inherent in using Josephus' inconsistent, contradictory, and even deceptive narratives. Rudich effectively maintains in view his concern with the psychological profile of those involved in the revolt. Regarding the members of the Jewish establishment and initial leaders of the revolution, he emphasizes that they were motivated more by pragmatic considerations than religious feelings. This made them political dissidents practicing dissimulatio more than religious dissenters motivated by wishful thinking. One of the more intriguing and novel parts of this chapter is the discussion of Josephus' famous dreams and subsequent prediction that Vespasian would become emperor. Rudich takes Josephus' claim seriously and judges it "an authentic psychological experience" (195), explainable by common psychological phenomena manifesting themselves in times of extreme tension.

Rudich is at his best when he turns to describing the zealot movement ("The Zealous Storm"). As he observes, this disparate collection of groups and individuals, subsumed under the term 'zealots' but displaying varying levels of solidarity, comes closer to the category of religious dissenters. His sensitivity to psychological motivations makes this chapter a worthwhile contribution to understanding the rationale behind the revolutionaries' actions. Ultimately, they privileged their 'zealous' interpretation of God's will above all else, including even desecration of the Temple. For Rudich there are, therefore, lessons to be learned and he calls modern Western liberal scholars to task for romanticizing such efforts and thereby failing to acknowledge the terror and mayhem that 'zealots' advance in pursuit of their 'higher' goals.

In his penultimate chapter, "The Dagger Men", Rudich focuses on the clearest example of religious dissenters, namely the revolutionary group called the sicarii, so-named for the dagger (sica) they used to carry out high profile killings in broad daylight. Rudich links this 'sect' to the 'fourth philosophy' and so this chapter includes the analysis of that earlier group of violent dissenters. These objected in particular to having any master apart from God, but felt no compunction against sacrificing their compatriots or themselves, all in the name of God. The sicarii, for their part, eventually rejected the religious establishment entirely, retreating to the desert fortress of Masada rather than continuing the revolt alongside their fellow countrymen. The final tragic mass self-destruction, Rudich suggests, is only explainable by the psychology of religious dissent.

The final chapter ("The Fateful Siege") takes Rudich beyond the chronological scope of his project, but for the sake of completeness he considers the impact of the psychology of religious dissent on the last stage of the revolt. The most creative contribution concerns Simon b. Giora's spectacular surrender to the Romans, which Rudich suggests is explained best by a certain belief on the part of the rebel leader in his special destiny—perhaps a 'Messianic complex'—and by the power of wishful thinking. Further to his main aim is the discussion of the disastrous destruction of food provisions, which he suggests may have been motivated by an urge to hasten the longed-for eschatological event. An excursus on the intriguing figure of Johanan b. Zakkai, who appears only in the rabbinic literature, reveals for Rudich a foil to the radical religious dissidents of Masada and provides also a demonstration of his common-sense hermeneutic, which he pits against postmodernist historiography. Finally, Rudich explains the unique fervour with which the last defenders undertook to preserve their temple as rooted in their deep-seated conviction that they were championing God's cause and would, therefore, inherit eternal reward.

Rudich closes his monograph with a brief conclusion that usefully summarizes the thrust of his argumentation regarding the significance of militant religious dissent. He argues for the importance of recognizing this as a factor in the historical process and, even more so, the necessity of indicting such violent dissenters. As is the case throughout his study, there is a persistent consciousness of the relevance of his suppositions for an understanding of the world in which we live, including our more recent history(-ies). He ends, therefore, with an appeal to address the present problem of militant religious dissent in Islamic groups by a return to an understanding of the meaning and importance of the 'sacred' and by a greater effort to convince extremists of the contradictory nature of their attitudes to their own spiritual framework, which had been the (unsuccessful) approach of Jews like Josephus.

This contemporaneity of Rudich's analysis marks one of the more valuable aspects of this book. In addition, his willingness to speak critically to current historical methodology and his advocacy of a less secularist approach to understanding religious mentality—and his demonstration of its value—make this worthwhile reading for a broad audience. While not everyone will agree with his suppositions, his bold criticism is thought-provoking and cannot be ignored. At the same time, he also provides a valuable contribution in the narrower field of scholarship dealing with the Jewish revolt. It is unfortunate, however, that it is necessary to wade through significant background material that is only marginally relevant to his main thesis before one gets to Rudich's novel and worthwhile observations and conclusions. Perhaps he felt the need to establish his credentials in this contested field. If that is the case, he has succeeded admirably all around.


1.   Vasily Rudich. Dissidence and Literature under Nero: The Price of Rhetoricization. London: Routledge, 1997; Political Dissidence under Nero: The Price of Dissimulation. London: Routledge, 2005.

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Fabio Gasti, Fabrizio Bordone, Eutropio: Storia di Roma. Grandi classici greci latini. Santarcangelo di Romagna: Rusconi Libri, 2014. Pp. lviii, 449. ISBN 9788818030235. €11.90 (pb).

Reviewed by Raphael Brendel, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (

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[The Table of Contents is given below.]

Hier zu besprechen ist eine zweisprachige (lateinisch-italienische) Ausgabe des Breviators Eutropius, erschienen in einer Reihe mit dem Ziel, die Klassiker der Antike einem breiten Publikum zugänglich zu machen (S. V-VI). Von philologisch-pädagogischer Seite siehe bereits Marc Steinmann in: Forum Classicum 57/3 (2014), S. 244-246 (

Die Einleitung (S. VII-L) stammt von Fabio Gasti. Dieser bietet einen gerafften Überblick über die Geschichtsschreibung der Spätantike (S. VII-XIII) und die Entwicklung der antiken Kompendienliteratur (S. XIII-XX) sowie einen detaillierteren Überblick über Leben (S. XX-XXIV) und Werk des Eutropius (S. XXIV-XXIX), die Einordnung der Schrift in den Kontext ihrer Zeit (S. XXIX-XXXVI) und die Sprache des Breviarium (S. XXXVI-XLII). Zuletzt werden Überlieferung und Benutzer behandelt (S. XLII-L). Die Bibliographie (S. LI-LVI) nennt die herangezogenen Editionen und Übersetzungen und die wichtigsten Forschungsbeiträge zu Eutropius allgemein (der von Steinmann S. 245 als fehlend vermerkte Beitrag Gastis ist S. LVI zitiert); Spezialliteratur zu einzelnen Stellen ist den Anmerkungen zu entnehmen.

Fabrizio Bordone ist verantwortlich für den Text, die Übersetzung und die kommentierenden Anmerkungen. Der Text (S. 2-176) ist größtenteils derjenige von Hellegouarc'h. Eine Liste der Abweichungen findet sich S. LVII-LVIII. Die italienische Übersetzung (S. 3-177) ist, soweit der Rezensent als Nicht-Muttersprachler das beurteilen kann, gut lesbar und trifft den Sinn des Textes.

Die Anmerkungen (S. 179-449) sind eine anerkennenswerte Leistung. Das Werk des Eutropius reicht von der Gründung Roms bis zum Tod Kaiser Jovians (364), so dass ein Kommentator mit über tausend Jahren römischer Geschichte vertraut sein muss. Inhalt der Anmerkungen sind Erklärungen der Angaben des Eutropius, die mit Parallelquellen angereichert werden. Moderne Forschungsliteratur wird nur zitiert, wenn sie sich speziell mit der kommentierten Stelle befasst, die Aussage der Anmerkung verdeutlicht, wenn sie aus den Quellen alleine nicht belegt werden kann, oder aufgrund des Überblickscharakters eine geeignete weiterführende Lektüre für die Zielgruppe ist. Die größte Schwäche liegt in einer Formalienfrage: Für eine einfachere und übersichtlichere Benutzung wäre eine durchgehende Zählung der Anmerkungen oder eine am oberen Rand jeder Seite positionierte Angabe darüber, welches Buch kommentiert wird (so bei Text und Übersetzung) sinnvoll gewesen. Irritierend ist, dass jegliche Form von Register fehlt.

