Thursday, October 19, 2017


Michael J. Jeffreys, Marc D. Lauxtermann (ed.), The Letters of Psellos: Cultural Networks and Historical Realities. Oxford studies in Byzantium. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. x, 468. ISBN 9780198787228. $140.00.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Fisher, George Washington University (

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The epistolary legacy of Michael Psellos presents scholars with both a magnificent opportunity and a profound challenge. The volume of his correspondence is huge—516 individual letters preserved in 44 manuscripts and published in various venues since the late nineteenth century; the recipients of those letters represent a wide spectrum of eleventh-century figures— emperors, patriarchs, imperial officials, ecclesiastical dignitaries, simple monks, students, and colleagues of Psellos. His comments on the realia of life in Byzantium and on the great and near great personalities of his day spice his correspondence. Fortunately, an authoritative critical edition of all the letters is at last in the final stages of preparation for the Teubner series, due to the diligence and consummate scholarship of Stratis Papaioannou; he generously allowed the contributors to this volume pre- publication access to his text of individual letters and provided advice on translating particularly difficult passages. Such passages abound in the letters of Psellos. In the words of Marc Lauxtermann (p. 11), "the Greek is difficult, and sometimes incomprehensible." Nevertheless, the scholarly contemporaries and successors of Psellos in Byzantium considered him a model epistolographer and exemplary master of rhetorical devices, of subtle literary allusions, and of the complex and artificial "Attic" linguistic register favored for serious literary composition.

The volume consists of two independent but related parts. Part I (pp. 13-140) contains five thematic essays based upon the letters: Psellos' educational networks (Floris Bernard), his monastic contacts and concerns (Michael Jeffreys), the Patriarch Keroularios' nephew Constantine (Michael Jeffreys), Psellos and his long-time associate John Mauropous (Marc Lauxtermann), and Psellos' use of irony in letters to the problematic protosynkellos Leon Paraspondylos (Diether Roderic Reinsch). Part II (pp. 143-445) contains Michael Jeffreys' careful summaries of every letter in the Psellan canon, including four letters from Psellos' correspondents that regularly accompany his letters in manuscript collections. The summaries are generally presented in the order in which they appear in Kurtz-Drexl (KD), Gautier (G), Maltese (M), and Sathas (S).1 Jeffreys deviates from this pattern in the case of 30 small groups of letters on a unified theme (e.g., "Support for a Young krites of Armeniakon. Probably Psellos' Son-in-Law," i.e., five letters collected and reordered from KD and S (pp. 194-96)). An appendix on dating the letters, a bibliography, and an index primarily to the summaries follows. As Lauxtermann explains in the introduction (p. 11), the summaries are a guide for scholars to use in efficiently locating letters that may respond to their individual interests. These summaries are not translations, but rather a tool enabling scholars to focus upon letters within this huge corpus that might justify investing the time and effort required to explore passages of value to their own work.

The four contributors to this volume are skilled practitioners in the delicate art of reading, interpreting, and translating Psellos' work. Each has provided two or three letters in elegant and readable translations that support the argument of their chapter. The nine translations are reason enough to commend this collection, for they successfully represent in English the extraordinary charm and literary value of Psellos' compositions. What has discouraged modern scholars from exploiting Psellos' letters in their research? Marc Lauxtermann articulates three problems (p. 6): (1) the complexities of intimate references to a remote historical period, (2) the generic conventions and deliberately obscure nature of a letter as expected by the writer and the recipient, and (3) Psellos' deliberate and habitual use of irony and misrepresentation. Lauxtermann illustrates his point by presenting four responsible interpretations of the leopard and the snake mentioned in Kurtz-Drexl 190 (pp. 5-6). Is the leopard Psellos' personal pet (Papaioannou), an allusion to persecution Psellos experienced for abandoning the monastery (M. Jeffreys), a game of rhetorical gender codes (Papaioannou), or an instance of Psellos' "erotic mischief" (Lauxtermann)? As Lauxtermann concludes (p. 6), "Each reader creates his own Psellos." The five thematic essays identify and investigate the interpretive problems occurring in the letters under discussion.

Floris Bernard ("Educational Networks in the Letters of Michael Psellos") examines Psellos' letters to his teachers, fellow students, and pupils as well the broader topics of Psellos' own activities as a teacher and the mechanisms he uses to build networks supporting the careers of individuals and promoting his own reputation for learning and influence. The language of kinship is key to Psellos' purposes and must be carefully interpreted and parsed, a task which Bernard accomplishes succinctly and clearly. At the close of the chapter, three letters gracefully translated illustrate Psellos' learned tone and personal approach to a fellow student (KD 11), to a pupil embroiled in a tax dispute with a monastery protected by Psellos (KD 53), and to the prospective patron of a former student (KD 91).

Michael Jeffreys ("Michael Psellos and the Monastery") reviews Psellos' personal connections to monasteries and monastic life, focusing upon his family, his friends, his own tonsure, his brief withdrawal from Constantinople to live as a monk on Mt. Olympos, and his subsequent career as a monk in the capital. Jeffreys uses this framework to discuss Psellos' correspondence with individuals, citing letters that illuminate Psellos' experiences and relationships at crucial periods of his life. Psellos himself owned several monasteries as charistikarios, providing advice, financial support and representation of the monastery's interests before imperial officials; in return he sometimes received some profit from the monastery's holdings. Jeffreys concludes by enumerating and briefly describing Psellos' interactions with specific monasteries, some famous (for example on p. 55, Ta Narsou in Constantinople) and some obscure (for example on p. 57, a nun's tiny, starving foundation). Translation of a few letters mentioned in the chapter would have been a welcome conclusion to it; the three letters regarding the monastery of Acheiropoietes near the Golden Gate (KD 77, 124, and 250) would have illustrated Psellos' role as charistikarios, for instance.

In a second essay ("Constantine, Nephew of the Patriarch Keroularios, and His Good Friend Michael Psellos"), Michael Jeffreys uses sigillography, prosopography, documentary evidence, and the precedence of offices and dignities to determine the biography of a significant but little known member of the Byzantine ruling class with whom Psellos maintained a long-term correspondence. Jeffreys outlines the chronology of his subject's life (pp. 62-3) and sketches the family tree of the Patriarch Keroularios (p. 65), surveying the family's involvement in the turbulent politics of the time as reflected in Psellos' letters and selected essays. "For me," observes Jeffreys, "the major purpose of arguments over details of promotion which dominate this paper is to set parameters for discussing the changing dynamics of Byzantine political society and their impact on government" (p. 74). Two elegantly translated letters to Constantine, nephew of Keroularios, close the chapter (KD 214 and G 21, both written shortly before Constantine's death).

Marc Lauxtermann ("The Intertwined Lives of Michael Psellos and John Mauropous") describes and contrasts the authorial personae of his two subjects, who sought very different levels of engagement in public affairs. Mauropous was a reluctant and evasive bureaucrat, but Psellos advertised his important position in the government at every opportunity. Lauxtermann first analyzes the poems, homilies, and letters of Mauropous, collections which the author selected and organized himself to emphasize stages in the traumatic episode of his career as metropolitan of Euchaita. The letters, Lauxtermann notes, represent only a brief period within his long and productive life. Within this collection are four letters evidently addressed to Psellos, including letter 33 which suggests that Mauropous wrote an unspecified encomion to be presented by Psellos as his own composition (p. 100).2 Were parts of Psellos' immense literary production actually written by others on commission from Psellos? After registering this stunning possibility, Lauxtermann examines Psellos' letters to Mauropous. Although the letters of Psellos are notoriously difficult to date and do not survive in a collection curated by Psellos himself, Lauxtermann identifies 18 letters surely or probably addressed to Mauropous and presents them in a logical sequence, arranged according to whether they were written before, during, or after the period of Mauropous' episcopate. After examining Psellos' tone and strategies in these letters, Lauxtermann provides background for assessing the exchange of two letters between Mauropous and Psellos which are translated as an appendix to the chapter. Relevant topics include the role of Xiphilinos as Nomophylax and Psellos as "Consul of the Philosophers" in the various educational structures that scholars have reconstructed from contemporary sources and from Psellos' own compositions and letters (pp. 113-123). Three readable and lively translations close the chapter: KD 34, in which Psellos chides Mauropous for his reluctance to go to Euchaita, and the two letters exchanged by the friends and discussed at length in the chapter (Mauropous letter 23 and Psellos M 12). Particularly in the case of this rich chapter, the reader longs for a full index to Part 1 of the volume; the index (pp. 459-468) covers the summaries in Part 2 with only occasional references to Part 1.

Diether Roderich Reinsch concludes Part 1 of the volume with his essay "Venomous Praise: Some Remarks on Michael Psellos' Letters to Leon Paraspondylos." Paraspondylos enjoyed prominence at court in the 1050's as attested by Attaleiates, Skylitzes, and by Psellos himself in the Chronographia, in nine letters to Paraspondylos, and especially in his logos that characterizes the excellence of the protosynkellos Leon Paraspondylos.3 The difficulty of establishing a chronology for Psellos' letters and other writings complicates any attempt to trace the dynamics of the relationship between Psellos and Paraspondylos. Reinsch's goal in his essay, however, is not historical but rather literary—to isolate and explore Psellos' deployment of "the hidden venom of irony," which, as Reinsch observes, artistically enables a letter writer "to conceal from the addressee the aggression which is connected with the statement, or at least to make it intangible" (p. 131). Reinsch illustrates Psellos' mastery of this elusive rhetorical device by skillfully juxtaposing passages from letters of Psellos with characterizations of Paraspondylos in Psellos' Chronographia and in his logos on the "excellence" of Paraspondylos. Two letters of Psellos to Paraspondylos (S 7 and S9) are the source of the passages that Reinsch contrasts with Psellos' other compositions to isolate and inspect his use of irony; these letters are elegantly translated at the conclusion of the essay.

In summary, this volume is an exceptionally rich resource for students of Psellos at any level of acquaintance with his life and work. It abundantly rewards careful study and further reflection.


1.   Kurtz, E., and S. Drexl (eds), Michaelis Pselli Scripta minora magnam partem adhuc inedita II: Epistulae (Orbis Romanus 12) (Milan, 1941). Gautier, P., 'Quelques lettres de Psellos inédites ou déjà éditées', REB 44 (1986) 111-97. Maltese, E.V., 'Epistole inedite di Michele Psello', SIFC, terza serie 5 (1987) 82-98, 214-23; 6 (1988) 110-34. Sathas, K.N., Μεσαιωνική βιβλιοθήκη η συλλογή ανεκδότων μνημείων της Ελληνικής ιστορίας. Μιχαήλ Ψελλού ιστορικοί λόγοι, επιστολαί και άλλα ανέκδοτα, vol. V (Venice-Paris 1876).
2.   Published by A. Karpozilos, The Letters of Ioannes Mauropous Metropolitan of Euchaita (Thessaloniki, 1990) 227-28.
3.   Λόγος χαρακτηρίζων τὴν τοῦ πρωτοσυγκέλλου ἀρητήν, Dennis, G.T., (ed) Michael Psellus Orationes panegyricae (Stuttgart-Leipzig 1994) 134-39.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Elaine Fantham (trans.), Francesco Petrarca: Selected letters, volume 1. I Tatti Renaissance Library, 76. Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press, 2017. Pp. xlvi, 747. ISBN 9780674058347. $29.95. Elaine Fantham (trans.), Francesco Petrarca: Selected letters, volume 2. I Tatti Renaissance Library, 77. Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press, 2017. Pp. viii, 807. ISBN 9780674971622. $29.95.

