Thursday, July 2, 2015


Joseph Coleman Carter, Alberto Prieto (ed.), The Chora of Metaponto 3: Archaeological Field Survey - Bradano to Basento (4 vols.). Austin: Institute of Classical Archaeology; Packard Humanities Institute; University of Texas Press, 2011. Pp. 1,648. ISBN 9780292726789. $200.00.

Reviewed by Raphaëlle-Anne Kok-Merlino and Jitte Waagen, Universiteit van Amsterdam (;

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

This is the third publication on the seminal work directed by Joseph Coleman Carter in the chora of Metaponto for nearly forty years. Numerous scholars have contributed to this thorough work by writing chapters on subjects of their expertise. It is the first extensive and systematic publication of the results of a large and long-running survey project in the territory of a Greek colony in Southern Italy and as such is of great importance. Like the other components of this series1 these volumes are lavishly illustrated with full colour photographs, maps, tables and graphs and extensively annotated with footnotes, leaving the reader nothing to wish for. It is an impressive accomplishment that the definitive publication of this fieldwork has finally been realized.2

There are 4 volumes, of which the primary documentation on the survey is presented in Volume 1 (geology and geomorphology, methods and analytical tools, survey materials) and the atlas as well as the site gazetteer in Volume 4. Volumes 2 and 3 are dedicated to the contextualization of the survey results, relating these findings to excavations, ancient texts and aerial photography.

The first part of the first volume assesses the geology and the geomorphology as well as the geoarchaeology of the Metapontino. Detailed and thorough descriptions and analyses are followed by an assessment of the effects of geophysical processes on the formation of the archaeological record of the research area in terms of site visibility and preservation. It is clearly demonstrated that an understanding of geomorphology is essential in order to assess the degree to which earlier research may have been based on a distorted or partial sample of archaeological material. Such practical conclusions offer valuable insights for current research and provide warnings and recommendations for future survey methodologies.

The second part of the first volume sheds light on the field methods and analytical tools. The surveys have been mainly site-oriented, which has been stimulated by a rich pre-existing knowledge base from earlier work on site typology and assemblages by Adamesteanu (73). The focus on sites has also been encouraged by their clear presence as material concentrations against a background of very marginal noise, i.e. offsite materials. The survey areas were established based on the topographical, geological and geomorphological features of the Metapontino excluding the coastal plain which was regarded as being too disturbed by building and agricultural activities, as well as alluvial sedimentation.

Methodologically, archaeological field survey in the Metapontino developed from rather extensive and unsystematic fieldwork to a more intensive and systematic undertaking. Though starting, for example, with subjective criteria for site identification and employing a qualitative sampling strategy at sites, the surveys become organized towards rigorous quantitative spatial sampling in later phases of fieldwork between 1992 and 1999. Effects of post-depositional processes were recognized, offsite material was dealt with, the effects of ground visibility were taken into account and quantitative criteria for establishing site boundaries were introduced. This posed some obvious problems for comparing the results of the various campaigns. For the final analyses presented in these volumes, the decision was made to modify the new data to fit the old data (for which the actual transformation remains unspecified in the chapter). This has some consequences for the comparability of individual site samples. Moreover, for many of the sites, identification criteria for presence, typology and area have been partly based on subjective judgment by fieldworkers, and so the quantitative representativeness of the samples cannot be reliably established, which poses potential problems for comparison of sites within the chora as well as for comparison with data from other projects.

The issue of representativeness of the sites as a proportion of the distribution and intensity of activity in antiquity is then assessed. Stating the impossibility of total recovery, the authors argue that their sample is likely to be an apt reflection of the past: they collected a large sample, proportionally distributed over the different topographical and geomorphologic elements, and human error was limited since resurveys in different seasons showed comparable results. The authors claim that the little offsite material present should likely be explained by post-depositional processes causing movements of artefacts from areas they were originally deposited in antiquity.3

In Chapter 4, the GIS methods are explained, but the statistical procedures for establishing site dates and relative site importance draw the most attention here. Two important metrics used throughout the interpretative parts of the volumes may be singled out for comment. The first is the Estimated Artifact Weight (EAW). Dates for single sites are established by a complex procedure: several probabilistic date distribution curves are plotted in one histogram per site for its datable artefacts, clusters are then established by assessing date ranges with the largest cumulative probability, and after this their average is recorded as a 'best date'. The score for each 50-year date bin is called the EAW, which above a certain threshold is categorized as significant (it must be stressed that the 'significance levels' defined for the EAW are judgmental, and do not represent formal statistical significance). This is a clever way to deal quantitatively with site dating, though a problem might be that the number of datable artefacts used for such a quantitative approach is not large enough to warrant such precise outcomes: the material can often not be dated to narrow time-frames, and one sample of fine wares is not necessarily quantitatively comparable with another.

The second key index, Multiple Criteria Evaluation (MCE), was developed to determine the relative importance of the farms, 'based on a weighted linear combination of expert opinions, subjective judgments, quantitative measurements and fuzzy estimation' (120). The exact calculation for the Final Multiple Criteria Evaluation (FMCE) incorporates a lot of metrics, but a good discussion of the factors included and excluded is lacking. Since the quantitative factors such as the EAWs may not always be completely robust, it all appears a bit more formal than it actually is. In any case, the end result is a well-defined and thought-provoking methodology that allows for processing all sites and categorizing them by date, type and relative importance; but the potentially problematic quantitative constructions need some rigorous tests to confirm their efficacy.

In Chapter 5, quantification of the actual survey assemblages is dealt with in two parts: a description of site types through aggregated sherd assemblages, and a demonstration of key features per site type. The site types are based on subjective criteria which are mentioned, but not listed in detail, in Chapters 3 and 18. The site types are quantitatively assessed, leading to the interesting conclusion that differences in site type are apparent in the relative proportions of ware classes, which is a very useful result not only for this project but for site typing in general. Jumping to page 635 in Chapter 19, Carter concludes that site assessment in the field has been solid because the functional profiles of the assemblages are also consistent, which could be a nice indication that those criteria may have been suitable.

These methodological considerations are at the core of the chapters on the historical analyses of the results (Vol. I Chapters III, Vol. II Chapters IV-V and Vol. III Chapters VII-VIII); maps are created that show sites with significant EAWs for 50-year periods, as well as their respective FMCEs for that period. Carter is clear about the intentions of his work, and does not aim towards a single reading of the data or reconstruction of historical events: 'The quantitative analyses employed throughout aim to be rigorous so that the arguments are clear, but the ultimate goal is to trace the broad movements in the population of the chora' (644). It is, however, important to approach the plotted results with some caution: for example, in figure 23.1 (746), which depicts the situation in the study area between 475 and 425 BC, the placement of some farmhouses with significant EAW (e.g. 113, 335) is based on two sherds dated to this period, of which the dating range is sometimes as broad as a century.

The second and third volumes focus on the historical interpretation of the survey findings. The second volume starts with a consideration of the prehistory of the research area, the types of structures and the approach to the chora. For the delimitations of the chora the traditional boundaries have been used, although it is recognized that the territory under control of Metaponto is known to have been larger.4 The rest of the second volume is to a large extent dedicated to the Greek polis and the early years of Roman control in Southern Italy. A major objective for the survey project was to contextualise the excavated sites in the chora of the city, and clearly the period between the late 7th and the late 1st centuries left the most traces in the landscape. The survey results are also placed convincingly in their historic contexts by using historical sources that describe what happened in the Metapontine countryside with regard to settlement dynamics, necropoleis and sanctuaries, and by elaborating on the significance, the geography and the continuity of the data in each period. The length of this review does not permit us to elaborate on the wide and thoroughly documented corpus which is organized into chronological periods, but it is evident that it is an essential reference for all scholars of Magna Graecia.5

This volume finishes with many illustrative and clarifying appendices, consisting of tables of the dated sites in the different periods (Appendix A), tables of the farmhouse significance FMCE (Appendix B), basic graphs and tables which show overviews of the types of sites in the different localities in the different periods, but also rates of occupation of sites with a significant EAW, and graphs with duration of necropoleis and much more (Appendix C). Finally, Appendix D gives insight into statistical analyses by Alberto Prieto.

The third volume is devoted to the Roman, medieval and post-medieval periods. The evidence for Imperial and Late Roman activity in the research area is significantly less than that which was recovered for earlier periods. From the tables that illustrate the dating of sites, it is striking that very few sites show continuity with the presence of a Late Roman farmhouse and (early) medieval activity. The Roman, medieval and post-medieval remains are presented in the same way as the earlier material, including a description of the survey results and a catalogue of the pottery.

In the remaining chapters of the third volume the focus is mainly on the division lines in the landscape of the chora, a much debated subject.6 These are elaborately and eloquently dealt with using a wealth of new evidence: geomorphological, geographical and topographical data, a very precise digital model of the terrain, and the mapped lines and data from excavations and surveys. A convincing argument is made for the interpretation of the lines as a drainage system, in which the actual presence of ditches must be understood in terms of local terrain morphology and historical development instead of as a single, chora-wide system.

Some of the most valuable parts of this publication are contained within the extensive chapters on ceramic finds in the third part of the first volume. The chapters are organized according to the different ceramic classes. They devote attention to quantification, which is illustrated with clear tables, and to the fabrics through a catalogue of the fabrics with photos of the fragments, their sections and eventual surface treatment in detail.

The Archaic and black-gloss fine wares are treated in a single lengthy chapter. The analysis of these materials has revealed some interesting data, such as pottery locally produced in the earliest phase of Greek occupation of the chora which can be considered as re-elaboration of proto-Corinthian and East Greek models in the second half of the 7th century. Surprisingly, the chora has not yielded many black-gloss production centres, but the black gloss that was found is likely to have been produced in a rural production centre and not in the Metapontine Kerameikos. The different locations of production in the chora share a similar sedimentology which, together with comparable practice, resulted in analogous productions. Especially for the Hellenistic period, the survey revealed a wide range of black-gloss fragments producing a large dataset of different forms and the refinement of traditional chronologies of several shapes.

The study and analysis of grey wares has led to the identification of Metaponto as a production centre for which both Pantanello (Pizzica) and Sant'Angelo Vecchio have yielded evidence. The surveys revealed relatively scanty figured wares, which belonged mostly to Lucanian and Apulian red-figured pottery, some Attic black- and red-figured pottery and a few Gnathia vessels. A large number of fragments have not been attributed to a workshop and sometimes not even to the Lucanian or Apulian group, due to their bad preservation. However, some observations have been made on distribution patterns and the functional range in the chora.

The plain and banded wares make up a large part of the dataset, of which the principal shapes and a typology of the most common forms of 'table wares' are shown in detail. The high number of fragments discussed in this chapter is partially due to the combination of these classes with the pottery made of coarse fabric, all brought together under the term 'utilitarian ware'. This ware is divided into table, storage and kitchen wares, directly associating a function with the pottery as opposed to the distinctions between other classes which are based on chronology, surface treatment or style. Even if the detailed division into different functions might be debated (considering that other classes have been divided on the basis of decoration or surface treatment and not on their function), it is well explained and therefore transparent and open for reassessment. The lamps have been given a separate chapter with attention paid to fabrics, quantification, distribution and typology. In addition, the Greek and Roman Republican cooking wares are treated separately in Chapter 11, which includes a useful detailed discussion of the differences between pans, casseroles and cooking pots.

