Thursday, August 28, 2014


Laurent Coulon, Pascale Giovannelli-Jouanna, Flore Kimmel-Clauzet (ed.), Hérodote et l’Égypte: regards croisés sur le Livre II de l’ Enquête d’Hérodote. Actes de la journée d’étude organisée à la Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée, Lyon, le 10 mai 2010. Collection de la Maison de l’Orient,
51; Série littéraire et philosophique, 18​.
Lyon: Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée - Jean Pouilloux​, 2013. Pp. 200. ISBN 9782356680372. €27.00.

Reviewed by Yvona Trnka-Amrhein, Harvard University (

Version at BMCR home site


This collection of articles devoted to the second book of Herodotus’ Histories addresses the Egyptian logos from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. A very brief introduction (with summaries of the contributions) is given by Pascale Giovannelli-Jouanna, who outlines the volume’s
goal of providing a fresh approach to Herodotus’ Egyptian book with two main themes: literary studies (two articles on the book in general) and links to Egyptian evidence (five articles on specific topics). Coming down on the side of Herodotus’ genuine use of Egyptian sources, the pieces in the
second section collect a range of new Egyptian material relevant to the Histories’ account, and as such they are a valuable update to works like A. B. Lloyd’s foundational commentaries on Book 2.1 Generally minimizing the focus on Herodotus’ historical methodology, the
collection treats both established topics (the phoenix, Osiris) and relatively new ones (Demotic narratives).

Flore Kimmel-Clauzet sets out to refine the customary structural analysis of the Egyptian logos, which divides it into two distinct parts (2.1-98 and 2.99-182 as signaled by Herodotus’ own statements), by identifying more subtle thematic links and compositional techniques in the book’s
underlying structure. She combines specific and detailed analysis (connections between passages and sections) with general and overarching claims (principles unifying the whole book), and some arguments are more persuasive than others. Particularly suggestive are Kimmel-Clauzet’s observations
that the chronologically problematic pyramid builders divide two phases in the pre-Saite kinglist and that the book is structured to reflect the evolving perspective of a newcomer to Egypt.

Karim Mansour catalogues examples of poetic and stylistically marked usages in the Egyptian logos. Such stylistic traits, he suggests, feature more frequently in Herodotus’ ethnographic passages than in the rest of the Histories and comprise an ethnographic style that is complementary
to the use of parataxis. The article is primarily descriptive, and I would have liked to see more statistical comparison (e.g. as appears for tmesis at p. 52) and directly stated proof to support the claim that Book 2 is the best example of Herodotus’ “poetic” ethnographic style. Similarly,
Mansour’s suggestion that some poetic constructions are used first in ethnographic passages and then redeployed in other types of Herodotean discourse could be more fully explored.

Joachim F. Quack presents an informative survey of new Demotic material (mostly narrative, both published and unpublished) with important connections to several episodes from the Egyptian logos (including the Ἀσμάχ deserters, the festival at Boubastis, Sesostris, and Pheros). He also treats a
nexus of older texts that relate to Rhampsinitos’ descent to the underworld (2.122), disproving a close link between this tale and the Demotic First Setna Story but identifying a general Egyptian background for the pharaoh’s journey in the story of Merire and the pharaoh Sisobek (P. Vandier).
This material will revitalize the historically vexed discussion of Herodotus’ use of Egyptian sources, and Quack has lucidly set out the evidence that changes the central question from whether Herodotus used “authentic” Egyptian material to how he utilized it. As the Demotic texts are fully
published and more hopefully will come to light, exciting new work on the Egyptian logos will be possible.

Lilian Postel argues that Herodotus used Egyptian Royal Annals (e.g. the Palermo Stone or Amenemhat II’s Annals from Memphis) as a key source for the history of Pre-Saite Egypt. A helpful overview of the Royal Annals is provided, including some newer material (one piece published by Postel
herself), but the range of evidence covered in the analysis of Herodotus’ text is limited. None of the parallels sketched between the Egyptian Logos and the Royal Annals are satisfactorily established, although the suggestion that records of inundation height from different reigns might have
been easily compared using annalistic inscriptions is intriguing (regarding 2.13). Material from the Royal Annals may lie behind Herodotus’ account in some way, but this genre is yet to appear as an important source.

Françoise Labrique traces connections between the Egyptian benu bird and the Histories’ phoenix (2.73), suggesting that Herodotus’ (source-critically) problematic comparison of the phoenix to an eagle is based on status not appearance. The conclusion that Herodotus’ description
of the phoenix conveys the meaning of the benu is overly optimistic; a solid explanation for the bird’s color seems particularly elusive. This contribution covers a variety of Egyptian sources, relying heavily on The Book of the Dead, and some explanation of technicalities (e.g.
how illustrations of the Book of the Dead work) would have been useful to orient a reader coming from Classics.

Emmanuel Jambon provides an accessible overview of Egyptian evidence for the two types of divination mentioned in Histories 2.82: hemerology and the collection and interpretation of portents and signs. The piece nicely brings out the different concepts of time inherent in these types
of divination. While hemerology was based on the unchanging cycle of the calendar (e.g. a Calendar of Good and Bad Days from the Ramessid Period), signs were tied to the linear time of real life (e.g. a Demotic treatise on divination by shrew behavior). Jambon confirms that Herodotus
recorded real Egyptian practices, suggesting that divination might have been part of everyday temple business, even if solid evidence for soothsayers themselves is hard to come by.

Incorporating recent work in Egyptology, Laurent Coulon compares Herodotus’ Osiris with Egyptian evidence from four angles (Osiris’ and Isis’ status, religious silence, equation of Osiris and Dionysus, and phallophoria rites). Most convincingly, four problematic passages where the historian
refuses to name Osiris in connection with mourning and burial are explained as the observation of an Egyptian taboo prohibiting explicit mention of the murder and dismemberment of Osiris by Seth. The phallophoria ritual (2.48) serves as a case study for Coulon’s reminder that a current lack of
Egyptian comparanda does not necessarily condemn the Greek account, since much evidence has been lost or lies waiting to be discovered. Although not all attempts to match Herodotus with Egyptian sources will be successful, Coulon is absolutely correct to stress that advances in Egyptology
necessitate periodical reconsideration of the Histories’ Egyptian background.

As can be seen, there is a clear divide between the collection’s two sections which falls along disciplinary lines. Although some pieces draw on both Classics and Egyptology (in particular Coulon’s), one or two contributions that truly fused the two approaches might have helped draw the sides
together and provide further insights into this fascinating section of the Histories.2 In particular, one might examine more closely what (new) Egyptian sources really mean for literary analysis of the Egyptian logos. Did Herodotus write up material from Egyptian sources in
different ways, or did he seamlessly incorporate everything into the main body of his work with the same approach? What happens when the Egyptian material has its own distinctive style and narrative conventions (cf. Postel’s comparison of structure)? Can answers to these questions help us better
understand other books of the Histories? This new collection provides a solid basis for such further work to be done.

The volume is quite polished, and its comprehensive set of indices is impressively detailed. I noticed a few typos including: some Greek is not fully translated (p. 30 n. 34); Minos for lake Moeris twice (p. 50 n. 16); fig. 6 for 7 (p. 123, n. 28). ​


1.   Lloyd, A. B. (1975) Herodotus Book II. Introduction (Leiden: Brill); Lloyd, A. B. (1976) Herodotus Book II. Commentary 1-98 (Leiden: Brill); Lloyd, A. B. (1988) Herodotus Book II. Commentary 99-182 (Leiden; New York; København; Köln: Brill); a new version in
Asheri, D., Lloyd, A. and A. Corcella (2007) A Commentary on Herodotus Books 1-IV, ed. O. Murray and A. Moreno (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

2.   For a recent historical approach to such fusion, see the first chapter of I. Moyer (2011) Egypt and the Limits of Hellenism (Cambridge). ​

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Paul-Hubert Poirier, Agathe Roman, Thomas Schmidt, Eric Crégheur, José H. Declerck (ed.), Contra Manichaeos Libri IV: Graece et Syriace; cum excerptis e Sacris Parallelis Iohanni Damasceno attributis Titus Bostrensis. Corpus Christianorum Series Graeca (CCSG), 82. Turnhout: Brepols
Publishers, 2013. Pp. clv, 427. ISBN 9782503544144. €350.00.

Reviewed by Anna Van den Kerchove, Institut protestant de théologie, Paris (

Version at BMCR home site

prestigieuse collection « Corpus Christianorum. Series Graeca » propose un nouveau volume lequel, à n’en pas douter, fera date. Consacré au Contre les manichéens de Titus de Bostra, il regroupe l’édition critique du texte syriaque, du texte grec et des extraits grecs conservés dans les
Sacra parallelis attribués à Jean Damascène. Pour ce travail qui débuta au milieu des années 1980, Paul-Hubert Poirier, qui en est à l’origine, a réunit autour de lui une équipe qui s’est étoffée au cours du temps: Éric Crégheur qui l’assista pour l’établissement du texte syriaque; Agathe
Roman, avec l’aide de Thomas S. Schmidt, pour celui du texte grec et José Declerck pour les Sacra parallelis.

Une introduction (p. XI-CVII), due essentiellement à Paul-Hubert Poirier, fait le point sur l’auteur, ses ouvrages et sur le Contra manichaeos. On a très peu d’éléments sur Titus de Bostra, dont la réputation semble être en grande partie due à son écrit contre les manichéens qui date
vraisemblablement de 363. C’est d’ailleurs sa seule œuvre qui nous soit parvenue dans son intégralité, dans une traduction syriaque. Une version grecque est également connue, ne donnant cependant que les trois quarts du texte. L’ouvrage semble avoir cependant connu une diffusion assez limitée;
Paul-Hubert Poirier avance deux raisons principales: le style et la langue de l’auteur, qualifiés de « assez rébarbatifs » (p. xx); et « le fait que les œuvres polémiques risquent toujours de sombrer dans l’oubli, une fois disparue l’hérésie ou l’erreur qu’elles prétendaient réfuter » (p. xx).

Après un rappel des maigres informations sur l’auteur, les éditeurs reviennent sur la tradition manuscrite, qui est essentiellement directe. La tradition indirecte est en effet minime, avec, du côté grec, les Sacra parallelis (auxquels une annexe est entièrement consacrée) et le
florilège d’Étienne Gobar, et, du côté syriaque, quelques florilèges. La tradition manuscrite directe consiste en 7 manuscrits grecs et un syriaque. Se fondant sur les recherches antérieures et sur l’étude comparative des manuscrits, Paul-Hubert Poirier propose un stemma convaincant (p. LI): les
cinq manuscrits siglés BLAHD, de l’époque moderne (fin XVIe – XVIIe siècle), remontent au manuscrit conservé à Gênes (sigle G) qui date du XIe siècle et qui donne le texte jusqu’à III, 7, 27. Le septième manuscrit, découvert plus récemment (en 1924), l’Athonensis
Vatopedinus 236 (sigle V), est aussi ancien que G, mais aucune copie plus récente de ce manuscrit n’est connue; il est plus long que G, donnant le texte jusqu’à III, 30, 5. La section sur la tradition manuscrite grecque se clôt par une analyse non exhaustive (comme le reconnaissent les auteurs,
p. LIII) mais relativement longue (p. LII-LXXIII) du style de l’auteur, justifiant le qualificatif « rébarbatif » qui lui est donné.

