Thursday, June 21, 2018


Khodadad Rezakhani, Reorienting the Sasanians: Eastern Iran in Late Antiquity. Edinburgh studies in ancient Persia. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017. Pp. 224. ISBN 9781474400299. £56.00.

Reviewed by Craig Morley, University of Chester (

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While interest and research in late antiquity continues to increase, particularly in the fields of Later Roman and Sasanian history, the history of Central Asia is less understood, and there is a comparative dearth of studies on this region. To help redress this, the focus of this book is Central Asia and the Hindu Kush in late antiquity: what Rezakhani terms, 'East Iran'. Rezakhani's aim is to provide a political narrative and chronology of the regions in Central Asia and the Hindu Kush that make up his East Iran. The underlying argument is that Central Asia in late antiquity was not an unimportant periphery between larger and more important empires, but was politically important in its own right, particularly in the role it played in the later Islamic and medieval period.

Rezakhani uses the Sasanian Empire, its influence and interactions with the regions of Central Asia, to anchor and inform his political narrative. Rezakhani's premise is that by understanding these regions better, we can develop a better understanding of the Sasanian Empire as a whole. In relation to the insights similar investigations into Roman-Sasanian relations have given about Sasanian history,1 this is a reasonable assumption, and one that is developed and justified throughout.

The term 'East Iran' is Rezakhani's most important innovation. The justifications in coining the term 'East Iran' for territories including Sogdiana, Chach, Tokharistan, Sistan and Zabulistan, amongst others, are convincing. These are: 1) the need to give these regions equal attention as surrounding territories; 2) the 'inefficiency' (p.13) of existing terminology and labels, such as Central Asia, Transoxiana, Khurasan, for this broad region in its late-antique genesis and medieval context. Although the use and scope of the term 'East Iran' is likely to be debated, it is nevertheless a useful innovation in promoting these regions as a distinct historic and political entity worthy of, and needing, further research.

Rezakhani's political narrative is based on extensive use of modern archaeological, numismatic, sigillographic and palaeographic investigations, supported by evidence from third-party (Roman, Byzantine, Chinese and Arabic) primary sources. This methodology comes with inherent problems. A reliance on secondary sources that are likely to change, be adapted and debated as new evidence becomes available and new studies made, means that certain aspects of this political narrative may not be built on the surest ground. Indeed, Rezakhani himself admits the reliance on secondary sources will likely result in parts of his study becoming "obsolete and eventually modified" (p.26). Likewise, the use of third-party primary sources, which come with their own cultural and political biases, perspectives and agendas, can often distort our understanding of the political structures and decisions of outside powers: in this instance, Central Asian dynasties. Despite these issues, and the concerns they may raise, it is perhaps the only realistic solution currently available, due to the dearth of literary-historical sources from East Iran in late antiquity itself.

The study is structured chronologically, investigating the major Central Asian dynasties of late antiquity, starting with the Sistanis (Saka, Pahlavas) in the third century and culminating with the Nēzak and Turks in the seventh century. This chronological approach is punctuated twice, in chapters seven and nine, which focus on the development of Sogdiana. Rezakhani argues that this region played a central role in the genesis of East Iran as a distinct political, cultural and geographic entity.

Individual chapters consistently follow the chronology of rulers in the different available literary sources. Most chapters are summed up with a 'conclusion' or 'legacy of' section, which summarises the effect a dynasty had on the political evolution of East Iran. Unfortunately, these summary sections are missing from chapters one and eight. It is unclear why the pattern is not followed in these chapters. It would have been useful to keep these subheadings consistent throughout, with 'legacy of', seemingly more in-fitting with the aim of showing the development of East Iran over the longue durée of late antiquity.

In the first chapter, "The Sasanians and the Sistanis", the focus is as much on the Sasanians' first forays into East Iran under Ardashir I in the third century, as it is an investigation of the peoples of that region, the Indo-Parthians and Indo- Sakas. An interesting theory posited here, based on numismatics, is that the Sasanians themselves originated from East Iran.

Next, in "The Kushans and the Sasanians", Rezakhani's skill in synthesising diverse and often contradictory numismatic and literary (Chinese, Roman and Middle Persian) evidence to weave together a convincing chronology is first evident. In this chapter, it is argued that the Kushan, as the first power to create a unified political empire in these regions, started the process of East Iran's development as a distinct political and geographic entity.

"The Kushano-Sasanians" chapter argues that the Kushano-Sasanians were not subservient governors for the Sasanians, but were an independent cadet branch of the Sasanian dynasty who ruled Kushan independently of the Shahanshahs in Ctesiphon. Indeed, it is shown that the Kushano-Sasanians occasionally even challenged and threatened the main branch of the (imperial) Sasanians. Interestingly, it is argued that the Kushano-Sasanians used royal names and titulature (Pērōz and kay) before the imperial Sasanian dynasty. This certainly supports Rezakhani's idea that there was reciprocal political and cultural influence between the Sasanian Empire and East Iran. This chapter also argues the end of the Kushano-Sasanians resulted in direct Sasanian involvement in East Iran. This conforms with the drive to achieve increased control of the frontiers in other parts of the empire, namely Shapur II's campaigns in Arabia, in the same period.

Following the chronology, Rezakhani next investigates "The Iranian Huns and the Kidarites", invaders from the east who played a direct role in the demise of the Kushano-Sasanians in the region. The most contentious issue in this area is whether the Iranian Huns were a single large wave of invasion or multiple waves of smaller invasions. Rezakhani touches on this debate rather briefly, and more elucidation of the author's own position would have been welcome here. Nevertheless, the actions of Shapur II in confronting and countering the Chionites, before turning his attention to the Roman Empire, emphasises the priority the east had over the Sasanian's western frontier at this time, which supports Rezakhani's overall idea on the importance of East Iran for the Sasanians.

In "The Alkhans in the Southern Hindu Kush", a chronology for the Alkhans, perhaps the least well-known group in this study, is provided. Rezakhani argues that the Alkhans were an independent political entity, not a part of the Hephthalites, as is commonly believed. Two main reasons are given for this theory: 1) the use of distinctive busts in Alkhan coins; 2) they ruled territories in the southern Hindu Kush, further south than the Hephthalites travelled.

In contrast to the Alkhans, Chapter 6 deals with arguably the most famous progenitors of Rezakhani's East Iran: the Hephthalites. For Rezakhani, the Hephthalites were fundamental in shaping East Iran as a major part of world history in later Islamic history. The scale of their power and influence brought Indian, Chinese, Iranian, Bactrian and Sogdian cultures together. Rezakhani's ability to succinctly synthesise debates and ambiguities to present a clear political chronology is again apparent in his treatment of the contentious Mazdakite movement. Unsurprisingly, given the focus of this book, it is argued that Kavad was removed from the throne due to Hephthalite involvement in his initial ascension, rather than for any religious heresy. The internal competition and instability that disturbed the Sasanian Empire in the late fifth century certainly makes this a reasonable assumption.

The next chapter, "Sogdiana in the Kidarite and Hephthalite Periods", takes a detour from the chronological narrative. Rezakhani traces the early development of Sogdiana from a political and economic backwater to a region that would hold such importance in the later Islamic and medieval periods. It is argued that the beginnings of Sogdian development and urbanisation began with the Kidarite invasion, which dragged Sogdiana into the wider orbit of Central Asia and a nascent East Iran. Kidarite, and later Hephthalite, links to the wider world allowed Sogdian merchants to reach new markets, such as China, and increase their wealth.

Chapter 8, "The Nēzak and Turk Periods", returns to establishing the political chronology of Central Asia in late antiquity. It is important to note that this chapter focuses on the Nēzak Shahs, not the Nēzak Tarkhāns, who Rezakhani believes were a separate entity. It is noted that unlike their predecessors, the Nēzak Shahs appear to have made official use of Persian language in their coinage. Importantly, this indicates increased Sasanian interest and influence in East Iran in the sixth century.

Next, "Tokharistan and Sogdiana in the Late Sasanian Period" traces the relationship between the Sasanian Empire and the West Turks after their joint victory over the Hephthalites, and the effect their relationship had on these two regions. Rezakhani argues that Tokharistan did not decline into a destitute region after this conflict, as has been previously thought, but instead developed along new lines: horticulture replacing agriculture and a series of small powers holding political sway. West Turk control over Sogdiana once again allowed the Sogdians to increase their economic and mercantile reach and to colonise new areas, helping to develop the famous Sogdian trade network. From a Sasanian perspective, Yazdgard III's ability to gather an army for his last stand from East Iran underlines the importance this region had to the empire, and the importance the Sasanian had on this region.

Chapter 10 summarises Rezakhani's ideas on the political chronology and importance of East Iran in late antiquity. Chapter 11 gives a short excursus on the Shahnameh, the main claim advanced here is that the "Shahnameh" is the quintessential example of East Iranian influence on later Persian culture.

In the concluding chapter Rezakhani states that his study was an attempt to put Central Asian history in its own context, rather than as a periphery of other regions and civilisations. In this aim, Rezakhani has largely succeeded. However, the book's title ReOrienting the Sasanians: East Iran in Late Antiquity detracts from this aim. By having Sasanians in the title it is implied that they, not the Central Asian dynasties and powers, are the central focus of the book, and that these dynasties can only be given importance and context through their relationship with the Sasanians. Given the scope and interest of the series this book was published with, Edinburgh Studies in Ancient Persia, the choice of title seems an unfortunate and misleading compromise.

Rezakhani openly states that his approach to this broad topic may be criticised as that of a generalist, but that such an approach is necessary. I would certainly agree with that point. This study is a valuable addition to the literature, and will be of particular interest to non-specialist as an entry point and framework from which to familiarise themselves with the history of Central Asia and the Hindu Kush in late antiquity. Although Rezakhani purposefully stayed away from cultural history, his effective use of numismatics has the beneficial side-effect of highlighting some important cultural developments in Central Asia and the inception of East Iran.

Clear and well-labelled maps help make this book useful to specialists and non-specialists alike. Likewise, the generous inclusion of images of coins illustrates points raised in the text itself. A time-line of the dynasties of East Iran would have been a welcome addition to complement these maps and figures, and would have helped to visualise Rezakhani's political framework.


1.   B. Dignas and E. Winter, Rome and Persia in Late Antiquity, (Cambridge, 2007).

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018


David Frendo, Athanasios Fotiou, John Kaminiates: The Capture of Thessaloniki: Translation, Introduction and Notes. Byzantina Australiensia 12. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2017. Pp. liv, 189. ISBN 9781876503000. $57.00.