Chapter 12 deals with the Archaic to Late Republican transport amphorae and presents interesting new evidence for the production of local and regional amphora types. The useful catalogue presents not only the form, but also the fabric with a picture in microscopy, a thin section and a detailed description of both. The terracotta objects, mostly figurines and relief plaques, are comprehensively treated in Chapter 13, with a description of the different types of terracotta in the different periods and a catalogue organized by site, in which the objects are presented in chronological order. The terracottas, together with associated finds, have helped to distinguish at least five sites interpreted as rural sanctuaries in the research area. A separate chapter is dedicated to the loom weights, associated as always with female activity; the part with the material evidence concludes with the presentation of the (nine) bronze coins from the mint of Metaponto.

Finally, the fourth volume is a splendid and, to the reviewers' knowledge, unprecedented publication of maps and a site gazetteer; this level of detail and presentation, whether in this form or digital, is more than exemplary.

In summary, the contribution of these volumes to the state of historical knowledge on Magna Graecia is immense, and the set of volumes is likely to be an essential work of reference for researchers for many years to come. The publication describes a unique project—complementary surveys and excavations—which benefited from a barely spoiled landscape that contained archaeological remains with an excellent degree of preservation and closely dated ceramics. The volume does not engage directly with the ethnic and social implications of the results of the survey, especially regarding the first phases of the contacts between Greek and indigenous peoples; but perhaps this venue is not best place to elaborate on such complex questions.7

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments (Elisa Lanza Catti)
Illustration Credits
Preface (Joseph Coleman Carter)
Introduction (Keith Swift with Elisa Lanza Catti)

Part I
1. Overview: Excavations, Chronology, and Site Phasing (Keith Swift with Elisa Lanza Catti)
2. The Rooms, Areas, and Soundings: Excavated Units and Assemblages (Elisa Lanza Catti and Keith Swift)
3. Fattoria Fabrizio Site Assemblage (Keith Swift)
4. Farmhouse Structure and Plan (Elisa Lanza Catti and Keith Swift)
Virtual Reconstruction of the Farmhouse (Massimo Limoncelli)
Comparable Farmhouse Plans (Elisa Lanza Catti)
5. Aspects of the Rural Economy (Elisa Lanza Catti and Keith Swift)
6. The Domestic Cult at Fattoria Fabrizio (Elisa Lanza Catti and Joseph Coleman Carter)
Domestic Cult (Joseph Coleman Carter)
The Material Evidence (Elisa Lanza Catti)
The Nature of the Cult: Animal Sacrifice and Libation (Joseph Coleman Carter)
Domestic Cults Elsewhere in the Chora (Joseph Coleman Carter)
Domestic Cults Elsewhere in the Greek and Indigenous Worlds (Elisa Lanza Catti)

Part II
7. Archaeobotany at Fattoria Fabrizio (Assunta Florenzano)
8. Animal Bones (Anna Zsófia Biller)
9. Marine Shells (Cesare D'Annibale)

Part III
10. Archaeological Materials: Introduction to the Pottery and Finds (Elisa Lanza Catti and Keith Swift)
11. Pottery Fabrics (Keith Swift)
Fine Ware Fabrics from Fattoria Fabrizio (Keith Swift with Elisa Lanza Catti)
Plain and Banded Ware Fabrics from Fattoria Fabrizio (Keith Swift with Anna Cavallo)
12. Figured Wares (Francesca Silvestrelli)
13. Archaic and Black-gloss Fine Wares (Elisa Lanza Catti)
14. Miniatures (Anna Cavallo)
15. Banded Ware (Anna Cavallo)
16. Wheel-made Painted Ware (Elisa Lanza Catti)
17. Plain and Coarse Wares (Anna Cavallo)
18. Louteria (Anna Cavallo)
19. Mortaria (Anna Cavallo)
20. Cooking Ware (Maria Francesca Blotti)
21. Transport Amphorae (Oda Teresa Calvaruso)
22. Opus Doliare (Anna Cavallo)
23. Terracottas (Rebecca Miller Ammerman)
24. Loom Weights (Lin Foxhall)
25. Roof Tiles (Francesco Perugino and Eliana Vollaro)
Ab Laconian System (Francesco Perugino)
Ba Pan Tile System (Eliana Vollaro)
26. Metal Objects (Lorena Trivigno and Marta Mazzoli)
27. Coins (Anna Rita Parente)
28. Lithic Material (Cesare D'Annibale)

Appendix A—Assemblage Tables (Keith Swift)
Appendix B—Quantification of the Site Assemblage (Keith Swift)
Appendix C—Census of Farmhouses (Elisa Lanza Catti)
Appendix D—Archaeobotanical Analyses: Pollen, NPPs, and Seeds/fruit (Assunta Florenzano)


1.   Carter, J.C. 1998, The Chora of Metaponto. The Necropoleis, University of Texas Press, Austin; Bökönyi, S., Gál, E, edited by L. Bartosiewicz 2010, The Chora of Metaponto 2. Archaeozoology at Pantanello and Five Other Sites, University of Texas Press, Austin; Lapadula, E., edited by J.C. Carter 2012, The Chora of Metaponto 4. The Late Roman Farmhouse at San Biagio, University of Texas Press, Austin; Catti, E.L., Swift, K, edited by J.C. Carter 2014, The Chora of Metaponto 5. The Greek Farmhouse at Ponte Fabrizio, University of Texas Press, Austin.
2.   Several preliminary reports on the survey have been published, including: D'Annibale, C. 1983, Field Survey of the Chora of Metaponto, 1981-82, in Carter, J.C. (ed.)The Territory of Metaponto, 1981-82, Austin, 4-9; D'Annibale C. 1983, 'Field Survey of the Chora of Metaponto', in Archaeological Survey, 191-194; Carter, J.C., L. Costantini 1994, 'Settlement Density, Agriculture, and the Extent of Productive Land Cleared from Forest in the Time of the Roman Empire in Magna Grecia', in Frenzel, B. (ed.), Evaluation of Land Surfaces Cleared from Forests in the Mediterranean Region During the Time of the Roman Empire, Stuttgart/New York, 101-118; Carter, J.C. 1999, Ancient Territories 1999. Metaponto and Chersonesos. Annual Report, Austin; Carter, J.C. 2001, 'La chora di Metaponto. Risultati degli ultimi 25 anni di ricerca archeologica', Atti Taranto 40, 771-792; Thompson, S.M. 2001, 'The Metaponto Archaeological Survey 2001', in The Study of Ancient Territories. Chersonesos and Metaponto. 2001 Annual Report, Austin, 72-80; Prieto, A. 2001, 'Field Survey 2000, Metaponto', in The Study of Ancient Territories. Chersonesos and Metaponto. 2000 Annual Report, Austin, 15-22; Prieto, A, et al. 2002, The Study of Ancient Territories. Chersonesos and Metaponto. 2002 Annual Report, Austin, 46-66; Davis, D. 2003, '2003 Gradiometer Survey in the Chora of Metaponto', in The Study of Ancient Territories. Chersonesos and Metaponto. 2003 Field Report, Austin, 76-80; Prieto, A. 2003, 'Field Survey of the Metapontino', in The Study of Ancient Territories. Chersonesos and Metaponto. 2003 Field Report, Austin, 71-75; Carter et al. 2004, 'Dividing the Chora', in Kolb, F. (ed.), Chora und Polis, Schriften des Historische Kolloquien 54, Munich, 127-145; Thompson, S.M. 2004, 'Side-by-side and Back-to-front: Exploring Intra-regional Latitudinal and Longitudinal Comparability in Survey Data. Three Case Studies from Metaponto, Southern Italy', in Alcock, S.E., Cherry, J.F. (eds.) Side-by-side Survey: Comparative Regional Studies in the Mediterranean World, Oxford, 65-85.
3.   Although that may certainly be the case, the study, according to the reviewers, would have benefited from a detailed assessment based on quantitative, qualitative and spatial characteristics of the offsite materials to substantiate that claim, especially in the light of the wider debate on the nature and explanatory potential of offsite materials. See e.g. Bintliff, J. and Snodgrass, A. 1988. 'Off-site Pottery Distributions: A Regional and Interregional Perspective', Current Anthropology 29.3: 506-513; Fentress, E. 2000. 'What are we counting for?' in Francovich, R. and Patterson, H., eds. Extracting Meaning from Ploughsoil Assemblages, Oxbow Books, 44-52; Caraher, W.R., Nakassis, D. and Pettegrew, D.K. 2006. 'Siteless Survey and Intensive Data Collection in an Artifact-rich Environment: Case Studies from the Eastern Corinthia, Greece', Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 19-1: 7-43.
4.   Indeed, recent archaeological research at Ginosa and Castellaneta Marina points to a boundary that was situated more towards the north (De Siena, A. 2002, 'Appunti di topografia metapontina', in Bertelli, G, Roubis, D. (eds). 2002, Torre di Mare I. Ricerche archeologiche nell'insediamento medievale di Metaponto (1995-1999), Bari, 25-40, 35-36; De Siena, A. 2005, Tramonto della Magna Grecia: la documentazione archeologica dai territori delle colonie greche di Metaponto ed Herakleia, Atti Taranto 46, 433-458, 436-437; De Siena, A. 2007, 'L'Attività archeologica in Basilicata nel 2006', Atti Taranto 46, 407-463; Castoldi, M. 2008, 'Oltre la chora: nuove indagini archeologiche nell'entroterra di Metaponto', in Zanetto, G. et al. (eds.), Nova vestigial antiquitatis, Cisalpino, 143-160, 143), To the south the funerary remains on the other bank of the Cavone indicate an expansion in that direction (Osanna, M. 2008, 'L'Attività archeologica in Basilicata nel 2007', Atti Taranto 47, 911-944).
5.   One aspect of the research that perhaps cannot remain unmentioned is the phenomenon that occurred when Metaponto was founded. Carter chooses a position in the centre in the debate on the early phases of colonization. He stresses that the organization of the city and its territory was 'practical and logical' and 'It did not casually evolve, but […] was carefully planned from the beginning in response to immediate and pressing needs' (641). However, the conclusions regarding the early contacts between Greek and indigenous communities remain cautious, lying in wait for the volume bearing the publication of the excavations of L'Incoronata.
6.   Uggeri, G. 1969, 'Κλήροι arcaici e bonifica classica nella χώρα di Metaponto', in La Parola del Passato CXXIV, 51-71; Adamesteanu, D. 1973, 'Le suddivisioni di terra nel metapontino', in Finley, M. (ed.), Problèmes de la terre en Grèce ancienne, Paris – La Haye, 49-61; Adamesteanu, D., C. Vatin 1976, 'L'arrière-pays de Métaponte', Compte Rendu de l'Académie des Inscriptions, 110-123; Guy, M. 1995, 'Cadastres en bandes de Métaponte à Agde. Questions et méthodes', in Arcelin, P. et al (ed.), Sur les pas des Grecs en Occident : hommage à André Nickels, Paris, 427-444; Carter, J.C. 1999, Ancient Territories 1999. Metaponto and Chersonesos. Annual Report, Austin, 24; De Siena, A. 1999, 'Il Metapontino: insediamenti antichi e bonifiche', in Archeologia dell'Acqua in Basilicata, Soprintendenza Archeologica della Basilicata, Potenza, 53-72; Nava, M.L. 2003, 'L'Attività archeologica in Basilicata nel 2002', Atti Taranto, 653-717, 664-676; Carter, J.C. 2008, La scoperta del territorio rurale Greco di Metaponto, Venosa, 149-176. The survey transects were established as the Bradano-Basento transect (1981), the Pantanello transect (1983) and the SNAM transect (1999), and have been systematically surveyed wherever possible.
7.   To assess the partly completed online database on the digital companion to the print series, please follow this link.