Mit diesen Voraussetzungen ist der Kommentar größtenteils zufriedenstellend. Eine eingehendere Prüfung der Anmerkungen vor allem zu Buch 10 (S. 412-449) ergab einige Ergänzungen oder Korrekturen: S. 404-405, Anm. 124 zu 9,22,1: Für die fiktive Abkunft des Constantius I. von Claudius II. werden die Historia Augusta und Zonaras genannt, nicht aber der zentrale erstmalige Beleg Paneg. Lat. 6 (7),2,1-5. S. 418, Anm. 21 zu 10,4,1: Kaiser Licinius heißt hier Gaius Licinianus Licinius; der Name Gaius ist für ihn nicht belegt. S. 419, Anm. 22 zu 10,4,2: Die Heimatstadt des Galerius heißt nicht Romulanium, sondern Romuliana (Bruno Bleckmann in: Göttinger Forum für Altertumswissenschaft 2 (1999), S. 140:,gfa,002,1999,a,09.pdf). S. 419, Anm. 25 zu 10,4,3: Dass Konstantin 306 zum Augustus erhoben wurde, wie (der nicht zitierte) Laktanz behauptet, ist zumindest zweifelhaft. S. 427-428, Anm. 48 zu 10,8,2: Zu den Hintergründen des geplanten Perserfeldzug Konstantins wäre noch die Version der Lügen Metrodors als Kriegsauslöser zu nennen (Marilena Amerise, Mendacium Metrodori, in: Klio 86 [2004], S. 197-205). S. 428, Anm. 50 zu 10,8,2: Konstantin wurde wohl nicht als apostelgleich, sondern als christusgleich begraben; die letztgenannte These hätte angeführt werden sollen. S. 429, Anm. 54 zu 10,9,1: Zum relevanten und vieldiskutierten Thema der Morde von 337 wäre mehr und vor allem aktuellere Literatur wünschenswert gewesen (etwa Richard W. Burgess, The summer of blood. The 'great massacre' of 337 and the promotion of the sons of Constantine, in: Chronicles, Consuls, and Coins, Farnham 2011, Nr. X). S. 433, Anm. 68 zu 10,11,2: Aurelius Victor behauptet nicht, dass Nepotianus am 30. Tag getötet wurde, sondern er gibt 42,8 ebenfalls den 27. Tag in umständlicher Formulierung: tricesimo die triduo minus. S. 433, Anm. 68 zu 10,11,2: Eutropius berichtet nicht als einziger von Strafaktionen des Magnentius nach der Beseitigung des Nepotianus, sondern auch die Chronik des Hieronymus (238b). S. 443, Anm. 102 zu 10,16,3: Dass der Papyrus Fayum 20 ein Edikt Julians ist, ist eine längst widerlegte, aber hartnäckig fortbestehende Annahme. S. 443-444, Anm. 105 zu 10,16,3: Hier hätte erwähnt werden können, dass das nimius in der Bemerkung zu Julians Haltung gegenüber den Christen teilweise als Interpolation angesehen wird; siehe etwa Johannes Irmscher in: Byzantinoslavica 16 (1955), S. 362. S. 448, Anm. 119 zu 10,17,3: Welchen Sinn hat Cassiodor Hist. trip. 7,6,2 als Parallele, wenn die (bei Cassiodor nur übersetzte) Stelle Sokr. 3,26,2-3 ausgespart wird? S. 448-449, Anm. 120 zu 10,18,1: Hier fällt die zitierte Literatur mit einer Quellenanalyse von Ratti mager aus; siehe dazu die unten genannten Schriftenbände.

Auch die Berücksichtigung der Spezialstudien zu einzelnen Stellen ist zufriedenstellend und nur gelegentliche Fehlstellen zu ermitteln. 1,15,1: Wilfried Olbrich, Coriolan bei Eutrop, Valerius Maximus, Livius – und Beethoven, in: Friedrich Maier (Hrsg.), Anstöße zum altsprachlichen Unterricht, München 1993, S. 53-58. 4,9: Alejandro Díaz Fernández, Nota a Eutropio 4.9. Sobre la identidad de L. Memmius y su presencia in Hispania, in: Athenaeum 98 (2010), S. 259-265. 8,19,2-3: Karl Johannes Neumann, Zu Eutrop und Herodian, in: Rheinisches Museum für Philologie 35 (1880), S. 485-486. Von textkritischer Seite wären neben Lucarinis Rezension der Ausgabe Hellegouarc'hs noch die von Peter K. Marshall (Classical Review 115/N.S. 51 [2001], S. 271-272) und Carlo Santini (Latomus 62 [2003], S. 168-171) zu nennen.

An allgemeiner Literatur ist ebenfalls wenig zu ergänzen. Die Nennung der Schriftenbände von Richard Burgess (Chronicles, Consuls, and Coins, Farnham 2011) und Stéphane Ratti (Antiquus error, Turnhout 2010) statt mehrerer (nicht aller) Erstpublikationen ihrer Einzelstudien hätte das Literaturverzeichnis noch ökonomischer gestaltet. Unter den Ausgaben sind die von Heinrich Rudolf Dietsch (Leipzig 1849) und Carl Wagener (Leipzig 1884), die englische Übersetzung von Daniel Erickson (Diss. Syracuse University 1990), die gegenüber Droysen überlegene Paianios-Ausgabe von Spyridon Lambros (in: Neos Hellenomnemon 9 [1912], S. 1-115), die eigene Ausgabe des Paulus Diaconus von Hans Droysen (Berlin 1879) und die des Landolfus Sagax von Amedeo Crivellucci (Rom 1912-1913) zu ergänzen. Der Vollständigkeit halber erwähnt sei noch der schwer zugängliche Teilkommentar von Hendrina van Oosten (Prolegomena tot Eutropius se Breviarium ab urbe condita, Magisterarbeit Pretoria 1980).

Zu S. XLII-L: Dass neben sicheren Benutzern auch solche aufgezählt werden, deren Verwendung des Eutropius umstritten ist (etwa die Chronik des Hieronymus), stellt kein Problem dar. Allerdings hätten weitere potentielle und erst recht sichere Benutzer nicht übergangen werden dürfen. Zu ergänzen sind: Der Kirchenhistoriker Sokrates (hat Eutropius sicher benutzt), Augustinus (hat Eutropius sicher in De civitate dei benutzt), der Breviator Festus (hat Eutropius oder dessen Quelle benutzt), Sozomenos (vereinzelte Annahmen einer Benutzung), Malalas (hat Eutropius nicht benutzt, verweist aber zweimal namentlich auf ihn).

Druckfehler und Irrtümer sind selten. Laut S. XXI fand Julians Perserfeldzug im Jahr 361 statt, richtig ist jedoch 363. Der Todestag Jovians ist der 17. Februar (richtig S. 448, Anm. 119), nicht der 16. Februar (S. XXV). S. 81 hat sich bei der durchgehenden Stellenangabe im oberen Teil der Seite ein überschüssiges Element (§) eingeschlichen.

Der Text folgt Hellegouarc'h (dessen Text in beiden Auflagen identisch ist). Allerdings scheint die Liste der Abweichungen (S. LVII-LVIII, wo 3,14,1 statt 4,14,1 zu lesen ist) mit Nachlässigkeit angefertigt worden zu sein. Genannt werden dreizehn Textänderungen (elf in der Liste, zwei in den Vorbemerkungen), gefunden wurden 43. Auf eine bewusste Systematik kann diese Differenz nicht zurückgehen, da gleichermaßen Berichtigungen von Druckfehlern Hellegouarc'hs und bewusste Änderungen unterschiedlichen Ausmaßes in der Liste auftauchen bzw. ausgelassen wurden. Der Rezensent hat daher versucht, unter Heranziehung aller S. LI-LII (außer der mir nicht zugänglichen von Emma Falque) und den oben ergänzend genannten Editionen, die Textänderungen zu kategorisieren (G/B = diese Ausgabe, H = Hellegouarc'h).

Korrektur von Druckfehlern Hellegouarch's (siehe bereits Peter K. Marshall in: Classical Review 115/N.S. 51 [2001], S. 271-272): 1,16,3 familia G/B, famila H; 4,21 T. Quintio G/B, L. Quintio H (in der Übersetzung T. Quintius); 4,27,2 Bocchum G/B, Boccum H (sonst immer Bocchus); 7,15,1 quaereretur G/B, quaeretur H; 8,17 Salvius G/B, Saluuius H; 9,20,2 Viminacium G/B, Viminiacum H; 10,9,2 Constantinum G/B, Contantinum H. An zwei Stellen verwendet H eine richtige Namensform, die aber von den übrigen Nennungen abweicht: 2,13,4 Pyrrus G/B, Pyrrhus H (sonst immer Pyrrus); 2,15 Ptolomaeo G/B, Ptolemaeo H (sonst immer Ptolomaeus, siehe 3,1,1, so aber auch Hartel).

Details ohne oder mit geringem Einfluss auf den Inhalt, so dass beide Lesarten ähnlich oft vertreten werden: 1,9,4 remaneret G/B, maneret H; 1,17,1 ferme G/B, fere H; 2,14,1 potuerat G/B, poterat H; 3,14,1 venientium G/B, venientum H; 4,4,1 legatus datus contra G/B, legatus contra H; 6,1,2 inpar G/B, impar H; 6,10 usque ad Danubium G/B, usque Danubium H; 7,13,2 Britanniae G/B (dazu S. 313-314, Anm. 78), Britannis H; 8,13,1 Suevi G/B, Suebi H (allerdings verwundert, dass G/B Danubius, aber Suevi liest); 8,13,2 conparata G/B, comparata H; 9,20,1 percussus est G/B, gladio percussus est H, percussus est gladio Paulus Diaconus, Landolfus Sagax 10,15; 9,26 invexerit G/B, invexerat H, invexit Dietsch, Hartel, Wagener; 10,9,3 Magnentii G/B, Magnenti H.

G/B folgt gegen seine Vorlage Hellegouarc'h der Mehrheit der Herausgeber: 2,11,2 a Romanis agerentur G/B, Romanis agerentur H (Santini, Paulus Diaconus), Romanis agerent Landolfus Sagax 2,15; 3,18,3 Post haec G/B, Post hac H (Wagener); 3,22,2 victus G/B (siehe S. 221-222, Anm. 71), ictus H; 6,19,2 ut sine dubietate G/B, sine dubietate H; 8,15 hominibus dimicavit G/B, hominibus saepe dimicavit H (Droysen, Wagener), hominibus et cum feris dimicavit Landolfus Sagax 9,18; 10,6,3 favorabili G/B, favorabilis H (Paulus Diaconus, Landolfus Sagax 11,13).

