Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Simone Follet, Philostrate sur les héros. Collection des universités de France. Série grecque, 531. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2017. Pp. cciv, 348 (2-139 double); 3 p. of plates. ISBN 9782251006178. €65,00 (pb).

Reviewed by Gerard Boter, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (

Version at BMCR home site


After a long period of neglect, Philostratus' charming dialogue Heroicus has been receiving a lot of scholarly attention ever since the seventies of the past century. The first modern critical edition was published by Ludo de Lannoy in 1977.1 In 2006, Peter Grossardt published his monumental translation with commentary,2 which in 2014 was followed by Jeffrey Rusten's translation in the Loeb series (see BMCR 2014.12.33).3 To these works is now added the impressive Budé edition by Simone Follet. To be sure, Follet cannot be accused of hastiness: her edition is a revised version of her thèse de troisième cycle, presented at the Sorbonne in 1968. In accordance with the format of the recent generation of Budé editions her book contains an introduction,4 the Greek text with full critical apparatus, a French translation, a voluminous series of notes, and an index nominum. The introduction is as elaborate as one might wish for; the notes offer helpful information, containing many references to works both ancient and modern. In this review I will concentrate on the edition of the Greek text and the French translation.

As Follet explains, de Lannoy was preparing his edition in the same period in which she was preparing hers (p. clxxvi). Obviously, she has maintained the format of her 1968 edition (which I have not been able to consult), as can be gathered from the sigla she uses and her segmentation of the text. Follet's sigla differ from those employed by de Lannoy, which complicates comparison of the apparatuses of the two editions. As regards the division of the text, Follet returns to the 'découpage traditionnel', by which she means the division of the text into a preface (indicated as chapter 0 by Follet) and nineteen chapters (divided into sections, which Follet has divided into subsections) of Olearius' edition.5 In itself, it was a wise decision to divide the text into chapters because the editions before and after Olearius do not have any division at all. However, it would have been better if Follet had adopted the division in de Lannoy's 1977 edition, which is in general use nowadays. Follet contents herself to print de Lannoy's chapter numbers in the margin (without his section numbers), along with the page numbers of Olearius and of Kayser's editio minor.6 This makes it very cumbersome to look up a given passage in her edition. In practice, the reader must have both de Lannoy's and Follet's edition on their desk in order to quickly find a passage to which reference is made in the more recent secondary literature. Moreover, in Follet's edition the chapter- and section-numbers are not printed in the headers of the pages so that navigation in the book is very tiresome. In this review, I will use Follet's division of the text.

Both de Lannoy and Follet postulate a bifid stemma but Follet's stemma differs from de Lannoy's in a number of respects. Thus Follet states without proof that Laurentianus 58.23 and Vaticanus gr. 953 derive from Marcianus gr. XI.15 (pp. clxxxiii and clxxxvii respectively), while de Lannoy regards them as gemelli of the Marcianus. The most important difference consists in the position of the oldest manuscript, Laurentianus 58.32 (de Lannoy F = Follet E; I will use Follet's sigla throughout). According to de Lannoy E belongs to the first family (Follet's Ψ,7 de Lannoy's recensio Laurentiana); Follet places it in the other family (Follet's Φ and Σ; de Lannoy's recensio Parisina), as a derivative of Φ, the reconstructed source of E and of the hyparchetype of three other manuscripts. Neither de Lannoy nor Follet give a full-scale discussion of the transmission.8 For the position of E, I rely on the information given by de Lannoy (p. viii) and Follet (pp. cxxxix-cxl). On balance, I am inclined to side with Follet. The conjunctive errors of E and the other members of the recensio Laurentiana adduced by de Lannoy can hardly count as such. Thus in 0.1.9 E's original ἀποδίδωμι was corrected to ἀποδίδομαι by the first hand so that ἀποδίδωμι cannot count as a conjunctive error; at 19.9.3 οἵου may well be the authentic reading against οἷον; and at 9.17.8 ἶσος for ἴσος tells us nothing. On the other hand, Follet quotes some passages in which ΦΣ (including E) share a significant error. At 7.2 Ψ has φρονηματώδει against φρονιμώδει of ΦΣ; φρονηματώδης occurs in two other passages in Philostratus whereas φρονιμώδης is not attested anywhere else in extant Greek literature. At 10.3.1 Ψ's ἐπ' ἐκκλησίας is lectio difficilior against ΦΣ's ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ. At 11.3.9 Follet accepts Ψ's ἐν τοῖς μέσοις τῶν Ἀχαιῶν: against Grossardt's defense of the omission of these words in ΦΣ (Grossardt 629), Follet rightly objects that Grossardt 'est contraint d'ajouter un adjectif dans sa traduction ['beachtlicher'] pour donner un sens au texte mutilé'. At 18.3.1 Ψ's καὶ τὰ εἴδη is superior to Φ's ᾔδει and Σ's ᾔδη: throughout the Heroicus much attention is paid to the appearance of the heroes and ᾔδει is premature in view of the immediately following συνελέξατο.9

Although I think that Follet is right for following Ψ in a number of passages, there are other passages where she is not. Here are some instances. At 3.2.4 Follet reads μεγαλοφρονήσας with one branch of Ψ's derivatives, the other branch having μέγα φρονήσας, while ΦΣ read φρονήσας: as Grossardt 519 illustrates, single φρονεῖν is an abridged form of the classical μέγα φρονέω; the variant readings in Ψ's descendants betray interpolation. At 6.3 Ψ's τοῖς Ἀργείοις probably results from a gloss on ΦΣ's τούτοις. At 11.1.2 Follet reads σὺν αὐτῷ τὸ Ἴλιον with Ψ against ΦΣ's αὐτῷ Ἰλίῳ, arguing that 'donner à αὐτῷ Ἰλίῳ une valeur comitative n'est pas satisfaisant, car le personnage accompagné devrait être Télamon, non Laomédon'; but this use of the dative with αὐτός, 'and took him, Ilion and all,' is also found in Her. 19.8.1: τοὺς ἀπολλυμένους αὐτοῖς ἅρμασιν, 'les guerriers anéantis avec leur char.' At 11.2.1 ΦΣ have καὶ ἁπλῶς βλέψαντι, while the derivatives of Ψ have either καὶ ἁπλῶς ἐς αὐτὸν βλέψαντι (printed by Follet) or καὶ ἁπλῶς βλέψαντι ἐς αὐτόν: ἐς αὐτόν is unnecessary and the different position of the words in the two branches of Ψ is already a sign of interpolation. At 19.12.9 Follet reads λαμπρῶν γὰρ δὴ ἔτυχε τῶν ἐνταφίων with Ψ, while the other family omits τῶν ἐνταφίων: the article is impossible here, which shows that τῶν ἐνταφίων stems from a gloss.

To the present (Dutch) reviewer the French translation makes for pleasant reading. However, I noted a few slips. For instance, at 3.4.8 τῶν ἀμφὶ Δηΐφοβόν τε καὶ Εὔφορβον is translated as 'les Dèiphobes et les Euphorbes'; obviously, Follet is unaware of the idiom οἱ περὶ/ἀμφὶ Χ = X; the correct translation therefore is 'Dèiphobe et Euphorbe'.10 At 10.1.3 Follet translates διῄειν ἄν as 'je pourrais rappeler' as if it were a potential optative instead of an irrealis.

In some passages, Follet's translation is not in accordance with her Greek text. At 1.4.7 Follet's translation runs: 'C'est sans doute le moment d'en venir là, si tes doutes ont disparu.' Now 'si tes doutes ont disparu' only makes sense if spoken by the Vinedresser to the Phoenician, but in Follet's text the words are spoken by the Phoenician to the Vinedresser, so 'tes' should be 'mes'. Moreover, the conditional conjunction 'si' is out of place: the Phoenician cannot say about himself 'si mes doutes ont disparu'. The correct translation is 'maintenant que mes doutes ont disparu' ('nachdem ich keine Zweifel mehr daran hege', Grossardt). Follet's translation appears to be based on the text of the editions before Kayser: Φοῖν. Καιρὸς γάρ που ἐπ' ἐκεῖνα ἥκειν. Ἀμπελ. Ἄκουε, ξένε, μηκέτ' ἀπιστούμενα περὶ τῶν τοιούτων. At 6.3 Follet reads τοῖς Ἀργείοις with Ψ against τούτοις of ΦΣ; she translates 'sur eux'. t 11.2 Follet adds ἐς αὐτόν to καὶ ἁπλῶς βλέψαντι with Ψ (cf. above), but she leaves ἐς αὐτόν untranslated: 'dès le premier coup d'oeil'. At 19.14.7 Follet translates ἔστ' ἂν αἴσιον (the reading of Ψ) τὸ ἐσπλεῦσαι γένηται as 'jusqu'au moment où il peut entrer au port sans impiété'. But 'sans impiété' is the translation of ὅσιον (the reading of the other family). In her note Follet writes: 'Pour αἴσιος « de bon augure », voir Antoninus Liberalis, 11, 10.'

Follet prints a number of conjectures by earlier scholars in her text, recording others in the apparatus. In some cases a conjecture mentioned in the apparatus should have been printed in the text, e.g. at 2.20.11, διαφυγόντα δὲ αὐτὸν τὰ ἐκεῖ πάθη ἀπώλεσεν αὐτῇ Ἰθάκῃ ὕστερον, where Reiske was the first to add <ἐν> before αὐτῇ Ἰθάκῃ: the omission of ἐν is easily explained as the result of haplography after ἀπώλεσεν. From Homer onward, Ἰθάκῃ with locative meaning is always accompanied by ἐν: ἐν Ἰθάκῃ is also found in Heroicus 9.2.2. Follet prints some conjectures of her own. The most important of these are 2.10.5, ἀγωνοθετοῦσιν for ἀγῶνα θύουσιν, and 19.14.9, καὶ δι' ἑνάτου (sic) ἔτους for καθ' ἕκαστον ἔτος / καθ' ἓν τοῦ ἔτους. The first of these is refuted by Grossardt (p. 450) who adduces parallels such as Philostr. VA 1.5.3, Ὀλύμπια θύειν. Follet's defense is ineffective: she argues that 'le sacrifice et le concours sont deux moments distincts de la célébration', but this is exactly how Grossardt interprets the transmitted ἀγῶνα θύουσιν: 'einen Wettkampf ausrichten und die dazugehörenden Opfer darbringen'. The second conjecture is problematic because Follet has to assume that ἕνατος 'ninth' has a rough breathing, as appears from the theta in καθ'; further καί is quite out of place.

The presentation of the text and the apparatus is not always flawless. Occasionally, Follet prints a reading without reporting variants in the tradition. At 2.20.12 Follet reports Βρίσεως as Normann's conjecture for Χρύσου, but she fails to report that Βρίσεως is also found in Guelferbytanus 25 Gudianus, as can be gathered from Kayser's and de Lannoy's apparatuses. At 8.2.1-2 she prints Κασάνδραν with single sigma (which is definitely wrong) without reporting that the manuscripts waver between Κασσάνδραν and Κασάνδραν, as can be seen in de Lannoy's apparatus. At 19.15.12 she prints δ' οὖν which should be <δ'> οὖν because δ' was added conjecturally by Headlam. In cases where a conjecture was made by several scholars, Follet has the habit of mentioning all these scholars and not just the first one; in addition, she often adds the scholars who approve of a conjecture. To my mind it is sufficient to mention only the first person to make a conjecture, but if one chooses to record more scholars these should be mentioned in chronological order. Thus for the addition of <ἐν> at 2.20.11, discussed above, Reiske should come before Boissonade. At 19.3.5 Follet reports 'ἀπολογήσεσθαι coni. Papavasilios Kayser de Lannoy': here Kayser (1871) should come before Papavasilios (1897): Lannoy reports ἀπολογήσεσθαι as Kayser's conjecture and not as his own. At 11.3.1 Follet reports that E has ὑφ' ἑ///τοῦ for ὑφ' ἑαυτοῦ; in reality E has ὑφ' ἑτοῦ without erasure, as de Lannoy rightly reports (I have checked E online).

