Sunday, April 22, 2018


Krzysztof Nawotka, The Alexander Romance by Ps.-Callisthenes: A Historical Commentary. Mnemosyne Supplements no. 399. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2017. Pp. xii, 360. ISBN 9789004335219. $138.00. ISBN 9789004335226. ebook.

Reviewed by Christian Thrue Djurslev, The University of Edinburgh (

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This book represents a welcome contribution to a surge of recent studies on the Greek Alexander Romance. It is one of the results of a longer journey with Alexander at the University of Wroclaw. Since the early 2010s, the Institute of History has produced a series of books and conferences on the Alexanders of the Near East and beyond. Krzysztof Nawotka has himself published two books on 'Aleksander Wielki' in the 2000s, among them a Polish translation of the Alexander Romance. Nawotka's new commentary fittingly expands much of this previous work. While we have commentaries on the Alexander Romance in German, Polish, and Italian (partially complete), Nawotka provides the first full commentary in English. The choice of language will ensure that the commentary reaches an even wider scholarly community, which is useful because Nawotka collates and updates much of the previous scholarship on the text. Taken together with the previous and forthcoming publications on the greater Alexander tradition from Wroclaw, this book builds momentum for further study of the text's origins and development.

The strangeness of the Alexander Romance invites commentary. The oldest Greek version, the so-called 'alpha recension' preserved in a unique MS from the 11th century, professes to be the true story of Alexander's life when it is in fact a novelistic biography. Its three books throw the king into a stream of hyperreality, mixing stories and literary tropes from many cultures, above all Egypt and Greece. To take just one of many examples, the Egyptian Nectanebus―Pharaoh, magician, charlatan―travels incognito to Macedon, seduces Olympias and fathers the future king. Another strange aspect is the date of composition. The Alexander Romance can be variously dated between the third century BC (Stoneman) and the fourth century AD (Kroll) because of its constituent parts, some of which are early Hellenistic, and others late imperial. Moreover, even the very name of the author is dubious.1 The conventional name of 'Pseudo-Callisthenes,' Isaac Casaubon's identification in a letter of 1605 to Joseph Scaliger, is here maintained, although there is no substantial support for this. After all, ancient translators of the Alexander Romance attributed the text to Aesop (Latin translation by Julius Valerius) and even Aristotle (Armenian translator), so we need not perpetuate the Renaissance rectification of the Byzantine 'Callisthenes.' Of course, we tend to prefer works to which we can attach a well-known name.

Nawotka deals with such issues in a thorough introduction to the text (pp. 1–33). Against his predecessors, he makes a case for the mid- third century AD for the final form of the text (pp. 3–5). He also discusses genre, composition, language, and historical value. His general approach to the Alexander Romance is advertised in the subtitle, 'a historical commentary.' This method is similar to the one Adolf Ausfeld used in his commentary published posthumously in 1907 ('historischer Kommentar,' pp. 123–213).2 This choice may surprise readers, as Nawotka dismisses Ausfeld's commentary as 'outdated' (p. ix). Nawotka accepts, however, the arguments of his predecessor on multiple occasions (e.g. pp. 59, 73, 93), sometimes with updates (pp. 158–9). Good points of the past deserve to be brought into present scholarship, and one such example of this updating is the commentary on Nectanebus' death (Alexander Romance 1.14, Ausfeld p. 130, Nawotka p. 75). When Nectanebus takes Alexander to see the stars, the young prince hurls the astrologer into a ditch because Nectanebus concerns himself with the sky, unaware of the affairs of the earth. This story echoes the sad fate of the philosopher Thales (for Ausfeld, Aesop's Fables no. 40 Perry; for Nawotka, Diogenes Laertius 1.34, Plato Theaetetus 174a), but it also has its own function within the narrative of the Alexander Romance and is treated in different ways in the Romance's wider tradition. Nawotka comments on all these aspects, whereas his predecessor simply mentions the reference to Thales' death as in the archaeology of the Alexander Romance story.

The 'death of Nectanebus' episode is one of those instances in which Nawotka's points align with those found in Stoneman's commentary (pp. 501–2). There are, however, some fundamental differences between the two new commentaries with regard to authorship, date, and interpretation of the Egyptian and Indian material in the Alexander Romance, which Stoneman himself has noted.3 These single- authored commentaries on the Alexander Romance each have their forte according to the fields to which their authors belong. For example, Nawotka makes some excellent observations on the Near Eastern material in the Alexander Romance, but he does not say much about the Latin and Armenian translations, which are crucial for reconstructing the contents of the Greek 'alpha' version. Given the difficulties posed by this multi-layered work, I wonder if the text might lend itself better to a collaborative project between scholars of many fields both within and beyond the realm of Classics and Ancient History.

Rather than comment on the commentary point by point, I limit myself to some further remarks on interpretation. I have a few minor quibbles with the introductory part. Nawotka argues that, of the extant historians, the Alexander Romance has the most in common with Plutarch's Life of Alexander (p. 21). This point hardly needs so much labouring, for Plutarch and the Alexander Romance are the only ancient accounts of Alexander's birth and upbringing. Perhaps more in need of justification is Nawotka's contention (p. 18) that the Alexander Romance was a 'pagan hagiography.' The religious significance that Nawotka attributes to this term is unclear. Moreover, Nawotka suggests that the Alexander Romance is closer to a historical account than other 'fringe' novels, and so stands out. I am not, however, persuaded by this generic distinction when we possess comparable texts, such as Philostratus' Life of Apollonius of Tyana and the Life of Aesop, that operate in the same way as the Alexander Romance. They 'purify' their protagonists' imperfections in the same manner that the Alexander Romance does, regardless of historical accuracy. In this context of prose biographies of holy persons and popular heroes, I miss engagement with Thomas Hägg's The Art of Biography in Antiquity. The ancients knew what a biography 'ought to look like' (Michael Williams in BMCR 2013.01.60) and did not worry as much about 'genre' as we now tend to.

A commentary is structured around the text it comments on, and the main bulk of the book is naturally devoted to the chapters of the Alexander Romance. There are also many other helpful sections. Instead of a full Greek text or translation, we are provided with a detailed summary and useful overview of the historical events that the Alexander Romance covers (pp. 6–13). Nawotka also offers a rich bibliography, index of references (primarily Greek sources), and a general index. Since the primary texts and the scholarship range from different cultures and periods, there could have been a greater care with verifying and presenting information. For examples, the Letter to Theophilus is merely attributed to John Damascene, not a genuine work as Nawotka says (p. 213); I cannot verify Nawotka's claim that George the Monk wrote a Commentary on Daniel (p. 245); and 'Annus 2010' does not appear in the bibliography (p. 231). Even though this book is a costly volume from Brill, I noticed some editorial haste, even with oft-used names (e.g. "Ausfled" for Ausfeld, p. ix; "Merkalebach" for Merkelbach, p. 4; "Instinsk" for Instinsky, p. 291; "Aaarhus" for Aarhus, p. 286). Despite these irregularities, however, the volume is generally of high quality. 1


1.   Stoneman, R., and Gargiulo, T. Il Romanzo di Alessandro, vol. 1. (Milan: Mondadori, 2007).
2.   Ausfeld, A., and Bernays, U. Der griechische Alexanderroman, (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1907).
3.   Stoneman, R. Review of Nawotka, Ancient History Bulletin online reviews 8 (2018), 18–20. Ancient History Bulletin.

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Edmund Stewart, Greek Tragedy on the Move: The Birth of a Panhellenic Art Form c. 500-300 BC. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xviii, 261. ISBN 9780198747260. $95.00.

Reviewed by Elodie Paillard, Universities of Basel and Sydney (

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Stewart's book is part of a recent trend that has seen scholars develop an interest in Greek theatre outside the geographical and chronological boundaries of Classical Athens. In the last 5–10 years, a number of studies have been published on the subject, including, but not limited to, K. Bosher's Theatre outside Athens (2012), V. Vahtikari's Tragedy Performances outside Athens in the Late Fifth and the Fourth Centuries BC (2014), and the publications resulting from E. Csapo and P. Wilson's extensive research on the topic, among others, Greek Theatre in the Fourth Century (2014). Belonging to this trend in scholarship one also notes a new interest in early reperformances of tragedies. The work under review here was published almost at the same time as A. Lamari's Reperforming Greek Tragedy. Theatre, Politics, and Cultural Mobility in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries (2017) which focuses on a topic strikingly similar to Stewart's.

Greek Tragedy on the Move is a revised version of Stewart's PhD thesis. Its aim, as outlined in the introduction, is to show that Greek tragedy had always been a Panhellenic art form, using from its very beginnings a festival network already established in the Archaic period in the context of a 'song culture' from which tragedy supposedly emerged. The author tries to demonstrate how tragedy was 'on the move' through the activities of professional travelling tragic poets (as well as audiences). Athens is still seen as an important centre of this Panhellenic network, both as a place which 'exported' tragedy and as a place where tragic poets came from elsewhere to present their works. However, it is no longer considered as the ultimate origin of and privileged place for tragedy.

In the first chapter, Stewart shows how, more often than not, the mythological stories chosen for tragedies revolve around different Greek communities or locations and tell tales of travel between them or explain or problematize the links that came to exist between them. Here, the author draws a parallel between the wandering heroes of myths staged in tragedies and the travelling poets, arguing that both travelled in order to acquire fame and material gain. His interpretation of the reasons for mythological heroes' travels might appear questionable (heroes in myths rarely seem to travel of their own volition but are very often forced by negative events or external elements or deities), and the author also downplays the religious aspects which might have led poets to travel to festivals where tragic contests took place. His claim that heroes and poets travelled for fame and material gain sounds somewhat anachronistic.

In the same chapter, Stewart opposes the idea of seeing Athens as the exclusive centre for Greek tragedy by noting that only a very limited percentage of those texts to which we still have access are concerned with stories that take place in this city, although he rightly acknowledges that the fictive geographical backgrounds are not enough to prove that these plays were performed outside Athens. Stewart concludes this section by saying that tragedy can be understood as Panhellenic because the subjects of its plays are the Greeks in general, their origins, moves, and relations.

