Sunday, October 23, 2016


Vincenzo Merolle, Mommsen and Cicero: 'vindiciae Ciceronianae'. With a Section on Ciceronianism, Newtonianism and Eighteenth-Century Cosmology. Berlin: Logos Verlag, 2015. Pp. 225. ISBN 9783832539450. €36.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Andrew R. Dyck, Los Angeles

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Table of Contents

The first sentence of the Introduction informs the reader that this book 'represents the answer of the city of Arpino to the unfair critical judgment' passed on Cicero by Theodor Mommsen (p. 13). The author, it emerges, is a native of Arpino and, though not a classicist,1 is moved to take up the cudgels on behalf of the town's most famous son. Not only that, but one of the author's ideas is that a statue of Cicero should be erected in front of the site of the Curia (in place of Caesar's statue, installed by Mussolini: pp. 82-83). So although this book has been printed by an academic publisher,2 there is clearly more at stake for the author than just questions of historical assessment.

The book offers disparate materials under three headings: Chapter I.1, Mommsen and Cicero; Chapter I.2, Cicero's influence on Isaac Newton and eighteenth-century cosmology; and Chapter II, an essay on recent Ciceronian bibliography. The volume concludes with three Appendices, the first two reprinting defenses of Cicero by various hands, the third arguing that Arpinum (and not Sora) was Cicero's birthplace.

In spite of the prominence given to Mommsen in the book's title, Chapter I.1 is ineffective. Merolle quotes Mommsen's major criticisms of Cicero (pp. 23-27) but does not attempt to rebut them. He thinks the work of refutation was performed by the texts reprinted in Appendix A (p. 23 and n33). But, unfortunately, this is not the case. Montesquieu's youthful encomium of Cicero was written well before Mommsen's History and so is of doubtful relevance. The same is true of H. H. Milman's review of the work of Drumann, Mommsen's predecessor in anti-Ciceronianism. The essay quoted from the University of Wisconsin Latinist M. S. Slaughter, reprinted from Classical Journal 1921-22, at least discusses Mommsen directly, but it deals in general political and cultural values, more than with Mommsen's specific points. Similarly unhelpful are the polemics quoted in Appendix B.

Merolle essentially takes over the interpretation of Mommsen offered by Rebenich 2002. He parts company with Rebenich merely in his strictures on Mommsen's 'liberalism', which, he emphasizes, was narrowly circumscribed by his time and place—no surprise. Merolle distinguishes between philosophical and political liberalism and demands that the historian set aside political views when he writes his work (p. 47). But this is an unrealistic postulate, and the reversal of judgment among Cicero's recent biographers, which Merolle approves in Chapter II, is no less informed by political premisses than was Mommsen's. Merolle concludes that 'A wider knowledge of history, of what society and human beings are, is gained through anthropology, and is necessary before setting out to judge Cicero' (p. 101). Perhaps, but if so, it is unhistorical, in effect, to take Mommsen to task for being unacquainted with a discipline that was just emerging in his day.3

The leading idea of Chapter I.2 is that Western intellectual history remained essentially Ciceronian through the end of the eighteenth century, when Kantian, Hegelian, and Romantic ideas came to the fore. This is documented with various quotations, principally from Newton, Hume, and Adam Smith. Again, there is nothing particularly surprising here, and not enough space is devoted to analysis of the cited texts, or to discussion of the views of previous interpreters, to yield new insights.

Chapter II is a rapid, mostly descriptive survey of recent work on Cicero.4 Merolle finds, rightly, that even in Germany biographers are now freeing themselves of Mommsen's influence. But there is insufficient discrimination between what is important and what is less so or insight into trends of scholarship.

The most useful part of the book is Appendix C, which collects the evidence about Arpinum from Cicero's writings and discusses the local topography; and the plates at the end provide a good orientation on the site.

There are various mistakes in transcribing German texts and translating from German to English (e.g. on p. 26 'Rezept' becomes 'receipt' instead of 'recipe'), as well as other misunderstandings. Thus Mommsen's reference (quoted p. 26) to Cicero as imitating Aristotle's dialogue technique is evidently based on Att. 13.19(326).4, not 4.16(89).2, as Merolle thinks (p. 26n30). And it is surprising to see no reference to Polybius apropos of the mixed constitution (pp. 38-43).

In sum, even if one agrees that Cicero has been much maligned in the past, not least thanks to Mommsen and others under his influence, one may nonetheless find this book's dichotomy between Cicero, a 'noble soul', and Mommsen, a 'dwarf in politics' (pp. 27 and 33), overdrawn. Elsewhere Merolle is more candid in admitting that Cicero was 'a terribly human being' (p.105). One must turn to Rebenich's biography for a deeper understanding of Mommsen's History of Rome and its historical context.

As to Cicero, scholarship has reoriented itself and is evolving new approaches that show the inadequacy of Mommsen's. This is not the place to offer a full account; I can merely throw out some hints regarding the main categories of Mommsen's critique.

(1) The speeches. Mommsen (quoted p. 25) uncritically repeats the hardly impartial strictures on Cicero's style by such rivals as Calvus, Brutus, and Seneca, but ignores the appreciation of better qualified critics, such as Caesar and Quintilian. In addition, the autobiographical element in his speeches is hardly 'egotism forgetful of its duty', as Mommsen thought (quoted ibid.). Rather, this can be shown, even at its most expansive, strictly to subserve the needs of his case.5 In general, the speeches need to be judged not by such general considerations as 'political discernment' or handling of 'constitutional questions' (Mommsen, ibid.), but in relation to the persuasive goals in each case.

(2) The theoretical works. We are now beginning to achieve a better appreciation of Cicero's contribution, which he ironically downplayed at Att. 12.32(294).3 as merely a supplying of words.6 In fact, he applied his own judgment, as he said (Off. 1.6). And the subtle interplay between characterization and argument in his dialogues is gradually coming to light.7

(3) The political career. Here Fuhrmann's observations on the antipathy to rhetoric in nineteenth-century Germany are relevant (cited p. 23n29). Cicero's rhetorical ability was valued by his contemporaries, powered his rise to consul at the date of his earliest eligibility, and made him a desirable political partner for Caesar and Pompey. He was also what we would call an excellent networker, with a highly ramified set of contacts known to us through his correspondence. These were his far from negligible political skills. Mommsen reproaches him for carrying out forensic tasks on behalf of the dynasts in the latter half of the 50s. But he was not so insensitive as to be indifferent to 'which field he ploughed', as Mommsen claimed.8 Rather, as his letters show, he went into a kind of 'internal exile' during this period.9 If we may believe Cicero, he tolerated such circumstances in the hope that liberty might one day be recovered (Phil. 3.29). No one who has read the Philippics will recognize in their author the man described by Mommsen as 'without conviction and without passion'.10

Cicero certainly had his flaws, but no one, so far as I know, criticizes him these days on Mommsen's grounds.

Scholarship and political discourse promoting national symbols make strange bedfellows, the one pulling toward, the other away from greater nuance and subtlety. It will be interesting to see whether Cicero will now finally rate a statue at the site of his former activity. In the meantime, we may suppose that, frustrated in his bid for a triumph during his lifetime and aware of the fragility of such monuments (Catil. 3.26), he might smile at the irony of it all.11


1.   P. 27n32; he is known as the author of books on Gramsci (1974) and Adam Ferguson and John Millar (1994).
2.   Logos Verlag styles itself on its website as 'Verlag für wissenschaftliche Publikationen'.
3.   Waitz 1859-64 was groundbreaking.
4.   Apropos of Carcopino on Cicero's letters (p. 100n47) Merolle might have referred to Lévy 2015, who illuminates the political background.
5.   Cf. e.g. apropos of Sest., Kaster 2006: 25-31. In general, May 1988; Kurczyk 2006 (discussed by Merolle p. 96, though it is not so much the literary as the forensic context that she brings to bear on self-presentation in the speeches).
6.   Mommsen, cited p. 27, takes the remark at face value.
7.   On Ciceronian dialogue, cf. Schofield 2008.
8.   Mommsen 1976: III 619. That he was an advocate for various clients in court and thus engaged in constructing probable arguments that might be different (or contradictory) in different cases was a fact of which Cicero was aware (Clu. 138-42) and would not be held against him nowadays, especially since he acknowledges ethical limits (Off. 2.50-51).
9.   Cf. Herescu 1961, applying the concept to the post-civil war period; I extend it to the later 50s in my biography (forthcoming), chapter 8.
10.   Mommsen 1976: III 620.
11.   References:

Herescu, N. 1961. 'Les trois exils de Cicéron', Atti del I Congresso Internazionale di Studi Ciceroniani, I (Rome) 137-56.
Kaster, R. A. 2006, tr., comm. Cicero. Speech on Behalf of Publius Sestius. Oxford.
Kurczyk, S. 2006. Cicero und die Inszenierung der eigenen Vergangenheit. Cologne-Weimar-Vienna.
Lévy, C. 2015. "J. Carcopino as Reader of Cicero's Letters," in W. H. F. Altman, ed., Brill's Companion to the Reception of Cicero (Leiden-Boston) 198-212 (orig. in French, 2006).
May, J. M. 1988. Trials of Character: The Eloquence of Ciceronian Ethos. Chapel Hill.
Mommsen, T. 1976. Römische Geschichte. 8 vols. Munich (cited from indicated pagination of 6th edn., 1874; quoted translations are mine).
Rebenich, S. 2002. Theodor Mommsen. Eine Biographie. Munich.
Schofield, M. 2008. 'Ciceronian Dialogue', in S. Goldhill, ed., The End of Dialogue in Antiquity (Cambridge) 63-84.
Waitz, T. 1859-64. Die Anthropologie der Naturvölker. 6 vols. Leipzig.
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Kyle Smith, Constantine and the Captive Christians of Persia: Martyrdom and Religious Identity in Late Antiquity. Transformation of the classical heritage, 57. Oakland: University of California Press, 2016. Pp. xxiii, 231. ISBN 9780520289604. $95.00.

