Tuesday, April 23, 2019


David B. Hollander, Farmers and Agriculture in the Roman Economy. London; New York: Routledge, 2018. Pp. vii, 131. ISBN 9781138099883. $140.00.

Reviewed by Maëlys Blandenet, ENS de Lyon (maelys.blandenet@ens-lyon.fr)

Version at BMCR home site


In continuation of his work on the Roman economy of the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, in particular Money in the Late Roman Republic 1, David Hollander pursues his study of monetization in Roman society, focusing this time on the rural world. His latest book deals with the economic behaviour and mentalities of Roman peasants in Italy between the 2nd century BC and the 2nd century AD. The book aims to analyse the relationship between Roman peasants and the economy, by studying the interactions between rural people and the market, exchanges of goods or services, situations of economic cooperation or competition, the question of the monetization of the Roman countryside and economic mentalities. According to David Hollander, peasants, even of modest social status, were far from being excluded from the monetarized economy. The author thus questions the concept of self-sufficiency, often used by scholars to describe the economic situation of Roman peasants, even though, as he rightly points out, self-sufficiency in textual sources is above all an ideal and a guideline rather than a description of a factual situation.

David Hollander's study is based primarily on textual sources, and in particular the Latin agronomists, but also takes into account some of the recent archaeological literature. The question of sources is addressed in the first chapter, which serves as an introduction to the book as a whole ("Problems and sources").

The second chapter ("Parameters of Roman agriculture") reviews the main characteristics of Italian agriculture, such as climate and types of production, underlining the importance of regional diversity. The thorny issue of the demography of the rural population is also addressed briefly: without revisiting the case or discussing the rural labour force question in detail, Hollander prefers to insist on the importance of population movements between town and country. The conclusion of the chapter, and more particularly that of the section on the variety of crops and livestock, underlines the importance of farmers' purchases, in order to refute the concept of self-sufficiency.

This argument is further developed in Chapter Three ("Buyers and borrowers: The rural demand for goods, services, and money"), where the author discusses the equipment and materials needed for farming. He notes an interesting and usually under-appreciated feature, namely that farmers' purchases were not always guided by the criterion of necessity and utility (which he demonstrates, in particular, on the basis of Varro, I.22.2, p. 40). From the same perspective, the last section of this chapter deals with non-agricultural expenses that likely led to an increased rural demand for money, in particular expenses related to health, religious rites and funerals.

The next chapter logically focuses on how Roman farmers obtained the necessary money ("Vendors and lenders: The rural supply of goods and services"). Hollander successively examines what he identifies as the four ways of acquiring money: the sale of products, the sale of other assets, working for others, moneylending. The chapter focuses most on the question of the profitability of different agricultural productions, to show in particular that most of the income was generated by livestock, and that cereal growing was proportionally very unprofitable.

Chapter 5 ("Farmers' markets, farmers' networks") then deals with the modalities of economic exchanges by distinguishing three types of transactions: financial transactions in the context of sales ("markets"), exchanges of goods and services ("reciprocity"), and government action ("redistribution"), in particular through frumentationes and land confiscations.

The last short chapter ("Farmers in Roman economic history") serves as a conclusion by taking up the question of self-sufficiency. Hollander proposes to replace this last concept with that of "degrees of market dependency" depending on the economic situation of the farmer, from the elite farmer to the landless farmer. The reconstruction of these degrees of dependence remains highly speculative, but Hollander's objective here is to point out that, although the idea of being economically independent has always been attractive, in terms of economic behaviour the farmers who could afford it did not particularly seek to be independent of the market. Briefly retracing the economic history of agriculture between the end of the Republic and the beginning of the Empire, Hollander considers that the main changes affecting the situation of Italian agriculture took place later, from the end of the 2nd century AD.

The index is preceded by a bibliography that includes all the major works of economic history relating to the Italian peninsula, as well as some archaeological studies devoted more narrowly to a specific Italian product or region.2 It may be noted, however, that this bibliography leaves aside the most recent work on the monetization of the countryside in other regions such as Gaul.3 Similarly, literary and ideological studies of the Latin agronomic corpus are almost absent, even though some of them address the question of the economic mentality of the authors who wrote these agricultural treaties.4

Overall, David Hollander's book deals with a question of economic history in a synthetic form by focusing on all the material aspects of the Roman peasant's life, a subject that is both exciting and disappointing by its very nature. Indeed, thinking about the modalities of the economic and social relations of Roman peasants, even though they are rarely discussed in our sources, is a stimulating topic for researchers. The downside is that scholars have to rely on very limited sources, reducing the analysis to general assumptions, which is often the case here. Hollander's study is limited by the lack of analysis of specific cases, comparisons with other geographical areas, lexical studies (such as on the vocabulary for work and labour) or engagement with anthropological material (on the issue of interpersonal relations and peasant solidarity, for instance). On the other hand, the book is synthetic and easy to read. It has almost no typos (one can be found in the quotation in French from Paul Veyne on p. 3, where for "practiquée" one should read "pratiquée"). Finally, the merit of this book is to propose a global vision, over a large period of time, of the economic behaviour of these almost "mute" people that the Roman peasants are for us today.


