Sunday, November 23, 2014


Paul Christesen, Donald G. Kyle (ed.), A Companion to Sport and Spectacle in Greek and Roman Antiquity. Blackwell companions to the ancient world. Literature and culture. Malden, MA; Oxford; Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014. Pp. xx, 658. ISBN 9781444339529. $195.00.

Reviewed by Michael B. Poliakoff, American Council of Trustees and Alumni (

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The editors' stated intention is to provide the latest thinking about Greek and Roman sport and spectacle and offer new insights into the social history of sport, while still keeping the book accessible to a wide range of scholars and readers outside of the academy. This is ambitious, but overall the volume meets those goals admirably. The volume makes abundantly clear that neither the evidence base nor interpretive theories for ancient sport and its sociology are static.1 All of the essays in this volume are, accordingly, very well documented and include extensive bibliography, plus a guide for further reading on each topic.

The volume's forty-three essays are divided into two sections, with twenty-four devoted to the Greek world, and twenty to Rome, with a final essay addressing Byzantium. The time-frame extends from the Aegean Bronze Age to the sixth century of our era. The Greek section contains particularly challenging and innovative approaches, and this review will devote a somewhat greater share of attention to those sections.

In keeping with the twin goals of the editors, the volume starts with an excellent overview of Greek athletics by the co-editor Donald Kyle, but the book does not dwell on predictable general topics like the ancient Olympics or on reconstruction of the rules and equipment of the Olympic events. Rather, the volume offers essays that embrace a wider swath of festivals and participants, with significant focus on sport and spectacle in the Roman world, and there is consistent attention devoted to the ideologies that informed these activities. The choice of scope and the intent to engage recent finds and theories naturally has the consequence that certain established (and important) debates and controversies receive little or no attention. Whether there was a peculiarly agonistic nature of Greek society as Jacob Burckhardt argued and Johan Huizinga contested is not a topic that appears in this volume. Theories about the origin of Greek athletics, anthropological and cultic, get brief, albeit insightful, mention (see especially the essays by Paul Christesen and Sarah Murray).

Instead, there are very up-to-date essays on Bronze and early Iron Age sport that delve carefully into the highly ambiguous evidence for those eras. There are separate essays on sport in Sparta, the Greek West, and the festivals of the northern Peloponnese and central Greece. The Beroia inscription is concisely and cogently discussed. Donald Kyle, not content with simple explanations, provides an excellent synthesis and analysis of possible motivations for the remarkable story of Kyniska, the daughter of the Spartan king Archidamos, whose four-horse chariot prevailed at Olympia in 396 and 392 BCE. Turning to Rome, important and illuminating topics that might well be overlooked, such as female gladiators and the social messaging of public executions in the Roman arena, are explored.

Appropriately for a volume that aspires to address the state of scholarship, much attention is devoted to critical reading of ancient evidence and the challenges of understanding why sport and spectacle assumed their particular shapes and nature in the ancient world. H.W. Pleket contributes two important essays on epigraphic matters. The first argues that the inscriptions allow us to get past the mindset of a small, elite group of literati to an understanding of the self-image and aspirations of the athletes. Here, and in earlier studies, Pleket has used the epigraphic evidence to illuminate the consistently ennobled and aristocratic ideology of the athletes, even when the pool of competitors widens to include a significant number of non-elites. In his second essay, Pleket uses the inscriptions to show the burgeoning of athletic festivals in Asia Minor and the elaborate diplomacy of gaining recognition for a festival as a "crown game," that is, one at which victors could expect the same rewards and privileges from their home cities that victors at the four great festivals of the mainland (Olympia, Delphi, Nemea, and the Isthmus) received when they returned with their wreaths. The inscriptions give evidence, too, of the local interest in home festivals, sometimes restricted to citizens of a given town. In other words, we see an athletic world less prestigious, but much larger than Olympia. Sofie Remijsen contributes an important essay, largely documented with papyrological evidence, on the growth of contests in Hellenistic Egypt, among them the Megala Antinoeia (at Antinoupolis) and isantinoeios contests at Oxyrhynchus and Leontopolis. The vibrancy of the "agonistic market" of which Pleket wrote is writ large in these documents.2

Macedonia and the Greek West are the focus of fine essays by Winthrop Lindsay Adams and Carla Antonaccio. Antonaccio explores cogently the magnetism that mainland festivals held for the elite of Magna Graecia and Sicily. Adams challenges the commonly held view that Alexander the Great disdained athletics. Much in keeping with the goal of the volume to be on the cutting edge of research, David Romano advances the possibility that the Lykaia in Arcadia may predate the ancient Olympics.