Reviewed by Richard Payne, University of Chicago (

Version at BMCR home site

In 1950, the posthumously published work of the Bollandist Paul Peeters—Le tréfonds oriental de l'hagiographie byzantine —demonstrated the extent of the pollination across historiographical and hagiographical literatures in Greek and Syriac in a Fertile Crescent he memorably described as "la Syrie bilingue." It heralded a novel, multilingual approach to the literatures of the Middle East in late antiquity that disrespected not only linguistic and cultural frontiers, but also political ones. It is only in recent years, however, that scholars have begun to apply the panoramic perspective of Peeters to literatures that remain largely quarantined within the traditional boundaries of philological scholarship. Kyle Smith's new book joins the ranks of the publications — by Muriel Debié, Jack Tannous, and Joel Walker, among others— that have rendered antiquated the division of labor between Hellenists and Syriacists. With a focus on a particular narrative rather than a linguistically or contextually delimited literary corpus, Constantine and the Captive Christians of Persia demonstrates how much can be gained from following the lives of stories across linguistic, literary, and political contexts. There was perhaps no story that traveled as widely or consequentially across Mesopotamian frontiers as the conversion of Constantine.

Imagined Constantines are the book's primary concern. So important are the historical events of the reign that the afterlives of the first Christian Roman emperor have all too often been neglected, with the notable exceptions of Gilbert Dagron's Empereur et prêtre (Paris, 1996) and Alexander Schilling's groundbreaking study of Constantinian conversion narratives in the Iranian Empire, Die Anbetung der Magier und die Taufe der Sāsāniden: Zur Geistesgeschichte des iranischen Christentums in der Spätantike (Louvain, 2008). Smith seeks to unveil the potency of accounts of Constantine within their evolving contexts rather than their historicity: "how narratives about Constantine and the Christians of Persia might have functioned when they were written, both for those who wrote these texts and for those who received them" (8). Doing so, however, requires the definition of historical contexts, and the great bulk of the first three chapters of part one centers precisely on establishing the most plausible scenarios for events subsequent authors would reframe for their own purposes.

The starting point for Constantine's involvement in the matter of Persian Christianity was a letter Eusebius claimed he wrote to Shapur II, in which he proclaimed a commitment to the Christian religion, the favor of the one God, and a concern for the welfare of Christians in the Iranian Empire. Smith argues persuasively for the authenticity of the letter, while conceding that the "[t]he important point is that Constantine's letter to Shapur circulated in late antiquity, as if it were authentic" (31-32). Constantinian authorship is nevertheless crucial for a key argument of chapter one: that the emperor's profession of a new religion distinguished him from his predecessors, such as Valerian, who had earned divine disfavor through persecution (38-39). Roman and Iranian courts alike could now share a hostile view of third-century emperors, however different their reasons, and the conversion of Constantine presented the possibility of alliance as much as antagonism.

Earlier interpretations frequently combined the letter to Shapur with Eusebius' account of Constantine preparing for a religiously inspired war against the Persians at the end of his life to argue that the Roman emperor's attempts to protect Persian Christians "led Shapur to be wary of a Christian fifth column in his empire" (53). Constantine therefore indirectly and inadvertently inspired the king of kings to undertake the violence against Christians that came to be known as the "Great Persecution" (52-53). Perhaps the most fundamental contribution of Smith's book is its definitive unraveling of these argumentative threads. The Constantinian "crusade" was a Eusebian construction, and "the Roman-Persian war following Constantine's death had nothing to do with the Christians of Persia" (63). What is more, turning from the Roman evidence to East Syrian literature, he deconstructs the so-called persecution of Shapur as a matter of fiscality rather than religion. The two primary accounts of Iranian violence against Christians in the 360s, the History of Simeon and the Martyrdom of Simeon, agree that the Bishop Simeon, titular head of the Church of the East, was executed for refusing to collect taxes on behalf of Shapur's court, not on account of his religious identity (111-117). In imputing religious motives to fourth-century Roman and Iranian rulers, fifth-century East Syrian hagiographers were developing novel visions of religious community they regarded as appropriate to their political circumstances, much as Eusebius re-envisioned Roman religio-political order.

In place of accounts of religiously inspired violence, Smith recovers fourth-century voices that regarded neither the Romans nor the Iranians as hostile to the religions of their enemies. Shapur, the theologian-poet Ephrem reported, honored Christian churches rather than assailing them (87). Ammianus Marcellinus described bishops as the most successful diplomatic intermediaries with the king of kings (79-80). The only author to enjoin warfare to "convert" the Persians was the emperor Julian, who wished to transform them into practitioners of paideia and bearers of Roman culture rather than Christians (72-73). Even the sixth-century Julian Romance, composed in a far more sectarian milieu, presented Shapur as a protector of Christians, despite framing the war in the polemical, religious terms (92-93). Here, however, Smith missed an opportunity productively to engage with the work of Philip Wood— "We Have No King but Christ": Christian Political Thought in Greater Syria on the Eve of the Arab Conquest (Oxford, 2010)— locating the text within Mesopotamian communities deliberately distancing themselves from the religious and political authority of Constantinople.

In East Syrian literature produced within the Iranian Empire, Smith shows how fifth- and sixth-century hagiographical representations of the fourth-century wars— and of Constantine— served to distinguish Christian communities undergoing political integration from their Zoroastrian counterparts. The History of Simeon connected the death of the "blessed Constantine" with the outbreak of persecutory violence, making an external factor the paramount cause and linking East Syrian Christians with the universal, trans-imperial community of churches (125-126). Other hagiographers recalled the histories of the deportation of their respective communities from Rome to Iran and insisted on their loyalty to the "religion of caesar" rather than the Iranian cults (135-145). With stories of Constantine's firm dealings with Shapur and protection of Persian Christians, Roman hagiographers and historiographers, writing in Greek and Syriac, reassured sixth- and early seventh-century Christian communities of the superiority of an empire compelled to submit tribute to an Iran so frequently triumphant in battle (154-169).

Constantine and the Captive Christians of Persia richly documents the historical roles of mythical Constantines in the communal imaginaries of Christians across Mesopotamia and frontiers, while deconstructing myths previously accepted as historical. It tracks the lines of transmission that Peeters urged us seven decades ago to pursue, but that had gone unexplored. It will hopefully inspire others to track the afterlives of Constantine in other Eastern Christian literatures. Far beyond the Roman frontiers, the conversion of the emperor provided the starting point for Christian reflection on the relationship between religious and imperial institutions.

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José Fernández Ubiña, Alberto J. Quiroga Puertas, Purificación Ubric Rabaneda (ed.), La iglesia como sistema de dominación en la Antigüedad Tardía. Historia. Granada: Universidad de Granada, 2015. Pp. 358. ISBN 9788433857637. €23.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Edmund P. Cueva, University of Houston-Downtown (

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There is no doubt that La iglesia como sistema de dominación en la Antigüedad Tardía is a welcome contribution to our knowledge of the development of the Christian church and the impact this development had on Late Antique life and culture. The editors have done a masterful job of assembling a solid set of interesting essays that have their origin in an international conference held at the Universidad de Granada in May of 2014. They note that this collection uses various methodologies in approaching the subject matter and that in some instances these methodologies are contradictory—perhaps as contradictory as the historiographical tradition surrounding the rise of Christianity. The essays take as their starting point the works of Max Weber and Karl Marx; the former is cited as the inspiration for the text. The text has is divided into three sections: 1. La iglesia como sistema de dominación. Propuestas teóricas; 2. Los artífices de la dominación: obispos y monjes; and 3. Instrumentos de la dominación eclesial: Adoctrinamiento, pedagogía y piedad.

The aim of the book is to shed historical and philological light on the texts and testimonies that grapple with the diverse forms of ecclesiastical domination in the Late Antique period. The first part of the book puts into context this domination by juxtaposing it with other hierocratic forms of control and, most importantly, with the ruling power of the Roman Empire (of special concern is the relationship between church and state). The second section examines the people involved in this domination, namely bishops and monks. The last part of the text reviews the mechanisms through which daily ecclesiastical control was spread and maintained.

Part 1: Gonzalo Bravo Castañeda's "Iglesia e imperio como sistemas de dominación: Confrontaciones y compromisos" compares the power of the Roman Empire and that of the Christian Church and analyzes how these two entities manifested themselves, were identified, related to each other, opposed each other, and eventually compromised with each other. Castañeda suggests that when the Christian Church became the basic and central institution of the Roman Empire during the middle of the fourth century, it did so through an evolution that involved clear, distinct, and separate states ("sociedad eclesiástica" and "sociedad romana imperial" [24]) that paralleled each other in the ways in which the religious hierarchies corresponded to civil functionaries of the state. In "Emperadores y reyes herejes: el arrianismo como sistema de dominación política" Andrew Fear examines the role that Constantine played in the clash between differing Christian factions and his attempt to impose a religious concordia among the faithful. Fear notes that it was no easy task to try to settle the struggle between the Arians and those that held to the Nicene Creed, a creed that offered Constantine "todo lo quería: un Imperio unido por la alianza entre la Iglesia y el Emperador" (44). However, this struggle was further complicated by the fact that local nationalisms were involved and that at the root of the problem were the bishops that had ideas that were very different from those of the emperor—notwithstanding Constantine's belief that he, as emperor, had a closer relationship to God than any cleric. This was the first time that the power of the state had to deal with a power outside of the direct control of the emperor. Pedro Castillo Maldonado's "Católicos y arrianos en la Hispania visigoda: la conformación de un sistema único de dominación" continues the examination of Arianism with a narrower focus on Visigoth Spain; the Third Council of Toledo's introduction of the filioque clause brought Visigoth Spain into the Catholic Church—an entry that was accompanied by the conversion of the monarchy. The last essay, Luis A. García Moreno's "La iglesia y el Islam como sistemas de dominación: la experiencia musulmana de al-Andalus," looks at another hierocratic form of control: Islam in Spain. The spoliation of the Muslim Conquest (711-719), Christianity as the legitimating instrument of family structures before the conquest, and Christianity and the Church as legitimators and reproducers of both an ethnic identity and a native calendar are the foci of the essay.