Reviewed by Linda Grant, Royal Holloway, University of London (

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This new selection of Petrarch's letters by Elaine Fantham is to be welcomed. In keeping with the other volumes in the I Tatti Renaissance Library series, it presents us with the Latin originals with facing English translation. Both are numbered by section for convenient citation, and the English feels fresh and natural throughout, offering a fluent translation rather than a strict word-for-word crib. For example, here is Fantham's rendition of part of Petrarch's discussion of poetic imitation:

Standum denique Senece consilio, quod ante Senecam Flacci erat, ut scribamus scilicet sicut apes mellificant, non servatis floribus sed in favos versis, ut ex multis et variis unum fiat, idque aliud et melius

'In fact we should stick with Seneca's advice, which was that of Horace before him, to write as bees make honey, not preserving the flowers but converting them into honeycombs, so that from many assorted elements a single thing is created, different and superior.' (III.19.13)

Rather than organising the letters chronologically, Fantham has decided to arrange them into groups by topic. Across the two volumes we therefore have epistles on the self-conscious writing of letters (Part I), on Petrarch's life and engagement with his world (Part II), on his scholarly projects and manuscript hunting (Part III), and his 'moral' letters (Part IV) which are frequently in dialogue with Seneca. Part V includes letters that discuss matters of education, especially of rulers and princes; and Parts VI and VII show Petrarch in correspondence with the secular and religious worlds of fourteenth century Italy as he writes to, for example, King Robert of Naples, Doge Andrea Dandolo of Venice, and Pope Urban V. Part VIII includes a selection of Petrarch's 'Letters to the Ancients' where he writes to classical, mostly Roman, writers: Cicero, Seneca, Varro, Quintilian, Livy, Asinius Pollio, Homer. The well-known letters to Horace and Vergil have been excluded since they are written in verse. Part IX ends the collection with Petrarch looking back on his life and then to the future in his 'Letter to Posterity'.

What comes over most strongly from this judicious selection and arrangement is the breadth and depth of Petrarch's reading and interests: his excitement at the thought of discovering 'lost' classical manuscripts; his frustration at his lack of Greek when presented with a manuscript of Homer; his delight in his examination for the laurel crown; his advice to Pandolfo Malatesta on when to take a wife and which kind to choose. He is perhaps at his most charming when he scolds Cicero for his inconsistency (Sed quis te furor in Antonium impegit? 'But what madness drove you against Antony?', VIII.2.5) and his failure to live up to his own ideals (Nimirum quid enim iuvat alios docere, quid ornatissimis verbis semper de virtutibus loqui prodest, si te interim ipse non audias? 'What is the point of teaching others, what the advantage of speaking in most elegant words about the virtues, if you don't listen to yourself?', VIII.2.6).

A theme that runs through these letters and that Petrarch returns to repeatedly is that of masculine friendship, whether that is interactions with state and political leaders or the genuine intimacy of his closest circle of friends. This is just one example of how these letters, taken as a collection, might be seen as an imitation of, and response to, classical letters such as those of Cicero and Seneca, almost as if Petrarch wants to bridge, via these letters, some of the chronological and cultural space between the classical period and his own.

One of the most striking conclusions from these letters is the extent to which the classical past and its writers and thinkers are, for Petrarch, not lost or dead but still living. Even while urging friends to continue the search for lost classical manuscripts, Petrarch situates himself in an intensely personal relationship with classical writers. This is brought out most sharply, of course, in his letters written to Cicero et al., letters which take on a tone of intimacy, familiarity and ease—these are characters who people Petrarch's world.

Given the vast number of Petrarch's correspondents and the political complications of the world he inhabits, Fantham has done an exemplary job of providing the requisite apparatus to make sense of these letters. The volumes contain an introduction, extensive notes to the translations that include dating, concordances, a full bibliography and index. Volume 2 additionally contains three useful appendices: a chronology of Petrarch's life, a bibliography of his works, and biographical notes on his correspondents. All the notes are kept neatly to the back of each volume so that we can approach the letters unencumbered. The volumes themselves are handsomely produced, and I didn't notice any typographical errors.

In summary, anyone interested in Early Modern receptions of classical literature in its broadest sense or Renaissance letters as a literary genre would do well not to miss this collection—Petrarch is often named the 'Father of the Renaissance' and these letters make clear that he additionally sees himself as a son of classical Rome.

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Metaxia Tsipopoulou, Petras, Siteia: The Pre- and Proto-Palatial Cemetery in Context. Acts of a Two-Day Conference Held at the Danish Institute at Athens, 14-15 February 2015. Monographs of the Danish Institute at Athens, 21. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2017. Pp. 446. ISBN 9788771841572. Kr. 499.95.

Reviewed by Ilaria Caloi, Ca' Foscari University of Venice (

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

This publication, edited by Metaxia Tsipopoulou, is the proceedings of the 2nd Symposium (held in Athens in 2015) devoted to the (still ongoing) excavation of the Petras cemetery (2005-2006, 2009-2016) on the Kephala hill or Hill II, overlooking the bay of Siteia, East Crete. Five years on from the publication of the proceedings of the 1st Symposium, which was dedicated to the excavation of Hill I at Petras, where the Bronze Age settlement and the palace are situated, this book demonstrates the effort of a terrific array of specialists, who "presented their work in progress and discussed their interpretations, conclusions and ideas…" (p. 16). The idea of presenting preliminary results of a well-preserved cemetery (exceptionally connected with a settlement and a palace) so soon after its excavation has the inestimable merit of informing scholars about new and fresh data from ongoing excavations on Crete that can be compared with the existing evidence. The impression, however, is that the results were so preliminary that they have not been entirely digested and, in turn, not properly compared with the new and most up-to-date evidence provided by recent publications. This is particularly true for the chronological study of some classes of material, especially ceramic and lithic,1 but glyptic as well. We can look forward to the final publication taking into account the full range of the newest and most up to date relevant evidence from across the island.1

Thirty-seven experts contributed to this volume of 26 papers (one by Theodoropoulou on shell material is actually merely an abstract) written in English. Due to the great number of contributions, I have devoted particular attention to a selection of the articles.

The book is not separated into sections and its chapters are not numbered, but it can be divided into two parts, each corresponding to one of the two main goals of the volume. The first part (16 papers) is devoted to the presentation of the Pre- and Protopalatial cemetery of Petras, as well as to its LM III reoccupation, while the second (10 papers, including also the final discussion and remarks) to its historical and cultural contextualisation not only at Petras, but also in Pre- and Protopalatial Crete as a whole.

As illustrated in the first paper by Tsipopoulou, the cemetery comprises 13 House Tombs (HTs), dating from EM II to MM IIB, and a Rock Shelter (EM IB-MM IIA). After a detailed architectural description of all the HTs (only six have been completely excavated), she presents the four main chronological phases of the cemetery: EM II, EM III-MM IA, MM IB and MM IB-IIB, describing the evidence of the HTs belonging to each phase. The contexts of each tomb are well documented, with mapping of the finds and many high-quality pictures of the material. Tsipopoulou also focuses on the MM IB spatial organisation of the cemetery that consists of the arrangement of Corridors between HTs and of two Ceremonial areas, CA1 and CA2. CA2 served several HTs to the North of the cemetery, while CA1, located to the East of HT2, was associated only with this exceptional (elite?) tomb. Throughout the book particular attention has been paid to HT2 because it is the best preserved of the burial places, the only one revealing special architectural features (i.e. six low benches outside the building on its eastern walls), primary burials (in contrast to the others providing only secondary burials), as well as the most interesting seals. Both CA1 and CA2 were used from MM IB to MM IIB as ritual places, where the "ritual killing" of pottery and stone vases was the focus of the ritual.

Betancourt, Tsipopoulou and Clinton write about the Tripartite Façade identified to the south of CA2, East of HT2. As a suitable setting for funerary ceremonies connected with elites buried in HT2, they argue that the concept of the Tripartite Façade existed already in MM IIB in correlation with funerary ceremonies with elite associations.

The second paper by Tsipopoulou is devoted to the pottery evidence of CA1, which she preliminarily attributes to the following phases: MM IB-MM IIA and MM IIA-MM IIB. The useful diagrams (pp. 114-117) show a notable variation in the attestation and frequency of forms in the two discrete phases of use of CA1, which could offer good hints for discussion on differences on food and drink consumption between the two phases.

The petrographic analysis of samples dating from MM IA to MM IIB from HT2 and CA1 has allowed Nodarou to demonstrate a strong continuity in fabrics and recipes from the Prepalatial period to the emergence of the palatial system at Petras (MM IIA).

The central part of the book includes detailed specialist papers on the following classes of material: seals (Krzyszkowska), stone vases (Relaki and Tsoraki), querns (Dierckx), metal objects (Giumlia-Mair et al.), plant (Margaritis) and faunal remains (Isaakidou). Intriguing finds have also received specific attention: the Petras 'Sphinx', whose multi-faceted hybridity has been connected by Simandiraki-Grimshaw with the "in-between world", and 12 small bronze discs compellingly interpreted by Brogan and Giumlia-Mair as possible symbolic balances (to weigh the soul in the afterlife?). These finds, together with the variety of objects produced in different silver alloys analysed by Giumlia-Mair et al., reveal both the sophisticated metal workshop in use at Petras and the richness in metal grave goods of its cemetery.

From her analysis of the material from the Rock Shelter of Petras, Isaakidou indicates a substantial absence of animal bones, suggesting a low consumption of meat during funerary feasting that also seems to be attested in other Prepalatial, but mainly Protopalatial, cemeteries of Crete.

The brilliant paper by Margaritis sheds new lights on the use of fire during burial practices, showing that the deposition of very well-preserved food through fire acts as mnemonic signifiers, connecting the dead with everyday life.

The two papers devoted to the human skeletal remains from HT2 and HT5 of the Petras cemetery are fascinating (the first by Triantaphyllou, the second by Triantaphyllou, Kiorpe and Tsipopoulou). As Triantaphyllou underlines in her first paper (pp. 284-285), the cemetery of Petras has allowed anthropologists to deal with new evidence on manipulation of the body after burial in the Pre- and Protopalatial periods, thus putting in doubt the previous perspectives on the manipulation of the deceased and revealing a multi-stage character of the burial processes. On the basis of their study, Triantaphyllou and her colleagues have convincingly proposed that at Petras human bones were moved between the various rooms of the HTs during different stages of decomposition of the body. If this is confirmed, the "traditionally posited" two-stage process must be reconsidered.