One of the Companion's strengths is its investigation of the sources and the times it challenges traditional interpretations of both visual and textual evidence. In keeping with the most recent scholarship, Jeremy Rutter dismisses the idea that both male and female acrobats participated in Minoan bull leaping.3 Several essays engage the debate on the extent to which gladiatorial combat represented a sport. The frequent references to missio sparing the defeated gladiator, the presence of a referee, and the existence of rules do suggest the world of sport, and, as Louis Robert pointed out in Les gladiateurs dans l'Orient grec(Paris 1940), Greek inscriptions often use boxing vocabulary to refer to gladiatorial events. Michael J. Carter's essay, "Romanization Through Spectacle in the Greek East," notes that blunted weapons were sometimes employed, arguably bringing the skilled dueling of the gladiators closer to the world of sport. Carter suggests that the dichotomy of participatory Greek athletics and passive Roman spectators is a misconception. He does not, however, explore the different social messaging of a stadium consisting of earthen banks with few, if any, spectator comforts, and the elaborate mechanisms of the arena, complete with vela (awnings) and sparsiones (sprays). Nor does he delve more deeply into the definitional issue of whether an activity in which the participants are bound by oath to obey the commands of their keepers – to the point of offering their chests for the death stroke – qualifies as sport.

Paul Christesen, the volume's co-editor, contributes an important essay on the role of sport in democratization. Particularly striking is his attempt to place the remarkable institution of athletic nudity in this context. Chronologically, nudity's appearance in Greek sport could coincide with the movements in Sparta that made all citizens homoioi ("equals"), and Christesen adduces the often-ignored point that there is no socioeconomic leveler like nakedness. Thus, as aristocracies yield ground to the political power of farmer hoplites and the world of the gymnasium aligns with military preparedness, the citizen-soldier-athlete emerges in a naked equality. Less convincing, but still very worthy of consideration, is Christesen's suggestion that the absence of a "farmer's tan" would be the immediate emblem of the kaloskagathos, discouraging to the poorest citizens. The doughty hoplite, however, would labor on his land and was as likely as a pauper to show the uneven effects of the sun. It would be appropriate, too, for Christesen to engage more deeply with the challenge that the late David Young advanced to consider the possibility of an even more radical egalitarianism in Greek sport. Aristotle (Rhet. 1365a, 1367b) wrote that the fishmonger who won the boxing crown at Olympia did something beyond expectation. But how far beyond expectation?

Nigel Nicholson adopts a New Historicist perspective in a thought-provoking essay that focuses on the social tensions that underlie the representations of the boxer's beauty, moral excellence, and skill. In itself, such praise does not necessarily indicate, as Nicholson suggests, defensiveness about the social status of the boxer. Much of what he interprets as an emphasis on aristocratic ideology could be drawn from a common well of pugilistic encomia. The elemental nature of boxing, combined with the inevitable muscular development of the pugilist, has throughout history made boxers objects of attraction, always in tension with the (almost inevitable) facial damage caused by the sport. Moral excellence is similarly a predictable topic for advocates of violent sports, with their tension between primal ferocity and the rules and discipline that hold it in check. This is why the metaphor of combat sport was such a rich topic for Philo and for the early Christians. Assuredly there was a long-standing impulse to clothe sport in the vocabulary of the aristocracy, as H.W. Pleket convincingly demonstrated, athletes do not receive wages, they receive dora, "gifts," like Homeric heroes, and aristocratic ideology persists long into the Greco-Roman period.4 Arguably, this ennobling of sport does not indicate social tensions, rather than a natural tendency to optimize the rewards of the contest. Nicholson observes that the three Pindaric odes that praise boxers do not speak of skill. He interprets this silence as a meaningful hesitation to adduce something that could be seen as advantage acquired by training rather than birth, and his reference to Pi. I. 4.34-5 supports that view. But if that is the case, Nicholson needs to explain why in Iliad23, Nestor's advice to Antilochus before the chariot race is a paean to metis "craft," and Demosthenes 4.40 characterizes the barbarian style of boxing as devoid of strategy. It is unclear to this reviewer that the theoretical lens of struggles over class, ethnicity, gender, etc. and the interpretive schema that Nicholson constructs significantly advance understanding of the sociology of sport.

Overall, there is a strong tendency in the essays to rely on recent scholarship. This is appropriate for a volume that seeks to provide the latest thinking, but there is danger of losing the dialogue with older scholarship. Clearly, even a volume of 658 pages cannot be comprehensive, but it is important to note what is no longer in the discussion. Jacob Burckhardt is absent, as are Victor Ehrenberg's insights into the social displacement caused by the hoplite phalanx (Ost und West [Leipzig 1935] 63-96). Keith Hopkins' seminal chapter on the elements of social control in the Roman arena, "Murderous Games" in Death and Renewal [Cambridge 1983]1-30 receives relatively little attention, as does the fundamental essay of Clifford Geertz', "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cock-Fight," The Interpretation of Cultures [London 1975] 412 ff. Although several essays investigate the Christian response to the spectacles, the richly nuanced dialectic of church and stadium discussed in Reinhold Merkelbach's important study, "Die griechische Wortschatz und die Christen," ZPE 18 [1975] 101-148 gets only passing notice. In keeping with the volume's focus on the marginal populations involved in sport and spectacle, there is some attention devoted to the Jewish response to Greco-Roman sport and games. But there is limited discussion of the Maccabean revolt, in which the Hellenistic gymnasium had a significant role, and no discussion of the Alexandrian riots during the reign of Caligula, partly caused by Jewish desire to participate in the local games, or of Philo of Alexandria's rich use of sport metaphors. The scholarship of e.g., Saul Lieberman, Jonathan Goldstein, and Manfred Laemmer is absent from the bibliographies of these essays, and there are virtually no citations of the rabbinic sources illuminating the topic.