La section suivante est consacrée au manuscrit syriaque qui transmet la traduction syriaque de l’œuvre, qui est un unicum et est capital pour la connaissance du Contra manichaeos. Il donne en effet le texte dans sa totalité; surtout, il est plus ancien que tous les manuscrits
grecs (il s’agit par ailleurs du plus ancien manuscrit syriaque conservé), postérieur d’un demi-siècle seulement à la composition du texte en grec; la traduction syriaque, dont le manuscrit donne une copie (avec des fautes), aurait donc été effectuée peu de temps après la composition. Au-delà des
fautes commises par le scribe, l’étude de la traduction montre combien le traducteur a eu le souci de coller au sens et à la lettre du texte grec. La dernière section de la partie introductive sur la tradition directe concerne les traductions latines, qui ont été réalisées dans le cadre de la
réaction catholique à la réforme protestante. Si on relie cela au fait que cinq des manuscrits grecs datent de la même époque ou sont légèrement postérieurs, il serait intéressant d’étudier plus en détail l’histoire de la transmission de cet ouvrage de polémique en lien avec la situation
religieuse de l’époque moderne, entre protestants et catholiques, et d’étudier également comment Titus de Bostra a été directement ou indirectement utilisé dans les controverses religieuses de l’époque. Cela permettrait de compléter les pages que Nils Arne Pedersen a consacrées à cette
thématique dans son Demonstrative Proof in Defence of God. A Study of Titus of Bostras’Contra Manichaeos. The Work’s Sources, Aims and Relation to its Contemporary Theology, Leyde, Brill, p. 69-75.

Paul-Hubert Poirier revient ensuite sur les éditions antérieures et, de manière intéressante pour l’histoire de la recherche, sur les projets éditoriaux qui n’ont pas abouti. Dans un dernier temps, un plan détaillé de l’œuvre est donné (p. LXXXIX-XCVIII), montrant son originalité par rapport
à d’autres œuvres polémiques: elle est organisée en diptyque, les deux premiers livres étant consacrés à la réfutation des thèses manichéennes, les deux suivants abordant l’interprétation manichéenne des Écritures.

L’introduction est suivie d’une annexe (p. CIX-CXXXVII) et d’une bibliographie (p. CXXXIX-CLV). L’annexe, de la plume de José Declerck, est consacrée aux Sacra parallelis. Une introduction revient sur la tradition manuscrite et sur la recherche antérieure des extraits manichéens. José
Declerck a repéré deux extraits supplémentaires, portant leur nombre à 9, dont deux avec deux versions chacun. Il donne ensuite l’édition des extraits manichéens. La partie suivante est consacrée à l’édition du grec, essentiellement fondée sur V (avec l’aide de G et B), et à celle de la version
syriaque, qui « est essentiellement une reproduction, la plus fidèle possible de l’unique témoin manuscrit de l’ouvrage » (p. CIII). Les deux sont données en vue synoptique (le grec à droite, le syriaque à gauche), avec, dans les deux cas, un apparat critique, un apparat des citations, et, pour
le texte syriaque, un apparat des doublets de la traduction. Nous n’avons pas les compétences pour juger de l’édition du syriaque, mais pour la partie grecque, l’édition est de très bonne qualité. Les citations manichéennes faites par Titus de Bostra sont signalées, dans le texte grec, par une
modification de la typographie (dilatation des lettres); dans le texte syriaque, aucune modification typographique ne les signale, mais elles sont aisément repérables grâce à la particule ܠܡ; de plus, un index des occurrences de cette particule permet de les retrouver facilement. Il est à noter
que la version syriaque signale plus de citations manichéennes que le grec.

Outre l’index de la particule syriaque qui introduit les citations manichéennes, il y a un index des noms et un index des citations bibliques.

Un volume consacré à la traduction devrait paraître avant la fin de l’année 2014 dans la collection « Corpus Christianorum in Translation » et complètera très utilement cet ouvrage éditorial. L’ensemble sera fort utile pour tous ceux qui s’intéressent à l’histoire des religions et plus
particulièrement à l’étude de l’Église manichéenne, mais également à tous ceux qui étudient l’histoire des controverses, aussi bien pour l’époque antique que pour la période moderne.

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Response: Allan on Hunink on Allan. Response to 2014.08.25

Response by William Allan, University College, Oxford (

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I am grateful to
Vincent Hunink for his kind words on my Classical Literature: A Very Short Introduction. However, it is clear from the first couple of paragraphs of his discussion that he is reviewing the book as though it were a textbook intended for classroom use. I would like to clarify that this is
not the purpose of the Very Short Introduction series, which is aimed at the general reader. The review is therefore based on a misunderstanding.

One might recommend the book in preparation for a Classics degree, but its target audience is people who may have only vaguely heard of Homer or Virgil and want to dip their toe further. The book makes no claim to be, or to replace, a serious textbook (such as Rutherford’s, which he compares
it to).

One final point: the reviewer names several authors that are not covered. One could name 500 more: again, it is a VSI with a strict limit of 125 pages of text. As regards my selection, there are several separate VSIs on ancient philosophy and Christianity, so my remit was explicitly not to
duplicate those.

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Antony Augoustakis (ed.), Flavian Poetry and its Greek Past. Mnemosyne supplements. Monographs on Greek and Roman language and literature, 366. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2014. Pp. xxi, 453. ISBN 9789004266483. $209.00.

Reviewed by Peter Davis, University of Adelaide

Version at BMCR home site


This collection of papers arises from a conference entitled ‘Flavian Literature and its Greek Past’ held at Delphi in July 2012. Edited by Antony Augoustakis, a scholar well known for important work on Flavian epic, the volume contains chapters by an exemplary blend of senior and younger
scholars from a variety of European countries as well as the USA and Australia. All papers are in English. Particularly striking (and entirely appropriate) is the preponderance of essays on epic poetry (fifteen out of nineteen), with Valerius Flaccus being the clear winner among the epicists and
over all (seven chapters).

Augoustakis’ Introduction meets its generic requirements. First, it outlines the rationale for the volume’s existence (p. 2): ‘Undoubtedly, the Flavian authors engage in a fruitful dialogue with the literature produced in Greece from the Homeric epics through the archaic period to the
classical age and the Hellenistic period’. The claim is clearly sound and a collection devoted to the topic is highly desirable. Second, it introduces the chapters that constitute the volume.

Arianna Sacerdoti’s first chapter presents a typological study of sleep and sleeplessness, beginning with an examination of the intertextual relationships between relevant passages in all four Flavian epics and the Iliad and Odyssey and concluding with a discussion of literary
sleeplessness in Statius’ Siluae.

Part II, devoted to Valerius Flaccus, opens with Darcy Krasne’s essay on the connections between Valerius and his Hellenistic predecessors Aratus and Apollonius of Rhodes. Central to Krasne’s argument is the claim that ‘the earlier poetic versions of the Argo become the literal material, not
just the literary material, used to build that poetic craft’ (p. 34). While at first sight this claim seems puzzling, it is warranted by Krasne’s focus on what happens to the Argo’s timbers in all three authors. Of particular interest is Krasne’s argument that ‘the potential for civil war is
inherent in her [Argo’s] construction’ (p. 47).

Cristiano Castelletti examines the Valerian Argonautica’s relationship with Aratus. The focus of the argument is Valerius’ use of acrostics. That Virgil employed an acrostic when alluding to Aratus is well established (see Richard Thomas’s discussion in his commentary on
Georgics 1.427-37). We should therefore not be surprised to find Valerius’ using an acrostic when alluding to Phaenomena and elsewhere. Castelletti’s discussion is highly ingenious and (I think) persuasive.

Simone Finkmann analyses ‘the key similarities and differences in the use of collective and representative speeches and collective “conversational silence”’ (p. 73) in Apollonius of Rhodes and Valerius. Finkmann reaches a number of interesting conclusions. Her analysis underlines important
differences in the ways the two crews perceive their leaders: for the Hellenistic Argonauts Heracles is the irreplaceable hero, for the Romans it is Tiphys. Further, where Valerius has equivalents for the speeches of individuals in Apollonius, he has no counterpart for any collective speech.

Although Marco van der Schuur focuses on a brief episode, the deaths and common funeral of Idmon and Tiphys at 5.1-62, he confronts a broader question in Valerian scholarship: does Valerius confidently restructure the inherited tradition or does he undermine the reader’s attempt to make sense
of allusions to poetic predecessors? Van der Schuur reads Valerius as employing the first technique with Apollonius and the second with Virgil. I do have a minor quibble: the Flavian Argonautica is not a nostos epic (e.g. p. 98), because it is not concerned with returning home
(after all, that is what nostos means ). Carey Seal proposes that ‘Valerius offers a unique reconciliation of the first-ship and Apollonian views of the Argo’s place in human history and that he uses the question of civil war as his platform for doing so’ (p. 116). The great strength of
this paper is its demonstration of the pervasiveness of the theme of civil war in the Valerius’ poem.

Daniela Galli’s chapter aims to show that ‘in addition to Apollonius, Valerius Flaccus knows Dionysius Scytobrachion’s version of the Argonautica and that he exploits both accounts to construct his own narrative’ (p. 139). To this end she compares a number of episodes in Books 1 and 2
with the account given in Diodorus Siculus, whose version of events made use of Dionysius.

The final Valerius chapter, by Irene Mitousi, looks at the Argonautica as an ideological epic. Mitousi’s central claim is that ‘the innovative voyage of the Argo stands for the Flavian dynastic enterprise’ and speaks of ‘the interchangeability between the voyage of the Argo and
Vespasian’s reign’ (p. 155). Mitousi notes Valerius’ apparent obsession with tyrants and reads this as ‘part of Vespasian’s anti-Neronian propaganda’ (p.160). She reads the monster theme as ‘sanctioning not only the Argonautic expedition but the Flavian enterprise too, presenting both as
restorers of order and agents of a new era’ (p. 163). While I am in favour of political readings, I have problems with this one. First, Mitousi’s reading depends on a Vespasianic date. While this may be basically right, the case needs to be made. After all, Valerius refers twice to the eruption
of Vesuvius, a famously post-Vespasianic event. Second, the fact that Jason’s voyage brings Medea to Greece certainly makes him an ‘agent of a new era’, but it hardly makes him a ‘restorer of order’.