Rupp's paper presents the LM IIIA2-IIIC structures extended on Hill II. He persuasively argues that the reoccupation of the hill is connected with a veneration of ancestors buried in the Pre- and Protopalatial cemetery.

The second part of the volume starts with a paper by Cadogan on the Myrtos-Pyrgos cemetery, which offers many remarkable comparisons with the Petras cemetery.

Papadatos carries out an exhaustive analysis of the funerary and mortuary evidence of the Petras region organised by phase, from EM II to MM IIA. He convincingly argues that the high variability of mortuary burials of East Crete in EM IIA, attested also by the emergence of a typical Mesara tholos tomb at Mesorrachi, decreased in EM IIB, in concomitance with the Petras growth. He reasonably suggests that by MM IB/MM IIA Petras was the centre of its region.

The paper by Nikita et al. deals with dental analysis of human material from tombs extending from the Mesara region to East Crete in order to compare cultural similarities with biological similarities. The best results from this promising study come from the EM I-EM II period. The genetic proximity between the Livari material and the Moni Odighitria assemblages (table 4, p. 331) is fascinating, and may suggest human mobility from the Mesara to East Crete.

Between the two papers presenting the tombs of Pezoules Zakros I (Platon) and II (Platon and Tsiboukaki), the second shows that the Protopalatial pottery from Zakros follows different shapes and decorative patterns from those of contemporary Petras; this is in surprising contrast to the numerous parallels identified between Petras and Palaikastro, the other major coastal site in East Crete.

The case study of Sissi, presented by Schoep et al., makes evident how variable the mortuary burials in the Pre- and Protopalatial periods are. In contrast to the pattern observed in the Petras cemetery, at Sissi most of the burials from HTs in Zones 1 and 9 are primary depositions. The authors interestingly distinguish between secondary depositions (actually scarce at Sissi) from the different practice of removing or rearranging bones or body parts.

Knappett and Ichim present a new fascinating model that would indicate that in the Protopalatial period and especially in MM IIA (palatial foundation), Petras focused inland rather than on the coast, as in the Neopalatial period.

In the final discussion, Macdonald reasonably indicates the main points that the final publication of the cemetery should focus on, e.g. to refine the date of various classes of material, to identify the specific changes of the cemetery during the discrete phases of the Protopalatial period, and to define the influence of the palace foundation on the cemetery.

In his final remarks Haggis highlights that Petras gives the excellent opportunity of "reconsidering the form, function and socio-political context of the Minoan mortuary landscape" (p. 425). Haggis reasonably points to the existence of three distinct and contemporary arenas in MM IB Petras (i.e. tombs, CA1 and Lakkos on Hill I) that might be worth pursuing in order to understand who were the people using the cemetery and controlling the rituals performed there.

The quality and the size of pictures and drawings of the material are exceptional, whereas the plans could have been larger. The discussions that follow most of the papers are inspiring and contain much additional information and interesting suggestions. For example, the discussion between Wright, Relaki, Triantaphyllou and Tsipopoulou (pp. 177-178) underlines two special characteristics of the Petras mortuary rituals: the intentional fragmentation 2 and dispersal of material, whether human remains or stone vases, throughout the rooms of a house tomb (but also within the living area, if we consider the missing fragments of skeletons and stone vases) and the critical role of fire during these rituals, as testified by burnt human bones, stone vases, as well as by remains of charred plants.

In conclusion I recommend this book to anyone interested in Bronze Age Crete and the Aegean. Experts specialising in the study of thanatoarchaeology and biological anthropology will find plenty of material for comparative studies.

Table of Contents

List of Contributors
Works Cited
Greetings from Rune Frederiksen
Greetings from Kristina Winther-Jacobsen
Documenting sociopolitical changes in Pre- and Proto-palatial Petras: the house tomb cemetery, Metaxia Tsipopoulou
The Tripartite Façade at the Petras cemetery, Philip P. Betancourt, Metaxia Tsipopoulou & Miriam Clinton
Ceremonial Area 1: Identity and dating of a special ritual space in the Petras cemetery, Metaxia Tsipopoulou
Pottery fabrics and recipes in the later Pre- and Proto-palatial period at Petras: the petrographic evidence from House Tomb 2 and Ceremonial Area 1, Eleni Nodarou
Further seals from the cemetery at Petras, Olga Krzyszkowska
Variability and differentiation: A first look at the stone vase assemblage in the Petras cemetery, Maria Relaki & Christina Tsoraki
The Petras 'Sphinx'? An essay on hybridity, Anna Simandiraki-Grimshaw
The use of querns and other ground stone hand tools in Early to Middle Minoan mortuary practices at Petras, Heidi M. C. Dierckx
Special silver alloys from the Pre- and Proto-palatial cemetery of Petras, Crete, Alessandra Giumlia-Mair, Philip P. Betancourt, Susan C. Ferrence, & James D. Muhly
An intriguing set of discs from the Protopalatial tombs at Petras, Thomas M. Brogan & Alessandra Giumlia-Mair
The plant remains of the house tombs at Petras: Acts of destruction, transformation and preservation, Evi Margaritis
Feeding the dead, toasting the living? The view from faunal remains, Valasia Isaakidou
Male bonding and remembering the ancestors? The Late Minoan III reoccupation and use of the Kephala-Petras Cemetery Area, David W. Rupp
The sea in the afterlife of the Minoans: the shell material from Petras cemetery in context, Tatiana Theodoropoulou
'Οσο ψηλα ανεβεις λεξη μην πεις μεγαλη 'πο χωμα σε εφτιαξε ο θεος κι κι εκεια γυιριζεις παλι'. Cretan mantinada for death, Sevasti Triantaphyllou
House Tomb 5: A preliminary analysis of the human skeletal remains, Sevasti Triantaphyllou, Sotiria Kiorpe & Metaxia Tsipopoulou
Compare and contrast: the house tomb at Myrtos-Pyrgos, Gerald Cadogan
Mortuary practices, the ideology of death and social organization of the Siteia area: The Petras cemetery within its broader funerary landscape, Yiannis Papadatos
Mobility patterns and cultural identities in Pre- and Proto-palatial central and eastern Crete, Efthymia Nikita, Sevi Triantaphyllou, Metaxia Tsipopoulou, Diamantis Panagiotopoulos, Lefteris Platon
Pezoules Kephala, Zakros. I. Form of the tombs and burial habits, Lefteris Platon
Pezoules Kephala, Zakros. II. The chronological and evaluative position of the finds in the framework of the life of the neighboring settlement, Lefteris Platon & Maria Tsiboukaki
Funerary practices at Sissi: the treatment of the body in the house tombs, Ilse Schoep, Isabelle Crevecoeur, Aurore Schmitt & Peter Tomkins
Funerary ritual and social structure in the Old Palace period: A multifarious liaison, Giorgos Vavouranakis
East Cretan networks in the Middle Bronze Age, Carl Knappett & Cristina Ichim
Final discussion, Chaired by Colin F. Macdonald
Final remarks: Some comments on the Pre- and Proto-palatial cemetery and the Late Minoan IIIC settlement of Petras Kephala, Donald C. Haggis


1.   Recent publications can help with the chronological study of ceramic and lithic material from the cemetery of Petras. For example, the recently published volume on Protopalatial Phaistos (I. Caloi, Festòs Protopalaziale. Il Quartiere ad Ovest del Piazzale I. Strutture e ritrovamenti delle terrazze mediana e superiore, Venezia 2013) shows pottery coming from stratified levels dating to MM IB, MM IIA and MM IIB, thus offering good evidence for correlations with other contemporary Cretan sites. Although the ceramic regionalisms are well attested in Protopalatial Crete, there are some trends in pottery production and consumption that can be identified all over the island (e.g. the evolution of the carinated cup from MM IB to MM IIB). Concerning stone vases, O. Palio, I vasi in pietra minoici di Festòs, Padova 2008 provides an up to date point of reference for typology and chronology of lithic production in Protopalatial and Neopalatial Crete.
2.   New insights on intentional fragmentation can be found here: K. Harrell and J. Driessen (eds.), Thravsma. Contextualising the Intentional Destruction of Objects in the Bronze Age Aegean and Cyprus, Louvain 2015.

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Markus Hilgert (ed.), Understanding Material Text Cultures: A Multidisciplinary View. Materiale Textkulturen, 9. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. Pp. 287. ISBN 9783110417852. $112.00.

Reviewed by Natalia Elvira Astoreca, University of Cambridge (

Version at BMCR home site

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

The present volume is a collection of studies produced in the Collaborative Research Center 933 "Material Text Cultures. Materiality and Presence of Writing in Non-Typographic Societies" based at Heidelberg University and funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. The great variety of topics, disciplines and approaches found in this book shows the multidisciplinary nature of the CRC 933. In this first chapter, which serves as a preface for this publication, Hilgert summarises the purposes of the CRC 933, the volume itself and each of the papers included in it. The intention behind this research centre is to give a home to research projects from different disciplines of the Humanities united by their investigations on "how writing was conceptualized, materialized and contextualized in societies without widespread means of mass-producing inscribed objects" (p.1), and this book includes six contributions made by members of the CRC 933 that serve as a sample of the work that is being done in the research centre.

The first study in the volume, by Agnès Garcia-Ventura, is a reanalysis of the administrative records of the workers in the textile industry sector in the Third Dynasty of Ur through feminist epistemologies and postfeminist approaches. After establishing this theoretical framework, the author states the methodology for her reanalysis, which is based on solidarity and kinship networks rather than the biological and sexual divisions that followed previous interpretations. In this manner, she is able to question the nature of the Harem as a women's collective and reinterpret the records of groups of textile workers. Her conclusion and contribution is that, as the author herself puts it, "shifting the emphasis from marital status or affiliation to non-family contexts allows us to see that the people who registered the workforce applied certain criteria in order to group workers, criteria which were not related to biological kinship" (p.25).

After her, Nathan Morello presents a study with the title "GIŠ on a Tree", where he shows instances of interaction between inscriptions and the images with which these are embedded. More specifically, he analyses the reliefs and inscriptions in Assurnarsipal II's North-West Palace in Nimrud, where he has identified three different kinds of image-inscription interactions as part of the decorative project of the palace. After analysing the examples one by one, Morello brings out two important issues: were these interactions meant to be seen and identified by the public? And who would be part of this public? He notes that the palace and its rooms can only be accessed by a very limited group of people and that sometimes even the disposition of the inscriptions complicates their visibility. Furthermore, the identification of these interactions is even more difficult, as these are not simple tags, but they play with different interpretations that include ideological readings, mainly propaganda and celebration of the king and his bond with the gods. Despite the difficulties of identifying and interpreting these interactions, Morello concludes that these were actually meant to be seen by the court of the palace, the king himself and the gods.