The second section of the text contains essays on the people who were involved in the establishment and expansion of the control that the Church wielded at that time. In "Conformación y poder del sistema episcopal en la iglesia preconstantiniana" José Fernández Ubiña focuses on the "la autoridad y las funciones asignadas a los obispos" (105) that evolved greatly during the first centuries of the Church's existence. This is difficult task, Ubiña notes, due to both the nature of the sources that never "hablan por sí mismas ni permiten generalizar su informacíon" (105) and authorial bias (religiously based) found in the sources and in scholarship on this matter. The author suggests that the greatest challenge to this evolution was neither political nor military but, instead, theological. Alberto Quiroga Puertas' "Un sistema de dominación inestable: el paradigma del cisma de Antioquía en la historiografía eclesiástica del siglo V" uses the schism that involved Meletius of Antioch to demonstrate how dissension among the developing Church caused divisions that tore at the fabric of this new institution both theologically and ecclesiastically. Puertas relies on the writings of the "'historiadores sinópticos' de la Iglesia del Siglo V" (134): Socrates of Constantinople, Sozomen, and Theodoret. All three of these authors agree that Arianism was at fault and the common enemy, and they judge the different emperors based on "su afiliacíon religiosa y grado de ortodoxia con respect al credo niceno" (148). More importantly, the author notes that Christian authors had now, for the most part, switched from writing tracts that fought against paganism or defended Christianity as a religio licita to works that sought to legitimate the internal church hierarchy. This new concern points out that the Church was "un sistema de dominacíon inestable, en constante evolucíon y muy frecuentemente agrietado por disensiones y cismas" (150). In "Forjando una alianza para la dominación. Obispos y bárbaros en el Occidente tardoantiguo" Purificación Ubric Rabaneda emphasizes the roles that the bishops played once the Church had somewhat developed and expanded its control: the relationships, interactions, and alliances between the Christian bishops and the barbarians. After the fall of empire, the bishops took up the responsibilities and tasks that had traditionally been in the purview of the Roman elite. The author includes the deeds of the bishops Maximus of Turin, Exuperius of Toulouse, and Epiphanius of Pavia, among others, as examples of the new responsibilities inherited by the bishops. Among these responsibilities one can find that these men served as the means of communication among local communities, barbarian kings, and the empire, often in matters that related to war and peace. The hierarchical positions and vast authority that these bishops had were attractive to the upper social classes and, in turn, caused a good number of the remnants of ruling elite to become bishops. Nevertheless, it is observed that these bishops ran the risk of making the wrong type of alliances or backing losing sides with the result that some were "concebidos como enemigos y sufrieron persecución, secuestro o exilio, fundamentalmente por cuestiones políticas, no religiosas" (159). Francisco Salvador Ventura's "El monacato como instrumento eclesial de dominación y de asistencia social" builds on the new roles that the Church and its members exercised before and after the fall of the empire. The monks and monasteries began to be chiefly responsible for the social welfare of their communities. According to Saint Basil the Great, this care and concern was based on the perfection of charity at which monasticism aimed: the care for the poor, sick, and elderly; hospitality for guests and travelers; concern and care for the imprisoned and criminals; the education of the young.

The first essay in the last section of the book focuses on the use of public, private, and religious space. Inmacolata Aulisa's "La cristianización de la ciudad tardorromana" attempts to trace how the terms civitas and ecclesia functioned in the light of the establishment of the Church as a controlling power, the creation of an ecclesiastical hierarchy, and the concomitant rise in the influence of the local bishops. The author reviews the relationships between the civitates and the diocesan structures as well as the differences existing between urban and suburban structures; the interaction between bishop and civitas and how this changed over the centuries; the "relación entre espacio urbano y extra-urbano de las áreas cementeriales" (206); and how the urban landscape changed through the Christianization of public spaces as found in the presence of the relics and tombs of saints. Chantal Gabrielli's "El culto a los mártires en el norte de África: devoción y control eclesiástico sobre el pueblo Cristiano" to a certain extent picks up on the theme of the presence of the relics and tombs of saints, especially of those that can be identified, rightly or wrongly, as martyrs. The Ecclesia martyrum, as the Donatists represented themselves, is examined closely by Gabrielli because the Donatists developed their own martyrs. Indeed, martyrs were very important in the Catholic-Donatist schism because it was the martyrs that would guarantee success in this struggle. Separate from the theological debate, the martyrs and their relics also provided prestige and local patriotism. In "Predicación, pedagogía y persuasión: la educación cristiana en Occidente durante la antigüedad tardía" Jamie Wood writes on the formation and development of Christian education from the view of experienced preachers and the advice they gave their fellow preachers. The works of St. Augustine and St. Martin of Braga form the core of this analysis. The former's emphases are on brevity, simplicity, knowing one's audience and one's self, and instruction through history; the latter's are pedagogy, preaching, involving the audience, and instruction on religious matters (but not too complicated instruction). Amparo Pedregal's "Discurso transgresor y cuerpos auto/controlados. La dominación de las mujeres en la Iglesia Antigua" notes that although the religious/patriarchal control over the bodies of women is not original to the Christian Church, Christianity based its control on the supposed second-class status of woman: she was created after man was and had a "carácter inferior y subordinado al hombre en las cosmogonías de las religions del Próximo Oriente, grecorromana judía o cristiana" (255). Christianity, Pedregal argues, progressively adapted and became the heir of a misogynistic and androcentric discourse. The control of women can be found in the forms through which they came under Church domination, but these forms were also used to serve as vehicles for womanly excellence: the first female followers, martyrs, ascetics, wives, and mothers. Céline Martin's "De sacrilegiis extirpandis. Interpretar la legislación contra el paganismo en la Hispania de los siglos VI-VII" grapples with a rather complicated topic that is made more complex by the limited number of sources that focus on paganism in Late Antique Spain. Martin limits the scope of her enquiry by setting these parameters (the definitions of paganism and their implications) and relies on Isidore of Seville as a resource. The last essay in the collection is Raúl González Salinero's "La sinagoga degradada: actitudes y medidas contra una institución ajena a la autoridad de la iglesia," which does a solid job of tracing the transformation of the synagogue from the place in which the seeds of Christianity and Christian proselytizing can be found to it being openly rejected because of its "innumerbales pecados y crímenes" (295). This essay touches upon the rhetoric, artistic imagery, violence, and legislation associated with this drastic change, an excellent way to end a very informative book.

This collection of essays will appeal to all scholars and students of Late Antiquity, the rise and dominance of Christianity, and the internal and external challenges found in this new system of domination. It is a book worth reading and could also serve well as a course text.

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J. C. Yardley (trans.), Livy, Rome's Italian Wars, Books 6-10 (with introduction and notes by Dexter Hoyos). Oxford World's Classics. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. xliii 391. ISBN 9780199564859. $14.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Gregory Pellam, The Ohio State University (

Version at BMCR home site


[Editorial note: The delay in publication of this review is the responsibility of BMCR, not the reviewer.]

Livy's second pentad has not seen a new English translation since Betty Radice's outstanding Penguin translation of 1982. However, Stephen Oakley's magisterial commentary has so improved our understanding of these books and the remarkable output of the past three decades of such scholars as Cornell, Raaflaub, Forsythe, Smith, Mitchell, and others has done so much to advance our thinking on Rome in the years covered in them that a new translation with notes is overdue. The completion of the Oxford World's Classics Livy collection is, therefore, most welcome. This team is ideally suited to the task. J. C. Yardley is a prolific translator, including Tacitus' Annals and two other volumes of Livy for the same series, among others. The introduction and notes were authored by Dexter Hoyos, who has made many indispensable contributions to the study of Carthage and Mid-Republican Rome. Accordingly, one should expect these scholars to perform admirably the important task of helping a new generation of students to understand and appreciate a pivotal section of the work of Rome's greatest historian.

Yardley's translation is readable and accessible, though it occasionally suffers from minor errors which bear on either our understanding of Livy's authorial intent or issues of historical interpretation. I discuss here two examples from book 6:

6.20: adprobantibus cunctis diem Manlio dicunt.
"This met with unanimous approval and the Senate arraigned Manlius."

The subject of the sentence must be plural, and so cannot be "senate". It is also unlikely that the subject is patres, since they are the implied subject of the ablative absolute. The understood subject is the plebeian tribunes whose speech Livy has just related. Interpretation of this passage is important for historical reasons. Even if one accepts the common view that the tribunes did not have that power this early, that is no reason to impute such a meaning to Livy, who was not bound by modern communes opiniones.

6.39: Licinius Sextiusque, cum tribunorum plebi creandorum indicta comitia essent, ita se gerere ut negando iam sibi uelle continuari honorem acerrime accenderent ad id quod dissimulando petebant plebem…

"When elections had been scheduled for choosing the plebeian tribunes, Licinius' and Sextius' conduct was such that, by declaring a wish to continue in office, they made the plebs very eager to grant them what they wanted but pretended not to want."

The tribunes did not declare a desire to stay in office. They denied a desire to continue in office (negando...uelle continuari, and thereby caused the plebs to desire them more. This is only a minor error and one of the type which is entirely understandable in the translation of so much material.

In a volume such as this, the introduction and notes are perhaps just as important as the translation, since it will likely be a student's first exposure to scholarly ideas about the author. Hoyos' learning is well reflected in the notes and he provides excellent discussions of many historical issues. However, he is very critical of Livy's "weaknesses and limitations", sometimes giving a false impression of the authors aims, methods, and sympathies. Let me address a few of Hoyos' criticisms.

Hoyos claims, as do many, that Livy did not bother to read the documents that should have served as his primary sources. Evidence for this practice is found in 4.23, where "though Macer and Tubero both claimed to have consulted the Linen Books for the consuls of 434, they gave different names" (xiv, with n. 15). But at 4.23.3 Livy says that Macer preferred to follow the Linen Books credulously, while Tubero doubted its reliability. We must, accordingly, read the first section as telling us that both annalists consulted and referenced the Linen Books, but that only Macer chose to follow them. Livy may or may not have consulted the Linen Books, but this passage provides no evidence either way.

Livy is likewise criticized for failing to discuss the terms of Rome's early treaty with Carthage, "even though he could have made the effort to view it, as Polybius had done" (xiv). Polybius' account of the treaties comes amidst his discussion of the origins of the wars between Rome and Carthage, and it is quite likely that Livy recounted Rome's early relations with Carthage in the lost book 16 when he discussed the origins of Carthage and the beginnings of the 1st Punic War (cf. Per. 16). It would have been burdensome and bad story telling for Livy to stop to describe the contents of each treaty as it was struck, especially since war between Rome and Carthage was still decades away. By mentioning these treaties, Livy offers dramatic anticipation of the earth-shaking conflicts to come in the next century for an audience that was well aware of their scope and import. A description of the treaties' contents at this point would only have diluted the effect.