Reviewed by Douglas Whalin, George Mason University (

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This volume was originally published in 2000 by the Australian Association for Byzantine Studies, and its re-release by Brill is a welcome opportunity to make the text more widely available. It contains an English translation of Kaminiates' letter regarding the capture of Byzantine Thessalonike in 904 by the Arabs and his subsequent captivity, in parallel with the Greek text of Böhlig's 1973 edition, accompanied by two introductions and historical notes. The translators Frendo and Fotiou each wrote an introduction: the former covers historical and literary issues, the latter surveys the topography of Thessaloniki with particular focus on its fortifications.

John Kaminiates' addressee was Gregory of Cappadocia — both are also otherwise unknown, although it emerges from the letter that Kaminiates came from a prosperous and well-connected clerical family, whose fate factors significantly in his narrative. In her introduction to the critical edition, Böhlig divided the letter's 79 chapters into seven principal sections, which provide a good scheme for summarizing its contents.1

The letter begins and ends with formal greetings and valedictions (chs. 1–2 and 79) — concluding with a short scribal tailpiece which appears in all extant manuscripts. It establishes that John and Gregory met in Tripoli, Lebanon, as prisoners of war, and that Kaminiates' account was produced as a request from Gregory to know more about how he and his family had come into this condition. The next section provides an extended description of Thessaloniki and its neighboring regions — its history, human and natural geography, buildings, and culture (chs. 3–15). Particularly for passages which provide evidence for the extent and nature of Slavic settlements, Frendo and Fotiou provide significant commentary about Kaminiates' place in the historical record (pp. 138–150).

The third section of the letter narrates the preparations made in anticipation of the siege (chs. 16–22) before describing the events of the siege and capture of the city on 31 July, 904 (chs. 23–41). The narrative pays attention to the actions of the Roman military commanders who bore responsibility for the poor state of the city's defenses. The editors' historical notes fill in what else is known about these events from other historical sources (pp. 154–158). These chapters adopt a relatively objective account of the events of the siege — impersonal, but always with a view toward the human suffering of the author's friends and neighbors. In the fifth part, Kaminiates recounts his personal experiences as he and his companions navigate their way through the chaos, become prisoners, and buy a degree of protection with gold they had hidden (chs. 42–55). The account then returns to other people, both individuals and groups mentioned previously in the text (chs. 56–64), particularly imperial officers unlucky enough to be in the city at the time of its fall. Accounts are given of their fates. Finally, the seventh section describes the trip to Syria, which includes stops at Patmos, Naxos, Crete, and Cyprus before arriving at Tripoli, Lebanon (chs. 65–78). Here the account turns personal again, as John relates his efforts to keep his family intact through these dangers, and the losses he suffered nevertheless.

Beyond its form as an epistle and the titular description of the sack of the city, Kaminiates' text is a surprisingly varied literary work. Its ekphrasis of Thessaloniki covers much of the text, interspersed with the narrative of events. The literary description serves to heighten the author's credibility, and to a certain degree situates the text within a genre of other urban ekphraseis, such as we have from late antiquity and again from later Byzantium. Significant topics include the city's neighboring Sklavene settlements, hints at Bulgarian-Byzantine relations, and the recipe for and use of "Greek fire" — all of which are accompanied by quite thorough endnotes. While Kaminiates' military accounts are those of an educated civilian, his narrative of the ordeal intertwines a personal tale within a narrative of the fall of the city. Furthermore, his perspective is noteworthy because his account originates from outside the "imperial-aristocratic families and the high-ranking military [officers who appear in] historiography-chronography."2

As Frendo stresses in his introduction, the text is highly idiosyncratic — an epistle between two otherwise insignificant individuals. Kaminiates' prose is vivid, and his interests quite varied. The English translation captures it well, the translators highlighting in their endnotes where difficult passages or idioms caused difficulty. The introductions summarize the chronology of the events and the geography of Thessaloniki, and address questions about the source's authenticity, particularly in response to Kazhdan's 1978 article, which questioned its authenticity.3 Kazhdan's thesis arose in significant part because of the late date of the manuscripts — the oldest extant one dates to the first half of the fifteenth century (Pp. xxxvii–xxxix). Because Frendo and Fotiou do not include information about the transmission of the manuscripts, their rebuttal of Kazhdan can be a little difficult to follow at times, but they argue comprehensively that Kaminiates' text is essentially an authentic document from the tenth century.

Two maps accompany the work (pp. li, lii). Portions of these maps were originally produced in grayscale; the quality of the images in the 2017 publication is significantly lower than in the original publication of 2000. The first map is a plan of the city of Thessaloniki, marking the location of major streets, buildings, gates, and other known places mentioned in the text. The second is a somewhat sparse map of the neighborhood around Thessaloniki, including the Chalkidiki peninsula, giving the locations of bodies of water and a few settlements. While the city plan provides a satisfactory overview of the urban plan, a significant number of the locations mentioned in the text — including streets mentioned in the introductions — are not marked. No map gives an overview of Kaminiates' voyage into captivity, the topic of the final 13 chapters of his account.

The English translation is accompanied by a photocopy of the original Greek text from Böhlig's 1973 critical edition. The apparatus criticus has been removed, which seems an odd choice given that its table of abbreviations was reproduced (p. liii). The second introduction, on the geography of Thessaloniki, has a surprising number of minor but distracting errors: references to passages in the translation and commentary omit the note or section number; and typographical errors misdate several of the references. It's unfortunate that the re-release by a new press was not used as an opportunity to clean up and rework the introductory section at least, if not to produce a fully revised edition. These minor critiques aside, the re-release of this translation is a welcome opportunity for more scholars to become acquainted with this unique document.


1.   Gertrud Böhlig, ed. Ioannis Caminiate de Expugnatione Thessalonicae, CFHB vol. 4. (Berlin: de Guyter. 1973). Pp. xiii–xvi.
2.   Spyros P. Panagopoulos, "Narrative Techniques in John Kaminiates De Expugnatione Thessalonicae," Byzantion Nea Hellás 33 (2014): 181-202, here p. 200.
3.   Alexander Kazdhan, "Some Questions Addressed to the Scholars who Believe in the authenticity of Kaminiates' 'Capture of Thessalonica'," Byzantinische Zeitschrift 71 (1978): 301-14.

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Andreas Fountoulakis, Andreas Markantonatos, Georgios Vasilaros (ed.), Theatre World: Critical Perspectives on Greek Tragedy and Comedy. Studies in Honour of Georgia Xanthakis-Karamanos. Trends in Classics, Supplementary Volumes 45. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. Pp. xii, 375. ISBN 9783110514919. €109,95 (hb). ISBN 9783110519785. ebook.

Reviewed by Ioannis Polemis, University of Athens (

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Table of Contents

Τhis volume celebrates the life and the work of an eminent classical scholar, Professor Georgia Xanthaki-Karamanou. Professor Xanthaki's work deals mainly with the post-classical drama, to which her doctoral dissertation, Studies in Fourth-Century Tragedy, was devoted. As F. R. Adrados points out, Xanthaki is "a person who is constant in the study of Greek theatre". She has also published several important contributions to the study of Attic rhetoric. Of particular importance for anyone interested in Demosthenes' work is her annotated edition of his speech Against Meidias. The volume in question here contains several articles dealing with various aspects of Greek tragedy and comedy. Some of them are written by her students, who occupy distinguished academic positions in Greece and abroad.

It is not possible to give a full picture of the variety of subjects covered by this volume. I shall focus on a few articles, which have a special interest because of the new perspectives under which various aspects of Greek drama are examined. In the first part, general studies concerning Greek drama are to be found. F. R. Adrados looks into the origins of Greek drama once more, arguing against those who still believe in the model proposed by Aristotle, who suggested that tragedy came out of the dialogue of the exarchon of the dithyramb and the Chorus. Adrados, rejecting this pan-Dionysism, held most notably by U.von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, points out that such a theory neglects various religious and ritual aspects, which played their role in the creation of the literary genre in question.

A. H. Sommerstein ("Philanthropic Gods in Comedy and Tragedy") examines the presentation of philanthropic gods by the main fifth-century tragic and comic poets, making a sharp distinction between the philanthropic gods of the Odyssey and the gods of the Iliad, who show little or no concern for the welfare of human beings, and highlighting the role of Aeschylus and Aristophanes, who introduced human-friendly gods into tragedy and comedy respectively. S. Saïd ("The People in Aeschylus' Tragedies") focuses on the presentation of people and their relation to their rulers by Aeschylus in his surviving tragedies, and maintains that while the people of barbarian nations are totally subordinated to the ruler, people in Greece play a significant role as a unity: the importance of public opinion and the power of the assembly are acknowledged. C. Carey ("Staging Allegory") deals with personification as a vehicle for theatrical metaphor in Greek comedy, arguing that personification is used to articulate thematic elements present in plot, script and character, while visual representation reinforces those thematic elements. B. Zimmermann ("Trygodia — Remarks on the Poetics of Aristophanic Comedy") investigates the way Aristophanes competes with his rivals, mainly Cratinus, in order to exhibit his own skills. While Cratinus is rather traditional, Aristophanes was striving to achieve the concept of an ideal comedy in all aspects and did not hesitate to take advantage of the possibilities offered by Greek tragedy in order to put his personal stamp on the continuously developing genre of comedy. That is the meaning of the verb εὐριπιδαριστοφανίζων created by Cratinus himself. A. Fountoulakis ("When Dionysus Goes to the East: On the Dissemination of Greek Drama beyond Athens") examines the dissemination of Greek drama in the Hellenistic East, devoting a special section on the activity of various authors of Alexandria (Callimachus, Alexander Aetolus, etc.), whose work culminates in the production of a new cultural identity, based on the legacy of Greek drama. Another interesting example of the same tendency is the Exagoge of the Jewish poet Ezekiel, which is an attempt of an author to create a new cultural language through the manipulation of various aspects of the dramatic tradition of the past.

