Thursday, November 20, 2014


Olga Spevak, The Noun Phrase in Classical Latin Prose. Amsterdam studies in classical philology, 21. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2014. Pp. xiii, 377. ISBN 9789004264427. $174.00.

Reviewed by Patrick McFadden, St. Mary's Episcopal School, Memphis, TN (

Version at BMCR home site


One might wonder whether an author who devoted nearly sixty pages to noun phrases in a recent work on constituent order in Latin (see BMCR 2011.06.30 on Spevak 2010a) needs to devote an entire monograph to the subject. Readers of Olga Spevak's newest contribution to the Amsterdam Studies in Classical Philology series will certainly answer with a resounding, "Yes."

The volume under review does not simply deal with the internal ordering of noun phrases, but much more fully and meticulously both describes and classifies the properties of nouns and their modifiers than her earlier work did. It furthermore offers plentiful data derived from multiple corpus studies, which utilize samplings of texts drawn mostly from Caesar, Cicero, and Sallust. Although some principles are naturally reprised, e.g., Hetzron's hierarchical scale (p. 58), and some illustrative examples are inevitably recycled, e.g., Cato, Agr. 2.7 (p. 88), there is also a certain division of labor. Those interested in exploring types of hyperbata or data on demonstratives will find fuller discussions in Spevak (2010a). Further echoes may be heard from her edited work on nominal syntax (see BMCR 2011.10.57 on Spevak 2010b). The current volume offers significant expansion on both previous works and bids fair to become a new standard reference on the topic.

Spevak, as she has in the past, works largely in the framework of Dik's (1997) Functional Grammar (FG). For those less familiar with the jargon, she does provide brief explanations of technical terms as they occur, along with a glossary in the back (pp. 359-62). Pragmatics plays a significant part in her explanation of ordering, as one would expect in a modern study, but semantics takes on a much larger role in her schema. This increased reliance on semantics will no doubt spark scholarly discussion.

The study is divided into five chapters. In Chapter 1, The Noun and Its Modifiers, Spevak lays the groundwork by establishing the parameters for description of nouns and their modifiers, as well as a meticulous typology of each. She applies Lyons' (1977) typology, which separates nouns into first-order entities referring to physical things situated in space and time, second-order entities referring to events, processes, and states of affairs situated only in time, and third-order entities referring to propositional contents like reasons or ideas situated in neither space nor time. This typology, along with semantic features such as specificity and genericity, establishes what types of modifiers each semantic type of noun can admit.

Spevak then applies the implications of the three orders of entities to explaining what FG calls valency frames. Just as verbs require varying numbers of obligatory complements (arguments), e.g., agent only vs. agent, patient, and recipient, so too nouns demand certain obligatory complements. Thus an agent noun like laudator, which encodes the agent, would be "monovalent," and require only a patient, e.g., an objective genitive showing who is being praised. A "bivalent" noun like desperatio , on the other hand, would require expression of both an agent and a patient, i.e., who is despairing and what he or she is despairing about (pp. 27f.).

After classifying nouns, Spevak applies the typology of Rijkhoff (2010) to modifiers. She details which semantic types of modifiers (classifying, qualifying, quantifying, and referential) can combine with each other and which sorts of nouns they may modify. Fine distinctions, as those between omnis and totus, are clearly and usefully explained (pp. 50-54).

Chapter 2, The Noun Phrase, by far the longest, explains the internal ordering of noun phrases. Evidence is drawn from a series of word studies involving modifiers illustrative of different semantic categories together with the nouns representing different orders, semantic features, and valency frames, including vir, navis, familia, dies, religio, memoria, opinio, quaestio, and bellum, among others. These demonstrate the compatibility of different sorts of modifiers and nouns, and their preference for anteposition or postposition.

Conclusions are summarized on pp. 212ff., where the force of semantics is strongly felt. Spevak asserts a three-tiered system of systems, as it were, to explain variation in the placement of modifiers. In the first tier she posits that most adjectives semantically expressing inherent properties of their heads regularly occur in postposition, while those showing a subjective evaluation occur in anteposition.

In the next tier pragmatic features may intervene. Regardless of a modifier's inherent or evaluative nature, Focus function (the most salient element in a sentence) and contextual newness favor postposition, while Topic function (that entity about which the sentence provides information the most) and contextual givenness favor anteposition. Among pragmatic features she also figures in both contrast and emphasis, which favor anteposition. These are complicated. In FG contrast can be a property of either the Topic or the Focus. Furthermore, emphasis is a persistent problem for Latin linguists in that what is properly a feature of spoken language can be argued but not proven in written language. Spevak here follows along paths trod before in modern studies, notably by de Jong (1989).

Although these pragmatic factors account for internal ordering in many instances, as she states, "sometimes they do not apply at all." In the third tier, she argues again for the influence of semantic factors. Specifically, she asserts that modifiers that are more important than their noun or that specify it, e.g., ager Campanus, are "semantically prominent" and favor postposition, whereas those that are not especially prominent semantically, e.g., hominum memoria, form a "referential unit" with their head noun and favor anteposition.

Chapter 3, The Prepositional Phrase, proceeds methodically with another series of word studies covering various semantic categories of nouns and modifiers. These assess the internal ordering of prepositional phrases and show it to be no different from that of other noun phrases. Spevak goes on to evaluate their ordering relative to noun heads in the extraordinary cases when they serve as adnominal modifiers. In such cases, she concludes that their postposition is caused by semantic prominence of the prepositional phrase relative to its noun head and anteposition arises pragmatically to show emphasis, contrast, or Topic function.

Chapter 4, Appositions, scrutinizes the internal orderings of both close (obligatory or restrictive) and free appositions (optional or non-restrictive), again through the use of word studies. In both cases she demonstrates that the first element is to be taken as the head of the construction and the second element as the modifier. This is soundly illustrated with examples involving people or proper names plus their offices. An ordering Sp. Albinus consul uses consul to describe a job that Albinus performs, whereas and ordering consul Albinus specifies the identity of the consul in question. She furthermore enumerates means to discriminate between free and close appositions, e.g., expansion of the first element by a relative clause or indefinite pronoun in the former only.

Chapter 5 is a swift, seven-page outline of the work that restates the objectives and conclusions of each chapter. Particularly helpful is Table 1 on p. 335, which shows the factors Spevak equates with either anteposition or postposition of modifiers. Indeed this would have been preferable in the introduction. While plodding along through the extremely detailed analysis of often confusing data, this reviewer more than once found himself unsure as to what direction the argument was heading, and even what individual sections were seeking to demonstrate. It was easy to get lost down in the weeds, so to speak, without a view of the horizon toward which the author was leading.

In her three-tiered approach the author seeks in a complex way to address the complexity of word order in Latin noun phrases. Some readers will no doubt prefer an explanation that trims away added factors with some application of Ockham's razor for a cleaner, one-faceted explanation. Others may grant that in dealing with word order, Ockham would have been better served by a machete, and that the system of systems Spevak offers hacks away enough to open a reasonable path to follow.

And follow we may. Spevak has generated a treasure trove of detailed data regarding nouns and modifiers of every semantic type and their ordering relative to each other. These data --discussed in every chapter and collected in the appendix-- may serve as starting points for scholars wishing to build upon her findings or to challenge individual aspects of her study.

The study is furthermore pleasantly honest, and in no small number of instances does the author point out that the explanation is difficult or that further studies are needed to explore particular issues. This leads inevitably to some frustratingly inconclusive conclusions, as on p. 212 regarding the ordering of complex noun phrases. Here the expressions "might have an influence," and "might produce anteposition," as well as the statement that there is simply "competition" between three possible orderings are not particularly satisfying. They do, however, rather than camouflage difficulties, set a clear blaze at this and other trail heads from which subsequent scholars and perhaps the author herself may set out.

For a book concerned with such minute detail, it is remarkably well edited, and typographical errors are both few and minor. Most are obvious enough and lead to no misunderstanding. They do, however, become more dense in later chapters. In Chapter 3, for instance, one finds "Table 3 present" for "Table 3 presents" (p. 229); example (93) refers to example (95) (p. 246); and cum aliquod is printed for cum aliquo (p. 253).

One minor criticism concerns the common practice of drawing English translations exclusively from Loeb editions or other more recent translations. The English in many places proves inadequate, given both the nature of the arguments, dealing as they do with subtle distinctions in syntax and semantics, and the intended audience for the translations, presumably linguists with some or no facility with Latin. When trying to demonstrate the partitive vs. the full use of adjectives showing relative position, e.g., "the middle of X" vs. "the middle X," Berry's (2011) translation of Cic. Ver. 5.13, "when their punishment was already under way," (p. 226) obscures the desired feature of e medio supplicio. This is no greater help to the non-Latinist than the example (p. 265) showing that nouns in free (optional) apposition can admit adverbs by using Sutton's (1942) Loeb translation of Cic. de Orat. 2.265 "who once upon a time gave evidence against Piso," to render olim testis in Pisonem. In both of these instances and others, the non-Latinist would be better served by authorial intervention to make the English better represent the syntactic features under discussion.

On the whole this is an excellent volume, and Latinists can be thankful that a thorough, sophisticated, and state-of-the-art study of noun phrases is now available. The subject is complex, and the explanation is equally so. This volume is not, nor does it claim to be the final word on all aspects of the noun phrase in Latin, but Spevak has provided us with elevated parameters, a wealth of data, and so many specific questions to pursue that scholars are positioned to make great advances in the decades to come.1


1.   Bibliography:

Berry, D. H. (2011) Cicero, Political Speeches. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Dik, S. (19972) The Theory of Functional Grammar, vol. 1-2. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
de Jong, J.R. (1989) "The position of the Latin subject," in G. Calboli (ed.), Subordination and Other Topics in Latin. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: J. Benjamins, 521-40.
Lyons, J. (1977) Semantics, 2 vol. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rijkhoff, J. (2010) "Functional categories in the noun phrase: On jacks-of-all-trades and one-trick ponies in Danish, Dutch, and German," Deutsche Sprache 38 (3), 97-123.
Spevak, O. (2010a) Constituent Order in Classical Latin Prose. Amsterdam: J. Benjamins.
Spevak, O. (ed.) (2010b) Le syntagme nominal en latin: nouvelles contributions. Paris: l'Harmattan.
Sutton, E.W. and H. Rackham. (1942) Cicero, On the Orator: Books 1-2. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
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John Zumbrunnen, Aristophanic Comedy and the Challenge of Democratic Citizenship. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2012. Pp. viii, 165. ISBN 9781580464178. $65.00.