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Emmanuel Botte, Victoria Leitch (ed.), Fish & Ships: Production and Commerce of "salsamenta" during Antiquity / production et commerce des "salsamenta" durant l'Antiquité. Actes de l'atelier doctoral, Rome 18-22 juin 2012. Bibliothèque d'archéologie méditerranéenne et africaine, 17. Arles; Aix-en-Provence: Éditions Errance; Centre Camille Jullian, 2014. Pp. 239. ISBN 9782877725798. €39.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Ephraim Lytle, University of Toronto (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

This volume collects sixteen papers, seven written in French, one in Italian and the rest in English. Most are revised versions of papers originally presented at an atelier doctoral—a conference of doctoral candidates and relatively new PhDs—held at l'École française de Rome and the British School at Rome in June of 2012. The volume is divided into three sections—the first collects papers that feature 'historiographic and technological' approaches, the following two gather together archaeological studies, with these divided regionally into Africa (section 2) and the rest of the Mediterranean, the Atlantic coast and the Black Sea (section 3).

This volume will not be of much interest to a general audience. As the editors admit, given the uneven archaeological attention that has been paid to various regions of the Mediterranean and the considerable uncertainty that exists concerning correlations between amphora types and the products they carried, as well as the typologies of installations and the products they were dedicated to producing, "a broad overview of the state of the question is not yet possible" (p. 239). However, nowhere in this volume will the reader find a proper introduction (the editors dedicate the volume's too brief introduction (pp. 8-9) primarily to a description of the conference and its rationale), an attempted synthesis of what is known, or any real sense of what is at stake for social and economic historians. This volume will be consulted for individual chapters that will be of use primarily to archaeologists interested in particular sites, regions, installations, and ceramic types, to specialists working on questions concerning chemical and faunal analysis, or to the handful of historians who are interested in specific problems related to the production and trade of salted fish and fish sauces.

As is often the case with such volumes, quality, originality and significance vary widely between contributions, but most offer something of value and a handful present important, new research of very high quality. Although not particularly novel, a number of contributions usefully summarize recent (or not so recent) archaeological research primarily published in languages other than English or French. Antonio M. Sáez Romero, for example, makes more accessible two decades of Spanish scholarship by offering a concise and sane account of our evidence for Punic production of and trade in salted fish and fish sauces, primarily in the region of Cadiz. Martina Čechová accomplishes much the same for Chersonesus, where the archaeological evidence, much of it published only in Russian, suggests that the production of salted fish was important at this Crimean site during the Roman period and continued uninterrupted into the early Middle Ages.

A handful of papers pay attention to particular sites or regions. Four treat North Africa during the Roman period. Victoria Leitch discusses the decidedly scant evidence for the trade of fish products into the Libyan Sahara. Mohamed Hesein offers an initial survey of potential production at six sites on the coast of Cyrenaica. Ali Drine and Elyssa Jerray collect and synthesize the somewhat richer evidence for salted fish and fish sauce production along the Gulf of Gabes in Tunisia, while also identifying a number of sites likely involved in amphora production, although the amphora types found are not usually associated with the transport of salted fish and fish sauces. Finally, Touatia Amraoui offers a detailed reexamination of archaeological evidence suggesting urban production of salted fish or fish sauces at the site of Tipasa in Algeria.

Outside of North Africa, Cyril Driard offers a reconstruction of the process of salted fish and fish sauce production in Brittany. He begins by summarizing the archaeological evidence for coastal installations equipped with characteristic vats. He offers an important new contribution by collecting and analyzing from two sites samples of organic deposits that seem to have accumulated in various spots in the vats. He then reports the results of experiments that succeeded both in reproducing the characteristic deposits and in producing viable fish sauces, albeit with a recipe and procedure that differs from that attested in ancient literary sources. Driard plausibly argues that the literary sources reflect different environmental conditions in the Mediterranean. Cristina Nervi reviews the evidence for Sardinia, where finds of imported amphora types associated with the transport of salsamenta attest consumption and trade of these products during the Roman period. Archaeological evidence for local production is still lacking, although the ancient textual and modern comparative evidence agree in suggesting it played an important role. Finally, Inês Vaz Pinto, Ana Patrícia Magalhães, and Patrícia Brum offer an overview of production at sites on Portugal's Tróia Peninsula, using the results of recent excavations to help clarify the chronology of production.

Most of the remaining papers involve faunal or chemical analysis. Among these are four papers of the very highest quality. Nicolas Garnier reviews the question of using chemical analysis of residues left in transport amphoras to identify salted fish and fish sauces. Unfortunately, although there exist numerous potential chemical markers for fish, these are rarely preserved, either because they are destroyed in the processes of salting or fermentation—proteins, for example, are hydrolyzed in the fermentation process—or because they are rarely preserved in typical archaeological contexts. Beyond offering a clear and concise overview of the problems, Garnier's research is especially valuable in identifying sterols as the best candidates for preservation, and it is possible that reliable standards for identifying containers used to transport salsamenta can be developed in the future. David Djaoui, Gaël Piquès and Emmanuel Botte offer a detailed account of the pots of particular Italian types recovered from the Rhône at Arles. The authors usefully survey the wider evidence for these ceramic containers from Latium, which are much smaller than transport amphoras and thought often to have been used to hold fish sauces. Of 18 pots from Arles recovered whole, or nearly so, some 16 were found to contain fish remains. The authors present a careful analysis of the contents of one pot, and discuss in detail a number of new painted inscriptions, at least two of which suggest that some of these pots carried conserves of onions or olives in fish sauce. Anne Bardot-Cambot collects and analyzes the evidence for commerce in shellfish in Roman Gaul. Most of the results have already been published in greater detail in her 2013 monograph.1 One might quibble too that Bardot-Cambot's best evidence concerns trade in fresh rather than preserved shellfish and as a result this research falls largely outside the subjects of the volume. But most will be happy to find the results of her very interesting and highly original research usefully summarized here. Erica Rowan's analysis of the fish remains from the Cardo V sewer at Herculaneum is likewise perhaps only tangentially related to the production and commerce of salsamenta, but her research is no less original or important. The Cardo V sewer was partially blocked, allowing waste to accumulate beneath a row of apartments rented by families whose socio-economic status was decidedly non-elite. While a number of marine species identified in our literary sources as luxury items are, not surprisingly, scarce or altogether absent, nevertheless it is clear that these families regularly consumed a range of seasonally available fish species (and probably salted fish and fish sauces as well). For me, as a social and economic historian, this chapter was a highlight and stands out as the contribution likely to be of interest to the widest audience.

The book is attractively produced and richly illustrated, frequently in color. The editors have written a very brief introduction (in French) and an only slightly more expansive conclusion (in English), but apart from ensuring standard formatting of notes, section headings and bibliographies, editorial intervention appears nonexistent. Some contributions are well written and carefully proofread, in others infelicities abound. The latter is understandable in cases where the authors are writing in a non-native language, but some instances are harder to explain—one particular contribution includes misspellings, logical confusions and solecisms in every other sentence, reaching a kind of absurd crescendo with "hapax legominon" (38, n.10).

Lack of editorial intervention is most clearly felt, however, in the citation of ancient literary and documentary sources, where the practices employed are hardly acceptable (again excepting a handful of meticulously documented chapters such as that of Djaoui, Piquès and Botte). The reader will reckon herself lucky to find citation of a specific section in Pseudo-Skylax (p. 135, n.8), even if she is left wondering why that author is named in the Latin genitive (Scylacis Caryandensis). So too a discussion of Synesius (p. 135) helpfully cites the appropriate letter (Ep. 148), but the bishop is also quoted in translation and no acknowledgment is given to the translator.2 The reader will be grateful too for references that include specific fragment numbers, even if the editions cited are long out-of-date, or if different fragments of the same author are cited from different editions even within a single chapter (e.g., n. 36 on p. 219 cites Antiphanes, fr. 191 Kock, while nn. 62-63 on p. 222 cite frs. 77 and 181 Edmonds). In cases where no edition is specified for a given fragment number, one can only hazard a guess (p. 222, n.40), but at least the options are limited. Discussion of evidence allegedly found in Ennius and Hecesius, on the other hand, cites only a page number in a French monograph on salted fish and fish sauces (p. 118, n. 31). The reader can only hope that following that trail will turn up a proper citation, but that task is made more difficult when the work cited is missing from the bibliography (p. 123, n. 69), or when, as in the case of an interesting letter of Pope Martin written in exile from Chersonesus, the only citation is to Russian conference proceedings that few research libraries are likely to hold (the letters of Pope Martin are collected in the Patrologia Latina—the letter in question is Ep. 16, PL 87: 201-204).

The treatment of documentary texts is sometimes no less haphazard: a citation (p. 118, n. 26) for the customs tariff from Zarai (CIL VIII 4508) sends the reader not to any edition of the text itself but to Trousset's discussion,3 where at least one can be confident that a proper reference could be found. Discussion of an inscription from the Argolid, on the other hand, cites the appropriate IG volume (p. 222, n.72), but without an accompanying inscription number the reader is not likely to have an easy time finding the text in question, especially given that it consists of what IG IV2.1 prints as two distinct texts (76 and 77) that were only discovered to join at a later date.

In summary, the reader might be left wondering what purpose it serves to publish such volumes when they fail to make a meaningful whole. The best contributions could easily survive even the most rigorous peer review and find at least as wide an audience. But it must also be conceded that this particular volume includes an unusually high percentage of high quality, original research and most of it is well worth publishing. If the volume as a whole helps to stimulate additional such research it will have been more than worthwhile.


1.   Les coquillages marins en Gaule romaine. Approche socio-économique et socio-culturelle [BAR Int. Series 2481], Oxford 2013.
2.   The translation in question is that of Augustine Fitzgerald, The Letters of Synesius of Cyrene, New York 1926.
3.   Trousset, P. "Le tarif de Zaraï: essai sur les circuits commerciaux dans la zone présaharienne," Antiquités africaines 38-39 (2002-2003) 355-373 (the page range is cited incorrectly in the bibliography on p. 127).

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Books Received June 2015.

Version at BMCR home site

This list contains all books and notifications of new books received in the previous month by BMCR. The books on this list that are available for review, and those still available for review from previous months, can be requested by filling out the form linked on the Books Available for Review page.

Adams, Sean A. The genre of Acts and collected biography. Society for New Testament Studies: Monograph series, 156. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. xiii, 319 p. $99.00. ISBN 9781107041042.

Ando, Clifford. Roman social imaginaries: language and thought in contexts of empire. Robson classical lectures. Toronto; Buffalo; London: University of Toronto Press, 2015. x, 124 p. $45.00. ISBN 9781442650176.

Backes, Burkhard and Jacco Dieleman (edd.). Liturgical texts for Osiris and the deceased in Late Period and Greco-Roman Egypt / Liturgische Texte für Osiris und Verstorbene im spätzeitlichen Ägypten: proceedings of the colloquiums at New York (ISAW), 6 May 2011, and Freudenstadt, 18-21 July 2012. Studien zur spätägyptischen Religion, 14. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2015. viii, 306 p. € 98.00. ISBN 9783447103695.

Backes, Burkhard and Caroline von Nicolai (edd.). Kulturelle Kohärenz durch Prestige. Münchner Studien zur Alten Welt, 10. München: Herbert Utz Verlag, 2015. 306 p. € 37.99. ISBN 9783831642632.