G/B weicht von den Lesarten der Mehrheit ab und wählt — stets in Übereinstimmung mit Ruehl — eine selten vertretene: 1,2,2 urbi Romae G/B, urbis Romae H; 3,10,3 proelio Punico bello G/B, Punico bello H; 7,14,3 fratre, uxore, sorore, matre G/B (aus Paianios, so auch Wagener), fratre, uxore, matre H; 8,16 grandaevus iam et G/B (so auch Dietsch), grandaevus et H, grandaevus ut Hartel; 9,15,1 in dextra Danubio G/B (so auch Dietsch), dextra Danubio H; 10,6,1 bella gesta et pax G/B (so auch Müller), bella et pax H.

Abweichende Klammersetzung: 5,7,4 sex milia cepit G/B (Dietsch, Ruehl, Müller), sex [milia] cepit H (Santini), sex cepit Hartel, Droysen, Wagener, Paulus Diaconus; 7,8,4 Quadraginta et quattuor annis G/B, Quadraginta [et] quattuor annis H (Santini, Ratti S. 400), XLIV annis Dietsch.

Sonstiges: 3,10,2 wurde id est Aemilio Paulo, was von H aufgenommen, aber als Interpolation gekennzeichnet wurde, ausgelassen. Die wenigen Fälle einer Abweichung der Groß- und Kleinschreibung sind meist bedeutungslos. 1,2,2 Urbem G/B, urbem H bedeutet eine Verbesserung, da nicht eine Stadt, sondern die Stadt (Rom) gemeint ist. Der umgekehrte Fall bei 9,14 in urbe G/B, in Vrbe H (so nur noch Landolfus Sagax 10,12), wo ebenfalls die Großschreibung anzuwenden ist.

Vier Elemente des Textes finden sich in dieser Form nur bei G/B: 1) Widmung vir clarissimus G/B (siehe S. LVII), v. c. H; 2) 1,3,2 annum discripsit in decem menses G/B, annum descripsit in decem menses H; 3) 6,10 Ambo triumphaverunt G/B, Ambo tamen triumphaverunt H (Santini, Paulus Diaconus, Landolfus Sagax 6,10), Ambo triumphaverunt, tamen Droysen, Wagener, Ruehl, Müller, Ambo tum triumphaverunt Dietsch, Hartel; 4) 8,19,3 hostis publicus indicatus G/B, hostis publicus iudicatus H. Nr. 1 ist eine simple Auflösung einer Abkürzung; Nr. 2 nimmt einen Vorschlag Lucarinis auf (S. 182, Anm. 11); Nr. 3 ist wohl ein Fehler in Form eines ausgefallenen Wortes, da weder die Liste der Abweichungen (S. LVII-LVIII) noch der Kommentar (S. 271-272, Anm. 47-54) darauf eingeht; Nr. 4 geht wohl ebenfalls auf einen Druckfehler zurück (siehe die fehlende Erwähnung S. LVIII und S. 164, Anm. 122-123).

Geht man alleine vom Inhalt aus, handelt es sich bei dem Band um eine von vielen Ausgaben des Eutropius, die vor allem Spezialforschern und italienischsprachigen Personen, die sich diesem Text annähern wollen, nützlich sein wird. Der besondere Wert dieser Ausgabe liegt allerdings im ausgesprochen niedrigen Preis, der sie — im Gegensatz zu den anderen, vergleichsweise teuren Ausgaben — zum idealen Kandidaten als Handausgabe für Privatbibliotheken macht. Es ist zu hoffen, dass die Herausgeber die hier gemachten Beobachtungen aufgreifen, aus einer insgesamt zuverlässigen Ausgabe eine durchgehend zuverlässige machen und so ihren verdienstvollen Beitrag, einem noch immer unterschätzten Autor zu mehr Bekanntheit zu verhelfen, vervollkommnen.

Table of Contents

Prefazione, v-vi
Introduzione, vii-l
Raccontare la storia in età tardoantica, vii-xiii
La tradizione dei compendi, xiii-xx
Eutropio, xx-xxiv
L'opera, xxiv-xxix
L'intellettuale e lo storiografo, xxix-xxxvi
Lo scrittore, xxxvi-xlii
Fortuna e sopravvivenza, xlii-l
Bibliografia, li-lvi
Nota al testo, lvii-lviii
Text and translation, 2-177
Notes, 179-449
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Joachim Friedrich Quack, Daniela Luft (ed.), Erscheinungsformen und Handhabungen Heiliger Schriften. Materiale Textkulturen, Bd 5. Berlin; München; Boston: De Gruyter, 2014. Pp. vii, 349. ISBN 9783110371246. €89.95.

Reviewed by Geert Lernout, University of Antwerp (

Version at BMCR home site


This collection of studies is the fifth volume in De Gruyter's series on "material text cultures" and is based on papers given at a conference in Heidelberg in 2011. Most of the material texts dealt with in the volume are "sacred texts"; an introductory chapter by the second editor attempts to define this term, which is not easy given the wide diversity of cultures involved—from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia to China and contemporary Bali.

In this first contribution, Daniela Luft addresses the problem of dealing with material objects that are not only used in a specific context, but also function in a wider space in which they are accorded meaning. In order to sketch the variety of these meanings, Luft begins by offering a number of tentative definitions of the concept of the holy in general, and of holy objects and holy texts in particular. The editors aimed to avoid the bias of looking at holiness from the limited perspective of the religions of the book in order to consider whether it is possible to have holy writings in other traditions, such as ancient Egypt. Central to this problem is the difference between content and object. Not surprisingly, the essay concludes that the diverse functions of holy writings in concrete religious practice cannot easily be defined. This issue will prove important for the remaining ten contributions, which are organized in roughly chronological order.

Peter Haupt opens with the socio-biological aspects of the role of the holy in "pre- and early history" starting with the interpretation of our environment as purposeful, an interpretative strategy that seems to have provided our forebears with a distinct evolutionary advantage. Although the general stance of this article is introductory and general, Haupt applies these insights to the concrete example of rivers: in most cultures streams and rivers were considered holy, especially the place where they could be crossed. This process clearly precedes the invention of writing.

More easily recognizable holy texts appear in the next study, a treatment of the link between the form and function of cuneiform amulets from Mesopotamia. Nevertheless, Nils P. Heessel makes it quite clear that there are no texts with the same status as those that play such an important role in the Judeo-Christian tradition. These amulets are the closest to the more traditional kinds of holy writings, but the author concludes that without more information we cannot be certain if the special form of these objects was thought to have magical effects.

In the first of three studies on Egyptian texts, Holger Kockelmann looks at the function of linen as the material support of sacred writings. Whereas Pliny the Elder claimed that linen was used for private documents before the invention of papyrus, in Egypt the two date to roughly the same period (the third millennium BCE), but linen seems to have been used exclusively for what are called "non-profane" uses. In separate sections, the author discusses letters to the dead, letters to the gods, and texts about the afterlife on the cloth used to wrap mummies. Linen seems to have been considered ritually pure, and in any case its use for sacred purposes continued into the Greco-Roman Period.

The volume's senior editor then tackles the issue of the presence of religious and profane texts on the same piece of papyrus, usually recto/verso. After a somewhat chatty introduction, Joachim Quack focuses on a number of specific cases, such as a papyrus copy of the Book of the Dead with accounts of cereal transactions written on the back. On the basis of a close study of quite a number of these cases (chronologically ending with biblical texts on the verso of administrative accounts), Quack concludes that the determining factor is not so much the nature of the text itself as its purpose and possible performance.

In a study of bilingual texts from Greco-Roman Egypt, Jan Moje looks at the visual and graphic aspects of the writing itself. More specifically, he focuses on the place that both the hieroglyphic text and the demotic/Greek texts occupy on the same stone surface (stela or graffito). In this case the term "heiliger Schrift" is used in reference to the hieroglyphic letter system, not to the form or function of the text. After a systematic description and discussion of quite a number of such instances, Moje is able to come to a number of tentative conclusions.

The most surprising contribution to the volume is a study by Claudia Wenzel of sacred writings that have become part of a landscape. As a form of land art, Buddhist texts on stones are distributed in the Chinese landscape. Wenzel provides us with a fairly detailed description and classification of this example of geographia sacra and then she moves to a discussion of the religious significance of these sites. Despite the relatively small corpus, from a textual point of view it is important to note that in almost all of these cases, the stone versions (or versions on stone) represent the oldest variants of some of the basic texts of Buddhism.

In the next two essays we return to the kind of sacred text with which most readers will be familiar—the Hebrew and Christian Bible. Hanna Liss studies the special significance of books in the Hebrew tradition, with a close reading of the Sefer Chasidim (ca 1200), a book from a mystical Jewish movement led by Judah ben Samuel of Regensburg. According to this group, the scroll containing the Torah represented the presence of the divine on earth: it carried the divine which thus, in the form of a book, had become tangible.

The Sefer Chasidim is thus, among many other things, the book on the book and, after confirming Ludwig Blau's suggestion that the Jewish book scroll is the only reminder we still have of what books looked like in antiquity, Liss distinguishes four different themes: prescriptions about the making of a book (materials, the writing itself); prescriptions about usage of books (ritual pureness, book as object); ritual uses of the book and finally the sacred nature of the book as an object. It is difficult to imagine a greater reverence for the book as object than the one described/proscribed here for the making of a ritual Torah scroll. Even the instruments used in its production had to remain ritually pure and could not be touched by goyim or women. Books even needed to be covered when somebody had to pass wind.