Despite its long gestation the book shows a number of inconsistencies and inaccuracies. The incidental disagreement between the Greek text and the French translation has already been illustrated above. Typos are found occasionally but they never destroy the sense. Here are some instances: p. cxcv, 'verteling en commentar' ('vertaling en commentaar'); p. cxcvii, 'klassichen'('klassischen'); 54, 'acepté' ('accepté'); 73, μόνον οὺ (μόνον οὐ); 107, (Greek line 2) the closing quotation mark after ἔργα fails. Other errors are more serious. At 0.2.15 the critical note on τε in line 5 runs: '5 τε : om. OK τι coni. Reiske Eitrem2 de Lannoy τε post σοφώτερος transp. Eitrem2 de Lannoy'. In reality τε in line 5 was added conjecturally by Olearius, as de Lannoy reports: τε in line 6 was deleted by Eitrem (which is accepted by de Lannoy) while Reiske proposed replacing it by τι. At 2.5.6 the apparatus states 'αὐτίκα ἀποτελοῦμεν νῦν δέ edd. ante Boissonade'; in reality, νῦν δέ is Boissonade's conjecture. In her note on διῄειν ἄν at 10.1.3 she writes: 'Sur l'omission occasionelle de la particule ἄν dans l'Héroique, voir Notice, p. CII.' It is strange to find this note attached to a passage where ἄν is present. Moreover, on p. cii, Follet refers to 10.2.7 where again ἄν is present. The note would have been useful in 1.1.1, where we find ἀδικοίην without ἄν. In the apparatus to 11.3.1 Follet reports 'ante τοίην add. καὶ τὸ Ψ' but on p. CXL she reports 'καὶ τὸ Ψ: om. ΦΣ' which means that the words belong in the text. With regard to Headlam's addition of δ' at 19.15.12 she states on p. cv: 'W. Headlam a proposé, peut-être avec raison, de le restituer'. Obviously, Follet's doubts had disappeared when she constituted the text of the passage. A similar case concerns Follet's own conjecture 19.14.9 καὶ δι' ἑνάτου (sic) ἔτους, which she prints in her text but about which she states in her note on p. 265: 'Il se peut que les leçons attestées recouvrent un ancien κ(αὶ) δι' ἐνάτου (sic) ἔτους'.

To sum up: Follet's book is a welcome contribution to the study of the Heroicus, offering a wealth of information in the introduction and the notes, presenting a Greek text with some interesting novelties and a good French translation. It is regrettable that the book contains a number of inconsistencies and inaccuracies.


1.   Ludo de Lannoy, Flavius Philostratus, Heroicus. Leipzig, 1977.
2.   Peter Grossardt, Einführung, Übersetzung und Kommentar zum Heroikos von Flavius Philostrat. Basel, 2006.
3.   Jeffrey Rusten, Jason König, Philostratus. Heroicus, Gymnasticus, Discourses 1 and 2. Cambridge, MA; London, 2014. This edition seems to be unknown to Follet, who does not mention it.
4.   The first part of the introduction discusses Philostratus and the corpus Philostrateum; the date and setting of the dialogue; Philostratus and the literary tradition; Philostratus' language and style; his religious, philosophical and literary intentions. The second part is concerned with the transmission of the work.
5.   Gottfried Olearius, Philostratorum Quae Supersunt Omnia. Leipzig, 1709.
6.   Carl Ludwig Kayser, Flavii Philostrati Opera, vol. II. Leipzig, 1871.
7.   Follet uses the Greek capitals Ψ, Φ and Σ as collective sigla for reconstructed manuscripts.
8.   De Lannoy states (p. vii): 'qui libri qua ratione inter se cohaerent, alibi fusius, hic summatim exponere conabor', without specifying this 'alibi'. As already noted, I did not have access to Follet's 1968 dissertation.
9.   Other passages where Follet's choice for Ψ's reading appears to be right include 2.19.7 θαλείας τε ὁπόσαι, 2.20.4 ὑπὲρ τῆς Ἑλένης 10.2.7 σοφόν τι περὶ τῶν οὐρανίων εἴποι and 10.5.6 φησί, 19.4.7 ἔστ' ἂν αἴσιον, 19.15.1 ἀεὶ δὲ κατέβαλλον.
10.   Grossardt makes the same mistake ('die um Deiphobos und Euphorbos'); Rusten has the correct 'Deiphobus and Euphorbus'.

(read complete article)


Stephen M. Wheeler (ed.), Accessus ad auctores: Medieval Introductions to the Authors (Codex latinus monacensis 19475). TEAMS secular commentary series. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2015. Pp. xv, 279. ISBN 9781580441896. $24.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Justin Lake, Texas A & M University (

Version at BMCR home site

In the Middle Ages an accessus served as the formal introduction to a grammatical commentary on a classical author. The accessus could take various forms depending on which schema was adopted, but in every case it was designed to answer basic questions about the work, its author, and the manner in which it was to be understood. Initially, accessus were written as introductions to commentaries, but by the twelfth century they had begun to circulate independently and were sometimes combined together into anthologies. The earliest such anthology is found in Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 19475, a manuscript copied at the German monastery of Tegernsee in the middle of the twelfth century. In this volume Stephen M. Wheeler provides a critical edition, translation, and notes on the text.

In a superbly written introduction, Wheeler outlines a brief history of the accessus as a genre and describes the arrangement of the anthology in Munich Clm 19475, which contains 29 introductions to 26 different works, with a focus on Ovid (ten accessus to seven works). The interest in Ovid is noteworthy, since, as Wheeler points out, he was still suspect in the eyes of many schoolmasters as late as the first half of the twelfth century, when a student in Conrad of Hirsau's Dialogus super auctores referred to his elegiac poetry as 'morally defective,' to the approval of his teacher.

The anthology begins with paired introductions to Ovid's Heroides and the Psychomachia of Prudentius before proceeding through a set of introductory texts: the Distichs of 'Cato,' the fables of Avianus, the elegies of Maximianus, the Ilias Latina, the verse Physiologus, and the Eclogue of Theodolus, followed by the late-antique Christian poets Arator, Prosper, and Sedulius. There follow eight more introductions to Ovid, as well as Lucan, Cicero (the Paradoxa Stoicorum), Boethius, Priscian, Horace, Pamphilus (a comedy in elegiac couplets written ca. 1100) and Thebaldus. The texts beginning with Cato, as Wheeler points out, comprise a graduated curriculum that moves from the relatively simple to the more advanced. The focus on Ovid—rendered all the more surprising by the absence of Virgil, but also of traditional hexameter poets like Statius and Juvenal—demands explanation. Wheeler suggests that the texts included may have been chosen as models both for composition in elegiac couplets (which would also explain the appearance of Thebaldus's poem on quantitative verse at the end of the collection), and for the ars dictaminis, the medieval art of letter writing.

Wheeler's edition departs from the earlier editions of R.B.C. Huygens, who collated Munich Clm 19475 with two other related manuscripts (Vatican City, Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 242, and Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 19474)—thus producing a hybrid text that was intended to approximate a hypothetical archetype.1 Given the nature of the accessus as a genre, however, in which additions and interpolations from outside sources tended to go hand-in-hand with the copying process, Wheeler's decision to print the text of a single manuscript with light editorial intervention makes more sense. The Latin text is accompanied by a facing-page translation, which is both readable and very accurate, and I found almost nothing to quibble with. At p. 45, in the translation of the accessus to the Eclogue of Theodolus, the phrase "se" male corripuit might more accurately be translated 'he wrongly shortened se' rather than 'he wrongly corrupted the quantity of se.'

The translation is followed by 150 pages of explanatory notes, which make up one of the most useful feature of the work. After summarizing the basic facts known about the texts and authors under consideration, Wheeler discusses the format and sources of each accessus. Useful comments are also made on grammatical irregularities to the text. On the whole, Wheeler adopts a conservative approach to emendation, preferring to find reasons to preserve the text found in Munich, Clm 19475 rather than to emend or adopt the readings of the two related manuscripts used by Huygens to produce his composite edition. This is a sensible approach, although there are places where one might disagree (e.g., the preference for the quasi-nonsensical manuscript reading utilitas est ut...superum maiestatem tam levi quam delicto timeamus offendere over the more logical tam levi quam gravi delicto found in Vatican, Pal. lat. 242. At the end of the commentary on each accessus Wheeler provides a list of editions and a brief bibliography.

To read Wheeler's text, translation, and commentary of the accessus collection in Munich, Clm 19475 is to plunge oneself into the world of the high medieval classroom, where works largely forgotten today, like the elegies of Maximianus and the Ilias Latina, enjoyed a privileged status, and Ovid could be read seriously as a source of ethical instruction. In addition to serving as a necessary companion to the composite accessus edition of R.B.C. Huygens, Wheeler's volume could also serve as an ideal reader for students transitioning from classical to medieval Latin, since the texts are short, fairly simple, and representatively medieval in their idiom. In sum, Stephen M. Wheeler has produced a scrupulously accurate edition and translation of the accessus anthology assembled in Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 19475, and a useful commentary that facilitates our understanding of the methods and priorities of the medieval classroom.


1.   R.B.C. Huygens Accessus ad auctores (Berchem-Bruxelles: Latomus, 1954); and Huygens, Accessus ad auctores. Bernard d'Utrecht. Conrad d'Hirsau: Dialogus super auctores (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1970).

(read complete article)


Barbara McManus, The Drunken Duchess of Vassar: Grace Harriet Macurdy, Pioneering Feminist Classicist Scholar. Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University Press, 2017. Pp. xxii, 282. ISBN 9780814213278. $99.95. Contributors: Foreword by Judith P. Hallett and Christopher Stray

Reviewed by Amy Richlin, UCLA (

Version at BMCR home site

In my heedless schooldays, I would see Grace Macurdy's Hellenistic Queens on the shelf and wonder if it had a sequel, Hellenistic Brooklyn. Even then I would have been fascinated by the story Barbara McManus tells about the author, although only able to understand it long years later, after some hard knocks.

For this is the story of a hard life; inspiring, as Macurdy wins through to respect and recognition. Doubly inspiring, due to the story-teller, who finished the book on her deathbed after a life in which she herself won through to victory. Polio could not keep her from a Harvard degree; from distinguished service to Classics local, regional, national; or, in her work as well as in service, from the pursuit of truth and justice for women.

Indeed, this book is also a riveting detective story of academic intrigue and injustice; the spectacular chapter 9 should send a shock wave through the ASCSA. McManus was always a gifted collector of data; here she has interviewed family members and found unarchived memorabilia, but also dug deep into the archives, so that the footnotes showcase a remarkable nose for the still-smoking gun.