It would be wrong, however, to focus on what is not in the volume, rather than what is in it. It succeeds admirably in presenting in a clear and coherent way an up-to-date overview of the vast majority of the most important issues in the study of ancient sport and spectacle. The Companion is a major contribution to the understanding of the social history of the ancient world for which we should be grateful. It will certainly stimulate and direct scholarly inquiry, and the editors have done well to make its erudition accessible to a wide range of readers.


1.   It is a fine irony that the Companion's publication just slightly anticipated the publication of an Oxyrhynchus papyrus (POxy 5209) documenting one of the most egregious examples of bribery in ancient athletics!
2.   H.W. Pleket, "Games, Prizes, Athletes, and Ideology," Stadion 1, [1975] 55-71.
3.   This reviewer is not convinced, however, by his arguments against the interpretation of the decorations of the Tanagra Larnax as scenes from funeral games: although worn, the iconography clearly shows an armed combat, which, along with the chariots, invites comparison with the contests in Iliad 23, cf. Wolfgang Decker, "Die mykenische Herkunft des griechischen Totenagons," Stadion 8/9 [1982-83] 1-24.
4.   H.W. Pleket (see n. 2, above) 84-87.

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Geoffrey Hawthorn, Thucydides On Politics: Back to the Present. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. xxiv, 274. ISBN 9781107612006. $29.99 (pb).

Reviewed by Edith Foster, Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Advanced Studies (

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Readers should beware of this book, which is an ambitious analysis of all of Thucydides (including especially Book Eight) disguised as a relatively slim paperback volume. It is more substantial reading than they might expect, and although it is very clearly written and the author invests much energy in describing Thucydides' narrative and speeches, it will best suit readers who have already thought about Thucydides quite a lot. For these, and for brave beginners, the book offers a fresh and independent minded analysis.

Classicists who study Thucydides will quickly notice that Hawthorn is immune to the authority of famous passages and scholarly consensus. For instance, he is impressed neither by the first sentence of the History: "[Thucydides] would have been prescient indeed if he foresaw a great war at the faltering start . . ." (3), nor by the eulogy for Pericles at 2.65 . . . "an incomplete assessment of Pericles and wrong about most of the other [leaders]" (65); ". . . As historical judgments, they do not do him justice and one can regret that he set them down" (67). By contrast, against an array of scholars contending the opposite he argues that book eight is a kind of masterpiece. "He writes of [the politics of those years] with his best dispassionate passion" (2) or "with brilliance" (203).

This, then, is a book that rethinks from the beginning and challenges its readers to do the same. The writing can be correspondingly intricate. For example, in Chapter Three Hawthorn begins to examine Thucydides' presentation of the causes of the war. "Thucydides remarks that Sparta's fear, which he believes to be the 'truest cause' of the war, was 'the one least openly stated' at the time (1.23.6). . . He leaves it to the reader to see how in the years before the start of open hostilities between Sparta and Athens, it was to be exaggerated arguments advanced by an ally of Sparta's in response to events which need not in themselves have been decisive that for a different and deeper reason caused Sparta to move to war, and that for reasons of its own, the leadership in Athens let it do so" (28).

Whether or not one agrees with every clause of this summary, it offers a condensed analysis of substantial sections of book one, and provokes the reader to refine his or her own ideas. Were the Corinthians' arguments exaggerated and the quarrels over Epidamnus and Potideia not decisive? Did the leadership in Athens simply not stop the Spartans from taking the decision to go to war? And what was the Spartans' "different and deeper reason" for doing so? In Hawthorn's view it was that Spartan pre-eminence had become a "necessary identity." "If they were to concede [Athenian pre-eminence], they would no longer be seen by anyone, including themselves, to be the people they thought they were and had devoted so much, indeed everything, to remaining" (49-50). Readers might initially find Hawthorn's terminology superfluous: wouldn't we normally call this "necessary identity" "honour"? Maybe, but Hawthorn's "necessary identity" might be a useful clarification of the term "honour", which is sometimes used so broadly as to be useless for thinking with. By contrast, here we have a carefully defined idea.