The four essays in the Statian section examine all of Statius’ oeuvre. Jörn Soerink considers the relationship between Thebaid and Euripides’ Hypsipyle. Soerink argues that Statius did know the Euripidean play and that he incorporated its plot into his narrative (p. 177). Having
established that there are indeed intertextual connections, Soerink turns to the differences, the most of important of which is the greater prominence that Statius gives to Lycurgus over his wife Eurydice.

Jean-Michel Hulls’s essay focuses on Thebaid and Siluae. Beginning with the Siluae, Hulls emphasises Statius’ ‘Romanizing’ of his Greek poetic inheritance (p. 199). In considering the Thebaid, Hulls examines the epic’s connections with the cyclic Thebais and
Greek tragedy, particularly Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus and Euripides’ Phoenissae and Supplices, arguing that Statius takes over Athens in order to ‘express a very Roman and Flavian set of political themes’ (p. 213).

Federica Bessone’s essay deals with all three Statian works, analysing programmatic passages from the two epics in relation to Siluae. Bessone argues that Statius’ ‘different poetic forms appear to be connected by a common trait: the claim to the social status of the poet as
and of the prestige due to him, whatever, performance he offers to the audience’ (p. 215). In Bessone’s view Statius claims a Greek as well as a Roman and Neapolitan identity. She pays particular attention to the proem to the Achilleid where Statius speaks of himself as a Theban
poet and to Statius’ self- representation as Amphion in all three works.

In the final paper on Statius, Pavlos Sfyroeras examines Statius’ exploitation of a famous Homeric simile (Iliad 4.141-7) in the Achilleid. Sfyroeras highlights Statius’ exploitation of the gender ambiguities inherent in Homer’s comparison of Menelaus’ wound (blood on flesh) to
a woman staining a cheek piece for horses (scarlet on ivory).

Part IV presents four essays on Silius. Evangelos Karakasis examines the opposition between Fabius and Hannibal in Punica 7, arguing that Fabius is modeled on Domitian and that Hannibal is presented as an enemy of Domitian (p. 266). Karakasis combines tortuous writing with simplistic
argument. Consider this sentence: ‘The Homeric intertext is, therefore, often interweaved [sic] and diffracted through the prism of a parallel reading of Virgilian, Lucanean, and Statian passages, chiefly “window references”1 to the Homeric intertexts of the Silian passages in question
(e.g. Silian night raid = Statian Thiodamas’ attack and Hopleus and Dymas incident = Virgilian Nisus-Euryalus attack = Homeric Doloneia / Silian Hannibal = Lucan’s Caesar = Virgilian Turnus = Homeric Achilles)’ (p. 264). While I find the sentence difficult to follow, I have to reject those equal
signs. Virgilian Turnus, for example, does not equal Homer’s Achilles.

Joy Littlewood examines Silius’ use of the feast in Punica 11 as a vehicle for the exploration of such moral themes as ‘the evils of the tyrannical use of power and the dangers of luxuria’ (p. 285). She pays particular attention to the double structure of Hannibal’s feast and to
his exploitation of the two sense of fides, both loyalty and lyre.

Michiel van der Keur takes on Silius’ encomium of Homer in Punica 13, arguing, first, that Silius presents Scipio as an epic hero like Achilles, but in the style of Alexander, and, second, that he suggests his own status as a Roman successor to Homer: he is the Romanus Homerus
(pp. 292-3). The argument is well made. I note, however, that van der Keur translates hic at 13.782 as ‘Homer’. While this is correct in the context, the translation prompts a question: why does Silius not name Homer in Book 13 when he is willing to name Ennius in Book 12?

Marco Fucecchi views the Punica as a meditation on kingship in the Greek tradition. He too emphasises the importance of the Homeric poems and considers Homer’s role in the nekyia in Punica 13. But Fucecchi also stresses the role of Cicero’s thought particularly when it
comes to Silius’ representation of ‘Scipio at the Crossroads’, concluding that ‘Scipio Africanus is chosen by Silius as the ancient precursor of the ciuilis kingship’ (p. 323).

The volume closes with three papers on Martial. Margot Neger is concerned to establish the importance of the Greek epigrammatic tradition for Martial’s literary program, despite the fact that he evokes his Latin predecessors repeatedly but seems to ignore the Greeks (p. 330). Neger argues
that it is through allusion to writers like Callimachus, Lucillius and Parmenion that Martial engages with his Greek predecessors on metaliterary matters.

Robert Cowan takes up a complex issue that others have avoided, the reception of Alexandrian literature in Flavian poetry. Cowan argues that ‘Flavian poets were influenced by Hellenistic poets, by the Roman poets who had received them, and by the very mode of that reception’ (p. 346). That
complexity he views as an opportunity and not just a problem. Cowan focuses primarily on 10.4, in which Martial advises against so-called hackneyed subjects (actually the subjects of Flavian epic and Senecan tragedy) and urges the study of Callimachus’ Aetia, and 1.92, in which he alludes
to Catullus’ Furius and Aurelius cycle and the Aetia.

The collection closes with Ana Maria Lóio’s discussion of Martial’s treatment of the talking book and its connection with Hellenistic traditions. Lóio focuses primarily on 14.83 and 10.1. Reading 14.183 as a couplet spoken not by the Martial but by the pseudo-Homeric epic, the Battle of
Frogs and Mice
, results in a poem in which Homer, as a writer of nugae, becomes Martial’s predecessor. For Martial, like Callimachus, who had also professed admiration of pseudo-Homeric poetry, brief works are the ones that have value. Lóio compares 10.1 with the preface to Ovid’s
Amores. While the poems are linked as introducing second versions, they differ in their attitude to brevity: while Ovid has shortened his collection, Martial declines to do so. After all, bad readers can skip poems.

This volume serves two important purposes. First, it demonstrates the importance of Flavian engagement with Greek literature and thought even where we might least expect it, in writers like Silius and Martial. Second, it testifies to the vitality of the study of Flavian literature in
contemporary Latin studies. These major poets are finally receiving the scrutiny and appreciation that they deserve.2


1.   For discussion of the ‘window allusion’ readers should consult Cowan’s essay in this volume (esp. 347-9).

2.   One final observation: some contributors quote Loeb translations. In my view this is an acceptable practice in some circumstances. The Loeb translators, however, should be acknowledged.

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Silvia Ferrara, Cypro-Minoan Inscriptions. Volume II: The Corpus. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. xii, 305; 28 p. of plates. ISBN 9780199693825. $185.00.

Reviewed by Vassilis Petrakis, Research Associate at the National Hellenic Research Foundation

Version at BMCR home site


The volume under review is the second of a two-volume work on the Cypro-Minoan (hereafter CM) inscriptions by Silvia Ferrara, initially based on her 2005 doctoral dissertation. 1 Subtitled The Corpus, this book has been conceived as “a visual counterpart” ( to the
discussion presented in the previous volume 2 (hereafter Analysis), but also intended as an “autonomous and self-standing” (p.5) reference work. Defined as an “archaeological corpus” (p.v) of the extant CM material, the format, content and emphasis of this publication represent
an intriguing departure from most epigraphic corpora, including the remarkable ‘holistic edition’ of CM inscriptions by Jean-Pierre Olivier (hereafter HoChyMin).3

Following the customary Preface, Acknowledgements and lists of Abbreviations, Illustrations, color Plates and Tables (pp.v-xii), the volume is neatly divided into three main sections, followed by two Appendices, Bibliography, a necessary Addendum and color plates of select material.

The first section (“Introduction: An Archaeological Corpus”, pp.1-12) is necessary reading for anyone wishing to use this book effectively. It begins with a very short introduction to the material (pp.1-2), accompanied by a useful chronological table of the late Middle and Late Bronze
Age Cypriot phases, which unfortunately does not include the Early Iron Age phases, where certain inscriptions (notably the Cypro-Geometric Palaepaphos Skales bronze obeloi, pp.86-88) are dated (p.1). Its primary intention is to outline the reasoning behind the conception of the
present publication (pp.3-5): Ferrara acknowledges the influence of Nicolle Hirschfeld’s and Joanna Smith’s vision of a CM corpus that would treat inscriptions as archaeological artifacts.4 Such an approach, firmly rooted in Daniel’s fundamental work,5 is now well
accommodated within the recent interest shown in the material aspects of writing,6 as also explored in Analysis. Her account naturally stresses the original contributions of the project, but there is also specific reference to its relation with HoChyMin and
Analysis. The volume under review works in close synergy with both. The structure of its entries and the relevant sub-fields are described in detail (pp.5-10). Olivier’s catalogue numbering and system of nomenclature (site prefix followed by typological abbreviation and inventory number,
the latter continuous within each typological category at the same site, augmented by Ferrara with the abbreviation “Pfus” for P[ierre]fus[aïole] “stone spindle whorl”) are both maintained (p.7). As in HoChyMin, catalogue numbers are throughout prefixed by double sharps (##): this is also
maintained in this review for ease of reference. The account is highly comprehensive with minor exceptions: the statement that “ENKO Abou 080 designates the 80 specimens of clay boules found at Enkomi” (p.6) is misleading, since ENKO Abou 080 refers to only one of them (##084 on p.46);
also, those readers unfamiliar with the inventory systems of all collections are not informed which “excavation inventory numbers” were missing and have been replaced by “museum [inventory] numbers” or, in the case of double numbering in the Louvre material, which number is which (p.6).

Twenty-seven inscriptions (##218-244, further indicated by the prefix ADD) were not included in HoChyMin for various reasons (pp.10-11). These entries (along with ##211) are accompanied by normalized transcriptions, since this information cannot be retrieved from HoChyMin. This
section closes with a comment on the Addendum (ADD ##244, a clay boule from Tiryns, see p.305) and the two Appendices (see infra), as well as two figures. Figure 1.1 (p.12) is a 1:2500000 scale distribution map of inscriptions ##001-243 (Tiryns is not included). Figure 1.2 (p.12),
showing the find-spots of CM inscriptions from Enkomi, is very illuminating. Although similar plans for other sites would be welcome, references to the relevant figures in Analysis are consistently given in the “Find-spot” field of each entry, where possible, even if this reduces the
autonomy of the volume.

The second section (“The Inscriptions”, pp.13-126) includes the entries of the 243 artifacts in catalogue number order. Only sequences of at least two signs are included, with two exceptions: ADD ##222-223, two Enkomi loom-weights bearing single signs which Ferrara considers as possible
logograms (pp.4, 115-116). The so-called CM ‘pot-marks’ are excluded (pp.3-4), although the similarity of several of them with proper CM graphemes should be noted.7

Undoubtedly, the highlight of each entry is the wealth of information provided about “Context” and the “Typological and Epigraphic Remarks”. These data illustrate most clearly the purpose of this corpus to underscore the physical aspects of the inscription itself, the artifact that carries the
inscription and, where appropriate, associated finds (either inscribed or not). The quality and value of this information can be fully appreciated, however, when this volume is used alongside Analysis. Unfortunately, entries for ##001-210 and ##212-217 do not normally include normalized
transcriptions, making a reference to HoChyMin necessary.