Bancalari Molina, Alejandro. La idea de Europa en el mundo romano: proyecciones actuales. El saber y la cultura. Santiago de Chile: Editorial Universitaria, 2015. 148 p. $10.00 (pb). ISBN 9789561124721.

Beckwith, Christopher I. Greek Buddha: Pyrrho's encounter with early Buddhism in Central Asia. Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2015. xxi, 275 p. $29.95. ISBN 9780691166445.

Benson, Hugh H. Clitophon's challenge: dialectic in Plato's Meno, Phaedo, and Republic. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. x, 318 p. $65.00. ISBN 9780199324835.

Bernhardt, Johannes Christian. Das Nikemonument von Samothrake und der Kampf der Bilder. Altertumswissenschaften. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2014. 169 p. € 42.00. ISBN 9783515108645.

Berthelet, Yann. Gouverner avec les dieux: autorité, auspices et pouvoir, sous la République romaine et sous Auguste. Mondes anciens. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2015. 435 p. € 27.50 (pb). ISBN 9782251300016.

Blackwood, Stephen. The consolation of Boethius as poetic liturgy. Oxford early Christian studies. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. xxi, 338 p. $125.00. ISBN 9780198718314.

Blaudeau, Philippe and Peter Van Nuffelen (edd.). L'historiographie tardo-antique et la transmission des savoirs. Millennium-Studien / Millennium studies, 55. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2015. xi, 380 p. € 109.95. ISBN 9783110406931.

Boylan, Michael. The origins of ancient Greek science: blood--a philosophical study. Routledge monographs in classical studies, 22. New York; London: Routledge, 2015. xiii, 170 p. $140.00. ISBN 9780415843935.

Brockmann, Christian (ed.). Handschriften- und Textforschung heute: zur Überlieferung der griechischen Literatur. Festschrifte für Dieter Harlfinger aus Anlass seines 70. Geburtstages. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2014. 384 p. € 98.00. ISBN 9783954900503.

Brookins, Timothy A. Corinthian wisdom, stoic philosophy, and the ancient economy. Society for New Testament Studies: Monograph series, 159. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. xv, 264 p. $99.00. ISBN 9781107046375.

Butterfield, D. J. (ed.). Varro varius: the polymath of the Roman world. Cambridge Classical Journal supplementary volume, 39. Cambridge: Cambrdge Philological Society, 2015. ix, 218 p. £ 30.00. ISBN 9780956838148.

Caubet, Annie, Sabine Fourrier and Marguerite Yon. Kition-Bamboula VI: le sanctuaire sous la colline. Travaux de la Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée. Série recherches archéologiques, 67. Lyon: Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée, 2015. 414 p.; IX plans. € 44.00 (pb). ISBN 9782356680488.

Chan, Paul, Sarah Ruden and Richard Fletcher. Hippias Minor or the art of cunning: a new translation of Plato's most controversial dialogue. Brooklyn, NY: Badlands Unlimited, 2015. 152 p. (pb). ISBN 9781936440894.

Cheshire, Keyne. Murder at Jagged Rock: a translation of Sophocles' Women of Trachis. Washington, DC: Word Works, 2015. 111 p. $17.00 (pb). ISBN 9780915380985.

Cojannot-Le Blanc, Marianne, Claude Pouzadoux and Évelyne Prioux (edd.). L'Héroïque et le Champêtre, volume I: les catégories stylistiques dans le discours critique sur les arts. Modernité classique. Paris: Presses universitaires de Paris Ouest, 2014. 264 p., [7] p. of plates. € 20.00 (pb). ISBN 9782840161844.

Cojannot-Le Blanc, Marianne, Claude Pouzadoux and Évelyne Prioux (edd.). L'Héroïque et le Champêtre, volume II: appropriation et déconstruction des théories stylistiques dans la pratique des artistes et dans les modalités d'exposition des œuvres. Modernité classique. Paris: Presses universitaires de Paris Ouest, 2014. 380 p., [5] p. of plates. € 23.00 (pb). ISBN 9782840161899.

Daehner, Jens M. and Kenneth Lapatin (edd.). Power and pathos: bronze sculpture of the Hellenistic world. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2015. 368 p. $65.00. ISBN 9781606064399.

Daguet-Gagey, Anne. Splendor aedilitatum: l'édilité à Rome (Ier s. avant J.-C.-IIIe siècle après J.-C.). Collection de l'Ecole française de Rome, 498. Rome: Ecole française de Rome, 2015. 807 p. € 60.00 (pb). ISBN 9782728310579.

De Giorgio, Jean Pierre. L'écriture de soi à Rome: autour de la correspondance de Cicéron. Collection Latomus, 347. Bruxelles: Éditions Latomus, 2015. 305 p. € 51.00 (pb). ISBN 9789042932388.

de la Bédoyère, Guy. The real lives of Roman Britain: a history of Roman Britain through the lives of those who were there. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2015. xxi, 242 p. $40.00. ISBN 9780300207194.

De Lucia Brolli, Maria Anna and Jacopo Tabolli. I Tempi del Rito: il santuario di Monte Li Santi-Le Rote a Narce. Roma: Officina Edizioni, 2015. 191 p. € 24.00 (pb). ISBN 9788860491312.

de Vos Raaijmakers, Mariette and Redha Attoui. Rus Africum, tome III: la Via a Karthagine Thevestem, ses milliaires et le réseau routier rural de la règion de Dougga et Téboursouk. Bibliotheca archaeologica, 37. Bari: Edipuglia, 2015. 154 p. € 50.00 (pb). ISBN 9788872287651.

Dickmann, Jens-Arne and Alexander Heinemann (edd.). Vom Trinken und Bechern: das antike Gelage im Umbruch. Katalog zur gleichnamigen Ausstellung, Archäologische Sammlung der Universität Freiburg, 26. April - 28. Juni 2015. Freiburg: Archäologische Sammlung der Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, 2015. 338 p. (pb). ISBN 9783000493225.

Dräger, Paul. Decimus Magnus Ausonius. Sämtliche Werke, Band 3: Spätwerke aus Bordeaux. Trier: Kliomedia, 2015. 857 p. € 84.00. ISBN 9783898901932.

Dzino, Danijel and Ken Parry (edd.). Byzantium, its neighbours and its cultures. Byzantina australiensia, 20. Brisbane: Australian Association for Byzantine Studies, 2014. vi, 294 p. (pb). ISBN 9781876503017.

Eastmond, Antony (ed.). Viewing inscriptions in the late antique and medieval world. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. xvii, 261 p. $99.99. ISBN 9781107092419.

Ebrey, David (ed.). Theory and practice in Aristotle's natural science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. viii, 261 p. $99.00. ISBN 9781107055131.

Fedeli, Paolo, Irma Ciccarelli and Rosalba Dimundo. Properzio. Elegie, libro IV (2 vols.). Studia Classica et Mediaevalia, 7. Nordhausen: Verlag T. Bautz, 2015. 798 p.; 735 p. € 160.00. ISBN 9783883099378.

Fratantuono, Lee. A reading of Lucretius' De rerum natura. Lanham; Boulder; New York; London: Lexington Books, 2015. xii, 505 p. $140.00. ISBN 9781498511544.

Gardner, Gregg E. The origins of organized charity in rabbinic Judaism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. xvi, 235 p. $99.99. ISBN 9781107095434.

Giuliani, Luca. Das Wunder vor der Schlacht: ein griechisches Historienbild der frühen Klassik. Jacob Burckhardt-Gespräche auf Castelen, 30. Basel: Schwabe Verlag, 2015. 109 p. € 14.00. ISBN 9783796534607.

Golden, Mark. Children and childhood in classical Athens. Second edition (first edition 1990). Ancient society and history. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015. xix, 243 p. $24.95 (pb). ISBN 9781421416861.

Grogan, Jane. The Persian empire in English Renaissance writing, 1549-1622. Early modern literature in history. New York: Palgave Macmillan, 2014. x, 256 p. $95.00. ISBN 9780230343269.

Günther, Hans-Christian (ed.). Augustus und Rom: 2000 Jahre danach. Studia Classica et Mediaevalia, 9. Nordhausen: Verlag T. Bautz, 2015. 348 p. € 60.00. ISBN 9783959480000.

Gwynn, David M. Christianity in the later Roman empire: a sourcebook. Bloomsbury sources in ancient history. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015. xix, 293 p. $39.95 (pb). ISBN 9781441106261.

Hamel, Debra. The Battle of Arginusae: victory at sea and its tragic aftermath in the final years of the Peloponnesian War. Witness to ancient history. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015. xvii, 125 p. $19.95 (pb). ISBN 9781421416816.

Hammerstaedt, Jürgen and Martin Ferguson Smith. The Epicurean inscription of Diogenes of Oinoanda: ten years of new discoveries and research. Bonn: Verlag Dr. Rudolf Habelt, 2014. 288 p. € 69.00. ISBN 9783774939271.

Hardie, Philip and Gioachino Chiarini. Ovidio. Metamorfosi, Volume VI: Libri XIII-XV. Scrittori greci e latini. Milano: Fondazione Lorenzo Valla; Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, 2015. lxv, 717 p. € 30.00. ISBN 9788804651628.

Harding, Phillip E. Athens transformed, 404-262 BC: from popular sovereignty to the dominion of the elite. Routledge monographs in classical studies, 23. New York; London: Routledge, 2015. xv, 186 p. $140.00. ISBN 9780415873925.

Hayes, Evan and Stephen Nimis. Lucian's Dialogues of the gods: an intermediate Greek reader. Greek text with running vocabulary and commentary. Oxford, OH: Faenum Publishing, 2015. xvii, 146 p. $13.95 (pb). ISBN 9781940997117.

Hayes, Evan and Stephen Nimis. Lucian's Dialogues of the dead: an intermediate Greek reader. Greek text with running vocabulary and commentary. Oxford, OH: Faenum Publishing, 2015. xix, 210 p. $14.95 (pb). ISBN 9781940997100.

Hayes, Evan and Stephen Nimis. Lucian's Judgment of the goddesses: an intermediate Greek reader. Greek text with running vocabulary and commentary. Oxford, OH: Faenum Publishing, 2015. xiii, 47 p. $8.95 (pb). ISBN 9781940997124.

Hayes, Evan and Stephen Nimis. Lucian's Assembly of the gods: an intermediate Greek reader. Greek text with running vocabulary and commentary. Oxford, OH: Faenum Publishing, 2015. xv, 45 p. $8.95 (pb). ISBN 9781940997148.

Howells, Daniel Thomas. A catalogue of the late antique gold glass in the British Museum. Research publication, 198. London: British Museum, 2015. v, 183 p. £ 40.00 (pb). ISBN 9780861591985.

Jarry, Claude. Jean Philopon: Traité de l'astrolabe. Collection des universités de France. Série grecque, 512. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2015. clxxxv, 72 p. € 47.00 (pb). ISBN 9782251005966.

Knight, Sarah and Stefan Tilg (edd.). The Oxford handbook of Neo-Latin. Oxford handbooks. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. xvii, 614 p. $150.00. ISBN 9780199948178.

Kogan, Leonid. Genealogical classification of Semitic: the lexical isoglosses. Boston; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2015. xv, 734 p. € 179.95. ISBN 9781614517269.

La Penna, Antonio and Rodolfo Funari. C. Sallusti Crispi Historiae I: fragmenta 1.1-146. Texte und Kommentare, Bd 51. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2015. 387 p. € 139.95. ISBN 9783110195668.