The third contributor is Antonio J. Morales, who offers a study of the development of the Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom from their oral stage to the monumentalisation of the texts. There are two basic terms for this study: Verschriftung or entextualisation and Verschriftlichung or textualisation. He identifies two different phases of entextualisation, first the fixation of the recitations—made by the sacerdotal class in the context of the funerary ritual—into the scriptural media (i.e. papyri) as a means of aide-mémoire of those recitations; and a second phase which is the transfer of these texts from papyrus to the walls of the royal pyramids. This second stage also entails the textualisation of the texts, i.e. their edition and adaptation to take the text into the literary realm. This implies a recontextualisation of the text, as it detaches from the recitations and becomes part of the monument.

Taking these concepts as a base, Morales analyses the Pyramid Texts, trying to recognise both the process of entextualisation and canonisation of the texts and the oral elements still distinguishable that prove the texts' antiquity and oral composition prior to their monumentalisation during the reign of Wenis. One piece of evidence for the entextualisation process is the change from a first-person pronoun referring to the ritualist or beneficiary to the second or third person, thus making the addressee a passive character. On the other hand, the oral and ancient nature of these texts can be seen in the presence of archaisms, repetitive patterns and formulaic language, among other literary devices.

Sara Campanelli presents here an extensive paper in which she analyses three inscriptions related to the foundation of family cults in different Greek settlements of the Hellenistic Age: the foundation of Diomedon from Cos,1 of Poseidonios of Halicarnassus2 and the "Testament of Epikteta."3 From the analysis of the texts, she reconstructs the different aspects and regulations of the cult, e.g. the gods related to the family cult, who is to administer the funds of the cult, who should be involved, and thus conform the community of the cult.

A large part of the study is focused on how the spaces related to the family cult should be used and exploited. The sacred spaces were arranged inside the temenos and the hieron, where banquet halls (xenones and lesches), storehouses (oikemata) and residential buildings (oikia) were found. But profane activities for these spaces were contemplated as well. The garden (kapos) could be rented for agricultural purposes and in general the complex of the cult spaces could be exploited as assets and source of economic resources by the community of the cult. In the end, the cult spaces are part of the real state demarcated not only by the foundation of the cult, but also physically by the disposition of horoi.

It would have been useful, however, to have the complete texts of the inscriptions as an appendix or embedded in the text.

The following section consists of the study by Flavia Manservigi and Melania Mezzetti of the so-called Didyma inscription, which bears a rescript of Justinian I, an act of the prefect of the Orient and an act of the governor of Caria. This inscription is very interesting from a palaeographic point of view as it gives epigraphic evidence for the shift to minuscule writing in the Roman world. The authors start by explaining the law passed by Valentinian and Valens that regulates the use of minuscule writing and how previous scholarship has addressed this shift. After summarizing Feissel's study of the Didyma inscription,4 they move on to lines 36-37 which are the main focus of their study. They providea palaeographic commentary of the letters and their shapes. Although there seem to be some inconsistencies in the script used, they solve this problem by comparisons with other epigraphic and also papyrological sources. According to them, the existence of an original version of the text on papyrus is vital to understanding the shapes of some letters and the inconsistencies not only in the shapes, but also in the grammar between the different texts in the inscription. In the end, they conclude that the script in the lines studied in this paper is influenced by both majuscule and minuscule writing in the transition from the Ancient Latin cursive script to the Late Latin cursive. The importance of this special script, very difficult to incise in stone, comes from its value as a guarantee of the authenticity of the document, providing legitimacy to it.

The last contribution, by Anastasia Grib, takes us to north and west Africa and examines the Qur'anic boards from the 19th and 20th centuries CE found in these regions. She analyses the three symbolic aspects present in the Qur'anic boards: the surface symbolism, which includes the decorative motifs of the board and the script used; the body symbolism, the shape of the board which marks its function; and the iconic symbolism, which involves the use of the representations of the boards as an iconographic symbol. Then, following the first two characteristics—the ornamental motifs and typologies of the boards—the author reviews some examples of boards from different museums and collections and catalogues them according to these two principles. When making this classification, following what is called the "dialect approach" in Islamic art, she sees clear patterns that depend on the area where the boards are found and that can sometimes be identified in the Qur'an manuscripts as well.

These six studies are a sample of the broad range of disciplines, approaches and geographic and chronological frameworks involved in the CRC 933. This kind of cooperation is stimulating and shows the current reality of many research projects in the humanities, which are increasingly collaborative and gather researchers from very different fields. Nevertheless, this also implies that the present volume lacks unity, as there is no thematic or methodological bond between the different sections, beyond the fact that they aim to show examples of how studies in materiality of writing can contribute to many different disciplines. This means that the book is not aimed at a single area of research, but rather that each of the contributions may be of use on their own for a specific researcher.

The backbone of these studies are the innovative approaches and methodologies applied to them that are based in materiality of writing, which is still an emerging field. This volume shows not only how this approach can take us closer to a better understanding of the use of writing in these cultures, but also how it can be applied to different disciplines. However, the contributions by Garcia-Ventura and Campanelli do not quite fit this theme, as they are presenting interpretations of the texts rather than engaging other aspects such as the physicality of the texts. Still, all the studies in the book provide new clues that broaden our understanding of material text cultures and show that much and new research can still be produced in relation to them.

Authors and Titles

1. A Multidisciplinary View on Material Text Cultures, Markus Hilgert (pp.1-4)
2. Defining Collectives: Materialising and Recording the Sumerian Workforce in the third Dynasty of Ur, Agnès Garcia-Ventura (pp.5-30)
3. A GIŠ on a Tree: Interactions between Images and Inscriptions on Neo-Assyrian Monuments, Nathan Morello (pp.31-68)
4.From Voice to Papyrus to Wall: Verschriftung and Verschriftlichung in the Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts, Antonio J. Morales (pp.69-130)
5. Family Cult Foundations in the Hellenistic Age: Family and Sacred Space in a Private Religious Context, Sara Campanelli (pp.131-202)
6. The Didyma Inscription: Between Legislation and Palaeography, Flavia Manservigi and Melania Mezzetti (pp.203-242)
7. The Symbolic Repertoire of the Qur'anic Board in Islamic Africa, Anastasia Grib (pp.243-278)


1.   IG XII 4.1.348.
2.   Carbon, Jan-Mathieu and Pirenne-Delforge, Vinciane (2013), "Priests and Cult Personnel in Three Hellenistic Families", in Marietta Horster and Anja Klöckner (eds.), Cities and Priests. Cult Personnel in Asia Minor and the Aegean Islands from the Hellenistic to the Imperial Period (Religionsgeschichtliche Versuche und Vorarbeiten 64), Berlin; Boston, 99-114.
3.   Wittenburg, Andreas (1990), Il testamento di Epikteta (Pubblicazioni del Dipartimento di Scienze dell'Antichità 4), Trieste, 22-37.
4.   Feissel, Denis (2004), "Un rescrit de Justinien découvert à Didymes (1er abril 533)", Chiron 34, 285-365.

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Frédérique Duyrat, Catherine Grandjean (ed.), Les monnaies de fouille du monde grec (VIe-Ier s. a.C.): apports, approches et méthodes. Scripta Antiqua, 93; Hors collection. Bordeaux; Athens: Ausonius Éditions; Ecole française d'Athènes, 2016. Pp. 359. ISBN 9782356131706. €25.00.

Reviewed by Ruben Post, University of Pennsylvania (

Version at BMCR home site

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

This book, the proceedings of a conference held in Athens in 2014, presents current scholarship on excavated coinage from the ancient Greek world. It is the spiritual successor to a two-decade-old volume of conference proceedings that marked the first concerted effort to discuss Greek "archaeological numismatics."1 But while that book, focused mostly on the Aegean, compiled a variety of contributions that did not quite create a cohesive whole, this volume, which also covers the Hellenistic Greek states of Egypt and the Near East, presents a much more focused vision. The editors' stated ambition is "de marquer un étape dans la réflexion méthodologique sur l'apport des monnaies de fouilles" (15), and in this respect it succeeds.

The book is divided into four parts. After a general introduction (11-15), Davies opens the first part, "Monnaies de fouille et histoire," with a rumination on the pitfalls of using numismatic evidence as an economic historian (19-34). Despite highlighting the many problems with past assumptions about the sorts of information that can be derived from coin finds, he ends on an optimistic note, emphasizing that with the right interpretative approaches and enough information on the context in which coins were found it is possible to draw substantial conclusions from such finds. Next Duyrat (35-50) explores regional trends in the Levant, covering in an abbreviated format much of the material examined in her recent book.2 It is particularly interesting that, as she notes, the distribution of Seleucid and Ptolemaic coinage matches almost perfectly the Levantine boundaries of the two kingdoms. Grandjean's chapter on Argos provides welcome new information on a large quantity of still largely unpublished coinage recovered from this major polis (51-63). Particularly interesting is her observation that 60% of coins found at Argos were foreign, a far larger proportion than in comparable corpora from Athens, Corinth, and Thasos. Grandjean's concluding hypothesis that foreign bronze coinage was allowed to circulate within some Greek cities because it was recognized that shortages of small change could cause social unrest is provocative and worthy of further consideration. Picard's chapter on Thasos presents an impressive model of what can be accomplished with the careful analysis of large quantities of excavated coinage (65-81). In particular, his discussion of the ages of different issues and their rates of preservation highlights the possibilities and hazards inherent in attempting to infer political and economic developments from such material. Notably, he concludes that there is an inverse relationship between the age of an issue and the quantity of specimens of that issue found, indicative of the removal of old coins from circulation through re-striking. Finally, Gatzolis and Psoma compare the profiles of the coinage excavated at Olynthos and Stageira, both members of the Chalkidian League "destroyed" by Philip II (83-96). While the finds from Olynthos reflect its extensive contact with Makedonia and the broader Aegean world, the material from Stageira, first published here in its entirety, illuminates its more parochial political history.

The second part, "Traiter les données," is the most focused on practical matters, with three short chapters dealing with best practices for handling excavated coinage. Ariel outlines the conventions of the Israeli Antiquities Authority Coin Department, the largest collection of provenanced coins in the world (99-111). Faucher traces the history and nuances of producing numismatic maps (113-122). Finally, Fadin and Chankowski showcase the online GIS interface used by the École française d'Athènes for finds from Delos (123-130).

Part three, "Faciès," comprises five chapters, including the bulk of the site-specific case studies in the volume. Meadows begins with an exposition of the coinage from Thonis-Herakleion, a now-submerged ancient city at the mouth of the Nile (133-145). This site presents unusual opportunities and challenges: the considerable quantity of numismatic material found had lain largely undisturbed for the last 1300 years, but inundation by seawater has both removed any stratigraphy that once existed and rendered many of the coins illegible. The following chapter by Tselekas, dealing with coin finds from Hellenistic and Republican Roman shipwrecks, addresses many similar issues (147-156). As he notes, shipwrecks are useful in that they represent objects deposited in a specific moment in time and offer the opportunity to tie numismatic material to fairly restricted tranches of society, such as merchants, soldiers, and sailors. Meadows' and Tselekas' methodological reflections demonstrate the importance of analyzing submarine numismatic finds differently from terrestrial finds.