Reviewed by Matt Cohn, University of Toronto (

Version at BMCR home site

In this study, John Zumbrunnen reads all eleven of Aristophanes' surviving plays in the context of modern political theory. Political philosophers have produced a handful of books and articles on Aristophanes over the last few years (including Zumbrunnen himself, who has adapted three of his articles here), but Aristophanic Comedy and the Challenge of Democratic Citizenship may be the first comprehensive study by one since Leo Strauss' Socrates and Aristophanes in 1966.1 Zumbrunnen's study is ambitious: he approaches the entire corpus with the argument that Aristophanes engages with the central challenge of democracy, as he poses it. But it is not always successful. Because it approaches every comedy as a response to the same problem, the analysis sometimes proves more to be a systematic application of Zumbrunnen's model than a nuanced reading of the plays. It is, however, consistently engaging, and it is exciting to see Aristophanes set in dialog with contemporary political theory.

Zumbrunnen begins in the introduction by suggesting that democracy is characterized by two competing impulses: on the one hand, an "agonal" impulse to rebel against the elite and resist rule; on the other, a "liberal" or "deliberative" impulse to seek consensus. Managing the contradictory impulses is the challenge of democratic citizenship, and Zumbrunnen suggests that Aristophanes' plays instill in their audiences the disposition required to meet it. This comic disposition is a mixture of reactions and skills ("comic voyaging," "cleverness," and "comic recognition"), but the recurring theme is that Aristophanic comedy trains ordinary spectators to be receptive to a multiplicity of meanings and balance the competing impulses. The subsequent chapters use the comedies to describe the features of the comic disposition and explore complications.

In Chapter One, Zumbrunnen draws on Jacques Rancière's idea of the emancipatory potential of art and develops the idea of "comic voyaging." He considers Lysistrata and Peace, which, he suggests, press no simple perspective or teaching on the audience—what Rancière calls "stultification"—but instead invite spectators to voyage among a range of perspectives and identities and thus explore their own. In Peace, for example, one is drawn variously to the rebellious Trygaeus, the chorus of Greeks acting in concert, and, finally, the chorus of Athenians. "Comic voyaging" is a useful concept, and the great merit of Zumbrunnen's study on the whole is that he makes into a virtue the sense of ambivalence that Aristophanic comedy can engender. But, while it may be stultifying, the two plays discussed here seem to be less ambivalent than some of the rest in that they present peace and the rebelliousness associated with attaining it as unproblematically positive.

Chapter Two argues that Aristophanic comedy complicates the idea of the ordinary citizen by examining how a spectator would identify with the protagonists of Clouds, Thesmophoriazusae, and Frogs. The idea of uncritical cultural populism posed by Jim McGuigan is the touchstone in contemporary theory. Zumbrunnen argues that Aristophanic comedy avoids ever offering a simple populist message because it never allows spectators to identify in a straightforward way with its ordinary heroes. His approach works quite well for Clouds: Strepsiades is an ordinary Athenian with whom spectators can easily identity, and his rebellion against the cultural elite is attractive; yet his plan is a laughable failure, and his violence distances the audience from his rebelliousness and populism. It is less successful with the other two plays, and the discussion of Frogs in particular is a missed opportunity. Because of his approach, Zumbrunnen's analysis of the play is almost entirely about how a spectator would and would not identify with Dionysus. Almost no attention is paid to what the play has to say about the role of poetry in a democracy and how (or whether) Aeschylean poetry will prove more useful for the state. Aeschylus is assumed to have been chosen because he will be a source of cultural unity, and Euripides rejected because he represents elite innovation. Yet in the play Euripides is the choice of the undead masses and claims that his poetry is democratic, whereas Aeschylus refuses to let the Athenians of the underworld judge his recherché poetry. This certainly could speak to the problem of cultural populism and seems more salient than how Dionysus is and is not ordinary.

Chapter Three, again using Rancière, examines one of the possible reactions to rule, anger by ordinary citizens at its contingency. By reading Wasps and Birds, Zumbrunnen suggests that anger is associated with the rebellious impulse against rule and that it is also associated with the deliberative impulse as a reaction to those who question rule. For example, there is anger in Birds before the foundation of Peisetaerus' regime, and then there is anger after it towards those who complicate it.

Knights and Acharnians are considered in Chapter Four, where Zumbrunnen proposes that Aristophanic comedy recommends a certain kind of cleverness that "maintains a wariness about elites even as it accepts their inevitability" (81). It is, therefore, an attribute that will allow spectators to balance the competing impulses of democracy. Once again, the plays train the audience by endorsing no single message or model. Dicaeopolis shows a cleverness that overcomes the elite and brings about change, but the play poses the problem that his rebelliousness ends in a break with democracy. Knights is approached on similar terms: Agoracritus is an ordinary citizen who challenges the elite, the Paphlagonian/Cleon, but his success is complicated by his ascendency over Demos and Demos' withdrawal into private life. Here, too, interesting complications are lost because the plays are treated briefly and approached as variations on the same theme. Agoracritus is chosen and succeeds not because he is ordinary, but because he is so extraordinarily bad that he is worse than Cleon. And, while Cleon may be elite in some sense, Agoracritus is allied to another kind of elite, the titular knights. While Zumbrunnen has much to say about how the ordinary citizen is problematized, too little attention is paid generally to the different roles of the elite.

The last feature of the comic disposition is explored in Chapter Five, which is the best and most original of the discussions. Zumbrunnen uses a concept of status-based recognition emerging from Nancy Fraser's work on the postsocialist condition together with Patchen Markell's work on tragic recognition to discuss the latest surviving plays, Assemblywomen and Wealth, and to develop his own idea of "comic recognition." This is a kind of recognition that holds "fantasy and irony in perpetual and productive tension" (99). Wealth, for example, offers a fantasy in which humans' shared status is recognized and there is, attached to status recognition, radical economic redistribution, but this fantasy coexists with the familiar ironic reading of the play, according to which Poverty's arguments undercut Chremylus' victory. A conclusion follows that summarizes Zumbrunnen's argument and relates the comic disposition to Stephen White's "late modern ethos" in a very profitable way.

One of the book's major premises is left unexamined, although this is understandable given that its focus proves to be more on using Aristophanic comedy to explore problems of democracy and their solutions than on examining the actual effects of the plays. The argument inscribes the challenge of democratic citizenship into the comedies themselves: they reproduce the tensions between rebelliousness and consensus. The premise is that comedy will offer a space where spectators can explore these tensions and develop the disposition to meet them outside the theater. But the theater may pose the same dangers as democracy. A spectator can be swept along by a single perspective, just as a citizen can be swept along by one of the competing impulses of democracy. For example, instead of registering ambivalence and learning to navigate the multiplicity of meanings, one may indeed revel in the triumph of a Dicaeopolis. Clouds perhaps illustrates the danger, as Zumbrunnen does briefly mention. If Plato's claim that it contributed to the public's ill will towards Socrates is taken at face value, then the audience's voyage went awry; they too fully identified with Strepsiades and his rebelliousness. Perhaps Knights, whose success coincided with Cleon's, similarly failed to train audiences. This question of audience reception is related to the question why comedy in particular should be useful for responding to the challenges posed by democracy. Zumbrunnen's argument emphasizes the importance of fantasy and irony; but, if comedy is an effective means of responding to the challenges of democracy, its humor and the laughter it engenders in spectators must be valuable, too.

Zumbrunnen uses Henderson's Loeb translations, but he frequently engages with the Greek, which is transliterated into Roman characters, to make useful observations. In the transliterations, there are a number of inconsistencies and typos, and the name of the protagonist of Acharnians is incorrectly spelled "Diceapolis" throughout. On pp. 41–2, he understands Aristotle's description of comedy as a mimesis of "inferior" (φαυλότεροι) people at Poetics 1449a32–4 to mean that they are "inferior as compared to their better or superior tragic counterparts," i.e., for his purposes, ordinary. But, as 1448a16-18 indicates, they are more specifically inferior to people nowadays: not ordinary, but worse than ordinary.

There are infelicities and flaws in this book, but many are caused by its ambition. While its analysis is not always thorough and fully satisfying, it is always stimulating, and Zumbrunnen points some useful ways forward for the dialog between Aristophanes and political theory.


1.   For recent discussions of Aristophanic comedy by way of political philosophy, see J. Zumbrunnen, "Elite Domination and the Clever Citizen: Aristophanes' Acharnians and Knights," Political Theory 32 (2004): 656–77 (adapted for Chapter Four); K. M. De Luca, Aristophanes' Male and Female Revolution (Lanham, MD 2005); J. Zumbrunnen, "Fantasy, Irony, and Economic Justice in Aristophanes' Assemblywomen and Wealth," American Political Science Review 100 (2006): 319–33 (adapted for Chapter Five); P. Ludwig, "A Portrait of the Artist in Politics: Justice and Self-Interest in Aristophanes' Acharnians," American Political Science Review 101 (2007): 479–92; J. Zumbrunnen, "Comedy, the Ordinary Citizen, and the Salvation of the City," in When Worlds Elide: Political Theory, Cultural Studies, and the Effects of Hellenism, eds. J. P. Euben and K. Bassi (Lanham, MD 2010): 229–52 (adapted for Chapter Two); J. Lombardini, "Comic Authority in Aristophanes' Knights," Polis 29 (2012): 130–49; and most recently the collection of essays in The Political Theory of Aristophanes: Explorations in Poetic Wisdom, eds. J. J. Mhire and B.-P. Frost (Albany 2014).