The “Catalogue” (pp.127-281) is a seminal part of the book, since it includes all the photographs (by the author herself except where otherwise noted in the respective entry) accompanied by drawings (by Dimitris Tsouris, except for the Maroni Vournes material drawn by Alison South,
pp.278-280). Scales are consistently stated and 1:1 wherever possible. Coverage is not complete (regrettably this includes some of the additional material not included in HoChyMin): certain artifacts lack photos or drawings, while a few are not illustrated at all. These omissions are
understandable, as most of the non-illustrated objects were not found for autopsy during the preparation of the Corpus (in certain cases an already published drawing could have been reproduced).8

Photos are overall of very good quality. It is important that the Ugarit and Maroni material is given photographic coverage, since this material was only represented with drawings in HoChyMin. The fifty color plates that close the volume are the color versions of b/w photos in this
section. Drawings are ‘maximalistic’, sometimes detracting attention from the inscription itself. This is not a disadvantage, because it gives a perspective quite complementary to the HoChyMin drawings that focused on the inscriptions only. The use of stippling is effective (if not
excessive occasionally) and conveys well the condition of the inscribed surfaces and the tri-dimensionality of each artifact. Although the stated objective of the drawings is to illustrate the object in its entirety (p.5), a few drawings focus, as in HoChyMin, on the inscription
only.9 It is important to note that most drawings here do not follow the usual conventions of archaeological artifact illustrations (except from South’s drawings for ADD ##239-241): for instance, pottery is not shown in profile and there are generally no sections. The decision to
accompany the drawings of boules with the exploded view of the full inscription (pp.128-142) was excellent, but this could have been done for certain distorted areas of other convex surfaces, including the edges of tablets (e.g. ##208 top lines of side A, ##212, ##214). A drawing
convention indicating explicitly which marks are parts of the ductus and which are cracks or wear-marks would have been desirable.

The reasoning behind the separation of the entries from their accompanying illustrations is not explained. Presenting both text and image(s) on the same page might have been more user-friendly, but this is only done for the Addendum (p.305). However, page references to the illustrations are
consistently given at the end of each entry.

Appendix 1 (“List of Cypro-Minoan objects and their possible functions”, pp.283-293) summarily presents, in tabular fashion, a list of the 243 inventoried artifacts (again, the new Tiryns boule is not included). This is very handy. For more information on the columns “Context-Possible
function” and “Possible subject matter”, the reader should be referred to the relevant fields in the catalogue entries (pp.13-126), as well as to the discussions in Analysis.

Appendix 2 (“List of sign variants”, p.295) is a table of the chief sign forms, classified as variants of 83 different graphemes of a single writing system (‘archaic’ or CM0 variants, as represented on ##001, are not included). The chart illustrates well Ferrara’s main thesis, critical of
Émilia Masson’s distinction of four classes of CM writing, following (and building upon) Tom Palaima’s own critique of this classification.10 The reader should carefully compare her ‘integrated’ sign-table with Olivier’s revised classification (HoChyMin, p.413).

The bibliography (pp.297-304) includes references used throughout the volume (certain overlap with those in Analysis pp.296-320 is perfectly understandable). One discrepancy: HoChyMin (abbreviated so on p.x) is also included here and is consistently referred to as “Olivier
(2007)” in the catalogue entries.

The Addendum (ADD ##244) (p.305, cf. also p.11) is fully justified. The clay boule inscribed with three CM signs from a LH IIIC Developed context from the Lower Citadel of Tiryns (2nd quarter of the 12th century BC, approximately contemporary with Level IIIA at
Enkomi associated with most clay boules found there) has been a sensational find, exemplarily published by Melissa Vetters (accompanying illustrations are reproduced from Vetters’ publication).11

The editing is excellent, with scarce typos, few of them deserving mention (e.g. p.290, footnote 2 referring to the Opheltas obelos is misplaced).

Minor criticisms notwithstanding, the immense labor that has gone into the preparation and completion of this volume, and its ensuing value, cannot be obscured. This admirable publication represents a further major advance in Cypro-Minoan studies. It supports the archaeological perspective
offered in Analysis by providing the full data-base behind it. Its welcome ‒arguably necessary‒ emphasis on the materiality of CM writing has had an inevitable consequence, however: as a corpus of extant CM inscriptions, this volume can be most effectively used alongside the more
free-standing Analysis and the inscription-focused HoChyMin. Although the autonomy of Ferrara’s new CM corpus is far from complete, no student of Cypriot writing can afford to ignore this publication, which should find the place it rightfully deserves on the shelf of any library
interested in the archaeology and epigraphy of the island.


1.   S. Ferrara An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Cypro-Minoan Script. PhD Thesis, University of London 2005.

2.   S. Ferrara Cypro-Minoan Inscriptions. Volume I: Analysis Oxford 2012, reviewed by Matthew Scarborough at BMCR 2013.02.04.

3.   J.-P. Olivier. Édition Holistique des Textes Chypro-Minoens. Pisa-Roma 2007.

4.   J.S. Smith and N. Hirschfeld. “The Cypro-Minoan corpus project takes an archaeological approach.” Near Eastern Archaeology 62 (1999), pp.129-130. Also N. Hirschfeld, “Cypro-Minoan” in The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean (ca. 3000-1000 BC), edited by E.H.
Cline, Oxford 2010, pp.373-384 (at pp.374, 382-383).

5.   J.F. Daniel. “Prolegomena to the Cypro-Minoan script.” AJA 45(1941), pp.249-282, where the importance of considering grapheme morphology and variation in the context of the writing medium is stressed.

6.   Most recently, Writing as Material Practice: Substance, Surface and Medium, edited by K.E. Piquette and R.D. Whitehouse, London 2013 (especially pp.1-13).

7.   Daniel (supra n.5, p.253) was the first to exclude single signs, regardless of their morphological similarity to CM signs used in sequences (the latter probably phonographically). However, application of this criterion should be made with caution, since CM sign-sequences
also occur incised on pottery: cases displaying such contextual as well as morphological similarity might be considered as associated with true CM writing (cf. Hirschfeld, supra n.4, pp.376-377).

8.   Without photos: ##081, ##096, ##104, ##106-107, ##111, ##124, ##148, ##159-160, ##163-164, ##168, ##183, ##189-190, ##193, ##196-197, ##200, ADD ##219, ADD ##225, ADD ##229, ADD ##233 and ADD ##235; without drawings: ##157, ##207 side B, ##209, ##217 and ADD ##232); not illustrated
altogether: ##073 whose illustration is nonetheless quoted on p.42, the reported as missing ##151-152, ##173, ##186, ADD ##226, ADD ##228, ADD ##234 and ADD ##243, and the reportedly anepigraphic ADD ##230. The drawing of #157 (by A. South apud G. Cadogan, J. Driessen and S. Ferrara,
“Four Cypro-Minoan inscriptions from Maroni Vournes” SMEA 51(2009), pp.145-164, at pp.156, fig.9 and p.158, fig.11) is not reproduced, unlike drawings for ADD ##239-241 from the same publication.

9.   Examples are ##109 on p.158, ##112 on p.161 and ##188-189 on pp.234-235.

10.   T.G. Palaima. “Cypro-Minoan scripts: Problems of historical context” in Problems in Decipherment, edited by Y. Duhoux, T.G. Palaima and J. Bennet, Louvain 1989, pp.121-187. Ferrara discusses these problems fully in Analysis as well as “Writing in Cypro-Minoan: one
script, too many?” in P. Steele (ed.) Syllabic Writing in Cyprus and its Context, Cambridge 2013, pp.49-76.

11.   M. Vetters. “A clay ball with a Cypro-Minoan inscription from Tiryns.” Archäologischer Anzeiger 2011 (2), pp.1-49.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Michael Koortbojian, The Divinization of Caesar and Augustus: Precedents, Consequences, Implications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Pp. xxiii, 341. ISBN 9780521192156. $99.00.

Reviewed by W. Jeffrey Tatum, Victoria University of Wellington (

Version at BMCR home site


The invention of Divus Iulius entrained important issues of representation. Ought there to be a recognisable distinction between Caesar-The-Great-Man and Divus Iulius? And, if so, what should Divus Iulius look like? And what should be the chief significations of his divine aspect? These
questions, and the further inquiries they provoke, lie at the centre of Michael Koortbojian’s fascinating and enjoyable book.

In his lifetime, Caesar was the recipient of divine honours, a practice (adapted from the protocols of Hellenistic monarchy) that was, by the second half of the first century BC, far from novel in Rome. But, Koortbojian insists, Caesar, however much he was likened to the gods, was not one of
them until after his death. This claim is not uncontroversial. Still, that the distinction between being god-like and being a god was by no means a negligible one, at least for some Romans, is perhaps illustrated by Antonius’ hostility, after the assassination, toward Caesar’s spontaneous and
unofficial worship in the forum and his apparent, if short-lived, resistance to Caesar’s deification. Even before Caesar’s status came into question, during the 70s, a society of hard-headed publicani were insistent that anyone who had once been mortal could not, in any real sense, become
a god (or at least not a god who was immune from taxation), a claim that was prominent enough to be the object of a consular inquiry and a senatorial decree (SIG3 747=RDGE 23; cf. also Cic. Nat. D. 3.49; Paus. 1.34.1;Liv. 45.28; still very much worth consulting is
T. Mommsen, Hermes 20 (1885), 268ff.). This issue, although not discussed by Koortbojian, and too often mentioned only in passing in discussions of republican religion, is pertinent to Koortbojian’s argument here. In any case, for Koortbojian the job of fashioning the image of Divus
Iulius began in 42 BC, after the triumvirs’ establishment of the new god. Between that moment and the dedication of the temple to Divus Iulius in 29, robust experimentation intervened, as the Roman establishment endeavoured to settle on the god’s proper form and function.

No cult statue of Divus Iulius subsists. Consequently, Koortbojian must turn to other evidence. He begins with coins struck sometime between 39 and 34 depicting the (as yet unbuilt) temple of Divus Iulius, within which one can spy the cult statue. Two versions of the statue are represented:
in one, Divus Iulius appears capite velato, in the other, he is semi-nude. In each representation, the god holds a lituus. In neither does he wear a star (a star adorns the temple’s pediment). From the start, then, ‘the meaning of the deified Caesar’s cult, and how that meaning
might be represented, required invention – and…such invention was slow to find fruition’ (p. 48). And throughout his book, Koortbojian is admirably alert to the fluidity characterising the confection of Divus Iulius, an undertaking unprecedented in Rome.