Lagneau-Fontaine, Sylvie and Catherine Langlois-Pézeret. Gilbert Ducher. Epigrammes. Textes littéraires de la Renaissance, 18. Paris: Éditions Honoré Champion, 2015. 728 p. € 135.00. ISBN 9782745329127.

Lange, Carsten Hjort and Frederik Juliaan Vervaet (edd.). The Roman republican triumph: beyond the spectacle. Analecta Romana Instituti Danici. Supplementum, 45. Roma: Edizioni Quasar, 2014. 261 p. € 32.00 (pb). ISBN 9788871405766.

Laudenbach, Benoît. Strabon: Géographie. Tome XIV, Livre XVII. 1re partie, L'Egypte et l'Ethiopie Nilotique. Collection des universités de France. Série grecque, 514. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2015. cv, 325 p. € 55.00. ISBN 9782251005980.

Longobardi, Concetta, Christian Nicolas and Marisa Squillante (edd.). Scholae discimus: pratiques scolaires dans l'Antiquité tardive et le Haut Moyen Âge. Collection Études et Recherches sur l'Occident Romain - CEROR, 46. Lyon: CEROR, 2014. 332 p. € 36.00 (pb). ISBN 9782364420533.

Lovascio, Domenico. Un nome; mille volti: Giulio Cesare nel teatro inglese della prima età moderna. Lingue e letterature Carocci, 192; Serie AIA Book Prize, 2. Roma: Carocci editore, 2015. 207 p. € 22.00 (pb). ISBN 9788843075416.

Marinis, Vasileios. Architecture and ritual in the churches of Constantinople: ninth to fifteenth centuries. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. xvii, 243 p. $99.00. ISBN 9781107040168.

Marmodoro, Anna and Brian D. Prince (edd.). Causation and creation in late antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. xi, 299 p. $95.00. ISBN 9781107061538.

Meier, Mischa and Steffen Patzold (edd.). Chlodwigs Welt: Organisation von Herrschaft um 500. Roma aeterna, Bd 3. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2014. 622 p. € 89.00. ISBN 9783515108539.

Micklem, N. The men who were honest to Jesus and what they did. Leicestershire: Matador, 2015. ix, 130 p. £ 7.99 (pb). ISBN 9781784622442.

Pernot, Laurent. Epideictic rhetoric: questioning the stakes of ancient praise. Ashley and Peter Larkin series in Greek and Roman culture. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015. xiv, 166 p. $50.00. ISBN 9780292768208.

Pizzone, Aglae (ed.). The author in Middle Byzantine literature: modes, functions, and identities. Byzantinisches Archiv, Bd 28. Boston; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014. xiv, 351 p. € 119.95. ISBN 9781614517115.

Rashed, Roshdi. Angles et grandeur: d'Euclide a Kamâl al-Dîn al-Fârisî. Scientia Graeco-Arabica, Bd 17. Boston; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2015. viii, 706 p. € 169.95. ISBN 9781501510700.

Ruiz Arzalluz, Iñigo, Alejandro Martínez Sobrino, Mª Teresa Muñoz García de Iturrospe, Iñaki Ortigosa Egiraun and Enara San Juan Manso (edd.). Estudios de filología e historia en honor del profesor Vitalino Valcárcel (2 vols.). Anejos de Veleia. Series Minor, 32. Bilbao: Universidad del País Vasco; Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea, 2014. xxv, 1,144 p. € 40.00 (pb). ISBN 9788498600483.

Salskov Roberts, Helle. Sūkās XI: the Attic pottery and commentary on the Greek inscriptions found on Tall Sūkās. Scientia Danica. Series H, Humanistica, 4, vol. 3; Publications of the Carlsberg Expedition to Phoenicia, 14. Copenhagen: Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, 2015. 165 p. 280.00 DKK (pb). ISBN 9788773043813.

Scioli, Emma. Dream, fantasy, and visual art in Roman elegy. Wisconsin studies in classics. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2015. xii, 278 p. $55.00 (pb). ISBN 9780299303846.

Sekunda, Nicholas Victor and Bogdan Burliga (edd.). Iphicrates, peltasts and Lechaeum. Monograph series 'Akanthina', 9. Gdańsk: Foundation for the Development of Gdańsk University, 2014. 144 p. £ 35.00. ISBN 9788375311679.

Shalev-Hurvitz, Vered. Holy sites encircled: the early Byzantine concentric churches of Jerusalem. Oxford studies in Byzantium. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. xviii, 430 p., 20 p. of plates. $175.00. ISBN 9780199653775.

Southern, Pat. The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine. Second edition (first edition 2001). London; New York: Routledge, 2015. xvii, 501 p. $49.95 (pb). ISBN 9780415738088.

Squillace, Giuseppe. Le lacrime di Mirra: miti e luoghi dei profumi nel mondo antico. Saggi, 822. Bologna: Società editrice il Mulino, 2015. 297 p. € 22.00 (pb). ISBN 9788815254412.

Stead, Henry and Edith Hall (edd.). Greek and Roman classics in the British struggle for social reform. Bloomsbury studies in classical reception, 3. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015. xv, 368 p. £ 80.00. ISBN 9781472584267.

Suvák, Vladislav (ed.). Antisthenica Cynica Socratica. Mathésis, 9. Praha: OIKOYMENH, 2014. 437 p. 478 Kč. ISBN 9788072981946.

Swetnam-Burland, Molly. Egypt in Italy: visions of Egypt in Roman imperial culture. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. xii, 249 p., viii p. of plates. $110.00. ISBN 9781107040489.

Tiverios, Michalis, Vasiliki Misailidou-Despotidou, Eleni Manakidou and Anna Arvanitaki (edd.). Η κεραμική της αρχαικής εποχής στο βόρειο Αιγαίο και την περιφέρειά του (700- 480 π.Χ.): Πρακτικά αρχαιολογικής συνάντησης, Θεσσαλονίκη 19-22 Μαίου 2011 / Archaic pottery of the Northern Aegean and its periphery (700 - 480 BC): proceedings of the archaeological meeting, Thessaloniki, 19-22 May 2011. Δημοσιεύματα Αρχαιολογικού Ινστιτούτου Μακεδονικών και Θρακικών Σπουδών, 11. Thessaloniki: Αρχαιολογικό Ινστιτούτο Μακεδονικών και Θρακικών Σπουδών, 2012. 502 p. (pb). ISBN 9789608731493.

Travillian, Tyler T. Pliny the Elder: The natural history Book VII (with Book VIII 1-34). Bloomsbury Latin texts. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015. vii, 360 p. $23.95 (pb). ISBN 9781472535665.

Uzzi, Jeannine Diddle and Jeffrey Thomson. The Poems of Catullus: an annotated translation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. viii, 224 p. $24.99 (pb). ISBN 9781107682139.

Valavanis, Panos and Eleni Manakidou (edd.). Εγραφσεν και εποίεσεν: μελέτες κεραμικής και εικονογραφίας προς τιμήν του καθηγητή Μιχάλη Τιβέριου / Essays on Greek pottery and iconography in honour of Professor Michalis Tiverios. Thessaloniki: University Studio Press, 2014. 598 p. ISBN 9789601221960.

Wilkinson, Kate. Women and modesty in late antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. ix, 174 p. $95.00. ISBN 9781107030275.

Wohl, Victoria. Euripides and the politics of form. Martin classical lectures. Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2015. xvi, 200 p. $39.95. ISBN 9780691166506.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Mary P. Nichols, Thucydides and the Pursuit of Freedom. Ithaca, London: Cornell University Press, 2015. Pp. vii, 196. ISBN 9780801453168. $49.95.

Reviewed by Neville Morley, University of Bristol (

Version at BMCR home site


In this stimulating, provocative and sometimes frustrating book, Mary P. Nichols offers an interpretation of Thucydides' work founded on the concept of freedom, arguing not only that this was a crucial idea for his protagonists – think of the praise of freedom in Pericles' funeral oration or the rhetoric of freedom in Brasidas' speeches to Thracian cities – but also that Thucydides himself conceived of his project as advancing the cause of freedom through the exploration of this theme. Nichols develops this idea through a mixture of general commentary and close reading, beginning with a survey of the nature of Thucydides' historiography before working through such familiar episodes as the funeral oration, the plague, the Mytilene debate, Brasidas in Thrace and the Sicilian expedition, and concluding with some thoughts on the relationship between Thucydides and Athens and the underlying purpose of his account. He presents himself, she argues, as a true Athenian, still dedicated to the cause of freedom espoused and exemplified by Pericles, even though his ideal Athens has now been lost (or has destroyed itself) – surviving only in the pages of his own work.

As is now well established, there are several distinct modern traditions of interpreting Thucydides, many of which assimilate him to one or other modern genre – historiography, political theory, political philosophy – and draw from this a conception of his methodology and motivation. They thus offer different ideas of what kinds of knowledge we may expect to obtain through reading this work, and how we should understand its claim to speak to posterity. Historical readings focus on recovering trustworthy data about the ancient Greek past (which may or may not have a wider significance, but that is secondary), the political theorist or international relations specialist looks for general principles or laws of human and state behaviour (which may or may not have a grounding in historical reality, but that is secondary), while the political philosopher finds timeless wisdom and understanding, reflections on universal problems of human existence.

Nichols' book is, in both style and conclusions, an example of the last, following explicitly in the footsteps of Leo Strauss and his pupils. She firmly rejects readings of Thucydides either as a narrow positivist and 'scientific' historian or as a post-modernist or constructivist. She doesn't engage directly with questions of historicism – surprising, perhaps, given that this was one of Strauss's major preoccupations in his dealings with Thucydides – but would clearly have little time for historical or philological readings that see his work as wholly embedded in its original context and alien to modern sensibilities. Nichols' Thucydides is not a pure philosopher, as he is undoubtedly concerned with the particular as well as the general, but he certainly intended to speak to us of things that go far beyond the particular events he describes; he easily transcends Aristotle's dismissive attitude towards historiography, and so we can draw trans-historical wisdom and understanding from his work, of the sort we can also find in poets or philosophers.

Classicists who are unfamiliar with this style of discourse may find reading Nichols' book an odd or frustrating experience at times.1 Its argument is rarely stated explicitly or expounded in any detail, but is developed through a series of paraphrases of and commentaries on passages of Thucydides (which often beg questions), interspersed with gnomic assertions; elision and anachronism seem at times to constitute a methodology rather than an oversight. Contrary interpretations are occasionally mentioned – for example, the argument of Monoson and Loraux that Thucydides actually treats Pericles critically rather than setting him up as an ideal – but rarely answered directly; Nichols' response on that point is simply to note that "such a critique of Pericles gives little weight to the nobility or beauty in the image of Athens that Thucydides' Pericles presents" (43), as if that constitutes an unproblematic and conclusive answer. In the absence of any opportunity to button-hole the author and insist that she explains things more clearly, one simply has to go with the flow, keeping in mind that this is just one of many possible readings, and making the most of the moments where Nichols hits on a point or suggests a reading that is illuminating even when extracted from its context and the unspoken assumptions that underpin her reading.

That does happen quite frequently, and on that basis this book is well worth reading by anyone with an interest in Thucydides as a political thinker. However, there are times when the degree of ambiguity and lack of clarity becomes a serious issue. The most obvious example is the organising theme of 'freedom' itself. On the one hand, this concept is presented in the broadest terms imaginable, blurring the distinctions between (among other things) political freedom, legal freedom (e.g. the opposite of slavery), individual freedom of action as opposed to determinism, and Thucydides' intellectual freedom from inherited traditions and supposed facts. On the other hand, the concept is narrowed down to the specific theory – never, as far as I can see, explicitly developed or justified – that true freedom is intimately connected to the idea of home.