Other arguments are deceptively simple. For instance, Hawthorn argues that Thucydides represents the Archidamian War as lasting so long because neither side could figure out what to do. "[T]he Spartans could not see how otherwise [i.e. otherwise than by wasting Attica] to take the war to the Athenians, and the Athenians could not see how to take the war to the Spartans at all" (68). In the absence of a plan for winning "Each [side] could only harness the resources it had and try to acquire more, take what opportunities it had to disadvantage the other, and otherwise try to maintain its position…[I]mprovisation, haste, hesitation, and accident" (71) were thus characteristic of the war, as Thucydides tells it. Again, one must test Hawthorn's description against one's own views. Personally, I thought his argument was quite convincing, and I particularly appreciated Hawthorn's emphasis on how the great powers' aporia made them vulnerable to the persuasions of third parties (76, 79, 81).

In Hawthorn's view, this planless war of attrition ends in 413, after Athens's defeat in Sicily, when the two great powers finally discover clear strategic aims (202), if not clear strategies (e.g. 205, 221). Together with this change, Thucydides finally hits his stride as a political writer, and begins anew, just as does the war itself. Hawthorn devotes the central section of this chapter to a fine retelling of book eight, "Thucydides' most sustained and compelling exposition of practical politics" (226). His chapter reminded me that book eight is poorly understood, and called to mind how little serious work compares, contrasts, or argues with Hawthorn's description; Rood (1998) remains the main analysis.1

If we see Thucydides as Hawthorn does, the text really has two parts: books one through seven, and book eight, which begins a new kind of narrative. This division of Thucydides entails some reliance on the idea that the historian progressed towards the abilities he displays in book eight. This idea is not new, as Hawthorn explains, citing, for instance Macleod and Dewald. 2 What is new, at least to me, is the contention that in book eight Thucydides exposes new skill as a political writer (203). Overall, of course, Hawthorn gives the political character of Thucydides' writing more attention than classicists are used to. For instance, he gives the relation of speech and narrative an explicitly political character: "Political rhetoric was an art in which Thucydides took great interest and no doubt much pleasure, but for him to place it as he did, and thus expose it was itself a political act" (235). By this argument, the text of Thucydides is organized politically, in that it consistently exposes political speech to the fire of corrective fact, and is also in itself a political statement, equivalent to a warning: "Speeches… were an essential part of politics; but they were no more to be trusted on events in the present and what might follow for the future than were poems and chronicles on the past" (233). One must conclude that the History is therefore addressed to a political audience, i.e. one for whom this organization would be productive.

Fortunately, Hawthorn has a generously broad view of the political. He is not, it seems to me, trying to claim Thucydides for a single discipline, and this also shows in his bibliography, which includes as many classicists as social scientists as philosophers. He relies on the excellent new translation of Jeremy Mynott,3 quotations from which support both the accessibility and intelligibility of his argument. Moreover, although he sees Thucydides' "utility" for us today in political terms, these terms are such as to free us, in fact, from the jargon of the social sciences. "Politics remain," he observes, despite the growth of organizational institutions, "and…if we describe these in ways that do no more than mirror general aspirations and formal manifestations, or in the languages of the twentieth century as forces of a 'structural' kind, the exercise of 'rational choice' or the expression of a 'culture', they can be occluded. We need to be able to see them as politics, and in the clarity of an almost incomparably more elemental context, this is what Thucydides allows us to do – incomparably well" (238).

To sum up, those who have read Thucydides closely will both get the most benefit from the arguments made here and also find the most to disagree with. Compare Hawthorn to David Gribble (1998) on 2.65: by contrast to Hawthorn, Gribble makes a strong argument for seeing the culmination of central Thucydidean themes in this chapter.4 I found it difficult to accept some of Hawthorn's other ideas, such as his suggestion that "one can read him [Thucydides] to incline to a non-separability thesis on motive, intention and action and a non-isolability thesis on motive, intention and action and their context" (149, cf. 232). I cling to arguments made e.g. in Schneider (1974) or Baragwanath (2008):5 it seems to me that Thucydides worked hard to separate out those four factors for the reader, although he may indeed have exposed the fact that our deepest motivations are hidden from ourselves. But disagreement on or questions about such points is small potatoes compared to reconsidering the issues. Whether readers agree or not with particular arguments, this is a book to which they will be able to turn for an honest and intelligent interpretation of the whole.


1.   Rood, T. 1998. Narrative and Explanation. Oxford.
2.   Dewald, C. 2005. Thucydides' War Narrative: A Structural Study. Berkeley; and Macleod, C. 1983. Collected Essays. Oxford.
3.   Mynott, J. 2013. The War of the Peloponnesians and Athenians. Cambridge.
4.   Gribble, D. 1998. "Narrator Interventions in Thucydides". JHS 118: 41-67. For remarks on 2.65, see particularly pages 52-55.
5.   Schneider, C. 1974. Information und Absicht bei Thukydides. Goettingen; Baragwanath, E. 2008. Motivation and Narrative in Herodotus. Oxford.