The book begins with a message in a bottle, a poem Macurdy wrote which found its way to McManus from the family, and which McManus kept by her as she wrote: an ode on a Greek vase in the Vassar collection. Pictures of the manuscript and the vase itself, side by side, stand as fig. 1 of 25 well-selected images, some taken by McManus herself, who clearly enjoyed the legwork this project entailed. Chapter 1 explains the book's title ("the Drunken Duchess" was a Vassar nickname based on Macurdy's White-Queen-like appearance); chapter 2 traces her family and childhood, from the Canadian maritimes to Maine, where the family lived "in one of the small rented cottages near the tannery in South Robbinston," where Grace was born in 1866 (13). One of nine children of a "freelance carpenter" (18), she nonetheless enjoyed a rigorous public education once the family moved to Watertown, MA. From there she was accepted into the "Harvard Annex," which became Radcliffe, graduating with one of the early classes of women in 1888. Chapter 3 takes her from the Annex, through five years of schoolteaching and graduate courses at the Annex, to Vassar, where she was hired as an Instructor of Greek by department chair Abby Leach in 1893. This first part of the book is brief and somewhat dry; you don't smell the tannery. But then the plot thickens.

Chapters 4-6 chart Macurdy's long fight to hang on at Vassar over the dead body of her department chair—literally so, in the end. Macurdy started out shouldering a four- and sometimes five-course load, but in 1899-1900 won a grant to study with Wilamowitz in Berlin. She was then hired back at Vassar; Leach had just served as first woman President of the APA. Macurdy, still with a full teaching schedule, started commuting to New York to work towards a PhD at Columbia, and managed to finish her dissertation in 1903. She was promoted to Associate Professor and started giving papers and publishing articles, something Leach was to do only twice in her career. Now Leach snapped: she took Macurdy's courses away, she hired someone junior and less qualified, she tried to get Macurdy fired, she started writing letters to the President of Vassar urging that he fire her, she criticized Macurdy's teaching and her scholarship, she recruited students to spy on her, she set up the course schedule to keep students out of Macurdy's classes, she took Macurdy's classes away altogether and then complained Macurdy was teaching too few students, she advised students out of Macurdy's courses into hers, she wrote to the Columbia professors to join her in dismissing Macurdy's work, she spoke against Macurdy in class to the students. The records lie festering in the Vassar archives: a familiar picture to anyone who has been through this, but rarely so well documented. McManus spares no details, and speaks sharply about the selective quoting from student letters by Leach's biographers (91-92, 94 n. 38). Finally a new President came in, and Macurdy was promoted to Full in 1916, which gave her job security (although not the pay raise commensurate with this rank). Leach, still chair, continued to torment Macurdy until she died in harness in 1918. And so Macurdy was made chair in Leach's place, and finally got her raise. Lucky thing; jobs elsewhere, as McManus points out, were hard to come by for women; chances existed mainly at the women's colleges, with Vassar and Bryn Mawr leading (72). Indeed, as I discovered, although the University of Michigan, for example, began admitting women in 1870, the first female professor was not hired until 1896 (in Hygiene), and the hiring of women remained slow and grudging through the 1960s.1

Back to Vassar in 1919: now, you would think, things could really take off, but trouble soon arose again, and here McManus is at her archive-digging, committee-hardened best. Chapters 7-9 chronicle the late-blooming intellectual Bildungsroman in which Macurdy finds a home with the Cambridge ritualists (especially Gilbert Murray, whom she idolized), enters into high-profile committee work for the American School, and there becomes embroiled in two huge scandals that politicized her for good.

As Macurdy plunged into publishing from 1907 through 1918 (twenty-one articles!), she began engaging with Murray and Jane Harrison. She became a Harrison fan and friend, although McManus, contrasting Macurdy's work with Mary Beard's account of Harrison, cannot see in Harrison Macurdy's true professionalism (109, 191). In 1922, enjoying her first sabbatical in 29 years of teaching, Macurdy parked herself in the British Museum Reading Room and turned out Troy and Paeonia, much in the Cambridge vein. Meanwhile, however, and oddly enough within six months of Leach's death, Macurdy had been stricken deaf—a disability, McManus points out, that was stigmatized at the time and could have cost Macurdy her job (116). Instead she used an ear trumpet and a succession of primitive hearing aids, learned to read lips, and soldiered on.

Chapter 8, "Unconventional Families," explains what sustained her. She adopted her sister's daughter and two teenaged sons; she developed a sort of mariage blanc with the Scottish classicist J. A. K. Thomson, thirteen years her junior; and she kept up a strong friendship with a group known as "The Four": the archaeologist Ida Thallon, her Vassar colleague; Elizabeth Pierce, Thallon's student and, eventually, her colleague and lover; Bert Hodge Hill, director of the American School; and Carl Blegen, Hill's assistant. Blegen fell in love with Pierce, who did not wish to leave Thallon, who agreed to marry Hill on condition that the four of them live together: 1924, anything goes.

Yet friendship with The Four took Macurdy into dangerous waters. In chapter 9, McManus breaks the double story—first fully told here!—of the outrageous maneuvers taken by Edward Capps to remove Hill from the directorship in 1925-1926, and of the further shenanigans whereby he stole the ASCSA Women's Hostel from M. Carey Thomas. Ida Thallon Hill wrote Macurdy, "You also are accustomed to the ways of the unrighteous" (143), and Macurdy emerges here as the (defeated) hero of the resistance.

Edward Capps of Princeton was chair of the ASCSA managing committee from 1918 to 1939, and also served as director of the executive committee; Macurdy was on the managing committee from 1919 onwards. Capps based his efforts to oust Bert Hill in the executive committee, and did not bother to conceal or destroy the paper trail. There it all is: Capps conspiring, lying, trashing Blegen and Hill. McManus passes magisterial judgment: "Like Abby Leach, Capps apparently chose not to examine his own motivations. It is abundantly clear that he wished to micromanage affairs at ASCSA and wanted a director who would always defer to his authority and respond to his every command with alacrity" (149). Through the old files McManus tracks the moves Macurdy made to try to block or depose Capps, alongside Capps' expressions of contempt for "the ladies." Macurdy was one of nine women among 82 committee members; still, as McManus puts it, "she was prepared to go into battle, armed only with her Acousticon and her strong sense of justice" (156). Surrounded by faint-hearted unwillingness to confront Capps, who controlled ASCSA professorships, Macurdy forged on, writing to Ida Thallon Hill, "And the bully sat there, intent, outwardly smiling, but swift to down every decent man" (159). Hill was forced out, and Blegen, demoted, resigned. Capps glossed it over in the annual report, wishing them well; Macurdy wanted to set the record straight, and McManus finishes the job for her.

Moving on, Capps misappropriated the funds painfully scraped together by women professors from the women's colleges to build a Women's Hostel at the American School, which had had limited space for women. This despite a growing presence of women in the field, rising from initial exclusion to 29% of students in 1923-1924 and 59% in 1928-1929. Not to Capps' taste; he wanted to initiate a quota on women, and wrote to a (male) committee member, "There is a dearth of men archaeologists and a superfluity of women. The latter can't get jobs; we can supply the institutions that are on the watch for able men" (173). The redoubtable M. Carey Thomas of Bryn Mawr organized the Women's Hostel campaign and went after Rockefeller money; Capps cut her out of the funding loop and got the Hostel redefined as co-ed. As Macurdy observed, without Thomas and her committee, it would not have housed any women at all (184). Committee life, McManus argues, taught Macurdy that she was capable of fighting in the larger world, but still she "recognized the marginalized position of women in the academic world" (186). I note that no one thought of putting Ida Hill in charge of the School.

Chapter 10, "Redefining the Classical Scholar as a Woman," argues that Macurdy's move from the mists of Troy to the hard realities of Hellenistic history was related to her activism: an effort to put real, documented women into a history that was then generally devoid of them, as Virginia Woolf observed in A Room of One's Own (1929). McManus points to Macurdy's involvement in the suffrage movement, her "compulsion to speak out against injustice" (189), with many op ed pieces. Hellenistic Queens appeared in 1932, followed by Vassal-Queens … in the Roman Empire in 1937, a book that demanded reconstruction of the lives of persons known mainly through coins and epigraphy. (Her work on the ASCSA committee must have been good preparation for the domestic lives of the Ptolemies.) McManus emphasizes that Macurdy was recovering women as subjects, not objects, of history; she was writing "woman-centered" history and debunking then-common prejudices (205). She did not wholly escape her temporal matrix, however, and although McManus says Moses Finley was wrong to dismiss Macurdy for "racialism" in a passing comment on the superiority of Macedonian "blood," I think Finley was right.

The final chapter follows Macurdy into her retirement, when she began to lose her eyesight but, undaunted, took up new research. She earned a medal for her war work; she wrote The Quality of Mercy to muster classical literature against the forces of inhumanity, and her invocation of Aeschylus' Suppliants on the issue of taking in refugees "as it faces every civilized country in the world today" has a familiar ring these days (231). She wrote biographical entries on women for the Encyclopedia Britannica, part of a project of the other Mary Beard, a project which, as far as McManus was able to trace it, the Encyclopedia simply threw away. Indeed the shortage of separate entries for women persists in the OCD and elsewhere. With no pension from Vassar and no medical insurance, Macurdy had to pay all the bills when she needed cataract surgery, when she developed cancer; her assets at death came to $579.84, or about a month's pay when she was still paid. Yet, in 1973, there stood her book in the Yale Classics Library, and there we were to read it.

The book ends with two appendices: thumbnail biographies of the Macurdy family tree, and a chronological list of Macurdy's publications in five pages of small type. The editors who saw the manuscript through the press, Judith Hallett and Christopher Stray, both experts in the history of the academy, supply a foreword comparing the lives of Barbara McManus and Grace Macurdy, and Hallett adds a postscript. They were good friends to the author. It is heartbreaking that McManus is not here to see her book read, as her previous books are (I assign Classics and Feminism regularly in the UCLA graduate proseminar). Yet her voice rings through these pages, speaking out for justice.


1.   See "A Dangerous Experiment": Women at the University of Michigan, under "Struggles Faced by Women Faculty".

(read complete article)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Kimberley Czajkowski, Localized Law: The Babatha and Salome Komaise Archives. Oxford studies in Roman society and law. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xii, 240. ISBN 9780198777335. $105.00.

Reviewed by Tristan Taylor, University of New England (

Version at BMCR home site


Localized Law seeks to analyze the famous Babatha and Salome Komaise archives using a different approach than one centered on the oft-examined question of what legal systems are present in the documents. Rather, in a revised version of her doctoral thesis, Czajkowski builds on developments in the analysis of legal pluralism in the Roman empire to consider the 'varying contributions, considerations and influences that led to the papyri being written the way that they were' (p 23). As such, the work offers a stimulating study that embraces the legally heterogeneous nature of the documents and highlights the multiplicity of potential influences in their formation—both in terms of individuals and systems—even though the documents rarely provide straightforward answers to the questions asked of them.