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Matteo Taufer (ed.), Sguardi interdisciplinari sulla religiosità dei Geto-Daci. Rombach-Wissenschaften: Reihe Paradeigmata, Bd 23. Freiburg im Breisgau; Berlin; Wien: Rombach Verlag, 2014. Pp. 249. ISBN 9783793097518. €48.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Ubaldo Lugli, Università degli Studi di Genova (

Version at BMCR home site

Il volume raccoglie i contributi presentati al convegno internazionale 'La religiosità dei Daci', tenutosi a Trento dal 6 all'8 giugno 2013 sotto l'egida dell'Associazione Italiana di Cultura Classica (delegazione di Trento ) e del Consolato Onorario di Romania per l'Alto Adige. Si tratta di quattordici articoli, scritti in italiano, francese, inglese e tedesco (tutti con abstractin inglese), che affrontano il tema da differenti punti di vista e sulla base di differenti competenze.

Circa il panorama religioso di quel segmento dell'ethos tracio cui gli Antichi hanno di volta in volta attribuito il nome di Geti o Daci, oggi si sa assai meno di quanto fino a non molti anni orsono si pensava di sapere. Barbari famosi nell'antichità proprio per la peculiarità delle pratiche e convinzioni religiose, la loro pretesa di essere immortali — insieme al nome del dio/eroe culturale Zalmoxis — è rimbalzata da un auctor all'altro, per diventare infine oggetto di numerose speculazioni e teorie, spesso audaci e non sempre esenti da componenti extra-scientifiche (di tipo spiritualistico e identitario). La ricerca più recente ha però duramente criticato anche le maggiormente accreditate tra queste ricostruzioni moderne e una messa a punto dell'argomento risulta quindi necessaria e urgente. L'opera in esame costituisce senz'altro un passo importante in questa direzione. Inoltre, grazie alle copiose informazioni bibliografiche fornite nei singoli studi, ha il merito di far meglio conoscere alla comunità scientifica internazionale la produzione est-europea in questo specifico campo.

Preceduto da una sintetica introduzione del Curatore (7–10), apre il volume un breve articolo di Luciano Canfora (La colonna traiana come rotolo librario, 13-17), che non ha nulla a che fare con la religione, ma sottolinea la fecondità degli approcci interdisciplinari.

Nigel G. Wilson (A note on the 'immortal' Getae [Hdt. 4.94], 19) mette in dubbio il testo tràdito dai codici circa due specifici punti.

Franco Ferrari (L'incantesimo del Trace: Zalmoxis, la terapia dell'anima e l'immortalità nel Carmide di Platone, 21- 41) mostra come l'episodio di Zalmoxis sia stato inserito da Platone nel Carmide al fine di mostrare la differenza tra l'immortalità basata sui rituali religiosi e quella donata dalla filosofia.

Sorin Bulzan (Some Aspects of Getian and Dacian Rulership: Burebista and the Wine, 43- 56) approfondisce il passo straboniano circa l'abbattimento delle viti voluto dal re Burebista su suggerimento del sacerdote Dekinais (7.3), mettendo questa iniziativa in relazione con l'ideologia tripartita degli Indo-Europei: la 'Grande dea' spesso rappresentata nella produzione toreutica Carpato-balcanica tra il V e il I sec. a.C. potrebbe avere un legame con talune figure femminili di quella tradizione.

Claudio Bevegni (Rileggendo le fonti greche su Zalmoxis: le testimonianze dei Padri della Chiesa, 57–70) e Matteo Taufer (Un'oscura menzione di Zalmoxis in Gregorio Nazianzeno [carm. II 2, 7, 274], 71–89) si occupano entrambi della citazione di Zalmoxis da parte dei Padri della Chiesa, il primo mettendo in evidenza come il personaggio fosse ben noto agli scrittori cristiani e, pur variamente inteso a seconda delle differenti funzionalizzazioni, generalmente presentato sotto una luce positiva; il secondo offrendo una plausibile ed elegante ricostruzione di due difficili versi di Gregorio Nazianzeno.

Ivan Sodini (Pianto per i nati e letizia per i defunti. Riflessioni intorno a un topos da Erodoto ad Archia di Mitilene, 91–105) ripercorre le numerose citazioni greche intorno ad un comportamento dei Traci che appare ribaltare la 'normalità', chiedendosi se dietro a un topos che così bene interpreta una certa attitudine pessimistica del pensiero greco possa esserci un dato storico. La stessa domanda Magdalena Indrieş (Pomponius Méla et la croyance des Thraco-Gétes en l'immortalité de l'âme, 107-121) se la pone a proposito del passo della Chorographia che parla dell'attitudine dei Geti verso la morte (II 2).

Gelu A. Florea (L'archéologie d'une religion 'anonyme', 123–135) osserva come i dati dell'archeologia facciano pensare a una grande varietà di culti — su base cronologica, regionale e sociale — e rendano insostenibile l'ipotesi di un culto unico, centralizzato e protratto nel tempo.

Sorin Nemeti (La religione dei Daci in età romana, 137–155) e Alessandro Cavagna (Monete e templi: alcuni aspetti della religiosità nella Dacia Romana, 177–201) arrivano entrambi, attraverso differenti percorsi, a constatare la non identificabilità nella Dacia romana di divinità sicuramente autoctone.

Dan Dana (Possibles témoignages sur des cultes daces: la documentation épigraphique de la Mésie inférieure, 157–176) studia dal punto di vista dell'onomastica un gruppo di epigrafi greche e latine della Mesia Inferiore risalenti ai secc. II e III, riuscendo a individuare dietro all'iconografia pan-trace del 'Cavaliere Tracio' alcune figure di dèi ed eroi specificamente daco-mesii. A suo parere, queste epigrafi non vanno intese come testimonianze di una volontà di resistenza alla romanizzazione/ellenizzazione, ma come la prova di una coesistenza tra volontà d'integrazione e espressione di una identità culturale distinta.

Octavian Munteanu (Découvertes des complexes avec dépôts d'os humains dans des contextes non-funéraires au S-E de l'Europe, 203–221) prende in esame i resti umani provenienti dai numerosi contesti non-funerari riferibile alle culture basso-danubiane del periodo di Hallstatt (in particolare, la cultura Babadag), suggerendo che essi testimonino della pratica del sacrificio umano e ipotizzando che tale tipo di offerta sacrificale abbia sostituito, al passaggio da Ha A a Ha B, quella degli oggetti in bronzo.

Markus Zimmermann (Zum Aussagewert ritueller Deponierungen für die Kenntnis der geto-dakischen Religion (2. Jh. v.Chr. – 1. Jh. n.Chr.), 223–237) segnala come alla vigilia della dominazione romana il quadro archeologico geto-dacico fosse omogeneo a quello di molte culture europee del'età del ferro, e come — in particolare — le testimonianze di sacrifici umani trovino stringenti paralleli in area celtica e germanica.

Sintetizzando i risultati del convegno, Matteo Taufer prende atto del fatto che allo stato attuale della ricerca una precisa ricostruzione della religione dei Geto-Daci è impossibile, e sottolinea, in particolare, la difficoltà di armonizzare i dati archeologici con quelli offerti dalle fonti letterarie. Questo è senz'altro vero per quanto riguarda l'età romana, come viene chiaramente mostrato da tutti i contributi che affrontano con gli strumenti dell'archeologia e dell'epigrafia lo spazio geto-dacico — inteso nel senso più ampio — in relazione a quel periodo. Ma il discorso cambia quando la prospettiva temporale dell'indagine archeologica si amplia. In questo caso, ciò che ostacola la formulazione di positive ipotesi di lavoro sembra essere soprattutto una sorta di eccessiva circospezione. La 'tentazione' di accostare — come esplicitamente fa Munteanu (213) — le probabili prove di sacrifici umani a Herod. IV 94-95 viene da Taufer respinta attraverso una lettura banalizzante delle osservazioni di Zimmermann circa la diffusione su scala europea, durante tutta l'età del ferro, delle uccisioni sacrificali, osservazioni che potrebbero essere lette in senso ben diverso. Tenendo presente quanto Posidonio dice circa le dottrine druidiche e quanto le fonti medioevali, descrivendo il Valhalla, permettono di inferire circa l'idea di sopravvivenza presso i Germani, esiste infatti la possibilità di inserire quella che per i Greci del V sec. a.C. era una convinzione inaudita e peculiare in un specifico panorama culturale, caratterizzato dal sacrificio umano e da una vivace rappresentazione dei destini oltretombali che, a confronto dell'esistenza larvale condotta nei grigi aldilà mediterranei e vicino-orientali, poteva a buon diritto essere intesa come una sorta d'immortalità.

Una certa sfiducia nei confronti delle testimonianze intorno alle quali per tanto tempo è stato costruito il discorso sui Geti — come se tutte riflettessero sempre e soltanto l'immaginario ellenico — sembra in effetti trasparire da molti dei contributi (in particolare, dalle prudenti conclusioni di Sodini e Indrieş). E non può non colpire il fatto che soltanto una brevissima nota di carattere filologico sia stata dedicata alla testimonianza di Erodoto, il testo che sta alla base della maggior parte delle citazioni antiche e di tutte le speculazioni moderne. Probabilmente, un qualche disagio a valorizzare le fonti greche deriva dal verdetto liquidatorio espresso nei loro confronti da Dan Dana nei suoi lavori del 2008 e 2011,1 due libri importanti che sono ormai diventati imprescindibili testi di riferimento (ripetutamente citati in tutti gli articoli). Si tratta di un giudizio in linea generale condivisibile, ma che, almeno per quel che riguarda Erodoto, appare un po' troppo severo, forse per influenza della visione riduttiva propria di François Hartog.2

Certamente, come Dana torna a ribadire in apertura e chiusura del suo contributo (157 n.2- 171), sulla base delle notizie relative a Zalmoxis e all'immortalità è stata edificata una quantità di teorie fallaci, ma il rischio che si intravede è che insieme all'acqua sporca venga gettato via anche il bambino.


1.   D. Dana, Zalmoxis de la Herodot la Mircea Eliade. Istorii despre un zeu al pretextului, Iaşi 2088; D. Dana, Fontes ad Zalmoxin pertinentes. Accedunt fontes alii historiam religionum Thracum Getarum Dacorumque spectantes, Iaşi 2011.
2.   F. Hartog, Le miroir d' Hérodote. Essai sur la représentation de l'autre, Paris 1980.