1.   David B. Hollander, Money in the Late Roman Republic. Columbia Studies in the Classical Tradition 29. Leiden: Brill, 2007. Reviewed by Fleur Kemmers (BMCR 2008.01.04
2.   Certainly the studies carried out by Catherine Virlouvet or Federico De Romanis, particularly concerning the supply of Rome, could also be useful here. E.g. B. Marin, C. Virlouvet (ed.), Nourrir les cités de Méditerranée. Antiquité-Temps modernes, Maisonneuve & Larose, Maison méditerranéenne des sciences de l'homme, Paris, 2004.
3.   Much of this work was carried out as part of the European Rurland project, led by Michel Reddé: https://rurland.hypotheses.org. See for example Stéphane Martin (ed.), Monnaies et monétarisation dans les campagnes de la Gaule du Nord et de l'Est, de l'âge du Fer à l'Antiquité tardive, Bordeaux, Ausonius éditions, 2016.
4.   E.g. E. Noè, Il progetto di Columella : profilo sociale, economico, culturale, Como, New Press, 2002 ; S. Diederich, Römische Agrarhandbücher zwischen Fachwissenschaft, Literatur und Ideologie, Berlin; New York, Walter de Gruyter, 2007.

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Philip Rance, Nicholas Sekunda (ed.), Greek Taktika: Ancient Military Writing and its Heritage. Proceedings of the International Conference on Greek Taktika held at the University of Toruń, 7-11 April 2005. Gdańsk: Akanthina, 2017. Pp. 300. ISBN 9788375312423. £40,00 (pb).

Reviewed by Matthew A. Sears, University of New Brunswick (matthew.sears@unb.ca)

Version at BMCR home site

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

This volume offers a selection of updated papers originally presented at a conference on Greek taktika held in Poland nearly a decade and a half ago. That conference, along with another held in Winnipeg, Manitoba in late 2016, indicates that ancient military manuals are enjoying something of a resurgence in scholarly interest. And rightly so, since aside from representing another important source for the ancient world, these tactical texts prompt us to think about issues such as genre, textual transmission, and reception, well beyond the nuts and bolts of warfare. Most of the chapters in the volume under review treat very specific questions about rather esoteric texts, and, as such, will appeal only to specialists. That said, a couple of the entries provide enough of a survey to serve as a starting-point for those who are new to this scholarly subfield.

After a long and comprehensive introduction by Rance (over fifty pages, with a full bibliography), the editors conceive of the volume as loosely consisting of six sections. The first section deals with the beginning of Greek technical military thought and how it was taught, particularly as evinced by the work of Aeneas Tacticus. Section two treats the tradition of the specialized tactical handbook which emerged during the Hellenistic period and influenced many subsequent eras, including the Roman imperial period and even Arabic tactical writers. Third, two entries discuss Polyaenus as a source for two historical problems, respectively the creation of the Hellenistic monarchy and a stratagem attributed to Alexander. Section four seeks to add to our knowledge of military equipment by drawing on tactical writings. The fifth section addresses the Roman reception and adaptation of Greek tactical writing by considering historical context and the limits of genre. Finally, section six considers the reception of ancient tactical writing in early modern Europe.

Given that only loose themes can be detected woven throughout this book, I recommend it primarily for specialists interested in one or more of the specific issues addressed by particular chapters. This volume is not a comprehensive treatment of ancient tactical writing, nor does it claim to be. I, however, do want to single out two contributions, both by Philip Rance, that should appeal to a broader audience, and deserve a wide readership among students of Classical antiquity. The first is Rance's lengthy introduction to the volume, which represents a considerable percentage of the volume's overall length. Far more than just an introduction to the chapters that follow, Rance provides a good overview of the state of the field in terms of ancient military writing. He offers no less than a brief history of scholarship concerning ancient military writers, beginning with a provocative quote from Friedrich Haase, the first modern scholar of ancient tactical writing, and continuing on to parse various questions, such as genre, context, and reception, that define current scholarly efforts. Rance's bibliography alone will be an essential resource.

Rance's other chapter, after his introduction the second longest contribution to the volume, on its surface discusses a far narrower topic, namely how the early Byzantine tactical treatise of Maurice can shed light on the reception of Aelian and Arrian in late antiquity. Students of Maurice's work will need to read this contribution, but far more scholars than that will benefit from Rance's wide-ranging discussion of genre and reception, using Maurice as a case study. For example, Rance explores to what extent we can glean any genuine historical information from a text that so self-consciously and artificially emulates earlier works in terms of style and vocabulary, and the extent to which genuine traces of earlier authors can be found in Maurice, rather than simply generic similarities. Arguing that a section of Maurice's treatise was originally a stand-alone document largely derived from Arrian's Acies contra Alanos, Rance concludes that "[t]he composition of 12.A.7 was not motivated by slavish conceptual dependence or considerations of literary mimesis, but entailed a selective critical adaptation of Arrian's text where relevant and applicable to late antique scenarios, adding contemporary and explanatory detail, and with an overriding concern for practical utility" (249). Anyone interested in reception studies would benefit from such a discussion.

The volume would have been more useful with indices and list of contributors, and perhaps detailed guides to further reading. Those who desire a systematic treatment of ancient tactical writing, which would be a welcome addition to scholarly literature, will need to wait. The editors and contributors, though, are to be congratulated for taking on a relatively neglected area of study.