The second chapter is devoted to the Panhellenic networks of travelling poets and to the question of their professionalism. The author reviews the evidence available in ancient sources for the existence of networks of travelling poets, both on the Greek mainland and in other Greeks areas around the Mediterranean. The reasons for their travels are also surveyed. Stewart shows that, from very early on, poets were mobile around the Greek world (and audiences in part as well) and willingly visited different cities or sanctuaries in order to present and perform their works. He argues that this well- established Panhellenic network provided a sort of 'infrastructure' (p. 63) which allowed tragedy to be disseminated. Yet the sources quoted by Stewart contain, for the overwhelming majority, information related to non-dramatic poets. The question that immediately arises from this argument and is not really dealt with in the book, is whether one can really so easily draw a parallel between the dissemination of tragedy and that of other literary genres, especially non-dramatic ones. While the performance of, for example, lyric poets might only have required a space wide enough to accommodate a chorus, dramatic performances required much more than that (a theatre, to mention only the most obvious). The expenses linked to tragic performances were also no doubt on an entirely different scale from what an epic poet might have requested in order to come to a specific city to recite his verses.

Chapter 3 focuses on tragic performances in Attica from 500 to 300 BC. In this section, the author once again treats evidence not directly related to tragedy (e.g., musicians, choral performances) in the same way as evidence that clearly concerns tragedy. This has of course the result of downplaying the specific characteristics that tragedy had as a literary and performative genre. Despite the scarcity of the evidence directly related to tragedy, Stewart convincingly shows that Athens was not isolated in the Classical period in performing tragedy: performers came to play in tragedies in Athens from far afield. In fact, non-Athenian poets competing at the Great Dionysia were not as rare as previously thought, according to Stewart's review of the available evidence. By paying attention to the chronology of this evidence, the author is also able to show that the dissemination of tragedy is not a fourth-century development: Athens was, from the early stages of tragedy, only one of the centres (admittedly an important one) of a larger network of cities were the genre was developed. It is, however, acknowledged in the conclusion of this chapter that Athens 'almost certainly played a key part in the dissemination of tragedy to the wider Greek world' (p. 91), a claim that tends to be downplayed in the rest of the chapter and in the book in general.

Chapters 4, 5, and 6 examine the question of tragedy outside Attica from 500 to 300 BC. Chapter 4 focuses on the period between 500 and 450 BC. As expected, the question of Aeschylus' visit(s) to Sicily is examined in detail. Stewart shows how Aetnaeae and Persians (taken as re-performed for Hieron in the 470s) contained elements that were Panhellenic enough to appeal to a Sicilian audience. During this period, tragic poets emerged, alongside poets of other literary genres (lyric, epic), as professionals whom cities and tyrants could hire to celebrate their links to the entire Greek world. Stewart argues that the dissemination of tragedy had never been a late feature of this genre but that it was a reality from its earliest stages and was contemporary to its development.

For the period 450–400 BC (chapter 5), Euripides' works are examined more closely (esp. Archelaus, Temenus and Temenidae; Andromache; Captive Melanippe and Aeolus). The fundamental question asked in this chapter is whether those plays were merely Athenian 'exports' (i.e. plays intended to be first performed in Athens and then re-performed later elsewhere), or were in the first place intended for non-Athenian audiences, or were representative of tragedy understood as an essentially Panhellenic product (and thus intended to be performed elsewhere in the Greek world). After the examination of Euripides' case and the presentation of various hypotheses (sometimes speculative, but within reasonable limits) about the plays at the centre of this chapter and their place(s) of performance, Stewart concludes the chapter by saying that, contrary to the usual view on the question, tragedy did not begin to be exported outside Athens in the second half of the fifth century. He argues that the period 450–400 BC is only in continuity with the 50 previous years. A new 'market' for tragedy had opened in Macedonia, but the mechanism of dissemination of tragedy there was the same as was noted for the earlier period in other places. Once again, tragedies tell the stories of heroes in a way that highlights the links and connections between different parts of the Greek world. Poets who were eager to please rulers whose empires were situated at the margin of this world refashioned mythological stories in order to adapt to the contexts of performance.

The sixth and last chapter of the book deals with 'Tragedy outside Attica' from 400 to 300 BC. Stewart includes in this chapter reflections about the supposed changes specific to this period, namely the questions of whether tragedy became less political, the phenomenon of the emergence of professional actors, and the view that tragedy's content might have undergone substantial changes at that time. Here again, the author emphasizes continuity and argues against the idea that tragedy fundamentally changed between the fifth and the fourth centuries. In his view, tragedy had always been political and remained so. Cities, whether Athens or others, had always been interested in the performance of tragedy, which was from the beginning more concerned with Panhellenic themes than with local internal political questions. What was important in tragedy, Stewart argues, in the fifth as well as the fourth century, were the connections between cities that were part of a Panhellenic network. It would have been interesting to compare more closely those conclusions with regard to comedy. Another difficulty that might have been considered is the fact that, in order to gauge the extent to which a tragedy referred to local political interest, one needs to examine closely the full content of the work. As our knowledge of fourth-century tragedy is only fragmentary at best, the picture might be biased.

As for the supposed 'rise of the acting profession', Stewart again argues for continuity rather than radical change in the fourth century. While acknowledging the role of the actors in the dissemination of tragedy during the fourth century, he thinks that they were already doing so in the fifth when they travelled in the company of tragic poets. In this, he downplays the importance usually given to actors in the fourth century and the links between professional 'star actors', reperformances of older plays, and spread of tragedy. For him, the difference between the fifth and the fourth century is best explained by the fact that cities and rulers increasingly recognized and used tragedy as a Panhellenic genre rather than by seeing tragedy spread from Athens to other places.

The book included a summary conclusion and three appendices, the first of which gives a list of the fictive settings in which the stories narrated in tragedies take place. The overwhelming precedence of the Troad as a location for those stories should make us cautious about drawing any kind of link between fictive localization and real place of performance. The second appendix lists non-citizen performers in Attica, including performers/poets of other, non-tragic, genres, which somewhat artificially extends the amount of evidence actually available for the precise purpose of the book. The third appendix contains a short discussion in which Stewart argues in favour of the hypothesis that Phrynichus travelled to Sicily.

All in all, this is an interesting book, which has the merit of restoring tragedy and its dissemination to a wider geographical and literary context. Although at times one cannot help but feel that Stewart underestimates the role of Athens, his book is an important step in direction of seeing tragedy as not exclusively centred on Athens or limited to this city. Likewise, Stewart's taking other literary genres into account in his examination of the dissemination of tragedy is to be commended, although the widespread use of evidence related to non-tragic genres in chapters aimed at demonstrating a specific point about tragedy can be questioned. This is a well-argued, well-researched book, with a very clear structure (sometimes to the point of irritatingly repeating intermediate questions or conclusions). Stewart reveals a complete command of the relevant bibliography, including works in languages other than English. It is all the more regrettable that no one at Oxford University Press thought it worth proofreading non-English titles and quotations: almost every one of them contains at least one error.

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Giorgio Bonamente, Roberto Cristofoli, Carlo Santini (ed.), Le figure del mito in Properzio: Proceedings of the Twentieth International Conference on Propertius, Assisi-Bevagna, 30 May-1 June 2014. Studi di poesia latina, 20. Turnhout: Brepols, 2016. Pp. 437. ISBN 9782503569376. €95,00 (pb).

Reviewed by Nicoletta Bruno, Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, München​ (

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Il volume raccoglie la maggior parte delle relazioni tenute al Convegno Le figure del mito in Properzio (Assisi-Bevagna, 30 maggio – 1 giugno 2014), 1 organizzato dall'Accademia Properziana del Subasio di Assisi. La città natale di Properzio ospita a cadenza biennale, sin dal 1976, prestigiosi convegni di studi sul poeta elegiaco latino.

Al tema del mito nelle elegie di Properzio hanno spesso rivolto la loro attenzione gli interpreti, come dimostrano anche i contributi del Convegno Properziano del 2002 (cf. BMCR 2005.04.24). Gli articoli contenuti nel volume sono tutti in lingua italiana, ad eccezione del contributo in spagnolo di Carmen Codoñer. Non si giustifica la traduzione dall'originale inglese del saggio di Alison Keith.

Il ricorso al mito si presenta, in particolar modo nell'età augustea, in tutta la sua radicale ambiguità, nelle trasposizioni e reinterpretazioni romane delle immagini del patrimonio leggendario greco. A ricostruire un quadro complesso e interdisciplinare concorrono tutti i contributi presenti nel volume, e le differenze metodologiche e i diversi approcci di ricerca ne rappresentano uno dei punti di forza.

Il volume si apre con il saggio di Paolo Fedeli, specialista mondiale della ricerca su Properzio e della poesia di età augustea. A partire dall'analisi dell'elegia 4, 9, lo studioso argomenta come l'autore latino si serva e manipoli il mito in senso ambiguo. Ercole, eroe in bilico tra divino e umano, inizialmente è visto sotto una luce eroica e invincibile, nel racconto della fatica contro Caco, già considerato esemplare in età augustea. Il richiamo allusivo all'episodio virgiliano nel libro VIII dell'Eneide, che sottolineava la potenza dell'eroe contro la brutalità del ladro dei buoi di Gerione, è palese. Del semidio Ottaviano rimarca la devozione, ma, emblematicamente, è anche il protettore della gens di Antonio. A questo punto comincia la degradazione dell'immagine mitica di Ercole, enfatizzata dagli aspetti buffoneschi della mancanza di moderazione nel consumo del vino e nei piaceri della tavola, già presente nella poesia greca (commedia, tragedia, tradizione alessandrina). La propaganda avversa era solita accostare Antonio a modelli negativi di comportamento, perché soggiogato dall'amore per Cleopatra e indotto dalla regina a intemperanze nei piaceri e alla mollezza nefasta dei costumi egizi. Proprio questo motiva l'accostamento tra il "nemico" Antonio e l'aspetto antieroico e degradato di Ercole.

Arcangela Cafagna analizza due episodi contenuti nelle elegie 4,7 e 4, 8, tratti dal ciclo troiano, in cui gli amanti elegiaci si "travestono" da eroi epici e ripropongono le situazioni dell'epos omerico e virgiliano con risultati paradossali. In 4, 7, ad esempio, l'apparizione agli occhi di Properzio dell'ombra di Cinzia riprende in forma analogica la visione di Achille dell'ombra di Patroclo nel XXIII canto dell'Iliade (vv. 69-92). La situazione dolorosa di lutto del modello omerico viene declinata da Properzio in modo funzionale al discorso elegiaco. Lo studio conferma che il riuso elegiaco di episodi ricavati dal repertorio dell'epica ha un tono e un risultato finale ben diversi da quelli del modello di riferimento, per via delle caratteristiche linguistico-stilistiche e delle finalità che differenziano i due generi letterari.