The second part of the volume contains articles dealing with various individual plays. F. Montanari ("Klytaimnestra in the Odyssey and Aeschylus' Agamemnon) illuminates various aspects of the transition from the Homeric version of the famous queen of Mycenae to that of Aeschylus. Like Pindar, Aeschylus emphasizes the personal motives leading Klytaimnestra to the murder of her husband with her own hands, thus developing a line first suggested by the author of the Odyssey. J. Gregory ("Sophocles' Ajax and his Homeric Prototypes") examines the divergences of the Sophoclean Ajax from his Homeric namesake: the Sophoclean hero no longer depends on the divinity but has an immense confidence in himself, reminding us of the Homeric Achilles. F. Dunn ("The Prosopon Fallacy or, Apollo in Sophocles' Electra") illuminates various aspects of Apollo's influence on the plot of the Sophoclean tragedy, although that influence is not so visible to a careless reader. M. Quijada Sagredo ("Narrative and Rhetorical Experimentation in Euripides' Late Iphigenia at Aulis") examines the way Euripides turns the traditional conflicts around Iphigenia's sacrifice into a family drama, full of intrigue, breaking some of the traditional conventions governing the plot of that myth, and giving to the characters a new dynamic.

The third part of the book is devoted to the reception of Greek drama both in antiquity and in modern times. P. Demont ("A Note on Demosthenes' (19.246–250) and the Reception of Sophocles' Antigone") examines the way Aeschines, according to Demosthenes, has actually done exactly the reverse of what Creon's first rhesis recommended by choosing Philip as his friend and points both to the influence of Sophoclean ideas in the fourth century and Demosthenes' sharp irony aimed at the "tritagonist" Aeschines. M. Edwards ("Tragedy in Antiphon 1, Against the Stepmother") explores the tragic elements in vocabulary, style (metaphors) and dramatic technique, such as messenger speeches, which characterize Antiphon's speech. E. Volonaki ("Euripides' Erechtheus in Lykourgos' Against Leokrates") examines the rhetorical strategy of Lykourgos in his use of Euripides' lost tragedy Erechtheus, which was so successful that he almost won his trial against Leokrates. A. Hurst ("Upon the king!") highlights the paradox of tragedy's appeal to kings from the Hellenistic to the Roman period, despite its democratic origin. Tragedies were written especially because of their religious connections and the prestige implied in the role of a tragic poet. G. Vasilaros ("The Lemnian Deeds: A Tragic Episode in the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius) looks into the dramatic elements of the Lemnian episode in the Argonautica of Apollonius, which is an eloquent example of Apollonius' exploitation of the dramatic tradition, while J. Davidson ("Tristan and Isolde and Classical Myth") deals with the reception of Greek tragedy in the music drama of Richard Wagner, examining how Wagner adapted a medieval German myth to Greek sources. E. Moutsopoulos' contribution ("The Role of Music in Plato's Symposium") deals with an important but rather neglected part of Plato's legacy.

There is no doubt that this volume, offering a variety of approaches both to the Greek theatre as a whole and to individual dramas, and containing so many thought-provoking studies, is a most useful and important contribution to the study of Greek drama.

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Jan N. Bremmer, Maidens, Magic and Martyrs in Early Christianity: Collected Essays I. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, 379. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2017. Pp. xviii, 501. ISBN 9783161544507. €169,00.

Reviewed by Daniel J. Crosby, Bryn Mawr College (

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The collected essays of Jan Bremmer are slated to be republished in three volumes, organized topically: Early Christianity, Greco-Roman mythology and religion, and third-century interactions of Christianity and Judaism with the Greco-Roman world. This volume, the first of the set, is composed of twenty-seven articles and chapters dating from 1989 to 2016, grouped into four sections. These papers are accompanied by a congenial preface, in which the author reflects upon his previous work as well as his life, scholarly formation, and influences. A blended, general index and index locorum round off the volume, but there is notably no bibliography either for the individual chapters or for the volume as a whole.

The first section of essays ("Aspects of Early Christianity") is the broadest thematically. One partly unifying theme is Bremmer's investigation of what attracted people generally, and women specifically, to Christianity, which he describes with the economic metaphor of "religious capital" (Chapter 2). Bremmer also offers some correctives regarding the traditionally neglected importance and prominence of women in the early rise of Christianity that are useful still today. His look at Lucian's Death of Peregrinus and the author's knowledge of Christianity (Chapter 5) constructs a view of Christianity from the perspective of a contemporary outsider.

A glance at a few titles found in Section Two ("Studies in the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles and Pseudo-Clementines,") indicates Bremmer's major concerns there: "Man, Magic, Martyrdom in the Acts of Andrew"; "Aspects of the Acts of Peter: Women, Magic, Place, and Date"; "The Acts of Thomas: Place, Date and Women"; "The Apocryphal Acts: Authors, Place, Time and Readership"; "Pseudo-Clementines: Texts, Dates, Places, Authors and Magic." His primary interest is in gaining some perspective on the phenomenon of magic in the ancient world and the types of roles that women could play in Early Christianity, and the attendant discussions of time and place of these texts make his findings into useful pieces that can be arranged to fit into his picture of the ancient world. Throughout these chapters, Bremmer convincingly argues for the existence of an intended female readership, based on the prominence of the female characters, and consequently appreciates a potential "'missionary' effect" of these texts (e.g., 231).

The following section ("Apocalypses and Tours of Hell") contains a number of attempts to chart out the specific textual, ideological, and religious influences on the Apocalyptic tours of heaven and hell again with special attention again to the time and places of authorship. Here, Bremmer argues essentially that there is a verbal, formal, and thematic thread that can be traced from these texts to their generic and ideological predecessors. The picture that comes together from these papers is a fairly tidy one (perhaps too much so) of the interweaving of earlier Orphic/Pythagorean tradition of descents with a Jewish tradition (represented by Enochic literature), which is then borrowed and adapted within a Christian tradition.

In the final section of essays ("The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas"), Bremmer is mostly exercised by the interpretation of the dreams of Perpetua and Saturus in the Passio Perpetuae, and that of Marian in the Passio Mariani et Iacobi. His mode is thoroughly historicist, using comparanda from roughly contemporary sources as a lens to illuminate the contemporary cultural symbolism. Collectively, these chapters represent a worthy and impassioned response to the more prevalent feminist and psychoanalytic interpretations (see especially 364–6). The other chapters include an excellent study of Felicitas, which is particularly welcome given the fact that her life has generally been passed over in favor of her more prominent co-martyr, and a commentary on several specific passages in the Passio Perpetuae.

Revisiting and republishing old papers must be a terribly difficult task for any author, particularly when it happens that the author no longer shares the opinion that he or she originally promoted. "It is, of course, impossible to completely redo one's own research…," Bremmer laments, "[y]et I did not want to reprint views that I no longer advocate" (XII). In the end, Bremmer has chosen to correct his original text selectively: "In some cases I have even completely rewritten the original text…"; "[i]n other cases I have simply updated the bibliography, made small corrections, removed overlaps where possible, reorganized a few sections and added more evidence" (XII). The statement is an accurate description of Bremmer's editorial process, but it is unfortunate for the reader that Bremmer does not mark any of these changes outside of a few general indications in the preface. Happily, the final pages (469–470) carry the vital bibliographic information for the original appearances of these papers.

The most significant development in Bremmer's thought relates to the dates and places of authorship of the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles (AAA), most significantly the Acts of John(AJ). In his earlier contribution, Bremmer argued that it was a second-century Egyptian text. Here (Chapter 7), Bremmer is much more confident in placing the AJ in the 160s chiefly on the strength of the appearance of the name Verus, which he thinks refers to the co-emperor Lucius Verus (r. 161–169 CE). Further, the "utmost rarity" of the name Drusiana in extant evidence and its coincidence in the AJ and a Nicomedian tombstone "suggest[s] that the author… took [the name] from a local honorific or funerary inscription for this Drusiana" (113). He subsequently argues for the "almost certain" (114) Nicomedian origin of the author, pointing toward other possible examples of onomastic inspiration from inscriptions for the Acts of Peter and the Acts of Paul (see 145 and 160–161, where Bremmer is equally sure: "the author will have read her [Falconilla's] name on a local honorific inscription…"). Bremmer may be correct in his surmise, but much depends on the inscription in question being at home in the mid-second rather than the late-second or even third century CE (131, n. 72). In any case, such near-certainty seems to me misplaced, especially considering the author's almost defensive tone both across the page and elsewhere (e.g., "The location may surprise…" [114]; "… this specific location may look like no more than speculation…" [145]). As a consequence, the Acts of Andrew and the Acts of Peter now gravitate toward Nicomedia as well, and many of the subsections on date and places for the AAA are updated accordingly.

Bremmer seeks to create some impression of unified composition. Among the minor emendations are introductory words and phrases, allusions, and helpful, though sporadic, cross-references that link the chapters to each other. A number of themes, arguments, and sources recur in this volume which are generally consistent with each other. I have only noticed one issue in which the ideas that Bremmer expresses do not quite square. Early in the volume, he claims that the martyr Perpetua "seems to have read or heard of" the Acts of Paul, and in the subsequent sentences, that "she will have read the APt [Acts of Peter] in the original Greek" (139–40. cf. 154–5, 230, 357–8, 375). Later, Bremmer, quoting Walter Ameling, pronounces that there is "no positive evidence to prove that Perpetua herself read many of the books that were to be incorporated into the Latin New Testament—let alone that she read them in Greek" (428).1 The quotation is presented without objection in text or in footnote and it passes as evidence into his argument. The claim for Perpetua's knowledge of Greek deserves to be examined with greater clarity and nuance—one important distinction is that between reading and speaking/listening ability (Coepit Perpetua Graece cum illis loqui. Passio 13.4)—because it affects how we understand the education of women and their engagement with literature in North Africa at that time. A more direct treatment or at least a more consistent acknowledgement of Ameling's strong challenge to the theory of Perpetua's knowledge of Greek (only referenced on this issue once at 358, n. 53) would have helped clarify matters.

Generally, Bremmer's updates foster greater clarity. The reader frequently encounters many references to more recent studies and evidence, in support of the author's arguments, in his extensive footnotes. Occasionally, though, the reader may encounter new "piles" of bibliographic data that obscure recent scholarship more than elucidate it.2 For example, in his discussion of our knowledge of Orphism, Bremmer says, "These new discoveries enable us to speak about Orphism with much more certainty than previous generations of scholars" (278). The footnote following this statement contains a suitable register of prominent Orphic mystagogues. But to the uninitiated, Radcliffe Edmonds's work, Redefining Ancient Orphism, could wrongly be taken to endorse Bremmer's view of Orphism both here and throughout. The praeteritio here is also striking because Bremmer does not on principle shy away from responding directly to objections in his updated and edited text (see the direct responses to Judith Lieu on page 21 and Charlotte Touati on page 300). So we are left to wonder why he has chosen to engage more deeply with current scholarship there and not here. He seems to be trying to bring attention to the work of other scholars in the field and providing avenues of research for his readers. His notes are fulfilling two different roles—they can be a place to indicate his engagement (support or opposition) with authorities and to list recommended readings—but it is left to the reader to divine which is which in each particular case.