Some of this reverence for the book as an object carrying a divine presence also informed the Christian tradition. The art historian Bruno Reudenbach looks closely at early gospel books to study the topos of the codex as an incarnation of Jesus Christ, more specifically the iconography of Jesus with an open codex in his hand. The author opens with the fact that there is nothing in the gospel to connect Jesus with books or writing, with the exception of the later addition to the Gospel of John wherein a waiting Jesus writes with his finger in the sand. Reudenbach dates the displacement of the scroll by the codex to the early Christian centuries and like most recent scholars links it to the rise of Christianity, connected in part to the need for cross referencing to the prophetic texts of the Old Testament as well as to the desire for contrast with the Jewish practice of preferring scrolls. In fact, Reudenbach mentions, in the fifth century the opposite seems the case: more than three quarters of Christian texts of the fifth century survive in the form of codices, mostly Bibles, while commentaries and theological writings were written in the form of scrolls. He even goes so far as to claim that the codex had become a symbol of Christian identity. With bread and wine, it was one of the signathat made the Divine mystery visible, just like the Torah scroll in the thought of the Jewish mystics.

In by far the longest essay in the book, Gereon Becht-Jördens then studies the complex role of writing in the iconography of the middle ages, a pre-modern society in which writing was so much more than the representation of bits of spoken language. First we get a survey of what the middle ages adopted and adapted from classical antiquity, including not just writing culture but also the hermeneutical tradition that passed from Homer's text to the Bible (through Philo, Origin, and the Latin church fathers). As a result, each individual word in the biblical text acquired a multiplicity of meanings. The sacred nature of the text was simply a given. Becht-Jördens wants to show how formal and material means were employed to represent "the sacred as sacred." Among the strategies were the use of older scripts, of precious materials, and of verse to emphasize the sacred nature of the words—which paradoxically signify both its transcendental and mysterious unknowability and the fact that it could indeed be experienced. In different sections, Becht-Jördens describes the strategies of veiling, of using geometrical scripts as magic formulae, the use of crosses and other symbols, and the respect accorded to the copyist. In the concluding section we find a meditation on the "educational and cultural dynamic" of writing in which the author stresses the important function of the book and of writing in the missionary success of Christianity. The chapter provides readers with brief mentions of a wealth of examples of these different phenomena (with full references in the footnotes); we find such a wide range of dates and places of origin that the suggestion remains that this long middle age was a single cultural continuum.

In a final chapter, Annette Hornbacher describes the functions of writing in Bali in terms of esoteric speculation, ritual, and the process of canon formation. The recognition of the importance of writing in the anthropological study of the highly ritualized culture of Bali is fairly recent, despite the presence of a millennium old manuscript tradition. It was only under the Indonesian republic when the Balinese were forced to commit to one of the world (book) religions that the idea of sacred writing entered what until then had been for the most part an orthopraxis.

This volume provides a diverse but ultimately interesting collection of studies. The only problem with the wide focus in cultures and traditions is that the specialist authors have to spend too much time explaining the basics of "their" tradition to a non-specialist audience, and they seem reluctant to do it in a sufficiently economic fashion. In one case the specialist bibliography is twenty pages long with almost a full page of studies by the author himself. In the case of the essay by one of the editors, we are given six pages of specialist bibliography but also half a page of explanation on what the Book of the Dead is. It is a pity that not enough time and energy is left to engage the more general or comparative issues that should have been the real focus of a book containing so much valuable information.

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Sunday, November 29, 2015


Brent Davis, Minoan Stone Vessels with Linear A Inscriptions. AEGAEUM, 36. Leuven; Liège: Peeters, 2014. Pp. xxiv, 421. ISBN 9789042930971. $142.00.

Reviewed by Thomas Palaima and Aren Wilson-Wright, University of Texas at Austin (;

Version at BMCR home site


In this ambitious, well-conceived monograph, Brent Davis examines the data for the inscribed stone vessels known as libation tables and ladles found on the island of Kythera and Crete from 1897 to 2000. Henceforth scholars taking different approaches to understanding this class of ritual objects and their inscribed texts will turn to Davis's comprehensive study for the primary evidence and for his ideas about how they relateto the religious beliefs and ritual practices of protohistoric Minoan Crete, its distinctive regions, its writing systems and the language(s) spoken by its inhabitants.

Davis makes it easy for readers to access the evidence for each object and text in order to evaluate his reasoning and interpretations. His catalogue and concordance section (Appendix A pp. 319-383) serve as a 'corpus' of this class of inscriptions. Relying on existing editions, Davis provides high-quality photographs of the objects and their inscriptions; drawings and transcriptions of the texts, both in normalized characters 1 and in conventional phonetic values assigned to Linear A signs that have plausible correlates in the Linear B script.2 Each object is described by: site, find spot, context date, manufacture date, current location and museum number(s), find date, percentage of object preserved, color, material, form of libation table (according to the Muhly and Warren systems, see pp. 67-71), dimensions of the object proper and its receptacle area(s), surface finish and decoration. A concordance of publication histories of the objects and their inscriptions (pp. 384-390) conveniently includes find dates, find spots, and museum numbers.

The rest of the volume is devoted to the meaning and use of these artifacts and their texts as standard instruments of religious practice. In chapter 2 ,(pp. 19-98), Davis carefully characterizes the sites, mainly extra-urban peak sanctuaries, that produced inscribed stone libation vessels and the sites that had uninscribed counterparts, often in sizable quantities. These extra-urban sanctuaries had much in common. Their "shared intervisibility with other sanctuaries"—with the exception of Kato Syme—created a network of common religious belief.

Davis provides computer-generated images of solstices and equinoxes as viewed from Iouktas, Petsophas, Vrysinas, Vouno on Kythera and Karphi (Psykhro cave).3 Yet he argues (Appendix C, pp. 401-419) that the sanctuaries, especially Petsophas and Iouktas (pp. 22 and 33), were situated not primarily for seasonal astronomical—Davis calls them 'calendrical'—observations, but for their intervisibility with related settlements (Roussolakkos and Knossos) and other sanctuaries.

Only nine of 39 peak sanctuaries survive into LM I. Of these, three have no apparent calendrical sightlines. What they have instead is large viewsheds. In Davis's view, the 'consolidation' of sites favored, although not exclusively, sites with calendrical functions, but was driven by what Watrous terms "regionalism rather than political hierarchy" (p. 411 and note 1639).

The sanctuaries are designed for open-air rituals and are able to 'see', i.e., look out upon, and be seen from the areas they served (p. 22). Sacrificial animals could be maintained in nearby mountain pastures. While proceeding through or looking upon these pastures, ceremonial participants could feel a close contact with nature. The larger sanctuaries include built terraces suitable for assembled crowds. Almost all these open-air and cave sanctuaries—again Kato Syme is an exception—use natural cavities or clefts in the rock, for dropping or wedging votives. The architecture of the sanctuaries that have formal structural elements demarcates sacred from non-sacred space and reinforces 'social and political hierarchies' among worshipers according to: a) degrees of access to ritual activities; b) available sight lines; and c) proximity of smell and hearing.

Particular tours de force are the five narrative scenarios that Davis presents (pp. 125-141) for the enactment of ritual events and deposition of the following inscribed objects—a carefully chosen representative sample: ladle IO(uktas) Za 1 ; libation tables PK (Palaikastro-Petsophas) Za 8 and SY (Kato Syme-Building U, Room 8) Za 2; tiny petaliform bowl IO Za 6; and PS (Psykhro) Za 2, a libation table with, unusually, three receptacles. Davis's reconstructions are exercises in vivid historical imagination, à la Emily Vermeule or Nanno Marinatos, that help us understand the social processes and the effects of movement, placement, light, smell, sound, sight and belief. Davis cites particular evidence for each facet of his reenactments and relies wisely on the insightful work of Yannis Hamilakis in understanding ritual practice as practice.4

In order to provide a broader context for interpreting the texts inscribed on these stone vessels, Davis discusses the possible functions of the objects themselves by looking at similar vessels in Hittite, Akkadian, Egyptian, Levantine, Israelite, Mesopotamian and Indo-Iranian mythologies and rituals (pp. 99-141). He suggests (pp. 99-107) that "non-draining receptacles on or near benches and altars" were used to hold poured libations that could be placed with food as meals for the gods. The Akkadian and Hittite terms for 'pour', i.e., 'make a libation', also mean 'sacrifice' in the literal sense of 'to make holy'. We should note that the related Greek vocabulary for pouring, libation and ritual killing (literally throat-'clefting') of animals does not shift into the semantic sphere of thereby 'making holy'. χέω 'pour', σπένδω 'pour a libation', and σφάζω 'cut, slit' are not used in place of θύω, which itself shifted semantically from 'make to smoke' (with incense or animal flesh) to literally 'sacri-ficio', or ἱερεύω 'acting as a hiereus to make hieros'.

The vessel in the outstretched hands of the male figures in procession on the serpentine relief rhyton fragment from Knossos is convincingly reinterpreted by Davis as a stone ladle (pp. 113-115) rather than a shallow bowl. The organic shape of these objects is suited for holding in cupped hands. Davis compares the ladle shaped as two cupped hands from Shaft Grave III at Mycenae (p. 117 and n. 578). The ladles cannot be used for scooping or receiving poured liquids without getting the hands of the ritual practitioner wet, so Davis proposes that they were intended for use with water (pp. 117-118) for ritual purification, even of the practitioner's hands, and for ritual pouring upon trees (date palms) common in Minoan and Sumerian iconography.