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Eric Csapo, Hans Ruprecht Goette, J. Richard Green, Peter Wilson (ed.), Greek Theatre in the Fourth Century B.C.. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2014. Pp. xi, 578. ISBN 9783110337488. $126.00.

Reviewed by Georgia Xanthaki-Karamanou, University of the Peloponnese ( )

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An age-old prejudice against fourth-century tragedy for decline and loss of vitality is plausibly challenged in this collective volume, which provides a learned and useful tool for further research in post-Euripidean drama. This impressive volume of 578 pages, including 16 plates, a bibliography of 59 pages and indices (Museum, Locorum, General), offers a global approach to the most important aspects of fourth-century theatre: locations, new buildings, vase paintings, theatre expansion beyond Athens, new trends in the production, organization and funding of performances.

The collected material is divided into four sections. Section A: Theatre sites, Section B: Tragedy and comedy, Section C: Performance outside Athens, Section D: Finance and records in Athens.

In Chapter 1 of Section A, Christina Papastamati-von Moock offers new archaeological data on the Theatre of Dionysus in Athens. She points out that in its so-called 'Lycurgan phase', with the pre-existing form but also with a new unified plan based on the circle of the orchestra, the canonical elegant form of ancient Greek theatre was constructed and established, offering a well-functioning architectural model for the Greco-Roman world.

In Chapter 2 Hans Rupprecht Goette, using well-documented literary and epigraphical sources (fully cited in a catalogue at the end of this chapter), examines extensively the topography and the evidence related to the stone theatres at the 'Rural' Dionysia in Attica (Rhamnous, Ikarion, Piraeus, Evonymon, Thorikos, Aixone, Acharnae and the recently excavated theatre in Halimous, the modern Alimos), and the ways in which theatres were shared by Attic demes and organized in the framework of the deme system, with the prime roles of Piraeus and Eleusis. He also explores the inscriptional evidence on possible 'Rural' Dionysia at Eleusis, Sphettos and Aixone.

In Chapter 3 Jean-Charles Moretti provides a large-scale presentation of the fourth-century development of theatre buildings outside Athens, especially in the Peloponnese, but also in Central and Northern Greece and beyond (Asia Minor, Cyprus, Cyrene, South Italy and Sicily). In the second half of this century theatres were significantly transformed, becoming stone public buildings of monumental architecture, better adapted to massive audiences, though no single theatrical type became dominant. By the end of the fourth century the new forms of theatre were widespread in both East and West, acquiring distinctive traits in South Italy and Sicily, where a different model was adapted from that of Greece and the Greek East.

In Chapter 4 of Section B, Oliver Taplin re-evaluates fourth-century tragedy on the basis of papyrus texts and vase paintings of the stories of Medea, Telephus, and the childhood of Hippolytus which follow, with deviations, in the footsteps of Euripides. He also discusses, considering to some extent earlier treatments, vases that seem to be linked with papyrus fragments and refer to known fourth-century plays: the Hector of Astydamas and Chaeremon's Achilleus. The assumption of a two-part tragedy (at Corinth and at Eleusis), regarding Carcinus' Medea, is interesting but may require, as the author himself admits, further confirmation. Nevertheless, Taplin highlights the significance and the artistic qualities of these vase paintings.

In Chapter 5 Sebastiana Nervegna extensively explores the fourth-century canonization of the three great fifth-century tragic poets, which reveals the vitality and the expansion of the era's dramatic production, focusing on the relationship between actors' activities and the tragic canon from the fourth century to Republican Rome. There were many plays of Euripides to be seen, while Aeschylus' plays were selected according to their affinity with later drama. Only a small percentage of the production of canonical playwrights survived on later stages.

In Chapter 6 Johanna Hanink also regards the classicism of the three great tragic poets as an indication of fourth- century tragedy. Citations of both fifth- and fourth-century tragedy in the Poetics and Rhetoric of Aristotle, in comic fragments and in Athenian oratory point to a wide audience of tragedy and to the dynamic theatrical industry of that era.

Andrew Hartwig's survey, in Chapter 7, shows that the fourth century was an innovative and creative period for comedy. Old Comedy, though popular in the Greek West, was largely ignored in Athens and had very limited influence on the era's comic production. The fourth-century comic genre, encouraged by the spread of theatre and the many foreign poets competing in Athens, developed new trends in themes, characters, situations and values, such as the Panhellenic idea, which endured in the plays of Menander and beyond.

In Section C, Chapter 8, Eoghan Moloney shows how Greek theatre, sponsored by Macedonian Kings such as Archelaus and Philip II, facilitated their rule and strengthened their power. Kings and their entourages were fascinated by dramatic performances, and this elite welcomed in Pella Euripides, Agathon and theatre performers. Macedonia is explored in terms of cultural standing and of creating its own non-canonical regional style. Euripides' Archelaus shows the Heraclidae's spread to Macedonia and the establishment of Archelaus' Hellenic heroic heritage.1 Philip's preference for spectacular performances contributed to the importance of actors in the fourth century. The king's court theatre was a multi-purpose space for performances and for religious and political gatherings. On the whole, the history of the kingdom of Macedonia offers significant evidence for fourth-century dramatic production.