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Stefano Costa, "Quod olim fuerat": la rappresentazione del passato in Seneca prosatore. Spudasmata, Bd 152. Hildesheim; Zürich; New York: GeorgOlms Verlag, 2013. Pp. xii, 386. ISBN 9783487150437. €58.00 (pb).

Reviewed by R. Scott Smith, University of New Hampshire (

Version at BMCR home site

A revised version of his doctoral thesis at Milan (2011), Costa's study will be greeted warmly by Senecan scholars. There is much to be learned in this richly footnoted volume, and even if the whole is less compelling than the parts, many of those individual parts will reward close attention. To clarify at the outset: this study is not a systematic exploration of how the past operates within Seneca's philosophical outlook, or a synthetic analysis of his view of the past as history. Rather, it is a philological study of the literary aspects of several passages in which the past is depicted, especially when juxtaposed with the present. Thus, the title of the doctoral thesis ("Aspetti letterari della rappresentazione...") is a more precise index of what this book contains: a series of passages analyzed on their own terms to determine "in what way" rather than "for what reason" (p. 310) Seneca portrays the past.

Costa's book is framed as a response to the work of Maso,1 who on the basis of three passages (Ep. 97.1, Ben. 1.10.1, and NQ 5.15.2) argued that Seneca valorizes the present equally with the past. Because of the socio-political changes that took place in the transition from Republic to Empire, Maso contends, Seneca does not share the long-entrenched Roman notion of temporal decay or automatically equate antiquus with bonus. Instead, the past can be viewed from a critical perspective, and the present offers as much opportunity for virtue as the past. Costa, rightly critical of Maso's narrow approach, offers a corrective by analyzing from literary and rhetorical perspectives a much larger pool of passages. Taking the texts chronologically—presumably for organizational convenience—Costa offers chapters on ad Marciam, ad Helviam, De Tranquillitate Animi (two), De Beneficiis, and Naturales Quaestiones, plus a pair of chapters devoted to groups of letters (treated in a strange order: see below) and one on nova exempla. Rather surprisingly, Costa omits De Clementia and De Brevitate Vitae. In the first case, Costa wishes to avoid the problem of the political transition from Republic to Empire required in any analysis of the past in that text. As for the latter, Costa argues, the past is treated theoretically and a true representation of the past is not to be found.

Costa's overall point is to reassert that the past remains the primary paradigmatic force in Seneca's moral guidance, and in this he is persuasive. Yet perhaps the greatest value of Costa's analysis is that it reveals a complicated picture of Seneca's views. I say "views" because it soon becomes evident that although Seneca generally fits within the typical framework of Roman moralists in his consistent praise of the past, his role as philosopher—one whose worldview has to be predicated to some extent on human progress—prohibits him from being a mere laudator temporis acti. The overall result is a sort of "push-and-pull"—Costa calls this "il dramma morale" of Stoicism (p. 309), though he never really confronts the philosophical issues, an unfortunate decision—between the progressive collective degeneration of human society and the remedies offered by philosophy.

A comparison of the first two chapters devoted to ad Marciam and ad Helviam, texts linked by their consolatory function, reveal contradictory tendencies. In the former, the past is not given any preference over the present. The exempla from the recent past (e.g., Livia, Cremutius Cordus) offer the same consolation as the more ancient variety (e.g., Lucretia, Aemilius Paullus). There is no perceptible break between the past and present. There is even optimism about the present.2 Indeed, by the end of the work, after transition from the human perspective to the celestial "view from above," the distinction between past and present is rendered completely insignificant. Here, Costa's failure to touch upon the stark Platonizing outlook in ad Marciam, which adds considerably to the positive outlook, is regrettable.

By contrast, the picture in ad Helviam is quite different. Here the past is the only repository for virtue. The present, completely corrupt, is incapable not only of providing positive examples but even of recognizing the merits of the past. Two exempla from the past and present, Curius Dentatus and Apicius, are juxtaposed to exemplify the now/then divide in terms of parsimonious living—located strictly in the past—and excess (pp. 32–34). Helvia (pp. 45–6) meanwhile is noted for simply having "avoided the vices of her time." She and her sister, the only two contemporaries represented positively, are praised only because their virtues specifically conform to "old-fashioned" customs of the past. The only acceptable behavior is, Costa explains, one with an ancient precedent.

The next four chapters treat three texts that internally show the tug-of-war between the past and present. Chapters three and four are dedicated to the De Tranquillitate Animi, where Seneca dramatizes the struggle of his friend Serenus, who is trying to live a parsimonious life amidst a world of excess and luxury. The past, then, is represented as an ideal and the present as corrupt. Compared to the past, even the recent past (i.e., Cato the Younger's age), the present offers a "dearth of good men" (bonorum egestas, Tranq. 7.5). Yet, in the same text Seneca offers a laudatio of Julius Canus, whose noble attitude facing death at the hands of Caligula, reveals "la convinzione di Seneca che anche in età degenerata possano trovare spazio uomini virtuosi" (67). Seneca's exaltation of Canus, then, is prompted by a sense of optimism a degenerate world.

De Beneficiis offers few passages for study, but after a short discussion of 3.16 (pp. 85–88) Costa turns to 4.30–31, where Seneca defends his position that one should provide benefits even to unworthy descendants of great men—a unique perspective that seems to reveal Seneca's aristocratic conservatism. Costa provides a lengthy but subtle analysis, showing how the virtues of the past can actually thrust themselves forward into the present: even unworthy descendants represent the virtues of the past. Here, the past's paradigmatic function is again at play, but in a vivid and dramatic way that highlights both the degeneracy of the present and the power of the past to counteract it.

One of the most interesting discussions is on NQ (chapter 6), where there exists a tension between the progress of knowledge and the decline of human morals. On the one hand, in the doxological sections Seneca often criticizes the "old- fashioned" thinking and accentuates the importance of progress in scientific thought "to guarantee its continued evolution" (p. 112). On the other hand, Seneca insistently censures the degeneracy of his contemporary world (esp. Hostius Quadra at 1.16 and the castigatio luxuriae at 3.17–18), revealing a nostalgia for the past. Costa perceptively notes (p. 139) that the most nostalgic moments occur at crucial points in the text (e.g., end of books 3 and 7), where Seneca's criticism of his contemporaries for disregarding philosophy is particularly vehement, and where, even for all their scientific errors, "erano stati proprio gli antichi ad aver mostrato queste capacità e volontà di penetrare i segreti della natura" (p. 137). The fight between vice, always evolving, and virtue, nearly forsaken, can only be won if we acted more like those spirited men of the past. Costa's examination complements Gareth William's recent Cosmic Viewpoint (2013), which examines a similar tug-of-war between the allure of vice and the rewards of contemplating nature.

The two epistolary "percorsi" are both rewarding and frustrating. The first, subtitled "Tracce di evoluzione della morale," treats three letters, 90, 95, and 82. Only here does Costa attempt to trace development in Seneca's views. Starting with Ep. 90, Costa analyzes Seneca's polemic against Posidonius, in which Seneca denies that humans of the Golden Age had obtained sapientia, which is achieved only through the development and maturation of ars philosophiae. Costa then argues that this progressive view is corrected in Ep. 95, where antiquity is granted some crude form of sapientia, and the past's paradigmatic function is to be placed side-by-side with the ars philosophiae. Costa finally turns to Ep. 82, where Seneca privileges exempla from the past over the sophisticated syllogisms and argumentation found in the modern ars philosophiae. Moral exempla are, simply put, more effective in changing behavior. Thus, Ep. 82 is the final step in Seneca's evolution, and from this "one can reclaim the importance Seneca attributes to the past" (p. 199).

No one would contest that in Ep. 82 Seneca recognizes exempla as the most effective means to encourage people to live philosophically. Yet nowhere does Costa address the crucial methodological question: why take the letters in such an unorthodox order? A more natural interpretation is that Ep. 82 represents Seneca's standard view, with Epp. 90 and 95 as instances of Seneca wrestling with this issue as he reads Posidonius and reflects on the role of parainetike in philosophy. That Ep. 95 is somehow "an intermediate step" on an evolutionary path to Ep. 82 seems completely unlikely.

A similar methodological issue emerges in the second "percorso" (a "Campanian Cycle"), where we first meet Cato the Elder in Ep. 87 and then work backwards to Scipio's villa in 86, Vatia's villa in Ep. 55, and finally Baiae in Ep. 51. Costa's treatment of the individual letters is insightful (especially that of Ep. 87 3), but his attempt (p. 256) to discern an "allusion to a progressive decadence of Roman customs" in Seneca's depiction of the Campanian landscape—based on the movement from the relative austerity of Scipio's villa in Liternum, to the more luxurious villa-fortresses of Caesar and Pompey closer to Baiae, and then finally to the excesses of Baiae itself—seems especially forced.

The book ends with a fine overview of nova exempla, contemporary models of virtuous behavior. Costa persuasively argues that instead of serving as proof that the present offers equivalent scope for virtue, these are nearly always limited to people who show courage in the face of death and motivated by a desire for rhetorical variatio. Perhaps the most vivid demonstration of Seneca's view is to be found in the exemplum Costa saves until the end of his book, Demetrius the Cynic (pp. 297–306). Demetrius serves both as exemplum and convicium, sent to the world (Ben. 7.8.2), ut ostenderet nec illum a nobis corrumpi nec nos ab illo corrigi posse. Demetrius, like Julius Canus in Tranq. , is a rare example of old-fashioned virtue belonging to another time, one that could understand him unlike the present.

The book contains thorough bibliography and an extensive index locorum, invaluable in a study that focuses on individual passages.

Costa's study offers much food for thought, but it does not attempt much in the way of synthesis. Indeed, he suggests that seeking a clear and consistent view of the past in Seneca's works would be futile since it simply does not exist. Ultimately Costa takes a "balanced view:" Seneca expresses nostalgia for the past as the main repository of virtue but also retains hope for the present world. If Seneca valorizes the present at all, it is because as a philosopher his mission would be meaningless without such optimism.