Clearly this approach conflates various ideas of freedom that the Greeks kept separate through the use of different terminology, and introduces various others that are more closely (if not exclusively) associated with modern philosophical debates. That is in itself not necessarily a problem – of course we can read ancient works in our own terms, through our own conceptual frameworks – except that Nichols is wholly opposed to the 'post-modern' idea that this is just one reading among many possible readings of a complex, multi-faceted text, and instead seeks to imply that this is Thucydides' own understanding of the subject. For the most part, the terminological issue is not even acknowledged; the discussion simply switches from one sense of 'freedom' to another without any apparent consciousness of inconsistency or possible anachronism. For example, Nichols includes in in a single sentence Thucydides' freedom from the Athenian perspective and the freedom that Athens at its best represents (81), and in another Sparta's reputation as a free city and the question of Brasidas' freedom to act (91), as if these are all basically the same thing, or at least unproblematically included in the same general conceptual category. From certain perspectives, of course these ideas are closely associated; but it is quite a step to assume that the differences between them are trivial, let alone that Thucydides himself organised his work around a conception of 'freedom' that encompassed all these different meanings.

There is similar ambiguity when it comes to the question of how far such themes are intrinsic to the reality of these past events, how far they are being identified by a modern reader (i.e. Nichols) in Thucydides' narrative, and how far Thucydides himself was deliberately putting them there and shaping his account accordingly. One might reasonably assume, given the focus on Thucydides as a kind of poet-philosopher, that Nichols' whole discussion is focused on his representation of events, without worrying about historical veracity – except that every so often she appears to evoke a reality prior to the text. Most obviously, Pericles is presented here as a real individual with his own ideas (faithfully transmitted in the account) that inspire Thucydides and his work. Diodotus in the Mytilene Debate is identified as a fictional character (a gift not of God but of Thucydides, as Nichols puts it) – but he is contrasted with a Cleon who is apparently not fictional, or not to the same extent. "Brasidas transcends his city… but Thucydides shows us how much his actions depend on the necessities that Sparta provides" (103-4); is this just loose phrasing, where what is really intended is "Thucydides shows that Brasidas transcends his city… but that his actions depend…", or is there actually an attempt here to distinguish between real events and Thucydides' representation of them, on the basis of a reading of the latter? The problem is not that Nichols does or does not believe in the possibility of recovering historical reality from Thucydides' account – there are reasonable arguments on both sides – but that it is simply unclear, at least to me, which position she actually holds. The one certainty is that she believes that her interpretation is derived from Thucydides rather than imposed upon it.

Numerous modern readers have recognised their own situation and concerns in Thucydides, and concluded on the basis of his claim to be writing for posterity that they are his intended audience and that the themes they have discerned must be his intended message. It is fair to say that I find many aspects of Nichols' interpretation unconvincing simply because Thucydides says different things to me – and perhaps because I am more conscious of the possibility that I have projected these ideas onto Thucydides and then found what I have put there. Certainly we can read Thucydides in terms of different ideas of freedom and compulsion; indeed, it is surprising that Nichols makes relatively little of some episodes that directly speak to this theme, such as the Corcyrean stasis or above all the Melian Dialogue, with its suggestion that the Athenians themselves are effectively compelled by circumstances to act as imperial oppressors (and anyone else in their position would do the same). One possible reason is that she wishes to interpret the dialogue as exemplifying the principles of Alcibiades, who acts as if he is freer than he really is, so ideas of compulsion and limit are clearly inconvenient in this context.

Another explanation may be that there is no obvious connection in either episode to the idea of homecoming, which Nichols insists is the consummate human activity and the basis of true freedom, since human action and hence freedom are possible only in response to a specific time and place. Again, we can certainly read Thucydides through the prism of an Aristotelian idea of the polis as the basic environment for human self-realisation, explored through a series of figures who are separated from their home and respond to that separation in different ways – Brasidas, Nicias, Alcibiades, and Thucydides himself. The idea that Thucydides' work should be interpreted in terms of his exile and psychological response to it is not a new one. But the idea that there is an intimate link between home and freedom and that this connection is the fundamental message of Thucydides' work seems forced. The connection appears to be taken for granted – although Nichols does not discuss it explicitly, it is hard to avoid the sense that this draws on a larger debate – so that, if Thucydides is understood to be concerned with the question of freedom (let alone if, as Nichols argues, his entire commitment is to the cause of freedom), then he must also have been concerned with the issue of home – and this connection is then 'discovered' in the work.

Thucydides cannot truly return home to an Athens that has ceased to be a home for freedom, except by recovering the old Athens through his writing; he thus "finds a homecoming time and again in the future" (183) – but that is precisely a switch from imagining Thucydides' own feelings (a dubious enough exercise) to elevating our sense of recognition, our conviction that we are the readers he has been looking for and hence his true 'home', as a fundamental principle of interpretation. Tempting as this line of thought is – of course we want to believe he would acknowledge us as his truest disciples – we modern readers of Thucydides really need to have more humility, and more scepticism about the spell he sought to cast on us.


1.   It may be worthwhile preparing oneself for the experience by reading Seth Jaffe's chapter on "The Straussian Thucydides" in Christine Lee and Neville Morley, eds., A Handbook to the Reception of Thucydides, Malden MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015.

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Michael Von Albrecht, Ovids Metamorphosen: Texte, Themen, Illustrationen. Heidelberger Studienhefte zur Altertumswissenschaft. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2014. Pp. 262. ISBN 9783825363208. €28.00.

Reviewed by Jo-Marie Claassen, Stellenbosch University (

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Table of Contents

The fifteen chapters of von Albrecht's compact volume of an exemplary series of close readings seemingly represent a lifetime of cogitation on Ovid's Metamorphoses. The articles were originally published from 1958 to 2010 (on average two papers from each decade), some originally in German, while others have been translated from English, Latin, French or Italian. After an initial foreword on the importance of Ovid for a modern readership (Chapter 1, pp.7-10), chapters are arranged within five unnumbered thematic parts: 'Autor und Werk' (pp. 11-80), 'Längsschnitte' (pp. 81-102), 'Gestalten und Themen' (pp. 103-138), 'Poetische Technik' (pp. 139-166) and 'Tradition und Fortwirken' (pp. 167-220).1

First, a brief overview. The first part, 'Autor und Werk', comprising two chapters, represents more than a third of the book. A brief introductory chapter (Chapter 2, pp. 11-13) succinctly places the poet "in seiner Zeit" Then follows a virtual monograph in miniature, on which more below. The second part, 'Längsschnitte' (roughly translatable as 'longitudinal sections'), comprises one chapter (4) on the gods of the Metamorphoses (especially Venus and Bacchus) and another (5) on travel and journeying. Next, in 'Gestalten und Themen' ('figures and themes'), three chapters (6 to 8) in turn consider Ovid's presentation of Actaeon, Arachne and Orpheus. The next three chapters (9 to 11) cover 'Poetische Technik'. Von Albrecht treats, in turn, the proeemium of the Metamorphoses (9), Ovid's use of similes (10) and the relationship of the Metamorphoses with the ancient novel (11).

The last thematic section, 'Tradition und Fortwirken' (pp.167-220), concentrates on aspects of reception in four chapters. Chapter 12 deals with tradition and originality. Chapter 13, a philosophical rumination on Ovid as 'poet of memory', offers an overview of the earlier chapters, covering all aspects of reception: Ovid as both receiver and received. The last two chapters represent an excursus lying outside the main thrust of the book. Chapter 14 analyses the handling of the topic of tree- felling, demonstrating contrasts in the reception of a mythic topos by Ovid and three other authors, particularly in the use of the 'sub-topos' of trees as 'sacred'. In the final chapter (15), Ovidian influence on Dante, von Albrecht displays equal sensitivity to both authors.

This review will concentrate on Chapter 3, which apparently represents new, previously unpublished research. Lack of space precludes individual discussion of the remaining chapters. I shall rather consider aspects of von Albrecht's combination of narratological theory with his technique of close reading.

First, Chapter 3, 'Bücher als Leseeinheiten: Gesamtdarstellung mit Abbildungen' (Books as Reading Units: Representation Combined with Pictures). Von Albrecht discusses plates illustrating an eighteenth-century edition of the Metamorphoses, giving a close literary reading of a close visual reading of the work. He meticulously analyses the fifteen engraved plates that illustrate the fifteen books of the Metamorphoses in a melange of translations published in Amsterdam in 1717, titled Ovid's Metamorphoses. Translated by the Most Eminent Hands. Adorn'd with Sculptures.

The individual pictures on the plates (termed 'sculptures' in the title) closely resemble similar types of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Ovidian illustrations, such as those by Giacomo Franco (1550-1620) or Leonard Gaultier (1561-c.1635). 2 Von Albrecht shows how the unknown artist, while following this graphic tradition, gave his own interpretation to the narrative sweep of each book, through the arrangement into different patterns of representations of its key figures. All the major myths within a particular book are represented. These patterns are carefully analysed by von Albrecht. The narrative line of different books is conveyed in various ways: In Plate 1 a clockwise spiral starting at the top of the page guides the reader's interpretation of Ovid's tales of creation and deluge, the gods as lovers, various 'beloveds' as goddesses and the creator-god as demiurge. Representatives of pietas look toward the left, the impious look right. Architectural features such as temples indicate the embedding of a tale within a tale, but also highlight the political aspects of the work. Other book plates arrange the illustrations of various myths in a variant series of patterns. Horizontal, vertical or diagonal groupings are combined to represent the themes of each book. For von Albrecht (p.73), the illustrations together contribute toward our understanding of the poem in its complex entirety.

After von Albrecht's minutely detailed analysis of each plate (pp.17-72), showing each book as a reading unit (Leseeinheit), he next considers how individual units 'work'. The books, as von Albrecht points out, are seldom discussed as cohesive units, citing as an example the antiquary Voss (1751-1826), who split each book into separate myths, ignoring all connective passages. For von Albrecht, consideration of the plates gives reception-oriented access to the books as units, indicates the structure of the books and shows thematic relationships, with details such as gesticulation representing feeling and ideas. Spatial arrangement of the main figures, juxtaposed or contrasted, illustrates the inventio of the book (so, for instance, Minerva's central position on Plate 5 shows her protecting Perseus but speaking to the Muses, thereby indicating her relationship with the worlds of both men and women). Von Albrecht displays consistent narratological interest. Ovid's embedded narrators are portrayed so as to show their relationship with the tales they tell, indicating a visible relationship between primary and secondary narrative. Similar positioning of characters on different plates shows relationships between books. For von Albrecht, it is clear that the unknown artist clearly understood the structure and intention of Ovid's text and aimed to guide readers to see each book as an articulated whole.

The artist occasionally deviated from the text to combine different aspects of stories, or left out gruesome aspects of myths that had been included by other illustrators. Sometimes additions were made: an Eros on Plate 1 serves to point to Book 2; the judgment of Paris is added as 'background information'. Use of anachronism clarifies themes: the creator-god on Plate 1 and the 'demonic' god of the underworld on Plate 10 emulate contemporary Christian illustrations; Orpheus on Plate 11 plays a violin.