Following an introduction that sets out what little we know of the Roman annexation of the Nabataean Kingdom in 106 CE, chapter 1, 'Beginning to Reinterpret the Archives', provides a brief history of both the analysis of these particular documents and general trends in the study of local law under the empire. It also offers an outline of the content of the archives, including the transactions and agents involved. This is followed by three specific case studies: three marriage contracts, the dispute between Babatha and her son's tutors, and the dispute over Babatha's husband's estate. These case studies outline in more detail the relevant legal disputes; flag the scholarly disputes that have arisen in relation to the applicable legal system in each case; and detail the further questions to be considered in the rest of the study.

Chapter 2 considers the role of 'Scribes', agents whose presence problematizes discussion of the unmediated 'voice' of the parties themselves since their intentions are, almost always, mediated through such scribes working within their own particular culture and utilizing rhetorical topoi and legal phrases. Czajkowksi examines the reasons for choosing scribes, such as a desire to write in a particular language—especially Greek after the Roman annexation—and the identity of the scribes themselves. Czajkowski argues that these scribes are likely to be locals who learned Greek, attached to the Roman administration, rather than newcomers. Czajkowski's arguments are all compelling; nonetheless, as with many questions asked in this work, the nature of the parties' motivations for choosing scribes are not clear on the face of the documents themselves. Thus, as Cjazkowski states, '[i]n some ways, we are left trying to second guess very individual opinions that remain difficult to chart even in such a small, concentrated evidence base' (p. 70).

Chapter 3 looks at 'Legal Advisors', although none are explicitly mentioned in the archives. After considering the role of such advisors generally based on comparative evidence, Czajkowski argues convincingly that legal advisors were most likely responsible for identifying and preparing three copies of the Roman formula for the actio tutelae for the illiterate Babatha. The presence of these formulae show a willingness to use Roman legal forms and indicate the presence of people with expertise to identify and manipulate Roman legal documents. The formulae have also long posed a puzzle in that they do not fit the legal circumstances of the case well and appear not to have been used in litigation. Czajkowski identifies several possible solutions, including that multiple copies were intended for use in litigation, but the chance did not arise to do so; that Babatha was preparing to sue at the expiration of the guardianship; and that the formulae were intended to be used as a 'bargaining chip' or threat in negotiations with her son's guardians. The documents do not admit a definitive answer, but the latter solution finds an analogy with one known use of rescripts and other documents in legal disputes found in other sources.

Chapter 4 turns to the 'Parties' themselves, focusing in particular on the choice of language in the documents, and attitudes towards Roman legal forms and processes. In relation to the first question, Czajkowksi offers suggestions for both the persistence of Jewish and Nabataean Aramaic in some documents, and the switch to Greek in the majority. The former demonstrates that there was no legal requirement to use Greek, or Latin, the latter clearly reflecting a belief in the importance of Greek in interactions with the Roman authorities. Again, Czajkowski's various suggestions are compelling, although identifying which motivation is at play in any particular document is difficult. The concession is again made—in relation to the persistence of Aramaic, but applicable to other questions as well—that 'different people within a community may have come to different conclusions about what they could, should or wanted to do' (p. 113). In addition to a general tendency to change to Greek after the Roman annexation, there is also the inconsistent adoption of various Roman forms, such as the appearance of guardians for women, or the presence of Roman legal formulae, such as the actio tutelae, discussed above, or stipulatio clauses at the end of documents. Czajkowski plausibly explains these features as stemming from efforts to inform or persuade Roman officials or, as in the case of the stipulatio clauses, a belief that such clauses gave legal effect to transactions in a Roman forum. At the same time, explicit references are made in the documents to 'Greek law' (nomos), and the 'law of Moses and the Judeans'. Czajkowski sees these references as attempts to appeal to an authority—to precedent or custom—that might be persuasive to a Roman decision maker, rather than intended primarily to select a particular body of law or rules. This is an intriguing argument worthy of general consideration. However, the specific context in which these phrases appear could perhaps have been explored in more depth here, in particular, the fact that all such references in the archives that she considers here are in marriage contracts. For example, two marriage contracts in Greek contain an undertaking by the husband to feed and clothe the wife and future children in accordance with Greek nomos (whatever this might mean: P. Yadin 18 and P. Hever 65). As these phrases are private contractual undertakings, one wonders whether more could be said here about the possibility that they expressed some shared understanding between the parties and were not designed primarily to impress a Roman adjudicator in future litigation. The contractual nature of these phrases is discussed in Chapter 1, but the implications of this for this argument are not specifically considered here.

Chapter 5 considers 'Alternatives to Assizes' and ponders what local courts may have survived the Roman annexation. After a brief summation of the anthropological debates about the nature of 'law' and norms that may exist beyond the positivist sense of law as the dictates of the sovereign, consideration is given to the patchy evidence surrounding local jurisdiction under the empire in relation to poleis and villages. The chapter also examines dispute resolution within Jewish communities by figures of authority and, finally, processes of arbitration. This is perhaps the most speculative of the chapters, with little clear evidence for Roman Arabia, and the archives themselves yielding not much beyond a reference to the boule of Petra assigning a guardian, and two possible waivers of claim. These waivers may, or may not, represent the involvement of a third party (none is mentioned) through arbitration or some other method of 'alternative dispute resolution', such as mediation or negotiation. Nonetheless, Czajkowski's argument that alternative forms of jurisdiction or judicial institutions—however informal they might have been– existed in addition to the Roman system are sound, as is her conclusion that that the coming of Rome was unlikely to have ended such local mechanisms.

The final substantive chapter turns to 'Roman Officials'. It focuses in particular on the variable background of the governor and his advisors as well as the principles that would govern his decisions. After considering briefly the complex topic of the lex provinciae and its relationship to the provincial edict, this chapter addresses the question of what principles the governor may have used in deciding cases by type of evidence. It considers legal literature (particularly Digest 1.3.32—long suspected of post-classical interpolation); Rabbinic literature; Pliny's correspondence with Trajan and, finally, papyri. The generally consistent pattern that appears across this body of evidence—that Roman officials were willing to find out about local laws and customs, but did not always apply them—may have emerged more directly through a holistic approach, than through subdividing the question by type of evidence. Next, attention turns to the various means by which a Roman governor might have obtained legal advice, such as his consilium, legal advisors, and documents. Czajkowski argues that governors placed particular reliance on documents and therefore litigants would try to present their documentation in accordance with the Romans' perceived preferences. This is indeed reflected in archives, where many of the documents appear to have been composed with a view to the dispute appearing before the governor, although it is unclear how many ultimately ended up in the governor's court. Babatha's disputes with her son's guardians and battles over the property of her deceased husband are then examined again to assess the impact of the presence of the Roman legal system on how people conducted their legal disputes before reaching the courtroom. Here, Czajkowksi argues compellingly that the invocation of the governor could be a strategic means of influencing proceedings and thus served as 'a threat and a bargaining chip' (p. 192) in a legal dispute.

The 'Conclusion' follows, which begins by acknowledging the clear interdependence of the systems and culture approaches to the analysis of local law. Czajkowksi argues, however, that provincials did not think in terms of systems, but authorities through which they might gain favour and lend weight to documents or transactions. Czajkowski concludes convincingly that the way disputes played out was largely contingent on those involved. Two factors were seen as vitally important: first, the language facility of those involved in drafting the documents, and the collaborative process involved therein; second, differing levels of knowledge among the participants, and the exploitation of this to gain advantage.

The conclusion finally notes two aspects of identity that receive little emphasis in the documents themselves: first gender, with the women in the documents generally acting with freedom in their legal affairs; and second, the Jewish identity of those involved. Czajkowski argues that the very fact that these two aspects of identity are not emphasized in the documents, or in their analysis, may be telling in and of itself. These questions will likely be fruitful avenues for further study.

The study offers a revealing account of a provincial legal culture adapting to the new Roman presence and shows the persistence of traditional forms and the atmosphere of imperfect knowledge within which both provincial and new imperial master operated. The great challenge for the study, with its focus on those involved and their intentions, is that the documents so rarely admit clear answers. For example, should we see a party's use of a clearly Roman form that appears inapt to the circumstances—such as the actio tutelae—as a reflection of that party's ignorance, or an attempt by one party to exploit the ignorance of the other (as clever strategic threat) or, perhaps, neither of these? To her credit, Czajkowski consistently admits these areas of doubt, and her range of possibilities are always compelling, if not exhaustive, and are sure to prompt both further thought and investigation.

The book is throughout clearly written and engaging, although non-specialists in Roman law should be prepared for some technical terminology and assumed knowledge.1

All in all, this is a stimulating book that takes great advantage of the rare opportunity to shed light on provincial legal culture outside of Egypt that these archives provide. It will be required reading for those interested in legal culture and legal change in the Roman provinces.


1.   See for example the somewhat technical explanation of 'stipulatio' as a 'stricti iuris' and 'unilateral' contract (p. 32 n. 23) and the compressed discussion of the probable post-classical interpolation of Dig. 1.3.32 (p. 172).

(read complete article)


Elodie Paillard, The Stage and the City: Non-Elite Characters in the Tragedies of Sophocles. Chorégie, 3. Paris: Éditions de Boccard, 2017. Pp. 267. ISBN 9782701804309. €89.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Sarah Lagrou, UMR Savoirs Textes Langage (Université de Lille) (

Version at BMCR home site


L'ouvrage d'Elodie Paillard est issu d'une thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2013 ; l'auteur propose d'y analyser les liens entre le théâtre sophocléen et le contexte socio-politique dans lequel il était représenté. Sa thèse est que de nombreux personnages sophocléens pouvaient représenter sur scène les citoyens intermédiaires (ni très riches ni très pauvres – le « middling group ») et leur importance croissante au Ve siècle ; ils pouvaient aussi, par un phénomène d'identification, inciter ces citoyens à prendre un rôle accru dans la vie de leur cité.

L'ouvrage s'ouvre par une vaste introduction dans laquelle Paillard expose son projet et discute les présupposés de son étude. Elle rappelle d'abord brièvement l'histoire de l'interprétation du lien entre tragédie et contexte socio-politique, ce qui lui permet de justifier la pertinence du type d'étude auquel elle procède tout en montrant l'originalité de la sienne (Sophocle est l'auteur qu'on a le moins étudié sous cet angle, et les citoyens de ce middling group n'ont que peu été étudiés dans cette perspective). Elle expose également les trois principes qui sous-tendent son étude : des éléments « politiques » (à comprendre au sens large) sont repérables dans les textes de Sophocle ; un phénomène d'identification entre spectateurs et personnages existait ; le théâtre reflétait la vie socio-politique tout en étant potentiellement un instrument de changement de celle-ci.

L'auteur revient ensuite longuement sur l'expression middling group, qu'elle comprend comme un groupe hétérogène composé de la partie majoritaire et socialement intermédiaire des citoyens athéniens ; en sont exclus le petit nombre de citoyens éduqués, riches et politiquement très actifs, ainsi que les citoyens trop pauvres et dépendants pour s'intéresser aux affaires publiques. L'auteur associe cette classe à une idéologie du meson, qui se traduirait politiquement par un souci du bien commun et du collectif. Même si Paillard convoque à l'appui de son propos les textes anciens (Xénophon, Aristote, Aristophane, etc.) et les témoignages archéologiques (en particulier concernant les pratiques funéraires), elle peine parfois à nous convaincre : s'il semble pertinent d'envisager différentes « strates » parmi les citoyens athéniens, il est plus délicat de postuler (et difficile à prouver !) qu'un groupe, que l'auteur elle‑même qualifie d'hétérogène, ait majoritairement eu les mêmes préoccupations, en particulier le souci du commun. Ce point est pourtant déterminant pour l'argumentation de l'auteur.