1.   S. Maso, Lo sguardo della verità. Cinque studi su Seneca (Padova 1999).
2.   Unhappily, Costa suggests (p. 20) that the optimism in the Ad Marciam reflects the promising new rule of Caligula. Elsewhere he succumbs to the biographical fallacy as well.
3.   Contra Allegri, who argues that Cato is "a universal exemplar," Costa shows how the letter implies knowledge of Cato's speech against the repeal of the Lex Oppia in 195 BC (see Livy 34). Although Cato disappears throughout the dialectical part of the letter, Costa rightly sees his reemergence at the end (not noted in Inwood's outstanding Seneca Selected Philosophical Letters). In fact, Costa's reluctance to say that Seneca knew Livy is overly conservative, for there are possible verbal reminiscences.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Marco Galli (ed.), Roman Power and Greek Sanctuaries: Forms of Interaction and Communication. Tripodes, 14. Athens: Scuola Archeologica Italiana di Atene, 2013. Pp. 346. ISBN 9789609559027.

Reviewed by Rocío Gordillo Hervás, University Pablo de Olavide (

Version at BMCR home site

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

This volume represents the crowning of four years of work by the members of the project "Formation and transformation of religious identities in the Roman Empire" (2003-2007) and of the outcome of the meeting "Religion as communication: Ritual networks in traditional Greek sanctuaries under the Roman domination" (2008). It is edited by Marco Galli, a scholar well known for his work on Greek religion under the Roman Empire. The book contains ten chapters: eight in English, one in Italian and one in German. They are preceded by an introductory chapter written by the editor (also in English), which undertakes a journey through the evolution of Greek ritual from the third century B.C. to the second century A.D., providing a framework for the main concepts developed within the subsequent chapters.

The first chapter, by Bonna D. Wescoat, analyzes the traces of Roman interaction with the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace from the late third to the first century B.C. The author offers a comprehensive study which explores the relationship between Rome and Samothrace, focusing on the literary and historical sources that emphasize ethnic and religious connections with the founding of Rome. The author first analyzes those passages which describe the Roman visitors to the sanctuary, devoting special attention to the passage where Plutarch describes M. Claudius Marcellus' dedication of part of the Syracusan war-booty to the sanctuary, and where Plutarch also argues that the shrine was chosen because of the ancestral connection between Aeneas and Dardanos, and between Samothrace and the Penates and the Lares Permarini. The analysis of the epigraphic evidence, especially the lists of Roman initiates and dedications, shows that the majority of them refer to members of the Roman elites who visited the island for official or business matters. Finally, the archaeological analysis focuses on the most important architectural changes taking place in buildings such as the Faux-Mycenaean Niche, Theatre Complex and adjacent Dining Rooms, and three late Hellenistic building on the western hill. The chapter represents a definite advance in the studies of the integration between the Greek and the Roman world during Republican times, an oft-neglected period.

Jochen Griesbach carries out a diachronic study of the spatial distribution of the statuary dedications in the sanctuary of Apollo at Delos from the third to the second century B.C. The author argues that a change in the arrangement and dimensions of the statues took place across said period, and hypothesizes that it was a change in social values that spurred the local elites to present themselves as the guarantors of traditional democratic values. This change can be observed both in the new sculptural arrangement of the areas outside the sanctuary and in the homogenization and lack of individualization of the images, which in the third century B.C. had displayed a significant amount of competition and ostentation between members of the same social class.

Annalisa Lo Monaco analyzes the architectural evolution of the Panhellenic Sanctuary of Olympia across the Hellenistic period, focusing on the buildings of the second and first century B.C. in the area between the river Kaldeos and the hill of Kronos, such as the Southern Stoa Gymnasium, its monumental entrance, and the circular baths. The author shows how such buildings define the area as a training and resting place, and hypothesizes that the works may have been financed by the members of the Eleaean elites who were responsible for the administration of the sanctuary, although the latter point would benefit from some additional evidence and arguments.

Milena Melfi undertakes a study of two of Greece's great religious centres, contextualized within a specific moment of their history: the Asklepieion of Epidauros after the destruction of Corinth in 146 B.C., and the Asklepieion of Athens after the siege of Sulla in 86 B.C. For the Asklepieion of Epidauros, the author analyzes the Roman appropriation and reutilization of votive objects, such as Mummius' reuse of two statue bases, one originally representing the god Asklepios and coming to symbolize Mummius' piety, and the other from the representation of a naval victory of the Achaean koinon, which comes to celebrate Mummius' military deeds. The author also dates the inscription IG II2 1035 from the Asklepieion at Athens to the years following Sulla's sack of Athens by linking it to the euergetic work carried out by Diokles and Sokrates Kephisiaeus in that same period. The chapter has the merit of providing an in-depth analysis of the Roman process of appropriation, reutilization, and resemantization as instruments for integration with Greek sanctuaries.

Following the theme of the preceding chapter, Giovanna Falezza analyzes the changes in the main shrines of Northern Greece in order to "investigate whether or not religious sites in Greece maintained their functions after the Roman conquest". The author differentiates three kinds of processes: 1) constructive acts, characterized by the abandonment of pre-Roman centres of cult before the erection of new sanctuaries connected to Rome, such as the second century B.C. erection of the temple to Zeus Eleutherios in Larissa's Eleuthere agora, which was probably connected to the declaration of freedom of the Greeks promulgated by Flamininus in 196 B.C., 2) destructive acts, such as the despoiling and looting of Greek sanctuaries as a means to weaken or destroy the identity of the local population, as for the temple of Zeus Olympios at Dion, and 3) introduction of the imperial cult, as undertaken after the battle of Actium by introducing the emperor as a new divinity. The chapter analyzes the foundation of the sanctuary and festival at Actium, the erection of the Sebasteion in Kalindoia, and the Temple of Thessaloniki as examples of the diffusion of the new cultic system in Greece.

Jessica Piccinini analyzes the Augustan literary sources on the sanctuary of Dodona in order to argue that the sanctuary was not abandoned after the attacks by Aemilius Paulus in 168/7 B.C. and by the Thracians in 88 B.C. The author carries out a comprehensive study of the literary references on the sanctuary of Zeus Naios and especially on its oracle, with special attention to passage 1.19.3 of Dionysius of Halicarnassus. The author also examines the archaeological record of the sanctuary, carried out by S.I. Dakaris, providing a new dating of some of the material and an in-depth analysis of the bronze base of the statue dedicated to Livia and situated west of Zeus' porch, which is argued to belong to Augustan times, thus showing the sanctuary was never abandoned during that period.

Andrea Baudini carries out an in-depth analysis of the evolution of the flogging rite of Orthia in Sparta, from its origins to Roman times, focusing on literary sources such as Xenophon—who describes it as a minimally violent rite of passage —, Pausanias, Lucian and Sextus Empiricus—whose account focuses on the whip-flogging and the bloodied youths—, and Plutarch (Arist. 17.8)—who considers the ritual an identity-building creation by Roman Sparta inspired by a phase of the battle of Plataia. The author also analyzes the archaeological record of the sanctuary and dates the cavea in front of the temple, the new pavement and the new altar to the second half of the third century A.D., and underlines the monumental changes that stemmed from the renewed Roman interest in the sanctuary during that period.

Elisa Chiara Portale analyzes the reception of imperial images in Greek local contexts through a comprehensive study of the introduction of female statues in centres such as Greek Tenos, Olympia, Epidaurus, Ephesus, Aphrodisias, Cyrene, Eleusis, and Aulis. Special attention is granted to the theatre close to the Asklepieion of Butrint, with the analysis of its complete sculptural group and of its connection to the Trojan legend. The author argues that the imperial sculpture is reinterpreted within a Greek local context by the merging of the Hellenistic sculptural tradition and the novel Roman fashion, and is assimilated to the local divinities by means of epigrams or of its "theomorphic" representation.

Enzo Lippolis' somewhat derivative work focuses on the much trodden path of the architectural intervention of the Emperor Hadrian in the sanctuary of Eleusis. The author describes the work of the emperor, who had been initiated into the mysteries, as the euergetes of the cultic centre, underlining the part he played in the reconstruction of a bridge over the river Cephisus, and in the building of an aqueduct and probably of a nymphaeum. The emperor's euergetic work was an example for the members of the assembly of the Panhellenion, constituted by Hadrian in A.D. 131/132 during the monumentalization of the sanctuary, and the author argues that due to the emperor's intervention, the sacred precinct broadens its function of integration from a pan-Hellenic to a pan-Mediterranean perspective.

The last chapter, by Marco Galli, examines the dynamics of communication established between the emperor and the Greek world, taking its cue from the meeting between Lucius Verus and the representatives of the province of Achaia during the former's journey to Asia Minor to fight the Parthians. The author analyzes the co-emperor's involvement with the sanctuary of Eleusis and the latter's function as an intermediary between Roman power and the Greek elites, defined as "figures of mediation" (such as Titus Flavius Leosthenes) and "ritual mediators" (the euergesiai of Flavius Xenion and Herodes Atticus). In the second part of his study the author analyzes the "[p]olicy of memory" followed by the Greeks after the victory of Lucius Verus over the Parthians as a new tool for defining Greek identity. The author also explains the architectural "copies" of Athenian buildings in the Eleusinian forecourt, as well as the revival of the cult of the founding-heroes, by means of the enagisteria that were restored following the model of the sanctuary of Eleusis and the Palaimonion of Isthmia. The chapter provides a most welcome addition to the studies on Greek identity during Roman times with its focus on the period of Lucius Verus which, as the author notes, has not been the object of critical analysis.

This volume is well structured in its diachronic organization and offers a cohesive study of Greek sanctuaries during Roman times through a mostly archaeological and landscape-related perspective. The introductory chapter plays an important part in easing the reader into the subject, although it appears to anticipate a deeper treatment of the changes within the rituals of the sanctuary, while the volume as a whole actually focuses on architectural and sculptural changes. The main achievement of this book is represented by its utilization of studies of religion as a focus for the analysis of the mechanisms of interaction between Rome and Greece across a broad timeframe (from the third century B.C. to the late second century A.D.). Any scholars interested in the function of cultic centres as a bridge between the Greek and the Roman world will find this volume an indispensable tool for their research.