The next three chapters are united by their treatment of material recovered from important sites in Hellenistic kingdoms. Kremydi and Chryssanthaki-Nagle (151-176) and Akamatis (177-201) analyze the substantial numismatic material from Aigeai, Amphipolis, and Pella to elucidate political and economic developments in Makedonia. They shed light on a variety of topics, ranging from the mints and chronologies of numerous royal Makedonian bronze issues; to the dating of the construction, renovation, and abandonment of various structures, including the palace at Aigeai and the public baths at Pella; to the shift back to "civic" minting in the wake of the final defeat of the Antigonids. It is striking that the modest quantity of foreign bronze coinage found at the royal capitals of Aigeiai and Pella appears to testify more to the diplomatic and military movement of individuals than to commerce. Marcellesi likewise examines the evidence from Pergamon and environs, highlighting some of the difficulties produced by its long history of excavation (203-222). Interestingly, in contrast to the major cities of Makedonia, excavated coinage from Pergamon sheds little light on the chronology of bronze issues, but its foreign coinage does indicate a shift from contact mainly with the northern Aegean to mainly western Asia Minor following the expansion of the Attalid kingdom.

The fourth part, "Masses monétaires et contextes," includes four chapters loosely related to the analysis of large quantities of excavated coinage, both deposited piecemeal and hoarded. In the first, Butcher turns to coinage recovered from Late Roman Near Eastern sites to explore how numismatic material can testify to social relations (225-237). Departing from the observation that most currency found in excavations was "token coinage," the cheapest medium of exchange, he intriguingly proposes the idea that much excavated bronze coinage may in fact have been demonetized and discarded. The following chapter by de Callataÿ is the most insightful in the book, bringing the author's usual catholic approach to bear on the state of Greek archaeological numismatics (239-261). He emphasizes that while the body of excavated coinage continues to grow, there has been little reflection on associated problems and methods. De Callataÿ turns to Roman numismatics, which generally deals with much larger quantities of excavated coinage, and studies of more recent monetary history to explore the bounds of what is possible within Greek archaeological numismatics. He concludes from these surveys that we must exercise considerable caution in approaching Greek excavated coinage. In particular, he asserts that the evidence derived from the excavation of most individual poleis sites is too limited to be of much analytical use, and cannot testify in most cases to, for instance, local periods of prosperity or long-distance commercial links. He argues that only in the case of the large, centralized Hellenistic kingdoms can we study patterns of monetary circulation, but that even then much excavated coinage is in fact more closely connected with military than commercial activity.

The chapter by Iossif presents a large-scale quantitative analysis of Seleucid coinage (263-296). The breadth of the data collected is impressive but the methodology raises some questions. Perhaps the most contentious assertion is that the makeup of large numismatic collections can be used to test the representativeness of bodies of excavated coinage taken in aggregate; this is a claim with major implications for the study of large bodies of monetary evidence, but should be tested rigorously before it is applied broadly. Nonetheless, Iossif's use of statistical analysis to address important topics such as the denominational system of Seleucid bronze coinage is commendable. His finding that large quantities of bronze issues can be connected with military activity reinforces recent findings from elsewhere in the Hellenistic world. Finally, Duyrat provides a useful chapter on the best practices for publishing excavated coinage (297-302), which is followed by a brief concluding reflection by Kroll on the most important themes discussed by contributors (303-5).

One point that emerges repeatedly in this volume is that scholars must be prepared to move back and forth between coinage and context in order to extract meaningful interpretations from this material, though this is often easier said than done. Another common thread is the insistence that, despite the temptation to mine excavated numismatic evidence for economic information, we must be extremely cautious in doing so, and that in fact coinage has much more to offer scholars of social, cultural, and political history than is often realized. The general consensus appears to be that in the current state of Greek archaeological numismatics the Hellenistic kingdoms offer the greatest scope for sophisticated study. This may leave scholars interested in the world of the polis disappointed, but it does offer hope that with future methodological developments considerably more light may be shed on the histories of smaller Greek states.

A few shortcomings are notable. One of the foremost is that, while contributors are concerned with the contexts in which excavated coins were found and the synthetic analysis of all coinage recovered from archaeological sites, they tend to pay little attention to the spatial distribution of coinage within sites and between different kinds of sites. Thus, in spatial terms, the stated focus is generally on the individual site in the abstract, rather than on the archaeological contexts that comprised it and the information they yield when examined at different scales. Analyzing distribution patterns between different spaces within a site, such as houses, public structures, and sanctuaries, promises to tell us much about socio-economic trends that are otherwise difficult to discern, such as the distribution of different kinds of vendors. Likewise, there is little coverage in this volume of coinage excavated from rural sites. This material is especially important because of the light it can shed on the diffusion of coinage beyond cities, and because it appears generally to represent circulation patterns very different from those seen in urban centers.3

Structurally, the division of chapters between the four parts is odd in places: Duyrat's chapter on guidelines for publishing excavated coinage, for instance, surely fits better in the more practical second part than the more theoretical fourth. The volume could also have benefited from more thorough copy editing to address the typos and errors found throughout, though these are unevenly distributed among the chapters. Nonetheless, the inclusion of summaries in French and English for all chapters is laudable.

This volume handily demonstrates that archaeological numismatics has much to offer archaeologists, numismatists, and historians alike. Not only can such research date more accurately the phases of a structure or clarify the chronological sequence of a series of issues, but it can also reveal behaviors that would otherwise remain obscure, like the willingness to hide hoards underwater in some situations, or an apparent reluctance to stash coins in sanctuaries. With the emergence in recent years of archaeological numismatics as a distinct subdiscipline, heralded by the creation of a journal devoted to this topic (The Journal of Archaeological Numismatics), one hopes the many crucial issues raised in this volume will continue to receive the attention they deserve.

Authors and Titles

Frédérique Duyrat and Catherine Grandjean, Avant-propos (9)
Catherine Grandjean, Introduction (11-15)
John Davies, "An Economic Historian's Agenda" (19-34)
Frédérique Duyrat, "Les monnaies de fouilles au Levant. Une approche régionale" (35-50)
Catherine Grandjean, "Les monnaies grecques des fouilles de l'EfA à Argos" (51-63)
Olivier Picard, "Les monnaies de fouille du monde grec: l'apport de Thasos" (65-81)
Christos A. Gatzolis and Selene E. Psoma, "Olynthos and Stageira: Bronze Coinage and Political History" (83-96)
Donald T. Ariel, "Coins from a Small Country: How Excavated Coins are Managed in Israel, from the Dig to the Bookshelf" (99-111)
Thomas Faucher, "Cartographie des monnaies de fouilles (1950-2050)" (113-122)
Lionel Fadin and Véronique Chankowski, "Monnaies de fouilles et SIG: l'exemple de Délos" (123-130)
Andrew Meadows, "Coins from Underwater Excavations. The Case of Thonis-Herakleion" (133-145)
Panagiotis Tselekas, "Treasures from the Deep: Coins from Hellenistic and Roman Republican Shipwrecks" (147-156)
Sophia Kremydi and Katerina Chryssanthaki-Nagle, "Aigeai and Amphipolis: Numismatic Circulation in Two Major Macedonian Cities" (157-176)
Nikos Akamatis, "Numismatic Circulation in the Macedonian Kingdom. The Case of Pella" (177-201)
Marie-Christine Marcellesi, "Territoire, institutions et rayonnement de Pergame: l'apport des monnaies de fouilles" (203-222)
Kevin Butcher, "Coin Finds and the Monetary Economy: the Good, the Bad, and the Irrelevant" (225-237)
François de Callataÿ, "De quoi les monnaies grecques trouvées en fouilles sont-elles le reflet? Propos diachroniques de méthode" (239-261)
Panagiotis P. Iossif, "Using Site Finds as Basis for Statistical Analyses of the Seleucid Numismatic Production and Circulation. An Introduction to the Method" (263-296)
Frédérique Duyrat, "Some Recommendations for Publishing Coins from Excavations" John H. Kroll, "Conclusions" (297-302)


1.   Sheedy, K.A. and Ch. Papageorgiadou-Banis (edd.), Numismatic Archaeology, Archaeological Numismatics. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 1997.
2.   Duyrat, Frédérique, Wealth and Warfare. The Archaeology of Money in Ancient Syria. New York: The American Numismatic Society, 2016.
3.   Grandjean, Catherine, "La monétarisation de l'astu et de la chôra des cités grecques (VIe s. av. n.è.-Ve s. de n.è.) en questions." Revue Belge de Numismatique et de Sillographie 161 (2015): 3-15.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Iakovos Vasiliou (ed.), Moral Motivation: A History. Oxford philosophical concepts. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. Pp. xiii, 306. ISBN 9780199316571. $35.00 (pb).

Reviewed by David H. Kaufman, Transylvania University (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

Iakovos Vasiliou's recent edited volume, Moral Motivation: A History, includes ten full-length essays and four shorter 'reflections' on the topic of moral motivation in a variety of historical periods and media. While the essays in this volume mostly center on canonical figures such as Plato, Aristotle, Hume and Kant, the volume also includes, to Vasiliou's credit, discussion of more surprising topics both within the history of philosophy and in other disciplines such as music history and literature. The contributions are all of high quality, and the volume will be a helpful resource both as a companion to courses including historical treatments of moral motivation, and to scholars working in the area.

In the introduction, Vasiliou provides a brief but useful introduction to the philosophical discussion of moral motivation, including both a quick survey of contemporary approaches, a discussion of what he takes to be the more central concerns of the earlier philosophical tradition, and an overview of the contents of the volume. Surprisingly, Vasiliou's overview of the volume's contents almost entirely passes over the four short 'reflections', which are short essays by scholars from other disciplines, focusing on topics such as Homer's Iliad, American literature, and music history. This omission is unfortunate for a couple of reasons: not only are the reflections distinctive enough that they could use an introduction, but it would also have been an opportunity to say something about the crucial role of interdisciplinary work in contemporary philosophical study of moral motivation.1

Since the audience of BMCR is likely most interested in the parts of this book that focus on the ancient world, I will restrict my comments to those essays and reflections that deal substantially with Greco-Roman antiquity. The volume begins with Vasiliou's engaging essay on Plato's account of moral motivation. Vasiliou explores several quite different topics in Plato's theory, but the bulk of his essay focuses on the role that the understanding of the form of the good plays in virtuous moral motivation and virtuous action. Vasiliou is largely concerned to challenge the prevailing view in Platonic scholarship that understanding the form of the good is itself capable of motivating one to act virtuously. Appealing to evidence in the Symposium and in the Republic, Vasiliou argues that understanding the form of the good does not itself motivate a person to act virtuously, but is, instead, at most capable of motivating them to continue contemplating the form of the good. Nevertheless, he argues that, even if understanding the form of the good does not play a role in moral motivation, it still makes an important contribution to virtuous action, by giving people who are already motivated to perform virtuous actions due to their good nature and upbringing a better grasp of how to do so effectively.

