Friday, July 13, 2018


Anna A. Lamari, Reperforming Greek Tragedy: Theater, Politics, and Cultural Mobility in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries BC. Trends in Classics, Supplementary Volume 52. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. Pp. 207. ISBN 9783110561166. €99,95.

Reviewed by Jennifer Starkey, San Diego State University (

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The last two or three decades have seen a great deal of interest in the social, political, and festival contexts of Greek drama – that is, in where, how, and why drama was performed throughout the Greek world in the Classical period. Anna Lamari's new book fits squarely into this trend; in fact, it appears to have much in common with Edmund Stewart's recent monograph on Greek Tragedy on the Move (Oxford 2017). The importance of reassessing what we think we know about the performance of Greek drama is undeniable, but unfortunately Lamari contributes little to this reassessment.

As the title indicates, the book pursues the broad thesis that Greek tragedy was regularly reperformed in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. and that this practice was paralleled by a general "cultural mobility." The discussion proceeds through four chapters. The first establishes a context of traveling poets in which to place Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides and reviews the evidence for the interest of these tragedians in reproducing their own plays both within and beyond Athens; their motivations seem to come down to a desire for ever more fame or "advertisement" of the genre (p. 34). The second chapter reworks some of this material from the perspective of "politics" in a broad sense and attempts to show how poets, actors and rulers deployed drama for their own ends. Moving into the fourth century, the author focuses on how drama came to be performed not only at public festivals like the Dionysia but also in the "private" courts of kings (though the dichotomy public/private seems to me a false one in this case). Chapter 3 takes up the actors again with a focus on the authority of the texts in the absence of the poet and on the potential impact of histrionic interpolation. The final chapter turns to vase-paintings to explore the movement of drama between Athens and other parts of the Greek world (especially Magna Graecia). A short conclusion essentially summarizes these chapters. Throughout, the book emphasizes reciprocity, with the spread of drama both causing and resulting from its own popularity; the final chapter also suggests a reciprocity between vase-painting and drama, where each could influence the other, though no specific examples of drama inspired by vase-paintings are explored.

The book falls short of success in several respects. It appears to have been hastily conceived and produced; the result is both sloppily presented and lacking in scholarly rigor.

To take the least important item first: in addition to the kind of mechanical errors that are bound to pop up in any book-length work (e.g. misspellings, mistakes in punctuation and capitalization, some inconsistency of transliteration), the language is often not quite English: the reader frequently encounters an oddly chosen preposition, words used incorrectly, or phrases like "[t]here was big public attention given to the choregiae" (p. 70). While some of these issues are simply annoying (e.g. the close repetition of "On the Peiraeus Dionysia, see.... On the Dionysia at Peiraeus, see..." in n. 182), they occasionally become confusing or misleading, as in the citation of "IG II2 3.2320," where the first 3 is extraneous (n. 310), or the citation of Eur. Med. 1321, which is followed by quotation of line 1320 (p. 146). Moreover, many sentences are awkward, confusing or tautological. Flaws like these are unfortunate since they could have been easily remedied by a proofreader before publication.

Given that so much of what we know (or think we know) about how drama was produced in the Classical Period is based on very little evidence—often fragmentary inscriptions, Aristophanic comedy or later authors whose comments may be anachronistic or invented—I confess to a preference for laborious scholarship that explains carefully what evidence is reliable (or not) and draws judicious conclusions about specific dilemmas. After all, reassessing any scholarly topic requires not only examination of new evidence but also a meticulous sifting of material that has previously been accepted without question. Lamari's book, however, is characterized by a certain imprecision with respect to dates, places, sources, and definitions. For instance, p. 20 briefly discusses Ion of Chios, who belongs to the mid-fifth century, before jumping directly to Aristodemus of Metapontum a hundred years later; the point is to establish generally that Athens participated in a "culture of travel and reperformance" (the title of the section), but the immediate juxtaposition of such chronologically distant figures is unsettling. Surely Ion's world was not the same as Aristodemus's?

Perhaps most concerning is Lamari's failure to distinguish between different types or contexts of reperformance: should we be thinking of a play first produced at the City Dionysia then restaged somewhere else (either in the demes or abroad)? or a play that premiered elsewhere before being brought to Athens? or a play from the City Dionysia that was produced a second time at the same venue? And in any of these cases, should we assume that the play in question was competing against new plays? Lamari seems to have all of these things in mind, and one can hardly begrudge her casting her net wide when the evidence is so meager to begin with. But since these scenarios differ from each other in important ways, the evidence for each cannot be lumped in with the others in service of a specific, satisfying argument about how reperformance was done in Classical Athens. Lamari's lack of engagement with distinctions of this sort leads often to a simplistic treatment of recent scholarship and ultimately to a thesis without much substance. Take, for example, the question of whether or not the Athenians passed a decree granting a chorus to anyone who wished to produce a play of Aeschylus after his death (as reported by the Aeschylean Vita, among other sources). Zachary Biles has given a number of good reasons to mistrust the testimonia that provide this information,1 but he has not denied the practice of tragic reperformance in the fifth century; instead of addressing his criticisms of the testimonia in order to make a specific argument about (e.g.) the reperformance of Aeschylean tragedy in the competitions at the City Dionysia, Lamari reduces him and others (David Kovacs and William Allan get similar treatment in n. 172) to anti-reperformance strawmen. This move also has the effect of reducing her own argument to a simple claim that reperformance happened in the fifth century, which is already generally accepted. It is thus hard to see what advances are being made here.

Indeed, in several sections Lamari follows a particular scholar very closely but without adding anything to the discussion (e.g. pp. 125–9 on histrionic interpolation, which rely on Finglass 20152; or pp. 142–4, which reproduce Taplin 2007: 126–303). Likewise, extensive quotations of ancient texts are typically accompanied by only sparse analysis; passages are summarized without an explanation of why they matter, which is especially disorienting when the quoted passage is immediately shown to be irrelevant. Thus on p. 102 an excerpt from Plato's Laches claims that tragic poets (ὃς ἂν οἴηται τραγωιδίαν καλῶς ποιεῖν, which Lamari interprets, without support, as including actors) congregated in Athens, while Lamari concludes on the same page that "goal-oriented professional traveling would have certainly outgrown Athens." Why quote Plato if (a) he does not support the argument and (b) he is not being refuted? A similar dynamic is at work in the section on histrionic interpolation, in which Lamari first imagines how extensively the actors could have tampered with the texts before concluding that they actually did relatively little damage. In the last chapter, she asks whether the premiere of Euripides' Medea featured a snake-drawn chariot, as is commonly depicted on vases (pp. 144–50), and is unable to come up with an answer, which leaves the discussion rather without point.

The methodology is shaky, as conclusions are drawn on the basis of a variety of ancient sources (scholia, Vitae, Plutarch, etc.) without consideration of their reliability or the possibility of anachronism: for example, the Sophoclean Vita's reference to a "thiasos for the Muses" is accepted without argument and even dated to c. 450 B.C. (p. 111). Also recorded as fact is the attribution of the introduction of the second and third actors to Aeschylus (pp. 117–8) — although here several sources (including those that give the third actor to Sophocles) are collected in a footnote together with one sentence of analysis: "Although ancient sources attribute the introduction of the third actor to Sophocles there are certainly three actors in the Oresteia." The fact that the Oresteia used three actors does not mean that an earlier production (by either Aeschylus or Sophocles) could not have done the same. But the fundamental problem with cases like these is not the author's acceptance or rejection of a given ancient source but that she does not defend her position or acknowledge complicating factors.

Lamari also tends to make rather large assumptions even in the absence of any (cited) evidence. She often assumes the existence of traveling troupes of actors but never explains when or how this phenomenon is likely to have come about. On pp. 72–7 she suggests that Pericles may have used Aeschylus' Persians throughout his career to remind Athenians of his connection to the battle of Salamis – a connection he could claim only by virtue of having been choregos for the original performance of Persians in 472. Again, we are told that "[i]n the early days of tragic performances, the poet would have to be one of the actors, unless there was a plausible excuse..." (n. 473). The idea that a poet was required to act unless he could convince someone (the archon? the choregos?) that he was unable is entirely new to me. The book's disregard for the details of procedure in the organization of festival competitions greatly vitiates its conclusions regarding the culture of tragic reperformance.

I have a few more quibbles with the footnotes. Citations of testimonia in TrGF are often given without the "real" citation; it would be nice to know, for example, that TrGF IV Test. A 1.20-2 (n. 529) is actually from the Sophoclean Vita without having to look it up. Millis/Olson 20124 is variously cited, both correctly and in the form Olson/Millis 2012 (both of which appear in the bibliography). In n. 434 the claim that "choreuts seem to be composed of demesmen" is supported only by a personal communication from Eric Csapo; this is surely correct, but a factual statement of this nature needs to be founded on argument or hard evidence (such as IG I3 969),5 not another scholar's unpublished opinion, however expert he may be.

In the end, it is not clear who is meant to be reading this book. It is too general and careless with the evidence to advance the scholarly conversation on specific points, but it also skates through the material too superficially to be useful to non-specialists, who can get a better grasp of the sources and the main issues at stake from reading Pickard-Cambridge's The Dramatic Festivals of Athens (which still holds up well in most respects) or The Context of Ancient Drama (Csapo—Slater 1994).


1.   "Aeschylus' Afterlife: Reperformance by Decree in 5th C. Athens?" ICS 31–2 (2006–7), 206–42.
2.   "Reperformances and the Transmission of Texts," in A. A. Lamari (ed.) Reperformances of Drama in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries BC: Authors and Contexts, Trends in Classics Special Issue 7.2 (2015), 259–76.
3.   Pots and Plays: Interactions between Tragedy and Greek Vase-Painting of the Fourth Century B.C. (Malibu, 2007).
4.   Millis, B. W. and S. D. Olson, Inscriptional Records for the Dramatic Festivals in Athens: IG II2 2318–2325 and Related Texts (Leiden and Boston, 2012).
5.   Discussed by P. Wilson, The Athenian Institution of the Khoregia (Cambridge, 2000), 131–5 and E. Csapo, Actors and Icons of the Ancient Theater (Chichester and Malden, MA, 2010), 91-92.

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Josef Wiesehöfer, Horst Brinkhaus, Reinhold Bichler (ed.), Megasthenes und seine Zeit / Megasthenes and his Time. Classica et Orientalia, 13. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2016. Pp. vi, 230. ISBN 9783447106245. €58.00.

Reviewed by Pierre Schneider, Université d'Artois (

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Table of Contents

The extraordinary ethnographic literature from the Hellenistic period is almost entirely lost, except for several books which have survived in fragmentary form. Such is the case of Megasthenes' Indika, the importance of which no one would question today, even though this text still eludes us in many aspects. Thus, a monograph authored by scholars of different backgrounds ("Indologen, (Alt-)Historiker, Klassische Philologen, Archäologen, Altorientalisten und Iranisten" [p. 3]) in order to explore new horizons is particularly welcome.