Il contributo di Giampiero Rosati mira a indagare il rapporto tra Properzio e il mito troiano, fondato sulla mediazione omerica e sui poemi del Ciclo epico. Si ridiscutono, così, le interrelazioni tra i testi elegiaci properziani e l'epos, tema su cui più volte ritornano gli interpreti, per proporre o affinare nuove chiavi di lettura. Attraverso una puntuale analisi dei testi, lo studioso giunge alla conclusione che l'erotizzazione dei personaggi del mito troiano (e.g. Pentesilea, Achille, Briseide, Paride, Elena) e di alcuni passi tratti dall'Iliade, è una caratteristica peculiare della tradizione post-omerica. Il mito troiano, pertanto, pur essendo un mito epico e di conseguenza anti-elegiaco, viene riletto come la storia di una "guerra per una donna", Elena, e acquista una veste elegiaca, perché diviene l'archetipo di una "guerra per amore". Alla luce di questa prospettiva, sia l'Iliade sia l'Odissea hanno la loro origine in una donna: in conclusione, infatti, Rosati cita Ovidio, che, nella sua provocatoria autodifesa davanti ad Augusto, sostiene che perfino Omero può considerarsi un poeta erotico (trist. 2, 371-80).

Il mito di Troia resurgens è al centro del contributo di Fabio Stok, richiamando il saggio del 1975 di Mario Pani. 2 Rappresenta una creazione letteraria nuova, nata in età augustea dall'idea che in Roma riviva l'antica Troia. Anche se i riferimenti al mito troiano non mancano in tutti i libri delle Elegie di Properzio, nel IV libro viene proposta un'immagine della guerra di Troia completamente diversa rispetto ai libri precedenti. Stok esamina un passo particolarmente problematico (4, 1, 39-54): la tradizione manoscritta colloca i vv. 87-88, che predicono la resurrezione di Troia, in posizione indubbiamente incongrua, ovvero nel discorso di Horos (dopo il v. 52). Lo studioso propende per l'espunzione del distico, giacché la collocazione dei vv. 87-88 non sembra una casuale trasposizione meccanica, bensì un'interpolazione

volta a includere nella profezia di Horos l'annuncio del futuro di Roma, anche in considerazione del fatto che Horos predice il disastroso ritorno in patria dei Greci, sottinteso nella profezia di Cassandra. (p. 86)

Con un approccio narratologico e il richiamo allo schema archetipico della ragazza perseguitata, Paola Pinotti, nel suo intervento, prende in esame le storie dell'eroina Antiope, nella 3, 15, e di Io nella 2, 33a. Secondo l'autrice, il primo mito è narrato da Properzio in "stile soggettivo", una modalità che ricorda lo stile epico virgiliano: un'interpretazione che supera l'approccio tradizionale del riuso del materiale mitologico da parte del poeta. Quanto alla seconda eroina, Io, Properzio offre una trattazione patetica del mito, dai toni ironici e dissacranti, nella quale l'eroina tragica subisce una metamorfosi elegiaca, finendo per interagire con il mondo del poeta e di Cinzia, non come una semplice citazione erudita, ma come protagonista di un'autentica avventura sentimentale.

Nel suo ampio contributo, Luciano Landolfi si occupa delle diverse funzioni delle divinità orientali nella poesia di Properzio: si passa dalla funzione metaletteraria (Bacco) a quella esornativa-pragmatica (Cibele), per poi giungere alla funzione paradigmatica e contraria (Iside) fino a quella complementare (Anubi). Grazie a una rigorosa analisi filologico-linguistica, il saggio mostra come le divinità orientali, nonostante la loro marginalità nel pantheon romano, abbiano arricchito in maniera considerevole il repertorio iconografico e simbolico del poeta elegiaco.

Il contributo di Rosa Alba Dimundo affronta nel dettaglio l'esame di tre figure femminili del ciclo troiano in versione elegiaca: Calipso, Penelope e Elena. Gran parte delle vicende mitiche, si è visto, sono impiegate da Properzio per illustrare le alterne vicende del suo rapporto con Cinzia. La ninfa Calipso, nell'analisi dell'elegia 1, 15, è per l'autrice il personaggio che risente maggiormente della "riduzione" elegiaca e subisce la trasformazione più radicale dei suoi connotati tradizionali. La Calipso properziana assume infatti una nuova personalità: abbandonata da Odisseo, la ninfa si trascura e si dispera, con un atteggiamento patetico e lamentoso, sulla spiaggia deserta.

L'intervento di Roberto Cristofoli è dedicato all'analisi storica dell'elegia 4, 10, che rievoca i tre episodi canonici di conquista e dedica a Giove Feretrio degli spolia opima, che la tradizione storica e mitologica attribuiva a Romolo, Cornelio Cosso e Claudio Marcello. La propaganda augustea, è ben noto, mirava all'assimilazione romulea della figura di Ottaviano. L'allineamento di Properzio all'ideologia di Augusto, risulta ed è particolarmente evidente nella 4, 10, in cui il fondatore di Roma è rivalutato rispetto ai libri precedenti e occupa con la sua impresa lo spazio maggiore, insieme al più lungo elogio del governo di Augusto, aderente ai dettami del mos maiorum.

Obiettivo del saggio di Francesca Boldrighini è rappresentato dalla decorazione pittorica a soggetto mitologico della Domus Musae, un edificio di epoca romana, sito al di sotto della chiesa di S. Maria Maggiore di Assisi. Lo studio si concentra inizialmente sui graffiti greci leggibili sulle pareti, in corrispondenza dei dipinti, che, purtroppo, non si sono completamente conservati. La Boldrighini conduce un'analisi comparativa delle diverse letture dei testi che sono state proposte nel corso degli anni e stabilisce un confronto tra i dipinti di Assisi e alcuni soggetti pittorici analoghi conservati in edifici di Pompei e dell'area campana, che consentono di avanzare ipotesi sul soggetto iconografico perduto nella Domus Musae umbra.

Carmen Codoñer dedica il suo studio al personaggio di Tarpea, protagonista dell'elegia 4, 4, che si rivela come un riflesso di Properzio stesso e della sua precedente produzione di carattere amoroso all'interno del IV libro. La scelta dell'eroina antepone la dimensione privata a quella pubblica, in controtendenza rispetto alla posizione che ha assunto il poeta al momento della stesura del libro, e pertanto sembra essere una sorta di lascito del vecchio Properzio al nuovo. La parte conclusiva dell'articolo è particolarmente convincente per la contrapposizione, nel personaggio di Tarpea, tra il desiderio d'amore e la rottura del patto della fides, attraverso il tradimento ai danni della sua patria (amor vs. fides).

Il nome di Cinzia è messo in relazione, già a partire dall'elegia 1, 1, con la figura della dea della caccia Diana, attraverso l'episodio del mito di Atalanta e Milanione, un'associazione che Properzio ha ereditato da Callimaco (Hymn. 3, 215-224). Nel suo saggio, Alison Keith rimarca i tratti distintivi che Cinzia eredita dall'archetipo della cacciatrice, in primo luogo la resistenza all'amore (la domina come cacciatrice). Tuttavia, pur essendo frequente l'analogia tra Cinzia e Diana (le allusioni compaiono in diverse elegie e in tutti i libri), spesso il rapporto tra la donna elegiaca e l'archetipo divino appare mutevole e complicato. Properzio, inoltre, lega la donna amata alla figura di Diana-divinità lunare (1, 1; 1, 2; 1, 3; 1, 10), proprio a confermare l'inclinazione programmatica del suo verso elegiaco.

L'intervento di Giovanni Polara dischiude una riflessione sull'aspetto teorico dell'uso del mito nella poesia di Properzio. L'exemplum mitologico, secondo lo studioso, serve al poeta soprattutto nei contesti autobiografici, per attenuare gli eccessi di coinvolgimento, componente ereditata dalla poesia ellenistica, in particolare callimachea. Sempre sulla scia di una riflessione teorica, nel saggio successivo, Carlo Santini spiega la natura simbolica dei miti acquatici. L'acqua rappresenta il simbolo della fluidità e della mutevolezza del riuso mitologico nel genere elegiaco e ritorna come elemento immancabile nella poetica properziana. Santini ripercorre lo studio del "simbolismo" properziano a partire dai moderni Hermann Hesse, Virginia Woolf e Robert Musil, fino ad approdare a letture sociologiche più recenti, come Zygmunt Bauman e la simbologia della "liquidità" contemporanea.

Il contributo archeologico di Fausto Zevi non riguarda propriamente Properzio, ma uno dei temi cari alla propaganda di età augustea: l'origine troiana di Roma. Il saggio di Zevi, dopo una efficace ricostruzione delle fonti storiche e letterarie delle fondazioni troiane nel Lazio, illustra le nuove scoperte nei luoghi del Lazio di cui parla Virgilio, ovvero il santuario lavinate del Sol Indiges e gli scavi di Castrum Inui, sede del santuario del dio Inus. Zevi ripercorre l'indagine del complesso del Castrum Inui ad Ardea, scoperto da Francesco Di Mario e ampiamente studiato da Mario Torelli, secondo il quale coinciderebbe con il sito che la tradizione indicava come l'approdo di Enea, descritto da Dionigi di Alicarnasso (Ant. Rom. 1, 64, 4-5).

Nelle sue lucide e attente conclusioni, Raffaele Perrelli sottolinea l'attenzione rivolta, in prevalenza, al IV libro, su cui si è ampiamente soffermato l'interesse degli studiosi negli ultimi anni, a partire dai commenti di Hutchinson (Cambridge 2006), Coutelle (Bruxelles 2015), Fedeli-Dimundo-Ciccarelli (Nordhausen 2015). I contributi raccolti nel presente volume gettano nuova luce su diversi aspetti, nella poetica e nell'età di Properzio, dell'uso del mito, in alcuni casi, degradato e rovesciato, in altri, enfatizzato a scopi propagandistici. ​


1.   Non sono presenti i testi della lezione inaugurale del Convegno, tenuta da Piero Boitani, e l'intervento di Vittorio Ferraro.
2.   cf. M. Pani, "Troia resurgens: mito troiano e ideologia del principato", in AFLB 18, 1975, 65-85.

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Friday, April 20, 2018


Laurel Fulkerson, Tim Stover (ed.), Repeat Performances: Ovidian Repetition and the Metamorphoses. Wisconsin studies in classics. Madison; London: University of Wisconsin Press, 2016. Pp. vii, 328. ISBN 9780299307509. $75.00.