Hoyos suggests (xvi-xx) that Livy imagines early Rome to be a time in which Romans were all virtuous: "His first ten books might be seen as a paean to early Rome's simple and uncorrupted morality…" Yet many instances of improper conduct occur in "reputedly virtuous fourth-century Rome." Livy was well aware that every generation viewed previous generations as superior to its contemporaries. Although Hoyos dismisses it (xxiii), Livy makes this clear by having Fabius Rullianus compare the morals of his own day unfavorably with those of the past (8.33).

Examples of extreme thoughtlessness are offered, too. These, I suggest, are extremely problematic in a text designed for non-specialists, since they predispose the reader to assume that any difficulty or confusion is caused by the author's carelessness, rather than to try to work out Livy's meaning. One example: Hoyos writes (xxvi), in a list of passages which are meant to show Livy's ignorance of military matters, that "a detached unit, surrounded by Samnites and planning to steal away by night while they sleep, nevertheless sounds the standard trumpet-call for the second night-watch (7.35)." But is this really an inappropriate act in the circumstances? Certainly, the Samnites would have been made more suspicious if the horn had never sounded for the changing of the watch.

These criticisms are minor and reflect mostly isolated problems. They should in no way be read to suggest that this book is not worth reading. In addition to the facile translation, there are many features of this volume that will make it useful to teachers. For instance, Hoyos provides an interesting appendix on the manipular legion in Livy. The notes, besides being generally very useful on matters of history, are, refreshingly, arranged by book and chapter number, rather than by page number, which will prove a better introduction for students to the ways in which scholars interact with the text. A glossary provides helpful introductions to institutions, documents, and traditions mentioned, but unexplained, by Livy. This volume offers a good new translation of Livy's second pentad, in addition to a wealth of good historical background for students. It should, however, be used with caution in the classroom, since it at times might have the tendency to prejudice students against one of Rome's great literary talents.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016


Bruno Bleckmann, Markus Stein (ed.), Philostorgios Kirchengeschichte (2 vols.). Kleine und fragmentarische Historiker der Spätantike, E 7. Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2015. Pp. lxxiv, 1,057. ISBN 9783506781994. €128.00.

Reviewed by Görge K Hasselhoff, Technische Universität Dortmund (

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Table of Contents

Die vorliegende Ausgabe füllt eine schmerzliche Lücke; schon dafür ist den beiden Bearbeitern sehr zu danken. Philostorgios (ca. 388 – nach 422) als Historiker war zwar seit Joseph Bidez' epochemachender Edition von 1913 als Quelle immer präsent, gleichwohl fehlte es für den akademischen Studienbetrieb je länger je mehr an Übersetzungen in moderne Sprachen. Diese Lücke haben nacheinander Philip R. Amidon (englisch, 2007), Édouard Des Places (französisch, 2013) und nun die Autoren der vorliegenden Ausgabe dankenswerter Weise geschlossen. Die Arbeit an dem Band haben sich die beiden Herausgeber aufgeteilt: Die Einleitung stammt überwiegend aus der Feder Bleckmanns, ebenso die Übersetzung, die mitunter Varianten stehen lässt, und die historischen Kommentare, die Texterstellung und die philologischen Kommentare aus der Feder Steins. Die Grundentscheidung, dabei zwei unterschiedliche Orthografien zu wählen (vgl. Bd. I, S. IX und fortlaufend im Text), ist nicht nachvollziehbar und mindert den Wert der an sich lobenswerten Ausgabe.

Philostorgios selbst als Anhänger des Eunomius ereilte das Schicksal vieler nicht im griechisch-orthodoxen Mainstream verorteter Theologen und Historiker: Er wurde nicht, bzw. nur fragmentarisch, überliefert; immerhin hat der byzantinische Historiker Photius in seiner Epitome sowie seiner Bibliotheke (Myriobiblos) ein so ausführliches Exzerpt aus der Kirchengeschichte des 5. Jahrhunderts angefertigt, das zumindest die Grundlinien seines Geschichtswerks erkennbar sind. Daneben finden sich weitere kürzere Exzerpte u.a. im Martyrium des Flavius Artemius, dem mittelbyzantinischen Lexikon Suda sowie der Vita Constantini BHG 365. So werden zumindest die Grundlinien des Werks sichtbar, auch wenn anzunehmen ist, dass nicht mehr als maximal 20% des ursprünglichen Textes erhalten sind (vgl. Bd. I, S. 46) und die erhaltenen Stücke zudem häufig an den Sprachduktus der mittelalterlichen Bearbeiter angepasst wurden, wie sich auch durch Kursivierung der paraphrasierten Passagen am Druckbild ablesen lässt: Fast der gesamte Text ist kursiv gesetzt. Der Interessenlage der Exzerptschreiber geschuldet ist der sehr unterschiedliche Umfang der erhaltenen Auszüge der ursprünglich zwölf Bücher. Demgemäß war die erste Hälfte des Werks (sechs Bücher) der Theologie und den Ereignissen zur Zeit der konstantinischen Dynastie (davon vier Bücher dem Wirken des Aetios und Eunomius unter Kaiser Constantius II.) gewidmet. Der Regierungszeit des Julian „Apostata" ist das siebte Buch gewidmet. Die Bücher 8-10 legen das Hauptaugenmerk auf die Regierungen von Jovian, Valentinian I, Valens und Theodosius I., während die letzten beiden Bücher Arcadius und Theodosius II. behandeln. Innerhalb der einzelnen Bücher wechselten sich chronologische und exkursartige Passagen ab, wobei Philotorgios großen Wert nicht allein auf die Darstellung kirchengeschichtlicher Ereignisse – insbesondere der eunomianischen Richtung des Christentums – legte, sondern auch auf naturkundliche (hervorzuheben Buch VIII, fr. **8,8b [Bd. I, 364-366] mit einer eindrücklichen Beschreibung eines Tsunamis im Mittelmeer; Buch XII, fr. 12,8 [Bd. I, 430] zu einer Sonnenfinsternis) und medizinische Fragen, z.B. im Blick auf die Krankheiten der Kaiser – Philostorgios war aller Wahrscheinlichkeit nach Arzt (vgl. Buch VIII, fr. 8,10 [Bd. I, 368]).

Die vorliegende Ausgabe nun folgt im Prinzip der bald 100 Jahre alten Edition von Bidez, die in den Nachfolgeauflagen ihrerseits von Friedhelm Winkelmann bearbeitet wurde; allerdings wurden einige Fragmente ergänzt bzw. aus Bidez' Anhang in den Text integriert. Zudem wurde der Text vollständig an den Überlieferungsträgern überprüft und nötigenfalls korrigiert. Es stellt sich allerdings die Frage, warum die Texterstellung ausschließlich auf der Grundlage von Digitalisaten bzw. PDF-Dateien von älteren Mikrofilmen erfolgt (vgl. Bd. I, S. 103f mit Anm. 6; 111f und öfter) – wer je mit Handschriften gearbeitet hat, weiß, dass eine Autopsie von Handschriften auch im digitalen Zeitalter unumgänglich ist! Die zugehörige Übersetzung ist sehr flüssig zu lesen und gibt das stilistisch hochstehende, mitunter artifizielle Griechisch des Philostorgios adäquat wieder. Allerdings wäre zu fragen, ob threskeia (Buch VII, fr. 7,4b; Bd. I, S. 314) zutreffend mit „Religion" (S. 315) wiedergegeben ist; mir scheint hier eher „kultischer (oder: religiöser) Brauch" gemeint zu sein. Hinsichtlich der Religionsthematik könnte zu dem noch stärker gewichtet werden, dass Philostorgios unfreiwilliger Zeuge für die mitunter schwache Identifikationskraft des Christentums im vierten Jahrhundert wird, wenn sogar ein Bischof zur hellenischen „Religion" wechselte (Buch VII, fr. 7,13; Bd. I, 344) – der zugehörige Kommentar begnügt sich mit einem Verweis auf „lokalantiochenisches Kolorit" (Bd. II, 398).

Sieht man von solchen Kleinigkeiten ab, ist der Ausgabe trotz des relativ hohen Preises eine breite Leserschaft zu wünschen.

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Ute Kelp, Grabdenkmal und locale Identität. Ein Bild der Landschaft Phrygien in der römischen Kaiserzeit. Asia Minor Studien Band 74. Bonn: Verlag Dr. Rudolf Habelt, 2015. Pp. x, 318; 67 plates. ISBN 9783774938090. €89.00.