This volume offers twelve contributions based on a series of talks delivered at the Christian-Albrecht-Universität (Kiel) in 2012. The typos and mistakes that I was able to notice, within the limits of my competence, are very few (e. g., p. 180, n. 72, "Pédeche"; p. 41: the Phoenicians sent out by Necho II did not circumnavigate Africa in an anticlockwise direction ("in senso antiorario").There is no introduction, but a short foreword instead ("Anstelle einer Einleitung") with an – excessively – promising title: "Megasthenes und Indien im Fokus althistorischer Forschung". Actually, half of this brief text reflects on a long quotation borrowed from Eduard Meyer. The core of the second part is a lapidary list of five reasons why Megasthenes must be studied ("zentraler Untersuchunggegenstand" [p. 3]).

How the Greek representation of India evolved following Alexander's campaign is the subject of the first article, by Reinhold Bichler. In fact, the author concentrates on a specific point, namely the political organisations and ruling forces in northwest India. The first section consists of a review of the ideas which shaped the image of the country that Alexander and his companions had in mind. Then the author proceeds to compare Arrian's narrative and the Vulgate-tradition with regard to the "Herrschaft und politische Organisation". For example, Bichler points out that Arrian does not often apply the word basileus to Indian rulers: terms such as hegemôn, arkhôn, and nomarkhos are preferred, for they became vassals to Alexander. In contrast, the Vulgate authors have less rigid classifications (pp. 8-9).

Horst Brinkhaus offers a short overview of recent research on the ancient Indian treatise entitled Arthaśāstra. First the author summarizes the discussions relating to the authorship and the period of composition, reporting the arguments of various specialists: Stein, Goyal, Kulke, Falk, Kangle... The relationship between Megasthenes and the Arthaśāstra is of course at stake here, especially with respect to the problem of Megasthenes' seven merê (social classes), which hardly correspond to the four Varṇa organizing the Indian society. This vexing question has been, however, solved ("gelöst," p. 33) by McClish, whose analysis is presented in the rest of the chapter.

Veronica Bucciantini deals with Megasthenes as a travelogue writer, starting with a broad overview of the Reiseliteratur, "definita come l'insieme di descrizioni reali o fittizie di un viaggio" (p. 37), from Aristeas of Proconnesus to Nearchus. Then Bucciantini comes to the place occupied by Megasthenes in this tradition. Many points are considered of which the most important seem to be the following ones: 1) Megasthenes follows the footprints of his predecessors whatever the subject (realia or mirabilia); 2) the Indika is representative of a particular kind of Reiseliteratur, namely that composed for political authorities (" … resoconti che dovevano essere presentati a sovrani e governi che li avevano commissionati" [p. 56]).

Bruno Jacobs' essay brings the reader to the domain of Indian archaeology. This highly readable chapter with its excellent pictures is a comparative study of Megasthenes' description of the city of Palibothra and the remains unearthed in Patna. After an overview of the Greek evidence, Jacobs presents some archaeological facts regarding the ancient city. He then moves on to the question of a potential Achaemenid influence on Mauryan architecture, suggested by the resemblance of the Indian pillars to those of Persepolis. The idea that after the destruction of Persepolis some craftsmen emigrated to India, with the corollary that stone architecture may date back to Chandragupta's reign, is not firmly established, Jacobs says. Nonetheless these pillars tell us much about the contact between the Mauryan rulers and the West.

The paper by Sushma Jansari and Richard Ricot is a stimulating attempt to clarify the question of Chandragupta's relationship with Jainism, with a cross-examination of Indian sources and Megasthenes. With respect to the latter, the authors refer to the passage – categorized into paradoxography by modern scholars –, where Megasthenes describe mouthless people who live on odours (the Astomoi). To begin with, Jansari and Ricot assess the value of the documentary material. Then they suggest that Megasthene's Astomoi might be identified with the Jains, considering some Jain peculiarities, such as gauze masks and diet. In conclusion, the authors cautiously acknowledge that "we are unlikely to ever discover the precise truth" behind Megasthenes' Mouthless people, but assume that these fragments may indicate that Chandragupta was in contact "with the different religious sects in his kingdom" (p. 95).

With Grant Parker's contribution, it is the crucial topic of the reception of Megasthenes that is investigated. As Parker rightly recalls, since "the Indica has survived only in the context of later texts", those "hosts texts" need detailed consideration (p. 97). After an overview of those authorities (Diodorus, Strabo …), he comes to the main point, showing that Megasthenes is substantially a problem of (Roman) receptions and contexts. To give a single example, in his narrative of the myth of (Indian) Heracles, Megasthenes hints at Indian pearls: it is actually no surprise that this passage was retained by Arrian, for "commodities were central to Roman imperial perceptions of India" at that time (p. 103). Among many other ideas, Parker convincingly argues that the audiences of Diodorus, Strabo, Pliny and Arrian were unlikely to read about Alexander's expedition and India – which implies encountering Megasthenes' Indika – without thinking of their own times.

Daniel T. Potts' contribution deliberately does not focus on India and Megasthenes: instead the author thinks that there "is some value in extending the perspective back in time to much earlier periods" (p. 109). Thus, this chapter examines how Dilmun (Bahrain), Magan (Oman) and Meluhha (the Indus valley) were connected to their neighbours and to more distant places, mostly on the basis of archaeological evidence (beads, weights, seals, pottery). That the entire area from Gujarat to southern Iraq was "well-integrated into a system of economic and social interaction" (p. 116) long before the time of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea is now ascertained by archaeology, Potts claims.

In his paper Duane W. Roller compiles in a few pages a biographical presentation of Megasthenes and his work. The extant pieces of evidence are presented to the reader without substantial discussion. The rest of the chapter consists of a summary of the subjects treated in the Indika. Some remarks on the tradition of the Megasthenic text close the chapter.

The next chapter by Robert Rollinger does not lack originality. The starting point is the intriguing passage where Megasthenes counts the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar among the greatest conquerors. Rollinger argues that Alexander and Nebuchadnezzar became "parallel figures": this makes sense within a Seleucid context, as both figures were considered "to prefigure the early Seleucid rulers" (p. 133). Rollinger also scrutinizes Near Eastern textual evidence, to show that Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid royal ideology expressed the idea of world dominion. The lists of various peoples and places quoted in those texts are the reason why Rollinger speaks of "mental maps". The author's conclusion is that, by insisting on world dominion, the Seleucids acted as "heirs" (p. 152) not only of Alexander, but also of their Near Eastern predecessors.

Kai Ruffing deals with India as described in Greek literary sources before Megasthenes. This long chapter is arranged chronologically, beginning with the first Greek contacts with the Persian world and ending with Onesicritus. On a very general level, one can say that Ruffing summarizes the accounts of India produced by Herodotus, Ctesias, Aristotle and Alexander's companions, concentrating mostly on Nearchus and Onesicritus. Ruffing concludes that the literary image of India up to Alexander's time and beyond was influenced by literary conventions and authors' intentionality; even though autopsia allowed this picture gain more authority, the Greek discourse did not reach the level of true realities and facts ("indische Realien und Tatsachen" [p. 187]). Next, Oskar von Hinüber draws the reader's attention to the relationship between the Greeks – and Hellenism – and king Aśoka, a subject he has already addressed.1 An accurate analysis of the king's name, especially as it appears on the bilingual Kandahar inscriptions (βασιλεὺς Πιοδάσσης), supports the idea that the Greek translation was made at Pataliputra ("in der Kanzlei" [p. 95]). Hinüber convincingly argues for an uninterrupted presence of Greeks at the Indian court, Megasthenes being the first one. The question of royal correspondence is then examined. Hinüber does not exclude that Greek models were used by Aśoka. At any rate, he is confident that lively cultural exchanges linked the Greek (Seleucid) and Indian (Mauryan) worlds.

The last paper by Josef Wiesehöfer is a reappraisal of the treaty struck by Seleucos and Chandragupta in 304/303. To the author's eyes, this episode in the relations between the two rulers has been "reduced to a matter of either/or": e. g., "either it was Seleucus who was the determining contractual partner, or it was Chandragupta..." (p. 208). Wiesehöfer points out the weaknesses of such an approach, and rightfully argues that both kings pursued their mutual interests. On the level of ideology (i. e., the monarchs' public image), he claims that both benefited from this situation. Megasthenes' Indika must be placed in this context, for he "sought to gain literary justification for Seleucus' waiver of the conquest of this part of the world" (p. 211). Then Wiesehöfer expands on the idea of relatively continuous contact between the two cultures and finally reflects on Aśoka's attempt to propagate the dhaṃma.

Before assessing the strengths and weaknesses of this book, I must acknowledge the limits of my expertise: in particular, Indian sources and archaeology are beyond my competence. Thus, the few reservations which I am able to express and which, actually, do not diminish the intrinsic value of the studies in question, are about a limited number of subjects. To take just one example, it seems to me that Rollinger oversimplifies the concept of "mental map" which is far more sophisticated than he apparently believes, and thus needs clarifying – I did not notice any specific reference in his impressive bibliography.

One or two decades after important studies (the names of A. Zambrini, A. B. Bosworth, and K. Karttunen come to mind), this volume sets Megasthenes back into the foreground. Most importantly, it beautifully brings together various specialists in order to consider the Indika from a multidisciplinary perspective. This no doubt must be counted among the book's strengths. Turning to the individual chapters, the majority of them deserve respect for their clear-cut ideas, stimulating suggestions and original documentary material. In contrast, several contributions either are of marginal relevance to the subject of the monograph, or cannot be regarded as truly innovative, irrespective of their authors' actual expertise. Besides, the volume lacks a robust introduction putting Megasthenic studies in perspective. Zambrini's recent article is a reminder that this subject cannot be escaped.2

At any rate this volume shows that Megasthenes requires an international team's work to be properly studied, particularly if we realize that the Indika still awaits a thorough pluridisciplinary commentary. I express the hope that this task will be completed soon.


1.   Oskar von Hinüber, "Did Hellenistic Kings Send Letters to Aśoka?", JAOS 130/22 (2010), pp. 261-266.
2.   A. Zambrini, "Megasthenes Thirty Years Later", in Claudia Antonetti and Paolo Biagi (edd.), With Alexander in India and Central Asia. Moving East and Back to West, Oxford, 2017, pp. 222-237.

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Thursday, July 12, 2018


Anna Lina Morelli, Erica Filippini (ed.), Moneta e identità territoriale: dalla 'polis' antica alla 'civitas' medievale. Atti del III Incontro internazionale di studio del 'Lexicon Iconographicum Numismaticae', Semata e Signa​. Reggio Calabria: Falzea Editore, 2016. Pp. 334. ISBN 9788882964641. €33.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Marianna Spinelli, University of Calabria (

Version at BMCR home site

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

Il volume di seguito recensito include i contributi presentati in occasione del III incontro internazionale di studio del Lexicon Iconographicum Numismaticae (LIN), tenutosi a Bologna il 12 e il 13 settembre dell'anno 2013.

Il libro, curato da Anna Lina Morelli e da Erica Filippini, è introdotto dai saluti di Giuseppe Sassatelli e Lucia Criscuolo, da una premessa delle curatrici e da un'introduzione di Maria Caccamo Caltabiano, Coordinatrice del Progetto di Ricerca d'Interesse Nazionale (PRIN 2009), Moneta e identità territoriale: dalla polis antica alla civitas medievale.

Le relazioni presentate sono 18 con il comune intento di esaminare il rapporto delle città antiche (greche, romane e medievali) con la propria identità territoriale, attraverso una serie di indagini interdisciplinari che offrono una visione articolata della tematica proposta.