In Chapter 9 Brigitte Le Guen deals with the expansion of theatrical activity in the Middle East, West Asia and Egypt during Alexander's expedition, which contributed to cultural Hellenization and the increase of theatres and performances in the Hellenistic period. In this era dramatic competition acquired a political, cultural, and religious role. Competitions retained their cultic connections with divinities, albeit Alexander used theatre for highlighting his royal ideology: the king was seen as a warrior, a saviour or as a generous ruler. The historical information about all artistic competitions and athletic contests held at Alexander's travelling royal court is carefully tabulated.

In Chapter 10 Vayos Liapis argues that Rhesus was a typical fourth-century play with many Aeschylean and Euripidean elements as well as some traces of Sophocles. Liapis shows that the Rhesus author reproduces Euripidean style by adopting characteristic locutions of Euripidean plays, by imitating lines or half-lines and using individual words typical of Euripides. The similarities between Rhesus and Euripidean target-passages in terms of dramatic situation are shown to be sometimes superficial. All these cases suggest, according to Liapis, an "eclectic plagiarizer" rather than Euripides as the author of Rhesus. The play's verbosity and its penchant for linguistic rarities also point to an imitator's inflated diction. The author also assumes a Macedonian audience for this play.

Zachary Biles and Jed Thorn, in Chapter 11, focus on the cross-cultural reinterpretation of Athenian theatre via a thorough exploration of choregic iconography in the non-Greek communities of Southern Italy. They conclude that the role of this iconographic tradition was dictated by factors of marketing and the beliefs of its end-users. Thus, the Pronomos Vase, joining choregic and funeral motifs, pairs the shape of a volute-krater with an exceptional scene of a satyr-play's cast and seems to have been commissioned for export to a non-Greek elite, while bell-kraters were designed to appeal to a regional market.

In this direction Edward G.D. Robinson, in Chapter 12, investigates expansion of theatres in non-Greek Apulia, aptly pointing out that theatrical subjects were mainly confined to volute-kraters, amphorae and loutrophoroi found in the chamber tombs of the elite. Perspectives on Macedonian theatre, such as production mainly for elite audiences and the potential for theatre to enter the public sphere, help to explain theatrical developments in South Italy. Due to a social and linguistic gap, performances in Greek seem not to have been easily accessible to a wider audience.

J. Richard Green, in Chapter 13, fully explores for the first time the iconographic evidence for Greek regional theatre, especially in Boeotia, Corinth, and Cyprus, defining the style of comic performers in terracotta figurines and assessing their similarities as well as possible degrees of their independence from the Athenian model. He observes that the manufacture of vases with comic scenes in both Corinth and the West as well as the comic figurines taken directly from Corinthian models, especially in Sicily and Lipari, show Corinth's traditional role in transmitting materials and ideas. Cypriot theatrical figurines, like those in Corinth and Boeotia, had their own character and were not imitations of Athenian products.

Similarly, in Chapter 14, David Braund and Edith Hall survey the diverse available evidence and scholarship on the almost neglected fourth-century theatre culture of the non-Greek- speaking Black Sea. Local performances, possibly by troops of Greek actors on the Macedonian model, or mimicry are likely to be the aspects of theatre reception in this area.

Finally, Chapters 15-16 of Section D deal with finance and records in Athens.

Eric Csapo and Peter Wilson, in Chapter 15, discuss organization of the theatre in the time of Eubulus and Lycurgus, highlighting their financial innovations, as well as the potential value of culture and cultural industry, which became the mainstay of the Athenian economy.

In Chapter 16 Benjamin W. Millis examines inscribed public records for Athenian dramatic contests (IG II2 2318-2323a and IG II2 2325), such as the Fasti, the Didascaliae and the Victors Lists, which represent monuments concerning related material, though, as the author remarks, erected on separate occasions and with remarkable divergences. The antiquarianism is evident in these inscriptions, their content seems to derive from state archives, and the message provided is that only Athens had a long and prestigious dramatic history.

In this significant volume fourth-century theatre is presented by contemporary scholars in its own light. The fourth century was not a period of decay and decline of dramatic production, but the age of expansion, diversity and vitality of the theatre. All the essays, based on original and well-documented research, contain innovative aspects, offer new information and establish this volume as an important work of reference for a holistic approach to fourth-century drama. Special attention can be paid on the new data on theatre buildings, the full exploration of evidence for the tragic canon, the dramatic production in Macedonia from Archelaus and Philip to Alexander's expedition, the organization of the theatre, and its expansion outside Hellas. The printing is excellent, and the texts are complemented by high quality figures, informative tables, rich bibliography, and carefully composed indices. The consensus expressed throughout this collective work, that the fourth century was not a period of decline but an age of dynamic dramatic production, theatrical development and innovations concurs with the view occurring in the first monograph on fourth-century tragedy that the theatre of this period shows a vital change of direction with novel handling of plots and expression of motifs as a result of new emotional and intellectual developments.2

In conclusion, this important work offers one of the best contributions to the dramatic production of the fourth century B.C. It fills a significant gap in bibliography and, therefore, deserves a very good place in current scholarship.