Reviewed by Lynn E. Roller, University of California, Davis (

Version at BMCR home site

Phrygians formed the largest ethnic group in central Anatolia, yet their culture is still imperfectly known and their contributions remain undervalued. Phrygian sites and monuments from the first half of the first millennium BCE have received considerable attention, as excavations at Gordion, Midas City, Daskyleion, and other Phrygian centers have revealed the significant accomplishments in architecture and the visual arts achieved by the Paleo-Phrygians (using the terminology of Claude Brixhe, the major scholar working on Phrygian language and epigraphy). The culture and social organization of the Phrygians during the Roman period, in contrast, have received much less attention. Historical and archaeological studies of Roman Asia Minor have focused largely on the Greek cities near the Mediterranean coast, and much earlier scholarship tended to replicate unquestioningly the negative opinions of ancient Greek and Roman authors, most of whom looked down on the occupants of the rural hinterland of Anatolia as inferior peasants. Fortunately this picture has changed somewhat in recent years, as scholars like Stephen Mitchell and Peter Thoneman have delved into the rich trove of epigraphical and topographical material from this region to offer a more balanced and nuanced approach to the land, people, and customs of Roman Phrygia.1

Ute Kelp's book on grave monuments and local identity in Phrygia during the Roman Imperial period builds on this tradition. The work, a revision of the author's 2010 dissertation for the University of Tübingen, presents an analysis of Phrygian funerary monuments from the first three centuries CE and uses this material to address a number of questions: how to identify the territory of Roman-period Asia Minor that can be considered Phrygian; how to assess the degree of Hellenization among the local population, and how to define the extent to which the people and culture of this region identified themselves as Phrygians. These are large and difficult questions, and Kelp does not claim to answer all of them. Rather, she uses one of the most abundant artifact types known from Roman Phrygia, the stone grave monument carved in the shape of a false door (doorstones, as they are often called), to address these points. Her discussion of door façade grave monuments moves beyond the typological studies of earlier scholars such as Waelkens and Lochman to examine their distribution, their relationship to Greek grave artifacts such as stelai and sarcophagi, and the information they provide about the identity of the inhabitants of Roman-period Phrygia.2

The first part of the book summarizes previous scholarship on Roman Phrygia and discusses some of the problems inherent in studying the Roman-period material from this region. A key question is how to define what constitutes 'Phrygia' during the first centuries CE. There is no identifiable political entity, since territory with Phrygian cultural forms extended across several Roman provinces in Asia Minor. Moreover, Roman-period Phrygia does not coincide with the territory of the Paleo-Phrygian zone, given that several important Phrygian centers of the first millennium BCE such as Gordion lay outside the heartland of Roman Phrygia. In addition, several new cities were founded on Phrygian territory during the Hellenistic and early Roman eras, as part of the policy of Hellenistic monarchs to bring this region into the Greek cultural sphere. In new urban centers like Hierapolis and Aizanoi, Greek civic forms such as the theater and the gymnasium are prominent, yet these cities considered themselves Phrygian. In the absence of political classifications and geographical continuity, the definition of Phrygian territory remains problematic. One marker used by other scholars is the presence of Neo-Phrygian texts—inscriptions of the first through third centuries CE written in the Phrygian language but using the Greek alphabet—although these are rare or absent altogether in many new foundations. This lack of clear boundaries helps explain Kelp's choice of funerary monuments for analysis as a distinctive Phrygian cultural marker. To her credit, Kelp recognizes that the concept of 'cultural markers' is vague and often runs the risk of creating a self-referential argument.

The next section presents an overview of grave types found in Phrygia during the Imperial era. Some burial forms such as tumuli and rock-cut chamber tombs that were frequent during the Paleo-Phrygian period continued to be used, although less frequently, while other grave forms such as the sarcophagus become more common, reflecting the influence of Greek and Roman burial practices. Kelp then turns her attention to the most common feature of local funerary architecture, the door façade monument. This could cover the entrance to a rock-cut chamber tomb or built stone tomb, serving as a functional cover, or be carved onto the wall of a sarcophagus, where the form was largely ornamental. Kelp reviews the evidence for the door façade gravestones in various regions of Phrygia and discusses their individual features. They range from simple to elaborately carved forms that included attached half-columns and moldings. Many were decorated with symbols pertinent to the deceased: lions or eagles were often used for men; for women, symbols of domesticity or beauty such as a spindle or mirror appear frequently. More richly decorated examples can include portraits of the deceased, often a married couple. Other decorations advertise the social class of the deceased, such as a scroll or stylus to proclaim literacy. Door façade monuments from rural areas, in contrast, often address the agricultural nature of the region through depictions of oxen or agricultural implements. The variety of door facades can reflect several factors: economic status, with more elaborate monuments favored by wealthier individuals; degree of Hellenization, since individuals who wished to identify more strongly with Graeco-Roman culture might be more likely to choose Hellenizing details to decorate the door façade; and geographical location, whether urban or rural.

Kelp reviews some of the controversies connected with the interpretation of the door façade grave monuments, including questions about their origins and chronology. The debate on the originhas focused on whether the type was indigenous to Anatolia (following Waelkens) or imported from Italy (Lochman). Chronology is also problematic, since many door façades were reused on later graves. Some earlier scholars, especially Lochman, argued that the type was introduced into Anatolia from the west during the second century CE. However, more recent studies of the grave monuments from Aizanoi have shown that the door façade was found there in the mid-first century CE, and Kelp uses this evidence to argue that the fashion begins with the foundation of new cities in the early Imperial era. In her view, the type appeared first in the western regions of Phrygia as a revival of the Paleo-Phrygian door facades and then spread from west to east, eventually becoming common in rural as well as urban areas and among poorer people with few pretensions of Hellenism.

I agree with Kelp's argument in favor of an Anatolian origin, although I am not fully persuaded by her efforts to derive the door façade burial monument from the earlier Phrygian tradition. While several of these façades, well documented by Emilie Haspels and Susanne Berndt-Ersöz, do illustrate doorways, they were part of cult practice, not funerary rites.3 They are frequently (but not always) connected with the Phrygian Mother goddess (always called Matar in Phrygia, never Kybele, a word that was only occasionally used as an epithet). The great majority of the chamber tombs from Paleo-Phrygian sites in the Phrygian Highlands do not use a door façade. Kelp also draws attention to the use of the lion in both Paleo- and later Phrygian grave monuments, although it is uncertain whether this is a survival from older Phrygian traditions or an independently occurring use of the lion as a symbol of power and protection. The question of the origins of the door façade funerary monument is complex and cannot be reduced to a single cause. The type appears first in the urban centers of western Phrygia that were most heavily influenced by the Hellenism of the coastal cities, and the influence of Greek forms is certainly evident in the use of floral ornaments, mouldings, and attached half-columns in the Greek architectural orders. These factors might suggest a Greek origin. Yet the Hellenizing elements are applied to a grave monument that is widespread in central Anatolia, but rare elsewhere. Moreover, the distribution of the doorstone type corresponds to a high degree with the appearance of Neo-Phrygian inscriptions, almost all of which consist of a curse formula intended to protect the grave. Whatever its origin, the door façade funerary monument clearly had special resonance to the peoples in central Asia Minor. Kelp's maps recording the distribution of the door façade reinforce this point effectively.

The third section of the book places the door façade in the context of other Phrygian cultural features in Roman Asia Minor. That type of grave monument is only one of a number of distinctive regional traits that show a renewed sense of Phrygian identity and cultural awareness among the people of central Anatolia during the first two centuries of the Imperial era. The reappearance of inscriptions in the Phrygian language, as noted above, is one. Another is the presence of regionally minted coins with the notation 'Phrygian' in the legend (e.g., from Apameia) or of figures from indigenous mythical traditions such as Marsyas, Otrous (a Phrygian hero in the Trojan War), and even Phrygia, a personification of the region itself. Yet another is the presence of distinctive regional cults in Roman Imperial Phrygia. These can include revivals of the cults of Paleo-Phrygian deities such as Agdistis, a form of the Phrygian goddess Matar (Mother), at Midas City, or cults of newly attested deities such as Men, that had a strong local following in central Anatolia. There is also evidence for literary interest in the history of Phrygia, both among Greek authors and at least one local writer, Metrophanes of Eukarpeia, who composed a history of Phrygia (now lost). Kelp attributes this growing self-consciousness of, and indeed greater pride in, regional identity to the process of urbanization in the region. As she emphasized earlier in her work, most of the cities were new foundations in the Hellenistic and early Imperial periods and so regional pride could not be a matter of long standing. Rather, the citizens of the new cities, especially the local elite, absorbed Greek attitudes of pride in their identity as polis citizens. The phenomenon is all the more striking in the face of the continuing negative images of Phrygia and the Phrygians evident in contemporary Greek and Roman authors. Reaction against this negative stereotype, together with the increased urbanization and the resulting prosperity of Roman-era Phrygians, may even have been a factor contributing to the renewed sense of Phrygian ethnic consciousness.

In the last analysis, Kelp does not really explain why the door façade type became so popular as a grave monument among the Roman-period Phrygians. Her suggested interpretations—that they reflect a growing strength of Hellenizing urbanism among the elite of Phrygian cities and a sense of local Phrygian identity and pride in Phrygian heritage—seem to pull in two opposite directions. The absence of written sources for most of the region during the Roman period may make a definite answer to this question impossible. However, by interrogating a large and well documented body of archaeological data, Kelp's book performs a valuable service. Her work brings new focus to the unique character of the people and the region of central Asia Minor during the Imperial era.


1.   Mitchell, Stephen. Anatolia. Land, Men, and Gods in Asia Minor. Oxford: Clarendon Press 1993. Thonemann, Peter, ed. Roman Phrygia. Culture and Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2013.
2.   Waelkens, Marc. Die kleinasiatischen Türsteine: Typologische und epigraphische Untersuchungen der kleinasiatischen Grabreliefs mit Scheintür. Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 1986. Lochman, Tomas. Studien zu kaiserzeitlichen Grab- und Votivreliefs aus Phrygien. Basel: Skulpturhalle 2003.
3.   Haspels, C. H. E. The Highlands of Phrygia. Princeton: Princeton University Press 1971. Berndt-Ersöz, Susanne. Phrygian Rock-cut Shrines. Structure, Function, and Cult Practice. Leiden: Brill 2006.

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Lee Fratantuono, A Reading of Lucretius' 'De rerum natura'. Lanham; Boulder; New York; London: Lexington Books, 2015. Pp. xii, 505. ISBN 9781498511544. $140.00.

Reviewed by David Butterfield, Queens' College, Cambridge (

Version at BMCR home site


This is a large and strange book. The title announces it as 'a reading' of Lucretius' De Rerum Natura, whereas the blurb and introduction (p.ix) simply call it a commentary. In reality it is neither: it gives a line-by-line account of the poem's content, surveying broader thematic concerns where possible. Fratantuono has produced works of a similar nature for Virgil's Aeneid (2007), Ovid's Metamorphoses (2011) and Lucan's Bellum ciuile (2013), narrative poems that are more naturally suited to such treatment. Now Lucretius, as an established 'epic predecessor', comes fourth in the series. The result is a dense but difficult work: several original and engaging elements lie buried within a stubbornly linear reading of a didactic poem that inevitably paraphrases its entire curriculum.

Fratantuono cites (albeit without reference) John Masson's Lucretius: Epicurean and Poet (1907-9) as an analogous undertaking. For all of its faults, Masson's ambitious work found some success because it unified Lucretian topics under suitable chapters, setting out the poet's approach before critiquing it with modern scholarship (and science); the structural confines of his poem were rejected as not fit for purpose. By contrast, Fratantuono's Reading allows DRN to control the order and depth of his topics. When such an awkward monograph-cum-paraphrase was last attempted, by Raphael Francus in 1504, he understandably gave up halfway through.