Table of Contents

M. Galli, Preface and Acknowledgments, 7-8.
M. Galli, Ritual Dynamic in the Greek Sanctuaries under the Roman Domination, 9-44.
B. D. Wescoat, Insula Sacra: Samothrace Between Troy and Rome, 45-82.
J. Griesbach, Zur Topographie hellenistischer "Ehrenstatuen" auf Delos, 83-124.
A. Lo Monaco, Fuori dall'Altis. Tende, bagni e propilei a Olimpia in età ellenistica, 125-142.
M. Melfi, Religion and Communication in the Sanctuaries of Early-Roman Greece: Epidauros and Athens, 143-158.
G. Falezza, From Eleutheria to Theos Kaisar Sebastos. Rome and the Sanctuaries of Northern Greece, 159-176.
J. Piccinini, Dodona at the Time of Augustus. A Few Notes, 177-192.
A. Baudini, Propaganda and Self-Representation of a Civic Elite in Roman Greece: The Flogging Rite of Orthia in Sparta, 193-204.
E. C. Portale, Augustae, Matrons, Goddesses: Imperial Women in the Sacred Space, 205-244.
E. Lippolis, Eleusis. Sanctuary of the Empire, 245-264.
M. Galli, The Celebration of Lucius Verus in the Provincia Achaia: Imperial Cult, Ritual Actors and Religious Networks, 265-298.
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Amanda Wrigley, S. J. Harrison (ed.), Louis MacNeice: The Classical Radio Plays. Classical presences. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. vi, 436. ISBN 9780199695232. $125.00.

Reviewed by Philip Burton, University of Birmingham (

Version at BMCR home site


This volume is effectively an editio princeps, at least in printed book form, of eleven pieces written by the poet Louis MacNeice for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) between the early 1940s and the early 1960s. After an introductory essay by Wrigley ('From Wartime Propaganda to Radio Plays'—somewhat odd, as these are not mutually exclusive classes), we have:

The March of the 10,000 (1941)
The Glory that is Greece (1941)
Pericles (1943)
The Golden Ass (1944)
Cupid and Psyche (1944)
A Roman Holiday (1944)
Enter Caesar (1946)
Enemy of Cant (1946)
Trimalchio's Feast (1948)
Carpe Diem (1956)
Hades (1960)

As most of the words in this book are MacNeice's, and unfamiliar to most, it may be in order to begin with his contribution to it. In his best-known poem, Autumn Journal (1938-9), MacNeice had, as Wrigley points out in her introduction, mocked the more simplistic view that the Classics were—well, classics; deathless works whose intrinsic quality transcended time and place, the recognition of which was the mark of a superior mind. Equally, he had mocked the intellectual opportunism of 'chop[ping] the Ancient World to turn a sermon'. The Second World War, it seems, changed his mind somewhat. The three earliest plays—The March of the 10,000 (1941), The Glory that is Greece (1941), and Pericles (1943)—are all what the BBC at the time describes plainly as 'propaganda': ('MARIA: We are still in the stage of Thermopylae. ANGELICE: But some day we shall have a Salamis,' etc.). However, as the editors note, MacNeice even at this juncture is reluctant to be trapped entirely by this approach, to the point of considering (if briefly) whether an Athenian/British Empire was really such a good thing after all.

The next two pieces, The Golden Ass and Cupid and Psyche, are very different, being essentially adaptations of Apuleius. While some 'wartime' features stand out, the overall tone is light, escapist even. A fin de guerre mood creeps in with A Roman Holiday (January 1945), in which listeners are invited to identify the 'spiritually ill' world of the Augustan age with that of the present—and to look forward to 'something … happening somewhere … on the Rhine or the Danube, in Spain or in Judaea … to bring us light in our darkness'. This 'spiritual illness' is partly due to the extinction of the Republic, and as such of course to be identified with the rise of the dictators in Europe, but is also the malaise of the thinking person in any age of expediency. Enter Caesar is more explicitly contemporary, 'present[ing] Caesar,' as the editors say, 'as embodying the problems and negative consequences of dictatorships'. Yet if the play reads at times like an attempt to shoehorn a School Certificate syllabus into seventy-five minutes of airtime, it does at least avoid the more obvious forms of moralizing; MacNeice does not content himself with the observation that dictators are Bad Things, but concentrates rather on the failings in a more or less democratic system which leads to their rise. Enemy of Cant invites us to admire Aristophanes (first played by Dylan Thomas) as just that, specializing in 'escape fantasy' (in MacNeice's words) for 'a war-weary generation'. Trimalchio's Feast (1948), another close adaptation, may be seen as a bien-pensant tract for the times, ridiculing the successful businessman of modest background.

There is then an interval of eight years till Carpe Diem, in which Quintus, a dying Englishman of a certain class, quotes lots of Horace. There is a shift in mood here. Where MacNeice previously had stressed both the value of classics in the public space and the importance of fresh, politically committed interpretations of them, we have here a sympathetic presentation of a man whose literary sympathies lie close to those of Patrick Wilkinson's Horace and his Lyric Poetry of ten years earlier, as memorably demolished by Eduard Fraenkel.1 The final piece, 'Hades' (1960), is not really a play at all, but a retelling effectively a translation, and an excellent one, of Odysseus' visit to the Underworld from the Odyssey. Here any sense of the public and political is so faint as to be virtually undetectable; the editors suggest rather that his choice of the Anticleia episode for dramatization might reflect his own loss of his mother as a child.

So much for MacNeice's work. What of the editor's contribution? The sheer labour of producing transcriptions, often involving multiple versions of scripts and multiple recordings, must have been considerable in itself. Some attempt is made to describe significant variations between different forms of the text, though this stops short of an apparatus criticus in the familiar sense. Apart from Wrigley's very serviceable general introduction, the editors provide about half a dozen pages of background material to each of MacNeice's piece. These typically cover the literary sources and analogues ancient and modern, the immediate context of the original production (sometimes also information on subsequent productions), details of casting and musical accompaniment. These essays are without exception lucid and informative. The editors clearly have an excellent knowledge between them of mid-century British radio and theatre. There is much instructive material, and some pleasant surprises (thus Denys Hawthorne, Cupid in the 1966 version of Cupid and Psyche, may be better known as Bishop Facks from Father Ted thirty years later). There is often also useful material from the Radio Times (the BBC's own listings guide-cum-magazine), including some rather fine illustrations by Eric Fraser, which had this reviewer googling for more. (Surprisingly, though, there seems to be nothing from The Listener, the Radio Times's now-defunct upmarket sibling). On some pieces we have extracts from the BBC's own Listener Research Reports, revealing evidence of how MacNeice's work was received, and by whom. Although Teachers, Solicitors, Medical Practitioners, Doctor's Wives and so on seem to be rather well represented among the respondents, there are enough occasional Fitters and Clerks to remind us of the sheer pervasiveness of the BBC's radio output at the time. We note also how intelligent and nuanced this audience reaction could be.

All in all, then, the editors are to be congratulated on their all-round coverage. In general, Harrison has been 'primarily responsible' for editing the works most directly based on specific classical texts and Wrigley those dealing with classical themes more broadly; but the joins are not conspicuous. If the volume has a weakness, it is in the explanatory notes. We should perhaps note that the editors do not claim that these are in any way exhaustive. We should note too the recent criticism of the whole rhetoric of the commentary as a repository of objective information on every subject in which the reader might have a legitimate interest—a increasingly-problematic rhetoric in the age of the ubiquitous smartphone and the host of factoids usually available at a moment's notice. Allowances must be made too for the diverse potential readerships; this volume will be read by classicists of different varieties, English Lit. types, historians of broadcasting, native and non-native speakers of (British) English. Granted all this, we would still note three peculiarities about the notes in this volume.

Firstly, there is an oddly hit-and-miss approach to picking up references to other texts. Shakespeare is well handled in A Roman Holiday and elsewhere, the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer less so; and some identifications are rather casually made. Thus in Cupid and Psyche the phrase 'if anyone knows just cause or impediment' certainly recalls the Prayer Book's 'If any of you know cause, or just impediment', but is not quite the same. The editors have, of course, got the main point absolutely right; but details do matter too. The same holds good for classical texts. Thus the editors note rightly the comic reductivism of the representation of Venus in Cupid and Psyche, but not the contrast between this and the strongly Lucretian way in which she is presented ('It is I … I who governs [sic] the lofty lights of the sky, the life-giving winds of the sea, and the sad silence of Hell'); this is not comically reductive, but the opposite. Or again, when Clodia and Clodius greet each other as 'my darling brother' and 'my darling sister' (Enter Caesar, p. 227) the notes refer us to Pro Caelio 35, rather than the more pertinent Pro Caelio 32 (fratre volui dicere; semper hic erro).

Secondly, the contextual information is offered likewise uneven. At times it is excellent. I would single out The Glory that is Greece (a guest contribution by Gonda van Steen) as particularly good; one must respect a commentator who can trace back a line of MacNeice to J. Talboys Wheeler's Analysis and Summary of Herodotus from 1852. At other times—and given some of things we are told in the footnotes (Giuseppe Garibaldi was 'a very popular Italian freedom fighter')—it seems odd that apparently important matters go unremarked. For instance, MacNeice's Pericles was broadcast as one of a series on 'The Four Freedoms', early in 1943, so just over two years after Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous 'Four Freedoms' speech; we have a reference in a footnote to a doctoral dissertation which presumably makes this link, but no more. Again, a reference to a 'Sabine Farm in the Constable country' (p. 371) elicits a footnote citing Horace, Satires 2.6 (though not Odes3.1); fair enough, but how transparent is the reference to 'Constable country' to non-British readers? Or again, in A Roman Holiday, Gorgias' invocation of 'Thirty years peace' (p. 188)—obviously resonant in 1945—is particularly ominous in the mouth of a Greek (the Thirty Years Peace famously lasting from 446/5-432). No doubt the classicist will not need assistance on this point; but the non-classicist may.