Reviewed by Jo-Marie Claassen, Stellenbosch University (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

From the subtitle, a reader may be led to believe that this collection of essays treats of aspects such as figura etymologica, polyptoton, epanalepsis and anaphora, as well as perhaps the type of formulaic phrases that are characteristic of epic composition. However, the concept of "repetition" is envisioned much more widely by the two editors of the book and the ten contributors of individual chapters, to cover anything from Ovidian intratextuality (re-use of his own words, plots or themes), to all aspects of Ovid's intertextual allusion to Latin and Greek predecessors, both verbal and thematic, plus the earliest receptions of Ovid by other epicists. Ovid's poetics appear to have set the norm against which his successors measured themselves.

An erudite "Introduction" by the two editors ("Echoes of the Past") explains their approach to repetition, starting with various interpretations of an author's "dynamic recycling of previous material" (4), such as Bloom's idea of "appropriative hostility" in parody and pastiche, versus Deleuze's idea of imitation as "either a theft or a gift," implying a "hierarchical model" within which the imitator "admits inferiority" or "rehabilita[tes]… a lesser-known model" or "goes one better" (5). They touch briefly on early twentieth century denigration (as morally reprehensible) of authors who either unconsciously borrowed from predecessors or deliberately repeated themselves (6).

The editors place Ovidian repetition in three categories: revision of previously published work, re-use of his own words and "re-appropriation of his own work," concluding that Ovid's "own acquisitive habits" served as a model for his successors (8-9). A discussion of Ovid's Echo and Narcissus tale from Metamorphoses 3.399-510 as a "case study" serves as illumination of Ovid's multi-faceted approach (9-15). This ties in with the cover illustration featuring Salvador Dali's 1937 Metamorphosis of Narcissus. The picture represents two different phases of the unfortunate youth's "floralization," as well as the reflections of both these phases in the pond that serves as his mirror, that is, repetitive duplication and reduplication, a subtle touch. The Narcissus tale essentially shows "the complicated nature of representation and reality… a topic closely related to repetition" (9-10). However, emphasis here is on Echo, the juxtaposition of whose tale with that of Narcissus is an Ovidian innovation, so the editors. "Repetition" is the Leitmotiv of Echo's tale; her clever redeployment of Narcissus' words in a successful attempt at conversation leads to what the editors term her "smutty double entendres" which, while "literally reappropriat[ing] Narcissus' questions and exclamations, "…is also, on Ovid's part, a kind of recycling," serving as a "powerful model for intertextual relations" (11).

In Chapter One ("Nothing like the Sun: Repetition and Representation in Ovid's Phaethon Narrative") Andrew Feldherr starts with a short discussion of the more obvious aspects of duplication (a rape-and-paternity plot, verbal echoes, Augustan political comment) in the tale of Phaethon, who sought to find certainty about his paternity as son of the Sun (a delicious repetition in English, not available to our Roman predecessors) and whose temerity in assuming that he had inherited enough of his father's characteristics to take over his duties for a day led to inevitable disaster. Feldherr considers that the story "comments on the hermeneutic consequences of repetition itself… [serving as] a kind of verbal metamorphosis capable of simultaneously suggesting sameness and difference" (27). In his discussion of the sculptures on the doors of Sol's palace (which, incidentally, reprise Ovid's account of the creation of the cosmos), Feldherr makes an important point about the function of ecphrasis in literature as another form of repetition: a verbal mirror of reality. The author's metatextual interpretation of the tale as an almost Platonic metaphor for the common human search for identity cannot be re-argued here: a series of close analyses of the text throughout the chapter serves to elucidate how throughout this tale Ovid is concerned with repetition as paradoxically central in a poem about change.

Chapter Two ("Repeat after Me: the Loves of Venus and Mars in Ars Amatoria 2 and Metamorphoses 4,") is the first of three chapters in which Ovid's debt to (reception of) Homer is explored. Barbara Weiden Boyd's discussion here of Ovid's two-fold repetition of the tale he gleaned from Odyssey 8 later became part of her extensive monograph titled "Ovid's Homer" (Oxford 2017). In the third chapter ("Ovid's Cycnus and Homer's Achilles Heel," where the omission of a second possessive apostrophe indicates a subtle pun worthy of Ovid himself) Peter Heslin triangulates from the episode in Ovid's "prequel" to the Iliad in Met 12 (where an apparently invincible Cycnus does battle with an apparently equally invincible Achilles) to Homer and subsequently to Statius' Achilleid. The gist of Heslin's argument is that Ovid's mischievous hinting at the idea of Achilles' vulnerability in the cut and thrust of this battle undercuts Homer's apparently objectively epic depiction of his hero. This, so Heslin, directly influenced Statius' version of the story of Achilles, which has always been considered as the first to feature the vulnerable heel.

The theme of Ovidian nuancing of the Homeric epic tradition also underlies Four ("Loca Luminis haurit: Ovid's recycling of Hecuba,") by Antony Augoustakis. In a complex nexus of arguments, the author delineates the line Ovid drew from Homer, via tragedy, to Vergil's Aeneid, by focusing on Hecuba as both victim and perpetrator of violence, and, by extension, on Hecuba's dual character as a metaphor for what the editors have termed the "mutilation and deformation of literary tradition that Ovid's poetics of recycling entails" (18).

The next three chapters concentrate on Ovid's re-use of his own material. Darcy Krasne (Five, "Succeeding Succession: Cosmic and Earthly Succession in the Fasti and Metamorphoses,") compares Ovid's rival cosmogonies, largely correspondent in the opening verses of both works, but with an alternative cosmogony in Fasti 5. The structure of this third version is neatly set out in Table 5.2. (127). Throughout, the divine "succession myth" parallels the imperial, as also in the 15th book of Ovid's epic. Both divine and human "sons" are drawn as surpassing their fathers, but in the human sphere no overthrow of the father-figure is featured; yet in Fasti 5 the ramifications of the "complex of Jupiter, Mars, Augustus, Tiberius" (142) hint toward the potential supremacy of Tiberius over his adoptive "progenitor."

Sharon James (Six, "Rape and Repetition in Ovid's Metamorphoses: Myth, History, Structure, Rome") tackles the fraught topic of rape in the poem, and the fact that the occurrence of such stories tapers off during the course of the epic. As our poet's narration of "world history" moves westward and ever closer to his own time, the uncomfortable aspects of the Roman founding myths are simply omitted: no Rhea Silvia, Sabines, Lucretia or Verginia are shown as violated during the course of the creation of the Roman state. James sees in this a political dimension: their omission causes these tales to become conspicuous by their very absence, an uncomfortable intrusion into Augustus' much vaunted "re-founding" of Rome.

Until the end of his life Ovid continued to re-use his own material: in exile, much from his earlier poetry reappears, now with a new thrust, but often, too, illustrating how the poet's life has become the final metamorphosis in his oeuvre. Peter Knox in Seven ("Metamorphoses in a Cold Climate,") first concentrates on Ovid's view of his relationship to his own poetry, reading the tale of Althaea's vengeance on her own son for the death of his uncles as "a metaphor for negation of the creative act" (180). Next, Knox discusses the exiled Ovid's frequent view of himself as an Actaeon, the victim of Fortune, punished for a mistake, rather than a crime, and, consequently, his view of Augustus as a vengeful Jupiter. "Repetitions of themes," so Knox, "… activate the intertext in the Metamorphoses… [so that i]t becomes impossible to read [its] … epilogue without interpolating Augustus into the text." Of a passage from the Tristia: "it is not Jupiter's wrath that is at issue, but Caesar's" (188). Verbatim repetition of 15.129 from the epilogue of the Metamorphoses in Tristia 4.10 signals Ovid's view of his own death-defying renown as set against oppression. Knox's concluding paragraph (191) has a more negative interpretation of the tone of Ovid's last work, the Epistolae ex Ponto, than this reviewer finds in it.

Eight ("Ovidian Itineraries in Flavian Epic,") by Alison Keith and Nine ("Revisiting Ovidian Silius, along with Lucretian, Vergilian, and Lucanian Silius," 225-48) by Neil W. Bernstein together cover the major Flavian authors who show Ovidian influence: that is, the earliest receptions of our poet, that served to establish him as a normative predecessor. Both are writing against the more common assumption of the preeminence of Vergil as the paragon. The chapters differ vastly, yet complement each other: Keith gives a careful analysis of the manner in which Ovid serves to supplement Vergilian evocations in Valerius Flaccus, Statius and Silius Italicus. Bernstein examines the occurrence of "quotation" from predecessors in Silius. This is done in a novel way: a quantitive analysis (by means of a computer program called Tesserae) of "all matches of two-lexeme phrases in a database of more than three hundred poetic and prose texts from the Greco-Roman literary corpus" (226). A system of "weighting" ensures that such matching can be further refined to eliminate common and fortuitous similarities, leaving only those that are "interpretatively significant." A series of tables shows the relationship between Ovid, his Flavian successors and Silius. Again Ovid stands second to Vergil, but is still a significant source for emulation on the lexical level.

Finally, in Ten ("Return to Enna: Ovid and Ovidianism in Claudian's unfinished De raptu Proserpinae) Stephen Hinds shows how, by the late fourth century, Ovid had become established as the norm, and this poem appears as almost "Flavian" in its closely "Ovidian" feel. Claudian was a Greek who composed in both Latin and his own tongue. Hinds shows that his responsiveness to Ovid's repetitive poetics is functional and essential to the fabric of his poem. A central philological issue has always been the question of whether the locus amoenus whence Proserpina was abducted was Enna ("Henna") or Etna, a reading of DRP 2.71-5 which has been favored in various modern editions. Recourse to Ovid's Met.5.385-6 and Cicero's Verr. 4.107 indicates "Enna" as the correct reading. Also, so Hinds, as a bilingual "Greek [with] Alexandrian origins" (267), Claudian could not have resisted the punning play on the contrast between Hennaeae (= Greek "oneness") and "numeric" Latin words "/ unica… secundam… / primos… / numeri damnum" in DRP 1.122-6. Hinds' chapter is particularly rich and thought-provoking, but must be left here in favor of a more general discussion.

Particularly memorable in all considerations of the concept of repetition are Feldherr's remarks (33) on ecphrasis as aiding the reader's "understanding of the relationship between representation and reality"; also, contrast between "unchanging ecphrasis and the linear narrative of Ovid's poem" illustrates the contrast between a "fixed picture" (as in visual art) versus "fluid narrative". Memorable in a different way is Hind's delicious praeteritio (276n.39) by means of which he manages to smuggle in a brief note on Claudian's debt to Vergil.