Authors and titles

Philip Rance, "Introduction"
Burkhard Meißner, "Early Greek Strategic and Tactical Teaching and Literature"
Hans Michael Schellenberg, "Reflections on the Military Views of the 'Military Writer' Aeneas Tacticus"
Bogdan Burliga, "Tactical Issues in Aeneas 'Tacticus'"
Alexander Nefedkin, "The Classification of Greco-Macedonian Cavalry in Ancient Taktika and in Modern Literature"
Nicholas Sekunda, "Cavalry Organisation in the Taktika: the Tarantinarchia"
Bogdan Burliga, "Asclepiodotus' τοῖς γε σώμασιν ἐπιβρίθοντες (Taktika 5.2) and Polybius' τῷ τοῦ σώματος βάρει (18.30.1-4)"
Hans Michael Schellenberg, "A Short Bibliographical Note on the Arabic Translation of Aelian's Tactica Theoria"
Jacek Rzepka, "Polyaenus and the Creation of the Hellenistic Monarchy"
Sławomir Sprawski, "Alexander at Tempe: Polyaenus, Strategemata 4.3.23"
Pierre O. Juhel, "The Rank Insignia of the Officers of the Macedonian Phalanx: the Lessons of Iconography and an Indirect Reference in Vegetius"
Radosław A. Gawroński, "The Javelins used by the Roman Cavalry of the Early Principate in Archaeological Contexts and Written Sources"
Wojciech Brillowski, "The Principles of ars tactica: Roman Military Theory and Practice in Arrian's Acies contra Alanos"
Philip Rance, "Maurice's Strategicon and 'the Ancients': the Late Antique Reception of Aelian and Arrian"
Keith Roberts, "The Practical Use of Classical Texts for Modern War in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries"
Richard Brzezinski, "The Influence of Classical Military Texts in Early Modern Poland: a Survey"
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Monday, April 22, 2019


Pamela A. Webb, The Tower of the Winds in Athens: Greeks, Romans, Christians, and Muslims: Two Millennia of Continual Use. Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society, 270. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2017. Pp. xviii, 172. ISBN 9780871692702. $65.00.

Reviewed by Nassos Papalexandrou, The University of Texas at Austin (papalex@austin.utexas.edu)

Version at BMCR home site

In the last two decades visitors to Greece and other Mediterranean countries have been confronted with the proliferation of the now ubiquitous and unavoidable wind farms. The towers of these aeolic parks have punctuated cherished landscapes— once impenetrable and accessible only to the admiring human gaze— that now, totally, and perhaps irreversibly, have been surrendered to the quest for cheap and sustainable energy. The hardware of these towers exceeds any sense of measure: stilt-like supports carry turbines equipped with humongous rotor blades of ca 80 feet in length. Always craftily shaped like swords aimed for fights with superhuman giant beings, these blades provide a contemporary standard for assessing the power of the invisible forces of the winds, by contrast, the ancient conceptualization of these divine beings was graphically expressed on the elegant Athenian structure that is the monographic subject of Pamela Webb's book. Vitruvius and Varro, our extant ancient textual sources on the octagonal Horologion, assumed their readers' familiarity with it. Likewise, in this review I assume that the monument is well-known to BMCR readers. Unlike the oversize wind machines of today, throughout its life the Tower was integrally embedded in a vibrant civic space whereas in the beginning its functions were cognitive and aesthetic. Webb weaves an engaging and often insightful narrative of its rich biography.

The Tower dates from an era when weather phenomena were predictable in their recurrence, behavior, intensity, and effects. This is no longer the case. The last few decades have witnessed the disruption of age-old weather patterns. As everywhere in the world, in Greece storms have grown so ferocious and unpredictable that weather authorities have been giving them names—as I type these lines an "Okeanis" is ravaging the country. It is perhaps ironic that the last decade has also witnessed a remarkable wind of change in scholarly attention to the Tower of the Winds in Athens. In 2014 Herman Kienast published an admirable archaeological study that is commensurate to the quality of the Tower and its original technological sophistication. This will be the standard source of reference for a long time. Meanwhile the monument underwent systematic conservation and opened—for the first time ever!—to the public in 2016. This momentous development yielded new evidence (e.g., remnants of medieval frescos) and coincided with the similar handling of the Fethiye Mosque ("of the Conqueror" but also known as "mosque of the grain market") slightly to the northeast of the Tower and immediately to the west of the latrine building northwest of the Tower's north façade. Like the Tower, this seventeenth-century mosque had been used as storage space by the Greek Archaeological Service since the foundation of the modern Greek state. Now its domed interior is accessible and affords visitors a rare and very instructive comparison with that of the Horologion.

Webb's book provides a careful assessment of the Tower that often takes issue with or expands upon Kienast's and other scholars' interpretations of various aspects of the monument. More importantly, it attempts to assess its social life on a programmatically diachronic basis. Separate chapters scrutinize the evidence for the Christian and then the Muslim usage of the Tower until the establishment of the modern Greek state when, as Webb argues, the structure ceased to be functionally operational and became an archaeological site. Her analysis is careful, clear and eloquent and pivots around a main argument: at its very beginning (ca 140 BCE), the octagon also served a cultic function that somehow remained constantly ingrained in its operational DNA until the nineteenth century. Despite the severe lacunae in the available evidence and Webb's tendency to overstress circumstantial or insufficient evidence, this bold and interesting argument is well presented and worthy of scholars' attention. It will surely generate discussion and debate within the wider framework of the long overdue attention to the post-antique life of classical monuments and sites in Greece and elsewhere.