Il metodo adottato dagli studiosi è quello del LIN che propone un'analisi dei significati dei tipi monetali in relazione alla loro distribuzione spaziale e temporale, così da coglierne eventuali rapporti di simultaneità o di cambiamento nel loro succedersi nel tempo. Un valido esempio è fornito, in questo senso, dal contributo di Maria Caccamo Caltabiano (pp. 25-42), dedicato al tipo monetale della Nike (introdotto nel VI sec. a.C.) e alla sua progressiva evoluzione iconica da Nike Kora/Nymphe, modellata sullo schema delle Grandi Madri orientali, alla Victoria Virgo di Roma (I sec. d.C.).

A supporto dello studio dei tipi monetali in una dimensione diatopica e diacronica Antonio Celesti, Andrea Nucita, Mariangela Puglisi e Grazia Salamone (pp. 95-117) presentano il sito web DIANA (Digital Iconographic Atlas of Numismatics in Antiquity), che, realizzato sulla base dell'esame delle iconografie monetali, propone per la prima volta una standardizzazione dei tipi iconici e soprattutto una loro contestualizzazione, su mappe digitali, nello spazio e nel tempo.

Uno degli aspetti più interessanti del volume è dato dal fatto che molti studiosi, pur presentando contributi differenti, sembrano convergere verso aspetti conclusivi molto simili tra loro. Tra questi emerge, in particolare, la necessità da parte delle città antiche di raffigurare ed esaltare, servendosi dei documenti monetali, la propria identità territoriale tramite figure specifiche, sentite dalla collettività come entità tutelari e rappresentative della propria comunità (Ninfe eponime di Città, Tychai, personaggi fluviali e Santi).

Un esempio è fornito dal contributo di Tommaso Gnoli (pp. 135-149), in cui viene analizzata l'ambivalenza della Tyche che nella cultura greca da divinità femminile, protettrice e individuale, diviene in età ellenistica un'entità che incarna e tutela la comunità di una città. Poiché le stesse funzioni vengono assunte nelle lingue semitiche da una figura esclusivamente maschile, Gad, lo studioso ritiene, documentando la sua opinione con validi esempi, che queste affinità avrebbero prodotto, in alcuni casi afferenti al mondo romano, la coesistenza dei due generi, in altri, come nel caso di Palmyra, l'intercambiabilità dei due nomi.

Vengono considerate figure tutelatrici anche le divinità fluviali, le cui rappresentazioni sono dettagliatamente trattate nel contributo di Rossella Pera (pp. 151-160) e in quello di Michela Ferrero (pp. 161-172). La prima, analizzando l'immagine dei fiumi e in particolare di quelli microasiatici, sottolinea l'importanza degli elementi fluviali nel recupero degli aspetti geografici di determinati luoghi e/o nel rimando a episodi storici specifici; la seconda, traccia un excursus dei vari modi di raffigurare le divinità fluviali, da quelle più comuni - un misto tra figure umane e taurine - fino alla pura forma umana, sottolineando i punti di somiglianza e di differenza tra il linguaggio rappresentativo della storia dell'arte e quello monetale.

Vengono considerate figure tutelatrici anche quelle dei santi e, in alcuni casi, quelle dei vescovi. Lucia Travaini e Stefano Locatelli (pp. 251-268), in particolare, si occupano dell'evoluzione iconografica dell'immagine del santo nelle monetazioni signorili d'età medievale (rappresentata accanto al modello della città o ad alcune caratteristiche architettoniche cittadine) e tracciano via via diversi casi - con riferimenti a varie raffigurazioni - fino al XVIII secolo.

A proposito delle immagini dei santi si esprime anche Maila Chiaravalle che, nel contributo con Lucia Travaini e Federico Pigozzo (pp. 235-249), pone in esame la monetazione milanese popolata per un lungo periodo dall'immagine di Sant'Ambrogio e della "biscia", simbolo della famiglia Visconti. Dallo studio di Federico Pigozzo si evince, inoltre, l'importanza dell'adozione degli stemmi araldici come tipi monetali che mostrano, attraverso apprezzabili esempi, come l'utilizzo di uno "stemma" possa essere, a seconda dei casi, diversamente fortunato. Dell'immagine dei santi, e di quella dei vescovi, si occupa Albert Estrada-Rius (pp. 269-285) che propone una descrizione iconografica delle serie battute dai vescovi di Vic, Girona e Besalú tra il X e il XII secolo. Le immagini sulle monete sono chiaramente religiose e legate ai vescovi e ai santi delle cattedrali che hanno goduto dello ius cudendi monetam. Tali scelte sono dovute probabilmente a un tentativo di legittimare le monete coniate dalle autorità religiose nel contesto generale del conflitto tra potere civile e potere religioso.

Un'altra figura legata alla città è quella della donna che, così come indica Francesca Cenerini (pp. 185-194), in età post augustea, divenuta ormai degna di spazi pubblici, è chiamata ad essere parte integrante della comunità così come documentano l'erezione di statue e di monumenti ad essa dedicati.

L'identità della polis può essere messa in risalto non solo da una figura umana, o divina, ma anche da importanti strutture cittadine quali i porti, studiati da Daniele Castrizio (pp. 79-94) che evidenzia come le città ostentino sulle loro monete una risorsa che garantisce alle navi il necessario ricovero notturno.

Il forte legame tra città e territorio è preso in esame anche da alcuni storici relatori al Convegno. Carmela Raccuia (pp. 43-59) fornisce un'accurata analisi del rapporto tra l'entità delle poleis e le scelte tipologiche adottate dalle loro rispettive zecche. Seguendo le indicazioni fornite da Tucidide sui requisiti e le funzioni che una città deve avere per essere definita tale, la studiosa delinea, per le città greche, un repertorio iconografico monetale che privilegia i legami col territorio così come documentano le rappresentazioni di Grandi dee e di Ninfe eponime di Città. Elena Santagati (pp. 61-77), invece, approfondisce il processo di adozione della moneta nelle città siceliote di Selinunte, Himera, Zancle, Siracusa, Naxos, Catane/Etna, Leontinoi e Camarina. La studiosa dimostra, attraverso un'approfondita indagine, come in questi contesti la differenziazione dei tempi d'utilizzo della moneta e delle leggende monetali (abbreviate o di diversa forma grammaticale) dipendano dal diverso corpus civico di ogni polis, da cui derivano anche la differente disponibilità a maturare un'ideologia cittadina e il conseguente concetto di identità e senso di appartenenza al territorio. Un altro articolo degno di nota è quello di Federicomaria Muccioli (pp. 173-184) che evidenzia invece il processo di appropriazione culturale e politica da parte dei Romani degli episodi storici, civici e nazionali dei Greci, nei confronti dei quali sono stati messi in atto processi comparativi ed emulativi. Vengono presi in esame la figura di Temistocle (nonché la celebre battaglia di Salamina), che ebbe risonanza dalla fine del V sec. a.C. fino all'età adrianea ed oltre, con usi e interpretazioni che da Plutarco in poi hanno subito variazioni nel corso del tempo.

Considerando la data di pubblicazione del volume, la bibliografia dei vari contributi appare piuttosto aggiornata. Sarebbe stata interessante, piuttosto che la presentazione degli abstracts, la stesura dei contributi di Carlo Poggi (pp. 233-234) e di Panagiotis P. Iossif (195-196), per avere un'idea completa di quanto da loro trattato.

Il libro si chiude con una Tavola Rotonda in cui emergono le riflessioni -sulle tematiche trattate nel corso del convegno- di Carmen Arnold-Biucchi, Ermanno A. Arslan, François De Callataÿ e Pere Pau Ripollès. Seguono le conclusioni di Maria Caccamo Caltabiano. Alla fine vengono elencati i Convegni, i seminari e le pubblicazioni del LIN tra il 2001 e il 2014.

Table of Contents

Saluti delle Autorità Giuseppe Sassatelli, p. 11 e Lucia Criscuolo, p. 13
Premessa Anna Lina Morelli, Erica Filippini, p. 15
Introduzione Maria Caccamo Caltabiano, p. 17
Elenco delle abbreviazioni, p. 23
Maria Caccamo Caltabiano, "Nike e la Città alata", p. 25
Carmela Raccuia, "Definire la città, raffigurare la città", p. 43
Elena Santagati, "Legende monetali ed identità poleiche: alcuni esempi", p. 61
Daniele Castrizio, "La città e il suo porto. Note di iconografia monetale", p. 79
Antonio Celesti, Andrea Nucita, Mariangela Puglisi, Grazia Salamone, "Presentazione di DIANA. Digital Iconographic Atlas of Numismatics in Antiquity", p. 95
Giampiera Arrigoni, "L'Amazzone inginocchiata su due monete di Efeso e l'Amazzonomachia di Dioniso", p. 119
Tommaso Gnoli, "Fortuna/Genius, Tyche/Gad. Rappresentazioni identitarie nel Vicino Oriente della prima età imperiale", p. 135
Rossella Pera, "Il fiume sulle monete imperiali di Asia Minore: una tipologia etnicogeotopografica" ", p. 151
Michela Ferrero, "La rappresentazione del fiume dalla storia dell'arte alla numismatica", p. 161
Federicomaria Muccioli, "L'eroe necessario. Appunti sulla fortuna di Temistocle dal V secolo a.C. all'età imperiale", p. 173
Francesca Cenerini, "Donna e città romana: identità civica e genere a confronto", p. 185
Panagiotis P. Iossif, "The Last Seleucids in Phoenicia: Juggling between Civic and Royal Identity", p. 195
Claudia Perassi, "Melita e Gaulos: due identità territoriali a confronto attraverso il documento monetale", p. 197
María Del Mar Royo Martínez, "La identitad de las ciudades hispanas a través de sus emisiones provinciales romanas", p. 213
Carlo Poggi, "Produzioni locali e identità etniche: note intorno al gruzzolo di S. Cesario sul Panaro (Modena) ", p. 233
Lucia Travaini, Maila Chiaravalle, Federico Pigozzo, "La città, il signore e l'imperatore. Segni di identità su monete medievali e moderne: alcuni esempi", p. 235
Lucia Travaini, Stefano Locatelli, "La città nelle mani del santo: studi di iconografia monetale", p. 251
Albert Estrada-Rius, "Tipos monetales e identidad cívica: el modelo de las emisiones episcopales catalanas (s. X-XII)", p. 269
Tavola rotonda
Carmen Arnold-Biucchi, "Coinage and Territorial Identity: From Ancient Polis to Mediaeval Civitas: Concluding Remarks", p. 287
Ermanno A. Arslan, "Moneta e identità territoriale: considerazioni a margine del Convegno", p. 293
François De Callataÿ, "Production et réception des types monétaires dans le monde grec: des choix sous contrainte", p. 301
Pere Pau Ripollès, "Moneda e identidad territorial: algunas reflexiones", p. 309
Conclusioni Maria Caccamo Caltabiano, p. 317
LIN - Lexicon Iconographicum Numismaticae, Convegni, seminari e pubblicazioni (2001-2014), p. 333
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Response: Coffee on Rosenstein on Coffee, Gift and Gain: How Money Transformed Ancient Rome. Response to 2017.11.04

Response by Neil Coffee, State University of New York at Buffalo (

Version at BMCR home site

I am grateful to Professor Rosenstein for taking the time to review my book, Gift and Gain: How Money Transformed Ancient Rome and point out several errors I should have corrected. His review leaves differences in methodological perspective unexamined, however, resulting in what I believe is an inaccurate impression of the book.1

While I endeavored to address all relevant work on the Roman economy, the first word of the title already conveys the book's theoretical orientation: it proceeds from anthropologists such as Weber, Polanyi, Bourdieu, and Graber along with the tradition of anthropologically-inflected work on Roman social history. This tradition does not generally discard important sources as unreliable (e.g., Plutarch) while placing full faith in others (e.g., Polybius, actually cited at pp. 49-50). It examines each source critically (see, e.g, the qualifications regarding Dionysius, p. 27, Sallust, p. 111) to see how its claims and biases tell us something about the hard facts and cultural context that shapes them. An anthropological perspective does not understand all motives as reducible to direct power calculations. I employ Max Weber's fourfold model of social action, which includes instrumental rationality, but also value rationality, tradition, and emotion (p. 14). Weber's model allows for the exploration of complex or counter-intuitive actions and attitudes, such as Plutarch's judgment that Sulla was more hated for his gift-giving to low-lifes than for his confiscations (supported by Sallust Orat. Lep. 17, 21). Finally, an anthropological perspective brings with it terms of art. As I discuss on p. 3, "gift" denotes practices of reciprocity, which include gratuitous services like those involved in Roman patronage and depositum, for which there is evidence in early Rome (p. 27).