Less memorable are a few linguistic solecisms or deviations from the academic register: "…tradition from which Hercules has been air-brushed out" (twice: 76, 77); "a Homeric red-herring" (86); "paint-by-numbers view of poetic composition" (89); "she refutes a deeper …connection" for, presumably, "…rejects…" (149n.48); "…none of the Flavians take it up" (197). Another quibble: the Preface refers to "the original conference" (vii) on, we must assume, the topic of Ovidian repetition, and, apparently, at one of the campuses of Florida State University, but nowhere is this explicitly stated, nor when the conference took place. Also, puzzlingly, the editors refer to the "ambience" of the conference, when the context shows that "atmosphere" or "feel" of the event is meant. However, my slightly negative reaction to this was soon dissipated by the quality of both their Introduction and the chapters that follow.

Endnotes are printed after each chapter, which renders them slightly less difficult to look up than at the end of a volume, but footnotes would still have been preferable. A combined bibliography comprises a list of "Works Cited", starting with a list of common abbreviations. Thumbnail sketches of the twelve collaborators take up three pages, followed by a brief topical index of three double-columned pages and a similarly double-columned Index Locorum.

This volume of essays ranges widely and yet seems only to have touched on the theme of Ovidian repetition. Scholars can fruitfully take up the challenge to explore the topic in other directions.

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Irene Berti, Katharina Bolle, Fanny Opdenhoff, Fabian Stroth (ed.), Writing Matters: Presenting and Perceiving Monumental Inscriptions in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Materiale Textkulturen, 14. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. Pp. viii, 395. ISBN 9783110529159. €89,95.

Reviewed by Alexandra Wilding, University of Manchester (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below]

The present volume assesses the value of ancient and medieval texts, primarily those incised on hard surfaces such as stone, as artefacts with the potential to interact with and even re-shape their immediate surroundings.1 It is based on the conference 'Writing Matters. Presenting and Perceiving Monumental Texts in Ancient Mediterranean Cultures' held in Heidelberg from 10-12th October 2013, and consists of 13 contributions (three in German and 10 in English, all of which have brief synopses in the Introduction, pp. 5-9). They are arranged thematically under four headings: 'Theoretical and Methodical Approaches Around and About Writing', 'Text Spaces', 'Inscribed Monuments and Memory' and 'Writing Practices: Seeing, Perceiving and Acting with Inscriptions'. Space unfortunately does not permit discussion of all the contributions in this review.

After a brief introduction by the editors, the first section deals with 'Theoretical and Methodical Approaches Around and About Writing'. Of particular note here is the chapter by Ludger Lieb and Ricarda Wagner, which tackles the difficulty of assessing an inscription's impact on human actions and emotions (its 'affordance').2 They suggest that surveying literature for literary references which mention or directly quote an inscribed text ('fictional metatexts') is a way to identify the functions of physically extant inscriptions and to gauging their broader importance. This study may encourage systematic collection of literary references to Greek and Latin inscriptions.3

In the section on 'Text Spaces', focus is on the influence that a setting could have on an inscribed document (a theme also important to the latter two sections). While scholars remain interested in the factors determining the location of a particular genre of text,4 this section considers how an inscription's location could also create meaning. The chapter by Irene Berti and Péter Kató concerns the reception of Hellenistic lists of names at Athens and on Kos, places where list- makers were particularly prolific. The chapter focuses on records of actions such as lists of public donations (epidoseis) and lists men who served on the council. These lists commemorate the actions of the individuals concerned, but the authors suggest that their placement within major sanctuaries and civic centers important to the democratic image of their respective communities extended such commemoration to all citizens (a point made more explicit in the case of Athens): for example, the location of lists of prytaneis in front of the bouleuterion and later inside the prytanikon possibly represented the political involvement of all Athenians. While the social purpose of inscribed lists is well explored, it would be interesting to uncover more about their honorific capacity in relation to other Athenian honorific practices at this time.5

The chapter by Eeva-Maria Viitanen and Laura Nissin discusses the spatial contexts of the painted notices (programmata) that promoted candidates in local elections at Pompeii. By comparing reconstructions of their spatial distribution above and between doorways of public and private buildings with known 'street activity', they hypothesize a connection between the placement of the candidates' notices and the doorway owners. The importance of exactly where a text was visible is brought to the fore, and the authors speculate on who determined an inscription's placement and how they did so: although exact details are unknown, they suggest plausibly that negotiations between the candidates and doorway owners – who were possibly supporters and even neighbours – were integral to their location.

The section on 'Inscribed Monuments and Memory' examines the relationship between epigraphy and remembrance.6 The connection is drawn out particularly well by Julia Shear in her exploration of the Athenians' posthumous honours for Demosthenes in 281/0 BC, which were displayed within the Agora. Shear's chapter reflects on the fact that the reception of an honorific monument is shaped by historical circumstance: in this instance, she argues that Demosthenes' reputation as a past defender of democracy made it possible for his honours to blend in with the Athenians' contemporary efforts to re-establish their democracy.

Elizabeth Meyer's chapter offers a different perspective on the mnemonic function of inscribed monuments: she argues that the choice of a document's physical layout could harken back to the memory and importance of a society's earlier inscribing habits. Meyer's focus is on the Athenians' development of writing in columnar format, which began in the early fifth century, and suggests that this habit was inspired by inscribed posts set up on the Acropolis from the late sixth century (whose content corresponded broadly to thesmoi). Although Meyer is faced with the obvious problem of patterns in survival,7 her hypothesis that the columnar format was used in texts whose content overlapped with the concerns of earlier thesmoi is broadly compelling (although it is not applied as forcefully to the casualty lists from the Kerameikos). This chapter may encourage further recognition of the physical presentation of inscriptions in order to unlock their mnemonic function.

The final section, 'Writing Practices: Seeing, Perceiving and Acting with Inscriptions', concerns both the performative effect of inscribed texts and also motivations for monumentalizing the written word. The chapter by Vincent Debiais focuses on writing above, and leading to, medieval doors and passageways of religious structures, particularly the representation of the Holy City on a column capital in the Cloister of Moissac. Debiais highlights how the physical presence of this capital's text influenced the movements and even cognitive senses of its viewer: its position in front of the church door, for example, meant that its text signaled an entrance to sacred space. However, it was just one of the 80 capitals within the cloister and it would be useful to know more about how the Holy City capital fitted with the others, 80% of which were also inscribed (particularly as the influence that monuments could have on one another is a theme in several of this volume's chapters).

Rebecca Benefiel's chapter moves indoors in her exploration of wall inscriptions within domestic spaces at Pompeii, at the villa of San Marco at Stabiae, and at the villa of Poppaea at Oplontis. Although larger urban and rural domestic spaces display similar numbers of wall inscriptions, Benefiel observes a difference in their performative nature. At Pompeii, she suggests that wall inscriptions represent social interaction between residents and visitors: their placement in clusters within larger rooms and entrance halls suggest the inscriptions are communicating with one another. At the two rural villas, however, Benefiel notes a stronger presence of non-textual inscriptions such as drawings and numerical graffiti and a less- clustered spatial distribution and argues plausibly that this reflects a more ornamental than social function. One wonders if the type of person incising the text within urban and rural domestic spaces influenced its purpose.

Overall, this volume's loosely thematic approach succeeds in highlighting key similarities in the function of ancient and medieval incised texts, but the themes in each section are quite fluid. The editors note explicitly (p. 5) that several of the chapters could usefully contribute to more than one of the volume's subsections; inevitably, this does blur their focus. Nevertheless, this volume offers an important contribution to understanding incised texts and will be of value to students and scholars of various disciplines.

Table of Contents

Irene Berti, Katharina Bolle, Fanny Opdenhoff, Fabian Stroth. Introduction - 1
Theoretical and Methodical Approaches Around and About Writing
Ludger Lieb and Ricarda Wagner. Dead Writing Matters? Materiality and Presence in Medieval German Narrations of Epitaphs - 15
Alexander Starre. Social Texts: How to Account for the Cultural Work of Carrier Media - 27
Francisca Feraudi-Gruénais. Das synaktive Potential von Beischriften - 43
Text Spaces
Irene Berti und Péter Kató. Listen im öffentlichen Raum hellenistischer Städte - 79
Eeva-Maria Viitanen and Laura Nissin. Campaigning for Votes in Ancient Pompeii: Contextualizing Electoral Programmata - 117
Georgios Pallis. Messages from a Sacred Space: The Function of the Byzantine Sanctuary Barrier Inscriptions (9th-14th centuries) - 145
Inscribed Monuments and Memory
Julia L. Shear. Writing Past and Present in Hellenistic Athens: The Honours for Demosthenes - 161
Milena Melfi. The Stele of Polybios: Art, Text and Context in Second-Century BC Greece – 191
Elizabeth A. Meyer. Inscribing in Columns in Fifth-Century Athens - 205
Writing Practices: Seeing, Perceiving and Acting with Inscriptions
Andreas Rhoby. Text as Art? Byzantine Inscriptions and Their Display - 265
Vincent Debiais. Writing on Medieval Doors: The Surveyor Angel on the Moissac Capital (ca. 1100) - 285
Wilfried E. Keil. Von sichtbaren und verborgenen Signaturen an mittelalterlichen Kirchen - 309
Rebecca R. Benefiel. Urban and Suburban Attitudes to Writing on Walls? Pompeii and Environs - 353