The first chapter (pp. 9-50: "The Hellenistic and Roman Tower") contextualizes the building during its earliest phase when an east-west street on its south side directly connected it with the Athenian Agora. The construction of the Roman Agora in the first century BCE and the so-called "Agoranomion" a century later surely altered our understanding of the original setting of the building. Webb stresses its relationship with an important but poorly known Hellenistic stoa at a slightly higher elevation to its southeast. A thorough analysis of all main aspects of both the exterior and interior of the tower includes Webb's points of contention with previous interpretations which will surely reinvigorate discussion. For example, she disagrees with Kienast on the dating of the chancel screens that once surrounded the centrally placed mechanism of the interior. Kienast wants it contemporary with the original construction whereas Webb finds it discordant with the consistent attention to "exactitude" of its geometric design (19-20). In the same chapter, of more import is Webb's iconographic and stylistic analysis of the sculptural complement of the Tower. Following Karanastasi, she stresses the affinities of the reliefs with the Altar of Zeus at Pergamon and suggests for them the rather high date of ca 140 BCE—a chronology connected to her argument that the patron of this building was Attalus II of Pergamon. This is an interesting and plausible suggestion and it will remain so until more corroborating evidence comes to light.

Webb's discussion of the Tower's interior water-run mechanism is fascinating but by necessity inconclusive given that the surviving evidence is sadly incomplete. Scholars have proposed a water-powered chronometric device or, as Kienast proposes, a celestial globe ("orrery")—the latter interpretation is definitely more in harmony with current understandings of the building as a wondrous cosmographic planetarium of sorts. Webb argues that this complex building also accommodated a religious function "…as a cult site of Boreas (and to a lesser extent his brothers) and commemorated his role in the Athenian defeat of the Persian Navy in 480 BC" (38). The supporting evidence, however, is circumstantial at best. The representation of the winds per se does not necessarily point to a cultic function. Webb discusses in detail the affinities between the type and morphology of the exterior and interior of the Tower vis-à-vis other centrally planned structures of Hellenistic date whose function was "cultic and commemorative" (42). These comparisons show only that the Athenian building conformed to the most sophisticated design traditions of the Hellenistic koine. Neither its civic context, however, nor its surviving apparatus point to anything more than a civic function. Webb's reconstruction of a boat-shape support of the mechanism in the interior of building (44) rests on very tenuous evidence and does nothing to strengthen the argument for a cultic function. The same holds true for the two boat-shaped graffiti in the interior—the longest is substantial in size (126 cm long: see Kienast 2014, 150)) and points perhaps to moments of fanciful story-telling inside the Tower, somewhere between the second and the fourth centuries CE. One can't help but agree with Webb's assessment of these graffiti as "…another curiosity in this monument rife with curiosities" (46).

After the Tower suffered some damage during Sulla's attack, it was restored but yet again the contents and precise function of its interior remain elusive. The construction of the Market of Caesar and Augustus in the late first century BCE largely affected the physical accessibility and visibility of the Tower. The subsequent addition of the latrines northwest of the Tower undoubtedly impacted the sensory ambience of the space that the Tower inhabited as long as the latrines functioned. A cultic usage of the Tower, as proposed by Webb, would have been incompatible with the presence of the latrines right at its northern foot. This book should have tackled this important problem face on.

Webb argues throughout that the Tower continued to function until its conversion to a Christian building. However, there is no evidence about the nature of this function. Neither is there any evidence about the date and nature of its conversion to a Christian use, the subject matter of chapter 2 ("The Christian Tower," pp. 51-76). Webb proposes that it functioned as a martyrium, perhaps in unison with the early Christian phase of the "Agoranomion" at some point in the early seventh century CE. In this early phase, however, the Christian usage would have been incompatible with the bold figural apparatus of the building, which does not bear any signs of intentional mutilation (e.g. the Parthenon's east, west, and north metopes). In a footnote Webb tentatively suggests that in this period the figures of the winds could have been interpreted as angels—one would have expected a rather lengthier discussion of the interesting possibility of a Christian interpretatio for these bold and powerful images. What responses did they generate in the local community around it? It may not be a coincidence that just a block to the east of the Fethiye mosque stands the parish church of the Taxiarchs, the archangels Michael and Gabriel. The Taxiarchs may be a successor of the three aisled church underneath the Fethiye mosque, an edifice now dated to the middle Byzantine period—was this cult localized here as a response to the appeal of the ancient reliefs? However this may have been, there is archaeological evidence (e.g. remnants of frescos that have yet to be dated precisely) and textual testimonies, amply discussed by Webb, that by the 15th century the Tower was used as a church. Webb accepts Evliya Çelebi's testimony for the cult of a certain "saint Philip the Greek" inside the building. The evidence she uses for reconstructing the characteristics of this cult draws from models of the first millennium that would not necessary apply to 17th century Athens.