In this volume, Bremmer has assembled the products of a long and successful career in the study of the ancient world. It is these updated versions of his papers that the author wants to stand as his views. The issues stemming from his updates aside, my main critique is the extent to which Bremmer is willing to press rather slim evidence into assertions of nearly certain fact. He has, however, offered his particular view of the ancient world, impressively rigorous in its use of both primary and secondary sources and admirably well-organized in its content. The greatest merit of this volume is the author's ability to identify questions for investigation that are not being studied and his juxtaposition of sources (e.g., Christian texts and the Greek Magical Papyri) that are even now only rarely brought into conversation with each other. In this way, Bremmer has undertaken the great and laudable effort of mending the old divide between Classics and Early Christian Studies. I conclude with his own inspiring formulation: "Christian literature has for too long been neglected by classicists and ancient historians, due to the unfortunate opinions of leading lights in England and, especially, in Germany at the turn of the twentieth century. Our observations have indicated that there is still much to be done. One century later, it is time to make a new beginning" (386).


1.   Walter Ameling, "Femina Liberaliter Instituta," in Bremmer and Formisano ed., Perpetua's Passions (Oxford, 2012), 98.
2.   I find Steve Nimis' perspective on footnotes insightful. Nimis, "Fussnoten: Das Fundament der Wissenschaft" Arethusa 17 (1984), 105–34.

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Monday, June 18, 2018


Effie F. Athanassopoulos, Landscape Archaeology and the Medieval Countryside. Nemea Valley Archaeological Project, 2. Princeton: American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 2016. Pp. xvii, 172. ISBN 9780876619230. $150.00.

Reviewed by Nikos Tsivikis, Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Mainz (

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Table of Contents and Full View

Ancient Nemea, in the region of Corinthia in the Peloponnese, has been for decades one of the focal points for archaeological research of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens (ASCSA), notably with the long-standing excavation of the classical sanctuary of Zeus and the stadium. Beyond the excavation of the site of Nemea, since the mid-1980s a wider intensive regional survey project for the area was envisioned, the Nemea Valley Archaeological Project (NVAP.) This was a project aiming to understand the ancient landscape in surrounding Nemea, encompassing a large number of settlements. This book by Effie Athanassopoulos presents the medieval component of the NVAP survey.

The book's Foreword, written by the directors of NVAP, James C. Wright, Jack L. Davis, and John F. Cherry, sets out the aims of the project that also largely define Athanassopoulos' monograph: 1) to establish the distribution of artifacts within the survey area; 2) to evaluate the extent to which this distribution adequately reflects the totality of past patterns of settlement, and 3) to provide some explanation for long-term changes in the human behavior that such patterns represent. Oriented toward these aims, Landscape Archaeology and the Medieval Countryside aspires to function both as an entry point to the state of the art of landscape archaeology of the later centuries of Byzantium and a detailed account of the evolution of the actual medieval landscape of the Nemea region. For reasons explained throughout the book and connected with the historical evolution of the region, the author decides to limit the discussion to material and settlements dated between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries, covering partially the middle Byzantine period (seventh to twelth centuries) and the late Byzantine or late medieval period (thirteenth to fifteenth centuries). Athanassopoulos's book is the only book-length study presenting the material of an intensive survey targeted only to its late medieval component, as is noted in the Foreword.1

The book is organized in five very diverse chapters: the three first chapters introduce Byzantine history and its archaeology, and survey scientific methodology; the fourth discusses the Nemean archaeological and historical material; and the last presents the data from the selected sites of the survey in a form of a gazetteer.

The first chapter presents a concise overview of the political history of Byzantium. Large parts of it, however, cover the period from the fourth to the tenth centuries, which lies outside the scope of the rest of the book. The second chapter functions as a second introduction, this time to archaeological and historical approaches to the study of the Byzantine countryside. It begins with a general note on the theory of archaeological survey and how survey is used when dealing with Byzantine material. At the same time, issues regarding the modalities of Byzantine agriculture are explored, including hot topics such as the use of traditional or alternative field exploitation by the Byzantines. This introductory discussion also extends into the various theories on local agricultural organization and economy, followed by a detailed presentation of Byzantine agriculture itself and its main cultivations: cereals, fruits, olive trees, and viticulture. By the end of the chapter, there is an attempt to focus on agricultural production in the Peloponnese itself during this period and to discuss the special role of sericulture. The most important contribution of this chapter is its treatment of the problem of how to use archaeology to comment on major historical events, and the many levels of inconsistency between these levels of analysis. At this point, we are first informed by the author that a tool that could possibly advance the discussion and integrate the different types of sources, archaeological and historical, are the approaches developed initially by the French Annales school.

In the third chapter, we arrive at the focus of the project, namely that of the survey and its methodology. The author focusses on the slow development of Byzantine archaeology, comparing it to the archaeology of medieval western Europe. Classical archaeology casts its shadow over the work of Byzantine archaeologists, although the situation is better now than some decades ago. The fourth chapter begins the discussion of the valley of Nemea in the Middle Ages. The author explores the possibilities of applying some of the theoretical models of Byzantine settlement patterns to the area under research. Mainly settlement size is considered. Settlement sizes are then categorized according to the relevant information of the middle Byzantine Marcian Treatise on Taxation, one of the very few original Byzantine texts on the collection of taxes and the countryside.2 All of the medieval sites located by the survey would fall into the two smallest categories of settlements in the Treatise, the proasteia and agridia. Only a couple of sites from the NVAP could possibly correspond to the size of proasteia, something like small villages, while the majority of the sites conform more to the agridion, isolated farms or clusters of houses. These isolated farmsteads established near fertile lands are utilized by the author as indicators that more land was opened up to cultivation in twelfth-thirteenth centuries.

One site, Polyphengi, stands out as the main settlement. The importance of the site is attested by its presence in medieval texts about the area of Nemea and also by its frequent appearance in the accounts of early modern visitors and travelers. At this point, texts are brought in to complement archaeological evidence.

Based on Polyphengi and the other settlement sites discovered by the survey, the author argues convincingly that medieval settlement trends in Nemea reflected political, social, and economic processes. The intense level of agricultural activity during the twelth-thirteenth centuries corresponds to the abundant evidence for dispersed habitation, economic growth, and expansion of trade. By contrast, drastic change can be seen in the late thirteenth century when nucleation of settlement became the norm. This is considered as evidence of the extreme fragmentation, insecurity, and conflict caused by the Latin conquest of the Peloponnese. The author applies Braudelian and Annales approaches to describe the cycles of expansion and contraction as belonging to the medium level, while the history of a single site, Polyphengi, presented through narrative and the study of architectural remains, is closer to a histoire événementielle.

The survey evidence connected with medieval sites is presented in detail in the fifth chapter. It largely consists of a gazetteer of NVAP sites as well as the publication and discussion of the archaeological evidence, mostly pottery. It is important to note that the sites presented in the gazetteer are the ones that produced significant numbers of ceramic dated to the period under discussion, and not the totality of walked plots. The gazetteer also incorporates data from the older survey of the area of the ancient city of Phlious undertaken in 1986 and published by Susan Alcock, focusing on those tracts that produced significant amount of medieval pottery. It is complimented by a brief explanation of the methodology and technical aspects of pottery collection and presentation of the material. The sites of possible medieval settlement are described in some detail and indicated on satellite maps that are up to date. Every site is complemented by a catalogue of pottery and other artefacts collected with excellent photographic documentation. The gazetteer is well-defined and the accompanying catalogues offer clear evidence for the dating of the sites. Site numbering can be occasionally confusing since it follows an internal system that is neither geographic nor serial.

The site of Polyphengi (sites 901, 902 and 910), discussed in detail through textual evidence in the previous chapter, here again draws special attention as it was a central settlement with especially purpose-built fortifications. Another interesting and large site in the gazetteer, that of Evangelistria (site 102), is a reminder of some of the interesting complications of intensive field survey, especially in hilly settings. On top of the low rocky hill of Evangelistria, the survey records the walls of a ruined fifth- or sixth-century basilica church that are still standing to the considerable height of 0,50 m. The pottery retrieved is limited to only a handful of sherds, none of them really diagnostic. In this case, one could argue that the choice to limit the presented material and the adjoining discussion to the later centuries of the Middle Ages also limits the option of interpreting sequences in settlement during the whole Byzantine period.

Athanassopoulos's book is an extremely valuable, one of a kind contribution. It is a pioneer in documenting solely the medieval material of a much wider and cross-temporal survey. In this way it is able to aptly address the historical questions of the Medieval Nemea and Peloponnese through the scarce evidence offered by a field survey. At the same time the study at hand shows the difficulties that many of us face in dealing with exclusively medieval material surveys in the regions of the Byzantine world. So, despite some debatable choices, such as the rather long introduction and the exclusion of earlier Byzantine history from the analysis of the material, the book offers a refinement upon the methodology of its field and focuses its use on a specific historical question. As it is only by pioneering work that Byzantine archaeology can strengthen its footing in the field of medieval archaeology, rather than remain an offshoot of the classical archaeologies of the Mediterranean.


1.   See the recent discussion about the importance of such studies in: Athanasios Vionis, "The Archaeology of Landscape and Material Culture in Late Byzantine – Frankish Greece," Pharos 20 (2014), 313-346.
2.   More recent assessment of the Marcian Treatise, following a later date in Mark Bartusis, Land and Privilege in Byzantium: the Institution of Pronoia (Cambridge 2012), 84-85; for the earlier dating, Leonora Neville, "The Marcian Treatise on Taxation and the Nature of Bureaucracy in Byzantium," Byzantinische Forschungen 26 (2000), 47-62.

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R. W. Sharples, Perspectives on Greek Philosophy: S.V. Keeling Memorial Lectures in Ancient Philosophy 1992-2002. London; New York: Routledge, 2017. Pp. 176. ISBN 9781138707856. $115.00.

Reviewed by Peter Adamson, LMU München (

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Part of the "Routledge Revivals" series, this book is a reprint of a volume that first appeared in 2003, under the editorship of the late Bob Sharples. The pieces included were Keeling lectures, given in London between 1992 and 2002 by a stellar line-up of specialists in ancient philosophy. In alphabetical order, these are Sarah Broadie, Jacques Brunschwig, David Charles, John Cooper, David Furley, Terry Irwin, and Martha Nussbaum, Günther Patzig, and Bernard Williams. Given the stature of the contributors it is unsurprising that much excellent material is to be found in the volume. The papers deal more or less exclusively with Plato and Aristotle, but make up for this somewhat narrow scope by varying widely in approach.