Susan Suavé Meyer's contribution focuses on the complex role that the kalon plays in Aristotle's account of moral motivation. According to Meyer, the kalon has two chief roles: it is the goal of virtuous decision, and it is also the object of the distinctive pleasure that virtuous agents take in virtuous activity. In support of these positions, she not only appeals to textual evidence, but also argues that appreciating the ways in which the kalon is involved in virtuous activity helps to elucidate two longstanding puzzles in Aristotle's ethics: namely, his distinction between so-called 'natural' (φυσική) and 'genuine' (κυρία) virtue, and his surprising view that someone who performs a virtuous action, say, repaying a debt under the appropriate circumstances, is engaging in virtuous activity only if, among other conditions, they take the right sort of pleasure in their action. To my mind, the most successful part of the essay is her account of the latter view, which has seemed strange, if not simply absurd, to many readers of Aristotle. Meyer argues that, according to Aristotle, the relevant pleasure in virtuous activity is stimulated directly by the virtuous agent's recognition that their action is kalon. Thus, according to her interpretation, insofar as the virtuous agent conceives of their virtuous activity as kalon, they will take pleasure in that feature of it, even if it is excruciatingly painful in other respects, as in, say, the case of enduring torture courageously.

Brad Inwood discusses the account of moral motivation developed in the anonymous 1st-2nd-century C.E. Epitome of Peripatetic Ethics preserved in Stobaeus' Anthology. While it might seem incredible that the only full-length essay on postclassical Greek and Roman philosophy included in the volume focuses on this rather unknown and understudied part of the Peripatetic tradition,2 it is among the most successful essays in the volume. Inwood's discussion of the Epitome focuses especially on the text's nonstandard account of oikeiōsis, which, he argues, does not develop an account of childhood development like its contemporary rivals, but instead explains the natural human desire for virtue by appealing to our fundamental commitment to, in Inwood's terms, 'our own existence, our being what we are in our basic nature', which characterizes every stage of our lives. Inwood argues that since, according to the Epitome, virtue just is the knowledge of how to distinguish things that promote our nature from those that are inimical to it, and so promotes our commitment to our own existence, we naturally desire and pursue it. Beyond the details of the Epitome's argument, Inwood argues that an important consequence of its nonstandard approach to oikeiōsis is that it shifts the focus of the account from explaining how we come to care about virtue in the course of our development, which other contemporary accounts of oikeiōsis address as well, to instead offering an explanation of why we should want to be virtuous.

The volume also includes two shorter essays or 'reflections' on the ancient world. In her reflection, Nancy Worman maintains that the Iliad represents Achilles as, in her phrase, a sort of 'moral judge' of the other characters and, especially, as a critic of what he takes to be subversions of the heroic value system. She also argues that Achilles' outsized rage and progressively more extreme behavior call his testimony, and so too, she implies, the moral system he promotes into question. Given the brevity and aporetic quality of her discussion, one might have expected at least a few suggestions for further reading, but I suspect that Worman was following series guidelines in limiting footnotes and bibliography to a bare minimum.3 Joy Connolly's reflection focuses on the privileged role of aesthetic perception and, especially, sight in Cicero's account of moral development and motivation in his On Moral Duties. As Connolly shows, Cicero's emphasis on both seeing models of virtuous behavior and being seen by other such people, as well as on the beauty of the virtues themselves, fits well with recent work emphasizing the interpenetration of aesthetic perception and moral value in ancient theory.4 Her reflection concludes with a brief, but provocative, discussion of the influence of Cicero's aesthetic conception of morality on 18th-century philosophers such as Francis Hutcheson and Edmund Burke.

Two other essays engage with the ancient world in some detail and, together, provide good case studies both of how ancient accounts of moral motivation influenced the subsequent philosophical tradition, and of how the theological commitments of many medieval and early modern philosophers distinguished their views from the earlier tradition. Jonathan Jacobs situates medieval Christian and Jewish approaches to moral motivation against the background of Platonic and Aristotelian thought. While the central focus of Jacobs' discussion is to outline and distinguish the accounts of moral motivation proposed by Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, Maimonides, and Duns Scotus, he also draws several broader distinctions between medieval and ancient conceptions of moral motivation, including the interesting point that medieval philosophers tended to conceive of virtue as a more limited and mutable state than most ancient philosophers. In his contribution, Phillip Mitsis argues that a failure to appreciate Locke's profound debt to Stoic and Epicurean thought has obscured his account of moral motivation. In particular, Mitsis makes a stimulating case that, by situating Locke's thought against the background of Stoic and Epicurean theory, we can see that Locke's commitments to natural law and to hedonism do not reflect opposing and, ultimately, contradictory lines of thought, but rather fit together into a cogent and interesting account of moral motivation that adopts aspects of both Stoic and Epicurean theory. Mitsis also discusses the role that Locke's theological commitments play in his account, distinguishing it from his ancient sources.

For readers with an interest in modern philosophy, Jacqueline Taylor's 'Hume on Moral Motivation' and Steven Sverdlik's 'Consequentalism, Moral Motivation, and the Deontic Relevance of Motives' are particularly strong. I would also recommend Chadwick Jenkins' reflection on Monteverdi's last opera, L'incoronazione di Poppea, which is a terrific example of interdisciplinary scholarship.

In sum, this volume includes a number of strong and even groundbreaking contributions. While most readers are likely to focus on the chapters of particular interest to them, the collection as a whole offers a sophisticated and engaging overview of the history of philosophical discussion of moral motivation, and would make an excellent companion to an upper level course on the topic. I recommend the volume to anyone with an interest in the history of the philosophical study of moral motivation.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Moral Motivation and its History, Iakovos Vasiliou
Plato and Moral Motivation, Iakovos Vasiliou
Reflection: Moral Motivation: Achilles and Homer's Iliad, Nancy Worman
Aristotle on Moral Motivation, Susan Suavé Meyer
A Later (and Nonstandard) Aristotelian Account of Moral Motivation, Brad Inwood
Reflection: Cicero on Moral Motivation and Seeing (How) to Be Good, Joy Connolly
Moral Motivation in Christian and Jewish Medieval Philosophy, Jonathan Jacobs
Act and Moral Motivation in Spinoza's Ethics, Steven Nadler
Reflection: Moral Motivation and Music as Moral Judge, Chadwick Jenkins
Locke on Pleasure, Law, and Moral Motivation, Phillip Mitsis
Hume on Moral Motivation, Jacqueline Taylor
Kant and Moral Motivation: The Value of Free Rational Willing, Jennifer Uleman
Moral Motivation in Post-Kantian Philosophy: Fichte and Hegel, Angelica Nuzzo
Reflection: Moral Motivation and the Limits of Moral Agency in Literary Naturalism: Dreiser's Sister Carrie, Anne Diebel
Consequentialism, Moral Motivation, and the Deontic Relevance of Motives, Steven Sverdlik


1.   Surprisingly, given its open-minded interest in interdisciplinary work, the volume includes neither a full-length essay nor a short reflection discussing recent work on moral motivation in psychology or cognitive science, which has deeply influenced contemporary philosophical discussion of the topic. For a good corrective, with further bibliography, see T. Schroeder, A. Roskies, and S. Nichols, 'Moral Motivation', in J. Doris (ed.), The Moral Psychology Handbook (Oxford, 2010).
2.   As Inwood comments, the first English translation of the Epitome appeared in R. Sharples, Peripatetic Philosophy, 200 BC to AD 200 (Cambridge, 2010). I hazard to guess that most Anglophone ancient philosophy specialists have never read the text either in Greek or in the new translation, but expect that Inwood's essay will help to make it a more standard part of the canon. As a further incentive to that end, I would be happy to buy a beer – or non-alcoholic substitute – at this year's SCS for anyone who has read and is willing to discuss the Epitome.
3.   For readers of the reflection who might want to look more deeply into some of the issues Worman raises, good starting points would be D. Elmer, The Poetics of Consent: Collective Decision Making and the Iliad (Baltimore, 2013) and R. Scodel, Epic Framework: Self-Presentation and Social Interaction in Homer (Swansea, 2008).
4.   Connolly cites J. Porter, The Origins of Aesthetic Thought in Ancient Greece: Matter, Sensation, and Experience (Cambridge, 2010), to which might be added G. Richardson Lear, 'Aristotle on Moral Virtue and the Fine', in R. Kraut (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (Oxford, 2006), 116-36.

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Saundra Schwartz, From Bedroom to Courtroom: Law and Justice in the Greek Novel. Ancient Narrative Supplements, 21. Groningen: Barkhuis; Groningen University Library, 2016. Pp. xiii, 270. ISBN 9789492444080. €90.00.

Reviewed by Kimberley Czajkowski, University of Edinburgh (

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Table of Contents

Historical studies of law in the Roman empire are currently experiencing something of a resurgence: recent years have seen a rise in studies of legal pluralism, and an increased interest in the legal culture of the empire. Schwartz contributes to this trend by examining the trial scene in three Greek novels: Chariton's Callirhoe, Achilles Tatius' Leucippe and Clitophon and Heliodorus' Aethiopica. She aims to show that the eleven trials in these three works reflect the "dynamic and fluid process" of the reception of Roman law in the Greek part of the empire (5) and shed light on Greek-speaking provinces' acculturation to the Roman administration of justice. Schwartz thus considers each of the novels as "artifacts" from "different moments in the history of the Roman Empire" (11), arguing that they represent valuable snapshots of the legal consciousness of their respective times.

As the book's title suggests, many of the trials centre on issues of family relations, especially adultery. The latter forms the starting point for the author's introduction: from here, Schwartz segues into the courtroom and its significance in law, literature and society more broadly. Indeed, the book's interdisciplinary nature is visible in the Introduction, whose sections, "Rhetoric and Realia", "Roman Law in the Greek World," and "The Form of the Trial Scene," underscore problems involved in using such literary depictions to understand the socio-legal world in which they were written. Each section gives an overview of the state of research in the topic, and Schwartz demonstrates clearly the aims and scope of her study therein. Modern socio-legal studies also figure prominently here, in particular Ewick and Silbey's threefold typology of legal consciousness: "Before the Law", "With the Law", and "Against the Law". 1 These categories reappear at the end of each study of the individual novels, where Schwartz assesses their relevance to the case in question.

The rest of the book is structured around the key trials within the three novels. Each is preceded by a thematic introduction to what Schwartz considers her prime concern in analysing the novel in question. The analysis of the trials is then divided into The Story, a brief summary of the plot; The Analysis, and then sometimes further examination of speeches within the scene. For the most part this works well, although The Analysis occasionally feels repetitive in light of the plot summary. There is little way around this in view of the book's aim to bridge disciplines, but those familiar with the Greek novels could afford to skip these summaries.