Although its corrections are gratefully received, Professor Rosenstein's review also burdens my book with errors and omissions it does not contain. So, for example, I do in fact mention Polyb. 31.25.9-28.13, at pp. 49-50. Cicero does say that Septumuleius requested a prefectship in Asia (ut se in Asiam praefectum duceret, De or. 2.269; cf. Broughton MRR p. 524). Valerius Maximus indicates Gracchus was Septumuleius' patron when he writes of the greed of (in his spelling) Septimuleius as the "criminal hunger of a client" (clientis . . . scelesta famis, 9.4.3). The claim that "the plebiscitum Claudianum looks more like a muddled response by the ruling elite generally, aimed at maintaining the status quo power arrangements" (Gift and Gain p. 39) is not "far-fetched" but rather belongs to the noted Roman socioeconomic historians John D'Arms and Jean-Jacques Aubert, whom I cite.2

Contrary to the impression left by Professor Rosenstein, I do read sources critically. Rather than purvey "only the rosy fantasies of Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus," I write that "the early reconstruction of Dionysius [of Roman patronage] has its flaws" (p. 27), which I go on to relate. In my account of the discourse of Roman greed, I call attention to the fact that, contrary to Cato, Polybius, and Livy, Sallust aligns the onset of Roman decadence conveniently with the end of the third Punic war (p. 111). In the final chapter, I explore the counter-argument that there was no discernable change in Roman exchange norms over the centuries in question, before returning to the conclusion that from the early-middle Republic to early Empire the use of money and contract partially displaced reciprocal ties.

This conclusion rests on evidence such as the transformation of legal representation from a gratuitous service in the early Republic to a fee-based service in the early Empire and the proliferation over the centuries of gratuitous contracts allowing for lawsuits over reciprocal services. A short review cannot summarize every aspect of a 296-page book, to be sure, but Rosenstein leaves unmentioned these and other major strands of evidence, such as patterns of linguistic change. As the nature of this evidence suggests, Gift and Gain does not argue that Roman culture descended uniformly from thoroughly harmonious reciprocity to its wholesale abandonment in later eras, but rather that "Roman culture drifted unevenly away from various forms of gift exchange" (p. 16).

Professor Rosenstein is fully entitled to review the book from his own methodological perspective. It would have helped the BMCR reader, however, had he explained the book on its own terms before arguing against it on those he prefers.


1.   For other reviewers' perspectives, see D. Hollander, "Review of Coffee, Neil: Gift and Gain. How Money Transformed Ancient Rome," CJ Online 2018.06.09 (2018) and M. Tonisch, "Rezension zu: Coffee, Neil: Gift and Gain. How Money Transformed Ancient Rome," H-Soz-Kult 11.12.2017 (2017).
2.   J. H. D'Arms, Commerce and Social Standing in Ancient Rome, Cambridge, Mass. 1981, 32. J.-J Aubert, "The Republican Economy and Roman Law: Regulation, Promotion, or Reflection?", in H. Flower (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Republic, Cambridge 2007, 168.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018


Pierre Pellegrin, L'excellence menacée: sur la philosophie politique d'Aristote. Les anciens et les modernes, études de philosophie, 32. Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2017. Pp. 448. ISBN 9782406063681. €25,00 (pb).

Reviewed by J.J. Mulhern, University of Pennsylvania (

Version at BMCR home site

This book reflects Pellegrin's decades of thinking and writing about Aristotle's politics and biology. In the introduction, he focuses on two features of ancient life—slavery, which he observes is found in all ancient societies, and the polis, which is proper to the Greeks. He notes that Aristotle was the only ancient thinker to provide analyses of both (22). These analyses serve as points of departure.

In the first chapter, on the philosopher in politics, the author addresses the status of politics as a practical rather than a theoretical science (28-9) and the reasons why it is (30). He distinguishes the legislator and the magistrate with their different varieties of prudence from the philosopher (34-6). Thus there are three partners in achieving political excellence, which the book as a whole is devoted to explaining: the philosopher, who excels in theory but not in practice; the magistrate, who makes the city function well in applying the laws; and finally the legislator, who makes the citizens virtuous and thus happy (45-6). The philosopher's ethical and political works are intended mainly for the legislator (52).

In Chapter Two, the author considers the extent to which Aristotle's scientific politics might be illuminated by his biology. He finds that Aristotle differs from earlier authors in locating what makes men political not in something that human beings learn because of their needs, including survival (82-3), but in a gift of Nature given to men from their birth to fulfill their functions, of which the most developed is to be happy, in Aristotle's sense (95). In a section on man as a political animal, the author turns to Aristotle's treatment of language as a sign that civic life is natural, since language equips men to express their valeurs éthiques (97), which allows them to pursue a happy life (100). He describes Aristotle's schéma explicatif here as physical, and more particularly biological, and further as having one foot in the physical and one in the practical (106).

In the third chapter, on the endangered happiness of the city, the author takes up the self-sufficiency of the city for Aristotle, which is identified with perfection or completeness (113). At the same time, though, he argues that, for Aristotle, all cities should not aim at the same kind of excellence but each at the one that fits the social and ethical condition of its citizens (114). Given that most cities cannot achieve self-sufficiency, it is up to the philosopher to help the legislator remake the city into an engine by which self-sufficiency, and thus happiness, can be achieved (114). Self-sufficiency is in part economic, and so the author takes up Aristotle's treatment of the economy, especially in terms of exchange (121); exchange is natural when it tends to complete self-sufficiency (122), not when it seeks to produce the largest possible profit (124-6). He then moves on to material on household rule (archē, translated pouvoir on 129, referring to 1277b7), a 'prepolitical' institution to which he likens deviations from the right politeiai (130). Concentrating especially on douleia, he finds that Aristotle's treatment of it has less to do with the historical institution than with what would be a benefit to the parties involved, to the family, and to the city (142, 144). He pays attention especially to the situation of people who are deficient in foresight (137) even though fully developed intellectually in other respects, including technical ones (153), and who would benefit from guidance. There follow two sections on philia in the family, which can be a danger to the city (164), and in the city itself, where it becomes concord (170), goes beyond justice or what is merited (174), and is founded on utility rather than on virtue or pleasure (172-5).

In the fourth chapter, the author takes up the analysis of citizen, city, and politeia in Politics III. He had argued earlier that, for the Greeks, citizenship always was associated with kinship but that Aristotle did not find kinship sufficient (17-20). He regards Aristotle's exposition here, which begins with the citizen, as pedagogical rather than scientific because, for Pellegrin, the politeia (here constitution) should be treated first, being the form of the city (192-3). Thus the constitution becomes a central item in the author's interpretation. He argues, however, referring here to EN1135a5, that commentators have misconstrued Aristotle's teaching by supposing that one and the same constitution is best for all cities by nature everywhere rather than, as Aristotle would have it, that for each city, there is only one constitution that is by nature best for it (204).

In the fifth chapter, the author argues that, in Aristotle's view, the legislator must always deal with a world in which none of the politeiai is pure and not all the citizens are virtuous (261)—an important advance, in the author's mind (265). The goal of the political philosopher is always to give the legislator the means of achieving an excellent politeia, that is, one which is correct because it corresponds to the situation of the people for which it is prepared (274, 278). The author finds that Aristotle modifies the notions of constitutional correctness and deviation. While neither the democracy nor the oligarchy is correct, the partisans of democracy and those of oligarchy are equally wrong and equally right (281), although both represent deviations, and the main role of the legislator is to rectify democracy and oligarchy to produce stability, which is one of the signs of constitutional excellence (282). It is easier to arrive at a correct politeia from a democracy than from an oligarchy because, as Pellegrin writes, while the oligarchy is threatened in its essence when it accepts democratic measures (289), the democracy is able to accept some oligarchic characteristics. Pellegrin finishes this chapter with remarks distinguishing the mixture that is aristocracy from the mixture that is polity.

The sixth chapter is devoted to the legislator. Here the author distinguishes the legislator from the magistrate, the prudence of the one from the prudence of the other, and law from decree (298-9), although allowing that the legislator may be a magistrate in his city. At the same time, he suggests the identity of the politikos with the legislator (299; also with the magistrate, 316), as in 1288b27, which requires that he take kai in the sense of c'est-à-dire rather than as coordinative. The legislator is especially for Aristotle not a city's founder but someone who intervenes where there are constitutions already (the constitution's being a system of laws, 319; also the political organization of a city and the soul—l'âme—of a city, 347; see also193-4) and guides them to a state of excellence (300, 308). Pellegrin considers the analogy with gymnastic at the beginning of Book IV, noting that the excellent constitution takes several forms (303) and that the legislator is subject to constraints (306). It is absurd in Aristotle's view, according to the author, to wish to impose the same constitutional form on all cities on the pretext that it would be ideal (309). In a short section, the author indicates what means the legislator should use—either imposing new laws or progressively modifying old ones (312). Since seditions are found in so many cities, the task of the legislator is to prevent them, or, if that is impossible, to combat them, or, if that is impossible, to direct them and to limit their effects (327-8). The author observes that the good legislator is the one who can give the most effective counsels for the preservation of constitutions and, returning to the philosopher, that the best philosopher is the one who will furnish him with the most just analyses on which to support these counsels (333).

The seventh chapter, with reference mainly to Books IV and V, moves on from the means that the legislator will employ to the theoretical tools that the legislator will use. One group of these has to do with the diversity of constitutions, another with stasis (335-6). Comparing Aristotle's two lists of constitutions, with special attention to the lists of democracies, the author notes that the second list gives the causes (344). He then considers how Aristotle treats the parts of the constitution rather than the parts of the city so that the legislator will have a combinatorial method for identifying all the constitutions and so will be able to determine how the laws should be modified for each (351). In a section on stasis, the author discusses the meaning of the word and its cognates (358-361) and the relation of stasis to metabolē (361-4), then observing that the latter can occur without the former (373). For stasis there is required an emotion that has been taken outside the private sphere by being politicized (374). The author concludes that, since the presence of social groups with divergent interests and in conflict is the normal state of the city, stasis exists there naturally (377).