1.   Recent publications assessing the inscribed word beyond its immediate textual content include: Zahra Newby and Ruth Leader-Newby (eds.), Art and Inscriptions in the Ancient World. Cambridge, 2007; Julia L. Shear, Polis and Revolution: Responding to Oligarchy in Classical Athens, Cambridge, 2011.
2.   This chapter is related to the subproject led by Ludger Lieb, 'Inscriptionality. Reflections of the Material Text Culture in the Literature of the 12th to 17th Centuries', which is part of the Collaborative Research Center 933, 'Materiality and Presence of Writing in Non-Typographic Societies' at the University of Heidelberg.
3.   See now Peter Liddel and Polly Low (eds.), Inscriptions and Their Uses in Greek and Latin Literature. Oxford, 2013, a collection of essays focussed on Greek and Latin literary attitudes to fictional and non-fictional epigraphical texts. For discussion of assembling a collection of inscriptions preserved in literary testimonia see pp. 4-6.
4.   For example: Robin G. Osborne, 'Inscribing Democracy' in R.G. Osborne and S. Goldhill (eds.), Performance Culture in Athenian Democracy, Cambridge, 1999: 341-58, Peter Liddel, 'The Places of Publication of Athenian State Decrees from the Fifth Century BC to the Third Century AD', ZPE 134 (2003): 79-93, Stephen D. Lambert Inscribed Athenian Laws and Decrees in the Age of Demosthenes. Historical Essays. Leiden, 2018: Chapter 1.
5.   For example, William Mack, Proxeny and Polis. Institutional Networks in the Ancient Greek World. Oxford, 2015 p. 240 (with Fig. 5.5, p. 241) observes that while the Athenians' inscription of honorific decrees declined from the late fourth century, inscribed decrees for citizens from this time were more common than those for non-citizens.
6.   The bibliography is extensive, but recent studies include Julia L. Shear, Polis and Revolution: Responding to Oligarchy in Classical Athens. Cambridge, 2011; Julia L. Shear, 'The Politics of the Past: Remembering Revolution at Athens', in J. Marincola, L. Llewellyn-Jones and C. Maciver (eds.), Greek Notions of the Past in the Archaic and Classical Eras. Edinburgh, 2012: 276-300; Polly Low, 'Remembering and Forgetting: The Creation and Destruction of Inscribed Monuments in Classical Athens', in J. Tumblety (ed.) Memory and History: Understanding Memory as Source and Subject. London and New York, 2013: 71-87; Stephen D. Lambert Inscribed Athenian Laws and Decrees in the Age of Demosthenes. Historical Essays. Leiden, 2018: Chapters 5 and 6.
7.   For extant inscribed stone posts from the Acropolis (and elsewhere within Athens and Attica) see Elizabeth A. Meyer, 'Posts, Kurbeis, Metopes: The Origins of the Athenian "Documentary" Stele', Hesperia 85 (2016): 323-383 (pp. 359-360, Table 1).

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Cillian O'Hogan, Prudentius and the Landscapes of Late Antiquity. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. Pp. viii, 197. ISBN 9780198749226. $100.00.

Reviewed by Rosario Moreno Soldevila, Universidad Pablo de Olavide de Sevilla (

Version at BMCR home site

Scholarly interest in Prudentius in recent decades has led to a better understanding of him as a skilled artist, and this book successfully follows this same path. By focusing on the whole oeuvre of this Christian poet, O'Hogan analyses the relationship between Prudentius' poetry and space—namely geography, journeys, urban and rural spaces, works of art, and architecture— and claims thatspace in Prudentius is more 'literary' than real, which emphasises the poet's bookishness. This approach differs radically from other contemporary studies, such as Hershkowitz's Prudentius, Spain, and Late Antique Christianity: Poetry, Visual Culture and the Cult of Martyrs (see my review in BMCR 2018.02.03), but proves to be equally illuminating, from a different perspective. O'Hogan also contextualises Prudentius' poetry within the framework of Late Antiquity, but he focuses mainly on the literature written by his contemporaries, as well as on the Scriptures and some illustrious pagan predecessors such as Vergil and Horace. As the author points out in the "Introduction", this book outlines "how Prudentius' poetry consistently shies away from engagement with reality, and retreats into descriptions of the world that owe more to biblical and classical precedents than they do to lived experience" (2). This book is about poetry, about how Prudentius is a "complex and brilliant" (166) poet who deserves attention for his artistic qualities. By accompanying O'Hogan on this fascinating literary journey, one can grasp the intricacy and richness of Prudentius' work.

After presenting the main objective of the book, the introduction offers a succinct summary of recent research on Prudentius that helps to contextualise this study, since little attention had been paid so far to "his descriptions of geography and space, and their debt to Prudentius' literary and theological training" (4); there is also a brief survey on scholarship about geography in Late Antiquity. Next, there is a concise outline of the volume, which is divided into five chapters, each exploring a different aspect of space.

Chapter 1 ("Reading as a Journey") approaches the Peristephanon as a kind of map or itinerary "through which the reader can travel" (9), and cogently argues that the diverse arrangements of the poems in the manuscript tradition may be viewed as the result of different reader responses in spatial terms. After surveying the manuscript tradition of the Peristephanon and the different interpretations of its diverse arrangement, O'Hogan studies the relationship between reading, literature, and space in Late Antiquity, suggesting that this collection of martyr hymns could offer the reader the possibility of "pilgrimage by proxy" (19). In the following subsection, the physical outlook of the collection is compared to the form of the world, further emphasising the idea of the book as space through which the reader can travel. All these arguments lead to a suggestive conclusion: "It is reasonable to see a clear geographical organization in the collection" (32). Chapter 2 ("Intertextual Journeys") deals with intertextuality in three poems of the Peristephanon (3, 11, and 9), suggesting that Prudentius' landscapes recall literary precedents in such a way that actual experience of the places is effaced in favour of more abstract conceptualisations that move the reader emotionally. Thus, Eulalia's night journey is read in light of certain biblical episodes, but also of some passages of the Aeneid, namely the description of the Sibyl of Cumae, the episode of Nisus and Euryalus, and Aeneas' descent into hell, which is also key to understanding the narrator's katabasis to Hippolytus' tomb in Peristephanon 11, whereas the Vergilian intertext is ingeniously combined with Apuleius' Metamorphoses in the hymn devoted to Cassian. O'Hogan concludes that "[t]he fourth- century Roman Landscape is another version of the mythic landscapes of the Aeneid, and the actions of the Christian martyrs are updated accounts of the figures of Roman literary heritage" (70).

Chapter 3 ("Urban Space and Roman History") begins with an introduction about how early Christianity conceived the city, citizenship, and urban space. Martyrs somehow helped solve the tension between Romanness and Christianity, since they are presented as "civic saviours" (77), "as purifying, renewing and refounding their native cities, thus emphasizing both continuity with the pagan past and break with that past" (75). Prudentius highlights this connection at the very beginning of each poem in the Peristephanon, where both the martyrs and their cities are eulogised in connection with each other. As regards urban landscapes, these are not depicted in detail: it is not the physical outline of the city that matters, since "cities are presented as significant almost exclusively because of the presence of martyr relics within them" (82). Apart from their purifying and edifying function, martyrs symbolically help to renew and refound their localities as Christian cities and relocate them "on the map of a Christian empire" (84). The chapter continues with the exploration of processions and celebrations of martyrs in the urban communities, as a way of reinforcing both their religious and civic identity, and establishing a new relationship with time through a Christian calendar that counterbalances the Roman calendar. Yet, this is not just a local phenomenon, for reading universalises the celebration of the martyrs: "while martyrs and martyrdom are firmly rooted in locality, they can be spread across the continents by means of praise and worship" (89). The final part of this chapter moves from the Peristephanon into the vague landscapes of the Psychomachia: O'Hogan stresses the fact that this battle "takes place in a non-space", unidentifiable and with "no parallel in earlier Latin epic" (95). In the same way as martyrs are both "local heroes" and "universal exemplars" (96), the deliberately unspecific nature of the landscape in the allegorical poem shows a tendency towards abstraction that emphasises the universality of Prudentius' message.

Chapter 4 ("Pastoral and Rural Spaces") moves into the realm of space idealisation, inasmuch as rural spaces in Prudentius' poems blend the pastoral tradition with the biblical idea of paradise. In the first section ("Endelechius and Christian Pastoral"), O'Hogan explores the different early Christian reactions to bucolic poetry, especially to Vergil, to conclude that "the association of Vergil, and specifically the fourth Eclogue, with Christian ideas of the good shepherd and Jewish prophecy was widespread between the third and fifth centuries, even if the association was not always considered an appropriate one" (106). With this idea in mind, O'Hogan analyses Endelechius' pastoral poem as a reflection on the dichotomy between the city and the countryside, since the spread of the Christian faith was more successful in urban than in rural spaces. The adherence of country people to previous (pagan) forms of worship is also crucial for understanding Prudentius' emphasis on farming and agriculture in Contra orationem Symmachi: while rejecting the do ut des motivation of pagan religion, he stresses the idea that Christian faith and prayer have no effect on agriculture, but help the faithful live a better spiritual life despite the harshness of labour: by successfully combining both classical and biblical texts, he "presents an image of the ideal farmer as one who is content with little and whose Christian faith provides him with solace in times of need" (115). The following section ("Visions of Heaven") focuses on the Cathemerinon and its depiction of heavenly spaces and experiences: the description of paradise landscapes help to represent the triumph of Christianity over the harshness and difficulties of human life. As in the previous chapter, the final section is devoted to the Psychomachia, which, as stated previously, epitomises Prudentius' tendency towards abstraction and his withdrawal from real spaces, with an analysis of the allegory of "the temple of the soul", a blending of biblical and Vergilian material.

Chapter 5 ("Describing Art") focuses on constructed places and architecture. The main idea of this section is the problematic, potentially misleading nature of art as a way of approaching Christian faith and doctrine, and the superiority of language, which, paradoxically, is also fallible and liable for misinterpretation and incompleteness. The human word is unable to encompass the divine, but, according to O'Hogan, Prudentius "demonstrates how verbal interpretation always trumps visual representation" (135). Prudentius' attacks on idolatry and the ekphraseis of Peristephanon 9 and 11 are related to late antique ideas and controversies regarding the potential dangers of art, including Christian art, which could be useful as a didactic instrument for the illiterate, but also ambiguous and misleading if not provided with the suitable verbal explanations. Finally, in "Ambiguous architecture", O'Hogan decodes the intertextual echoes in the description of different religious buildings in the Peristephanon (the basilica of Eulalia, the church dedicated to Hippolytus, the baptistery of Peter, and the basilica of Paul), hinting at "uneasiness about overly ornate sites of worship" (156) and probably at a tacit criticism of excessive extravagance in religious buildings: "Prudentius presents himself as an ascetic warrior, a 'cheap vessel' (Ep. 26) far removed from his wealthier contemporaries, who embarked upon opulent building projects to express their piety" (164).

This book is rounded off with a "Conclusion", a comprehensive "Bibliography", an "Index locorum", and a "General index". The line of argument is always clear, cogent and well founded, and the author usually guides the reader through the different sections and provides conclusions to almost every chapter and subchapter, the result being a very coherent product. Furthermore, the volume is excellently produced. Yet, one possible ground for improvement could be the relatively limited set of classical authors taken into account for the analysis. Perhaps more attention could have been paid to other classical Latin writers beyond the ever-present Vergil: in fact, in his state of the art at the beginning of the book, O'Hogan regrets the absence of "more sustained and detailed studies of Prudentius' relationship to authors besides the usual trio of Vergil, Horace and Ausonius" (4). It is true that the presence of Horace, Ovid and, most significantly, Apuleius is more than anecdotal in this volume, and that Catullus, Ennius, Juvenal, Lucretius, Pliny the Younger, and Sallust are cited at least once, but one wonders whether a closer look at these and other authors (for instance other bucolic and epic poets) might have reinforced the argumentation. This could be, in any case, a line of research for future works.