The lituus was soon dropped. Koortbojian agrees with Roberta Stewart and Jerzy Linderski that, by the end of the republic, the lituus did not exclusively signal an augurate (though Caesar was, by the end of his life, an augur) but also emphasised a figure’s legitimate right to
exercise military command. All of this, however, belongs amongst the undertakings of men, and it was soon deemed inappropriate for Divus Iulius to be represented grasping a device that could distract from his divine superiority. Similar reasoning ultimately limited the god’s costume to its
semi-nude, hipmantle, version. In this form, Divus Iulius recalled Quirinus and Genius Populi Romani, which suited the tendency to associate Caesar with Romulus as Rome’s second founder. Like Quirinus and like his mortal incarnation, Divus Iulius was a god whose blessings were martial: having
released the lituus, he instead held out to the Romans a statuette of Victory.

What face did Divus Iulius reveal? Koortbojian argues that sculptures of the so-called Pisa/Chiaramonti type correspond to the image of Divus Iulius. Hence their variety ‘in a search for a stable, unchanging exemplum of continuing values, a search that would reach fruition only with the
portraiture of Augustus’ (and Koortbojian observes in these pieces the partial assimilation of Caesar’s appearance to that of Augustus). Hence, too, the absence of honorific crowns (another mortal token unsuitable to the new god).

The image of Divus Augustus diverges strikingly from that of his predecessor. Coins that reproduce the enthroned Divus Augustus Pater dedicated in the Theatre of Marcellus in AD 22 exhibit a fully clothed god, wearing the toga, who is distinguished by a radiate crown. This is not to say that
hipmantled specimens of Divus Augustus do not exist, but all of them originate outside Rome. Koortbojian is keenly interested in the variety of Augustus’ representations – as well as those of the imperial family throughout the Julio-Claudian period. After Augustus, as Koortbojian observes, it is
the living emperor, not his divine predecessors, who tends to take pride of place in any imperial representation.

But the shape of Divus Iulius was not without a lasting influence. In private statuary, and in municipal civic statuary, individuals continued, in the imperial period, to take on heroic or divine attributes as a means of aggrandisement. Divus Iulius’ distinct image made him a recognisable
reference, and as a result he became imitable as men allowed themselves to look like gods. Eventually, Koortbojian suggests, an awareness of this reference was lost, as the semi-nude hipmantle presentation became simply another element in the heroic repertoire.

One element in the imagery of Divus Iulius remains uncertain. A coin of 19 BC depicts Augustus crowning Divus Iulius with a star. The so-called sidus Iulium appeared in late July 44 BC and, as Augustus reports in his memoirs, ‘the common folk believed that this star signified that the
soul of Caesar had been received among the spirits of the immortal gods. On this account, a representation of this star was added to the head of a statue of him which I later (mox) dedicated in the forum’ (Plin. HN). Koortbojian, because he takes Augustus’ mox to mean ‘not
long afterwards’, concludes that as early as 44 BC there was ‘an impromptu “cult statue”’ on which Octavian had affixed the familiar star. But ‘not long afterwards’ is by no means the inevitable or even natural sense of mox (see H.J. Rose, CQ 21 (1927), 57ff.), and it is perhaps
not an accident that Divus Iulius does not appear crowned by a star until 19 BC. In which case the kind of experimentation with imagery unpacked by Koortbojian continued into the Principate.

But why, we must ask, should Divus Iulius have had an image in the first place? Aniconic worship was not entirely alien to the Roman experience, and by the 40s the idea had achieved a degree of intellectual respectability, not least in the writings of Varro (see, e.g., H. Cancik and H.
Cancik-Lindemaier, ‘The Truth of Images. Cicero and Varro on Image Worship’, in J. Assmann and A.I. Baumgarten (eds.), Representation in Religion: Studies in Honor of Mosche Berasche (Leiden 2001), 43ff.). It is obvious that the crowd in the forum were satisfied in worshipping Caesar
without a cult statue. The answer, of course, is obvious: a statue expressing Caesar’s divinity was the ultimate stage of his elevation to supremacy along the lines of Hellenistic monarchy. However conflicted the Romans were about the kingship, Roman or Hellenistic, the paradigm of Hellenistic
monarchy was essential in the Romans’ construction of Divus Iulius – and any consideration of the development of the god’s image should also take into account its negotiation with Hellenistic antecedents. Neither Divus Iulius nor Divus Augustus came equipped with, say, the horns of a ram, or a
bull, or a goat. But the radiate crown of Divus Augustus was instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with Hellenistic kings and their divine pretensions (e.g. R.R.R. Smith, Hellenistic Royal Portraits (Oxford 1988), 42). This background perhaps played its part in fixing the Romans’
attention on thoroughly Romanised attributes like the lituus.

A few quibbles and reservations. ‘For the gods did not have tombs’ (p. 3), but see A.S. Pease, M. Tulli Ciceronis De Natura Deorum (Cambridge, Mass. 1956), 1096-7. Although the passage is adduced more than once (pp. 15-16, 18, 21, 49), Dom. 111-16 will not suffice as evidence
for Roman expectations about distinguishing the representations of gods from mortals: this is invective and not to be taken literally, and in any case the assertion that Clodius’ Libertas ‘can have borne little resemblance to the dignified figure’ of the goddess on later coinage (p. 16) is only
Koortbojian’s surmise (it has no basis in Cicero’s speech). Koortbojian is inclined to reject the view of Simon Price and others that divinisation is best discussed in terms of distinctions of power on the grounds that Roman religion (or at least civic religion) drew an absolute line between
gods and men (pp. 23-4); this, however, is less than entirely obvious in the Romans’ discourse (see now S. Cole, Cicero and the Rise of Deification at Rome (Cambridge 2013), clearly too late for Koortbojian to have consulted) and it is hard to see how divine honours do not blur the line
at least a bit. In any case, Koortbojian himself seems to suggest that Caesar was not deified in his lifetime owing to that action’s identification with (Hellenistic) monarchy (p. 22), which is not straightforwardly a theological point; on such an important matter, a more thorough-going treatment
is called for. The complexities of Octavian’s adoption by Caesar, crucial to any understanding of the events of 44 through 42 BC, go unremarked (pp. 26, 34, 37-9), leaving the impression that Octavian was adopted in Caesar’s will – he wasn’t: see W. Schmitthenner, Oktavian und das Testament
Cäsars: Eine Untersuchung zu den politischen Anfängen des Augustus
, 2nd ed. (Munich 1973), 39-90; C.F. Konrad, ‘Notes on Roman Also-Rans’, in J. Linderski (ed.), Imperium sine Fine: T. Robert S. Broughton and the Roman Republic (Stuttgart 1996), 124-7. In chapter three, the political
power of republican augurs is considerably exaggerated (see, e.g., Cic. Phil. 2.81). Finally, there are frequent typographical errors. Fortunately, none is perplexing.

An attractive feature of this book is its willingness – even eagerness – to take up controversial matters, not only in making its central arguments but even in its examination of the relevant background for these arguments. For instance, Koortbojian arrives at his discussion of Divus
Augustus’ possession of the lituus by way of the highly contested issue of auspicia during the late republic and in the aftermath of the Lex Pompeia of 52 BC. The result is a book that is informative, often insightful and always stimulating.

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Wiebke Denecke, Classical World Literatures: Sino-Japanese and Greco-Roman Comparisons. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Pp. xi, 347. ISBN 9780199971848. $85.00.

Reviewed by Fritz-Heiner Mutschler, Technische Universität Dresden; Peking University (

Version at BMCR home site


This is an extraordinary book. Undoubtedly the first of its kind, it opens up a new field of research and it does so in a way that allows both the enormous difficulties and the possible rewards of the endeavour to come to the fore. The book compares the literary cultures of Rome and Japan,
each of which builds upon and defines itself through reference to an earlier literary culture, those of Greece and China. The juxtaposition of these two “latecomer” cultures makes immediate sense, but it is also clear that comparing them demands competences not easily found in a single
individual. Denecke’s educational background (German "humanistisches Gymnasium") with Latin and Greek as her first foreign languages, her academic training in Ancient (Western) Philosophy, Sinology and Japanology, and her teaching posts in East Asian Studies have provided her with these
competences, and she puts them to good use.

The introduction (p. 1-19) lays out Denecke’s understanding of the term "reference culture", her thoughts on the timeliness of intercultural comparison,1 and the principles and topics of her investigation. Chapter 1 (p. 20-61) articulates three similarities of Japanese and Roman
literary culture that "encourage" comparison (p. 20) and three differences that "complicate" it (p. 32). Both literary cultures (1) were “latecomers”, they (2) developed against the backdrop of highly sophisticated “reference cultures” and, on the way, they (3) adopted and adapted the latter's
educational canon. The differences between them have to do with (1) geopolitics (Rome conquers Greece; pre-modern Japan has no history of conquest), (2) their writing systems (alphabetic script vs. ideographic script), and (3) the literary genres and genre hierarchies developed by them (e.g. epic
and drama vs. lyrical poetry at the top of the hierarchy).

Having thus set the stage, Denecke presents in the following seven chapters concrete "case studies devoted to particular questions and themes and explored through a highly selective set of examples from Japanese and Latin works" (p. 16). Chapter 2 investigates the ways in which Japanese and
Roman authors reconstructed the origins of their literature, each in a way that allowed their own tradition, albeit derivative, to compete with its reference culture. Chapter 3 explores how “narratives of decline, and concepts of 'ornateness' and 'simplicity' helped writers [in both ‘latecomer'
cultures’] to formulate their ambivalent stance toward the older reference culture" (p. 116). The next three chapters "revolve around the symbolic centres of the Roman and Japanese Empires" (p.16) and provide three comparisons: presentations of Prince Shotoku and of Aeneas as founding figures
within a narrative of state formation (chapter 4), evocations of the capitals (Kyoto and Rome) as literary spaces (chapter 5), and the poetic reactions of two poets, Ovid and Sagawara no Michizane, who at the height of their lives were exiled from the capital to the fringes of empire (chapter 6).
Finally, chapters 7 and 8 discuss "two particular modes through which younger cultures defined themselves in relation to their reference culture: satirical invectives against the older reference culture … and texts that juxtapose both cultures for comparative and contrastive effect" (p. 234).

Given the differences between these two literary cultures, it is natural that in none of these cases Denecke juxtaposes a Roman and a Japanese work in a simple, straightforward discussion. Instead she aims at "deep comparison," which is less concerned with individual works than with the
comparison of whole "literary cultures" (p. 295) or, as I would put it, of literary works within the literary cultures to which they belong.