Lastly, some critical judgements are just odd. Thus the central moment of A Roman Holiday, the slave-girl Philinna's critique of her master and his friends, may perhaps be taken to 'expose [...] the vulnerability of the female slave at Rome,' though it is hard to see how a twentieth-century text can really be cited as a good source for the position of Roman slave-women (it is hard to imagine Graves' Claudius novels treated this way). However, its (uncited) model, Davus' speech at Horace, Satires 2.7, exposes rather the vulnerability of any slave. Likewise, Carpe Diem (p. 375) contains four lines of verse on the sinking of the Titanic which are, we are told, 'an abbreviated ironic paraphrase' (alias 'a brief parody') of Horace, Odes 1.1.37-40. But it seems equally likely that the poem is what MacNeice presents it as being—a genuine piece of folk-poetry with coincidental parallels in Horace, implicitly illustrating the Roman poet's remarkable ability find new relevance in unlikely times and places.

It would be ungenerous to end on a critical note; in any case, no doubt Wrigley's forthcoming volume Greece on Air. Engagements with Ancient Greek Culture on BBC Radio will address many of these issues. MacNeice's many admirers will be grateful to Harrison and Wrigley for having put these works into their hands. Reception scholars of various stripes (and it is increasingly hard to speak of reception as a single field of study) will find much here to enrich their understanding of the position of the Classics in mid-twentieth-century Britain.

The volume appears to be well produced, with only a handful of apparent typos: 'antifatist' (p. 53); probably 'Roger Snowden' (p. 103, for 'Snowdon'); 'MUMURING' (p. 148, ter); 'the Mouse' (p. 378, for 'the Meuse'). There is an Appendix on Extant Scripts and Recordings, a bibliography, and a short index.


1.   Fraenkel, E. (1946). Review of L. P. Wilkinson, Horace and his Lyric Poetry, in Journal of Roman Studies 36.1-12, pp. 185-9: 'This is a pleasant little book. It can be recommended to all who wish to brush up their school-day recollections of Horace and enjoy him again without being shocked by unfamiliar aspects ... '.

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Monday, November 17, 2014


Adriel M. Trott, Aristotle on the Nature of Community. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. xiii, 239. ISBN 9781107036253. $95.00.

Reviewed by Lee Trepanier, Saginaw Valley State University (

Version at BMCR home site


Adriel M. Trott's Aristotle on the Nature of the Community examines Aristotle's Politics by placing his understanding of nature (physis) at the center of political life. According to Trott, the human being and the polis operate according to natural ends which allow both entities to fulfill their nature, although the political ends of both the citizen and the polis will always remain incomplete as citizens will continually deliberate among themselves over the political community's goals. By reclaiming nature at the center of political life, the book makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of Aristotle's political thought and how it could be applicable to contemporary political questions of citizenship, democracy, and community.

In her introduction, Trott reviews the literature on Aristotle's account of physis and its relationship to his political thought. She also outlines her interpretative strategy of reading Aristotle in a way that seeks consistency of terms across Aristotle's corpus, offering explanations that deny contradictions in the text, and avoiding anachronistic notions about the self, nature, and freedom. The introduction concludes with an outline of the argument which claims that Aristotle's conception of nature is not only an internal, teleological principle that arises out of activity but plays a key role in his political thought.

In the first chapter, Trott argues that Aristotle's principle of physis is an internal source of change whereby a natural thing organizes and orders itself toward its end from within itself. In contrast to artificial things, physis retains a relationship between its source and its end in such a way that a natural thing continues to work on actualizing its end. Physis therefore is both a natural thing's end, as determined by its internal principle, and the activity to fulfill that end. This conception of physis offers a new insight into Aristotle's claim that the polis is natural, with logos being both the source and the telos of the polis. The polis is natural in that it manifests itself in the activity that defines it, i.e. according to its citizens' logos about what counts as living well.

This interpretation about the naturalness of the polis is continued in the next chapter where Trott examines the four arguments in Book 1 of the Politics that support this position: (1) the genetic argument, that the polis develops from the first communities; (2) the telic argument, that the polis fulfills its end; (3) the linguistic argument, that human beings actualize their capacity for logos within the polis; and (4) the parts/whole argument, which positions the polis as a whole as prior to its individual parts. In examining each argument, Trott illuminates how contemporary understandings of Aristotle reveal more about modern presuppositions about freedom, the individual, and the individual's relationship to the community than about Aristotle's assertion of the naturalness of the polis. For Trott, freedom in Aristotle does not imply individual autonomy, but is instead a reciprocal relationship between the individual and the community embodied in the citizens' deliberative activity about living well. Thus, the four arguments that Aristotle makes about the naturalness of the polis represent the four different ways in which the polis is natural because it arises from within itself in its continued effort to achieve its end.

The third chapter explores logos as an activity that not only fulfills the end of a human being but also is fundamental to political activity. To actualize our end of having a just and good life, human beings require others as fellow citizens to share in a common logos about the ends of the polis. The communal nature of logos testifies to Aristotle's claim that self-sufficiency (autarkeia) is achieved only in the political life. To those who interpret Aristotle as favoring the philosophical life over the political one, Trott shows the compatibility between the two, with the theoria of the philosophical life being political in the sense that it is concerned about living well for the community as well as for the individual. Relying upon Sarah Broadie's Ethics with Aristotle and Mary Nichols' Citizens and Statesmen, Trott argues that theoria is not an apolitical activity but a political one, as it studies politics and requires the practical and political virtue of phronesis for its existence. Just as theoria is dependent on phronesis for securing its conditions of existence, the philosophical life is dependent on the political life to support and organize its presence. As a result, the philosophical and political lives are interdependent, and each requires the other in order to exist.

The next chapter illuminates how Aristotle's definition of a human being as political resolves the tension between what is due to human action and what is due to nature. Human beings are both natural and rational, with the result that the polis is natural even as it is formed out of the rational activity of human beings. By denying this dichotomy between reason and nature, Aristotle conceives of political life as nature and legitimizes it as such in logos. Freedom consequently is understood as the capacity of a person or the polis to achieve its ends as determined by its logos, which is both a natural and political activity for Trott.

As a result of this compatibility between reason and nature, Aristotle's polis is not based on what it excludes but on what it manifests in activity, with the final cause of the polis determined by the logos of its citizens. In Chapter Five, Trott explores how this final cause is determined by looking at the relationship between deliberation and the polis' constitution. The constitution is the form of the polis insofar as it is the order and fulfillment of the polis and its citizens seek to preserve it through further involvement in ruling it. This strategy for preserving the constitution shows that the deliberative process actually makes the polis what it is rather than any law or pronouncement about it. The constitution is not a rigid structure, but is the activity of the citizens directing the community to preserve itself in light of the determination of its ends. Thus, the polis is grounded only in itself while simultaneously aiming to fulfill and preserve itself, making its citizens vigilant about its community and conscious of threats against its stability.

However, Aristotle's treatment of slaves and women is potential cause of instability for the polis. This topic is treated in Chapter Six where Trott argues that the exclusion of women from political life is not a necessary element of Aristotle's political theory and that the good slave who fulfills its end is actually no longer a slave. According to Trott, Aristotle's treatment of women and slaves is really Aristotle's critique of despotic rule and distinguishing it from political rule. Aristotle's criticism of those who refuse to share in ruling implies that women and slaves, who are excluded from political life but have deliberative capacity, should partake in it. The inclusion of those excluded in political life results in a more stable polis for both those marginalized groups and the political community as a whole.

The conclusion provides practical examples of how Aristotle's political thought can aid us in understanding contemporary political reality. In contrast to social-contract theory and nation-state politics, Aristotle's theory of citizenship defines one as a citizen according to one's political action rather than formal recognition by a state. The Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement are two examples of how the dual work of deliberation and constitution are needed to perpetuate political life in the community. Aristotle's account of deliberation, of what constitutes a practical end and what actions best achieve it, and his understanding of authority as grounded in physis offers an alternative to a view of political communities that stresses the relations between rulers and ruled.

Aristotle on the Nature of the Community is a fresh account of Aristotle's theory of politics as an alternative to how political communities are conceived today. Versed in the latest scholarship about Aristotle and providing a judicious use of textual evidence, Trott's account of Aristotle is stimulating and original. My only concerns about the book are Trott's interpretation of Aristotle's views on women and on slavery. Although Trott admits that Aristotle's cultural limitations are more apparent in his treatment of women than in his understanding of slavery, her reliance on interpreting Aristotle's references to poetic metaphors in his writing on women rather than addressing his non- metaphorical comments on them seems to obscure rather than clarify his account of women as a group excluded from political life. Trott's case for including women as participants in Aristotelian political deliberation is wanting in this respect.

Regarding slavery, Aristotle recognizes that it is contrary to the nature of all human beings; yet, there are certain people, Aristotle maintains, whose disposition can only be accurately described as slavish (Politics 1254b14-18 ). These people are able to participate in logos only to the extent they can perceive it but do not possess it, thereby making slaves by nature (1254b21-4). Thus, it appears that slaves, whether good or bad, are deficient in some way according to Aristotle, and that slavery is more than an empty concept, as Trott claims. It would seem the simplest way to make sense about Aristotle's account of slavery is to not to deny it but just recognize that Aristotle accepted it.

In spite of these two concerns, Trott's Aristotle on the Nature of the Community is a thought-provoking book that hopefully will encourage debate not only among Aristotelian scholars but also among contemporary political thinkers about questions of citizenship, democracy, and political life. Her work provides a blueprint of how to make Aristotle relevant in today's world in addressing existing problems like political organization, civic participation, and the purpose of politics itself. Instead of being tucked away in the corner of the ivory tower, Trott brings Aristotle out into the public square to deliberate about what sort of political life citizens want and could have in common with their communities.

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Anthony K. Jensen, Helmut Heit (ed.), Nietzsche as a Scholar of Antiquity. Bloomsbury Studies in Philosophy. New York; London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014. Pp. 320. ISBN 9781472511522. $120.00.

Reviewed by Coyle Neal, Southwest Baptist University (

Version at BMCR home site


While it has not been forgotten that Nietzsche was a scholar and philologist before he was a philosopher, his work in those areas has been largely ignored. Nietzsche as a Scholar of Antiquity by Anthony K. Jensen and Helmut Heit (eds.) seeks to correct this defect by exploring impact of Nietzsche's academic work both on his philosophy and on the discipline of philology. A collection of essays by international experts in the field, this book is broken into five categories that survey Nietzsche's relatively unknown professional life as an academic.