At the most "philological" end is Brunschwig's "Do We Need New Editions of Ancient Philosophy?" The answer, unsurprisingly, turns out to be "yes," as established through a series of concrete examples having to do with the Topics. While instructive, these will be of little interest to the general reader, who will profit more from the opening pages, which explain the rationale for continuing to edit texts that have already been edited by expert classicists in the past. Particularly well taken is Brunschwig's point that the indirect tradition can help establish the text, and has often not been taken into account in earlier editions. He makes the point with reference to the late ancient commentators, to which one could add that medieval translations into languages like Arabic or Armenian can be an important resource, representing as they do an otherwise lost recension of the Greek text.

The remaining papers are devoted to philosophical themes, with the main areas of inquiry being ethics and physics. Of the pieces on ethics, Patzig's seems rather incidental, being more breezy in tone than the others and no doubt intended more as popular lecture than serious scholarship. He basically limits himself to making the point (which I suppose must already have been rather familiar in 1992, when this lecture was given) that "quality of life" in Plato and Aristotle means something more like objective flourishing than a subjective feeling of well-being. The other contributions often seek to bring the ancient texts into contact with later discussions. Thus Williams considers whether Christine Korsgaard's notion of "intrinsic goodness" resonates with Plato's aims in the Republic, concluding that the Form of the Good alone has this feature, yet has little explanatory force in the development of Plato's ethics. Irwin's paper is as much (or even more) about Cudworth as Plato, and suggests that Cudworth was reviving the Euthyphro dilemma to cast doubt on positivism and theological voluntarism in ethics. While this is instructive, the connection to the Euthyphro seems to rest on the rather shaky assumption that Plato was centrally concerned with counterfactual situations where the gods' preferences change (23). But in fact Plato has Socrates pose a problem that could not have arisen in the theological tradition to which Cudworth was responding: in a polytheistic culture, the gods might disagree with one another. Once this is ruled out by stipulating that the pious is what all the gods love (Euthyphro 9d), the remaining problem is still nothing to do with counterfactuals but is rather about the direction of explanation: from piety to the gods' preferences, or vice-versa?

Moving on to practical philosophy in Aristotle, we have Cooper's piece on emotions in Aristotle. Famously the topic is most extensively taken up in the Rhetoric, which is rather problematic since, as Cooper notes, this text is not intended to provide anything on the order of a moral psychology. He takes it as a preparatory work for a "positive philosophical theory of the nature of emotions" that Aristotle may never have written (86). I would hesitate to go even that far, since the treatment of emotions here is strictly subordinated to the speaker's need to manipulate his audience effectively.

Regarding physics, Furley's piece is an investigation of final causation in Aristotle and emphasizes the fact that, in a biological context, the formal and final causes are identical. This is hardly news, but the point is put to good use here, since it allows Furley to explain how, for Aristotle, final causes can be genuinely explanations of physical processes and thus underwrite "ontological connections" rather than mere heuristic accounts (78).1 Final causation is also central to the offering from Broadie, who breathes some life into the apparently sophistical "lazy argument" used by Aristotle in the famous passage on the "sea battle" in On Interpretation 9, and then aimed at the Stoics by their adversaries. According to the argument, if determinism is true then there is no reason to deliberate about our actions, since the determined events will come about no matter what. Broadie allows that Chrysippus offered a good first response to the argument (128), namely that the actions we take to bring about a desirable outcome are co-fated along with that outcome, so that it does make a (causally explanatory) difference what we do. However, Broadie argues, determinism gives us reason to be fatalists nonetheless, if we add the "Aristotelian" assumption that past events are teleologically arranged: they happen "because they lead up to an end that comes about later." If this is so, then the human inability to change what has happened in the past means that the human cannot do anything to change the future either.

As I hope to have conveyed so far, the contributions retain their interest despite the lapse of about two decades since most of them were written. Nonetheless, it would be interesting to consider what the volume shows about changing fashions in ancient philosophy. Really only two papers seem to some extent "dated," though no less interesting for that. David Charles shows that the concerns of British scholars of ancient philosophy at that time were still unapologetically shaped by Wittgenstein, which I tend to think is not so much the case now.2 Charles explores the question of whether Aristotle could respond to the Wittgensteinian thought that linguistic meaning is shaped entirely by use (as argued – if "argued" is the right word – in the famous "slab" passage at Philosophical Investigations §2). Aristotle could, Charles thinks, make a persuasive case that the expert craftsman's language-use is indeed formed by practice, yet also responsive to the way the world really is. The craftsman "can vindicate certain of our rules and practices by reference to the nature of the wood, and can recommend setting up others" (119). Much as Irwin's paper is more about Cudworth than Plato, this is more about Wittgenstein than Aristotle, but it is always welcome to see that the ancients provide resources for responding to philosophical concerns of our own time.

Such is also the ambition of the final essay by Nussbaum. Written in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and explicitly framed as a response to that event, her piece takes its inspiration from ancient ethics and Greek tragedy. Nussbaum identifies limits to the notion of human "dignity," pointing out that a commitment to universal dignity may give us reason to treat everyone equally, but also threatens to undermine our interest in what happens to them. After all, if dignity belongs irreducibly to every human, then no suffering or other calamity can remove it. As others have worried, Stoic ethics seems prone to this problem since, as Nussbaum puts it, it may lead us to "respect all human beings and view all as our partners in a common project whose terms don't seem to matter very much" (155), because only inner virtue counts and virtue is invulnerable to harm from external forces. A better approach, then, would be to educate people so as to cultivate their compassion. Writing in 2002, Nussbaum looked forward hopefully to the prospect that the experience of terror attacks might provoke "a culture of critical compassion" in American society. That this did not in fact happen (to put it mildly) doesn't show she was wrong.


1.   I was slightly surprised that Furley does not cite the classic study of Michael Frede, "The Original Notion of Cause," in J. Barnes, M. F. Burnyeat, M. Schofield (eds.), Doubt and Dogmatism: Studies in Hellenistic Epistemology (Oxford University Press, 1980), 217-49, which seems obviously relevant to his concerns (for instance at Furley p. 74). But annotation throughout the whole volume is on the sparse side, presumably because the articles began their lives as lectures.
2.   His paper is actually from 2001, so a rather late entry in this genre, which includes such classic papers as M. Burnyeat, "Wittgenstein and Augustine De Magistro," Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 61 (1987), 1-24.

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Marc-Antoine Gavray, Platon, héritier de Protagoras: dialogue sur les fondements de la démocratie. Tradition de la pensée classique. Paris: Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin, 2017. Pp. 390. ISBN 9782711626953. €35.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Anders Dahl Sørensen, University of Copenhagen; Gl. Hellerup Gymnasium (

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In his new book, as the title suggests, Marc-Antoine Gavray proposes that Plato should be understood as the intellectual 'heir' of Protagoras. By this claim, Gavray does not mean that Plato simply took over Protagorean 'material' in any straightforward sense. Rather, what Protagoras represented for Plato was someone whose problems and ideas were important and challenging enough that they needed to be explored, reconstructed, and often refuted, if Plato's own philosophy was to be established on a theoretically robust foundation. Moreover, Gavray argues, this philosophical Auseinandersetzung cannot be reduced to the well-known theme of 'Plato vs. the Sophists'. For what lurks behind Protagoras' famous doctrine that 'man is the measure of all things', as that doctrine is reconstructed and explored by Plato, is nothing less than democracy itself, understood not just as a particular form of government but also as a distinctive model for thinking about such themes as knowledge, dialogue, language, and education. It is in his critical engagement with Protagoras' 'democratic' attitude to philosophy and to the world that Plato found the theoretical background against which to pursue his own very different philosophical and political project.

Part One explores how Plato's own conception of a science of measurement emerges from a sustained philosophical engagement with Protagoras' man-measure doctrine. Taking the notion of 'measure' (metron and cognates) as his guide, Gavray offers a thorough and detailed reconstruction of central passages from Protagoras, Theaetetus, Politicus, Philebus, and Laws. On Gavray's reading, Plato found in Protagoras' doctrine a lot to criticise, but also something to use and further develop. On the one hand, Plato accepts and adopts Protagoras' conception of the measure as establishing a 'qualitative determination', as opposed to the purely quantitative hedonistic science of measurement envisioned in the Protagoras. What the Protagorean measure measures is not merely that the wind is warmer (or colder) than something else, but that it is cold (or warm). On the other hand, however, Plato rejects Protagoras' attempt to found the measure in the individual human being, arguing instead that in order to truly escape the spectre of indeterminacy, the measure must be anchored in something external to the individual. Only by means of a genuinely transcendent criterion, whether it be in the form of an ethical model of behaviour or an epistemological reference, can we escape the realm of 'the more and less'.

This latter distinction between Protagoras' and Plato's respective conceptions of measurement reflects a fundamental contrast between two competing visions of the world. Protagoras' world is a world of dispute, characterised by instability and uncertainty and always open for polemic and renegotiation. But Plato insists that this vision of the world falls short, even on its own 'democratic' terms. Far from liberating human thought and clearing the ground for consensus and agreement, Protagoras' rejection of any external reference means that individual measurement, while incontestably true, becomes entirely subject to the value judgments of others and that true intersubjectivity becomes impossible. Plato's world, by contrast, is a world that promises an end to conflict by means of a shared and incontestable truth.

Part Two of the book explores the main contradiction that confronted Protagoras, according to Plato. How is Protagoras' claim to be a teacher well worth paying for compatible with his man-measure doctrine, which insists that everyone already has an incontestable claim to the truth? By means of a detailed discussion of Protagoras' theories of education and expertise as presented in the Protagoras and the Theaetetus, Gavray argues that this contradictory aspect of the sophist's position, far from being a problem for him, in fact reflects an important feature both of his theory of expertise and his political vision. On Gavray's reading, Protagoras defends a quasi-pragmatist conception of wisdom and expertise, on which the wise person is distinguished, not by having privileged access to some transcendent truth, but rather by being able to alter the conditions (hexeis) of others, so that they come to have opinions or perceptions judged by themselves to be 'better' than the ones they had before. What is 'better' cannot be determined a priori but must be established by trial and error, which means that it is always only provisionally established in an essentially open-ended process of continual improvement. Contradiction, rather than being a problem, is an inherent, central part of this process, since it is precisely by means of confronting and engaging with contradicting arguments and viewpoints that such continual improvement can come about. This Protagorean conception of expertise contrasts sharply with that of Plato, who defines the aim of expertise, the beneficial, not as what appears better to a subject in a certain condition, but as what is verified by future events, i.e. by means of an objective criterion. Contradiction, on Plato's conception, is simply a matter of a contrast between true and false opinions, rather than something that directly and actively contributes to the exercise of expertise.