By the time Stuart and Revett witnessed and studied the Horologion (1751), the Christian usage had been abandoned and the octagonal edifice served as a tekke for the Mehlevis, a Sufi sect of whirling dervishes (chapter 3, "The Muslim Tower," pp. 77-86). The two Dilettanti excavated the significant amount of debris that had been brought inside by the Muslim users. Their report of human bones inside this fill prompts Webb to associate them with Christian saints' relics—this is very problematic as the bones could have been mixed in the fill, especially if this soil had been collected from the immediate vicinity of the Tower, which has yielded a number of archaeologically documented graves. On the basis of this questionable evidence Webb argues that it was the memory of the Tower as a martyrium that attracted the Sufi ascetics to this significant building.

The book is complemented with three useful appendices (on the first Christian churches in Athens, on their conversion of Classical structures for Christian use, and on the conversion of Classical heroa) that will enable readers to contextualize the long life of the Tower under Christianity. Despite the criticisms expressed above, this study deserves attention and close reading. The medieval and post- medieval archaeology of Athens have yet to catch up with that of its antique past. One hopes that new discoveries and continuous scrutiny of the building and its context will enhance our understanding of the Tower and its life throughout the ages.

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Ivo Van der Graaff, The Fortifications of Pompeii and Ancient Italy. London; New York: Routledge Ltd., 2019. Pp. 352. ISBN 9781472477163. $120.00.

Reviewed by Ray Laurence, Macquarie University – Sydney (ray.laurence@mq.edu.au)

Version at BMCR home site


Under the direction of Queen Caroline Bonaparte (1808-1815), the decision was taken to discover the fortifications of Pompeii in order to define the land to be expropriated for excavation and create a perimeter to deter looters and thieves (p. 14). Today, the walls are some 3.2 km in length and 8 metres in height, with eight gates. This fortified circuit existed over a 600-year period beginning with the construction of the Pappamonte fortifications in the sixth century BCE. A second set of fortifications, characterised by orthostats, is dated to the fifth century BCE. The third set of fortifications, dating to the late fourth and early third centuries BCE, is associated with the Samnite city. Towers were added in the late third to early second century BCE, alongside a widening of the agger (internal earth embankment). No full survey of the fortifications has been attempted, but this book provides a means for students and scholars to begin to appreciate a key element of this famous ancient city.

Given the prominence of Pompeii's fortifications and their availability for study, it is surprising that no book has been written on this subject before. Frustratingly, as Ivo Van der Graaff emphasises (p. 9), there is little record of the state of preservation when they were originally excavated, which he tracks in detail in chapter 1. Yet the author has extracted many details from the excavation records, duly setting them down with a full history of the excavations, including, for example, fragments of bronze statuary found at the Porta Ercolano that subsequently disappeared.

There follow two chapters devoted to the chronological development of the fortifications at Pompeii. The original Pappamonte wall-circuit, the remains of which can still be seen in places, could not have been built to more than six courses of stone, according to Van der Graaff, who thinks it would simply have collapsed under its own weight if it exceeded this height (p. 30). The defensive capabilities of such a wall-circuit seem marginal, but as Van der Graaff argues (pp. 27-30), this wall-circuit was set along a defensible line sufficient to meet threats posed by the seasonal warfare typical of the sixth century BCE. The stone was quarried as close to the wall-circuit as possible, and the author argues that we should see the building of the defences in the context of wider urban development, including the building of the temples of Apollo, Mefitis Fisica, and the Doric temple of Athena (p. 31). The renewal of fortifications using orthostats seems to precede a fifth-century disjuncture at Pompeii; Van der Graaf interprets the development of the so-called Altstadt, centred on the later Forum, as a contraction of the city, and reviews the evidence for the fortification of this zone, which he sees as an 'urbanized citadel' comparable to those at Atri, Volterra and Veii.

The initial Pappamonte fortifications were nothing compared to the fourth-century Samnite fortifications, some 9 metres in height and backed by an agger. Van der Graff points out the fortifications from this period are the largest public building in the city, and he also notes the care with which the walls were created to present a well-made and aesthetically pleasing structure (p. 44). However, the walls that we see today were subject to hundreds of years of repairs and an upgrade raising them to 11 metres in height, which the author seems to associate with the threat of Hannibal in Italy (p. 56). He relates a further upgrade to the threat of the Cimbri and the Teutones (p. 66). Ultimately, of course, the real threat was from Rome and Sulla's soldiers in the Social War of 91-88 BCE. It may be that with Rome's power increasing within its alliances with Italian cities, the allies felt less secure (especially after the destruction of Fregellae in 125 BCE); or we might see the continued improvements to the circuit in terms of peer-polity interaction. The twelve towers, coated in white plaster, added to the walled circuit are found by the author to be far from standard (pp. 71-78), but are located in most cases at the end of streets. It is suggested that these towers provided the inhabitants of Pompeii with a sense of security, by the simple prominence of the towers both from the inside of the city (at the end of streets) and from the outside for those returning to Pompeii.