O'Hogan's final remark deserves praise: "I am conscious of how much remains unsaid in my own work, but I hope that at the very least I will have added something1 to the wider understanding of just how complex and brilliant a poet he is" (166). Definitely O'Hogan has added more than "something": his book is full of enlightening ideas, and combines an original approach with a thorough knowledge of scholarship and literature, while encouraging future research. All in all, this book is instructive, enjoyable and truly commendable.2


1.   My own italics.
2.   This review forms part of the Research Project FFI2014-56798-P, funded by the Spanish Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Competitividad.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018


Sinclair Bell, Alexandra A. Carpino (ed.), A Companion to the Etruscans. Blackwell companions to the ancient world. Oxford; Chichester; Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2016. Pp. 528. ISBN 9781118352748. $195.00.

Reviewed by Valeria Riedemann Lorca, School of Archaeology, University of Oxford (

Version at BMCR home site

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

This volume is an important contribution to the growing number of publications and exhibitions in Etruscan art and archaeology in recent years. In the case of the former, the trend has been marked by a collection of essays on different aspects of Etruscan culture by a large number of contributors gathered in a single volume. I am here specifically referring to Jean MacIntosh Turfa's (ed.) The Etruscan World and, most recently, to the leading publication by Alessandro Naso's (ed.) Etruscology. 1 In this context, the book edited by Sinclair Bell and Alexandra Carpino is not different than the others, but it stands out in that its purpose is not to provide a comprehensive picture of the Etruscans. Instead, this volume offers fresh perspectives and up-to-date insights that scholars and graduate students in the field will certainly appreciate.

Among its many outstanding contributions (28 authors over 30 essays), a few points deserve particular attention. First, it reassesses and evaluates traditional topics like funerary and domestic architecture, tomb painting, ceramics, and sculpture, as well as new ones such as textile archaeology. Second, some papers offer new perspectives on topics that still need further investigation, such as the social function of jewellery and the misconceptions behind the Greek and Roman views on the Etruscans. Third, it presents substantial and innovative theoretical discussions on, for example, the material culture of rituals (Corinna Riva), the reception of Greek ponderation – the distribution of the body weight for standing statues– (Francesco De Angelis), and the uses of violent images in Etruria (Alexandra Carpino).

The volume is divided into five parts followed by an Appendix that reviews the Etruscan art displayed in North American museums, and an Index. Like other similar publications of collected studies on a broad subject, the variety of topics discussed in each part is not always clearly organised. For example, Part III: "Evidence in Context" starts with a discussion of Etruscan skeletal biology. Then it moves to language, followed by five chapters discussing different aspects of material culture, and three chapters discussing literary sources. A division of Part III into sub-areas would have made the section clearer to the reader. Some of the essays are not original. Margarita Gleba and Stephan Steingräber, for example, present updated versions of essays already published in similar editions. 2 Furthermore, the informed reader would have expected a more original approach –rather than condensed summaries– of familiar topics in the field such as language and myths. Thematic overlaps are also present: Gunter's discussion in Part IV does not really add much to Camporeale's in Part II, for instance. Cross-references by the contributors to other chapters in the book are frequent, inviting a reader to explore the volume further.

In Part I (History), Simon Stoddart examines the sociopolitical transformations that shaped the Etruscans' identity from the Bronze Age and into the first Iron Age. Skylar Nail then expands further on the expression and negotiation of Etruscan identity up to the end of the Classical Period. This chapter essay is followed by Letizia Ceccarelli's discussion on some Roman strategies adopted during the Romanization of Etruria such as road infrastructure, the establishment of colonies, and the creation of alliances with the ruling Etruscan elite which conveyed linguistic, religious, and iconographic changes.

Part II (Geography, Urbanization, and Space) centres on the significant aspects of Etruscan material culture, identity, and their prominence in Central Italy and the Mediterranean. In Chapters 4 and 5, Stoddart discusses the key landscape features of Tyrrhenian central Italy and the relationship between rural and urban landscapes from the Orientalising period onward. Giovannangelo Camporeale examines the sources of evidence to show how maritime trade contributed to significant cultural changes and how the Etruscans' wealth was inexorably linked to the sea. Next, an illuminating study by C. Riva reconsiders the evidence for rituals –sometimes interpreted as foundation rites– that occurred during the early phases of Etruscan urbanism. She concludes that the later Roman sources often used as evidence are more informative about the foundation of Roman, rather than Etruscan, colonies. Other essays provide updated synopses of particular sites, such as Poggio Civitate (Anthony Tuck) and current excavations (Claudio Bizzarri). The final chapters of this section (10, 11, and 12) cover aspects of the Etruscans' domestic (Bizzarri and David Soren), funerary (S. Steingräber), and sacred spaces (Gregory Warden). Among them, Steingräber's call for the necessity of a comprehensive handbook of all Etruscan cemeteries, tombs and tomb architecture, is worthy of special consideration.

Part III (Evidence in Context) opens the discussion with two chapters on the long-standing question of the Etruscans' origins, followed by five papers that examine diverse art forms in context. Three final chapters reconsider the ancient literary sources that mention the Etruscans. Marshall Becker demonstrates that, given the genetic diversity of their population and the lack of high-quality skeletal material, modern DNA studies are unreliable sources for a precise answer to this question. A different sort of evidence is discussed by Rex Wallace in his analysis of the Etruscans' language, alphabet and linguistic affiliation. While philological analysis shows that Etruscan, Lemnian and Raetic (a language spoken in the sub-Alpine regions of eastern Italy) belong to the same family of languages, it does not provide an answer to the question of the Etruscans' origins. Different art forms are discussed by Philip Perkins (bucchero), Lisa Pieraccini (wall painting), Helen Nagy (votives), and Alexis Castor (jewellery). Gleba's on textiles, a subject introduced by the author in other recent compendia, deserves particular attention because it is a relatively new field in Etruscan archaeology. 3 After discussing some data generated by new scientific methods to understand the extant textiles' chronology and provenance better, Gleba focuses on the different contexts of textile production and the information they give us about Etruscan women's contributions to ancient economy. The papers that examine the ancient literary sources in this volume stand as significant contributions to Etruscan studies on account of their originality and rewarding conclusions. In Chapter 20, Hilary Becker distinguishes two common topoi in many Greek and Roman authors who wrote about the Etruscans: wealth and decadence. She argues that constructions of the Etruscans based on these authors' portrayals were deliberate distortions designed to emphasise not Etruscan, but Greco-Roman real life. Next, Gretchen Meyers discusses the literary sources that mention the famous Etruscan queen Tanaquil, considering both her Etruscan and Roman identities, as well as Etruscan women's actual role in the production of ceremonial textiles. Finally, in Chapter 22, Jean MacIntosh Turfa reconsiders some of the literary conventions behind the obesus etruscus. By comparison to archaeological and artistic evidence, she concludes that these later portrayals of the Etruscans do not, in fact, reflect the majority of the members of its society.

Part IV (Art, Society, and Culture) includes papers on some well-known subjects in Etruscan art, its interaction with the Eastern Mediterranean (Ann Gunter), the active role of Etruscan artists (Jocelyn Penny Small), and the iconography of myth (Ingrid Krauskopf). However, two other outstanding papers are worth mentioning here in more detail. In addressing the use of ponderation in different media and its reception in Etruria, De Angelis argues against the irreconcilable distinction between "originality and derivation" in most approaches to Etruscan art. Instead, he concludes that this particular stylistic feature was both an "immediate and sensorial" response to the reception of Greek art in Etruria. This Etruscan stylistic response is, in fact, far from being as simple or unsophisticated as traditionally considered (p. 382). Alexandra Carpino's discusses the different uses and contexts of violent images in Etruria. She demonstrates that some Greek tragic stories were selected not because the Etruscans had a "taste" for fierce visual representations, but because these particular subjects effectively communicated particular beliefs, values, and concerns about human behaviour. She also clarifies that the instances of this type of imagery are few and mostly confined to specific contexts (i.e., religious and funerary), which is indicative of other purposes, probably in connection with the ritual needs of the dead, rather than a desire for bloody depictions.

Part V (The Etruscans' Legacy and Contemporary Issues), centres on the theme of Etruscan studies and their reception. Ingrid Rowland highlights Annius of Viterbo's (1437-1502) importance in the groundwork and reception of the discipline during his time. Etruscan forgeries are the subject of Chapter 29. After discussing the motivation for their production, Richard De Puma explains how some well-known falsifications have inaccurately shaped our notions on the Etruscans. Finally, Gordon Lobay discusses some of the present and past problems concerning the looting and trade of antiquities in Italy and reviews the international regulations created to prevent the illicit traffic of archaeological findings.

Overall, the volume is carefully edited, with plenty of cross-references and few typos. Greek and Latin texts are presented in translation, but Etruscan inscriptions are bilingual. A full list of references and a "Guide to Further Reading" usefully complement each chapter. There are seven high-quality inserts for coloured versions of some of the figures in the text, but the numerous black-and-white photographs are not always clear. For example, the engraved mirror on p. 96 (Fig. 7.4) is almost illegible –a drawing next to it would have been more informative. The topographic map on p. 113 (Fig. 8.4) is impractical as colours are lost in its black-and-white version; the same applies to the map on p. 68 (Fig. 6.1).