As Gavray points out, these two rival conceptions of expertise have clear political overtones. On Protagoras' egalitarian understanding, each person remains a measure; expertise is defined by reference to the usefulness of the subjective appearances, and no one can reject those appearances as false. Plato's conception, by contrast, has distinctly 'aristocratic' implications: the expert alone, in virtue of his exclusive grasp of the truth about things and about the future, is truly a measure and is set radically apart from people at large.

Part Three offers a reading of selected passages from Protagoras and Theaetetus, which Gavray reconstructs as series of attempts, on Plato's part, at providing Protagoras' distinctive conception of knowledge and education with the theoretical underpinnings it requires. Given the impossibility of ever anchoring any belief, word, or system of values in an objective reality, moral and philosophical training cannot hope for any form of definitive certainty. The sophist's role must thus be conceptualised instead as a continuous activity of correction ('redressement') of what appears wrong, inept, or inadequate in each case. As Gavray shows, this Protagorean approach to education, as an endeavour that is always provisional and inherently open-ended, rests on a distinctive understanding of the four basic components of educational practice: dialogue, language, memory, and virtue.

Gavray makes a persuasive case for his overall claim that many of the central questions and concerns of Plato's philosophy can helpfully be approached and understood as the result of his critical but constructive engagement with the Protagorean man-measure doctrine and what he took to be its implications and preconditions. But the value of the book stems just as much from its elaborate reconstruction of Protagoras' 'democratic' philosophy itself, as it is presented in the Platonic dialogues. This reconstruction not only shows that Protagoras is provided by Plato with a coherent and sophisticated theory (as opposed to being the opportunistic and slippery charlatan he is sometimes portrayed as in the literature). It also enriches the scholarly literature by providing a number of refreshing interpretations of particular passages and themes that are not usually treated as central for understanding what is at stake, philosophically speaking, in the clash between these two thinkers. A good example of this is Gavray's discussion of the passages on mnēmē in Theaetetus (165d and 166b-c), which he interprets as raising important philosophical questions concerning the epistemic status of memory and the persistence of personal identity at different times, which, in turn, go to core of Protagoras' theory of wisdom as capacity for 'improvement'. Another example is Gavray's exploration of the role that each thinker ascribes to the study of poetry in his respective theory of moral education. For Plato in the Republic, poetry plays an important role in education by holding up moral paradigms for the young to emulate. Protagoras, by contrast, focuses on the 'correctness' of the language of poetry, rather than its moral content. This is not because he is merely interested in style and form, but rather because such focus serves the second-order pedagogical purpose of developing in the citizens the ability to take a critical stance towards traditional educational poetry, as well as towards language itself, and devise means of improving it in light of the requirements of the particular political context.

Since the book's main claim concerns the affinity between Protagoras' thought and a particular historical form of government and way of life, some readers might miss an engagement with the rich scholarship on ancient Greek democracy. Gavray's reflections on the political 'overtones' of the opposition between the theories of Protagoras and Plato are extremely interesting and suggest a promising background against which to approach the interpretation of the dialogues. But Gavray does not attempt to bring his discussion of the democratic implications of Protagoras' philosophy into conversation with modern historical studies of democratic ideology in classical Athens. The result is that it remains not entirely clear whether the democracy Protagoras is said to represent is his own idiosyncratic (and possibly anachronistic?) conception of democracy or in line with the understanding of the Athenian democrats themselves.

But this detracts only little from a book that is, after all, about ancient philosophy, not ancient history. Gavray's book represents a valuable contribution to scholarship on Plato's complex relation to Protagoras – and to democracy. It is, to my knowledge, the most thorough account of Plato's discussion of Protagoras, and also among the best, which means that it should be standard reading for any future students of this interesting and important topic.

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Christine Schmitz, Jan Telg genannt Kortmann, Angela Jöne​ (ed.), Anfänge und Enden: narrative Potentiale des antiken und nachantiken Epos. Bibliothek der klassischen Altertumswissenschaften, 154​. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag WINTER​, 2017. Pp. 402. ISBN 9783825367626. €56.00.

Reviewed by Wolfgang Polleichtner, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen​ (

Version at BMCR home site

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

Der vorgelegte Sammelband behandelt in seiner Einleitung und sechzehn Fallstudien unterschiedliche Ebenen im Epos von Anfangen und Aufhören – von der kleinsten Passage bis zur Makroebene der gesamten Gattung. Die Vielfalt der Themen spannt dabei einen großen Bogen auf, der zeigt, wieviel Forschung zum Thema des Bandes noch vor uns liegt, die auf bisherigen Arbeiten zu „closure", Aristoteles' Meinung zu einem idealen epischen Erzählen, aber auch zur vergleichsweise selten behandelten Frage, womit man zum Beispiel eigentlich ein Epos anfangen soll, aufbauen kann. Dazu zeigt dieser Sammelband einige Wege auf, die beschritten werden könnten und müssten. Vor allem hierin liegt der Wert dieses Buches.

In ihrer Einleitung stellt Schmitz die Absicht der vorliegenden Sammlung, die aus einer Tagung in Münster im Jahr 2013 entstand, heraus. Sie möchte den Fokus auf „narrative Verfahren des Anfangens und Beendens" im „griechisch-(neu)lateinischen Epos" (28) legen. Diesem sehr offen formulierten Anspruch werden alle Beiträge gerecht. Schmitz' überzeugenden Ausführungen zur Paradoxie von Anfangen und Aufhören im Kontinuum epischen Erzählens und epischer Erzählungen könnten um eine Diskussion über das besondere Ende der Argonautika des Apollonios Rhodios1 und die Epiloge der Metamorphosen Ovids2 ergänzt werden, die zunächst für das Enden, aber gerade dadurch für das Anfangen mit einem Epos von meines Erachtens unterschätzter Relevanz sind (vgl. auch 83, 144ff. und 185).

Latacz führt uns die zeitlichen Bedingtheiten des uns überlieferten Anfangs der epischen Gattung mit dem Aufkommen der Schriftlichkeit und ihrer Bedeutung für das Ende der oral poetry vor Augen und stellt materialreich fundiert fest, dass eine Poetik des Epos und seiner etwa 4.000jährigen Geschichte bisher noch nicht geschrieben wurde. Er plädiert für ein an Fallbeispielen orientiertes Vorgehen wie im Fall des vorliegenden Bandes auf dem Weg hin zu einer solchen Poetik.

Büttner geht auf Aristoteles' Poetik, bes. Kap. 23-26, und die Rolle von Anfang, Mitte und Ende in diesem Werk ein. Nachvollziehbar beschreibt Büttner den Anfang einer Handlung nach Aristoteles als die Setzung eines Zieles durch einen Charakter in freier, sich nicht von selbst ergebender Entscheidung. Das Ende einer Handlung sei durch das Erreichen dieses Ziels gegeben, wobei die Mitte der Handlung durch das Arbeiten für dieses Ziel erzeugt werde. Daraus ergibt sich allerdings die Frage nach der Autonomie des Menschen bei Homer und Aristoteles.3

Ambühl interpretiert den Umgang mit Anfang und Ende im hellenistischen Kleinepos und bei Apollonios Rhodios in seiner Vielfalt als experimentelles Bemühen der hellenistischen Dichter, Epos, Hymnus, Lyrik und Dramatik miteinander zu kombinieren und selbstbewusst innovativ neue Wege auszuloten. Die von Ambühl ganz richtig betonte Selbstverortung von Apollonios im „Euripideischen" Kontext wird auch im Schluss der Argonautika aufgenommen.4 Reizvoll wäre es, Ambühls im griechischen hellenistischen Epos beobachteten Ansatz des Umgangs mit Geburtsgeschichten dem Umgang mit dem Tod zum Beispiel bei Vergil oder in Ovids Auseinandersetzung mit seiner eigenen Apotheose (s.o.) gegenüberzustellen.

Reitz zeigt am Einsatz des Katalogs im Epos, dass gerade hier der Konflikt des Epos zwischen dem Streben nach Vollständigkeit der Darstellung und dem Zwang zur Auswahl paradigmatisch ausgetragen wird. Ergänzend zur Liste von poetischen Möglichkeiten des Katalogeinsatzes stellt sich die Frage, wie sich die Stelle A. R. 1,18-22 hier einordnen ließe. Handelt es sich hier um Wettbewerb, Überbietung, Abbreviatur, Variatio, alles zusammen oder doch wesentlich um eine neue Kategorie, die man Präteritio nennen könnte? Göttlich inspiriertes Dichten und Dichtung, die durch das Wissen um das gesteuert wird, was Vorgänger geschaffen haben, scheinen sich zumindest auf den ersten Blick etwas zu widersprechen. 5

Jöne vergleicht philologisch dicht die beiden Beinahe-Abschiede in Aen. 2,634-80 und 9,176-223. Beide Szenen evozieren die Frage danach, wie die Geschichte wohl weitergegangen wäre, wenn die Abschiede wirklich geschehen und nicht verhindert worden wären. Auch dadurch, dass diese abgebrochenen Abschiede in ihren Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschieden den Auftakt für neue Abschiedserzählungen bilden, beweist sich einmal mehr die Existenz dessen, was Schmitz in ihrer Einleitung als Kontinuum epischer Erzählung beschreibt.

Überzeugend führt uns Grewing Ovid in seinen Metamorphosen als Meister der Verflechtung von Anfängen und Enden von Erzählungen vor Augen, der unter anderem bei Catull viel gelernt habe. Die mise en abyme des letzten Buchs hätte auch stärker auf Anfänge und Enden hin betont werden können.6 Was bedeutet die Seelenwanderungslehre des Pythagoras für Anfänge und Enden? Die Frage nach dem Ende und dem bewussten Setzen eines Endes ist über die poetologische Frage hinaus gerade in augusteischer Zeit auch eine politische oder zumindest werk- und literaturpolitische.7

Walde gibt uns einen Überblick über den derzeitigen Stand der Diskussion zum Ende der Pharsalia Lucans. Dieser Beitrag macht einmal mehr deutlich, wie schwierig es ist, ein Buchende auch als ein solches zu erkennen, wenn man nicht genau weiß, ob der Autor nicht doch noch etwas hätte hinzufügen wollen.