The Reading does not succeed in being 'a comprehensive commentary' (rear cover): it is too narrow in approach, mostly disregarding philosophical and philological analysis; furthermore, it does not engage critically or directly with Lucretian scholarship, even if works are copiously indexed in endnotes. References to the commentaries of Lambinus, Giussani, Heinze, Merrill and Ernout-Robin could be counted on one hand; the works of Pius, Creech, Wakefield, Forbiger, Bockemüller, Mueller, Piazzi, Clotilde, Salemme and Jackson appear not to have been used.

Fratantuono's work is intended to inform both experts and novices in their Lucretian studies. This it has the potential to do. However, by reproducing the structure of DRN exactly in its six chapters, and not offering any independent argumentative thread, the going is heavy for both parties. The book's pace is uniform and leisurely throughout, with each page covering some fifteen to twenty verses. Lucretius' topics are subdivided by subject headings, introducing discussions that range from a single paragraph to several pages. By honouring Lucretius' own distribution of lines, however baffling at times, Fratantuono's account is sometimes too brief on major topics: for most critics, the clinamen (pp. 99-105) deserves greater treatment than magnets (pp.451-6) or thunder and lightning (pp. 416-24); likewise, Lucretius' brief but bizarre recantation of armed animals in warfare (5.1341-9) is given regrettably short shrift (p. 387).

Since to recount the book's contents would be to paraphrase a paraphrase of DRN, I will instead outline some good and some bad aspects of the book. First among the good, there is something appealing about an avowedly subjective reading of a poem that has provoked so much controversy and vacillation. Second, the reader is left in no doubt that Lucretius' poem has been read with care and zeal. Third, and most importantly, in several places Fratantuono is able to offer ideas that are new, or revisit old ideas from fresh angles. First among the bad, he is frequently evasive and hard to pin down about what 'reading' he wishes to promote. Second, the book's structure fails to showcase and bolster his ideas that overturn the trend of modern scholarship. Third, the book is absolutely riddled with typographical errors.

Amidst the survey there appear a number of fresh and exciting contributions: for instance, Fratantuono well encapsulates the ethos of Lucretius' poem as a sweet lament (dulcis querella, ex 4.584 and 5.1384), best summarised at pp.265-7; contends throughout that pietas plays a much more central role in the poem than has previously been acknowledged; gives rich colour to the account of the Magna Mater (2.600-60, at pp.121-7); argues persuasively that Lucretius seeks to establish himself as divine in the proem to Book 5 (p. 316); explores the unsettling presence of a lethal flower on Helicon (6.786-7 at pp. 445-7).

Some of these novel ideas are profitably raised but rather flogged to death: Lucretius' vacillation between optimistic and pessimistic attitudes towards pietas is closely explored but left foundering by the time we reach the close of Book 6 (pp.467-73); the conflict between the Roman, the Greek and the Trojan continually reappears but is never allowed to crystallise; Lucretius' undeniable focus upon death and destruction is revisited by the minute and loses its force through repetition (the terms 'destruction'/'destructive'/'destroy' occur over 200 times).

By contrast, some ideas are plain silly: for instance, that Lucretius intended Aeneadum genetrix to be the title of the work (12 n.23); that he was encouraged to depict Venus and Mars in the poem's proem because they were caught in a rete, which resonates with the second syllable of his name (71 n.42); that Manilius' Astronomica is five books long because it seeks to counteract contentions of Lucretius' fifth book (396 n.23).

Despite the book's aim to offer 'a reading', it is very often frustratingly difficult to apprehend quite what that single reading is. Alongside the flashes of new and interesting takes on the poem, one finds a good deal of ambiguity, bet-hedging and passing of the buck. It is indicative that 'more or less', 'somewhat' and 'as it were' occur over a hundred times. Frequent expressions of the type 'some would prefer' or 'some might think' hinder more than help. 'A reading' must lose much of its force when its results are enshrouded in this sort of verbal clag: 'One might perhaps speculate that...' (p. 71 n.43); 'Individual readers will consider this passage [2.300-2] more or less darkly' (153 n.119); 'This section [4.324ff.] may seem to mark something of a more or less sharp break' (p. 244).

In a work that sets great store by the ordering and succession of Lucretius' poem, it is remarkable how desperately little Fratantuono has to say on the poem's original ordering of books (pp. 236-7) or state of completion (p. 396 n.42).1 These are not technical points for a late-nineteenth-century German dissertation but must underpin any competent consideration of the poem's structure, texture and purpose. Nevertheless, the introduction shows commendable interest in establishing what Lucretius actually wrote (p. xi). Yet this attitude is not reflected in the book as a whole: we are told that 'ink has been spilled' on serious critical problems, such as the doublet 1.936-50 = 4.1-25 (p. 54) and the fascinating case of 5.312 (p. 329). Often the textual problem is wholly set aside as bearing little weight on the analysis. This is indeed commonly the case, but in other instances it is the lynchpin – the crux – for a correct interpretation: such instances as 2.257-8 (paradosis uoluptas... uoluntas) and 5.53 (paradosis immortalibus e diuis) well demonstrate this, but Fratantuono says not a word about either. In other cases the major textual problem is raised to a position of prominence but then left hanging in the balance: 1.44-9 ('[w]e might consider that these lines are genuine', p. 20), 2.42-3 (p. 90), 3.15 (p. 164), 4.456-7 (pp. 254-5), 4.1096 (p. 311 n.208), 5.1442 (pp. 392-3). In cases such as these Fratantuono needs to posit a text for discussion or make clear that he is aporetic.2 In fact, it remains entirely unclear on what Latin text Fratantuono has based his analysis, since the verses cited are at times inconsistent in their readings and orthography. Martin Ferguson Smith's Loeb is the most probable source, even if that cannot be the case throughout. Since Lucretius' text is cited with over fifty typographical errors, and the translation does not always match the text (e.g. 3.907 'deflevimus', 'will weep' at p. 210,), this ambiguity poses a serious problem.

There are some provocative ideas and tangents interspersed throughout the 2,000 notes that emanate from the Reading. Even if the majority direct the reader to the (recent) English commentaries or provide line references, they still play a valuable role. It is frustrating, then, that they bear the anachronistic (or at least incongruous) ignominy of being endnotes. If after turning sixty pages one reads only '2.20' (477 n.170), 'So Rouse' (ibid. n.172) or 'There is probably no allusion to...' (74 n.113), the anticlimax is palpable. Worse still, since many of these notes suffer from the vice of being syntactically dependent upon the sentence they reference, one must either read the book with a finger ever in the pudding or save up a store of twenty to read in one confused flurry.

Fratantuono's prose style is at times endearing, at others grating. Much of its character stems from his passion for the poem: over fifty times the text is 'lovely'; scores of times it is 'eerie', 'haunting' or 'chilling'. Other verbal penchants are more quaint: 'thereof' is used over fifty times (along with sentence-final 'thereto', 'therein' and 'thereon'); the absolute use of 'absent' (approximating to 'without') occurs over a dozen times; 'said' is frequently deployed to avoid the supposed sin of repetition – or demonstrative adjectives. Such curiosities rub shoulders with frequent colloquialisms ('and all that', 'and the like', 'no matter').3 Nevertheless, save for some otiose foreign tags or film references, the style is more particular than pretentious.4

More seriously, the extent of failure in proof-reading is the worst I have encountered in a twenty-first century book on the Classics. There are some 250 errors in the text: words (English and Latin) are omitted, repeated, wrongly placed and misspelled (through metathesis, homophony, auto-correct and perhaps OCR); sometimes the mistake can only be referred back to the author. This is regrettable, as readers – and Lucretius (here 'Lucertius', there 'Lucetius') – deserve better. A sale price of $140 should presuppose a good copy editor. The book ends with a partial bibliography (pp.485-90) and copious index (pp.491-504).5

The best elements of this book could have been united successfully in a shorter work – perhaps of six book-specific essays – for Fratantuono's strengths lie in painting with the broadest strokes and brightest hues. As it is, a work of 500 pages and more than 200,000 words should achieve a substantial amount. In practice, A Reading provides a comprehensive summary of the poem's contents, explores in detail a number of select themes, and makes a sustained case for Lucretius' depth of poetic artistry. Fratantuono writes that '[i]f [the book] has a goal it is to instill a deeper love for Lucretius in his readers' (p. xi): for those who are inspired by his ineluctable enthusiasm to read and contemplate DRN further, this goal will be achieved. But all Lucretian readers will still turn to the established commentaries and wonder why no one makes bold to write a good introductory book on Lucretius.


1.   'arguments about what the poet may have intended at this or that point in the composition of the epic are ultimately more or less rooted in subjective evidence of the apparent absence of the ultima manus'; 'the stronger argument seems to be to consider the poem to be more or less complete as is.'
2.   Several controversial texts are cited without critical comment (e.g., 2.289, 2.356, 4.897, 5.849, 6.755, 6.48). Elsewhere, impossible readings are called 'difficult', such as unmetrical manare (3.57 at 224 n.57) or non-existent exirtant (6.48 at p. 413). It is alarming to see OQ appear both as 'miniscule' (sic p.3) and 'capital' (156 n.203) manuscripts.
3.   Some words are new to me: 'peasure' (p.120), 'contraceive' (p.300), 'worldglobal' (335).
4.   Other traits are harder to stomach: many paragraphs begin with 'And' or 'For', which seems a self-contradictory practice, or are syntactically incomplete; 'might' often wants to play the part of 'may'; 'cf.' is frequently used for 'see'; the semi-colon is often roped in for a comma, colon or full stop.
5.   The bibliography does not include many scores of items cited in the footnotes, yet does contain some oddities such as Barbour and Norbrook's edition of Lucy Hutchinson's translation of Lucretius (nowhere cited), Martin West as a commentator on Horace's Odes, and the enigmatic 'O.' as editor of Ennius' Annales. The index is well-stocked but few readers of Lucretius could profit from entries such as 'Hellenistic philosophy, 4', 'poetic theory, 55' and 'questions, 301, 315'.