These points on the development of the fortifications are followed by a chapter (4) devoted to the creation of 'an image for Samnite Pompeii'. The human power needed to build the walls is a matter for discussion (pp. 83-84). The fortification of Syracuse in c. 400, for which Diodorus Siculus (14.18) suggests 60,000 free peasants and 6,000 yokes of oxen were employed to build a circuit of 5.2 km is discussed prior to moving to an evaluation of the human power required to build the walls of Samnite Pompeii. Van der Graaff begins but does not complete the calculations. He observes that each block, on average, was 45cm x 100cm x 75cm, and provides the basis for a calculation of scale of the project over the 3.2 km circuit at 9m in height – c. 95,000 blocks of stone (c. 32,000 cubic metres). Quarrying, Van der Graaff calculates, would have involved 300 men over a period of 160 days. This does not include any calculation for the dressing of stone or its transportation. The calculation is interesting, but there needs to be some refinement to include transportation and construction. It is unfortunate that Van der Graaff does not follow through from his initial calculation of the number of blocks to estimate their weight, which might have facilitated a scaling of transport costs, perhaps utilising Janet DeLaine's estimates made for the construction of the much later Baths of Caracalla.2 No calculation is attempted for the human power needed to construct the agger or to dig the ditch beyond the walls of the city. These activities would have caused the building of the fortifications to require much more labor than the estimate of the number of blocks of stone required might suggest initially. One way to place a scale on the figures derived for the amount of labour power is to make a comparison based on quarried stone to the amount of quarried stone used in the paving of Pompeii's streets, as calculated recently by Eric Poehler. To pave the streets of Pompeii over a surface of 243,582 square metres required c. 85,000 cubic meters of stone was needed,1 almost double the amount used in the fortifications We should note that the paving of the streets involved the use of lava, a much denser rock than the tuff used on the walls, with a much higher transport cost.

Chapter 4 then moves on to the use in other buildings of masonry resembling that of the fortifications to create the image of Pompeii established in the second century BCE, when the author sees it as developing 'the necessary architecture to call itself a city' (p. 91). This is an interesting concept or question in itself: when do we see nucleated sites with walls shifting from just that to what we would identify as urbanism? The multiplicity of developments at Pompeii: sanctuaries, houses built with ashlar blocks, and first style wall-decoration tend to confirm that Pompeii had become a city. Yet, should we see these developments as specific to Pompeii or as part of a wider redefinition of urbanism in the second century BCE? The problem will be returned to in discussion of chapter 7. Chapter 4 also discusses evidence for patronage or euergetism, which is addressed through extant inscriptions and a case is presented for the fortifications being of central importance to the city with, for example, gates funded by the elite. The author even suggests, looking to the eituns inscriptions, that Pompeiians 'must have had a rational conceptual understanding of the city and its urban organization' (p. 105). The phrase 'must have' always acts as a warning that speculation is occurring. It is a big shift to go from saying, at the beginning of the chapter, that Pompeii had reached a level to be 'called a city' to invoking, by the end, a 'conceptual understanding of the city and urban organization'. The eituns inscriptions would seem to have been an attempt to create order in a city that was subject to considerable change.

The next chapters, 5 and 6, take us into the period of the Roman colony and make clear that the fortifications continued to be an important element in the representation of the city. Developments at the gates are particularly significant and are covered in depth; mostly these are dated to the Augustan period, but include discussion of the Porta Marina in the Sullan period and the Porta Ercolano after the earthquake of 62 CE. The balance between the symbolism of walls and practical defence is maintained here, with threats such as Spartacus and Catiline named, along with Cicero's contention (in relation to Catiline) that walls create a symbolic division between the civilised and the "other". Van der Graaff (p. 137) extends things to suggest that securitas underpinned Romanitas and that 'The defenses in their strategic and symbolic role would have acted as engines of mutual assimilation' in the context of the settlement of veterans in Pompeii. The argument needs further development to assert this view, especially because not all cities had walls in the late Republic and early Empire. It is also possible to see the walls of Pompeii as a symbol of the oppression of the local population, with the gates controlling their movement into and out of the city. There is also a lengthy discussion of the representation of defences in mosaics and wall-decoration at pp. 157-69.

Chapter 7 sets out to place Pompeii into the wider context of fortifications in Italy and the Mediterranean. Parallels for Pompeii's agger are sought. The closest is found locally at Nocera (p. 178). The technology is seen by Van der Graaff to have its origin in the Samnite hillforts, later transferred to the context of a free-standing defensive circuit (p. 179). The towers of Nocera and Pompeii also have much in common (p. 180). The chapter shifts back to the earlier theme of 'patronage and the concept of the city' as identified from inscriptions (pp. 198-200).

The final chapter, "City Walls and Gods", is compelling and involves an in-depth analysis of the association. Gods such as Minerva appear at the gates, to conclude from remnants of sculpture that adorned these entry-points to the city, as well as a sacellum. There follows a review of the evidence for gods at Pompeii to be associated with gods in other cities in Italy.

The book provides the reader with the evidence for Pompeii's fortifications and the author is to be commended for undertaking the challenge of making this important feature accessible to advanced students. Reading the book, though, I was left wondering about the conceptual framework of Roman archaeology in the 21st century. When we discuss building inscriptions, we can be sucked into a discussion of patronage and euergetism, and on identity, we can be drawn towards "assimilation" or "acculturation" (not to mention "Romanization"). Equally, the very idea of what a "city" constituted is open to question – for Van der Graaff Pompeii becomes one only in the third-to-second centuries BCE. It may be necessary for urban studies of Italy to consider urbanism alongside complexity: building inscriptions could perhaps be better understood as a development of the city's complexity, rather than explained through a lens of patronage. But there is an admirable amount of work in this book that provides a way into the subject of defences at Pompeii that – after the paved streets – were the city's largest public monument.