1.   More information about the reconstruction and motifs of this interesting play can be traced in Greek Drama IV (D. Rosenbloom and J. Davidson eds, Oxford 2012, pp. 108-126).
2.   G. Xanthakis-Karamanos, Studies in Fourth-Century Tragedy, Athens, 1980.

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Markus Wolf, Die Agora von Solunt: öffentliche Gebäude und öffentliche Räume des Hellenismus im griechischen Westen. Sonderschriften des Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Rom, Bd 16. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2014. Pp. 208. ISBN 9783895007262. €78.00.

Reviewed by Laura Pfuntner, University of California, Davis (

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Table of Contents

The past few decades have seen growing interest among scholars of ancient Sicily in the island's Hellenistic period, and particularly in the development of its urban public spaces in this era: topics of research to which this volume makes important contributions.1 The visible remains of Soluntum, located approximately 20 kilometers east of Palermo, are the result of a planned transfer of settlement in the fourth century BC from the original coastal site of Solous, a Phoenician foundation (cf. Thuc. 6.2.6), up to the eastern side of Monte Catalfano. Over the next two centuries, the domestic and civic spaces of Soluntum – including its agora and a number of monumental public buildings – took shape within a grid of paved streets contoured to the slope of the hillside. Although for this reason, the public architecture of Soluntum should be an integral part of any consideration of urbanism in Hellenistic and Roman Republican Sicily, the results of the excavations conducted in the 1950s by Vincenzo Tusa largely remain unpublished. This volume is the third in a series of recent publications by scholars at the Deutsche Archäologische Institut in Rome (including Wolf himself), in collaboration with the Soprintendenza ai Beni Culturali e Ambientali in Palermo, that aim to remedy the long neglect of the archaeology of Soluntum.2

Wolf is positioned well to produce an architectural study of Soluntum's public spaces, having previously authored a monograph on the city's domestic architecture. The present volume has only seventy pages of text, which are (for the most part) copiously illustrated, and accompanied by 113 plates of black and white photographs, architectural drawings, and plans, as well as two large inserts. The quantity of supplemental visual materials is a little overwhelming, as the readers find themselves constantly flipping between the text and the plates in the back of the volume. On the whole, however, the text is clear and concise, with very few typographical errors.

The long first chapter focuses on the agora of Soluntum, located near the northern edge of the city at the top of its main North-South thoroughfare, the Via dell'Agorà. After a brief summary of the history of research on Soluntum (pp. 11-12), Wolf presents the results of his comprehensive study of the agora and its structures in their current condition (12-26) – a section that, though valuable for the detailed descriptions and measurements it contains, is for that reason of limited interest to the general reader. Wolf describes the stoa on the western side of the agora, the row of nine exedrae along its back wall, its porticoes, and the structures surrounding it, including the numerous bases built into the paved plaza in front of it. He then deals with the large public cistern adjoining the stoa on the northern side of the agora, the "odeon" or bouleuterion built on the terrace above the stoa, and various features on the eastern side of the agora, which was not excavated as extensively as its western side. A feature that Wolf includes which, to my knowledge, has not been described before is the "Spolienbau" built in the remains of what appears to have been a well-appointed house on the southeastern edge of the agora (25-6).

Next (26-40), Wolf reconstructs the original dimensions and appearance of the stoa and the structures surrounding it from their remaining architectural elements. He concludes that the stoa originally had two stories, with a columnar façade on both levels (Doric below and Ionic above), and two shorter wings extending perpendicularly from the northern and southern ends of the single-aisled main hall. Wolf also hypothesizes that the open space formed by the roof over the large public cistern at the northern end of the agora was probably accessible from the upper story of the stoa, and functioned as a secondary public assembly area just below the theatre (from which the cistern itself collected runoff rainwater). From the remains of the seating area within the odeon/bouleuterion on the terrace above the stoa, Wolf calculates an original capacity of ca. 100 persons. He also identifies the rectangular walled complex adjoining the odeon/bouleuterion as an open-air sanctuary similar to the temenos or manteion of Apollo and Aristeas in Metapontum (discussed further in Chapter Five). Finally, he speculates that the assorted architectural elements found in the agora which cannot be associated with any of its known buildings could be from as-yet unidentified structures – either public buildings or houses – above the agora or on its unexcavated eastern side.