Le développement est composé de trois chapitres, chacun consacré à un type de personnages jugé représentatif du middling group. Dans le premier chapitre, il est question d'Ulysse, qui apparaît dans l'Ajax et dans le Philoctète. Paillard justifie ce choix qui pourrait laisser le lecteur perplexe par le fait que le roi d'Ithaque représenterait, et ce dès Homère, un héros peu représentatif des valeurs communes : ce n'est pas un aristos, il n'excelle pas au combat et défend régulièrement le bien commun. L'auteur en conclut que l'élite athénienne se reconnaissait plutôt en Achille ou Ajax, tandis que les citoyens du middling group s'identifiaient davantage à Ulysse. Pour chacune des deux tragédies envisagées, l'auteur distingue la façon dont Ulysse nous apparaît (« description of Odysseus and his values ») de la façon dont les autres personnages le voient (« perceptions of Odysseus and his values »). Si l'on comprend l'objectif de l'auteur (distinguer ce que le personnage fait de ce qu'on dit de lui), on peut s'interroger sur la pertinence de cette distinction : les actes d'un personnage sont en effet souvent mentionnés par un autre personnage. Paillard considère qu'Ulysse incarne dans les deux pièces les valeurs du middling group par opposition à l'idéal aristocratique d'Ajax ou des Atrides : il adapte son comportement aux situations, privilégie le bien commun et pratique la coopération et le compromis. Il s'agirait d'une constante d'une pièce à l'autre et au sein des pièces (ce qui permet à l'auteur de répondre aux incohérences repérées par la critique dans le traitement d'Ulysse dans l'Ajax). En revanche, le regard porté par les autres personnages sur Ulysse évoluerait. Dans l'Ajax, Ulysse est d'abord critiqué pour être ensuite mieux perçu ; cette évolution permettrait Sophocle de valoriser les valeurs middling d'Ulysse et d'inciter le middling group à s'affirmer davantage. Dans le Philoctète, Ulysse ne serait bien perçu que par les personnages qui ont le même souci du bien commun que lui, à savoir le chœur et Héraklès. Paillard émet l'hypothèse d'une influence du contexte : après le coup d'état de 411, une méfiance ce serait instaurée envers les démocrates et les oligarques. Les analyses de l'auteur apportent des résultats intéressants pour la compréhension de la cohérence des personnages ou de la dynamique de l'Ajax, par exemple ; elles sont parfois moins convaincantes quand il s'agit de faire le lien avec la dimension politique (comprendre le succès mitigé d'Ulysse à la fin de l'Ajax comme une valorisation du compromis en tant qu'élément important de la vie démocratique paraît un peu forcé).

Le deuxième chapitre est consacré au chœur des sept tragédies complètes de Sophocle. Paillard choisit de façon étonnante de s'intéresser plus aux épisodes qu'aux stasima, parce qu'ils apporteraient moins d'éléments pour une lecture politique. Sa conception du chœur est en outre fortement influencée par les lectures politiques de la tragédie. L'auteur étudie successivement, pour chaque pièce, les relations entre le chœur et les autres personnages, puis le degré d'efficacité de la parole chorale. L'analyse des textes, souvent très rapide, fait émerger une évolution dans le traitement du chœur : alors qu'il est passif et qu'il n'a que des liens limités et souvent formels avec les personnages aristocratiques dans l'Ajax ou les Trachiniennes, le chœur s'affirmerait davantage dans l'Œdipe roi ; dans l'Electre, le Philoctète et surtout l'Œdipe à Colone, le chœur aurait un rôle actif et viendrait en aide aux puissants, qui ont besoin de lui. Paillard évoque la possibilité d'une évolution dramatique du chœur, mais limite son influence à la structure de la pièce (par opposition au contenu des propos), ce qui est problématique. En outre, le fait de se concentrer uniquement sur ce qui aurait une dimension politique conduit parfois à des interprétations abusives. Ainsi, affirmer que le chœur de l'Œdipe à Colone a plus de pouvoir sur le roi qu'est Œdipe sans prendre en compte qu'Œdipe est désormais un roi déchu et un mendiant est peu pertinent ; de la même façon, mettre sur le même plan le rapport politique du chœur de citoyens et du roi Créon dans l'Antigone et le lien plus domestique du chœur de compagnes et d'Electre dans la tragédie éponyme soulève des interrogations.

Dans le troisième chapitre, Paillard étudie successivement tous les autres personnages humbles des sept tragédies de Sophocle qui pourraient représenter le middling group sur scène : messagers, gardes, bergers, nourrices, etc. L'auteur s'intéresse en particulier aux facultés langagières de ces personnages, ainsi qu'à leurs relations avec les personnages aristocratiques. Selon elle, la présence de plusieurs personnages humbles qui tiennent tête à de plus puissants et qui parlent bien (le pédagogue dans l'Electre, le garde dans l'Antigone, etc.) fonctionnerait pour les citoyens du middling group comme une incitation à prendre une part plus active à la vie de leur cité. A nouveau, Paillard passe parfois très rapidement sur certains éléments ; plus gênant, certaines de ses affirmations semblent s'écarter de ce qu'elle énonçait dans les parties précédentes. Par exemple, elle justifie l'analyse de deux personnages esclaves (qui ne rentrent donc pas dans sa conception du middling group) par l'affirmation selon laquelle l'identification d'un spectateur citoyen à un esclave est possible au théâtre, car la différence entre les classes sociales y serait plus réduite ; cela semble remettre en question l'un des fondements de cette étude, à savoir que l'on s'identifie surtout aux personnages qui nous ressemblent, surtout socialement (l'auteur ne jugeant pas le sexe du personnage comme un obstacle à l'identification). Autre exemple : contrairement à ce qui se produit dans le chapitre 2, Paillard ne repère pas d'évolution dans le traitement de ces petits personnages, et en conclut que la raison est sans doute que le « message » porté par ceux-ci (inciter les citoyens les plus humbles du middling group à prendre davantage part à la vie politique) a eu de tout temps besoin d'être répété. Cette conclusion est peu convaincante en l'état et paraît surtout permettre de préserver la thèse générale de l'auteur.

Le livre se clôt par une synthèse générale qui reprend de façon efficace les différentes étapes de son étude. Suit un index assez succinct qui contient les notions et les auteurs anciens ; plusieurs index auraient sans doute facilité les recherches. La bibliographie est très fournie ; on déplorera en revanche l'absence de certains titres, notamment dans les commentaires (comme celui de Pucci, Avezzù et Cerri 2013 pour Philoctète, Bollack 1990 pour l'Œdipe roi, ou ceux de Bernard 2001 et Markantonatos 2002 puis 2007 pour l'Œdipe à Colone), même si l'exhaustivité est difficile pour de tels corpus.

L'ouvrage de Paillard pose un regard renouvelé sur certains éléments des tragédies de Sophocle et son intérêt pour les valeurs portées par les personnages et pour les interactions entre ces derniers apporte des perspectives intéressantes, notamment dans le chapitre consacré à Ulysse. On notera également le souci porté à la clarté du propos (notamment grâce aux conclusions régulières), ce qui rend la lecture agréable.

Toutefois, le livre n'est pas exempt de problèmes, lesquels nuisent souvent à l'adhésion aux thèses de l'auteur. On a ainsi plusieurs fois l'impression que l'on a procédé à des coupes trop importantes dans le manuscrit de thèse ; de ce fait, les justifications apparaissent trop rapides, et peinent à convaincre. Par exemple, on peut lire page 183 : « Moreover the metrical responsion between v. 391ff and v. 507ff works as a sign that the chorus is lying in the second passage as well » ; l'explication est complétée par une note de bas de page, qui ne donne qu'une référence bibliographique (« See Gardiner 1987, p. 29 »). De la même façon, on peut lire page 184, après un bref résumé des hypothèses proposées par la critique pour comprendre la cohérence d'un stasimon du Philoctète : « Gardiner deems the third hypothesis, advocated by Jebb, the least improbable, and it is indeed the hypothesis that provides the best explanation for this passage » ; on aurait souhaité que l'auteur expose les raisons pour lesquelles elle est d'accord avec Gardiner. La même impression qu'il manque des étapes du raisonnement apparaît pour les analyses des textes : Paillard passe beaucoup trop rapidement sur les extraits qu'elle traite, ne faisant parfois que relever une thème ou un mot. Il est sans doute important d'élaguer les études de texte trop scolaires et systématiques, mais ici les coupes sont visiblement trop importantes. Un autre problème est que l'auteur ne prend presque pas en compte des éléments comme la dimension rhétorique des propos des personnages (sauf, dit-elle, quand cela peut avoir une dimension politique – mais comment en juger a priori ?) ; elle laisse aussi beaucoup de côté les aspects dramaturgiques ou poétiques (notamment la possibilité d'une intertextualité avec Eschyle, en particulier pour l'Electre).

En résumé, il s'agit d'une étude stimulante qui suscitera sans doute d'autres travaux sur le lien entre tragédie et politique ; toutefois, les justifications trop rapides et l'absence d'analyse de détail des textes l'empêchent d'être en l'état entièrement convaincante.

(read complete article)


Carolyn Higbie, Collectors, Scholars, and Forgers in the Ancient World: Object Lessons. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xv, 276. ISBN 9780198759300. $105.00.

Reviewed by Alina Kozlovski, University of Cambridge (

Version at BMCR home site


Forgeries continue to fascinate. Numerous television programs about finding fake artworks and museum exhibitions that put forgeries alongside 'original' objects prove that we think their stories are worth telling. The forgery of texts and objects specifically from the Greco-Roman world has a long history, and in this monograph Carolyn Higbie takes us back to the ancient past and explores how Greeks and Romans thought about such fakes themselves. She has addressed some of the themes of this work before,1 and here her main aim is to situate ancient instances of forgery in a world of ancient collectors and scholars. Her interests are chronologically broad, and the work contains an impressive range of ancient examples. To overcome the possible generalisations that can arise from such a wide scope, her focus stays largely on specific individuals and their stories. The result is a sometimes uneven journey, but such is the terrain of a topic that, at its core, ought to make us question not only the reliability of our understanding of ancient texts and objects but also the notion of reliability itself.

In her introduction, Higbie discusses the multifarious nature of forgery and points out that ancient opinions on the topic differed just as they do today. Changing ideas throughout time meant that objects and documents that might have once been considered forgeries were reinterpreted as originals, some documents were the transcriptions of oral materials complicating the idea of originality, and some texts were misattributed long after their creation. She argues that these different possibilities should be seen on a continuum, echoing the terminology previously used by Peirano in relation to a similar problem [2]]. She broadly defines a forgery as 'an object or document that is not what it is said to be' (p. 12-13). As the monograph progresses, it becomes clear that what is 'said' about an object or document is often more important for determining its status than an object or document itself.

The work is made up of four thematic chapters most of which begin in Greece and end in Rome. The ancient material in each chapter is bookended by examples of forgery from later periods, from objects (supposedly) made from Shakespeare's mulberry tree to a comb once thought to be five centuries older than it is. These attest to the relevance of this project, since many of its ideas have long, subsequent histories across different cultures and time periods. In future, it would be interesting to investigate the later receptions of Higbie's ancient examples of forgery in order to know whether reactions shifted with new generations of scholars just as interpretations of Roman copies of Greek sculpture have. This would add a further dimension to the conversation about what 'fake' and 'authentic' mean, bringing the past into dialogue with the present and historicising our own interpretations of these ancient examples.