Within these well-defined contexts, Davis speculates (chapters 4 and 5, pp. 143-278) about the language(s) and language family of the Linear A texts on these vessels in relation to: a)other Aegean pre-alphabetic scripts (Cretan Hieroglyphic, Linear B, Cypro- Minoan and Cypriote Syllabic,and b) language groups in the 2nd-millennium eastern Mediterranean and Near East. Davis acknowledges (p. 157) that the whole corpus of Linear A still falls short of the minimal critical mass needed for decipherment, roughly 8100 signs—well short if we consider the peculiar brevity of entries on Linear A tablets, inscribed sealings and roundels. The inscriptions on libation tables offer hope because many have longer sequences than one or two sign-groups.

Careful analysis and hypothesizing is valuable. Davis's work stands alongside Duhoux's, Finkelberg's and Packard's as clear, plausible and rich in useful data.5 Still, as Alice Kober understood in her pre-decipherment research on Aegean scripts, every wrong assumption or error of fact introduces noise into the decipherment process.

Even positing that these texts are ritually dedicatory and formulaic and therefore can be broken down into canonical categories of information, the linguistic analyses of these texts by Yves Duhoux6 and his conclusion still hold true: "La plupart de ces interpretations ont cependant un gros défaut: elles sont trop hypothétiques, parce qu'invérifiables." Duhoux's own earlier analysis makes this clear. The whole Linear A corpus has approximately 800 'words' and of these a mere six may have 'roots' of four signs or more and 15 others have roots of three signs.7 This does not provide a firm basis for Davis's claim (p. 167) that the Minoan language taken as a whole "employed a significant number of prefixes." What he calls prefixes, Finkelberg (2001, p. 89) associates with "chains of introductory particles characteristic of Hittite-Luwian."

A major question is whether one or many languages were spoken in 2nd-millennium Crete. Davis ingeniously tracks ideograms, single-sign phonetic ideograms and single phonetic signs functioning as 'transaction signs' in Linear A texts at different Cretan sites. He concludes: "the fact that several of these abbreviations are attested at multiple sites suggests that the same words are attested everywhere" and therefore that perhaps a single language was serving island-wide "as a lingua franca on both administrative and ritual documents," whether or not many languages were spoken on the island (pp. 180-181). It might suggest no such thing, if we consider how Sumerograms and Akkadograms were used in Hittite documents to 'represent' underlying Hittite words. Analogically, in Linear B the ideogram NI (undoubtedly from Minoan nikuleon) was used as the ideogram for figs, but scribes would have written out the sign as sukon. Likewise, the ideogram for goat is identical to the peculiar phonogram *22 that has a Minoan-derived value /mbi/. But 'goat' in Linear B compound nouns is written ai-ki-.

In trying to narrow down the language family to which the language of the libation-table and other Linear A inscriptions belongs, Davis (p. 182) deduces from a group of inventories from Mari (palace of Zimri-Lim, ca. 1780-1760 BCE)— wherein "the 'Chief Merchant of the Caphtorians [Minoans]' required an interpreter while in Ugarit" —that "Minoan and Ugaritic were not mutually intelligible." But it is hard to say what the Mari evidence means for the linguistic identity of Minoan.

Ugaritic and Akkadian were both spoken in the Old Babylonian period, but were not mutually intelligible. So the Mari reference does not necessarily imply that Minoan was non-Semitic. It is also possible that the Caphtorians at Ugarit spoke Ugaritic and the interpreter was needed to translate between Ugaritic and the language of Zimri-Lim's agents. Zimri-Lim's archives are in the Old Babylonian dialect of Akkadian, but Zimri-Lim and his court may have spoken a different West Semitic language (many of their names are Amorite, a catch-all term for a group of West Semitic languages attested primarily in personal names). In either case, the language of Zimri-Lim's agents would not have been intelligible to speakers of Ugaritic. If this is the case, then the Mari reference does not have any implications for the linguistic identity of Minoan in the 18th century BCE.

Among many small corrections to be made, we give the following sample:

p. 123:the etymology of Demeter is not thoroughly Indo-European;
p. 145: the Linear A and B systems of numerals are stricto sensu not identical;
p. 147 figure 93: there is no neutral Linear B ideogram for ungendered person;
p. 148 figure 94: ideogram *129 does not stand generically for 'grain';
p. 148:ke-se-ni-wi-ja is not a woman's name;
p. 155: there is no cat's-head sign in the official CHIC Cretan Hieroglyphic signary.

Even Minos occasionally nods.


1.   As in Louis Godart and Jean-Pierre Olivier, Recueils des inscriptions en linéaire A volumes 4 and 5 (Paris: Libraire Orientaliste Paul Geuthner 1976 and 1982).
2.   For these "correspondances formelles," see Jacques Raison and Maurice Pope in Y. Duhoux, Études minoennes I (1978) 188 and Godart-Olivier (1982) xxii.
3.   See Mary Blomberg and Göran Henriksson, "Minoan Astronomy," in C.L.N. Ruggles ed., Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy (New York: Springer 2015) 1432-1435. DOI 10.1007/978-1-4614-6141-8_141.
4.   Yannis Hamilakis in OJA 15 (1996) 1-32; World Archaeology 31:1 (1999) 38-54; and DAIS: The Aegean Feast, Aegaeum 29 (Liège and Austin: 2008) 3-18.
5.   Margalit Finkelberg, "The Language of Linear A: Greek, Semitic or Anatolian?" in JIES Monograph Series 38 (Washington 2001) 81-105, non citatum. David Packard, Minoan Linear A (Berkeley: University of California Press 1974).
6.   Yves Duhoux, "Le linéaire A: problèmes de déchiffrement," in Yves Duhoux, Thomas G. Palaima and John Bennet eds., Problems in Decipherment (Louvain-la-Neuve: Peeters 1989) 80-90.
7.   Yves Duhoux, Études minoennes I (Louvain: Peeters 1978) 96-109.

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Rosario Moreno Soldevila, Juan Martos (ed.), Amor y sexo en la literatura latina. Suplementos de Exemplaria Classica, 4. Huelva: Universidad de Huelva, Servicio de Publicaciones, 2014. Pp. 267. ISBN 9788416061532. (pb).

Reviewed by James Jope (

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[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

Much has been done to improve our understanding of ancient sexuality in recent years, drawing upon material evidence (especially art) and select textual excerpts. Less has been done to analyze it in context, as a constituent of the full interpretation of literary texts. The present collection of papers by Spanish philologists who previously collaborated on a Diccionario de motivos amatorios en la literatura latina (ed. Rosario Moreno Soldevila, Huelva 2011) is exemplary of the latter type of work. The authors are literary scholars who blend both channels fruitfully in these essays.

Laguna examines courting with gifts in poetry from ancient Greece to modern Europe, including love elegy as well as pastoral. He uses a schematic system based on ancient rhetorical concepts to survey the development and reception of conventional themes associated with this topos. The author flirts with a surprising argument that this highly conventional toposessentially corresponds to human nature ("la psicología y cultura humanas"p.28): Men are attracted to women through vision, but women are aroused through hearing, and what they like to hear is evidence that the male will be a reliable provider, hence the gifts.1 Fortunately, he casts doubt on this view, which suits preindustrial societies at best and might even offend some readers, in his conclusion, by acknowledging that his own examples suggest that women are motivated by many factors (good looks, 'chemistry', etc.) and that the exclusive emphasis on the provider may be a patriarchal construct.

Librán is also concerned with the conventional vs. the natural, as she explores the role of avifauna (swans, pet sparrows, etc.) in love poetry and other genres, particularly epic, eliciting explanatory factors for the treatment of respective birds: the customary uses of each species in Roman society, the natural behaviour of different birds, and their mythology. This essay deepens the reader's understanding of the poems in question, especially if one lives outside Europe and is not locally acquainted with these birds.

López Gregoris synthesizes Roman conventional values and a modern understanding of Roman sexual mores to explore the tension between love and marriage in Roman comedy, with particular attention to the social implications of slavery. This and the following essay by Estévez both offer perceptive insights on the pervasive effects of this institution in Roman society. Gregoris shows how, for example, young men falling in love with the readily available prostitutes conflicted with the social obligation to marry and rear legitimate offspring. Estévez studies the motif casting the lover as the 'slave' of the beloved. Greek poets had cast the lover as defeated by Eros, or the beloved as unknowingly possessing the soul of the lover; but the Romans used terms from Roman law to drive home the metaphor not only for his enslavement to the beloved, but even his liberation when the affair was over.

Bellido explores manifestations in Latin literature of the diverse meanings of the Spanish word desamor, a broad concept embracing various love-negations, from vows of virginity (e.g., Vestals) to falling out of love. This chapter comprises a miscellany of short essays on these subjects..

Tello studies Juvenal's ninth satire, in which a client complains of being obliged to service both his patron and the patron's wife sexually, with regard to the nature and limits of a client's duties. He argues that the bond was not legal, but social, and that the client was not really obligated to bugger his patron.

Martos Fernández cites a range of Latin literature suggesting that forcing a woman into prostitution was used as a punishment, and such punishment was regarded as worse than death. Again, he shows keen awareness of the relevance of slavery. However, he may be too willing to accept some sources at their word: while this attitude was typical of Romans' pretentious moralizing, their behaviour was more ambivalent.