I. Nietzsche's Place in Philology

1. "On Nietzsche's Philological Beginnings" by Joachim Latacz argues that Nietzsche's scholarship in philology anticipates his philosophy. Latacz emphasizes that Nietzsche's work was in line with contemporary thought, and was as precise and well structured as one could expect from the time (perhaps even more so, given Nietzsche's youth when he entered the field). In fact, on reading Nietzsche's early philological writings and seeing their solid contributions to the discipline, we can understand why Nietzsche was hired as a professor at the age of 24. Latacz notes that in (and shortly after) his own time, Nietzsche was acknowledged by his peers as a competent philologist. Since then the worth of Nietzsche's contributions to the field has been confirmed.

2. "Nietzsche's Radical Philology" by James I. Porter focuses on Nietzsche's notes and plans—which are many—rather than his published philological works—which are few. Porter covers a variety of topics and raises a number of personal questions, demonstrating the variety of Nietzsche's intellectual genius (insanity?) within the context of his discipline. Ranging far and wide in subject matter, Porter presents to us the scholar who at times is nothing less than a "counter-classical thinker, or rather, and more simply, a counter-thinker, a lover of heterodoxy" (30).

II. Scholarly Processes

3. "The Sources of Nietzsche's Lectures on Rhetoric" by Glenn W. Most and Thomas Fries introduces Nietzsche's relatively unknown lectures on rhetoric, especially those from the winter of 1872/3. The authors cover the history of these manuscripts, the general state of the teaching of rhetoric in Germany, and the sources from which Nietzsche drew his lectures. Interestingly, the bulk of Nietzsche's lectures were openly copied from his sources, which means that modern scholars have to face the difficult question of just where these lectures fit in the whole corpus of Nietzsche's work. After surveying the possible answers to this question that have been given so far, the authors conclude that (1) Nietzsche was a thoughtful reader who (2) clearly believed the source material to be worth our time and attention.1

4. "Apollo and the Problem of the Unity of Culture in the Early Nietzsche" by Douglas Burnham is going to feel more comfortable to those more familiar with Nietzsche's mainstream writings (rather than with his scholarly work) than the previous essays in this collection—if one may speak of anything of Nietzsche's as being "mainstream." Burnham situates Birth of Tragedy in the broader context of Nietzsche's work, and makes a fascinating attempt to give a slight reinterpretation to the traditional understanding of the Apollonian in Nietzsche's thought. This suggests a more nuanced reading of Nietzsche's work as a whole. In support of his reinterpretation, Burnham traces the development of the Apollonian from Nietzsche's early works through its final development. This essay is especially worthy of attention as it draws the various threads of Nietzsche's academic and philosophical works into one cohesive whole (though it may be a whole with which those with traditional views of Nietzsche take issue).

III: Scholarly Achievement

5. "Nietzsche's Valediction and the First Article: The Theognidea" by Anthony K. Jensen gives an overview of Nietzsche's very first work, the Theognidea, a philological examination of the poetry of Theognis. "It is a piece that, had Nietzsche never written another word, would have assured his place, albeit a quite minor one, in the history of German philology" (99). With echoes of the Higher Criticism, Nietzsche examines the extant poetry attributed to the poet and tries to find the "real" Theognis (107-9) as distinct from later additions and changes made by copyists and redactors—occasionally changes intentionally hostile to the source material. Jensen argues that this early work is solidly entrenched within the discipline of philology, and displays little of the speculative philosopher Nietzsche would become. Yet, the Theognidea is responsible both for getting Nietzsche gainful academic employment and for demonstrating that Nietzsche had a streak of intelligent, imaginative, and critical scholarship even at an early stage.

6. "Nietzsche and Diogenes Laertius" by Jonathan Barnes focuses on Nietzsche's writings on Diogenes Laertius, which together form half of his published philological writings (excluding The Birth of Tragedy) and more than half of his unpublished philological notes (115-16). Nietzsche was especially interested in digging down through Diogenes to his (Diogenes') source, which Nietzsche believed primarily to mean Diocles of Magnesia. The chapter outlines Nietzsche's evidence for these claims, and evaluates this evidence through the filter of modern scholarship.

In short, the author concludes that, while Nietzsche's evidence is at times suspect, his conclusion is probably correct. Barnes ends by examining the place of Nietzsche's work in the scholarship, and notes that, despite being well received at first, once Birth of Tragedy was published Nietzsche and the philological world were at war. This is unfortunate because, for all its errors (which are remarkably few, given that Nietzsche was 23 when he published the work in question), Nietzsche's work is brilliant and original, and almost certainly "originated a new and important phase in the study of ancient philosophy" as a direct result of his treatment of Diogenes (130-1). This is not to say that Nietzsche was a great scholar as such, just that we should not, as so many in the 19th century did, demean the importance of his philological contribution simply because we dislike what he said elsewhere.

7. "Nietzsche's Influence on Homeric Scholarship" by Alexey Zhavoronkov examines how Nietzsche's treatment of Homer affected Homeric scholarship as a whole. While Nietzsche did treat Homer philologically (including in his "inaugural speech Homer and Classical Philology," 139), this essay broadens its scope to include the impact of those philosophical writings which also feature Homer, such as Beyond Good and Evil and Human, All Too Human. The author concludes that, although Nietzsche may not always receive direct attribution in the scholarship, he outlines the method and pattern of criticism that later philology would follow.

IV: Literature, Language, Culture

8. "The History of Literature as an Issue: Nietzsche's Attempt to Represent Antiquity" by Carlotta Santini explores Nietzsche's "attempts to teach a history of Greek literature," where he (Nietzsche) also tried "to offer a meta-level reflection on the practice of reading Greek literature itself" (159). The loose idea at work in this essay is that Nietzsche, inspired by the great nineteenth-century names in historiography and philology alike, argued that we never directly "read" Greek literature. Instead we do our best to move toward the truth presented in that literature as filtered by our cultural prejudices and Western intellectual formation. We synthesize what we learn in Greek literature using a combination of intuition and training, and in doing so we encounter the Greeks in a sort of in-between space. As is typical with Nietzsche, this approach creates radical critiques of Greek literature, his own field of philology, and contemporary culture. Especially interesting here is Santini's discussion of Nietzsche's treatment of the relationship between oral and written culture and the effect that relationship has on the possibility of "high" modern culture.

9. "Greek Audience: Performance and Effect of the Different Literary Genres in Nietzsche's Philologica by Vivetta Vivarelli discusses Nietzsche's analysis of the fact that the Greek audience would have been primarily an aural audience, rather than a reading public. This means a more active (even perhaps an interactive) set of participants, which in turn means that we must not think of Greek writers as "writing" the same way moderns write. We must rather think of them as writing for "listeners and spectators;" anything less and we miss something critical (183). Vivarelli explains not only Nietzsche's interpretation of the audience, but also how the audience had been treated by the scholarship of the 19th century, and how Nietzsche's own interpretation influenced his broader philosophy over the course of his career.

10. "The Ancient Quarrel between Philosophy and Poetry in Nietzsche's Early Writings" by Matthew Meyer examines the relationship between tragedy, philosophy, and art in Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy and the unpublished "Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks." Meyer argues that Nietzsche's true claim in The Birth of Tragedy was that art died when Socrates' optimistic rationalism undermined the Dionysian and Apollonian foundations of true art. Once the pessimism that drives art (especially tragedy) was replaced with a philosophic cheerfulness and pursuit of a good life—even the belief that a good life was at all possible—the days of art as art were numbered. Meyer makes the case that Nietzsche's view of art is not far from Plato's in the Republic. In this sense, Nietzsche's entire corpus might be seen as an attempt to wrench philosophy over to the side of ancient poetry, and so undo some of the havoc that Socrates wrought on the world of art.

V: Philosophy, Science, Religion

11. "Nietzsche's Genealogy of Early Greek Philosophy" by Helmut Heit places Nietzsche's thought on the pre-Socratics in the context of the larger debate about the origins of philosophy in Greece. In just over ten pages, the author manages to outline the traditional scholarship up until Nietzsche's time (including touching on Aristotle, Hegel, and Zeller); to provide a summary of Nietzsche's interpretation of the affair as found in the less-stellar (compared to his other works) Pre-Platonic Philosophers; and to analyze that interpretation. The author emphasizes that Nietzsche both adopts some contemporary beliefs about early Greek philosophy, and simultaneously deviates from these beliefs in important ways. Heit argues that Nietzsche's contribution is his appreciation of the pre-Socratics' creativity and sense of wonder, as opposed to the "dogmatic petrifications of later occidental philosophy" (228).

12. "Nietzsche's Philology and the Science of Antiquity" by Babette Babich argues that whatever Nietzsche's reception as a philosopher proper, his thought on the philosophy—or more accurately, the science—of his own discipline and of Classical studies (philology, Latin and Greek, literature, etc.) has to all intents and purposes been ignored. This ignoring, in turn, has led not merely to a lack of self-reflection on the part of these disciplines, but to their actively missing out on key aspects of their subject matter. In this sense, we cannot really do what some (even in this volume) have done and separate Nietzsche's philosophical thought from his work as a philologist. We have to take his approach as a whole or not at all: "For Nietzsche, the scope of aesthetics as he defined it as a science corresponded to the scientific question of his own discipline or of ancient or Classical Philology" (238).

13. "The Religion of the "Older Greeks" in Nietzsche's 'Notes to We Philologists'" by Hubert Cancik and Hildegard Cancik-Lindemaier explores Nietzsche's understanding of Greek religion as contrasted with later Christian innovations. Specifically, Nietzsche sets Homer and the pre-Socratics with their religion of freedom against the later Christian "corruption" of the West by means of a religion that benumbed the masses into slavery.

Overall, this volume is an excellent addition to the corpus of Nietzsche scholarship, and one that will be of interest to Classical scholars as well. Highly recommended.


1.   I'll confess that I enjoyed reading this chapter far more than I should have. Academic writing is supposed to be read carefully and intellectually and with a certain dour gravity and aloofness. Yet delight kept breaking through. No doubt Nietzsche would be pleased...

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