In his eighth chapter, on the matter (in Aristotle's sense) of politics, the author addresses mainly Books VII and VIII. He begins by taking issue with scholars who suggest that, in these books, Aristotle gives us his conception of the excellent constitution, even the ideal. He considers the relation of virtue to happiness (386) and then the conditions —for example, proximity to the sea (388-9) —that must be present or are useful for an excellent city (387), even though they pose dangers to the city. These are the matter (401), distinguished as the material parts from the political parts (403). When Pellegrin comes to the order of the books, his argument for maintaining the manuscript order is that moving Books IV-VI to the end is a Platonizing tactic, since it would present the material conditions before identifying the object of which they are the material conditions, much as happens in the Republic and Laws. As Pellegrin writes, it is the political discussion of IV-VI which gives VII and VIII their sense (406). At the end of this chapter, he returns to the prologue—the first three chapters—of Book VII, which, he argues, correspond to earlier parts of the Platonic works.

In his conclusion, Pellegrin observes that the Politics finally reveals a coherent, even organic, doctrine whose diverse elements function harmoniously together. Beginning from the demand for happiness that Nature has placed in every man (419), he considers individual happiness as it is treated especially in the Eudemian Ethics, though noting that the work is not very prescriptive (421). He observes that Aristotle proposes a new conception of rectitude constitutionelle and an original approach to stasis (422). The careful reader of Aristotle will find, he suggests, a view of the political life as unstable, so that stasis is not a sickness of the social body (the social body is not an organism for Aristotle) but a possibility coterminous with the city (429). Part of Aristotle's originality is to see that stasis can be used for good ends (430)—pursuit of the good tendencies of both democracy and oligarchy. In his view, Aristotle's political philosophy is an art of dosages and of discrete legislative modifications which can do no more than establish an excellence perpetually threatened (p. 431).

Thus, for Pellegrin, the objective of the Politics throughout is to establish an excellent constitution (406) even though, where one may be achieved, it always is in danger. He challenges especially the view that the Politics, and especially the last two books, have to do with an ideal constitution rather than with rectifying what one can in the ethical circumstances. The interpretative consequences are far-reaching and complex, and even those who disagree with the author here or there are likely to read the Politics differently after studying this book. Readers of such a challenging and complicated work would be helped by additional indices alongside the minimal index of passages cited from the Politics that the publisher has provided.

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Thomas Bénatouïl, Jean-Baptiste Gourinat, Michel Narcy (ed.), Platon et la politique. Philosophie antique, 17. Villeneuve: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 2017. Pp. 233. ISBN 9782757418079. €22,00 (pb).

Reviewed by Robert Lamberton, Washington University in St. Louis (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

Philosophie antique is a periodical that since 2001 has published annual thematic fascicles on a range of topics in ancient philosophy. They also publish a few articles not within the range of the announced topic of the fascicle in question (under the rubric "Varia"), as well as book reviews, and there have been two volumes hors-série.1 This somewhat unusual format has left each fascicle an anomaly—something between a periodical and a book—with the result that they have not been reviewed as widely as they might have been.2 The editors have, however, given a few laconic hints regarding their understanding of the coherence of the thematic fascicles, and in the present case that coherence is very clear.3

The seven articles of "Platon et la politique" (four in French and three in English) range from a close (and revealing) reading of a single neglected text (Schofield) to broad attempts to clarify specific concepts in Platonic texts on the state (El Murr, Helmer, van den Berg), to explorations that set out to rethink those texts and their interpretation in fundamental ways (Brouillette, Rowe) and finally a discussion of a passage of the Laws that would appear to weaken Michel Foucault's description of the unique and contrasting qualities of Greek political speculation compared to its eastern (and Biblical) antecedents (Macé).

The following is a brief account of the essays in the order in which they appear. Malcolm Schofield ("Callicles' return: Gorgias 509-522 reconsidered") offers a careful reading of a passage that (as he shows) has been too easily passed over in accounts of the Gorgias, perhaps because it is less dramatically engaging—and less productive of substantial results—than what precedes. Reviewing and reassessing a half-century of readings, from E. R. Dodds' seminal study of 1959 to Doyle (2006) and other more recent scholars, Schofield restores coherence to the motivation of the final argument and sympathetically illuminates the nature of the interaction of Socrates and Callicles.4

Xavier Brouillette ("Socrate « oikiste » et Apollon exégète") examines the historical pattern of colonization in the founding of the Kallipolis. He points to the particular relevance of the founding of Thurii (444/3), where Cephalus' sons are said to have gone on their father's death and, in the spirit of Carol Dougherty,5 he proceeds to explore the importance of the οἰκιστής (here, Socrates) and of Apollo and the Delphic Oracle both in actual colonization and in the colonization ἐν λόγῳ of the Kallipolis of the Republic.

Christopher Rowe's contribution ("The City of Pigs: a key passage in Plato's Republic") is part of his ongoing (57, n. 1; cf. 59, n. 12) reevaluation of the "City of Pigs" (Glaucon's term for the "first" city described by Socrates in the Republic, 372d5) in the overall argumentation of the dialogue. What is at stake, of course, is the relation of that first city to Kallipolis, and finally the light thrown on the entire enterprise of the description of Kallipolis itself. One has the sense here of being given access to only a small part of a very large and complex elephant—one of great importance for the reading of the Republic.

Dimitri El Murr returns to a subject he has explored in several earlier articles in "Hiérarchie et communauté: amitié et unité de la cité idéale de la République." He focuses here on Aristotle's criticisms of the Republic in the Politics, maintaining that a φιλία that is constantly built, tested, and reinforced by education can in fact extend to a new and paradoxical conception of communal property, including wives and children, among the guardians. The φιλία that should bind the minority guardians to the bulk of the population (whose property will be held in the usual way), however, is more difficult to render plausible, and El Murr seems to concede this to Aristotle (citing Pol. 1263b15-29). He explains that Plato and Aristotle have fundamentally different concepts of the role of φιλία in the state, Aristotle understanding that a goal of the city is to preserve φιλία among its citizens in the service of the final goal of the εὐδαίμων life, whereas for Plato φιλία is a means of preserving the unity of the city.

The fifth and sixth essays, while quite different in their thrust, are both concerned with what the city excludes, and how. Arnaud Macé ("Purifications et distributions sociales: Platon et le pastorat politique") takes as his primary target Foucault's use of the (good) shepherd, committed to the good of every member of the flock—conspicuous in oriental and Biblical theorizing of rulership and the nature of the state, but supposedly absent from Greek thought on the subject—as a marker to distinguish fundamental differences between the two traditions. Macé offers as his principal exhibit for his correction of Foucault a reading of Laws 734e-736b. Here we find the figure of the shepherd explored extensively, but with the emphasis on an unexpected element in the governance of society: the purification of the flock before it can be "woven" into a coherent whole. Étienne Helmer's contribution, "Aux frontières de la cité: les incurables de Platon," examines the phenomenon of the excluded (the "incurables") across the range of Plato's political writings, working toward a "functionalist" rather than "essentialist" account of the phenomenon. His conclusion is that this vanishingly rare (and never clearly defined) category of individuals represents "figures de l'inacceptable" (145), a structural category rather than an identifiable group (or groups) of people, and he leaves the reader with the question whether political thought can get along without such a category to define what is inside and what is outside the civic community.

The final essay in the collection, Robbert van den Berg's "Proclus and Damascius on φιλοτιμία: The Neoplatonic Psychology of a Political Emotion," turns on a fascinating dissonance between Plato's writings on the state and his late-antique commentators. Proclus' Commentary on the Alcibiades gives a puzzling prominence to the φιλοτιμία of Alcibiades, considering the fact that the word occurs only once in Plato's dialogue. Proclus develops a distinction between "good" and "bad" φιλοτιμία, only the latter of which is to be viewed negatively. Van den Berg introduces Marinus' Life of Proclus and Damascius' Life of Isidore as examples of Platonist texts that present exemplary individuals whose lives express a positive φιλοτιμία. This shift of perspective and apparent reassessment are consonant with Peter Brown's characterization of late antiquity as an "age of ambition."6

This collection constitutes a stimulating challenge, on several levels, to the orthodoxy of the interpretation of Plato's political writings. The essays complement one another and resonate with the optimistic hope of the editors of the first volume in the series to offer "l'écho des recherches en cours."7

Table of Contents

Platon et la politique
Malcolm Schofield, Callicles' return: Gorgias 509-522 reconsidered, 7
Xavier Brouillette, Socrate « oikiste » et Apollon exégète, 31
Christopher Rowe, The City of Pigs: a key passage in Plato's Republic, 55
Dimitri El Murr, Hiérarchie et communauté: amitié et unité de la cité idéale de la République, 73
Arnaud Macé, Purifications et distributions sociales: Platon et le pastorat politique, 101
Étienne Helmer, Aux frontières de la cité: les incurables de Platon, 125
Robbert van den Berg, Proclus and Damascius on φιλοτιμία: The Neoplatonic Psychology of a Political Emotion 149
Izabela Jurasz, Éphrem, Bardesane et Albinus sur les incorporels: une confrontation entre le platonisme et le stoïcisme en milieu syriaque, 169


1.   The periodical was founded in 2001 under the directorship of André Laks and Michel Narcy, who together edited the first fourteen fascicles. Subsequent fascicles have been under the directorship of Narcy along with Thomas Bénatouil and Jean-Baptiste Gourinat. Some fascicles (including the first) have presented papers from a conference, but the source of the material for the majority of the thematic fascicles has generally been unclear. (Presumably, articles were solicited, and not simply selected from random submissions, the procedures for which are briefly outlined in each fascicle. It seems a priori unlikely that the thematic fascicles could have been assembled from "les articles [proposés] qui auront retenu l'attention" ["Conditions de Publication," inside front cover].)
2.   Although at least one other fascicle has been listed as received and available for review in BMCR, the only fascicle other than the present one actually reviewed here to date seems to be #9, on Neoplatonism, reviewed by David Hernández de la Fuente, BMCR 2011.04.26
3.   Note that the present review does not discuss the one piece listed under "Varia"—though Izabela Jurasz's paper on Ephrem and Bardaisan is in fact quite impressive—but is confined to the seven papers that constitute "Platon et la politique."
4.   E. R. Dodds (ed.), Plato, Gorgias, Oxford 1959; J. Doyle, "The Fundamental Conflict in Plato's Gorgias" OSAPh 30 (2006) 87-100.
5.   C. Dougherty, The Poetics of Colonization, Oxford, 1993, here cited at 33, n. 3.
6.   P. Brown, The Making of Late Antiquity, Cambridge MA, 1978, p. 31. Quoted here at 151.
7.   "Editorial" Philosophie antique 1 (2001), 7.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018


Daniel S. Richter, William A. Johnson (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Second Sophistic. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xii, 758. ISBN 9780199837472. $150.00.

Reviewed by Jean Alvares, Montclair State University (

Version at BMCR home site


[Editor's note: Richter and Johnson's Oxford Handbook of the Second Sophistic attracted a great deal of interest when it was published, and so BMCR decided to commission two reviews, in the hope that providing contrasting perspectives would enable richer conversation in the field at large. The other review is written by Martin Korenjak, BMCR 2018.07.09.]