Fernández Valverde surveys the notorious history of expurgation of Martial — whom he has also translated-- from the first Spanish edition to the 1990s. Alongside of the usual ploys of omission, selection, euphemism, etc., some epigrams were systematically rewritten to change obscene references into attacks on other vices such as alcoholism, or even into devotional verses. Thus, Nulli, Thai, negas... te non pudet istud became Nulli, Christe, negas, et te non paenitet istud.He also notes distinctively Spanish factors such as the role of the Jesuits, who, as the leading educators, produced widely used expurgated versions which preserved only as much of the text as was useful for language lessons.The author's amusing exposure of the ironic results of this activity transforms what might have been a boring iconoclastic rant into an entertaining read.

Finally, Martos Montiel, who has long been at work on a Spanish translation of Forberg's Manual of Classical Erotology, explains why he regards other Spanish translations as inadequate and offers his own translation of the chapter on 'tribads' as a preview, with his additional notes. It would be inappropriate for an anglophone reviewer to compare the Spanish translations, but Martos Montiel's notes, which update Forberg's and add perspectives from relevant modern research, will certainly be useful for his readers.

The book includes a table of contents, bibliography, indexes, biographical notes on the authors and abstracts in English as well as Spanish. The volume is well made and I did not spot a single typographical error. This book can be highly recommended for anyone who is interested in sexual issues in Roman literature.

Authors and Titles

G. Laguna Mariscal, Regalos para enamorar (munera amoris): un tópico literario de ayer y de hoy
M. Librán Moreno, La avifauna en la poesia latina de amor
R. López Gregoris, "Por que lo llaman amor cuando quieren decir sexo?": Sexo y matrimonio en la comedia romana
J.A. Estévez Sola, La renuntiatio libertatis, un motivo dentro de un tópico
J.A. Bellido Díaz, "Cuando el amor se olvida, sabes tú adónde va?" El desamor en la literatura latina
J.C. Tello Lázaro, Omnia ferre, si potes et debes o los limites del officium de la clientela
J. Martos Fernández, Sexo y castigo: el motivo de la prostitución como condena
J. Fernández Valverde, Casto expurgo hispano de Marcial
J.F. Martos Montiel, "Sobre las tríbadas": una traducción anotada del capitulo VI del Manual de erotología clásica (De figuris Veneris) de F.-K. Forberg


1.   The sole source cited for this theory is D. Gilmore (1994) Hacerse hombre. Concepciones culturales de la masculinidad, Barcelona.

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Johannes Wienand (ed.), Contested Monarchy: Integrating the Roman Empire in the Fourth Century AD. Oxford Studies in Late Antiquity. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. xix, 530. ISBN 9780199768998. $105.00 (hb).

Reviewed by Jan Willem Drijvers, University of Groningen (

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Since the 1970s the focus in late antique studies has been primarily on social, cultural or religious history; the political, administrative and institutional history of the later Roman empire has received considerably less attention. This applies in particular to late Roman imperial rule, which is in general taken for granted and never really problematized. Late antique emperorship was, for example, not included in the research programme "Transformation of the Roman World" funded in the 1990s by the European Science Foundation. Although there are excellent studies on the reigns of individual late antique emperors, an overall study on the emperor in the late Roman empire is still lacking. It is a good thing that in recent years there is more scholarly interest in late Roman imperial rule. This volume reflects the renewed attention for the institutional history and imperial rule in the late Roman period.

This collection of articles on emperorship in the fourth century goes back to a conference at the University of Konstanz in 2009. The volume is aimed as a reappraisal of the transformation of the monarchic regime of Roman emperors in the period between Diocletian and Theodosius I and intends to examine the emperors' efforts "for political and cultural integration within a communicative framework characterized by the interplay of the imperial administration, the performance of monarchic leadership, and religious policy" (p. x). The book is divided into three parts or fields: 1. Administering the Empire; 2. Performing the Monarchy; 3. Balancing Religious Change. The volume seeks to transcend the boundaries between these fields, which, as the editor not quite correctly states, have mostly been treated separately. This volume also aims at analyzing late Roman imperial rule over a longer period, i.e. the fourth century, instead of studying individual reigns. Apart from the Introduction and Epilogue by the editor, the volume contains eighteen articles by, for the most part, renowned European and American historians of late antiquity.

No emperor rules alone: his power and legitimacy are constructed and negotiated in discourse with those over which he governs. In his Introduction Wienand eloquently explains how imperial power is transformed into legitimate rule in a sociological sense since power can only be exercised on the basis of societal consensus. Late Roman emperors had constantly to communicate and negotiate their authority, ideology and public image in diverse ways in order to create support among a variety of societal groups: court society, wealthy aristocracy, the military and civil apparatus, the Church, regional interest groups, city elites, city crowds etc. Roman imperial rule is therefore not passive and not just about being, as has long been supposed under the stimulus of Fergus Millar's influential The Emperor in the Roman World (1977); imperial rule is foremost about doing.

It is impossible within the context of this review to discuss all contributions and I will therefore focus on those which I found most interesting and stimulating. This is not to say that the papers I do not mention are of less interest, because on the whole this is an inspiring volume.

1. Administering the Empire. This part contains articles ranging from the changing relationship between emperors and senators (Weisweiler), rank inflation (Dillon) and long-term patterns of integration by regional aristocracies into imperial administration and the court (Kulikowski), to Gaul as decisive territory for controlling the western provinces of the empire (Szidat). Sebastian Schmidt-Hofner discusses the legislation of Valentinian I and Valens of the years 364-365. In this period the new emperors issued a considerable number of new laws and reissued laws of their predecessors addressed to representative of various societal groups. Schmidt-Hofner makes the convincing case that this vast body of legal texts serves as a vehicle to promote the new rule of the Pannonian brothers and has an evident communicative function meant to create loyalty and support for the new regime. Most fourth-century emperors were military men and generals who took the field themselves. Military successes added immensely to an emperor's prestige and support within Roman society. However, for these successes he was also depended on his (high-ranking) officers as well as the common soldiers. In his contribution Doug Lee examines the relationship between the emperor and the military, in particular the actions an emperor took to ensure the loyalty of his soldiers, both rank-and-file and officers. The loyalty of common soldiers could be won and retained by material benefits and symbolic rituals. High-ranking, ambitious officers, above all the magistri peditum and equitum, could be the most serious threat to an emperor's position, as the usurpation of e.g. Magnentius and Magnus Maximus make clear. In order to avert this potential danger an emperor had a variety of strategies at his disposal such as material rewards, enhancement of status by granting the consulship or rise to senatorial status, relocation from one command to another, dismissal, exile and even elimination.

2. Performing the Monarchy. The papers in this section vary from Constantine's penal legislation as a construction of social discourse and a contribution to the development and justification of monarchical order (Reitzenstein-Rönning), the dynastic principle as legitimation of emperors (Börm) and panegyrics (Chr. Kelly), to three articles that have civil war and triumph in civil wars as their main theme. Mark Humphries analyzes imperials visits of Constantine, Constantius II and Theodosius to the city of Rome. These are all associated with victories in civil wars; in most cases Rome's elite had supported the usurpers, which makes the imperial visits extremely significant in communicating imperial power to the inhabitants of the eternal city. Johannes Wienand, in an article that has overlap with that of Humphries, examines civil-war triumphs in the city of Rome and makes the important observation that Constantine broke with the Republican and early imperial tradition that triumphs could only be celebrated after victories over external enemies. In late antiquity victory in civil wars could show an emperor's military virtues and the victoria civilis developed into an occasion for triumphal rulership. Hartmut Leppin discusses the treatment of enemy soldiers after a victory in civil wars in three cases: Constantius' victory over Magnentius, Valens' defeat of Procopius and Theodosius' military success against Magnus Maximus. In all three cases the imperial conquerors showed clemency towards the defeated. Clementia seems to have been the usual practice and Leppin perceives here the influence of Christianity. That may be so, but there was undoubtedly the practical reason that emperors always needed soldiers and massacring complete armies was a useless waste of military capital.

3. Balancing Religious Change. The papers in this section discuss a variety of religious issues in association with the changing role of the emperor in religious affairs, particularly the Christianization of emperorship. From an examination of the semi-divine status of the emperor in Eusebius' Laus Constantini and the contestation by later church fathers of the special relationship between the emperor and God (Drake), Constantine's relationship with the city of Rome and Rome's influence on Christian imperial ideology (Bleckmann), the religious policy of Constantius II and his enforcement of a universal creed (Dieffenbach), to religious violence (Hahn). Noel Lenski, taking as a starting point a silver medallion showing on the obverse a diademed bust of Constantine and on the reverse Byzantium's Tyche, returns to the debate about whether there were pagan dimensions to Constantine's foundation of Constantinople. In a detailed way, making use of often discarded sources, Lenski comes to the only logical conclusion that there were pagan aspects to the new eastern capital and that Constantine used the cult of Tyche but in an adapted form to make it better suited to an empire in the process of Christianization. This approach reflects Constantine's religious policy in general: the first Christian emperor had a profound understanding of his scope for action in the religious sphere, in a city and empire which was still predominantly pagan. Rita Lizzi Testa deals with the well-known controversy of the altar of Victory but presents a novel perspective on the demands of Roman senators to have the altar reinstalled. The request for restoration of the altar should not be primarily seen as a "réaction païenne" of the senate but should be perceived within the wider context of the preservation of the monumental appearance of Rome as an expression of the city's history, its civilization and the victories of the empire.

The volume is concluded by an epilogue by the editor focusing on a gold medallion, issued by Constantius II in Antioch showing the emperor in triumphal glory, as an instructive example of the fourth-century contested monarchy.