I give one example. In chapter 6 (p. 203-233) Denecke compares two famous exiled poets, Ovid and Sugawara no Michizane, and the ways in which they try to come to terms with their fate in their poetry. As it turns out, their reactions are different, and the differences have reasons. Denecke
convincingly suggests that the most important of these reasons resides in the fact that the Japanese and Roman literary cultures had shaped Michizane’s and Ovid’s temperaments into different poetic personalities. In Japan, poetry was an important element of court life, often composed by men who
held high positions in the bureaucracy. In Rome, political figures served as patrons of poetry but the poets were not politically engaged, living (as they tell us) for their poetry. One consequence of this was that, in Rome, prominent exiles were political figures and Ovid an exception,
while in Japan (as in China) there was a long tradition of exiled poet- officials and Michizane only the most recent case. According to Denecke this difference in the social profiles of the two poets affected their reaction to exile: Michizane attributed his misfortune to an (abstract) dark fate
that would eventually strike everyone, and he found consolation in belonging to an illustrious line of exiled poets; Ovid attributed his misfortune to Augustus and pleaded incessantly with the princeps – directly and indirectly – to reconsider his sentence. Another difference between Ovid's and
Michizane's exile poetry concerns the "addressivity" (Bakhtin) of their poems: Ovid's exile poetry belongs to the genre of epistolary elegy, and it is thus directed to both implied (Tristia) and explicit (Epistulae) addressees whom the poet tries to persuade, by describing his
plight, to work for his recall. Michizane's exile poetry is instead characterized by an "inward gaze" (p. 218): the poet rarely directs his poems to people but rather to passing geese or the plants in his garden back home in Kyoto. In a persuasive analysis, Denecke attributes this difference to
the part played by public rhetoric and litigation in (Greco-)Roman culture on the one hand2 and a tradition of fictitious conversations with objects in the natural world that is characteristic of Chinese and Japanese poetry on the other. By analysing the ways these two exiled poets
responded to their personal misfortunes, Denecke draws the reader’s attention to the broader character of these two literary cultures and some of their more distinct traits.

Some of the book's juxtapositions, all of which receive extensive commentary, may inevitably appear less felicitous. For example, I understand the rationale for comparing the mythic hero of Virgil's Aeneid, an epic narrative of roughly 10.000 lines, with the historical “hero” of the
Abridged Biography of Prince Shotoku. Neverthless, "the two texts are radically different in scope, intended audience, and style" (p. 121), so one may wonder how meaningful the contrast between "City Building" and "Literacy"3 – the nub of Denecke’s interpretation – is for the
characterisation of the two cultures, or how convincingly the analysis of two so fundamentally different texts can prove the significance of this contrast.4

But quibbles of this kind are less important in themselves than as indicators of a larger question: when one sees how difficult it is to find texts with recognisable parallels and how much intellectual work is required to establish a categorical framework for comparison, one may indeed ask
if the enterprise does not have a degree of complexity that will make success impossible. Yet the pessimistic attitude implied in this question would be wrong. For Denecke's work shows that even if, at this stage, final overarching conclusions are not yet possible, a comparison of Japanese and
Roman literary culture opens new perspectives on each and allows new insights into the general principles of intellectual history. For this the reader will be as grateful as for Denecke's stimulating theoretical reflections on intercultural comparison.5


1.   Cf. p. 11: " … the sense of a comparative imperative that has been imposing itself as the only means to keep intellectually sane in our ever more intertwined global world."

2.   This rhetorical tradition has no equivalent in Japanese culture.

3.   These are the titles of subsections 3 and 4 of chapter 4, which are obviously supposed to point to the main difference between Aeneas and Shotoku and their missions.

4.   The topic of literacy is alien to “Homeric” epic as genre, and therefore, in my opinion, the interpreter of Virgil’s Aeneid should not make too much of its absence. This holds also if one assumes that to compose an epic poem was a conscious choice on the part of the poet,
since it is not likely that the absence of literacy was a decisive factor in this choice. On the whole, one might well ask whether e.g. Livy’s representation of the Roman kings in the first book of Ab urbe condita or Suetonius’ biography of Augustus would not serve as generically more
suitable counterparts to the Abridged Biography of Prince Shotoku – though probably in these cases other problems would arise and complicate the issue.

5.   See especially the Epilogue.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Steven J. Friesen, Daniel N. Schowalter, James C. Walters (ed.), Corinth in Context: Comparative studies on religion and society. Supplements to Novum Testamentum, 134. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2010. Pp. xxiii, 517. ISBN 9789004181977. $230.00.

Reviewed by Amelia R. Brown,
University of Queensland (

Version at BMCR home site


[The reviewer apologizes for the lateness of this review.]

This volume publishes 13 papers from the 2007 UT Austin conference Corinth in Context, the second of three conferences to bring classical archaeologists and New Testament scholars together to exchange methods and evidence for religion and society in ancient (mostly Roman)
Corinth.1 The papers all engage with internal, external and/or temporal issues of context at Corinth, combining multiple strands of evidence. Friesen gives a brief introduction to the conference and papers, and the volume concludes with a common bibliography, index and three maps.

The first section, ‘Imperials: Greek and Roman,’ focuses on questions of identity for four Corinthian groups: colonists, devotees of Asclepius, Augustales, and ‘resistors’ of Rome. Millis’s article sets a high standard; his well-supported conclusions on the identity of the colonists of
Roman Corinth should be heeded by all Corinthian scholars. Millis combines literary sources, prosopography, epigraphy, St Paul’s letters, and colonial comparanda to establish that the Corinthian colonists were mainly Greek freedmen and Romans long resident in the East—not veterans, but people who
used Latin publicly and Greek privately, and held equal status in their colony. Other immigrants joined them: Roman expatriate aristocrats, Jews, and local Greeks; this tipped the linguistic balance firmly to Greek quite soon after colonization, but never fully erased the stereotype of Roman
Corinthians as freedmen.

Wickkiser traces the Corinthian cult of the healing god Asclepius from the 5th c. BC to Late Antiquity, linking its colonial revival to a common interest among colonists in good health, manumission, and (via Apollo) the gens Iulia. She contextualizes challenging archaeological and
literary evidence for the Corinthian Asklepieion with sanctuaries at Epidaurus, Athens and Buthrotum (which was in Epirus, not Achaia), pointing out similarities in the evolution of the cult buildings, votives, use of water and involvement of doctors.

Laird contextualizes the Augustales of Corinth through a (lost) bronze statue of their patron Augustus erected in the Corinthian Forum upon an extant cylindrical stone base with benches. This monument emphasized their loyalty to the emperor, wealth and civic pride, while providing a
public place to sit. Augustales were most prominent in areas with large populations of wealthy freedmen, like Corinth. She restores names of two specific Augustales and the formula ob h(onorem) dd in the base’s fragmentary dedicatory inscription (Corinth VIII.3, no.
53), provides a reconstruction, and connects bases with benches to Greek rather than Roman traditions of honorific sculpture and civic amenities.

Thomas’s paper draws post-colonial comparisons between religious patronage and ‘resistance to Rome’ at Corinth and Ephesus, seeking archaeological and literary evidence for the ‘impact of Roman imperial domination on Greek religion,’ while arguing that ‘Greeks’ and ‘Romans’ at Corinth
inhabited different cities. Yet ‘consensual hybridity’ and competition over the cult of Artemis Ephesia do not find clear parallels at Corinth. She admits Corinth’s sack and colonization make it a different religious situation, but argues new Roman rituals and architectural forms offset
continuity of landscape for Corinthian Asclepius, Apollo, Aphrodite, and Demeter and Kore. There was certainly prejudice against the Roman colonists of Corinth, but the case for divisions between ‘Greek’ and ‘Roman’ Corinthians based on temple style and marble use seems overstated.

The theme of the next four papers is ‘Social Strata’; Hoskins Walbank and Walbank give numismatic and epigraphic evidence from multiple classes, while New Testament scholars Økland and Friesen argue for class divisions between specific Corinthians (devotees of Demeter/Ceres and the Erasti).
Hoskins Walbank covers content and controversies of religious imagery on Corinthian coins of 44/3 BC to ca. AD 205. Previous studies focused on Pausanias, but she broadens her approach to relate coins to other texts, landscape and sculptural finds. Her detailed arguments about specific coins are
too complex to summarize, but she successfully shows how the range of Corinthian coin types reflect choices by city officials, to please local people and the emperor, mainly for local use. It is harder to prove coins represent a Corinthian class division between elite interest in ‘family events,
anniversaries and Eastern cults’ and ‘popular’ affection for Isthmian events, Aphrodite and Tyche.

Økland seeks deities and potential ethnic and class divisions in worship at the three Roman-style podium temples of the imperial-era sanctuary of Demeter and Kore. The mosaic in the central temple names a priestess of ‘Neotera’ (the ‘Younger,’ likely Kore/Persephone as at Eleusis), with
Demeter likely in the second temple. She challenges widespread acceptance of Pausanias 2.4.6 who puts the Moirai (Fates) in the third temple, preferring Dis Pater or Pluto. Her use of curse tablets seems contradictory: she asserts that poetry, writing, politics and public space were upper class,
but also that ancient people of all classes used curse tablets, and they were deposited by poor Greeks at this sanctuary on the lower level. Yet the terrace wall under the temples is needed by the landscape and is not necessarily evidence for conflict between rich Romans using marble above and
poor Greeks below. She makes an attractive suggestion that the centrality of Kore/Persephone symbolized the newly-revived cult and city.

Friesen contributes to a long-running debate: whether Erastus the oikonomos of the city in Paul’s Romans 16:23 and the aedile of inscription Corinth VIII.3, no. 232 were the same. He enters into a broader debate of New Testament scholarship too, about how high up the
social scale Paul’s converts and communities reached. Friesen summarizes evidence for each Erastus, reasonably concluding that the two men were not the same, and that Paul’s community at Corinth didn’t include men of the aedile Erastus’s status. But some of the other evidence is more ambiguous;
for instance, Erastus the oikonomos and the aedile who laid the pavement were both likely men living in first-century Corinth.

Walbank contributes a useful survey of names and occupations on late-antique Corinthian inscriptions, mostly Christian gravestones. Besides a brief introduction and conclusion, he gives a table of occupations, with a short commentary on each, and an alphabetical census of names. From the
fourth to seventh centuries, he collects some 390 names and 107 occupations. This is a helpful introduction to Corinthian late-antique epigraphy, and its publications, findspots, conventions of dating and formulas. Importantly, as Walbank indicates, the range and urban nature of occupations lend
unique insights into political, religious and everyday life for late-antique Corinthians.

The third section, ‘Local Religion’, puts papers on Paul's Corinthian communities alongside studies of Hellenic, Roman and early Christian Corinthian religion. Schowalter’s article surveys efforts of New Testament scholars to connect the archaeology of Corinthian domestic space with the
setting of Paul’s communities. He summarizes well the troubles of finding and interpreting first-century houses at Corinth, or of comparing housing there to Pompeii. He notes specific problems for Anaploga villa and the buildings East of Theater, where archaeologists revised interpretations of
date and function but New Testament scholars continue to cite old data. He concludes with recent research on the right track, which resists linking specific early Christian people or rituals to specific buildings, but instead combines current evidence for types of houses excavated with types of
rituals practiced in texts.