One might almost call this valuable volume Forty Three Ways of Thinking about the So-called "Second Sophistic". All chapters evidence solid scholarship; some give substantial overviews of designated subject matter, others are more argumentative. The authors are admittedly inconsistent in their perspectives (5 ff.). Particularly impressive is the exploration of perspectives and practices associated with the Second Sophistic in non-literary forms. The editors declare their volume signals a new approach that more closely ties Greek literature to the wider range of culture productions in the later Empire. It fills a true need, since many of its authors are outside graduate school reading lists. Even then some authors, such as Pseudo-Longinus, have been omitted. The book is divided into sections and each essay chapter provides a substantial bibliography. Here I can only provide thumbnail sketches, which cannot capture the detailed information and argumentation of many chapters, but hints at the volume's substantial scope and variety.

Johnson's and Richter ("Periodicity and Scope") assert a chronologically demarcated literary period invites errors of emphasis and interpretation in respect to connected elements of artistic production and socio-cultural-political events. "Second Sophistic" more generally designates "an era centered on the second century with defining characteristics that go well beyond Greek sophists or even Greek literature" (4). The usual checklist of 'Second Sophistic' tendencies appear, often in complex, ambivalent ways. It artists reuse the iconic past in quite anti-classical ways, and their relationship to the Roman present was varied. This awareness of constructedness engages many issues regarding fictionality, imitation and competition with reality itself. There is an exploration of the 'modalities of Hellenism.'

Whitmarsh's "Hellenistic and Early Imperial Continuities" implies that the Second Sophistic, like a photon in quantum physics, exhibit particle like properties, being located at a set time and space, but also exhibit wave like aspects, a cloud of properties that, spilling over various frames of space and time, are interconnected. This view unites varied works, not all literary, as a series of tendencies, such as the focus on culture, archaism, fictionality, rhetoric and self-presentation. Further, the 'wavelike function' includes Egyptian and Hebrew works such as Joseph and Aseneth, the Exagoge of Ezekiel, or the stories of Setne Khaemwas, which exhibit interest in the past and problems of self-definition, trends in a dialectical relationship with various non-Greco-Roman literary cultural traditions. The focus on a particulate 'Greek identity' is likewise problematical, its elements shared with other cultures, hybridized forms are as common as 'purer' ones.

To the question, "Was there a Latin Second Sophistic?", Habinek's answer is: "Yes, but not the one most Latin authors would care to admit to" (35). A proper Roman orator speaks as part of political and judicial action rooted in a concrete reality, not as a form of entertainment, nor does he cultivate such self-display. Second Sophistic writers like Gellius could display encyclopedic knowledge, especially about language and antiquarian matters. Fronto emphasizes practical usage, not exhibitionism, being keen to social concerns. Apuleius comports himself as a genuine Latin sophist, a pose restricted to North Africa, being linked to, but not an integral part of, the Roman web of power. The Greek Second Sophist ends when the "royal court consisted of Greek speaking intellectuals of African and Syrian descent" (32). Later authors tried to recover Latin's lost glories through erudition and refinement of language.

In the second section, "Language and Identity," Kim ("Atticism and Asianism") notes how Wilamowitz transformed a debate over Atticism vs. Asianism to how Roman era authors became focused on using archaic forms of Attic Greek. Atticism is connected to varied classicisms, and develops a strict linguistic variety, a higher register of Atticism added to a high register which marked out the users' cultural status. 'Asianism' is not necessarily opposed to Atticism in vocabulary; it is an anti-classical style, glorying in less restrained forms of word-music, often connected depictions of the paradoxical or shocking.

Bloomer ("Latinitas") shows how specialized Latin usage becomes a marker for elite society, linked to antiquarianism, good taste and cultural authority, and exhibits varied forms of purism but avoids slavish imitation. Eventually, as with Greek, the cultivated object becomes an hypothesized literary Latin that corresponds to no living practice, yet is claimed as a mirror of reality.

Richter's "Cosmopolitanism" considers philosophers, political thinkers, Aristides' Panathenaicus, and philosopher-exiles. The Stoic notions of universal rationality and oikeiosis were particularly influential. Central is striking a balance between claims of culture and blood, more easily accomplished for Rome than Athens. For the Stoic philosopher, exile could force an awareness of a common humanity and citizenship.

Dench ("Ethnicity, Identity and Culture") notes elite individuals preformed different identities; Figuring out Roman identity was often more important than determining Greek identity. Robust notions of identity based on ethnic descent co-existed with Favorinus' conception of Greekness as paideia and praxis. Philostratus' idiosyncratic assemblage of Sophists provides no consensus on identity, but genealogical relationships are constantly evoked.

Richlin's "Retrosexuality" suggests in our texts we are observe evocations of valued past practices (retrosexuality) rather than current praxis. Literature depicted living elite women mostly as embodying ancient values; the sex lives of fictional women provide endless prurient examples. We see similar concerns in medical writing (Galen) and philosophy (Plutarch, Dio). In the Greek novels young women are endlessly subject to sexual threats. The era's considerable amount of pederastic literature also has its 'retrosexual' side. Eunuchs appear at the margins. Between teachers and pupils there are notable erotic and misogynistic overtones with classical antecedents.

The third section, 'Paideia and Performance', opens with Webb's "Schools and Paideia." The evidence stresses 'sociability' between Sophists and pupils rather than teaching (139). There was a broad uniformity throughout the Empire in rhetorical instruction which differed little from what occurred before. There was a hierarchy of the educated, and only the richest could travel to the needed teachers; this need for mobility raised tensions and helps explain the stress on sociability.

König ("Athletes and Trainers") notes the expansion of athletic events, corresponding to increased opportunities for rhetorical performance; sophists and athletic trainers moved in similar circles. Athletic games and festivals, like literature, were linked to the mythical, glorified Hellenic past. But, as Galen shows, there was resentment of such trainers as interlopers on the fields of medicine and philosophy.

In "Professionals of Paideia. The Sophists as Performers," Schmitz considers sophists as professionals. Clearly elegant clothing was expected. Declamations could be held in a wide variety of public places, but the audience dimension is critical. Serious constant reading, practice and training were required. The highest-level sophists had independent means, and repute was their chief goal. But just training was insufficient; the greatest sophists must have an innate force of character.

Thomas ("Performance Space") explores how "the teachers of the Second Sophistic were not just aware of their architectural surroundings; they positively fed off them" (182). The orator's music, costume and gestures must prove as worthy and dramatic as the architectural setting. The orator's own genius could create virtual spaces. Some famous orators paid for impressive venues, and made other benefactions adding to their city's repute. Lucian's De Domo may describe a performance space in a private villa.

The fourth section, "Rhetoric and Rhetoricians," opens with Pernot's "Greek and Latin Rhetorical Culture," who surveys the vast bulk of rhetorical production, which remained useful in public life. The standard rhetorical curriculum cultivated skills in critical thinking, prepared for public life and provided varied forms of cultural formation. Epidetic rhetoric was the greatest innovation, serving an important cultural function, especially in expressing collective desires. There was a 'Third Sophistic' in the fourth century, and a sort of 'pre-second Sophistic' in the time of the Elder Seneca.

Jackson's ("Dio Chrysostom") places Dio and his self-representation within the Second Sophistic. His supposed exile is an important, if problematical, heuristic. Dio's Euboicus shows the impossibility of separating Dio' speeches from his biography (221-2). Dio, like many of the Greek elite, used various attitudes to Rome as part of a play of identity and power. Much of Dio's orations like Oration 11, the Trojan Oration with its rejection of the canonical Homeric story, and Oration 5, The Libyan Myth, display myths as mutable cultural markers.

Holdford-Strevens ("Favorinus and Herodes Atticus") considers how Favorinus combines in unique ways the roles of philosopher and high-end performing rhetor. His crowd-pleasing rhetorical style was Asiatic, although he kept a high standard of Atticism. Herodes Atticus, whom Philostratus makes the Second Sophistic's godfather, has left virtually nothing behind, and Holdfold-Strevens focuses on details of his sordid political biography.

Fleury ("Fronto and his circle"), shows Fronto shares more with the movement than he would have admitted. His references to the other sophists are social and moral, and he appears often among them in Gellius. His correspondence reveals Fronto's circle is a fluid mix of Greeks and Romans. Most interestingly, although Fronto styles himself a barbarian, a tertium quid, still shares with the Greek sophists the assertion that cultural power tops political power.

Oudot ("Aelius Aristides") notes Aristides rejected the term 'sophist', and many aspects of the Sophists' career. Oratory organized and disciplined his world (257), with a kind of divine logos, and his divine mission was to promote it. His presentation of Asclepius as his master is part of his process of self-construction. Particularly creative was Aristides' mimesis of ancient orators; he waged a war with Plato as if with a contemporary. His triumphant Hellenism was a set of eternal cultural values, and Rome's function is to 'historicize the perfection of Greece' (265).

Part V, Literature and Culture, opens up with Miles, "Philostratus." The Philostratean corpus belongs largely to one individual, and the testimonia present knotty problems. Herodes Atticus is central to a (biased) representation of Philostratus' own circle. Philostratus provides interpretative tools, guides for the would-be pepaideumenos. In the Life, "Philostratus sent [Apollonius] to India to be told how important true Greek culture was" (277, quoting Swain). The Heroicus displays sophistic games which also allow considerable seriousness. A focus on the past and issues of interpretation are central to the Icones, as are questions of emotive absorption.

Brenk ("Plutarch") notes Plutarch's exceptionally broad cultural sweep and cosmopolitanism embodies many Second Sophistic qualities. A Middle-Platonist, he fought with Academic, Stoic and Epicurean philosophy, making significant contributions. The Table Talks are important performances of cultural memory, constructed so that the reader must weigh the various opinions, a type of training for the pepaideumenoi. Plutarch was a great scholar of comparative mythology like Philo earlier. About twenty-one essays deal with practical ethics, such as seen in On Anger.

Desideri ("Plutarch's Lives") shows that in Plutarch's era much historical interest is found in display rhetoric, local historiography, in antiquarian interests, and the figurative arts. The Parallel Lives connected to a real need, but the paired biographies were a later evolution. Plutarch is aware of the breakdown of traditional structures and anxious about his place in the universe. Past lives offered inspiration for self-regulation, which helps explain the biographical focus. Two parallel patterns of rise and fall are implied, that of Classical Greece and the Roman Republic, and Plutarch's Lives showed how men with similar abilities and orientation dealt with their different political reality.

Richter ("Lucian of Samosata") notes how Lucian was dismissed by modern scholars' prejudices about his supposed 'oriental character", but now embodies the 'ethno-cultural hybrid." (327). Richter refuses to imagine various Lucian-masks. Being a Syrian and a barbarian are authorial strategies. When accused of subverting or hybridizing Greek genres, Lucian insists that he has preserved the soul of the Greek genre though a mimesis making him internally Greek. Works like Zeus the Tragedian satirize how non-Greek styles have infiltrated Greece and he attacks savagely fakes like a Trimalchio-like Syrian bookbuyer.