All contributions are of high standard and many of them offer new perspectives on and more profound insight into the complexities of late Roman imperial. However, as is often the case with volumes like these, they have also shortcomings and imbalances. Although the volume claims to deal with the fourth-century empire and imperial rule as a whole, quite a number of articles focus on the city of Rome, and on Constantine and the Constantinian dynasty (except for Julian). There is little about the second half of the fourth century, i.e. the Valentinian dynasty and Theodosius I. The role of imperial women in integrating the empire is completely neglected. With respect to integrating the empire, processes of communication and interaction, almost all contributions take a top-down approach. A bottom-up perspective, i.e. the sending out of messages to the emperor by the various social strata in Roman society, could have been fruitful since these also shaped imperial leadership and helped to integrate the empire.

Nevertheless, this is a fine collection of articles articulating the contested Roman imperial rule of late antiquity. Everybody interested in the late Roman empire will profit from it.

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
Map of the Roman Empire in the Fourth Century
1. The Cloak of Power: Dressing and Undressing the King — Johannes Wienand

Part One Administering the Empire
2. Domesticating the Senatorial Elite: Universal Monarchy and Transregional Aristocracy in the Fourth Century — John Weisweiler
3. The Inflation of Rank and Privilege: Regulating Precedence in the Fourth Century AD — John Noël Dillon
4. Ostentatious Legislation: Law and Dynastic Change, AD 364-365 — Sebastian Schmidt-Hofner
5. Emperors and Generals in the Fourth Century — Doug Lee
6. Gaul and the Roman Emperors of the Fourth Century — Joachim Szidat
7. Regional Dynasties and Imperial Court — Michael Kulikowski

Part Two Performing the Monarchy
8. Emperors, Usurpers, and the City of Rome: Performing Power from Diocletian to Theodosius — Mark Humphries
9. O tandem felix civili, Roma, victoria! Civil War Triumphs From Honorius to Constantine and Back — Johannes Wienand
10. Coping with the Tyrant's Faction: Civil War Amnesties and Christian Discourses in the Fourth Century AD — Hartmut Leppin
11. Pliny and Pacatus: Past and Present in Imperial Panegyric — Christopher Kelly
12. Born to be Emperor: The Principle of Succession and the Roman Monarchy — Henning Börm
13. Performing Justice: The Penal Code of Constantine the Great — Christian Reitzenstein-Ronning

Part Three Balancing Religious Change
14. Speaking of Power: Christian Redefinition of the Imperial Role in the Fourth Century — Harold Drake
15. Constantine, Rome, and the Christians — Bruno Bleckmann
16. Constantine and the Tyche of Constantinople — Noel Lenski
17. A Vain Quest for Unity: Creeds and Political (Dis)Integration in the Reign of Constantius II — Steffen Diefenbach
18. The Challenge of Religious Violence: Imperial Ideology and Policy in the Fourth Century — Johannes Hahn
19. The Famous 'Altar of Victory Controversy' in Rome: The Impact of Christianity at the End of the Fourth Century — Rita Lizzi Testa


20. The Empire's Golden Shade: Icons of Sovereignty in an Age of Transition — Johannes Wienand
General Index
Index Locorum
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Editorial Note: Augustiniana Varia.

Editor James J. O'Donnell, Arizona State University (

Version at BMCR home site

Augustinus-Lexikon, ed. Cornelius Petrus Mayer et al. Basel: Schwabe, 1986-.

CAG-Online: Corpus Augustinianum Gissense. ed. Cornelius Petrus Mayer. Würzberg: Zentrum für Augustinusforschung in Würzburg, 2011-

Pollmann, Karla and Willemien Otten (edd.). The Oxford Guide to the Historical Reception of Augustine (3 vols.). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. xxx, 1930 p. $895.00. ISBN 9780199299164.

Die handschriftliche Überlieferung der Werke des heiligen Augustinus Ed. Manfred Oberleitner et al. Wien: H. Böhlau, 1969-.

Collective academic projects that last for decades are proverbially difficult to bring to a conclusion and often languish. This note records several that make splendid progress.

The Augustinus-Lexikon, on whose editorial board I have served for many years. Founded by Prof. C.P. Mayer, O.S.A., then of the University of Giessen, the work is headquartered at the University of Würzburg. The first fascicle appeared in 1986; three full volumes of eight fascicles and four fascicles of the fourth and concluding volume have now appeared and the end is confidently in sight within this decade. Enough has now appeared that the work has become the standard point of reference for matters Augustinian, supplanting the not quite similar Augustine Through the Ages (Eerdmans 1999), ed. A. Fitzgerald (and on whose editorial board I also served). The Aug.-Lex. aspires to cover the biographical and historical context (people/places/events), the works of A., his philosophical and theological doctrines, and even detailed study of key terms in use in his works. So the article on Augustine's letters runs to 160 double-columned pages in Aug.-Lex. while in Fitzgerald a more concise 12 suffice, meeting the needs of different readers. The articles in Aug.-Lex. are in German, English, and French, a slight handicap mainly, alas, in America. There is not yet a digital representation of the work, but I expect discussion in the next few years.

At the same time as the Lexikon was in view, Mayer and his colleagues farsightedly in the late 1970s undertook to prepare a complete digital corpus of Augustine's works, which was first available to Aug.-Lex. collaborators by the mid-1980s. It has since been published in CD form but is now also available handsomely on the net in an unusually well-conceived form, allowing powerful searches (e.g., search text only in biblical quotations) and display of full context. The networked availability is a great plus; the online pricing is approximately $1000/year institutional and considerably lower for individuals. Progress towards more open access there is difficult to predict.

What is clear from both parts of the project is that the funding environment for such research in Germany has been positive both for the funding provided but, especially noticeable in recent years, the appropriate and firm attention from funders to the project's progress. The discipline that has brought Aug.-Lex. nearly to the finish line in good time has been partly self-imposed, but materially as well external.

No less remarkable is the Oxford Guide to the Historical Reception of Augustine, ed. K. Pollmann and W. Otten. These 2000 pages took scarcely half a decade to prepare, but hit a very high standard and are appreciably more comprehensive and coherent than most collective volumes now appearing. There has been a systematic attempt in two complementing sections to catalog the survival and reception of individual works of Augustine and, on the other hand, the relationship to Augustine's thought of important thinkers and movements from late antiquity to the present. The topic has been understudied because of the blithe assumption that "the Middle Ages" (a concept I find alarmingly retro, for all that my doctorate is in Medieval Studies) were somehow consistently Augustinian in culture. Other works have begun to appear that supplement OGHRA in exploring the precise application and implication of Augustinian influence, e.g., E.L. Saak, Creating Augustine: Interpreting Augustine and Augustinianism in the Later Middle Ages (Oxford 2012).

The last project I will note here is older, but has been equally important in the research it has spawned: Die Handschriftlichen Überlieferungen der Werken des Heiligen Augustins (Vienna 1969-). This catalog of the myriad (literally) manuscripts of Augustine, country by country and library by library, will never conclude but rather approximate an asymptote. The bulk of the work is done and it is in everyday use by scholars. Among the research it has spawned has been the result of the discovery of no fewer than three tranches of hitherto unrecognized works of Augustine that have had exciting impact on our understanding of his time. Johannes Divjak found letters in Paris and Montepelier, while François Dolbeau and Clemens Weidmann have uncovered sermons not previously read as Augustine's in Mainz and Erfurt. There are simply so many MSS of Augustinian letters and sermons that it required a systematic effort at cataloging to recognize some hidden gold.

I once could only dream of such indispensable tools.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Joyce E. Salisbury, Rome's Christian Empress: Galla Placidia Rules at the Twilight of the Empire. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015. Pp. ix, 236. ISBN 9781421417004. $34.95.

Reviewed by Jeroen W.P. Wijnendaele, Ghent University (

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In her introduction, Joyce Salisbury presents Galla Placidia, western Roman empress (421–450 CE), as a "forgotten empress." This may come as surprise to scholars of the Late Roman Empire, since we have the foundational studies by Stewart Oost (acknowledged) and Vito Antonio Sirago (printed in 1961 and revised in 1996, but surprisingly omitted), and more recently Hagith Sivan's study (acknowledged). Likewise, Meaghan McEvoy's work on the western child-emperors devotes considerable space to the empress but was perhaps published too recently to incorporate.1

Salisbury aims to demonstrate that Placidia was a powerful empress, narrating her life among familiar paths such as the reign of her father Theodosius I (chapter 1), her upbringing at the western court during the supremacy of the magister utriusque militiae Stilicho (chapter 2), and the struggles of the Gothic commander Alaric against Placidia's half-brother Honorius (chapter 3). In the next chapters, Placidia emerges from the shadows after her abduction by the Goths during Alaric's sack of Rome in 410. Salisbury follows Placidia to Gaul where she marries Alaric's successor Athaulf (chapter 4). In the early 410s, this union formed a significant challenge to the floundering regime of Honorius. The unforeseen deaths of Athaulf and their infant son in Spain meant that Placidia was cast aside by the Goths and handed over to Constantius in 416. Next, we see Placidia being reluctantly married to Constantius—a union from which the future emperor Valentinian III and princess Honoria were born. The unexpected demise of Constantius in 421 meant that Placidia had to manoeuvre to ensure the welfare of her children and their right to rule (chapter 5). After a brief exile in Constantinople, she was eventually able to enlist eastern support to establish herself as western Augusta (chapter 6). While she tried to steer western imperial policies as best as she could, she was unable to prevent commanders such as Aëtius and Bonifatius turning arms against one another, thereby facilitating the intervention of Vandals and Huns. Her last years were devoted to the promotion of church building and care for her children (chapters 7-9).