The first chapter, 'Collectors, collecting and collections', traces the history of collecting from the fifth century BC to early imperial Rome. Higbie cites the collections of powerful and wealthy figures seeking to prove their knowledge and erudition, as well as those accumulated in temples, which gave an opportunity for the public to do the same. Sections on various Greek and 'foreign' characters give her the opportunity to discuss a different aspects of collecting culture: Croesus not only adds to the collections of objects at Greek sanctuaries but also features in Herodotus' work about objects that the historian claims had been deliberately mislabelled (1.51.3-5); Xerxes appears as a collector of people as well as objects as he conducts surveys of his forces; Aristotle collects 'on a grander scale than anyone else before him' (p. 44); and Alexander the Great amasses knowledge and objects from the lands he conquers in actions that Higbie calls 'intellectual looting' (p. 48). After a section on the forgery of oracles, the next part of the chapter is devoted to the Hellenistic-era rulers of Pergamon, whose collections Higbie sees as evidence that more interest was brewing in collecting the art of earlier ages. Several Roman examples including Cicero, the Julio-Claudian emperors, Pliny the Younger, and others are then discussed. The final section details the relationship between scholars, forgers, and collectors, who, depending on circumstances, could have 'differing degrees of knowledge and culpability in the forging of fakes' (p. 76).

The second chapter concerns itself with what Higbie calls 'Visual Forgeries'. It begins with a brief introduction to how Greeks and Romans wrote about art and artists and follows this with a section on signatures, which summarises examples of the use of artists' names on pottery and sculpture. The chapter also contains a discussion of ancient connoisseurship and sections on ancient interest in art from earlier periods, the place of famous Greek artists in Roman collections, and the 'developmental view of art' found in the works of Pliny the Elder and Pausanias.

The topic of the third chapter is 'Textual Forgeries'. Here Higbie begins by exploring ancient references to the collecting of objects once owned by famous poets and compares how their names 'carried an aura' similar to those of the sculptors mentioned in the previous chapter (p. 142). Such links continue as she then turns to manuscripts that were believed to have been written by poets themselves, rather than copied by scribes. The following sections address stories of the detection of forged texts and the perils of making one's text available to the public and open to alteration. Next are sections on methods of authentication, with the documents from Alexander the Great's life and the Lindian Chronicle as case studies, and sections on legal documents and coins. The chapter's conclusion comments that many of the texts and objects discussed here did not usually interest collectors and, as in chapter one, that scholars could be forgers or authenticators.

The fourth and final chapter addresses a subject that has already been touched on in the others: the forgery of texts and objects from the past. Beginning with antiquarians, the chapter then turns to specific examples: the Lindian Chronicle and its authors, Tharsagoras and Timachidas, reappear before separate sections on Mucianus, Pliny the Elder, Phlegon of Tralles, and Pausanias, where Higbie tells us about the different methods and interests of these figures. The rest of the chapter focuses on the Homeric world and its relationship to later texts, with Pausanias as the main protagonist in most sections, together with discussions on the Lindian Chronicle again, the Dictys, and Philostratus.

The book as a whole suffers from the way its sections have been organised. Higbie's definition of forgeries, which I have cited above, leaves the topic open to too many examples for so short a work, and the chapter divisions between 'visual' forgeries, 'textual' forgeries, and the 'forgery of the past' have too many crossovers to prove useful. Another division of types of forgeries (exact copies, deliberate fabrications, deliberate misattributions, and honest misattributions, taken from an essay written for an exhibition; p. 125)3 unexpectedly appears in the second chapter. Subsections repeat information across and within the same chapters, making the whole effect somewhat superficial, especially since the subjects of collecting and scholarship in the ancient world have been covered by many in the past.

The most speculative of the chapters is the one focused on the visual. A large section concerns signatures found on objects or their bases and, since the broader topic is forgery, a worthwhile addition would have been a more detailed discussion on whether the term 'signature', with its modern associations with authentication, is appropriate in these cases. We could also ask what force such texts had as authenticating devices when most ancient objects do not seem to have featured them,4 and whether contexts of display had an effect on how much a viewer was concerned about knowing an artist's name.

Another complication mentioned in the work is that of determining a maker's motivations. With both objects and texts, this can make us enter the blurry territory between imitation, quotation, homage, and forgery. The slippery boundaries make the subject interesting, but how and why such labels have been attached to ancient materials by modern writers is something worth thinking about. Although throughout the work Higbie often leaves open to interpretation the reasons behind the creation of a text or object, she writes about the Piombino Apollo as a 'deliberate' fake (p. 127). She is not the first to do so, but we can wonder why modern authors see this archaising object on these terms, rather than as an example of the breadth of artists' knowledge of older styles and their willingness to experiment, as well as of a buyer's nostalgia. Without knowing original intent or ancient contexts of immediate or subsequent reception, the interpretation can go either way; the reasons for why this sculpture should be categorised in the realm of forgery rather than memory are not entirely clear.

Dealing with ancient references to forgeries rather than identifying them ourselves is easier because in such cases the ancients have done the detective work for us. Particularly interesting in this monograph is the discussion of Dionysius of Halicarnassus' methods for determining the authenticity of speeches attributed to Dinarchus. Dionysius dismisses the work of previous scholars, determines the chronology of events, and attempts to use stylistic analysis. The fact that investigations such as these contributed to the development of literary and artistic criticism, and yielded scholarly production (since, for example, Dionysius provides more information about how he proved when something was fake than when something was genuine), is an important point about the place and value of forgeries in the ancient world.

The study of forgery is essentially the study of failed attempts because any successes make the act itself invisible. Consequently, to understand not only a culture's methods of forgery but also its reactions to it is not a simple task. Higbie's monograph provides a useful introduction to the topics listed in its title and gives readers a wide range of ancient materials to begin their study of this subject. Many deeper questions about the nature of authenticity and authorship in the ancient world are left open and, as in past works on the subject, the main issue remains one of definition. Nevertheless, since determining what is 'fake' and what is not has a newfound modern resonance, studies such as Higbie's—which focus on how another culture tried to, or sometimes chose not to, answer that same question—can only help us along the way.


1.   For example in Higbie, C. 2003. The Lindian Chronicle and the Greek Creation of their Past. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Higbie, C. 2014. 'Greeks and the forging of Homeric pasts' in Alroth, B. and Scheffer, C. (eds.) Attitudes Towards the Past in Antiquity: Creating Identities. Proceedings of an international conference held at Stockholm University, 15-17 May 2009. Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis. Stockholm studies in classical archaeology, 14. Stockholm: Stockholm University, 9-19; Higbie, C. 2015. 'Cultural change and Greek perception of it: exegi monumentum aere prennius (Horace, Odes 3.30.1)' in Gonzalez, José M. (ed.) Diachrony: Diachronic Studies of Ancient Greek Literature and Culture. Berlin: de Gruyter, 327-46.
2.   Peirano, I. 2012. The Rhetoric of the Roman Fake: Latin Pseudepigraphia in Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
3.   Johnson, K.C. 1973. 'Fakes, forgeries, and other deceptions' in Sachs II, S. (ed.) Fakes and Forgeries. Minneapolis: Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
4.   Hurwit, J.M. 2015. Artists and Signatures in Ancient Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, xvi.

(read complete article)


Katia Margariti, The Death of the Maiden in Classical Athens / Ο θάνατος της αγάμου κόρης στην Αθήνα των κλασικών χρόνων. Access archaeology. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2017. Pp. xlviii, 523; 147 p. of plates. ISBN 9781784915469. £110.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Panagiotis Konstantinidis, Piraeus, Greece (

Version at BMCR home site

Publisher's Preview

This book is a reprint of Margariti's Ph.D.-thesis in Greek, submitted in 2010. She added an extensive English summary (pp. i-xlviii) in order to make it known to a wider audience, and included a selection of the photographs from the original dissertation.1

In ancient Greek culture, marriage was an important social institution for the oikosand the city. This holds especially true for Athens. As the author states "it was essential for the birth of legitimate children, the continuation of the family line, the preservation of family property, [and the] upholding of tradition and household religion (…); it was a prerequisite for providing the poliswith legitimate future citizens, warriors, and mothers" (p. ii), but also occasionally a means of sealing political alliances.2

Since the first attempt to identify the aoros parthenosin Athenian funerary art by A. Milchhoefer in the late 19th century, relatively little has been written about the death of Athenian maidens in funerary art and archaeology; exceptions are the influential studies of J. Boardman and D. Kurtz and that of G. Kokula.3 While the subject of Athenian burial customs of the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. is probably one of the best-known aspects of ancient Athenian civic life, the subject of the identification of the maiden in Athenian culture (myth and tragedy), society (burials and funerary inscriptions) and art (vase-painting and funerary sculpture) is worth revisiting.

Margariti's book sets out to "examine the death of maidens in classical Athens, combining the study of Attic funerary iconography (grave reliefs and funerary vases) with research on classical Athenian maiden burials, funerary inscriptions, tragic plays, and relevant Attic myths" (p. i). The monograph consists of six chapters, one for each area of study: grave reliefs, funerary vases, burials, inscriptions, tragedy, and mythology. As stated by the author, "special emphasis is placed on aspects of the subject that have not been studied by other scholars, such as the iconography of dead maidens in funerary art" (p. i); these are discussed in the first two chapters of the book and are arguably the strongest ones.

In the first two chapters (Funerary Vases and Grave Reliefs), the author sets forth the criteria of identification that were applied in collecting the material and creating the catalogues, while emphasizing the iconographic problems arising from their study. Important characteristics are the presence of the loutrophoros, specific features of clothing (i.e. the Attic peplos) and hairdressing (i.e. the lampadion), or a combination of the two (a youthful hairstyle and the presence of the diagonal himation or the Attic peplos). In two- and multi-figured scenes of funerary reliefs and vases, the scale of figures can also be helpful, with the non-servant females (parthenoi) usually being shown smaller in size than the other adult figures of these scenes. The presence of special attributes is also key in identifying maidens, such as young females holding dolls or teasing a small dog with a bird, as are elements of the wedding iconography (the bridal diadem [planis], the cheiragogia [leading the bride by the hand], or the bridal shoes [nymphides]). A section on Athenian burial customs (as attested in epigraphic and literary sources), and how they are reflected in iconography would have been most welcome.

Identification tools are sound, and unjustified obstinacy in certain identifications is wisely avoided.4 The author acknowledges quite rightly the fact that "since the funerary reliefs and vases were usually bought ready-made by the family of the deceased upon visiting the sculptors' or painters' workshops, the ambiguity of their figured scenes was intentional, so as to appeal to a wide audience" (p. v), since this accounts for some of the iconographic ambiguities. Similarly, the lack of funerary inscriptions makes it "often difficult (at times even impossible) to identify the dead person with absolute certainty among the various figures depicted in such scenes" (p. v).