1.   Poehler, E.P. 2017. The Traffic Systems of Pompeii, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 77-78. BMCR 2018.09.22, see my own review of this book AJA Online.
2.   DeLaine, J. 1997. The Baths of Caracalla, Portsmouth RI: JRA Suppl.25. BMCR 1998.11.41.

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Thomas J. Keeline, The Reception of Cicero in the Early Roman Empire: The Rhetorical Schoolroom and the Creation of a Cultural Legend. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018. Pp. xi, 375. ISBN 9781108426237. £90.00 (hb).

Reviewed by Jon Hall, University of Otago (jon.hall@otago.ac.nz)

Version at BMCR home site


This insightful study will be of interest not just to Ciceronian scholars but to those in several other fields as well, including students of Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Seneca the Younger, Quintilian, Roman declamation and Late Republican historiography. The study also takes a place in the field of reception studies, although, as the title implies, it focuses not on the reinterpretation of Ciceronian material in the modern world, but on the reception of Cicero in the first couple of centuries following his death.

The first chapter ("Pro Milone: Reading Cicero in the Schoolroom") takes an engagingly fresh approach to the reception of Cicero by trying to reconstruct the Roman student's first encounters with a Ciceronian speech at school. This is a challenging task, given the paucity of available evidence, but Keeline puts together a useful collage of observations on Pro Milone drawn from three texts associated with schoolroom explication: Quintilian's Institutio Oratoria, the commentaries of Asconius and the Scholia Bobiensia. As Keeline notes, these discussions primarily draw attention to Cicero's skill in practical rhetorical strategy, and are especially clear-eyed about the speech's mendacious aspects. This emphasis is not particularly surprising, seeing that the main purpose of such training was to produce smart, effective orators. But the repeated stress on Cicero's rhetorical brilliance naturally shaped his reputation in the decades following his death. As Keeline observes, this is the first stage in the reduction of the man's historical complexity as an orator, politician, letter-writer, student of philosophy and family man, to a "partial" Cicero: a model of oratorical excellence to be studied and revered—but not much else.

Overall, the chapter offers a perceptive window onto the Roman schoolroom, and many modern students will find it a useful introduction to the Scholia Bobiensia, a text that can be difficult to handle. Keeline is more willing than many scholars to regard Cicero's performance on the final day of Milo's trial as an embarrassing calamity, although he glides too easily perhaps over the question of the authorship and intentions of the first circulated version of the speech.

Chapters 2, 3 and 4 work together as a unit, examining the practice of declamation in the Roman schools and its influence on Cicero's reputation. As Keeline notes (p. 79): "This classroom tradition lies at the heart of post-mortem evaluations of Cicero by those who had never known him or heard him speak." The topic is not a new one, with various aspects already explored by scholars in the last couple of decades. But Keeline examines the evidence in greater depth, focusing in particular on the way in which certain details of the orator's life and works end up receiving greater emphasis than others. In Chapter 2, for example, Keeline discusses the portrayal of Cicero in the later tradition as the vox publica. This aspect is given a distinctive twist: Cicero is not used as a symbol of Republican resistance to encroaching tyranny; rather, his eloquence is "reappropriated to champion a redefined cause of popular freedom, namely freedom from Mark Antony. This simplified rhetoric neatly aligned with the interests of Octavian and his successors" (pp. 88-89). The point is developed further in Chapter 3, as Keeline demonstrates the way in which school declamations on the theme of Cicero and Antony (and the Philippics) helped to consolidate the fiction that Antony alone was responsible for the orator's murder. Octavian's complicity in the deed is ignored entirely or deftly minimized (pp. 105-10; 121).

Chapter 3 also discusses in detail the ways in which declamatory inventions influenced historical accounts of Cicero's life. Even the version of his death in Valerius Maximus operates in a declamatory mode, with almost every phrase chosen to sharpen the audience's indignation at the wretched character of the murderer, Popillius—himself a fictional figure invented by declaimers in order to offer extra rhetorical color to the scene (pp. 125-27). As a foil to these inventions, Keeline presents an astute analysis of the (relatively early) accounts of Cicero's death by Livy and Asinius Pollio. As he shows, these versions are far more ambiguous regarding the orator's virtues than the elder Seneca (and some modern scholars) would have us believe. For later declaimers, however, there is no room for nuance or ironic subtlety. They "amplify what they found attractive and … ignore any complicating factors" (p. 137), thus helping to consolidate a schematic and misleading version of Cicero. Finally, Keeline identifies similar elements in Greek writers of Late Republican history and biography (Cassius Dio, Appian and Plutarch). The analysis is justifiably cautious about the origins of their rhetorical distortions: Dio and Appian may just be reproducing their sources, with no additional inventions of their own. Nevertheless, these sources "had already been thoroughly dyed in declamation" (p. 146).