As the earliest dated novel (c. 41 CE), Schwartz takes Callirhoe first, introduced under the sub-heading, In the Shadow of the Lex Julia de adulteriis coercendis?2: this indicates what Schwartz contends is the underlying concern of the majority of the trial scenes, i.e. adultery and a world transformed by Augustus' legislation. Analysis of four trials then follows, which range in setting from the Greek polis of Syracuse to the court of the Persian king; topics are similarly diverse. The analysis of each veers between the literary and the legal context, both Greek (usually classical Athenian) and Roman. The Persian court is convincingly analysed as an analogue to Rome, a way of discussing the process of imperial justice without referring to Rome directly, wherein the character of the leader is directly related to the integrity of justice dispensed. The conclusion brings in a further episode in which the heroine debates with herself on the future of her unborn child, acting as "judge, defendant, tutor, witness, adoptive parent, and bride in the darkened bedroom that is her private tribunal" (90).

Achilles Tatius' Leucippe and Clitophon (c.160 CE) follows, with two trials preceded by an introduction on Legal Pluralism in Roman Alexandria, the author's assumed hometown. 3 The introduction is generally sound, though a little conflated at times – the Cyrene edicts are used, as is common, to demonstrate the principle of provincials being tried in their own courts, Roman citizens in Roman courts; the province of Egypt of course provides a rather different situation. 4

Both trials in Leucippe and Clitophon stray from their original purpose: one was for adultery, but transforms into a murder case due to a false confession of one of the protagonists (Trial 5); the other is initially for sacrilege, but ends as two different ordeals (Trial 6). Throughout this section Schwartz brings out the ambiguity of Melite and Clitophon's marital status particularly nicely as the crux around which the issues revolve. The role of advocates – as an audience to Trial 5, and the individual Sopater as a key agent in determining events in Trial 6 – is particularly valuable to consider in light of Tatius' possible status as an advocate himself. Schwartz exposes the surprising ineptitude of Sopater particularly well, despite his apparent sophistry, and indeed the analysis of the speeches here is a highpoint. The trials-by-ordeals are a welcome inclusion, even if they may fall strictly outside the "trial scene" scenario (see below), and provide a fascinating glimpse into views on alternative arenas for securing justice, and the role of the divine therein.

Heliodorus' Aethiopica (3rd or 4th century CE) is Schwartz's last case study. The introduction gives a concise overview of the dating problems; Schwartz indicates a preference for a later date, suggesting that the novel was shaped by the laws of Constantine (155). The introductory section here deals with Patria Potestas after the Antonine Constitution on grounds that it bears on the heroine Charicleia's "overdetermined" status as a daughter throughout (151). And yet the importance of patria potestas, as opposed simply to familial relationships, does not come to the fore in the individual analyses of the five trials and indeed is absent from the conclusion to this section. The trials analysed (nos. 7 to 11) range in political setting, subject and corresponding procedure. Schwartz brings out the stereotypes at play in the depiction of Athens in Trial 7, a large-scale jury trial, to good effect, as well as the contrast between the "good" monarch in the figure of Hydaspes, king of Meroe, and Arsace, the tyrant-figure wife of the satrap of Memphis. Once again, some of these trials do not play out entirely to their conclusion: the "bipartite" trial scene of Trial 11 eventually dissolves into self-recriminations and reunions.

A "General Conclusion" recaps the trials and their results, and considers the three novels together. Schwartz ends by delineating the subtle ways in which the novels enhance the study of "the perception of justice in the legally pluralistic society of the Roman Empire" (239).

Certain themes upon which Schwartz repeatedly touches and which re-emerge in her conclusion could perhaps afford to be explored further. There is, for example, a repeated emphasis on the advantage against the (Greek) outsiders enjoyed by the characters who are indigenous to the region, whenever they appear before their local court; especially in situations in which a legal forum is meant to parallel closely the Roman – provincial or more often imperial – court, one wonders what this might say about the attitudes of these particular imperial Greek authors and their readers to imperial justice. Along the same lines: at key points, how justice operated in imperial courts is considered, and the picture is not an entirely positive one. Schwartz's conclusion does discuss the "mixed view" of local and imperial legal fora (237), but there is perhaps room for greater discussion of the more negative view, and whether the texts represent an attempted dialogue with the imperial authorities about the way that justice should function.

Despite the dedicated section in the Introduction, what actually constitutes a "trial scene" and how fixed the form is could also afford to be articulated more explicitly. For example, the aforementioned scene in the heroine's bedroom in Callirhoe, the switch from the courtroom to the battlefield (Trial 4), the trial-by-ordeals that Melite and Leucippe undergo in Leucippe and Clitophon, the "bipartite structure of [one] trial scene" in the Aethiopica (216): all but the first are discussed as "trial scenes", even though the last three do not quite fully fit the category of "courtroom scene" that Schwartz uses as a synonym for "trial scene" in her introduction. This is not to dispute their inclusion, and Schwartz makes quite evident in her analysis of each individual case why they should, indeed, be considered in order to fully understand the way that imperial Greeks conceived of justice. But one wonders whether there was a more overarching point to be made about how fixed the notion of a "trial" scene was in literature, and what we really mean when we try to pick these out for study.

But these are points which generally speak well of Schwartz's study: its implications go beyond those that the author emphasizes, and the work should indeed be of interest to Roman imperial historians beyond those concerned with Rome's legal history. The book is clearly and engagingly written, with only the occasional typo; full indices and bibliography are included. There is some inconsistency about whether the Greek text is included in the main text. Occasionally the details on law and procedure in the analysis feel like they have been inserted into a literary analysis that could stand alone: this is, however, a small stylistic point that does not undermine their general relevance.

All in all, this a fascinating study, which Schwartz executes with skill. The book constitutes a welcome addition to the growing number of studies on the legal consciousness of the inhabitants of the Roman empire.


1.   P. Ewick and S. Silbey, The Common Place of Law: Stories from Everyday Life, Language and Legal Discourse (Chicago, University of Chicago Press; 1998). The bibliography here is otherwise a little light, and references to wider studies of legal consciousness or legal culture might have strengthened the context of Schwartz's study, since she chooses to bring this strand in: Lawrence Friedman's work is typically regarded as influential in this field. This is, however, a very minor omission.
2.   This seems to be a deliberate echo of the study on modern divorce cases by R. H. Mnookin and L. Kornhauser, "Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: The Case of Divorce", The Yale Law Journal 88 (1979): 950-97; uncited by Schwartz though in view of the overuse of this text that is hardly a problem.
3.   Both trials in this novel (Trials 5 and 6) in fact take place in Ephesus.
4.   In Egypt there appear to have been no surviving peregrine courts and hence no alternative to the Roman jurisdiction. This does not, of course, mean that local laws did not survive: lack of choice of legal fora does not presuppose a single legal tradition. For a recent exposition see: J. L. Alonso, "The Status of Peregrine Law in Egypt: 'Customary Law' and Legal Pluralism in the Roman Empire", Papyrology AD 2013. 27th International Congress of Papyrology = Journal of Juristic Papyrology 43 (2013): 351-404.

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Theodora Antonopoulou (ed.), Mercurius Grammaticus, Opera iambica. Corpus Christianorum Series Graeca, 87. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2017. Pp. lxii, 118. ISBN 9782503564579. €130.00.

Reviewed by Ilias Taxidis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (

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In tune with the recent increased scholarly interest in Byzantine poetry, Antonopoulou's study (volume 87 of the Corpus Christianorum Series Graeca), sheds light on the personality and writings of Merkourios the Grammarian, a minor Byzantine poet virtually unknown to scholarship (barring some minor mentions in reference works) save for previous work on him by the same Antonopoulou.1 The volume includes a detailed introduction (pp. XIII-LXXII) and the first critical edition of the four dodecasyllabic poems that he composed on saints Theodore Teron, Theodore Stratelates, the Annunciation, and St John Chrysostom, all of which are preserved in the 15th-century Athonite codex unicus Laura Λ 170. They amount to a total of 2190 verses; the two longer poems are published here for the first time.

In the first chapter of the introduction (Merkourios the Grammarian, pp. XV-XIX), Antonopoulou discusses the possible identification of the author of the poetical works of the Laura codex with a known person of that name writing after the eleventh century. In my view, she is quite right to place him most probably in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century, in the expansive climate of the "early Palaeologan renaissance." And, daring as it may seem, his eventual identification with a known pupil of Maximos Planoudes is also perfectly plausible.

In the longer second chapter (on the contents, models and structure of the works, pp. XX-XXXII), Antonopoulou presents an analysis of the four compositions, focusing mostly on their construction and metaphrastic nature. A tireless researcher and leading expert on Byzantine hagiography in general, Antonopoulou is fully familiar with the special characteristics of the hypotexts on which Merkourios' metrical compositions are based, while the bibliographical references concerning this field are rich and comprehensive.

Antonopoulou goes deeper in the next chapter of the introduction (Genres, functions and reasons of composition, pp. XXXIII-XLVII), where she examines the genre of Merkourios' texts and consequently the real reasons for their composition. With solid and logical arguments, Antonopoulou places poems Ι-ΙΙΙ in the genre of theological didactic poetry, and then goes on to nuance their classification, concluding that "the poems were conceived as monastic literature to be read out in monasteries, during communal meals or religious services." As far as their specific function is concerned, however, she admits the possibility that they may have been intended for didactic use as well, since the appellation "grammarian" implies that the poet was also a school teacher. Given the characteristic dialogical elements of the three poems (especially those on the two saints Theodore, Antonopoulou also successfully and reasonably places them in the literary tradition of "epic passions" or metrical metaphraseis of sermons (especially the poem on the Annunciation) and illuminates their remarkable value, which is reflected in the techniques of rewriting a prose model in verse form and in the transformation of an hypotext into an hypertext. The genre of the fourth poem, on St John Chrysostom, is easier to define, being an iambic canon following the known model, although of course "the reason for its composition remains obscure."

Chapters four (Metre, pp. XLVIII-LVII) and five (Vocabulary, pp. LVIII-LX) of the introduction consist of a detailed and targeted (but not wearying) analysis of the metre and the language of the poems, while in the sixth chapter (Manuscript and editions, pp. LXI-LXV) Antonopoulou analyses the characteristics and content of the Athonite manuscript Laura Λ 170 containing Merkourios' works, as well as their previous editions, which, as she correctly observes, are either "still immature works" or "left a lot to be desired." The introduction ends with an account of the principles followed by Antonopoulou in this edition (pp. LXVI-LXXII).