The author also states that "the hydria-loutrophoros is not the symbol of maiden death par excellence, but merely one of the symbols of untimely death before marriage for the Athenian parthenoi" (p. xi). Thus, she—as other scholars before her—argues against the 'traditional' theory according to which the loutrophoros marked the graves of the unmarried dead alone.5

Chapter three (Burials) examines an important aspect of this study, namely whether the funerary reliefs under discussion can be associated with a tomb. Unfortunately, only one out of the approximately 170 marble grave reliefs and vases listed in the catalogue, can be associated with an excavated tomb: the grave stele of young Eukoline from the Kerameikos cemetery (Cat. no. E 68). Since skeletal remains were largely ignored and rarely studied systematically in earlier archaeological studies, the author can only compare this grave to three others located within the boundaries of the polis of Athens: the Kerameikos cemetery, the classical cemetery near modern Syntagma Square, and the West Eleusis cemetery. Comparing and contrasting skeletal remains from Attica to other regions is highly problematic not only because of the state of scholarship, as in the case of Boeotia and Corinth, but also because of the distance, as in the case of geographically remote areas, including Samothrace, Metapontum and Epizephyrian Locri.

Chapter four (Inscriptions) treats the small number of surviving classical Attic funerary epigrams commemorating dead maidens, mostly dating to the 4th century B.C. As the author concludes, nearly all of them emphasize the loving relationship between mothers and daughters. In light of this special relationship, a brief overview of the social status and everyday life of legitimate Athenian females would have been an extremely useful addition.

Chapters five and six analyze the death of maidens in Attic tragedy and myth, a topic that has received much scholarly attention. These chapters complement the study of the funerary monuments in previous chapters but are also essential for an holistic approach to the subject. Myth is key to a better understanding of the social status of the maiden and subsequently the significance of marriage in ancient Athenian society. The concise synopsis undertaken here is highly successful.

In chapter five (Tragedy) the sacrifice of the mythical figures of Iphigeneia, Polyxena, Makaria (Euripides) and Antigone (Sophocles) are discussed. While the sacrifices of Iphigeneia and Polyxena are connected to marriage, Makaria's virginal modesty is the ultimate symbol of familial—social—loyalty. She is undoubtedly the ideal maiden: "devoted to her family, ready to sacrifice herself for others, brave, yet modest" (p. xxi). Antigone's utter devotion to her father's oikos is equally striking. She sacrifices the ultimate social ideal for a woman of either citizen status or—in myth—aristocratic/regal descend. For the love of her dead family, she refuses married life and the children she could have had with Haimon, thus failing to fulfill her goal in life. As Margariti concludes (p. xxiv) "the tragic poets praise the remarkable bravery and willingness of their maiden heroines to sacrifice their lives for the sake of their city or family, but never fail to stress the particularly tragical aspect of their early death that deprives them of marriage and motherhood." After all, self-sacrifice although commendable in myth, is devastating for the future of the oikos and the survival of the city in real life.

In chapter six (Mythology) the Attic myths of the maiden Erigone, who hanged herself, and the daughters of Leos are analyzed. They are aptly selected because they present the mythical models of the real-life Athenian maidens, who have to die symbolically during their wedding ceremony in order to be re-born as wives, adult women, and future mothers. Margariti is correct—in our point of view—in acknowledging the fact that in classical Athens the tragic event of the untimely death of maidens is sometimes viewed as a wedding. The author joins with many scholars who have pointed out (p. xxix, note 216) that marriage to Death, or marriage in Hades is closely related to the Greek custom of burying maidens and unmarried males in their wedding attire. Margariti cleverly notes that it is still common in Greece to bury unmarried individuals dressed as brides and grooms.

Finally, linking chapters five and six with those on iconography, the author concludes that "the iconography of dead maidens in classical Athens is in accordance with the 'image' of the deceased parthenoi presented by funerary epigrams, tragedy, and mythology" (p. xxxi).

The chapters are supplemented by catalogues (of grave reliefs, funerary vases and inscriptions), tables, graphs, images, and a lengthy list of references that includes ancient authors. References to plates were not deleted even though no plate numbers were included. It might have been more user-friendly to direct the reader to the 2010 online version of this study, as it included all relevant plates and images. One also wonders if, overall, a longer English translation of the Greek text would have been preferable.

I spotted no factual errors. More careful editing, however, would have caught some typographical errors, i.e. the "π.X." in Graph 4 (p. xli) of the English section of the book. Also, throughout the Greek text, the presence or absence of the final -ν in feminine and masculine nouns should have been applied more consistently. Although the images are understandably fewer in number (and mostly taken from studies published before 1950) due to copyright cost, an effort could have been made to edit them further in photoshop. The writing style is accessible, and the bibliography has been updated since the online 2010 Greek edition.

Overall Margariti's book is successful. It would be unrealistic to expect radically new interpretations from this book due to the lack of substantial overlap in archaeological, epigraphic and literary sources. The author's approach is holistic, and she presents her material with keen attention to theory. Margariti's study is commendable for its thorough presentation of the material, clear and concise methodology and fluid prose.


1.   An open access edition of the Greek text is available at the National Greek Repository of Ph.D.-theses (
2.   A. Vérilhac, C. Vial, Le marriage grec du VIe siècle av. J.-C. à l' époque d' Auguste, Athènes 1998 (BCH Suppl. 32); R. F. Kennedy, Immigrant Women in Athens. Gender, Ethnicity and Citizenship in the Classical City, (New York 2014) Routledge Studies in Ancient History 6: 14-16, 17; J. Blok, Citizenship in Classical Athens, (Cambridge 2017): 178-182.
3.   A. Milchhoefer, "Gemalte Grabstelen", Athenische Mitteilungen 5 (1880): 164-194; J. Boardman and D. Kurtz, Greek Burial Customs, (London 1971); G. Kokula, Marmorlutrophoren, (Berlin 1984).
4.   See cat. nos. E II 1-51; Λ ΙΙ 1-16; ΥΙΙ 1; ΛΛ ΙΙ 1-23; ΕΛΟυ ΙΙ 1; ΕΥ ΙΙ 1.
5.   J. Bergemann, "Die sogenannte Lutrophoros: Grabmal für unverheiratete Tote?", Athenische Mitteilungen 111 (1996): 149-190.

(read complete article)


Benjamin Sammons, Device and Composition in the Greek Epic Cycle. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. vii, 263. ISBN 9780190614843. £55.00.

Reviewed by Malcolm Davies, St. John's College, Oxford (

Version at BMCR home site


'The discussion of a book one likes can easily outgrow any tolerable proportions.' Accordingly, I shall imitate the scholar just cited (Momigliano, JRS 41 (1951) 146 = Quinto Contributo p. 959) and concentrate on two aspects that are important but provoke debate. For, despite its title, this attractively produced volume does not deal with the whole of the Epic Cycle. Rather, it takes further a growing tendency to suppose that we can legitimately practice literary criticism not merely on the few citational fragments of the Trojan epics, but also on Proclus' summaries of these epics (hereafter 'P'). Former scepticism as to the reliability of these summaries is now almost extinct (Appendix A has a sensible account of why). But their very brevity encourages another related tendency in recent scholarship: to expand their details and then apply literary criticism to the consequent expansion. The principle of expansion has a long history (see below). The new element here is the more refined application to such expansions (and to Homer) of sophisticated modern literary theories involving, for instance, the employment of aristeiai (pp. 157 ff.) or the issue of 'character roles' (pp. 129 ff.) in both Homer and the Cycle. This application can supposedly allow us to form more positive opinions than hitherto about the literary qualities of the lost epics.

Some expansions and the conclusions drawn from them may seem fairly uncontroversial, as with Sammons' suggestion (p. 155) that the Cypria progressively focussed on Achilles in its latter part. But even in this instance there is room for debate, and dangers lurk. Both aspects are signposted by the author himself when he pictures Monro, 'seeking to impose [my italics] unity on the Cypria' (p. 152), by figuring Paris as the poem's main hero. How different is Monro's effort from more recent versions? Ruth Scodel's expansions of the Cypria ('Stupid, Pointless Wars', TAPhA 138 (2008) 219-38) produce an epic with an ironic 'take' on war, a stress on its 'unheroic' aspects, which seems, in more senses than one of the adverb, disturbingly contemporary. Questions therefore arise relating especially to the risk of something approaching circular argument. May not the choice of details wherewith to expand P be determined, consciously or not, by a desire to boost the epics' qualities? What checks are available to control and minimise these risks? (In the case of Monro, for instance, one might retort that there is counter-evidence suggesting that poems of the Epic Cycle did not exactly entertain the implied positive view of 'the enemy').

Elaborating the theme of 'dangers', I give some concrete examples, drawn first from the 'long history' mentioned above. Welcker well over a century ago speculated that the Aethiopis' Achilles, before his duel with Memnon, had withdrawn again from fighting in Iliadic rage, and was impelled back to battle by the killing of Antilochus, a Patroclus doublet. More recently, Kullmann and others have suggested (largely on the basis of a passage of Pindar and a vase painting) that the Cypria's Patroclus had an aristeia during the Teuthranian expedition, which ended in his being wounded and then treated by Achilles. This latter expansion is interesting in view of Sammon's observation (p. 160) that, because of his impending death, the aristeia of the Iliad's Patroclus lacks the wounding and healing that that poem's use of the device leads us to expect. Neither expansion seems to be favoured in the present book (cf. p. 137 with n. 36; p. 160 f.). It would be useful to see it argued out how they are less plausible than the new expansions therein advanced.

From these I extract two examples. Of the Cypria's unique detail (courtesy of P) that Thetis and Aphrodite brought Helen and Achilles together, it is suggested (p. 192) that Thetis may first have visited Zeus, as she does in Iliad Book One. Perhaps; but there is absolutely no evidence for this, and the actual fragments of the Cypria, as the author himself is well aware and illustrates (e.g. pp. 40 f.), exhibit many differences from Homer. So many, I suggest, and on so many levels, as not exactly to encourage this guess. More worryingly, it is speculated (p. 146) that in the Nostoi, Menelaus on returning home, may 'have lamented his absence when Agamemnon was killed, 'just as [sic]' Achilles laments the death of so many Greeks during his absence from battle. This comparison of two not very similar situations is itself based on a preceding comparison of Nostoi and Iliad: the former (says P) had Menelaus sail away from the rest of the Greek forces the day after his quarrel with Agamemnon. This, we are assured, is reminiscent of the Homeric Achilles' withdrawal from battle after a similar quarrel. But Achilles' action reflects the pattern of the alienated individual that angrily quits the company of his peers who then, paradoxically, have to persuade him back to help them in a crisis—not at all like Menelaus, surely.

In this way hypothesis can spawn hypothesis, and earlier attempts at expansion (e.g. p. 183 n. 23) are treated as secure fact on which further hypotheses may rest. And we are confronted with a scholar applauding a literary effect that he himself may partly at least have manufactured. The process is easy to replicate. For instance, significant irony is detected (p. 198) in the Aethiopis' presentation of an Achilles purified from blood-guilt by Apollo, the very deity who will later kill him. Perhaps. But can we not go further? Since speculation, if speculation be once admitted, has no certain limitation (to adapt Dr Johnson), why not cite, as further comparable irony, Apollo's notoriously hypocritical participation at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, perhaps stressed in the Cypria? The room for subjectivity is virtually unlimited. Achilles as the main hero of the last-named epic is at odds with Monro's bestowal (cited above) of that honor upon Paris. One almost foresees a not too distant future when it will be desperately difficult to disentangle what P actually relates from a penumbra of modern expansions, some mutually incompatible.