To conclude, this volume represents a significant effort to bring together new work and novel approaches on the Etruscans. Although prior knowledge of the main issues in Etruscan studies is recommended, the book's format makes it accessible to a broad audience as well. It would be a welcome addition to any Classics and archaeology libraries and will become undoubtedly a source of inspiration for scholars and students with interest in Etruria.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations viii
List of Tables xv
Notes on Contributors xvi
Acknowledgements xx
Map of Etruria xxi
Alexandra A. Carpino and Sinclair Bell, Introduction xxii-xxvii
Part I History 1
1. Simon Stoddart, Beginnings: Protovillanovan and Villanovan Etruria 3-14
2. Skylar Nail, Materializing the Etruscans: The Expression of Negotiation of Identity during the Orientalizing, Archaic, and Classical Periods 15-27
3. Letizia Ceccarelli, The Romanization of Etruria 28-40
Part II Geography, Urbanization, and Space 41
4. Simon Stoddart, Etruscan Italy: Physical Geography and Environment 43-54
5. Simon Stoddart, City and Countryside 55-66
6. Giovannangelo Camporeale, The Etruscans and the Mediterranean 67-86
7. Corinna Riva, Urbanization and Foundation Rites: The Material Culture of Rituals at the Heart and the Margins of Etruscan Early Cities 87-104
8. Anthony S. Tuck, Poggio Civitate: Community Form in Inland Etruria 105-116
9. Claudio Bizzarri, Southern and Inner Etruria: Benchmark Sites and Current Excavations 117-128
10. Claudio Bizzarri and David Soren, Etruscan Domestic Architecture, Hydraulic Engineering, and Water Management Technologies: Innovations and Legacy to Rome 129-145
11. Stephan Steingräber, Rock Tombs and the World of the Etruscan Necropoleis: Recent Discoveries, Research and Interpretations 146-161
12. P. Gregory Warden, Communicating with Gods: Sacred Space in Etruria 162-178
Part III Evidence in Context 179
13. Marshall J. Becker, Etruscan Skeletal Biology and Etruscan Origins 181-202
14. Rex E. Wallace, Language, Alphabet and Linguistic Affiliation 203-224
15. Philip Perkins, Bucchero in Context 224-236
16. Margarita Gleba, Etruscan Textiles in Context 237-246
17. Lisa C. Pieraccini, Etruscan Wall Paintings: Insights, Innovations, and Legacy 247-260
18. Helen Nagy, Votives in their Larger Religious Context 261-274
19. Alexis Q. Castor, Etruscan Jewelry and Identity 275-292
20. Hilary Becker, Luxuria prolapsa est: Etruscan Wealth and Decadence 293-304
21. Gretchen E. Meyers, Tanaquil: The Conception and Construction of an Etruscan Matron 305-320
22. Jean MacIntosh Turfa, The Obesus Etruscus: Can the Trope be True? 321-335
Part IV Art, Society, and Culture 337
23. Ann C. Gunter, The Etruscans, Greek Art, and the Near East 339-354
24. Jocelyn Penny Small, Etruscan Artists 353-367
25. Francesco de Angelis, Etruscan Bodies and Greek Ponderation: Anthropology and Artistic Form 368-387
26. Ingrid Krauskopf, Myth in Etruria 388-409
27. Alexandra A. Carpino, The "Taste" for Violence in Etruscan Art: Debunking the Myth 410-430
Part V The Etruscan Legacy and Contemporary Issues 431
28. Ingrid D. Rowland, Annius of Viterbo and the Beginning of Etruscan Studies 433-445
29. Richard Daniel De Puma, Tyrrhenian Sirens: The Seductive Song of Etruscan Forgeries 446-457
30. Gordon Lobay, Looting and the Antiquities Trade 458-474
Richard Daniel De Puma, Appendix: Etruscan Art in North American Museum 477-482
Index 483-493


1.   Jean MacIntosh Turfa (ed.), The Etruscan World. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. Alessandro Nasso (ed.), Etruscology. Boston; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2017.
2.   See Gleba's and Steingräber's contributions in MacIntosh Turfa 2013.
3.   Gleba, M. 2013. "The World of Etruscan Textiles", in J. MacIntosh Turfa (ed.), Ch. 42; Ead. 2017. "Textiles and Dress", in A. Naso (ed.), Ch. 29. ​

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Stephen Ridd, Communication, Love, and Death in Homer and Virgil: An Introduction. Oklahoma Series in Classical Culture, 54. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2017. Pp. 258. ISBN 9780806157290. $29.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Katherine R. De Boer, Indiana University (

Version at BMCR home site


Ridd's intention in this book is to offer a series of translations and close readings of passages from the Iliad, the Aeneid, and the Odyssey that treat the themes of communication, love, and death. These subjects were chosen because, as the author states, they "respond to three deeply ingrained human needs: the need to create and share a narrative, the need to love and be loved by another, and the need to come to terms with the death of loved ones and ultimately with one's own death" (6). These are certainly all prominent and important themes of the poems, and Ridd's choice of focus allows him to range widely over all three epics and to offer engaging readings of some of the poems' best-known episodes, as well as less prominent ones.

Ridd's aim is not to provide a sustained scholarly argument or interpretation of any of these poems. The book seems designed for students—all quotations are given in English translation, with no corresponding Latin or Greek, and many of the points raised will be familiar even to graduate students. I doubt, however, that many non-majors or students reading the poems for the first time will have the knowledge or the motivation to follow some of Ridd's more complex references. For example, the discussion of Demodocus' song in Odyssey 8 concludes, "After the moment of bad temper on the sports field, the outcome of Demodokos's story can be felt to have a special relish for Odysseus. Shown here is the victory of cunning (Odyssey 8.276, 281-282, 317) over speed of foot (Odyssey 8.329-32), the victory of the defining characteristic of Odysseus himself (Odyssey 9.19-20) over that of the other superhero, swift-footed Achilleus, with whom Demodokos earlier couples him (Odyssey 8.75)" (30-31). The athletic competitions earlier in Book 8 have not been quoted or described, so the novice reader must be willing to trace these various references back to the original text. The paragraph continues with references to the story of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra, the commentary of the gods in the Ares-Aphrodite story, and Odysseus' interactions with Medon during the mnēsterephonia. It is difficult to see how an introductory student could easily follow this wide-ranging discussion, which requires a fairly high level of familiarity with the poem. The book will probably be of most use to students with some knowledge of Latin or Greek, but little experience in the interpretative debates surrounding these poems—a fairly narrow readership.

Ridd interweaves the book's three stated themes, but the first three chapters are focused on communication, particularly in song (Singing with the Aid of the Muse(s), Singing and Celebration, and Supernatural Singing), the next three chapters are focused on love and relationships (Sons and Mothers, Helen and the Men in Her Life, and Parting), and the final two chapters are focused on death (Communicating with the Dead, and Deaths and Endings). The chapters on song seemed to me the least compelling, and the connections drawn between passages here often seemed more superficial than those proposed in the latter half of the book. For example, the Sirens of the Odyssey (Od. 12.39-46) are treated alongside the singing and dancing of the dead in Vergil's Elysium (Aen. 6.644-47) as instances of "supernatural singing." Ridd attempts to link the two passages with the conclusion that "the mortal travelers' experience of the beauty of these supernatural sounds is a part of their journey rather than an obstacle to its completion" (60). This association feels forced, and I did not find the comparison drawn between these experiences of "supernatural singing" to illuminate either. Nonetheless, Ridd's comments are generally engaging and his choice of passages generally interesting. Of course, as Ridd acknowledges, this choice is largely based on personal interest (6), and some readers will have different preferences—I for one would have liked to see Euryalus mentioned in the chapter on "Sons and Mothers." Yet Ridd's selections are broadly useful in directing the reader's attention to the presence of major themes even in more minor episodes.

The exclusive focus on the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid leaves some comparative lacunae. For example, the author includes, in his first section on "Three Openings and a Re-Opening," discussion of the invocation to Erato in Aeneid 7.37-45. Ridd writes "Neither the Iliad nor the Odyssey has a clearly marked halfway point in its narrative, but the Aeneid, devised from the start in the form of twelve distinct books, does contain such a structural break: a reopening…. By her presence at this carefully controlled turning point in the narrative, Erato suggests a different nuance in the presentation of what is the traditional, Iliadic subject matter of 'kings, fighting, death, and proud spirits" (12-13). There is no mention of the Apollonian source of this second invocation, nor of the dissonance created by Vergil's transference of the motif from a clearly "erotic" context in Apollonius' version (Μηδείης ὑπ᾽ ἔρωτι, Arg. 3.3) to the realm of horrida bella (Aen. 7.40). Perhaps Ridd does not want to confuse students with an endless series of pre-texts and intertexts. Yet by omitting Apollonius, he implies that Vergil's invocation to Erato is his own innovation and departure from Homeric tradition, and this implication is simply false.

Similarly, the author's references to previous scholarship are idiosyncratic to say the least. Ridd states in the introduction that he includes some suggestions for further reading, but refers only to works in English and in book form (4). He therefore includes chapters appearing in edited volumes, but not journal articles, a choice that seems arbitrary and excludes much excellent work on all three poems. Even within these restrictions, however, there are some odd omissions. For example, Marilyn Arthur Katz, Gian Biagio Conte, Nicholas Horsfall, Alison Keith, Douglas Olson, Michael Putnam, Richard Martin, Ruth Scodel, and W. Gregory Thalmann appear nowhere in the bibliography. Despite Ridd's chapter on "Helen and the Men in Her Life," Ruby Blondell's 2013 study of Helen is not referenced, an unfortunate absence given that it is particularly accessible to non-specialists. Ridd does not suggest that his citations are meant to be exhaustive, but the omission of some very prominent recent scholarship on these poems will hamper students wishing to explore further. It should also be noted that the citation style may be confusing: titles are listed according to the dates of their most recent appearance (whether in new editions or collected volumes) with no indication that some are reprints. So for example, Sheila Murnaghan's Disguise and Recognition in the Odyssey (first edition 1987) is cited throughout as Murnaghan 2011 (and appears to have been omitted from the bibliography) while Helene Foley's 1978 article "Reverse Similes and Sex Roles in the Odyssey" is cited only as Foley 2009, the publication year of the Oxford Readings in Classical Studies volume in which it was reprinted.. This may have been an editorial rather than an authorial choice, but the effect is misleading, especially for students unfamiliar with the scholarly history on these poems.

One final issue: the book does not include an index locorum, a major oversight in a work of this kind, and one that will certainly inconvenience readers trying to track down particular passages.

Overall, this book offers engaging and accessible comparative readings of Homer and Vergil. It is not designed for specialists, but will be useful to students who are new to intertextual and narratological approaches to ancient literature. It may also be helpful for high school Latin teachers who are less familiar with the Homeric epics but wish to introduce their students to some of the Greek passages that have been adopted and adapted by Vergil. The tone is not overtly didactic; indeed, Ridd describes his readings as "personal" (6) and his appreciation for the poems is evident on every page. I cannot recommend the book either to novices or to experts, but intermediate students of the epic tradition, particularly those with some knowledge of Latin or Greek and a desire to explore these texts in more detail, will find this a valuable introduction to comparative readings of ancient epic.

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