Walters considers restrictions to pre-election banquet-hosting in the Caesarian colonial charter of Orso and orations of Cicero. He concludes this is evidence for concern by Roman authorities about potential misuse of power by hosts of dinners. He connects this with Paul’s emphasis on Jesus
as host of community meals, suggesting that Paul would have been aware of the potential dangers of the dining environment for diverting power to his rivals and promoting inequality among diners. Roman concern for the political dangers of banquets was real, continuing under the early Empire.
Walters makes a convincing argument that Paul shared contemporary concerns about banquet-hosts, and thus positioned Jesus as host of the community meal.

Sanders explores the Classical-era ritual landscape of the Sacred Spring on the south side of Temple Hill, noting long-running problems linking archaeology and Corinthian cults, and introducing a wide range of evidence. The Sacred Spring’s architecture, ritual use and civic context are
discussed, including its relationship to the Temple of Apollo (and Artemis?), Peirene, the racetrack and the Agora. A strength of this paper is its restoration of the Spring’s long-gone natural and built landscape, and potential connections with Corinthian, Athenian and Spartan cults. But
relationships among Artemis Eukleia, the Helloteia festival, Europa and Helen are sometimes unclear. However, this discussion casts welcome light on what was certainly a sacred site for Classical Corinthians, likely linked, as Sanders argues, with Artemis, local heroines, athletics, torchlight
and civic rituals.

Rife focuses on religion at Roman Cenchreae, Corinth’s eastern port, considering literary sources, epigraphy and excavations. This article is valuable for combining old and new discoveries and interpretations. No indubitable sanctuary has been found, but Aphrodite and Poseidon were honoured
at the north mole, Isis and Asclepius at the south. Elite display included villas, tombs, dedicatory inscriptions and mystery cults. Nearby quarries were sacred to Dionysus and Pan; curse tablets include one invoking ‘Force, Fate and Necessity’ as at the Demeter and Kore Sanctuary. Rife points
out how religion at Cenchreae connects with other harbors and distinctly Corinthian cults, also noting evidence for churches at both sides of the harbor.

Gregory draws on survey, excavation and texts to outline social, economic and religious developments in Isthmia and the eastern Corinthia from the first to seventh centuries. He uses Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey (EKAS) data to support recovery and activity in the ‘early’ Roman
countryside (31 BC to AD 250). Next he considers the end of traditional worship at the Isthmian Sanctuary of Poseidon, circa 220 to 400. He also situates eastern Corinthia in Late Antiquity, using excavations at Isthmia and new post-EKAS results, including up to four early Christian churches
built in the Oneion foothills. He concludes that these churches along with rural villas, late Roman pottery and connections with islands and the Peloponnese support a prosperous and active countryside in eastern Corinthia in Late Antiquity.

In summary, this volume collects a rich assortment of thoughtful, stimulating and often innovative contributions to the contextual study of religion and society in ancient Corinth. All Corinthian scholars will find material of interest here.


1.   Urban Religion in Roman Corinth: Interdisciplinary Approaches, ed. D. N. Schowalter and S. J. Friesen (Cambridge, MA 2005); Corinth in Contrast: Studies in Inequality, ed. S. J. Friesen, S. A. James and D. N. Schowalter (Leiden 2014).

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Verity Harte, Melissa Lane (ed.), Politeia in Greek and Roman Philosophy. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Pp. xv, 399. ISBN 9781107020221. $110.00.

Reviewed by Thornton C. Lockwood, Quinnipiac University (

Version at BMCR home site


Malcolm Schofield, the honorand of this Festschrift, needs no introduction to scholars working in classics and ancient philosophy. The volume includes a six-and-a-half-page bibliography of his works over the last 42 years: his books, translations, edited collections, and articles range over
all subsections and periods of ancient philosophy, from the pre-Socratics through Hellenistic Greek and Roman philosophy. His two most recent books—Plato: Political Philosophy (Oxford, 2006) and an edited volume of Plato translations (Gorgias, Menexenus, Protagoras, Cambridge,
2010)—have focused on aspects of classical political philosophy, and such is the main (although not exclusive) focus of the volume. Harte and Lane, two of Schofield’s most distinguished students, organized a Mayweek conference at Cambridge in 2011 honoring Schofield; fifteen of the seventeen
papers in the volume derive from the conference, and many of the papers refer to what must have been spirited discussion at the conference (book chapters also make reference to relevant discussions). Each editor contributed a paper to the volume (neither presented at the conference), and together
they have produced a superbly and flawlessly edited collection that includes a general introduction which discusses the ample connections between Schofield’s work and the volume’s papers. (There are many expressions of gratitude to the editors from individual authors for improving their
contributions.) In addition to a bibliography of Schofield’s published writings, the volume concludes with a general index and index locorum. The quality of both the contributors and their contributions is very high—a testament (were it needed) to Schofield’s towering influence on the field of
ancient philosophy.

The editors organized the conference and volume around the notion of politeia, and in their introduction they map the four areas into which the volume is subdivided based on the various senses of the term touched on by Socrates at the close of Republic 9 (591e1-592b5), namely as
something that exists in writing or speech, as an institution which provides political structure to a city, as a pattern within one’s soul, and (even) as a pattern “laid up in heaven” (592b2). Although Plato’s writings receive the most extensive treatment in the volume (10 of the 17 chapters
include extended discussion of his dialogues), three papers focus on topics in Aristotle, two are devoted to aspects of Roman philosophy, and Xenophanes of Colophon, Alcmaeon of Croton, Thucydides, Plutarch, and Proclus each receives a chapter-length treatment. (Several chapters cover more than
one author.) As an edited collection of papers deriving from a conference, it seems a bit of an overstatement to characterize the volume as a sustained treatment of the notion of politeia (individual papers often did not identify those strands explicitly even when that is what they were
discussing). The volume’s introduction points to a more telling sense of unity when it notes that “much of the terrain covered in this volume by the collective efforts of a team of scholars has been surveyed by the individual efforts of a single man,” namely the honorand (3). Since each member of
that team is a major scholar, it seems only fair to say a word about each contribution.

The first section of the volume is grouped around the “vocabulary of politics” and is perhaps the most heterogeneous section in the book. Alexander Long’s “The political art in Plato’s Republic” explores the ways in which the Republic displaces the “political art”—viz. knowledge
of politics based on experience and practice, perhaps of the sort offered by a Protagoras—with philosophy. Cynthia Farrar’s “Putting history in its place: Plato, Thucydides, and the Athenian politeia” expands on a question found in Schofield’s Plato: Political Philosophy, namely
whether Plato places value upon historical material (she answers in the affirmative) and how his view of what one might call “historical reality” (or even “realism”) contrasts with and responds to the views of Thucydides. In “Platonizing the Spartan politeia in Plutarch’s Lycurgus,”
Melissa Lane first surveys the contest between rule of written law (or more generally, the problem of writing) and the rule of the virtuous person in Plato’s Republic, Statesman, Phaedrus, and Laws; she then contrasts Plutarch’s extraordinary (and most likely
imaginative) claim that Lycurgan Sparta was an actual polity that eschewed written law, which she views as a response to the Platonic elevation of the rule of law. Jaap Mansfeld’s “The body politic: Aëtius on Alcmaeon on isonomia and monarchia” argues that the metaphorical use of
those political terms in the medical writings of Alcmaeon derive from Herodotus’ discussion of the best regime (3.80-3). Finally, Miriam Griffin’s paper “Latin philosophy and Roman law” turns the table, as it were, on the relationship between law and philosophy: although scholarship has
traditionally explored the impact of philosophy on Roman jurists, her paper examines the ways in which Roman legal discourse (especially in its use of similes, metaphors, analogies, and examples) influences Latin philosophy (especially in the cases of Seneca and Cicero).

The second section of the volume focuses on “the practice of politics” and begins with a fascinating note in its first paper, Robert Wardy’s “The Platonic manufacture of ideology, or how to assemble awkward truth and wholesome falsehood.” Although references to Schofield’s scholarly
influences are frequent through many of the papers, Wardy notes (in his paper’s dedication) that “those unacquainted with the political Schofield might look askance at the suggestion that committee time could be better than a painful duty; but their natural skepticism would swiftly evaporate,
were they to experience his deft negotiations of the business, as he sifts the essential core from distracting triviality and unerringly plots a skilful course equally eluding the Scylla of feeble capitulation and the Charybdis of inflexible rectitude” (119). (As the book’s introduction notes, p.
6, “the political Schofield” was integrally involved in professional and institutional bodies, including in the Classical Association, the British School at Athens, the Classics Faculty at Cambridge, and numerous scholarly journals and symposia.) Both Wardy and also Verity Harte, in her “Plato’s
politics of ignorance,” take their lead from Schofield’s “The Noble Lie” (published in G. R. F. Ferrari, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Plato’s Republic Cambridge, 2007, 138-64). Whereas Wardy explores the sense in which the Noble Lie is a sort of ideology, Harte focuses on the extent to
which the Noble Lie relies on ignorance rather than falsehood. Nicholas Denyer’s “The Political Skill of Protagoras”—the paper most frequently referred to by the other papers in the volume—reconstructs what Protagoras’ technê consists in; prominent are the sort of institutional
arrangements that allow for the specification of what is just without the invocation of non-democratic leadership. Example: the “distributive procedure” by means of which two persons sharing a cake specify that the person dividing the cake allows the other person the choice over which share he or
she gets (Protagoras is reported to have made use of a similar procedure for the determination of his wages). The final paper in the section, Jonathan Barnes’ “Proclus and politics,” is a spirited critique of the claim that Proclus (or later Platonism more general) had a serious or substantive
political teaching.

The editors entitle the third section of their volume “The Politics of Value”. It focuses on politeia in one’s soul—or ethical questions more generally. In “Relativism in Plato’s Protagoras,” Catherine Rowett aims to resolve some of the more puzzling features of that dialogue
(for instance, its qualified endorsement of hedonism) by arguing that Socrates employs tactics similar to Protagoras, and thus is “more savvy, more of a political animal, and more able and willing to harness the methods of sophistry and rhetoric” (193). Myles Burnyeat engages the problem at the
heart of the Republic’s city/soul isomorphism in his “Justice writ large and small in Republic 4”; he refines the nature of the request which Glaucon makes at the beginning of Republic 2 and defends Socrates’ account from the claim that it fallaciously argues from psychic
harmony (what David Sachs entitled “Platonic justice”) to a disposition not to wrong others (so-called “vulgar justice”). More modest in scope is Richard Kraut’s “An aesthetic reading of Aristotle’s Ethics,” which argues that there are instances of Aristotle’s use of the term kalon
in the Nicomachean Ethics that cannot be reduced to a “quasi-moral” or beneficial characteristic; rather, he thinks, sometimes (although not always) Aristotle intends by the term kalon the aesthetic notion of “beauty.” The section concludes with Mary McCabe’s ambitious “The Stoic
sage in the original position.” McCabe takes up the question of whether one can locate the notion of impartiality in the doctrine of the Stoic sage; through an analysis of the theory of oikeiôsis (or the development of an individual’s attachment to the world beyond him or herself) she
reconstructs a notion of justice that is based “on our recognition of the identity and the interests of others as humans with their own points of view, their own subjective self-perception, within some kind of joint activity” (265). The paper concludes with the favorable contrast of such a
position both with that of Rawls’ original position and that of Hare’s Archangel or ideal observer.