Expansionist remedies may seem less applicable on the rare occasions when we have the ipsissima verba of the poems, but here too something similar, it seems, can be tried. A test case of literary qualities (or their absence) is the fragment of the Little Iliad describing Astyanax's brutal murder. Here Rudolf Kassel in 1954 lethally detected nullus vagitus, nulla palpitatio infantis, qui lapidi aut glomeri non dissimilis arripitur atque deicitur (Kl.Schr. p. 4). Like other recent scholars, Sammons seeks to redeem this extreme inadequacy by speculative expansion of the context, as it were. Perhaps the lines originally belonged (p. 82) to some sort of parenthetic digression or catalogue? I am not convinced that this saves the poet's credit. If he really thought such digressive treatment suitable for so potentially poignant a scene ('pathos in parenthesis'?) he probably deserves any amount of obloquy. This mode of redemption is in other respects too more problematic than is often realised. For instance, the same flat narrative brevity is apparent in other parts of the Cycle — the Cypria's fr. 1, for instance, or its picture of Lynceus on Mt Taygetus — where it is respectively almost impossible and utterly impossible to apply such an excuse. (Unhelpfully enough, the one fragment of the Cypria whose narrative is almost certifiably parenthetic, because probably deriving from a speech, describes Zeus' pursuit of Nemesis at a surprisingly leisurely pace.) This is one area where a comparison with Homer could produce particularly subtle results, for the Iliad's first fifty-two lines also 'move swiftly,' but 'the immediate impression is of speed and narrative energy', with the result that 'it is the triumph of the Homeric style that the introduction is so short and at the same time so massive' (Jasper Griffin and Martin Hammond, G & R29 (1982) 135). Like the Attic tragedians, Homer takes as subject matter apparently peripheral events and imbues them with the utmost significance. On any interpretation, the cyclic poets seem to have taken central subject matter and treated it as if peripheral.

I add finally one example of a failure to exploit syncrisis between Homer and the Cycle: the author omits to follow up his perfectly reasonable aperçu (p. 190) that, on the evidence of P, the Cypria's Artemis played a formidable and key role in events leading up to the crisis at Aulis, a role apparent nowhere else in the poem. Appropriate comparison and contrast with the Iliad, where the goddess's one and only intrusion into the narrative (in the Theomachy) presents her as a laughably inadequate figure, would have been enlightening.

Martin West once criticised a book on early Greek Epic as 'unimaginative' (CR21 (1971) 69) while containing 'speculations hardly worth writing down'. The adjective could never be used of this book, which indeed, in at least one reader, inspired musings on the very meaning of that word and its place in classical studies. To end with an admonitory but consolatory exemplum to set beside Nestor's in the Cypria (source again P): no less a figure than Ronald Syme has been charged with building hypothesis upon hypothesis, and the scholar advancing that criticism (Momigliano, Gnomon 33 (1961) 58 = Terzo Contributo p. 744) added a warning that the wizard risked becoming slave to his own magic.

(read complete article)


Drew W. Billings, Acts of the Apostles and the Rhetoric of Roman Imperialism. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017. Pp. xiii, 231. ISBN 9781107187856. $99.99.

Reviewed by Allen Brent, King's College, London (

Version at BMCR home site


The Acts of the Apostles has been assigned to various dates in early imperial history with a scholarly consensus falling between 80 and 90 C.E. Drew Billings is not convinced by the grounds cited for that period. He considers that consensus to be based on a compromise between claims that the author is an eyewitness of the events described and skepticism about that claim (12). His original approach to this problem is to invite us to recognize that the Lukan narrative is a rhetorical construction of whatever original facts there might exist behind such a reshaping. Billings believes that he has found the shape of Lukan historiographic rhetoric in the reign of Trajan (98-117 C.E.) and in both literary and material artefacts that describe and proclaim that reign. It is with this reign that the writers of the second sophistic (Dio Chrysostom, Aelius Aristides, the Younger Pliny, Suetonius, etc.) flourish, along with a refashioned model of imperial values and of empire itself under the Optimus Princeps.

The ubiquitous presence of images of the emperor and their idealization of him as a moral figure reached a new height with Trajan when Pliny in the Panegyrus attributed a large accumulation of existing individual public virtues to a single imperial person (56). This was what justified the description of Trajan as Optimus. Indulgentia ('generosity') comes to assume a specific meaning when applied to Trajan as a paternal quality, requiring in response the filial duty of the subject, namely, his pietas that is appropriately associated with his beneficia. The paternalism thus created modifies the claim that the emperor is a princeps and not a dominus, and is assimilated to the patronus-cliens relationship that involves the inferiority of the suppliant in the light of the patronal generosity (58-64).

The emperor as pater or patronus delivering his beneficia to his subjects was to transform with Trajan the concept of imperium. The latter concept had developed from Republican times. Billings makes a claim that I find questionable, namely, that 'imperium was used to refer to a person's or a collective power over another,' and thus he can argue that in Trajan's time it had grown into 'power as a territorial extent.' It would seem to me that, on the contrary, even in Republican times 'imperium' as applied to a particular magisterial rank referred to constitutional authority exercised within a specific geographical area, as with a consul over a prouincia (66-67). Certainly however, by Trajan's time, the claims of maius imperium had resulted in the concept of the Principate as the guarantor of an imperial whole (54-58).

The advantage of his use of both literature and a material artefact in order to construct a pagan rhetorical narrative in which the early Christian Acts of the Apostles can the read is that he can thereby avoid the demand to state the specific genre in which it has been written: 'biography,' 'novel,' or 'homeric epic' (18). The narrative of Acts cannot be classified within 'a single generic category,' but rather is to be viewed 'within an eclectic mixture of literary works that transcends any one particular category' (22). Billings seeks a 'multimedia' approach in which different types of media as well as different types of genre created the general perspective that provided the legitimation of political power (23). Parallel with literary evidence, Billings therefore proposes to examine those material artefacts which enjoyed a large popular viewing in the public spaces in which they were located, and whose chronological endurance guaranteed the continuing presence of their ideological message.

Billings selects as his exemplar Trajan's column set up in the Forum (113 C.E.) (27-46, 58-91). Here Trajan is depicted as the patronus whose military expedition brings the beneficia of Roman rule to his Dacian clientes. In scenes depicting violence and bloodshed the Emperor is absent and the violence is done by his provincial auxiliary troops (28, 129, Fig. 14). Trajan appears as generously granting pardon to suppliant Dacian captives (32): he is not so much a conqueror than a εὐεργέτης providing εὐεργεσία (72-73; 104). Trajan's mission to Dacia is a civilizing mission, witnessed by the building activity of his troops (33, Fig. 4).

Acts can now be read through the prism of this pagan rhetorical narrative in which genres and images afford a rhetoric of Christianity. Miracles are regarded as acts of εὐεργεσία performed by Peter and Paul as expressions of Christ's patronal favour, of him who 'went around benefacting (διῆλθεν εὐεργετῶν)᾽ (Acts 10:38 cf. 4:9 and p. 92). The commission from the Church at Antioch for Barnabas and Saul to take famine relief to the Judaean community represents the former as a 'benevolent society … with Barnabas and Saul as their delegate brokers' (97). Indeed, Paul's conversion is seen in terms of his change from an angry individual exhibiting no features of Trajan's Romanitas. That he persecutes by hunting down the Christians is quite opposed to the policy articulated in Pliny's famous letter to the emperor (in 10.97, p. 95-96). Pliny was not actively to hunt Christians down but only act if they were accused. Paul's subsequent travels, his good relations with Roman magistrates of whose attitudes he approves, witnessed how well Christianity, in the view of the author of Acts, corresponds with the Trajanic imperial virtues. Paul at Lystra performs a miracle of healing on a lame man, in an event that connects him with the similar actions of Peter and John earlier on in the account (Acts 14:8-10 cf. 3:8-16, p. 104-106). Miracles are acts of euergetism confirming the elite status of the apostles (109).

Paul lands in Malta as a result of shipwreck, whilst he acts in accordance with the Traianic ideal of the emperor as guider of the ship (115-166, cf. Fig. 13 on 119). Furthermore, Paul's travels as part of the apostolic ministry from Judaea and Samaria to the ends of the earth mirrors the Traianic view of imperium as a beneficium (121-128).

Billings' contribution to Lukan studies is impressive and his thesis is one that was clearly worth trying out. My problem is that his interpretation of the narrative data only partially fits that data in that non-Traianic features and issues cannot be picked out and included in the discussion. Regarding the Traianic dating of Acts as a product of the second sophistic I find it problematic that the language of ὁμόνοια does not explicitly occur even though such descriptions as ὁμοθυμαδόν characterize the author's idealization of the first apostolic community (Acts 2:46). ὁμόνοια language first occurs with Domitian as a means of cloaking imperial subjugation under the term that describes natural harmony between autonomous city-states: its absence from the Lukan narrative would indicate Domitianic rather than Traianic concerns that had not yet experienced full conceptualization.1

Whilst accepting the apologetic character of Luke-Acts aimed at Graeco-Roman imperial culture, I believe that the author is addressing the claims of Augustus himself and his program rather than the Traianic object in presenting the justification of imperial rule in terms of patrons with benefactions and the virtues that such actions imply. The enduring character of monuments, in this case the Ara Pacis Augusti, means that the iconography of the Augustan Principate remained available and enduring to all who observed it. There are in Luke-Acts deeper, religious claims implicit in the description of the Saviour who establishes εἰρήνη in both heaven and earth, and thus achieves the pax deorum in nature and in society.

Converts like Theophilus and his circle needed to feel that their new found faith did not threaten the pax deorum, which the Principate had succeeded in achieving where the Republic had failed.2 It was to Theophilus and his neophyte Christian circle and not to the general Hellenistic public, whether or not imbued with Traianic ideals of imperial rule, that Luke-Acts is addressed: its immediate purpose was not to make Christianity more acceptable to a pagan public but ἵνα ἐπιγνῶς περὶ ὧν κατηχήθης λόγων τὴν ἀσφάλειαν (Luke 1:4).3 The Hellenistic neophytes were to be reassured that the benefits of peace, security, and prosperity brought by the Principate were guaranteed by Christians who were part of the imperial peace, bringing Christ's peace and the prospects of a renewed aetas aurea. The hostility expressed to Judaism in the scenes in which its adherents were dogging the steps of Paul by provoking dissension was not a reflection, as Billings thinks (142-163), of increasing conflicts in the time of Trajan, but of the failure of Judaism to achieve the divine pax in which Christianity was to succeed.4

Billings has produced an analysis based upon a fine argument but which I consider flawed by the inadequate construction of a Traianic matrix within which to interpret his data. A good model to use in a comparative analysis should include rather than exclude important features of the data that require interpretation.


1.   Allen Brent, Ignatius of Antioch and the Second Sophistic, (Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum 36; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2006), 245-257.
2.   Allen Brent, The Imperial Cult and the Development of Church Order: Concepts and Images of Authority in Paganism and Early Christianity before the Age of Cyprian (Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 45; Leiden: E.J. Brill 1999), 82-106.
3.   Brent, Imperial Cult, 75-78; 137-139.
4.   Brent, Imperial Cult, 108-130.

(read complete article)