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Peter T. Struck, Divination and Human Nature: A Cognitive History of Intuition in Classical Antiquity. Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2016. Pp. x, 288. ISBN 9780691169392. $45.00.

Reviewed by Jennifer Larson, Kent State University (

Version at BMCR home site


This illuminating study proceeds according to what Peter T. Struck calls a "central axiom": our ability to know exceeds our capacity to understand that ability. In cognitive science, it is well established that we know certain things without understanding how we know. Divination is "just the most robust ancient version in a long series of attempts" to express this "surplus knowledge." The social and political dimensions of divination are not its drivers; they happen posterior to, and as an epiphenomenon of divination, which is driven by the existence of surplus knowledge or intuition, "an underlying characteristic of the nature of human cognition." Struck's goal, then, is to show that in the Classical world, divination filled the role that the concept of intuition fills in the modern world.

Struck points out that the study of divination by classicists usually focuses on its political aspects and social functions, or on its supposed kinship with magic. Both of these approaches have limitations. Although magicians practiced divination, so did virtually everyone else, and manteia enjoyed a different, much higher cultural status than did goēteia. The link moderns have perceived between divination and magic seems to lie in the fact that we tend to consider both practices "irrational," and find them out of place in a culture that we presume to be guided by logos.

The Greeks and Romans distinguished between "natural" modes of divination (via dreams, visions and oracles) and technical modes (via signs in livers, flames, birds, etc.). Struck argues that the emic distinction is fuzzy. Both modes draw upon intuition, he suggests, for the technical modes do not function strictly "by the book" and in the unusual cases where books exist, as in the Roman augural law, the profusion of complex rules seems more a hindrance than a help. Granted that there was some room for intuition in the technical modes, these modes still depended on bodies of knowledge, which must be learned through oral transmission, observation, and experience. This is a weakness in Struck's thesis, for the craft involved in technical divination cannot be equated with intuition.

In Chapter 1, "Plato on Divination and Nondiscursive Knowing," Struck shows that in Plato's works, the verb manteuomai is often used to describe the advent of ideas or judgments in the mind without an intervening process of reasoning, much as an English speaker might say "I have divined your purpose," but in more abstract contexts, such as perceiving the similarities between temperance and harmony. From this starting point, the thought is then tested through discursive means. Thus "divining" is Plato's preferred metaphor for what we would call intuition or insight.

The "divining" of which Plato speaks, and which Struck describes as "a kind of knowing that happens in a flash," would seem to exclude the technical varieties of divination, for these by definition do not happen in a flash, but require the intermediary step of a sign, which must then be interpreted, however quickly, and however flexible the relevant rules. On the other hand, Socrates' daimonion, which he calls his "customary sign," seems to be a hybrid, for on the one hand, it functions like an inner voice, but on the other, it appears unbidden like an oblative sign and it calls for interpretation. Socrates is forbidden to do something, but why? The answer always depends on discursive examination of the problem, just as the Delphic oracle about Socrates demanded examination before its true meaning could be discerned.

Struck is sometimes too zealous to find the language of divination, as for example in his discussion of Phaedr. 249c-d where the diction is more closely related to mystery cults, and he admits that the connection is "indirect." For me this raised the question of how Plato's use of divination relates to his use of other kinds of Greek ritual. Does he functionally equate divinatory knowledge with mystery experiences and possession, and if so, what impact does this have on Struck's thesis?

The Timaeus includes a difficult discussion of how the highest part of the soul, situated in the head, controls the lower soul by manipulating the liver to frighten or soothe it. Calm facilitates the liver's reception of divinatory images, but such reception can only happen when the upper soul is not in control—during sleep or any altered state such as enthousiasmos (Tim. 71e). Thus, as Struck points out, for Plato the appetitive soul has the ability to arrive at knowledge through nondiscursive means. But here again, Plato invokes enthousiasmos as an alternative way to allow the lower soul to become receptive, and in doing so, he seems either to broaden the activity of the liver beyond the clearly divinatory (to epiphanies for example), or to broaden the definition of manteia beyond the simple reception of non-discursive knowledge.

Chapter 2, "Aristotle on Foresight Through Dreams," addresses Aristotle's view that non-coincidental prescient dreams exist and his explanation of them in three treatises on sleep and dreaming. Acknowledging the difficulties in the text and interpretation of these treatises, Struck proposes an elegant new interpretation of a key sentence about the goal of the investigation (Somn. 453b21-5). Rather than asking whether there is a difference in our ability to foresee events with different types of causation (human and daimonic/natural), Struck suggests that Aristotle's question is whether divination itself is an act performed by humans on their own, or has a daimonic/natural cause. This is significant for our understanding of the treatise On Divination During Sleep, for the current consensus seems to be that Aristotle is attempting to deny or debunk any explanation of predictive dreams that invokes the divine. Instead, Struck argues cogently that Aristotle assigns the causation of such dreams to the daimonic, defined as the mode through which the divine acts in the natural world. Like consistent luckiness, the ability to experience predictive dreams results from impulses within the lowest or nutritive soul (threptikon), which are in turn attributable to the daimonic.

Aristotle concludes that conscious, discursive reasoning and inspired divination are mutually exclusive. In order to prophesy, one must be empty-headed, at least temporarily; it is this property that allows the daimonic to operate, opening a channel for its teleological impulse toward the good. Like Plato, he contrasts this divination by the empty-headed with less accurate, empirical methods of divination.

When Struck refers to "divination" in the first two-thirds of the book, what he usually means is "inspired divination," whether through dreams, oracles, or various forms of possession. This changes in Chapter 3, "Posidonius and Other Stoics," for the Stoic explanation of divination applies to both technical and inspired methods. (Struck focuses primarily on Cicero's De Divinatione 1.118-32, with its arguments attributed to Posidonius, but surveys other sources, showing in the process that divination was a key topic for the Stoics.) Because the Stoic universe, including air, inanimate objects and living organisms, is permeated by divine pneuma, any part of the cosmos can affect any other part through this medium; the phenomenon is known as sympatheia, "co-feeling." Furthermore, the "seeds" or causes of future states are contained in the pneuma, which collectively forms a "world soul." Causes and effects unfold according to predictable patterns, which technical diviners can observe (for example, in animal entrails or bird flight), while inspired divination happens when the pneuma of an individual's soul is released from the normal demands of waking life, allowing it to be directly affected by divine soul(s).

The Stoic explanation of inspired divination fits Struck's model of surplus knowledge; like the Platonic and Aristotelian theories, it involves a suspension of the waking, reasoning faculty. Struck has more difficulty showing how a Stoic account of technical divination results in surplus knowledge, for if predictable patterns in signs exist, divination converges with the empirical sciences. Discarding Cicero's examples, which point to such a convergence, Struck argues that Posidonius' position offers a higher-level explanation of patterns in signs (sympatheia), yet maintains that the specifics of the relationships involved are impervious to reason.

In Chapter 4, "Iamblichus on Divine Divination and Human Intuition," Struck shows how Neoplatonism represents a decisive break with previous philosophical positions on divination. First, the Neoplatonists disavow the physiological, material factors that were essential for Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics. Second, they lack interest in the context-driven parameters of traditional divination, which was aimed at practical answers to questions about how to proceed in a given situation.

In a sharp turn away from his predecessors, Iamblichus proposed that "true" divination was a method of knowing the deep structure of the cosmos. The Neoplatonists were dismissive of traditional divination, because it did not aim to produce transcendent experience or revelatory wisdom. For Porphyry, traditional seers might achieve limited success in tracing connections within the physical world (e.g., between sheep entrails and events), but there is nothing divine in physical signs. In his De Mysteriis, Iamblichus distinguishes between lower and higher, "true" forms of the mantic art. The lower forms depend on guesswork, observation of correlations in nature, and the activities of inferior daimones, but only the higher forms involve divine agency.

Iamblichus rejects the older theory that people experience predictive dreams or other divine phenomena when the reasoning faculties are at their ebb; for him the opposite must be true. Only through the exercise of the "highest mind" can humans make the ascent to the divine, and only this transcendence of the material world is worthy of the name mantikē. Iamblichus therefore proposes a term for the natural ability to gain knowledge without being able to account for it: epibolē, or as Struck translates it, "intuition."

It would be interesting to know whether non-philosophical Greek texts consistently attribute knowledge generated unconsciously to external, divine sources. In the book's conclusion, Struck applies the divinatory = intuitive hypothesis to the interpretive questions in the Odyssey surrounding Penelope's struggle for certainty about Odysseus' identity, and makes a convincing case that the abundant signs in Books 19 and 20 can be read as emic expressions of our etic concept of intuition (knowledge which arises non-discursively and without conscious inference).

This is an absorbing work of intellectual history, demonstrating a confident command of the philological and philosophical issues, and lucidly exploring Greek philosophical engagement with the epistemological and theological puzzles presented by divination. The book offers a fresh approach to the topic of divination by juxtaposing it with ancient and modern theories of cognition, and by moving past the debate over the (ir)rationality of the practice. Struck asks why the Greeks found divination so convincing as a way of generating knowledge, and shows how educated thinkers in antiquity explained (and in the case of the Neoplatonists) ultimately rejected traditional divination. This demonstration does not fully address the reasons for popular acceptance of divination, although Struck hints that awareness of intuitive forms of knowledge must have played a role. I hope that this excellent study will stimulate further research into such questions.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Gonca Cankardeş-Şenol, Lexicon of Eponym Dies on Rhodian Amphora Stamps. Volume 1, Eponyms A. Études alexandrines 33. AmphorAlex, 3. Alexandria: Centre d'études alexandrines, 2015. Pp. 608. ISBN 9782111390225. €40.00.

Reviewed by Nathan Badoud, Université de Fribourg; Fonds National Suisse (

Version at BMCR home site

After a Preface by Jean-Yves Empereur and an Introduction by Gonca Cankardeş-Şenol, this book covers 2106 Rhodian amphora stamps, from nearly the same number of dies, dated by eponyms whose names begin with A. Three further volumes are envisaged for the other eponyms, and an unspecified number of volumes for the fabricants. Most of the stamps come from Alexandria, particularly the Lucas Benaki collection which Virginia Grace studied for several decades; but material from a mix of other places has been added to the Alexandrian core.