In einer eng am Text geführten Diskussion stellt Baier an einigen Schlüsselszenen von Valerius' Argonautica heraus, wie die Darstellung von Gesprächen bei diesem Autor sich von ähnlichen Bezugsszenen dieser Textabschnitte bei Apollonios oder Vergil prononciert unterscheiden und so zu ähnlichen Phänomenen führen, die wir bei Tacitus beobachten können. Der Niedergang der Beredsamkeit im Prinzipat schlägt sich, wie Baier zeigt, auch im Epos nieder. Umgekehrt gibt es nach Lucan zumindest wieder die Möglichkeit für die Existenz „guter" Helden im Epos.8

Der Beitrag von Klodt konzentriert sich auf die Anfänge von hortativen Reden in Statius' Thebais. Sie weist nach, dass sich Überlegungen, wie sie die antike Rhetorik für Einleitungen von Reden anstellte, auch bei Statius im Epos finden und von ihm durchaus virtuos und abwechslungsreich eingesetzt werden.

Telg genannt Kortmann untersucht die gliedernde und die Aussageabsicht des Autors unterstützende Funktion, die Tag und Nacht als Beginn und Ende besonders im siebten und zwölften Buch der Punica des Silius besitzen. Die Ausführungen bleiben aber im Wesentlichen werkimmanent. Für intertextuelle Untersuchungen böten die besprochenen Texte viele Anknüpfungspunkte.9

Marks argumentiert einleuchtend für eine Interpretation des Binnenproömiums am Anfang von Buch 11 von Silius' Punica als Mitte der Bücher 4-10 und 11-17 und als Mitte des eigentlichen Krieges zwischen Rom und Karthago. Diese Deutung basiert auf einem Vergleich zwischen diesem Binnenproömium und den entsprechenden Proömien von Apollonios Rhodios' drittem und dem siebten Buch aus Vergils Aeneis. Auch seine Forderung, mehrere mögliche makrostrukturelle Gliederungen von Silius' Werk, die sich überlappen, gleichzeitig zuzulassen, ist ja zum Beispiel in der Vergilphilologie schon lange akzeptiert, zumal Vergils Binnenproömium nicht direkt am Anfang von Buch VII steht.10

Die besonders betonte Abgeschlossenheit von spätantiken mythologischen Epen interpretiert Kaufmann als Zeichen der Stärke und Lebendigkeit der epischen Gattung, nicht als Degenerationssymptom. In der Tat wäre eine Antwort auf die von Kaufmann selbst aufgeworfene Frage nach einer Verortung dieser Beobachtung in der spätantiken Ästhetik und Poetik eine wichtige Fortführung der von ihr gemachten Feststellungen – auch auf dem Weg hin zum neulateinischen Epos.

Gärtner zeigt, wie die Posthomerica sich selbst dadurch zu einem Zwischentext in der Nahtstelle von Ilias und den Heimfahrten der Kriegsteilnehmer stilisieren, so dass in ihnen ein den Gattungsgewohnheiten widersprechender und an die Ilias unmittelbar anschließender Anfang sowie ein dezidiert auf die Fortsetzungen verweisendes Ende zu lesen sind. Ähnlich verfahren andere Autoren von Supplementen, zum Beispiel Maffeo Vegio.11 Auch hier wird deutlich, dass dieser Sammelband ein Ausgangspunkt für viele weitere Forschungsarbeiten sein kann.

Haye untersucht in einer weitestgehend werkimmanent gehaltenen Studie die praefationes und den Epilog der Herculeia des Giovanni Mario Filelfo. Angesichts des verlorenen Anfangs dieses Gedichts erweisen sich diese übrigen erhaltenen metapoetischen Aussagen des Textes als gute Quelle dessen, was der Autor mit seinem Epos wollte und was er unter Umständen in die Eröffnung seines Werkes geschrieben haben könnte: Ercole d'Este gleichzeitig feiern und für die Zukunft anspornen, wobei unter anderem auch an die Unterstützung des Dichters durch den Fürsten durchaus gedacht war, die sich allerdings im konkreten Fall nicht einstellen sollte.

Schindler untersucht drei Supplemente zur Aeneis Vergils. Diese Werke von Maffeo Vegio, Jan van Foreest und Claude Simonet de Villeneuve offenbaren eine von eigenen zeitgenössischen Ansichten der Suppliierenden getragene Interpretation der Schlussszene von Vergils Werk und ihrer Bedeutung. Schindlers Artikel macht aber auch deutlich, wie zeitbedingt die Ansichten über den Wert von Supplementen an sich – auch in der Wissenschaft – sein können.12

Piccone orientiert sich bei der Analyse des Aufbaus der leider ohne ihren Anfang überlieferten Felsinais von Marco Girolamo Vida an der Aeneis Vergils und greift dabei auch auf den Aufbau von Vidas später verfassten Christias zurück. In einem weiteren Schritt könnte man Vidas gesamte Begeisterung für Vergil berücksichtigen und sein Lehrgedicht über die Seidenraupe sowie andere Aspekte der Vergilrezeption bei Vida auf mögliche Hinweise abklopfen, um eventuelle Entwicklungslinien, wenn es sie gab, zu erkennen, auf denen Vida sich bei der Abfassung der Felsinais bewegt haben könnte.

Ein Index locorum beschließt das Buch.


Vorwort 7
Christine Schmitz: Einleitung: Anfänge und Enden. Narrative Potentiale des antiken und nachantiken Epos 9-35
Joachim Latacz: Vom unbekannten Anfang bis zum bekannten Ende. Das Vers-Epos im Überblick 37-60
Stefan Büttner: Was meint die Formel »Anfang - Mitte - Ende« in der Poetik des Aristoteles? 61-78
Annemarie Ambühl: Narrative Potentiale von Anfangen und Enden im hellenistischen (Klein-)Epos 79-103
Christiane Reitz: Das Unendliche beginnen und sein Ende finden - Strukturen des Aufzählens in epischer Dichtung 105-118
Angela Jöne: Beinahe-Abschiede in der Aeneis 119-140
Farouk F. Grewing: Der Anfang vom Ende oder das Ende als Anfang? Überlegungen zu closure in Ovids Metamorphosen 141-168
Christine Walde: Tu ne quaesieris scire nefas quem finem... di dederunt... : Reflexionen zur Debatte um das Ende von Lucans Bellum Civile 169-198
Thomas Baier: Anfang ohne Ende. Abgebrochene Kommunikation bei Valerius Flaccus 199-219
Claudia Klodt: Die Exordialtechnik der Redner in Statius' Thebais 221-252
Jan Telg genannt Kortmann: Tag und Nacht als Anfangs- und Endpunkte in Silius Italicus' Punica 253-276
Raymond Marks: A Medial Proem and the Macrostructures of the Punica 277-291
Helen Kaufmann: Das Ende des mythologischen Epos in der Spätantike 293-312
Ursula Gärtner: Ohne Anfang und Ende? Die Posthomerica des Quintus Smyrnaeus 313-338
Thomas Haye: Die Herculeia des Giovanni Mario Filelfo (1426- 1480) 339-355
Claudia Schindler: Anfang als Ende, Ende als Anfang. Der Schluss der Aeneis und die friihneuzeitlichen Aeneis-Supplemente 357-376
Carla Piccone: Quidprimum ... canam quaeve ultima narrem? Riflessioni sulla struttura della Felsinais di Marco Girolamo Vida 377-393
Index locorum 395-402


1.   Vgl. R. Hunter: Apollonius of Rhodes: Argonautica. Book IV. (Cambridge 2015), 318ff.
2.   Vgl. M. v. Albrecht: Ovids Metamorphosen. Texte, Themen, Illustrationen. (Heidelberg 2014), 193f.
3.   Vgl. schon A. Schmitt: Aristoteles. Poetik. (Berlin 2008), 678.
4.   Vgl. z. B. P. Green: The Argonautica by Apollonios Rhodios. (Berkeley 1997), 360.
5.   Vgl. R. V. Albis: Poet and Audience in the Argonautica of Apollonius. (Lanham 1996), 37.
6.   Vgl. hierzu N. Holzberg: Ovids Metamorphosen. (München 2007), 110ff.
7.   Vgl. hierzu A. Barchiesi: The Poet and the Prince. Ovid and Augustan Discourse. (Berkeley 1997), 270. Wenn Ovid für sich mit seinem Werk („perpetuum carmen", Met. 1,4) den Anfang eines ewigen Lebens gelegt hat („vivam", Met. 15,879), stellt sich die Frage nach einem Ende eigentlich nicht. Vgl. zur Bedeutung von „vivam" z. B. G. K. Galinsky: Ovid's Metamorphoses. An Introduction tot he Basic Aspects. (Oxford 1975), 44.
8.   Vgl. auch T. Stover: Epic and Empire in Vespasian Rome. A New Reading of Valerius Flaccus' Argontautica. (Oxford 2012), 216ff.
9.   Vgl. auch die Rolle von Tag und Nacht im neulateinischen Epos, z.B. in Anchietas de gestis Mendi de Saa. Vgl. F. Arias-Schreiber Barba: Das erste Epos aus Amerika und die Aeneis Vergils. Der Aufbau von Anchietas De Gestis Mendi de Saa und die klassische Epik. (Hamburg 2011), 64.
10.   Vgl. z.B. W. Suerbaum: Vergils Aeneis. (Stuttgart 1999), 143-147.
11.   Vgl. auch im Beitrag von Schindler S. 361.
12.   Vgl. auch das programmatische Zitat Goethes aus seiner Farbenlehre, das P. G. Schmidt seinem Buch zu neuzeitlichen Supplementen antiker lateinischer Prosawerke voranstellt (Supplemente lateinischer Prosa in der Neuzeit, Göttingen 1964, 9): „Jedes gute Buch, und besonders die der Alten, versteht und genießt niemand, als wer sie supplieren kann."

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Paula Fredriksen, Paul: The Pagans' Apostle. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017. Pp. xii, 319. ISBN 9780300225884. $35.00.

Reviewed by Olivia Stewart Lester, University of Oxford (

Version at BMCR home site


Paul: The Pagans' Apostle radically recontextualizes Paul within the diversity of Judaism in the ancient Mediterranean and within a compelling history of anti-Judaism in ancient and modern readings of his letters. Against such readings, Fredriksen transforms essential questions in Pauline studies—on gentile inclusion, the Law, christology, and the imminent end of time—with an historically robust portrayal of Paul as a first-century Jewish thinker. This book offers a new paradigm for Pauline scholarship and requires an ethical reckoning for the devastating legacies of anti-Jewish readings of Paul.