Crediting the influence of Fernand Braudel on her work (p. 205, n. 4), Salisbury is at her finest when she goes beyond political and military struggles in the upper echelons of society and looks at wider social and cultural phenomena. We come across interesting sections on the "making" of eunuchs (pp. 19–20), childhood education (pp. 41–43), ancient sexuality (pp. 46–47), child mortality and the importance of midwives during childbirth (pp. 104–108), or the celebration of Easter and other Christian holidays (pp. 153–156). Equally, there are good descriptions of cities that played an important role in in Placidia's life, such as Narbonne (pp. 93–95), Barcelona (pp. 100–102) and Ravenna (pp. 112–115). Last but not least, she provides with efficiency and clarity explanations for the many religious disputes in this era, such as the Donatist controversy (pp. 79–80), Pelagianism (pp. 122–124), Nestorianism (pp. 156–162) and the council of Chalcedon (pp. 190–192).

Throughout her work Salisbury makes intellectual choices that are defensible, but unlikely to align with current strands of scholarship. The challenges presented by non-Roman groups, and their interaction with the empire, are painted with thick black and white brushes. Thus one reads that "[Theodosius I's] job was to push back the violent tide of barbarians and save the empire" (p. 6), or how Rome struggled against "the barbarians at the gate" (p. 7), "barbarian hordes" (p. 55), "the storm of barbarians that swept into the Roman Empire" (p. 141) or "the waves of Germanic tribes that swept into the empire" (p. 203). Vast debates concerning the impact of empire on barbaricum, complexities of ethnic identity and the nature of group-structures are marginalized in favour of a more traditional dichotomy of Romans failing to resist barbarian invasions that eventually brought down the (western) Empire.2 While this catastrophist approach has become popular again in recent years, even scholars who are in the vanguard of this counter-reformist movement show more nuance when dealing with these so-called barbarians.3

Similarly, Salisbury adopts a positivist approach to her sources and often cites them as factually representing events, even when we are dealing with tendentious genres such as panegyric or polemic. Their rhetorical nature should urge caution before they are read at face value, especially in cases such as Claudian's panegyrics for Honorius's interaction with the army as a child (p. 17), Tacitus' Germania as a source for Gothic kingship in the fifth century (pp. 77–78), Hydatius' apocalyptic chronicle entry on the barbarian incursions in Spain (pp. 97–98), Quodvultdeus' description of Geiseric's capture of Carthage in 439 (pp. 179– 180), or Jordanes' picture of blood–filled streams during the battle of Châlons (p. 195). Like anyone dealing with fifth century western history, Salisbury is often forced to fill in the gaps in Placidia's life when there is very little or no source material available. It takes a keen eye to notice these speculations, since they are not always acknowledged as such (a sharp contrast with Sivan's work, who consistently flags such attempts of her own). Salisbury tells Placidia's story with panache, but one is occasionally left wondering whether events ever materialized the way she envisions. This reviewer at least is not sure if Placidia ever found herself sitting with Athaulf's Goths at a campfire, inhaling its cannabis-infused smoke (p. 76).

The volume could have profited from more rigorous review before publication. One repeated error regularly creeping up is to style virtually all Late Antique authors as 'chroniclers', even when we are dealing with an eclectic body of authorship, including polemical writers such as Orosius (pp. 53, 95) or Victor of Vita (p. 166), classicizing historiographers such as Ammianus Marcellinus (p. 25), Zosimus (pp. 12, 61, 67), Procopius (p. 70) or Olympiodorus (pp. 73, 95, 106, 127, 129, 132), writers of 'barbarian history' such as Jordanes (pp. 77, 183), or church historians such as Sozomen (p. 83) and Socrates (p. 140). Those familiar with the debate on Late Antique historiography will realize that none of these were chroniclers and that the label should be reserved in this work for very specific historiographers, such as Prosper or Hydatius.4 There is also a tendency to style a very heterogeneous collection of individuals and groups as 'Gothic', even when the sources clearly establish different ethnic heritages, such as the Frankish magister militum Arbogastes (p. 13), the Germanic clients near the Rhine in 396 (p. 43), the half-Vandal Stilicho (p. 44), or the Vandals and Alans near the Danube (p. 49) who later fought Constantine III (p. 59).

Besides these dubious tendencies, one stumbles upon a plethora of minor errors or questionable statements: the stemma of the house of Theodosius I in the west lists Valentinian I's offspring but omits Gratian (p. 4). Magnus Maximus was not killed by his own soldiers, but executed by Theodosius I's army (p. 13). Constantine I did not build the great palace of Constantinople in 313, given that construction of the city only began in 326 (p. 14). Late Roman soldiers used long swords (spathae), not "the lethal short sword" (gladius) (p. 20). Even during Theodosius' reign, the Imperial West was anything but "a polytheistic bloc" (p. 22). The Battle of the Frigidus in 394 was not a "holy war" between a pagan west and Christian east, since both courts were staffed with officials of diverse religious beliefs and even the western usurper Eugenius was a Christian (p. 32). Epirus was not a Greek city but a province (p. 44). There is no evidence that Alaric bought ships at Naples to ship his followers to Sicily in 410 (p. 75). The labels 'Visigoths' and 'Ostrogoths' do not refer to geographical divisions between 'West Goths' and 'East Goths', but simply denote ethnic qualities ascribed to them (pp. 87, 204). The Alans, Sueves and Vandals did not enter Spain in 406/7 but 409 (p. 97). Vallia did not try to have his Visigoths cross into Africa in 416—this was a minor Gothic group that had split off (p. 110). In the Late Roman Empire, Flavius was not just a common name but also a title for imperial officials. (p. 117). There is no evidence that the magister militum Felix had ever commanded an army in Gaul (p. 146). CTh. 9.40.24 has little bearing on the betrayal of shipbuilding knowledge to barbarian groups near the Mediterranean, since this law was directed to the Crimean city of Cherson (p. 164). Pope Leo did not settle a dispute in 440 between Aëtius and "another general", but the praetorian prefect Albinus (a civil official) (p. 177). The eastern army sent to Sicily in 441 was led by three commanders, not five (p. 182). Zeno did not grant Odoacer the title of patrician, but urged him to request it from the exiled Julius Nepos (p. 202).

The bibliography also suffers. One looks in vain for consistency in the listing of ancient authors, the titles of their works, or their (sometimes out-dated) translators (pp. 219–221). While references to websites and kindle editions will be welcome to a lay audience, more conventional scholars may raise an eyebrow to their inclusion. On the plus side, typographical errors are rare, among which: 'Coemperor' instead of 'co-emperor' (p. 6), ', But' instead of ', but' (p. 37), 'the Chapel of 'St.nt Petronilla' instead of 'Saint Petronilla' (p. 194), and 'Allan Cameron' instead of 'Alan' (p. 225). Also positive is a good collection of illustrations and maps to guide the reader through Placidia's world.

In the end, Salisbury's Galla Placidia appears as a veritable mover and shaker and "the changed empire that emerged in the fifth century was shaped by Placidia's guiding hand" (p. 2). She is credited, among other things, with having influenced battles and theology (p. 2), guiding the Visigoths across the western Alps and introducing them to the use of Roman law (p. 81–82), and enhancing the supremacy of the papacy in the 440s (p. 177). This reviewer still finds himself inclined to follow the verdict of Oost—rightly called "a cautious historian" by Salisbury (p. 5)—that "there was no real departure of policy, no novelties or signs of original statesmanship; the Empress participated actively, and frequently decisively ... but one can hardly state that she decisively altered, or affected, the fate of the Roman state or society. It seems not unfair to conclude that she tried mainly to conserve; to conserve both imperial power and Empire for her son."5

To conclude, Salisbury has written a lively and comprehensible biography of a remarkable woman who deserves closer attention. While scholars will find few innovations, and students are advised to consider more careful accounts, this affordable book will undoubtedly find its way to many aficionados of Late Antiquity who have yet to discover the gripping vicissitudes in the life of one of its most accomplished empresses.


1.   See: Oost, S.I. (1968), Galla Placidia Augusta: A Biographical Essay, Chicago; Sirago, V.A. (1996),Galla Placidia e la trasformazione politica dell' Occidente, Milan; Sivan, H.S. (2011), Galla Placidia: The Last Roman Empress, Oxford; McEvoy, M.A. (2013), Child-emperor rule in the late imperial west, AD 367–455, Oxford.
2.   Guy Halsall's Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West is listed in the, admittedly slim, bibliography but nowhere cited in the endnotes. Goffart's Barbarian Tides is also listed but only cited in relation to the settlements of Vandals, Alans and Sueves in Spain (210, n. 28, 32).
3.   See, for instance, Peter Heather's measured response to such critics as Guy Halsall and Michael Kulikowski in: "The Huns and Barbarian Europe", in: Maas, M. (2014), The Age of Attila, Cambridge, pp. 209–229.
4.   Woods, D. (2009), "Late Antique Historiography: A Brief History of Time", in: Rousseau, P. (ed.), A Companion to Late Antiquity, Chichester, 357–71; Burgess, R.W. & Kulikowski, M. (2011), Mosaics of Time: The Latin Chronicle Traditions from the First Century BC to the Sixth Century AD, Turnhout.
5.   Oost (1968) 209.

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