The stamps were already accessible online on the database of the Centre d'études alexandrines. This could call into question the usefulness of the enterprise, which will comprise more than 1500 pages for the eponyms alone: the author states that it will be "more permanent" (p. 23) than the database. We may add that the printed illustrations are of higher quality than in the database (where the quality is poor) and that the planned appendixes will probably enhance their interest. Like the bibliography on the website, the bibliographical references in the first three volumes will be incomprehensible until a general bibliography is published in the fourth volume or made available online. The press should therefore not have distributed the book volume by volume.

The book, like the database, has some serious conceptual flaws.

1. Despite appearances to the contrary, this is not a publication of all Rhodian stamps found at Alexandria, for two reasons. First, the division between eponyms and fabricants omits all the dies which bear neither but have only the name of a month or a symbol, or which could not be completely identified, and omits also the isolated secondary stamps. Second, since most Rhodian dies are attested in Alexandria, it is important not only to offer a sample, but also to establish how many stamps found in Alexandria were produced from each Rhodian die, figures which are not provided. The book does not mention either the existence or the desirability of this basic information; let us hope, however, that it will be provided in the fourth volume.

2. The classification system of the dies, by Jean-Yves Empereur, raises a methodological problem, for only the legends are taken into account. Yet the symbols and the shape of the dies also had a meaning and are therefore as relevant as the legend for the classification. The solution adopted results in a dispersal of stamps conveying the same information, so that it is difficult to grasp the overall system of stamping on Rhodes. The book does not even mention the notion of such a system (which could be defined as the relation between the distinctive units of the stamping, which have first to be identified, like the elements of a code).

3. The terminology used to identify each die is impractical. Catalogues usually assign a separate number to each item, but here the stamps are labeled only by chains of letters and numbers, such as RE-ΑΡΧΕΜΒΡΟΤΟΣ-02-ΠΑΝΑΜΟΣ-ΔΕΥΤΕΡΟΣ-002: something which is not easy to cite, especially if many dies are concerned. Apart from the problems which this poses for scientific classification (above, 2), such a system would be acceptable in an evolving online database, but hardly makes sense in a book intended to give a picture of the evidence at a fixed point in time.

4. The records published by the CEAlex are a mixture of good (generally easy) readings and mistakes which are sometimes understandable and sometimes embarrassing (such as the author's systematic failure to recognize the form more commonly used for the letter zeta). These mistakes, numbering over 60, will be discussed in the "Bulletin amphorologique" of the Revue des études grecques (2017).

Other problems are specific to the book.

5. The title is disconcerting for two reasons. The book is neither a corpus nor a catalogue of the Rhodian amphora stamps found at Alexandria (above, 1). The alphabetical organization of the material accounts for the title Lexicon. But a proper understanding of the material would require the adoption of a chronological order, to classify both the eponyms and the months. Moreover, the phrase "Eponym dies on Rhodian amphora stamps", despite its prominent position, is odd, since the dies are lost and known only through the handles stamped with them. What is offered is in fact "Eponym dies illustrated by Rhodian amphora stamps". Indeed, the book is essentially a collection of images.

6. The Preface by Jean-Yves Empereur describes the classification system used in the book (above, 2-3). It repeats material from a 1986 article, published well before the works of Yvon Garlan, which set the standards of the discipline in both the presentation of material and its historical analysis.1 It also aims to explain how the volume and the following ones will be useful: "this corpus can lead to renewed examinations of various subjects, such as the frequency of month names and their connection with the grape-picking season" (p. 15). But the book is not a corpus (above, 1) and cannot be used to study the frequency with which the names of months appear since the number of stamps known from each die is not provided (1). Moreover, the production curve of Rhodian amphoras bears no relation to the grape-picking season.2 Finally, the Preface gives a summary of research which cites only in passing the name of Lucas Benaki, a man who devoted about thirty years of his life to collecting and preserving the roughly 66,000 handles which form the core of the present work, and says very little about the research on the material done by Virginia Grace and her collaborators in close liaison with him.

8. The Introduction by G. Cankardeş Şenol betrays serious misunderstandings of the history, aims and achievements of what is known as "amphorology". It starts by stating that "the earliest publications related to amphora stamps appeared in the second half of the 19th century" (p. 17). In fact, the study of amphora handles goes back to the 16th century, and the identification of the Rhodian stamps was made by John Stoddart in an article published in 1850 and based on the material found in Alexandria.3 Cankardeş Şenol goes on to claim that "V.R. Grace undertook the earliest chronological studies" (p. 20), whereas these were the work of C. Schuchhardt (1895) and F. Bleckmann (1907) whose inaccurate dating of the Pergamon deposit lays behind the faulty high chronology developed by Grace herself.

The author then deals with the heart of her subject matter, the dies used to produce the Rhodian amphora stamps. Here she is content to cite a 1935 article to state that they were "made from wood, metal or clay". For wooden and metal dies she provides only an incorrect reference4 and an inconclusive document.5 In the absence of evidence to the contrary, it is reasonable to assume, considering the availability of the material, its ease of use and the ductus of the letters, that all Rhodian stamps were applied by ceramic dies. The engravers of the dies which are the subject matter of the book are not even mentioned, although they have for several decades been among the central figures studied in amphorology on Rhodes and elsewhere.6

The reason for the stamping process is restricted to the following statement: "it has been suggested that the stamps impressed on the amphorae were related to the wine carried in them" (p. 18). Yet amphoras were used to transport all sorts of products (including oil, fish, fruits, and alum). Their stamps never gave an indication of contents, and the same stamps were sometimes also used to mark tiles. One can conclude that they were not related to the wine that was only sometimes carried in the amphoras.

The picture which the author gives of Rhodes goes well beyond modernism:7 in her opinion, it was a state managed by an eponym in charge of the economy (p. 19). In fact the eponym was not "also" but only the priest of Helios. The function of the priest (whether he was mentioned in an inscription or on a stamp) was solely to indicate the date of the document, which was thus comprehensible only within the state itself (hence the occasional presence in inscriptions and ancient authors of eponyms of two or more different cities to date the document or event); this is sufficient to show that the amphora stamp was not for the benefit of Egyptian or other consumers, but for that of specialist Rhodian supervisors at the stage when the vessel was made, and without reference to its contents; it did not guarantee the latter's nature or quantity. Moreover, the author confuses the potter who made the amphoras and the fabricant who was legally responsible for their production. She also introduces an anachronism in supposing that a wine's reputation was linked not only to its city of origin but also to the estate it came from (p. 19): this is the price to pay for continuing to imagine that the stamp was aimed at the consumer, which it certainly was not. The hypothesis that "the month name appearing on the stamp was probably an indication of the period/time when the amphora was filled with wine" (p. 19) is no better founded than the others, and is contradicted by everything which has just been said above on the subject. Moreover, it makes no reference to the annual production curve of Rhodian amphoras, and takes no account of the fact that the Rhodian stamps are the only ones which mention the names of months, and then only for a limited period. Regarding "the absence of ethnic" as "the result of the distinctive shape and the surface colour of amphorae, which were already known to the customers and indicated the origin" (p. 19), the author adopts a consumerist point of view wholly at odds with the fact that Rhodian amphoras came in different shapes, and were produced with different types of clay. The absence of an ethnic on their stamps is hardly noticeable since the civic symbols of a rose and a head of Helios, which also occur on the Rhodian coinage, could take its place. Unfortunately, she limits her discussion of the symbols to stating, again without proof, that "they were decided depending on either the preferences of the producers/workshops or the general tendency towards a symbol of the production centre formed by their beliefs, traditions, and ethnics" (p. 20). The idea that the state could exercise control over the stamping process, and that the latter was itself a form of control, appears only in an unjustified connection with the wine. Equally unjustified is the distinction made between the island of Rhodes and the Peraea: both were parts of the same state.

What the author says about the chronology of the material (p. 20-21) is partly out of date, and in particular takes no account of the epigraphic evidence which mentions the same eponyms and the same months as the amphora stamps.8

To sum up, the classification system adopted in this Lexicon is unsatisfactory. The commentary betrays inadequate understanding of the stamps and the society which produced them. Moreover it ignores some basic tenets of scholarship, including the need to consider the arguments of other scholars, to provide supporting arguments for one's own hypotheses, and to avoid presenting the latter as facts. While we wait for the appendices promised for the fourth volume, the main value of the book will lie in its illustrations.


1.   Y. Garlan, Les timbres amphoriques de Thasos, 1999; Les timbres céramiques sinopéens sur amphores et sur tuiles trouvés à Sinope, 2004.
2.   N. Badoud, Le Temps de Rhodes, 2015, 30-35; see also H. Blitzer, Hesperia 59 (1990), 679.
3.   J.L. Stoddart, TRSL 3 (1850), 1-127.
4.   V.R. Grace, Hesperia 22 (1953), 120 (not 119), no longer admitting the use of wooden dies as in 1935.
5.   How the RE-ΑΡΙΣΤΩΝΥΜΟΣ-ΔΑΛΙΟΣ-001 stamp could reflect the use of a metal die is not specified.
6.   See for instance G. Finkielsztejn, Chronologie détaillée et révisée des éponymes amphoriques rhodiens, de 270 à 108 av. J.-C. environ: premier bilan, 2001 (Rhodes); N. Conovici, Histria VIII. Les timbres amphoriques 2, 1998 (Sinope); Y. Garlan, Amphores et timbres amphoriques grecs. Entre érudition et idéologie, 2000, p. 93-112 (Thasos).
7.   For the use on the concept of "modernism" in ancient history, see for instance A. Bresson, The Making of the Ancient Greek Economy, 2016, 2-4, and, more specifically, Y. Garlan, Amphores et timbres amphoriques grecs. Entre érudition et idéologie, 2000, 20-32.
8.   See C. Habicht, "Rhodian Amphora Stamps and Rhodian Eponyms", REA 105 (2003), p. 541-578 ; N. Badoud, "Bulletin amphorologique", REG 120 (2007), p. 210-212 and 125 (2012), p. 192-193; "The Contribution of Inscriptions to the Chronology of Rhodian Amphora Eponyms", in M. Lawall, P. Guldager Bilde (ed.), Pottery, Peoples and Places, 2014, 17-28; Le Temps de Rhodes, 2015, ch. I, VII and VIII.

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