The chapter closes with a discussion of the 'mnemotechnical' and didactic use of the illustrations. The plates serve as aids to remembering the contents of books and together promote interpretation of the whole. These illustrations represent a type of reception of Ovid that contrasts with all other Ovidian research. Such perspicacious recognition of an unusual type of reception is a fitting tribute to that most 'visual' of poets. Yet von Albrecht's punctilious literary criticism is predominant. His acute awareness of matters stylistic (termed 'poetological technique') stands out in his close reading of Ovid's introductory passage in Book 1, showing his careful attention to the implications of every word (pp.140ff). Examples abound throughout, as in his comment on the portrayal of Actaeon's alienation between his body and his consciousness by means of anaphora, alliteration and contrast (p.110); comment on the metrical indication of change of tense of the verb venit (věnit, to vēnit,) in Metamorphoses 6.42 (p.113); on the changing colour-spectrum of vowels to convey Orpheus' wailing when Eurydice dies in Metamorphoses 10.10-11 (p.234, n.84); discussion of the jauntiness of Orpheus' dactylic speech before Hades (p.129); detailed argument regarding the stylistic probabilities of variant readings illis / illas in Metamorphoses 1.2, with judicious opting for the latter (p.143).

Chapter 10 (pp.157-66), on Ovid's similes, is a stylistic comment in its entirety. Yet analysis of Ovid's similes goes further, also considering narratological aspects. The value of similes lies in their simultaneous retardation of action and provision of inner movement in so-called 'dead' passages (p.147ff). A simile works as 'Kunstpause' with different functions, depending on its position within a tale (p.149). Similes tying together present and past work in three distinctly different ways: toward the beginning of a tale, a simile sets the tone; in the middle, it enlivens a static passage or changes the pace of the narrative; toward the end, apparently mundane 'Homeric' similes make realistic and believable aspects of fantasy within a tale (in the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe (pp.155-6), blood spouting 'like a fountain' provides a rational explanation for why mulberries are red). Conversely, Ovid is not averse to humour and even bathos in frequent contrasts between epic simile and 'unepic' main action.

Von Albrecht's awareness of the need for narratological analysis most clearly appears in the discussion of the structure and unity of the Metamorphoses (pp. 92-102;183ff.), from the initial cosmology of book 1 to Pythagoras' monologue in the fifteenth book. In an obiter 'Stand der Forschung' (pp. 184-5) and with reference to his own preceding chapters, von Albrecht discusses aspects such as thematic unity, Ovid's method of sliding from one tale to another and cliff hangers at the close of books, calling for further research on Ovid's technique of linkages (p. 187). Other narratological aspects occur: Various catalogues (as in the names of the hounds in the tale of Actaeon in Metamorphoses 205-25) create suspense by means of a long pause in the action (p. 108); the description of Eurydice's journey toward the light fluctuates in focalisation between Orpheus and Eurydice (p. 135).

Also on genre and intertextuality von Albrecht is profound: The Metamorphoses is an epic sui generis (p.164). In passing he offers an excursus on the fluidity of generic exchange among ancient authors: Herodotos and Homer; Thucydides and tragedy (p.165). Ovid throughout displays a rich awareness of genre and literary history, sometimes harking back to Homer, sometimes to Vergil (p. 160). Ovid's intertextuality reaches both backward to Callimachus and forward to Apuleius (p. 157). A note (195 on p.241) traces parallels between Ovid and Petronius. Ovid's playful approach is indebted to both epic as 'history' and the novel as 'fiction'. A short excursus on the origins of the novel indicates that recent discoveries trace it back to Hellenistic times. Common sources influenced Ovid's take on epic. Commonalities with the novel are: 'dramatic irony' in a character's lack of the knowledge shared by the author with his readership; a 'cinematic' narrative style, with the difference that there is no single 'hero' as with Apuleius. Von Albrecht also calls for research on Ovid's work as 'science fiction' (p. 166).

Intertextual awareness enabled Ovid constantly to fluctuate between elegiac feeling and epic objectivity, also combining epic, elegy, epigram and rhetoric (p.188). Particularly intriguing are von Albrecht's analysis of the rhetorical elements of Orpheus' suasoria, delivered before the gods of the underworld (Metamorphoses 10.16-39, pp. 130-2), and his subsequent analysis of its 'thematic' (structural) elements, showing thesis, antithesis and synthesis (pp.133-4).

Profound statements about the nature of the work, verging on aphorism, abound. I paraphrase a few. On Augustus: 'It was very Roman to strive for apotheosis' (p. 82); on Arachne: 'A human with many possibilities becomes an animal with only one' (p. 116); on the domain of Hades: 'Political or cosmic order brings tragedy' (p. 121); on Ovid's style: 'Ovid fills rhetorical categories with poetic life' (p. 137) and 'Where a monarchy dethroned rhetoric, it became a structural paradigm for poetic (and musical) inventio' (p. 138); on the poem as a whole: 'It is a collective poem of a new kind, comparable with Hesiodic catalogues or Hellenistic aetiology, but truly Roman and Ovidian' (p. 187) and 'it is surreal rather than baroque' (p.190).

It is difficult to convey appropriate appreciation for von Albrecht's dense argument, but also to have to quibble about small aspects of layout. Why a reference to endnote '66' on page 116 and note '44' on 117? The relevance in context of these two notes is not clear. Endnotes are numbered from 1 to 324, running consecutively throughout the book. Some chapters have only one or two notes, others are prolifically annotated. Notes relating to individual chapters are preceded by a first (unnumbered) endnote offering bibliographical details, starting with the source of the article (the journal or Festschrift in which it first appeared), followed by a run-on list of works consulted, alphabetical according to author. A consolidated final bibliography at the end of the volume would have facilitated quick reference, out of the context of a particular chapter. However, the very first unnumbered endnote (p.225, titled 'Zu Kapitel 1') gives a fairly comprehensive select bibliography, again in run-on lines. An index of passages cited would have been useful for consultation on matters of compositional style, as discussed above.

I have been enriched by the new insights provided on the Metamorphoses by von Albrecht's literary perspicacity and versatility.3


1.   Table of Contents
2.   See Sarah Schell, 'Checklist of the Exhibition The Transformation of Ovid's Metamorphoses,' 2013, Washington, National Gallery of Art.
3.   Sincere apologies to the author for my long delay in producing this review.

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A. J. Boyle, Seneca: Medea. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Pp. cl, 481. ISBN 9780199602087. $199.00.

Reviewed by David Braund, University of Exeter (

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A.J. Boyle, who has played such a central role over decades in the renaissance in post-Augustan Latin, has produced another volume on a Senecan tragedy that will immediately become standard. In this large volume, he employs a broadly traditional commentary format to show inter alia how and why Seneca's Medea deserves to be read and, indeed, staged. Among the "silver" works that have earned attention (if not always respect) across the centuries, this play stands out for many reasons, largely centred upon the powerful predicament of Medea and her "madness" in killing her own sons. This is a big book because there is a great deal to say. It falls into three main parts. First, a meaty introduction of some 150 pages is almost a book in itself. Secondly, there is a text and translation, all the more valuable in view of the play's significance for non-Latinists: some critical apparatus is appended, together with a clear statement of differences from the OCT (36 in all). Finally, some 300 pages of commentary, plus bibliography and very useful indices. Readers familiar with Boyle's Octavia (Oxford 2008) and Oedipus (Oxford 2011) will recognize the format (note also his Troades (Leeds 1994)). Here at the outset, Boyle states his purpose with commendable clarity, "to elucidate the text dramatically as well as philologically, and to locate the play firmly in its contemporary historical and cultural context and in the ensuing literary and theatrical tradition" (p. viii). And that is very much what he does.

The substantial introduction covers a lot of ground. A handy summary of Seneca's life and works nicely brings out the tendency of theatre to reach and even dominate every aspect of the Neronian regime, in particular. This is the "theatricalised world" (p. xxiii) of a court environment in which distant polarities have amalgamated, so that truth is untruth, fiction is reality and the world is indeed a stage – a political nightmare in which theatrical creativity and performance can be everything (further, p. cvii). Boyle aptly observes that, in such a world, the themes of Seneca's tragedies were also the stuff of his very life (p. xxv). An overview of Roman theatre ensues, Republican and imperial, featuring valuable remarks on similarity and difference with and from Athenian theatre (inevitably, Euripides is never far away) as well as offering intriguing glimpses of elite engagement with theatre long before Nero. That flows into a sparky treatment of an old issue, namely whether Seneca and others wrote their tragedies for theatrical performance (p.xli). While we simply do not know whether Seneca's plays were performed in his lifetime (still less whether he intended that), there is surely something odd and counter-intuitive in the claim that they were not (or could not have been): there were theatres aplenty in need of plays to perform, and this was drama. Boyle makes the telling point that they were certainly performed often enough later. We may do best to presume that in his lifetime Seneca's works were performed in a range of ways from time to time and context to context, including recitals and full-blown theatre (a shaky distinction in any case, as Boyle observes: p. xliii). Such considerations soon lead, through treatment of the "rhetoricity" of Senecan drama, to discussion of its remarkable onstage violence (p. xlix) and thence to Seneca on anger (p. liv). Exploring anger across Medea and the De Ira, Boyle draws attention to the absence of wives' anger in the latter, whereas it was exemplified so strikingly and so much on stage in the play (p. lx).

The introduction forges on with "the myth before Seneca" (p. lxi), where we find a plurality of myths, as usual in mythology. This accurate overview probably suffices for a book on Seneca's play that is already large, but one might have had more on the Italian and Adriatic claims to Medea (e.g. M. Falcone, Aevum 85 (2011): 81-98, on Medea and the Marsi). Here too Boyle rightly flags the fact that Medea is Colchian, but makes nothing of the significance of her ethnicity, despite some promising remarks on her homeland in the commentary (e.g. on lines 42-3). The same neglect characterizes scholarship on Euripides' play too, but it must be important – for example – that classical writers (including Seneca here: Medea 211-16, 483-7 with Boyle ad locc) commonly elide Colchians with the Scythians, who were still more famous for their grisly tendencies to mutilation and butchery (cf. D. Braund, Georgia in Antiquity, Oxford 1994, esp. ch.1). However, the great virtue of this part of the introduction is its cumulative demonstration of the sheer ubiquity and importance of Medea in Roman culture before Seneca, as exemplified by Cicero's famous passing mention of her at De imperio Cn.Pompeii, 22, where she is set beside another major figure of the Black Sea region, Mithridates Eupator himself, also resourceful even in flight.

And so, finally, we come to Seneca's play with a strong sense of its Roman cultural context. At this point, Boyle offers his vision of the play itself (p. lxxix) as probing and problematizing human society within a world framed by gods, with Medea transformed centre-stage. Roman imperialism is evoked (esp. p. lxxxix), as also are the issues of selfhood and madness that swirl around this Medea and other characters in the play besides (p. xc). This section closes with a vigorous assertion of the metatheatre of the play, especially in Medea's conscious creation of her own legend by killing her sons and soaring away from Corinth on the chariot of the Sun (pp. cvii-cxviii). The introduction concludes with a long essay on the reception of the play (pp. cxix-cxli), remarks on metre and a brief explication of the translation to come. To have this excellent translation as well as the Latin text is invaluable, and not only for the Latin-less reader. In a similar spirit of accessibility, one might have avoided the colossal Roman numerals used to paginate the introduction. The commentary itself is rich in learned detail, not least with regard to other Senecan works, on which it is very good indeed. Such learning is expected of commentaries, but here we also have a less commonplace and more important concern with the appreciation of the play itself, in part and in whole. As in the introduction, Boyle never fails to convey not only the intellectual interest of Medea, but also his enthusiasm for the sheer pleasure of it, however coloured by the grimness of its action and the disturbing assemblage of its themes.