For Harrison ("Apuleius") Apuleius shares much with Second Sophistic writers, while remaining in the mainstream of Roman culture. His varied output is increasingly encyclopedic. The Apologia, theoretically a defense speech, resembles epidictic performance with evocations of Cicero, and its learned digression aimed at established a bond with the proconsul Maximus. Self-presentation was a major focus. The Metamorphoses (which Harrison considers late) is likewise a 'sophist's novel'. In its destabilizing opening, displays of learning, reflections of classical texts, ekphrases, Platonic overtones as well as the Metamorphoses reflects many Second Sophistic concerns.

Hutton ("Pausanias") notes Pausanias' insight to literary and cultural movements have been neglected, although offering mythological and historical information (358). Pausanias offers no clear goals for his project, but shares many Second Sophistic attitudes, such as a concentration on the past and disregard of the present. He focuses more on moral lessons than historical truth. Pausanias does not idealize that past, but finds something deeply evocative in the fragments, tangible points of contact between the contemporary physical world and remote history and myth He is particularly interested in pre-Roman sites of Classical religion, less interested in amalgamations of Greek and Roman culture. Like other Second Sophistic authors, Pausanias presents a creative mimesis of canonical authors.

Mattern ("Galen") show how Galen, a landowner, viewed the proper healthy body as male, urban, aristocratic, able to enjoy urban amenities. The Sophists' non-empirical rhetoric was generally scorned by Galen, but in praise of their broad learning shares their values. As one could be a rhetor and philosopher, so Galen thought a physician should be a philosopher too and he wrote philosophical texts. As among Sophists, there were great rivalries, public demonstrations of anatomical skill and public debates. Galen had strong ties to the Roman aristocracy, but, ambivalent toward Roman power, avoided the inner imperial circle.

Morgan ("Chariton and Xenophon of Ephesus") shows these 'presophistic' novels engage many Second Sophistic issues. Chariton (imaginatively) uses the past (the Persian Empire) to reflect on the present (the Roman empire.) He also contrasts Greeks with barbaroi and paideia and elite vs. non-elite status is a major concern. While the Ephesiaka's plot recalls that of Chariton, Morgan believes that "we do not have the text as it was meant to be" (398). Xenophon likewise reflects the Second Sophistic values that Chariton did, but there is more stress on elite vs. non-elite status.

Zeitlin ("Longus and Achilles Tatius") shows how these romances use similar novelistic tropes for different purposes, becoming a "a sort of test site for approaching theoretical questions about perception and cognition through the focalizing lens of eros" (407). Both are visually oriented, concerned about how one learns about the origins and nature of love, inspired by Plato, and flirt with the possibility of spiritual heights, but also suggest pornography. In Longus the emergence of Eros is both utterly natural, and yet evokes abundant references to prior literature; mimesis of nature must be augmented by art, and urban techne is useful in the countryside. Leucippe and Clitophon have no lack of knowledge, but must, though trials atone for their premature actions until there is the necessary spiritual transformation.

Selden ("The Anti-Sophistic Novel") provocatively dealing with non-Greco-Roman texts and languages, employs Arabic, Biblical Hebrew, Egyptian Hieroglyphics and sixteen other languages. Second Sophistic practice, having rejected the pluralist polyhellenism of Hellenistic literature, promotes archaizing Attic as the linguist expression of the insular fantasy of Hellenic greatness, and evokes its traumatizing loss, often through implied comparisons of Greece and Rome. The Alexander Romance, a hybrid, dialogic text that evokes different responses from different readers. rejects this Hellenocentric focus, making Alexander the son of Pharaoh Nectanebo, a master of magic, not Greek philosophy. The 'rhetoric of anti-rhetoric' appears in the Life of the Silent Philosopher Secundus, whose personal silence and Eastern-tinged writings impressed Hadrian. The Story of Aseneth, about the marriage of a Hebrew Patriarch with an Egyptian woman, aggressively attacks the cultural goals of the Second Sophistic, as well as post-second Temple Hebrew exclusivity.

Oikonomopoulou ("Miscellanies") notes "no other type of Second Sophistic writing yields more fruitful ground for appreciating the dynamics of literary experimentation in this period." (447) Many miscellanies were produced, some by major figures of the Second Sophistic. Oikonomopoulou might have mentioned the Anatomy, where a near encyclopedic mass of information is brought to bear on a topic. One best defines miscellanies based on the interrelations between the author's agenda, the reader's expectations, and overall cultural milieu. Their authors take the paradoxical position that knowledge, presented somewhat randomly, is more useful and more entertaining. And, as in modern pedagogy, this variation can be tied to different cognitive facilities, or 'learning styles.'

Trzaskoma ("Mythography") notes the bulk of our major mythographic texts come from the Second Sophistic; mythographical writings, most lost, provide the context for much of the era's literature and oratory. Due to the vast, scattered bulk of mythological data, without summarizing, systematizing works like that of Pseudo-Apollodorus, ancient readers would have struggled. (464) . In these handbooks, many made for students, there is usually little attempt to interpret, rationalize or allegorize the myths. Attempts to interpret myth often have a moral purpose. Many literary and artistic references to myths come from these handbooks.

In "Historiography", Asirvatham notes history is found in nearly all genres of Greek literature, often for making ethical arguments. Asirvatham, focusing on Herodian, Arrian, Appian, and Cassius Dio, argues that historiography sets itself apart from rhetoric in its truth values while being aware of rhetoric's power. It is harder to maintain a Greek vs. Roman distinction due to the combination a Roman historical focus and Greek perspectives. The subject matter of these Greek language historians is more Rome than Greece. Unlike most other Second Sophistic writers, they are not determinedly showing Rome as subject to Greek cultural dominance, but capable of a more Roman-values perspective.

Baumbach ("Poets and Poetry") notes all forms of poetry continued to be produced. The pepaideumenoi's education and practice displayed impressive knowledge of arcane poets and near contemporaries. Second Sophistic Greek epic is characterized by close engagement with Hellenistic poetry and Homer, as well as with Latin epic. Didactic poetry both formal (Oppian) and practical (Dionysius of Alexandria) flourished. Melic poetry was part of the imperial's courts self-presentation. Epigrams, usually anonymous, preserved the memories of an individual or the collective memory of a city. The satirical epigram formed a new subgenre.

Hodkinson ("Epistolography") notes epistolography was an 'important business' for the Second Sophistic. Most surviving texts are anonymous, purportedly written by famous historical or literary figures, and recall exercises in prosopopoiia and ethopoiia. There was much literary experimentation. Aelian's subtle works 'provide a metacommentary on sophistic declamations" (512). The epistolary novel presents a new literary genre. Shorter epistolagraphic works offer a kind of 'short story'. Embedded letters present another important innovation.

Part VI, "Philosophy and Philosophers," opens with Reydams-Schils' "Stoics." Anecdotes about the unsuccessful Musonius Rufus vs. the successful Dio of Prusa highlight differences between serious Stoics, who wanted to motivate though a deeper philosophical understanding, as opposed to Sophists like Dio, who wanted simply to persuade, Stoics tended to avoid the Sophist's self- promotion and status-seeking, although engagement with life was not forbidden. Stoic philosophers preferred more individual, intimate settings for teaching.

Gordon, "Epicureanism Writ Large. Diogenes of Oenoanda," describes the considerable anti-Epicurean tradition. For Diogenes Laertius, Greek culture is produces human civilization, and Epicureanism is the pinnacle of Greek philosophy. Diogenes of Oenoanda, known for the vast inscription in Lycia, provides a revised version of Epicurean principles, essays on physics, a collection of letters, a will and much else. Diogenes presents his work as an act of civic philanthropy, and dreams of a Epicurean Golden Age.

Bett ("Skepticism") notes how some treated the long-dead skeptical Academy as still living. Favorinus was targeted as a skeptic, perhaps because an ability to extemporize and argue either side of a case suited his project. The Pyrrhonists do not appear as public figures. Not only is Sextus Empiricus nearly impossible to date, he seems willingly cut off from the intellectual currents of his time.

Fowler ("Platonism") deals with texts evoked uncounted times by participants in the Second Sophistic. Plutarch forms a bridge with the past and appreciated Plato's aporetic and doctrinal aspects. The period's Platonic writings all aim to explain, expose or clarify some issue, often borrowing from other philosophies. Commentaries provided exegesis of particular dialogues and polemical works attacked other schools.

Baltussen ("The Aristotelian Tradition") notes Peripatetics also looked back to better understand to their Classical forebears in what became a scholarly, bookish enterprise. Little is known of these philosophers save Alexander of Aphrodisias. The commentary was a major feature, and Alexander's exegetical abilities were outstanding. In the Roman era, distinction should be made between committed Peripatetics and more eclectic thinkers, some not fully philosophers, such as Strabo.

The last section, "Religion and Religious Literature," begins with Horster ("Cult"). Festivals and various cultic practices expanded markedly, modifying religious practice across the empire, being a part of the ideological superstructure, a source of competition between cities, and a way of asserting identity. Of course practicing sophists contributed greatly.

Rutherford ("Pilgrimage") notes how religious travel (including intellectual tourism) was widespread in the era. Oracles flourish as never before. Initiations continued. Healing cults were likewise popular destinations, as were games and festivals, which asserted of Greek historical identity. There were forms of intellectual tourism, which sometimes involved seeking local historia.

Johnson ("Early Christianity and the Classical Tradition") notes that, while Christians saw themselves as belonging to an all- encompassing culture. Christian intellectuals engaged in complex negotiations with Classical, non-Christian culture. They imitated the intellectual, cultural and political practices of the Second sophistic, with some, (not all) using Greek learning against the Greeks, and claimed priority for the Jewish-Christian heritage.

In "Jewish Literature," Gruen notes Jews saw themselves as an exceptional people but since numerous Dispora Jews had lived for centuries across the empire, lived reality was quite different. Jewish intellectuals produced Jewish versions of various Greek genres, including the novel, adopting Greek structure to Jewish content, not without considerable tension. Gruen considers Philo, 4 Maccabees, Pseudo-Phocylides and Joseph and Aseneth.

Adler ("The Creation of Christian Elite Culture in Roman Syria and the Near East") notes how Syrian Christianity produced cultural warriors like Titian, yet several, such as Africanus, functioned within the court of Abgar VIII and were ambassadors to Elegabalus. Some like Tatian saw barbarism an alternative paideia while others like Africanus, guided outsiders to eastern relics and recall earlier Sophists in their Classical learning and high end rhetoric.

In "Christian Apocrypha," Johnson considers the multifarious corpus of Christian apocryphal literature as the 'dark matter' of the Second Sophistic, being 'dark' since generally not included in surveys. Its many hundreds of works with complex histories of transmission, in a wide variety of languages, is another factor. Johnson necessarily limits himself to considering the many similarities to other Second Sophistic literature, especially in the Greek novel.

This is a truly valuable and complex volume that give a detailed overview of the 'state of the question' regarding the Second Sophistic and its penumbra. It certainly expanded my understanding of the movement. Alas, this volume is marred with formatting errors, some egregious, including what looks like proofreading marks.

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Daniel S. Richter, William A. Johnson (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Second Sophistic. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xii, 758. ISBN 9780199837472. $150.00.

Reviewed by Martin Korenjak, University of Innsbruck (

Version at BMCR home site

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

[Editor's note: Richter and Johnson's Oxford Handbook of the Second Sophistic attracted a great deal of interest when it was published, and so BMCR decided to commission two reviews, in the hope that providing contrasting perspectives would enable richer conversation in the field at large. The other review is written by Jean Alvares, BMCR 2018.07.10.]