The strengths of this book are evident at the exegetical level, but it is Fredriksen's recreation of the world surrounding Paul that cements the lasting contribution of this book. This world is actually twofold: first is the ancient Mediterranean context in which Paul writes, where the modern categories of "ethnicity," "family," and "religion" come together in overlapping and intricate ways. Fredriksen's study of Paul simultaneously offers a sophisticated discussion of "religion" in antiquity as well as the diversity of ancient Judaism among other cultic practices. Describing Paul's scriptural and social landscape, Fredriksen locates Paul's writings alongside the dynamic development of Jewish scripture—its instability, multiplicity, fluidity, revision—reminding readers of the inadequacy of our modern terms "book," "canon," and "the Bible" for describing ancient texts. She also disentangles the complex negotiations between diaspora Jews and their pagan neighbors, whose daily lives and civic spaces were filled with different gods. Fredriksen places Paul's writings on the gentiles within a series of Jewish debates about how to carry out exclusive worship and when to live distinctly within multi-ethnic, multi-religious ancient Mediterranean cities.

The second is the world of interpretation surrounding Paul—from early second-century readers through the scholarship of the New Perspective on Paul. Fredriksen maps the logic of anti-Judaism as it infiltrates interpretations of Paul over centuries. Fredriksen begins by locating Paul within Judaism, reading his polemical passages as intra-Jewish debate. She then highlights the quick turn among early Christian readers such as Justin Martyr to using Paul's letters for anti-Jewish purposes: ". . . these intra-Jewish critiques became anti-Jewish critiques, spurred in part by real rivalry not for potential pagan converts so much as for recognized 'ownership' of Jewish scriptures and title to the name 'Israel.'" (71) Anti-Jewish readings of Paul have had a long lifespan, and they have resuted in disastrous acts of violence. In Fredriksen's account, anti-Jewish interpretation continues in contemporary scholarly discussions. Fredriksen illuminates theological and scholarly readings that have applied Paul's polemics against other Christ-followers to Jews (and Judaism), particularly following the emergence of Paul as a figurehead for universalist Christianity against particularist Judaism (a classic tenet of the current New Perspective). Fredriksen also levies a serious critique against New Testament scholarship on Paul and the Law, across the ideological spectrum. Scholars from both the "Two-Covenant Perspective" and "New Perspective" have shared the view that Paul became "Law-free" in his life and teaching after becoming a follower of Jesus, meaning that he abandoned Jewish traditions. Fredriksen argues along with other recent scholarly readings emphasizing Paul's Jewishness that Paul remained a Jew and directed his writing to gentiles, whom he required to take on Jewish practices, including exclusive worship of the Jewish God and living according to many of the standards of the Law. She rightly asserts that Paul's letters never speak of Jews abandoning Jewish traditions, and makes a strong case that he also brought gentiles into at least some level of obedience to the Law, with the obvious exception of circumcision. In the process, Fredriksen detects that underlying many readings of Paul on the Law is "a long-standing gentile Christian theological position, namely, that "observing the Law"—that is, living according to Jewish ancestral practices—is intrinsically incompatible with Christian 'belief.'"(86) Fredriksen argues that New Testament scholarship is still dominated by a "view of a de-Judaized Paul," one that he himself would never have recognized. (169)

By contrast, Fredriksen reads Paul within the context of ancient Judaism. Rather than interpreting gentile inclusion in Paul as a turn from particularist Judaism to universalist Christianity, Fredriksen sees Paul in line with a stream of Jewish thought (which she labels "apocalyptic") that expected the eschatological turn of the gentiles to the Jewish God (see Isa 2:2–4, Mic 4:1, Tobit 14:5–6, Isa 66:21, etc.). She argues that while Paul resists "Judaizing" in Gal 2:12–14, his whole mission to the gentiles is about including them in a Jewish movement, encouraging them to take on Jewish beliefs and customs, especially exclusive worship of the Jewish God. "[Paul's] gospel to his gentiles involved their assuming two fundamental and exclusively Jewish practices, namely, fidelity to the god of Israel alone and avoidance of a pagan cult: both ancients and moderns commonly designate such behavior as 'Judaizing.'" (86) Fredriksen makes a compelling argument that despite his rhetoric, the real problem for Paul was not Judaizing, but the wrong kind of Judaizing: gentile circumcision, rather than reliance on the message of Jesus and the work of the spirit for inclusion in God's kingdom. Fredriksen's Paul required exclusive worship of the God whom he understood to be both Jewish and universal from his gentiles. And in Fredriksen's account, gentiles remained gentiles for Paul, even after becoming followers of Jesus and exclusive worshippers of the one God. Pagan receptivity to the gospel message simultaneously strengthened and reframed Paul's belief that the end of time and coming of God's kingdom were near. Although Paul's sense of the end shifted from "now" to "soon," he never lost his own Jewish identity or his commitment to God's special relationship with Israel.
One of Fredriksen's innovations in this book is her historical reconstruction of the early Jesus movement. The book argues that the apocalyptic message of the historical Jesus did not include gentiles, and thus early followers of Jesus were initially surprised at gentiles' acceptance of their message. The gentiles who heard the message hospitably in Fredriksen's reconstruction were participants in diaspora Jewish synagogues who worshipped God but also continued to worship other gods; in other words, "god-fearers" rather than proselytes. Fredriksen asserts that apostles had to develop policies for gentile inclusion in the early Jesus movement, and Paul's writings to gentiles ("ex-pagan pagans") in his communities participate in these larger efforts of gentile inclusion, entering into a conversation that pre-dated him.

Fredriksen's book contributes to a growing body of scholarship reclaiming Paul's Jewishness. With John Gager and Lloyd Gaston, Fredriksen asserts that Paul's audiences are exclusively gentile—even the addressee of Rom 2, drawing on the work of Runar Thornsteinsson.1 Building on the work of Matthew Thiessen, Fredriksen places Paul among other Jewish debates about whether adult male gentiles could enter Jewish communities through circumcision, locating him among those who thought such circumcision is ineffective, whether because of its late timing (after the eighth day) or the impossibility of gentiles becoming Jews.2 Fredriksen's innovations in this larger body of scholarship include her emphasis on the blurred boundaries between religion and ethnicity, her assertion of God's Jewish divine ethnicity for Paul, her more concrete proposal for who exactly these gentile followers of Jesus were, and most significantly, her exposure of anti-Jewish assumptions in interpretations of Paul.

Scholars may argue over some of the details of Fredriksen's readings, but for this reviewer, none of the questions raised undermine the force of her overall argument. The first question one might ask has to do with the broad use of "apocalyptic" in this book, a term which is sometimes indistinguishable from prophecy with a strong eschatological expectation. Fredriksen is clear about the fluidity and diversity of "apocalyptic" within her framework, writing that "Apocalyptic traditions are not "doctrine," an authoritative, internally consistent, and coordinated body of teachings. Rather, they represent various and multivocal speculations, keyed to biblical themes."(29) Readers with a stricter definition of apocalpytic, particularly those who take it as a genre marker, will need to allow for this flexibility when reading Fredriksen's description of Paul as "a charismatic, apocalyptic visionary."(137) Second, not all modern readers of Paul will accept that his audiences are entirely gentile. Fredriksen's argument does not depend on this point, but she does build portions of her case about Paul and the Law on this assumption.

The contents of the book fall into two major sections; the first contextualizes Paul (chapters 1 and 2). Chapter one examines scriptural narratives, highlighting three significant themes that emerge from the dynamic and developing collection of biblical texts for Paul: God is Jewish, exclusive worship is fundamental to God's relationship with Israel, and other nations will participate in the eschatological redemption of Israel. Fredriksen suggests that Paul came to this last interpretive conclusion as a way of making sense of gentile reception of his teaching. Chapter two turns from the scriptural landscape to the social landscape for Pauline apocalyptic eschatology. Fredriksen marks Jewish participation in civic life in ways that complicate their distinctness and pagan negotiations with the Temple and Jewish synagogues. Proselytes and "god-fearers" emerge as two key categories for Paul's comments on gentiles.

The second section of the book gives close readings of Paul (chapters 3–5). Chapter three argues for a link between debates about gentile circumcision and Paul's language of persecution (see Gal 1:13–14; 5:11; 6:12). Fredriksen imagines the social ramifications of Paul's "ex-pagan pagans" becoming exclusive worshippers of Israel's God without circumcision to explain Paul's descriptions of persecution (see 2 Cor 11:24–27; 12:10). She argues that their socially anomalous position would have put them at risk of both intra-Jewish disciplinary violence (39 lashes) and sporadic violence from pagan political authorities. Chapter four attempts to systematize Paul's widespread positive and negative statements on the Law. Fredriksen argues that Paul required three things from the gentile members of his communities: (1) exclusive worship of the God of Israel, (2) no switching of ethnicity, and (3) living as holy pagans, drawing standards precisely from the Jewish Law. Fredriksen reads his negative statements on the Law as speaking about gentiles and the Law, not the Law as it relates to himself or other Jewish followers of Jesus. Chapter five focuses on Paul's christology, eschatology, and his mission to the gentiles. For Fredriksen, eschatological messianism was essential to Paul's gospel, and motivated his mission to the gentiles. Pagan followers of Jesus became a way for Paul of explaining the delay between Jesus's resurrection and the resurrection of all the dead; they were "eschatological gentiles." Fredriksen concludes with a reading of Rom 9–11, arguing that in Paul's schema, gentiles did not become Jews; they were included as worshippers of God while remaining gentiles. But they were part of the ultimate redemption of Israel. Fredriksen's Paul never lost his hope that other Jews would soon receive the message of Jesus, and then the Kingdom would come.

With its careful historical analysis and trenchant critique of the impact anti-Judaism has on readings of Paul, Paul: The Pagans' Apostle is a tour de force. This book issues an urgent call for readers to grapple with the sinister underpinnings of anti-Jewish interpretations of Paul, one which must be taken seriously.

1.   Fredriksen, 86, and 157–59 respectively, drawing from John G. Gager, Reinventing Paul (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); Lloyd Gaston, Paul and the Torah (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1987); and Runar M. Thorsteinsson, Paul's Interlocutor in Romans 2: Function and Identity in the Context of Ancient Epistolography (Coniectanea Biblica New Testament Series 40; Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell, 2003).
2.   Fredriksen, 65–69. See Matthew Thiessen, Contesting Conversion: Genealogy, Circumcision, and Identity in Ancient Judaism and Christianity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

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