It should by now be clear that this book is a very substantial achievement, and one which will certainly inspire. Inevitably, there will be points of disagreement for many, and perhaps complaints about omissions. For myself, I would have liked to see more attention paid not only to broad strands of contemporary culture (which are handled very well), but also to specifics within the big picture of Roman imperialism in the play, upon which Boyle only touches. Surely a play on Colchian Medea in the mid-first century A. D. should be connected with contemporary events around Roman imperial involvement in the region. Under Claudius we have Roman military intervention in the northern Black Sea (the so-called Bosporan War), to which Tacitus gives so much space in the Annals and which brought the remarkable Mithridates VIII into Roman high society. And under Nero, from c. A. D. 64 the annexation of the Pontic kingdom of Polemo II turned Colchis itself into Roman provincial territory. Of course, it remains entirely obscure how these events may have impacted upon the creation or contemporary appreciation of Medea, especially since we cannot date the play closely. However, the particularities of Roman imperialism in the region demand consideration. When, for example, a Roman cohort was shipwrecked and massacred by Taurians of the Crimea under Claudius (Annals 12.17), did not Seneca and other educated Romans recall Euripides' Iphigenia among the Taurians? Certainly, Seneca might refer in passing to inhospitable Taurians at Phaedra 168, while Boyle rightly draws attention to the key theme of inhospitality in all its forms that pervades Medea and also characterizes the whole Black Sea region, in general and in the play from Medea's opening speech onwards. And what of the remarkable imperial women, such as Messalina, Agrippina and Poppaea? In this theatricalised world, and despite their positions, were they not also Medeas, if only potentially ? Meanwhile, should we not reflect rather more, too, on Nero's concern with the Sun and, for example, the chariot of the Sun (?) that was depicted on the awning over the theatre in which he received Tiridates of Armenia, his greatest political show (Dio 63. 5. 2, without serpents, to be sure)? However, for all that, Boyle is very aware of the potential importance to the play of such contemporary concerns (and vice versa), as his agenda for the book makes explicit from the first (above). And he articulates very well much of the mood of the imperial court of Seneca's day, not least in the detailed commentary.

Accordingly, while there is even more that might have been done, we must recognize and applaud all that has been achieved in this excellent book.

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Gareth Sears, Peter Keegan, Ray Laurence (ed.), Written Space in the Latin West, 200 BC to AD 300. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013. Pp. x, 293. ISBN 9781441123046. $120.00.

Reviewed by Virginia L. Campbell, University of Oxford (

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[The reviewer sincerely apologises for the lateness of this review.]

This volume, states Sears and Laurence in the introduction entitled, 'Written Space', was born out of a previous collaboration that yielded The City in the Roman West (2011) and the realization that public space and writing were linked to such a degree that the impact of the texts warranted its own study. One element they noticed was that the different kind of texts – whether large and permanent or small and temporary – might impact how texts were read, how people moved, and thus the development of spatial use within an urban centre. They then held a panel at the RAC in 2009, and this book of fifteen chapters is the result. Thus this work examines various aspects of writing – in all its forms – across Italy and the Western provinces. The editors challenged the authors to consider the inscriptions not just as texts or as part of an archaeological context, but to combine the two in order to think of written space, and how that in turn influences style, form, location, use of space, urbanization, and a number of other issues. In this aim, the book is divided into four thematic sections with an Introduction and Afterword, with two to four papers in each dealing with aspects of movement, time, space, social groups, buildings and regional variation.

The first section, 'Writing, Reading, Movement, and Time', contains four papers. Corbier (pp. 13-47) argues for the elimination of neat boundaries in typologies for texts in order to look more completely at all acts of public communication. She further suggests that Rome is unique in its proliferation of a 'durable display' of texts: thus, though it cannot be compared to other societies, they can be used to draw useful parallels. Social and cultural issues of writing are explored by Keegan (pp. 49-64) through the medium of funerary epitaphs, which place writing in a spatio-temporal context that allows the examination of both form and function. He argues for a combination of Woolf's 'epigraphic culture' and Purcell's 'landscape of property' that is evident in the funerary epigraphic environment of the Roman city wherein the tombs provide a 'common place' of the inscribed built environment where the 'cultural practices of a diverse social community' are expressed, defined, and reformulated (p. 60). Newsome (pp. 65-81) takes a spatial-temporal approach to subversive texts, looking at evidence in ancient literature, wall frescoes, and epigraphy, for the re- appropriation of official space for non-official texts, specifically of a political nature, thus rendering the act of writing and the use of space as dynamic across both space and time. The section concludes with an examination by Hannah (pp. 83-102) of time and lists, specifically the various fasti. He considers not only the differences in recording time – cyclical versus linear – but also how these records became politicized with the transition from Republic to Empire. He notes that under Augustus the office of consul was no longer of utmost importance as it was subsumed by the princeps, but that the concept of time that it represented became the significant aspect of its inclusion in the fasti.

The next section, 'Written Space and Social Groups', begins with Hillard's (pp. 105-122) discussion of political graffiti in the late Republic. He uses a forensic approach to the texts in order to 'contextualize parietal polemic and popular political texting' in the belief that this will provide a better understanding of the impact of such non-official texts (p. 105). He specifically uses examples of graffiti contained by Plutarch's lives of the brothers Gracchus to demonstrate not only the power such politically motivated texts may have had on their audience (whether the Gracchi themselves or the people of Rome more generally), but also the importance given the texts by their preservation in later literature. Quite succinctly, Hillard concludes how clear it is that 'public space was contested' through writing (p. 116). Laurence and Garraffoni (pp. 123-134) continue the section by attempting to determine if there are patterns to be found in types of graffiti in terms of subject matter, form (verbal v. visual texts), or another factor in their distribution across the urban landscape of Pompeii. Whilst the patterns (or lack thereof) are not always what might be expected, the authors determine that being able to read or write 'was an action that allowed a person to have quite a different relationship with their city', and that writing was an important aspect of urban life (p. 132). The presence of women in written space is the basis of the next chapter. Hemelrijk (pp. 135-152) considers three spaces – the monumental centre, sanctuary precincts, and necropoleis – where writing appears, and examines the frequency with which women are responsible for, or named in, texts. The evidence demonstrates a preponderance of dedications to family members and deities, and where women are named, emphasis on the rank of male family members and their piety. In the final paper in this section, children and slaves are the focus of discussion by Baldwin, Moulden and Laurence (pp. 153-166). They use the Villa of San Marco, buried by Vesuvius, as a case study for testing the use of spatial analysis and 3D modeling of graffiti to determine if who wrote a text can be determined by where it is located within a single domicile. In some areas, such as the kitchen, they are unsurprised by a large numbers of numerical texts, but in others, like the baths, the lack of verbal graffiti is unexpected. The authors do well to recognize some of the flaws inherent in using text height and other factors as determining authorship, but ultimately demonstrate that there is more work to be done in this area.

'Written Space and Building Types' is the focus of the next two papers provided by Trifilò (pp. 169-184) and Cooley (pp. 185-198). Trifilò looks at the use of the term platea in inscriptions as part of the 'collective experiences of urban space' (p. 169). The examination of such texts across Italy and the provinces demonstrates that its use, the majority of which use platea to refer to a broad street, are cities or towns that are in the process of expanding. This can then be tied to elements of spatial definition within the urban landscape, in terms of text, experience, and organization. Inscriptions found in the baths of Italy and the provinces of North Africa are used by Cooley to examine the different types of texts that may appear in one very specific location. She has found that these go beyond the usual means of demonstrating status and identity as is expected in public spaces, but also 'performed functions distinctive to bath buildings' that ranged from advertising amenities or special features of a particular bath house, but also demonstrated an appreciation of the surroundings or served an apotropaic purpose (p. 185).

The ultimate section of the book poses the question: 'Regional Written Spaces?' Three papers follow that attempt to provide an answer. In the first, Sears (pp. 201-216) explores the interrelationship of urban space and texts in Severan Africa. He notes that not only are there a greater number of inscriptions put up under the Severan emperors, but also that due to the lack of installations by subsequent rulers they continued to dominate until Late Antiquity, and thus had a significant impact on the shaping of the urban landscape. This is particularly true in the placement of milestones at transition points between the old and new fora of Cuicul. Next, Cleary (pp. 217-230) focuses on Aquitania in order to determine the role of inscriptions in provincial cities. One intriguing aspect of this chapter is the methods of survival of Roman epigraphy, specifically that cities that did not build walls re-using Roman-era stones in later periods have a much lower recovery rate, or that a city with proximity to a marble quarry (such as Convenae) had a higher rate. He also notes the survival in one instance of a painted inscription, suggesting that there is far more evidence of a temporary nature that is overlooked in the analysis of ancient writing. Cleary also looks at the synchronic nature of texts, and discusses the display of texts as an expression of power that was more dependent on their existence than on legibility or comprehension of the words themselves. Finally, Revell (pp. 231-246) examines political inscriptions located in Baetica. This study focuses on texts recovered from the forum in order to assess how social norms influenced the display of texts, and the interplay between political and social authority evident in the inscriptions. She argues, I think correctly, that 'We tend to concentrate on the immediate message of these inscriptions, but they also embodied deeper values, and the ongoing act of reading the text and acknowledging these values formed one of the repeated acts which maintained the ideology of urbanism' (p. 243).

One aspect that could have been addressed more comprehensively throughout the volume is literacy, as it remains a hotly contested issue in the scholarship of texts and writing. The majority of the contributions never mention the ability to read, or how this might otherwise affect the evidence or the overall argument presented. Hannah demonstrates some awareness of the issues in a comment about the abbreviated nature of lists such as the fasti, whilst Garraffoni and Laurence discuss it in terms of the ability to learn or practice writing in a public space, whether this is limited to no more than a name or consists of something more complex (Hannah p. 87, Garraffoni & Laurence pp. 123-124). Corbier and Revell are the only authors who address literacy in a more substantial manner, both presenting a similar concept regarding different levels of literacy, and how this relates to the public texts present in the urban centres of Roman antiquity. What Corbier refers to as 'weak literacy' is more or less akin to the argument made by Revell, who states that reading an inscription 'relies on different literacy or interpretation skills' than reading literature (Corbier p. 38, Revell p. 233). For a volume that focuses entirely on the written word, a greater inclusion of this kind of discussion would have elucidated the overall impression of the importance of text in the visual and cultural landscape.

The greatest success of this volume is its attempt to force the reader to think of writing as a concept in toto, not dividing practice based on official or monumental inscriptions versus non-official, sometimes subversive, or vulgar texts (in both senses) associated with graffiti in conjunction with how these texts appear in space. This is summed up well in the Afterword provided by Keegan (pp. 247-256) when he states that no matter the type of inscription 'studying the discursive interdependencies of written space has demonstrated the possibilities available for modern eyes to reconceptualize how those who worked in and passed through these spaces perceived the nature of their particular urban environment and how the discourse which surrounded them shaped their perceptions – of themselves, their place in the world, their city, and their society' (p. 248). The authors all go beyond the concept of the epigraphic habit itself, pushing both traditional urban studies and textual studies in a new, and necessary, direction. Whilst each individual chapter has a clear merit for the study of that particular place or type of writing, it is the work as a whole that should be viewed as an important contribution to furthering the scholarly discourse on the significance and prevalence of writing in Rome and the West.

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