In the second part of the study, Antonopoulou offers an exclusive and absolutely exemplary edition of Merkourios' poems (pp. 5-94). Even while respecting the text preserved by the manuscript, she does not hesitate to make interventions that not only correct mistakes introduced by the scribe or the previous editors but improve the text – metrically and meaningfully – to such an extent that they must certainly restore it to something very close to the original. Given that the Athonite manuscript preserves marginal prose titles for the episodes of the Theodore poems, Antonopoulou rightly chose to add a separate apparatus titulorum, while the mostly negative apparatus criticus offers a view of the text that facilitates the reader's understanding of its quality and its relationship with the hypotexts. Equally successful is the apparatus fontium, since, as an indication of sources and parallel passages, it stands out for its balance, thoughtfulness and systematic method; indeed, it truly offers a clear and convincing image of the mental and literary influences (beyond his specific models) that may have influenced Merkourios, without burdening the edition with unnecessary information and detail, demonstrating a thorough but not over-heavy use of TLG data. The volume concludes with the necessary and useful indices a) nominum, b) locorum and c) fontium et locorum parallelorum (pp. 97-116).

The fixed form of the Corpus Christianorum series limits editors by restricting their possible approaches to a text. It is thus difficult in its volumes to analyse in any depth the intellectual environment in which a text was created or to trace secondary writing skills, expectations, and desires, something which in the end might be of considerable importance to the reader since it concerns the comprehension of the text and the era in general. However, with this study Antonopoulou has succeeded in providing, albeit briefly, a clear framework for the creation of Merkourios' texts, seeing them from the point of view of their genesis as well as literary products with something to offer per se. In any case, the texts are now available to us in their best possible form for further study and research, adding to the corpus of Byzantine literature and constituting a useful tool and important aid for those interested in Byzantine studies in general and Byzantine poetry in particular.


1.   See T. Antonopoulou, 'The Metrical Passions of ss. Theodore Tiron and Theodore Stratelates in Cod. Laura Λ 170 and the grammatikos Merkourios,' in: S. Kotzabassi and G. Mavromatis (ed.), Realia Byzantina. Byzantinisches Archiv, 22. Berlin; New York 2009, 1-11.

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Egidia Occhipinti, The Hellenica Oxyrhynchia and Historiography: New Research Perspectives. Mnemosyne supplements: monographs on Greek and Latin language and literature, 395. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2016. Pp. xi, 303. ISBN 9789004325715. $151.00.

Reviewed by Jan P. Stronk, Universiteit van Amsterdam (

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The Hellenica Oxyrhynchia (henceforth HO) is the name given to a history of Greece in the late fifth and early fourth centuries BC, of which papyrus fragments were found at Oxyrhynchus, modern El Bahnasa, near the Oasis Fayum in Egypt. The largest of the three generally accepted papyrus groups that constitute (what is left of) the HO, commonly known as the London fragment, was found in 1906 and published in 1908 by Grenfell and Hunt as P.Oxy. 5.842. 1 It dates to the second or third century AD. It narrates events from 397 to 395 BC. Another major group, known as the Florentine papyrus, was found in 1934 by E. Breccia. This fragment, referred to as PSI 1304, dating to the second century AD, deals with episodes in the Decelean War between 409-407 BC. It was published only in 1949 by Bartoletti in the series of the Pubblicazioni della Societa Italiana per la ricerca dei papyri greci e latini in Egitto.2 To the HO belongs also a third important fragment, the P.Cairo 26/6/27/1-35, dating to the late first century AD.3 It reports events between 411 and 406 BC. Together, these three papyrus groups constitute about 900 (incomplete) lines of the original work. Apart from these, there are some more potential fragments of the HO, of which, however, the attribution is contested (1). The HO seems to have been intended as some sort of a continuation of Thucydides (as is frequently also assumed to have been the case for Xenophon's Hellenica: for a comparison between the two, e.g., see pp. 8-11 of the book under scrutiny). Currently, the unknown author of the HO is, conveniently, described as 'P'. A review of all fragments of the text, including a historical commentary, can be found in Bruce4; the currently adopted editions are those by Bartoletti or McKechnie and Kern.5

In contrast to most works on the HO, "[t]his book involves a new historiographical study of the Hellenica Oxyrhynchia that defines its relationship with fifth- and fourth-century historical works as well as its role as a source of Diodorus' Bibliotheke" (1). After the introductory chapter (1-11), describing some issues relating to the HO in modern scholarship, Occhipinti analyses the position of the HO in modern historiographical research in 2 parts, the first consisting of 3 chapters, involving "a close analysis of the HO against other sources relating the same facts" (11), the second of 5 chapters, offering a thematic approach.

Though various works from the fourth century BC, notably by Xenophon and Theopompus, were introduced as a Hellenica and could be seen, to some extent, as an effort to continue Thucydides' work, they differ from Thucydides at least in one major respect, viz. that they increasingly referred "to broad contents, which were not limited to Greek subjects" or adapted "a sort of synchronistic narrative … to their annalistic framework" (17). This change, Occhipinti argues, was largely caused by the fact that political networks in which Greek affairs played a part had expanded outside the traditional Greek world and therefore needed attention. Like others, 'P' also "regarded some form of chronological framework as a natural and convenient way of organising his material within the narrative" (21). Within this context, however, he also pointed out synchronisms, thereby hopping from one theatre of events to another, alternating between narrative and analytical episodes: as such "he combined together both Thucydides' and Herodotus' methods of composition" (23). Simultaneously, 'P' informs his audience "which accounts … are trustworthy in comparison with others" (27).

A main topic in the HO, discussed in chapter three (31-56), appears to have been the explanation why several Greek poleis opposed Sparta, leading to the so-called Corinthian War, as well as Spartan motivations to go to war in Asia Minor ('P' generally shows himself very familiar with its terrain, events, and Persian operations). In the latter context, Occhipinti investigates whether the HO (probably to be dated no later than c. 346 BC) "can be seen as a sort of historiographical reply to Xenophon's Hellenica" (31). If this would prove to be true, it should date the HO at least slightly later than Xenophon's work: according to Occhipinti "[t]his claim is … plausible" (32). Moreover, also the thematic evidence she discusses in chapters five (89-115) and six (116-140) "enforces our assumption that the Oxyrhynchus historian replies to Xenophon's narrative" (33). If only because of this comparison (and the arguments she adduces in this chapter), Occhipinti's work provides a welcome addition to the research on fourth-century BC historiography.

In my view, chapter four (57-86), in which Occhipinti compares the work of Diodorus, the HO, and Xenophon, is one of the pivotal chapters of this book. Diodorus' Bibliotheke is our main literary source of information for the history of the mid-fourth century BC. It is still commonly believed that if the HO was among Diodorus' sources, it was through mediation of Ephorus of Cyme's Histories (a work known through some fragments, some attributions, and several conjectures but otherwise lost). Occhipinti argues that Diodorus' account shows more consistency than often accepted as well as "a certain independence from his sources" (67). Working in this vein, Diodorus used both Xenophon and the HO, thoroughly adapting them to fit his own style and purpose. Moreover, Occhipinti also demonstrates that Diodorus probably used the HO directly, i.e. without any mediation. Occhipinti's analysis is a refreshing contribution and stimulus in the renewed discussions on Diodorus.

Diodorus' main theme throughout the Bibliotheke is morality (cf., e.g., D.S. 14.1, 15.1.3-5). Morality itself, in various forms and shapes, and applied by different classical authors, is also the main theme of Occhipinti's chapters 7 (141-161, comparing notably 'P', Thucydides, Xenophon, and Diodorus); 8 (162-197, comparing the language of causation used by 'P' and various Athenian authors -including Thucydides and Xenophon); and 9 (198-238). In the latter chapter, the theme of 'moralism' is further elaborated. Though the morality of 'P' is overwhelmingly implicit, Occhipinti's approach on this point lacks a comprehensive definition of what she [my emphasis] believes 'morality' to be: it all remains a little too unspecific and, above all, shifting. It also shows in the discussion on the 'morality' of other authors. Obviously, 'morality' can be a shifting concept, but also in that case I believe anyone discussing the topic should embed it in a general context. In this respect Occhipinti's omission is not dissimilar to that of Hau.6 Nevertheless, Occhipinti, like Hau, in my view largely succeeds to convey a general idea of the intentions of the authors discussed.

The issue of 'morality' returns in the conclusion (239-243). In it, Occhipinti weaves together various threads discussed in the foregoing chapters and thereby comes closer to the identity of 'P'. Nevertheless, she does not venture to suggest (rightly in my view) a particular name. The book concludes with four very interesting appendices that, from my perspective, would have fully merited to have been included, one way or another, in the main text itself. A good bibliography, an index of names, and a thematic index complete the book. Regrettably an index locorum is absent. The book is well written, well taken care of, and contains very few typos. Obviously primarily intended for an academic readership, several passages in Greek have been left untranslated. Perhaps this might make the book, regrettably, less accessible for graduate students interested in classics, ancient history and papyrology, who are explicitly included in the book's intended audience. The price of the book, moreover, could well place it out of reach for many students, if it were not incorporated in their university's library: both situations would be really unfortunate.

In conclusion: the publisher's blurb states that "[t]he traditional and common approach taken by those who studied the HO is primarily historical: scholars have focused on particular, often isolated, topics such as the question of the authorship, the historical perspective of the HO against other Hellenica from the 4th century BC. This book is unconventional in that it offers a study of the HO and fifth- and fourth-century historical works supported by papyrological enquiries and literary strategies, such as intertextuality and narratology, which will undoubtedly contribute to the progress of research in ancient historiography." Though perhaps a bit too pompously phrased, I think Occhipinti largely meets the targets she (or the series editors) set her(self). I at least found it a joy to read this book.


1.   Grenfell, B.P. and A.S. Hunt, '842. Theopompus (or Cratippus), Hellenica', in: The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, vol. 5, London: Egypt Exploration Society, 1908, 110-242.
2.   V. Bartoletti, 'Nuovi frammenti delle Elleniche di Ossirinco', in: Papiri greci e latini, vol. 13, Florence: Istituto Papirologico 'Girolamo Vitelli', 1949, 61-81. Bartoletti believes the historian responsible for the HO was Cratippus, though he does not exclude the possibility of another, unknown, author.
3.   See: Koenen, L., 'Papyrology in the Federal Republic of Germany and Fieldwork of the International Photographic Archive in Cairo', Studia Papyrologica 15(1976), 39-79; also Lehmann, G.A., 'Ein neues Fragment der Hell.Oxy.: Einige Bemerkungen zu P.Cairo (temp.Inv.No.) 26/6/27/1-35', ZPE 26(1977), 181-191.
4.   Bruce, I. A. F., An Historical Commentary on the Hellenica Oxyrhynchia Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
5.   Bartoletti, V., Hellenica Oxyrhynchia, Leipzig: Teubner, 1959; McKechnie, P.J. and S.J. Kern, Hellenica Oxyrhynchia, Edited with Translation and Commentary, Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1988.
6.   Hau, L.I., Moral History from Herodotus to Diodorus, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016; its review by Carlo Scardino: BMCR 2017.03.10.

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