The final section of the volume assembles four papers that take up the notion of “cosmic” politeia, namely the relationship between humans and the cosmos as a whole, including the gods. Geoffrey Lloyd’s “Aristotle on the natural sociability, skills and intelligence of animals” examines
in Aristotle’s zoological works the attribution of “social” (or perhaps anthropomorphic) characteristics to animals—viz. the way that they are called political, skilled, intelligent, capable of praxis, and so forth—and concludes that “officially his moral and intellectual preoccupations dictate a
‘by analogy’ account: yet the zoological studies recognize plenty of instances of animals with cognitive capacities that are, on the face of it, just like ours, even though no doubt less fully developed . . . a ‘more and less’ account” (291). In “Gods and men in Xenophanes,” James Warren takes up
the question of what piety looks like for Xenophanes, a philosopher critical of theological anthropomorphism; whereas many other philosophers (Plato and Aristotle included) liken human perfection to “becoming like gods,” Xenophanic piety emphasizes an unbridgeable divide between gods and humans.
The object of Eudemian Ethics 8.3 is the subject of Christopher Rowe’s “Socrates and his gods: from the Euthyphro to the Eudemian Ethics”; Rowe argues persuasively that Aristotle’s discussion of “service to god” (ton theon therapeuein, EE 8.3.1249b1) is a verbal
echo of Plato’s Euthyphro, one which suggests that in the EE Aristotle is aligning himself with Socratic and Platonic thought about what constitutes proper pious behavior towards the gods. David Sedley concludes the volume with his “The atheist underground,” which illuminates the
object of Plato’s criticisms of atheism in Laws 10 by reflecting on the so called “Sisyphus fragment,” a fragment—presented in the voice of the character Sisyphus (variously attributed to both Euripides and Critias)—which claims that religion is a human construct established solely for
political purposes.

Single-sentence summaries can hardly do justice to the philological nuance and philosophical richness of many of the papers presented in honor of Schofield. Scholars working on Plato’s ethical and political thought will definitely benefit from engaging the rich contributions thereupon;
although the offerings on Aristotle and other classical authors are more selective, the papers by Rowe and McCabe (among others) will, I suspect, become landmark works within their subfields. The volume as a whole presents a chorus of sorts, one in which a multitude of stellar voices are inspired
to greater accomplishments by what the editors (borrowing from Schofield’s own description of Zeno of Citium) describe as “a distinctive voice” (12). We scholars of ancient thought are much richer for the work of Malcolm Schofield, both from his own pen and from those of others whom he has
influenced and inspired.

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Owen Hodkinson, Patricia A. Rosenmeyer, Evelien Bracke (ed.), Epistolary Narratives in Ancient Greek Literature. Mnemosyne supplements. Monographs on Greek and Latin language and Literature, 359. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2013. Pp. xi, 412. ISBN 9789004249608. $193.00.

Reviewed by
Lieve Van Hoof, Ghent University (

Version at BMCR home site


The last two decades have seen a significant upsurge in studies on ancient epistolography. If Latin letters, especially by authors such as Cicero and Pliny, have thus far attracted the bulk of scholarly attention, several recent publications have started focusing on Greek letters. A valuable
addition to the literary study of ancient Greek epistolography is the collection of essays edited by Owen Hodkinson, Patricia Rosenmeyer and Evelien Bracke. This volume brings together discussions of the narrative forms and functions of independent and collected as well as embedded Greek letters
from Classical to Late Antiquity.

The volume consists of an introduction, sixteen chapters, and a common bibliography and index. The sixteen case-studies that form the core of the book are divided into three parts, which effectively show a progression in the forms and functions of ancient Greek epistolary narratives. The
first part deals with letters, mainly of the Classical period, in and as narrative. It starts off with an excellent chapter by Patricia Rosenmeyer on letters in Euripides: using various Euripidean tragedies as well as iconographic sources, she emphasizes the narrative impact and phatic function
of the appearance on stage of a letter, even if unread, and shows the tragic or comic effect that can be generated by the tension between the letter as an object on the one hand and its contents on the other. Next, Angus Bowie discusses the rare but structurally significant occurences of letters
in Herodotus against the background of the origins of letter-writing, whilst Deborah Levine Gera demonstrates Xenophon’s greater familiarity with the genre. The next three chapters deal with authentic and pseudonymous correspondences of historical figures. Andrew Morrison shows how the
non-chronological arrangement of the collection of Platonic letters makes for an efficient narrative that gradually develops and reinterprets important themes such as Plato’s relationship with Dionysius II, and that thereby invites reflection on the power and limitations of letters. Pamela
Gordon, in turn, efficiently highlights the opposition, within Epicurean letters, between fully preserved letters that tend to present a positive image of the school’s founder and fragments of letters emphasizing his putatively hedonistic style of life. The latter, mostly quoted or fabricated by
hostile outsiders, capitalized both on Epicurus’ reputation as a letter-writer and on the status of letters as private but intercepted messages revealing the ‘real’ Epicurus. In the final chapter of the first part, Orlando Poltera presents a brief but very clear and interesting interpretation of
the five letters attributed to Euripides but produced, in all probability, under the Roman Empire. Apart from pointing out narrative strategies aimed at entertainment such as the gradual revelation of the letter-writer’s identity, he convincingly argues that these letters not only present an
alternative account of Euripides’ character and his relation with Sophocles, but also posit Euripides as a positive counterpart to Plato as far as dealings with powerful rulers are concerned.

The second part, entitled “Innovation and experimentation in epistolary narratives”, moves on in time to a period of ever more sophisticated explorations of the possibilities of epistolary narrative. Tim Whitmarsh, in his usual sparkling style, reads “the assemblage of Alexander–Darius
letters, from a variety of sources, as a (stochastic) unity, even though there is no evidence that they were ever united in this way in a single text, “emphasising . . . the mulitiple possibilities for combination and recombination” (p. 175). He thus shows how fictional letters could be used to
negotiate and renegotiate identities and power relations. Also very stimulating is Jason König’s chapter on Alciphron and the sympotic letter tradition: as König shows, many of Alciphron’s letters play with the sympotic tradition and the concomitant sub-genre of sympotic letters, their
fascination resulting from the fact that they present a sub-elite, subversive image of what we are used to seeing as a highly refined, elite institution reflected in a most polished and sophisticated kind of literature. The next two chapters focus on Lucian: Niall Slater shows how the four
letters that form the third part of Lucian’s Saturnalia turn the relations between Cronus and mortals upside down, while Silvio Bär argues that Odysseus’ prose letter to Calypso in the True Histories claims Homeric status for Lucian as a writer of an epic tale in Attic prose. Ian
Repath, in turn, sees letters as a mise en abyme for Cleitophon’s narration in Achilles Tatius: both raise questions concerning believability and incite metaliterary reflections on how to respond to them. Letters in Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius form the subject of the chapter
by Dimitri Kasprzyk, who underlines the narratological association of two devices of Beglaubigung, the references to Apollonius’ letters and to his presumed disciple Damis. In a rich and enticing chapter, John Morgan then examines the epistolary ghost-story about Philinnion as it can be
found in the Mirabilia attributed to Phlegon of Tralles, but which, as we know from Proclus, goes back at least to Naumachius of Epirus, where it may well have been part of a mini-epistolary novel. As Morgan shows, the epistolary format was particularly well-suited to a narrative such as
this one, which we would classify as a short story, especially given the fact that what we have here is a ghost story: not only do letters provide authentication, they also provide an explanation for the provenance of the material and allow the author, through the intermediary of the epistolary
narrator, to get away with the omission of vital pieces of information. Equally excellent is the final chapter of Part Two, in which Owen Hodkinson zooms in on Pseudo-Aeschines’ Epistle 10, a short story about the author’s visit to Troy and the only epistle in the twelve-letter collection
not to have any unmistakable link with Aeschines. Hodkinson reads the epistle as a stand-alone piece of narrative literature that is emphatically and self-consciously epistolary in its tropes, theme, and intertextual allusions, and that uses the epistolary format not so much as a
Beglaubigungsapparat, but rather because of “the long and increasingly popular tradition of Greek epistolary literature, and especially . . . the epistolary form’s common use as a medium for pseudo-historical or –biographical and other fictions” (p. 336).

The third and final part of the volume deals with Jewish and early Christian epistolary narratives. Ryan Olson, discussing embedded letters in Flavius Josephus, emphasizes the contrast between the orderly and continuous flow of Roman letters predominantly from the centre of power to the
periphery on the one hand, and the often inefficient and finally interrupted Jewish epistolary communication between local generals in the Jewish war and the leadership in Jerusalem on the other. The volume ends, finally, with a true gem in the form of Jane McLarty’s analysis of the epistolary
martyrdom accounts of Saint Polycarp and the Martyrs of Lyons: the epistolary form of these martyrdom accounts not only intertextually alludes to Paul’s letter to the Philippians, it also unites and reinforces Christians across the world as “sharers in suffering”.

Overall, the editors have done an excellent job in bringing together this series of sixteen chapters which, although highly varied in approach as well as subject matter, clearly share a common focus and are of good to outstanding quality. The volume as a whole will no doubt be read primarily
by classicists working on Greek letters and, by extension, by specialists of ancient epistolography more widely. But given the importance and omnipresence of letters in ancient Greek culture and, as amply demonstrated throughout this volume, literary scholars working in other fields should also
be encouraged to read it. If literary critics of more recent letters may learn a lot about the origins of epistolary narratives as well as about their sophisticated elaborations and metaliterary reflections in antiquity, classicists working on the ancient novel may be inspired, as Hodkinson
points out (p. 345), by the intertextual, formal and thematic affinities between the novel and epistolary fictions. On top of that, the volume has the potential to draw the attention of ancient historians working on texts as diverse and chronologically separate as Herodotus and Josephus to the
importance of letters embedded in historiographical narratives, and it sheds innovative light on late antique martyrdom accounts cast in the form of a letter. This volume, then, forms a valuable addition to the study of ancient Greek letters.

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