In the final sections of the first chapter, Wolf presents an overview of the construction phases, dates, and probable uses of the buildings in and around the agora. In the absence of stratigraphic evidence, his chronological analysis is based mainly on construction techniques and on the structural relationships between buildings. Wolf comes down on the "later" (post-Second Punic War) side of the ongoing debate over the chronology of the main monumental phases of a number of western Sicilian cities,3 attributing the visible remains of the stoa, the large public cistern, and the open-air sanctuary to the mid-second century BC, though he points out traces of a structure preceding the stoa that probably dates to the decades after the city's transfer to the slopes of Monte Catalfano in the late fourth century BC. He emphasizes the stoa's association with the theatre on the terrace above (via a staircase next to Exedra 9) as well as the likely use of Exedra 9 as an office for the city's chief magistrate (on the basis of inscriptions found within this room), and he hypothesizes that the stoa itself served a variety of functions, including as a resting-place and assembly-area for visitors to the theatre and for spectators and participants in processions and athletic contests held in the open space of the agora. Wolf's historical analysis in this section is somewhat superficial,4 but he does offer interesting new insights into the late phases of use of the agora and its buildings in the third century AD (41-42), presumably shortly before the final abandonment of the urban center.

The remaining chapters are comparative, analyzing the agora of Soluntum and its constituent buildings in the broader contexts of urbanism in the western Greek world and of the monumental architecture of the Hellenistic era. Chapter Two compares the stoa of Soluntum to similar structures in the Greek West. Here, Wolf provides a useful overview of agorai in Hellenistic Sicily and Southern Italy (49-59) - but one that is already slightly out of date, given the fast pace of publication of recent excavations in the agorai of Monte Iato and Segesta. Chapter Three provides a comparative overview of stoas of similar design to the Soluntum structure (i.e., with two flanking wings or two stories) in mainland Greece and Asia Minor. Oddly, there are no accompanying photographs or plans of the stoas described in this chapter. Wolf identifies close parallels in the design and decoration of the near-contemporary two-storied Attalid stoas in Pergamon and Athens.

In Chapter Four, Wolf shifts his attention to the odeon/bouleuterion above the agora of Soluntum, providing a comparative overview of bouleuteria in other Sicilian cities. Since Wolf identifies Sicilian bouleuteria as a small but distinct architectural group (67), at least a brief excursus on city council-chambers in the Aegean world would have been welcome here. In Chapter Five, Wolf compares the monumental layout of the agora of Soluntum as a whole with that of agorai in other western Greek cities, presented in chronological order from the oldest (archaic Megara Hyblaea) to the most recent (second-century BC Halaesa), and includes a brief excursus on comparanda in the broader Hellenistic Greek world. Here, as with Chapter Three, plans of the various agorai discussed would have been helpful. In these four comparative chapters and in the conclusion, beyond hypothesizing the influence on Soluntum of Hellenistic architectural forms and building techniques from Asia Minor,5 Wolf refrains from speculating on specific paths of influence among the cities of Hellenistic Sicily, and between the island and other regions of the Mediterranean. This restraint is wise, given the difficulty of precisely dating the buildings concerned, as well as the still relatively small number of Hellenistic agorai that have been excavated in Sicily.6

To conclude, in its thorough presentation of the architectural remains of the public spaces of Soluntum, this volume makes an important contribution not only to the understanding of Hellenistic and Roman Republican urbanism in Sicily, but also to the study of the emergence and spread of architectural forms within the broader Hellenistic Mediterranean (in which it should now be acknowledged that Sicily played more than a minor role). This volume should therefore be an essential reference for any scholar with an interest in the urban architecture of Hellenistic Sicily, as well as for scholars of Hellenistic public architecture in general.


1.   This interest in public spaces in Sicilian cities, and in situating Sicilian urbanism within its wider Hellenistic context, has largely been spurred by the excavation of the public areas of a number of western Sicilian urban centers, including Segesta, Halaesa, and Monte Iato, as well as the ongoing publication of the long-running excavations in and around the agora of Morgantina. C. Ampolo (ed.), Agora greca e agorai di Sicilia (Pisa 2012), to which Wolf contributed a chapter on Soluntum, is a recent example of work in this area.
2.   The previous publications on Soluntum are A. Wiegand, Das Theater von Solunt, Sonderschriften 12 (Mainz 1997) and M. Wolf, Die Häuser von Solunt und die hellenistische Wohnarchitektur, Sonderschriften 14 (Mainz 2003).
3.   Wolf provides an overview of this debate and some recent bibliography at p. 40 and n. 86.
4.   For example, at p. 45, Wolf emphasizes the growth of "latifundia" as a key factor in Soluntum's apparent prosperity in the Roman Republican period.
5.   Especially the use of terracing to create distinct public spaces within hilly urban terrain, as at Priene, Assos, Pergamon, and Aigai (p. 80).
6.   The locations and layouts of the ancient agorai of many important urban centers in Sicily (including Palermo, Syracuse, and Messina) have not been securely identified. See the chapter by R.J.A. Wilson in Ampolo (above n. 1) for a summary of the current state of research.

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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 (

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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 (

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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 (

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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 (

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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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