In view of the exponential increase of interest in the Second Sophistic over the last few decades, the first companion or handbook on the subject was overdue. Now we have it. Comprising seven sections (I. Introduction, II. Language and Identity, III. Paideia and Performance, IV. Rhetoric and Rhetoricians, V. Literature and Culture, VI. Philosophy and Philosophers, and VII. Religion and Religious Literature), 43 chapters, and over 750 pages, this volume constitutes an impressive testimony to the breadth, depth, and vivacity of contemporary research in the field. As is only natural, the quality of the single contributions varies considerably, but most of them are competent summaries of the state of the question, and many present some original research as well. For example, in ch. 4, Lawrence Kim carefully analyses the many levels of κοινή and Atticism and paints a nuanced image of the linguistic landscape in the Greek part of the Empire. His distinction between "positive" and "negative" Atticism—that is, between the use of catchwords and phrases perceived as quintessentially Attic, on the one hand, and the much more difficult avoidance of un-Attic features, on the other (p. 49)—is a valuable conceptual tool. In less than twenty pages, Susan P. Mattern provides an astonishingly complete and coherent portrait of the towering and multi-faceted figure of Galen in ch. 24. Pamela Gordon's presentation of the most expansive and perhaps most fascinating ancient inscription, set up by the Epicurean Diogenes in the Lycian city of Oenoanda in the early second century CE as a testimony to his philosophical allegiance, does full justice to its subject and includes the most recent findings on site (ch. 34). Han Baltussen's exposition of the Aristotelian tradition (ch. 37) concludes with a helpful list of late Hellenistic and early imperial Peripatetics. The book's concluding chapter on Christian apocrypha by Scott Fitzgerald Johnson provides a deftly structured overview of this tremendously extensive and complex field, whose exploration is presently just beginning in earnest.

There is one critical problem with the Oxford Handbook of the Second Sophistic, however: What is this Second Sophistic that it purports to be about? Philostratus, who coined the term δευτέρα σοφιστική in his Lives of the Sophists, intended it to refer to a group of Greek rhetorical teachers and showmen between the late first and early third centuries CE. More than a century ago, Wilamowitz pointed out that the notion has little to recommend it as the designation of a period in the history of Greek rhetoric ("Asianismus und Atticismus", Hermes 35, 1900, 1–52, esp. 9–15), a view recently underscored by Paweł Janiszewski, Krystyna Stebnicka and Elżbieta Szabat's Prosopography of Greek Rhetors and Sophists of the Roman Empire (Oxford 2015). The nearly 1200 entries in their book stretch without interruption from the first century BCE to the seventh century CE. This dubious terminology, however, did not deter Graham Anderson from writing The Second Sophistic (London 1993), the first book to feature the expression so prominently as its main title. Moreover, by declaring the Second Sophistic "a cultural phenomenon in the Roman Empire" in his subtitle, Anderson elevated a notion of doubtful value, even in the restricted field of rhetoric, to a much more far-reaching literary and cultural movement. This is, by and large, the meanting that the term Second Sophistic continues to carry until today, surrounded by a halo of associations, such as playfulness, irony, παιδεία, cultural capital, self-display, classicism, and identity—notions sufficiently vague to be ascribed with equal justification to all periods of Greek or any other culture.

The Oxford Handbook picks up this development and drives it to new extremes. Now, every literary and cultural phenomenon from the Greek (and occasionally Roman) part of the early empire (and a few centuries before and after) featuring some (or none, as Pyrrhonism, pp. 554–60) of the above-mentioned characteristics finds shelter under the umbrella of the Second Sophistic: from cosmopolitanism (ch. 6) to (retro-)sexuality (ch. 8) and athletics (ch. 10), from Plutarch's Lives (ch. 20) to the so-called anti-sophistic novel (ch. 27; the term apparently refers to prose narrative other than the "big five" of the ancient novel) and to mythography (ch. 29), and from Aristotelianism (ch. 37) to pilgrimage (ch. 39) and Christian culture in Syria (ch. 42). The teaching and practice of eloquence, the only field covered by Philostratus' original notion, are, by contrast, conspicuously underrepresented. Section IV, "Rhetoric and Rhetoricians", contains just five chapters ("Greek and Latin Rhetorical Culture", "Dio Chrysostom", "Favorinus and Herodes Atticus", "Fronto and His Circle", and "Aelius Aristides") and covers a bare 65 pages (pp. 205–69), less than one tenth of the whole book. Totally absent is the technical core of the matter, viz., rhetorical theory, even though this evolved dramatically under the empire, and its understanding has been revolutionized over the last few decades by scholars like Michel Patillon and Malcolm Heath. Hermogenes of Tarsus, on whose works rhetorical teaching was based under the later empire, in Byzantium, and to a considerable degree even in early modern Europe, is afforded a scant two entries in the index and no chapter. In this way, the notion of "Second Sophistic" is definitely severed from its roots and becomes a shorthand for "interesting aspects of imperial literature and culture".

This redefinition and inflation of the term have not escaped the attention of the editors and contributors—quite the contrary: "As will already be clear from the discussion above, our purview for the Second Sophistic is unusually broad reaching," the editors state in their introduction (p. 7). In a chapter suggestively subtitled, "Greek and Early Imperial Continuities," Tim Whitmarsh speaks at length about the universally acknowledged "haziness of the term and the arbitrariness of chronological limits" (p. 12) and concludes that "Second Sophistic" should be used as a generic term rather than in reference to a specific historical period (pp. 20–21). Emma Dench questions "the exceptionalism of certain traits, such as a preoccupation with the past, and the performance of complex identities associated with the Second Sophistic" (p. 99). Some contributors also admit that there is little sophistic about their specific topic. Stephen M. Trzaskoma, for one, confesses, "We seem prima facie to be a long way from the heart of the Second Sophistic when dealing with mythographic texts" (p. 469), and there is nothing in the rest of his chapter to refute this prima facie impression. In her treatment of imperial historiography, Sulochana R. Asirvatham sounds doubtful regarding whether to enlarge the meaning of "Second Sophistic" to a degree that it can include authors as diverse as Arrian, Appian, Cassius Dio, and Herodian, or to abolish it altogether: "But their differences inevitably encourage more inclusivity, rather than more restrictiveness, in the Second Sophistic label (if we are going to use it at all)" (p. 478). Not surprisingly, the period is also considerably expanded chronologically. While the editors intend the book for "the student curious about the literary remains of the second century," Daniel L. Selden explicitly extends this time span to stretch "from the mid-first to the mid-fourth century CE" (p. 421). More often, such extensions take place tacitly through the inclusion of earlier or later material. For instance, the apocryphal Acts of Apostles, discussed by Scott Fitzgerald Johnson (p. 672), cover the period from the third to the ninth century CE. Occasional attempts to sort out the conceptual mess remain halfhearted and ultimately fail. A phrase like "the Hellenic, urban, masculine, intellectual, and aristocratic values of the Second Sophistic" (Susan P. Mattern, p. 372) does little to give the period a clear profile, since "Second Sophistic" could easily be replaced by "Greek antiquity." Johnson calls "the combination of entertainment and didacticism […] a hallmark of many types of Second Sophistic literature" (p. 680). Was Horace, who recommended the same mix of prodesse and delectare, a Second Sophist, too? In most cases, however, contributors just nod at the problem in passing and then quickly get back to business. In doing so, they can invoke the example of the editors, who do not bother to explain the reasons behind their "unusually broad- reaching" approach, but simply conclude their reflections on the book's scope as follows: "With that said, our aim has been to offer a rich and varied exploration of social, literary, and intellectual history from the period" (p. 8). Apparently, ποικιλία is understood to provide a satisfying surrogate for coherence.

Standards of production are as high as one expects from OUP. The erroneous repetition of a whole line in a citation (p. 409) remains an exception. Foreign-language citations are, however, liable to distortion ("Kuretenstresse," p. 194; "lieux de memoire," p. 360; " Das antike Jundentum," p. 438). The use of endnotes instead of footnotes is inconvenient. Given the inclusion of chapters such as "Performance Space" (ch. 12) and the strong visual aspect of imperial culture in general, the total lack of illustrations (apart from the gorgeous Library of Celsus on the cover) is regrettable.

In sum, I warmly recommend the Oxford Handbook of the Second Sophistic to anyone looking for up-to-date information on a broad range of aspects of imperial literature and culture. However, the reader should be on guard against its tendency to lump all of these issues together under a heading that explains nothing and, worse, highlights certain fashionable facets in a way that detracts attention from the great amount of fundamental research that remains to be done in the field. As yet, we do not even have a real commentary on Philostratus' Lives of the Sophists itself. More talk on cultural capital, identity, and retrosexuality is no substitute for that.

Authors and Titles

1. William A. Johnson and Daniel S. Richter: Periodicity and Scope
2. Tim Whitmarsh: Greece: Hellenistic and Early Imperial Continuities
3. Thomas Habinek: Was There a Latin Second Sophistic?

4. Lawrence Kim: Atticism and Asianism
5. W. Martin Bloomer: Latinitas
6. Daniel S. Richter: Cosmopolitanism
7. Emma Dench: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity
8. Amy Richlin: Retrosexuality: Sex in the Second Sophistic

9. Ruth Webb: Schools and Paideia
10. Jason König: Athletes and Trainers
11. Thomas A. Schmitz: Professionals of Paideia? The Sophists as Performers
12. Edmund Thomas: Performance Space

13. Laurent Pernot: Greek and Latin Rhetorical Culture
14. Claire Rachel Jackson: Dio Chrysostom
15. Leofranc Holford-Strevens: Favorinus and Herodes Atticus
16. Pascale Fleury: Fronto and His Circle
17. Estelle Oudot: Aelius Aristides

18. Graeme Miles: Philostratus
19. Frederick E. Brenk: Plutarch: Philosophy, Religion, and Ethics
20. Paolo Desideri: Plutarch's Lives
21. Daniel S. Richter: Lucian of Samosata
22. Stephen J. Harrison: Apuleius
23. William Hutton: Pausanias
24. Susan P. Mattern: Galen
25. J. R. Morgan: Chariton and Xenophon of Ephesus
26. Froma Zeitlin: Longus and Achilles Tatius
27. Daniel L. Selden: The Anti-Sophistic Novel
28. Katerina Oikonomopoulou: Miscellanies
29. Stephen M. Trzaskoma: Mythography
30. Sulochana R. Asirvatham: Historiography
31. Manuel Baumbach: Poets and Poetry
32. Owen Hodkinson: Epistolography

33. Gretchen Reydams-Schils: The Stoics
34. Pamela Gordon: Epicureanism Writ Large: Diogenes of Oenoanda
35. Richard Bett: Skepticism
36. Ryan C. Fowler: Platonism
37. Han Baltussen: The Aristotelian Tradition

38. Marietta Horster: Cult
39. Ian C. Rutherford: Pilgrimage
40. Aaron P. Johnson: Early Christianity and the Classical Tradition
41. Eric S. Gruen: Jewish Literature
42. William Adler: The Creation of Christian Elite Culture in Roman Syria and the Near East
43. Scott Fitzgerald Johnson: Christian Apocrypha
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