Chapter 4 concludes the focus on declamation with a study of six pseudepigraphic sources: In M. Tullium Ciceronem invectiva (Pseudo-Sallust); In C. Sallustium Crispum invectiva, Oratio pridie quam in exilium iret and Epistula ad Octavianum (Pseudo-Cicero); Epistula ad Ciceronem and Epistula ad Atticum (Pseudo-Brutus, preserved as Cicero ad Brut. 1.16 and 1.17). These texts are often marginalized in Ciceronian studies, briskly dismissed as annoying imposters that have little to contribute to a serious understanding of the orator or Late Republican history. Keeline, however, makes a good case for viewing them as "precious artifacts of cultural memory" (p. 194), vital to the study of Cicero's reception. Although they can strike us today as barren exercises, they may have garnered considerable credit within the "intertextual declamatory aesthetic" of their day (pp. 188-195). More importantly, they "give us direct insight into how a later age thought and wrote about [Cicero]" (p. 194). In particular, the invectives reveal the development of tropes through which a declaimer might criticize Cicero and his career. (These include the orator's cruelty in executing citizens without trial, his venality as advocate, his inconstancy in character, his boasting, his status as novus homo, and the occasional sexual misdemeanor.) Again, these themes leave their mark on the historiographical tradition, as is clear in the speech of Calenus in Cassius Dio 46.1-29. (See also Keeline's nuanced analysis of the "consolation" offered to Cicero by the fictional character Philiscus in Cassius Dio 38.18-29.)

The remaining three chapters address the reception of Cicero in the works of Seneca, Tacitus and Pliny. As Keeline notes, Cicero in Seneca "is conspicuous by his absence" (p. 196), but this absence is probably strategic: "If you spend much of your time and energy engaging with Cicero, even if you consistently strive to refute him, you are inevitably playing the game on his terms rather than your own" (p. 207). Indeed, Seneca clearly knew the Ciceronian oeuvre very well and in places expresses his admiration for it. (Keeline professes doubts about Seneca's sincerity in this regard, but does not argue the point in detail; see pp. 201-2.) Overall, Cicero's most significant influence on Seneca (Keeline suggests) was the one-sided form of his decades-long correspondence with Atticus, which may well have served as a model for Seneca's own philosophizing letters to Lucilius (p. 215):

From reading Cicero's letters to Atticus he [sc. Seneca] must have understood the possibilities of the genre, but he rejects letters in a Ciceronian vein. He instead chooses to create a mosaic of philosophical conversations in epistolary form, which, when put together, create an all-encompassing philosophical dialogue tending toward the complete conversion of its interlocutor.

Tacitus' Dialogus provides more substantial material for close analysis: the speeches by Aper, Maternus and Messalla all discuss Cicero directly, a fact that by itself indicates the orator's continued influence upon succeeding generations (p. 273). Indeed, Keeline illustrates well the elements of Ciceronian style that Tacitus effortlessly adopts, especially in the speech of Messalla, with reminiscences of De Oratore extending to specific words and phrases (p. 265). But it is in Maternus' speech (also "shot through with Ciceronian tags", p. 269) that the key to Tacitus' view of oratory is to be found (p. 274): "it is Maternus who has identified the correct cause of the disease and issued the authoritative prognosis—oratory is dead and cannot be revived." The logical consequence of such a conclusion is to write history instead. Tacitus thus "engages in a sophisticated game of intertextual imitatio and aemulatio with Cicero and his followers, and after trouncing them on their own turf, he calmly picks up the ball and says that he will not play the game ever again" (p. 239).

Chapter 7 explores Pliny's reception of Cicero and, following the lead of Stanley Hoffer (The Anxieties of Pliny the Younger, OUP 1999), sees elements of unease in Pliny's relationship with his predecessor. Pliny's prose style, like that of Quintilian, represents a form of neo-Ciceronianism, and in general he views Cicero as a model to be revered. (Quintilian's own neo-Ciceronianism is discussed in some detail at the start of Chapter 6, pp. 225-32.) But Pliny's various observations in his letters betray a concern that he lacks the natural talent to attain such mastery. Moreover, changes in the political system have limited the opportunities to engage in the most vigorous forms of oratory on which Cicero built his reputation (pp. 282-84). Nevertheless, Pliny's publication of his own letters represents both "an act of homage to and rivalry with his most famous epistolary antecedent" (p. 280).

Ultimately, Pliny emerges in this analysis as something of a conflicted, dissatisfied figure who "vacillates between humility and boasting, keen both to follow behind 'Cicero the unsurpassable example' and to surpass him" (p. 292). From a methodological perspective, Keeline applies astute caution when identifying intertextual Ciceronian echoes in Pliny's correspondence, raising polite doubts regarding some of the patterns of allusion identified in previous scholarship (pp. 289, 318, 333).

This study, then, is a rewarding read. It identifies clearly the main interpretative issues pertinent to each author discussed and notes the most relevant associated scholarship; it engages closely with the texts themselves and constructs clear arguments from these analyses; and, as noted above, it examines several works that tend to be passed over in Ciceronian studies. From a practical perspective too, it will serve as a useful scholarly resource for those investigating Ciceronian verbal echoes in later authors: many such allusions are listed and discussed directly, or references given to works that provide the necessary basic details. The writing style is brisk and precise; there is even a decent joke or two. The book is well produced, with only a handful of typographical errors.

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