Monday, November 19, 2018


Julian Yolles, Jessica Weiss, Medieval Latin Lives of Muhammad. Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 51. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018. Pp. xli, 664. ISBN 9780674980730. $29.99.

Reviewed by Scott G. Bruce, Fordham University (

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Since its inception in 2012, the Latin series of the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library has published over fifty volumes of medieval Latin texts ranging from well-known classics like The Rule of Benedict and Carmina Burana to lesser known satires and beast fables. A small number of these volumes have been thematic anthologies of shorter works curated by a modern editor, like Peter Walsch's One Hundred Latin Hymns: Ambrose to Aquinas.1 The volume under review is another such anthology. It presents nine medieval Latin accounts of the life of Muhammad written between the ninth and the thirteenth centuries. Taken together, these accounts allow the reader to trace the development of the depiction of Muhammad and his role as the prophet of Islam among western readers. These invectives were primarily polemical in purpose. Long after medieval Christians had direct access to accurate knowledge of Islam, they nonetheless persisted in promoting falsehoods about the religion and its prophet. As this volume shows, stories about Mohammad grew in the telling, but certain elements of the narrative, like the role of an evil monk or hermit in supporting the prophet in his youth, were tenacious throughout this literary tradition.

The earliest accounts of Muhammad's life in Latin originated in Spain and Byzantium before the close of the first millennium. The first two texts in the volume are examples of the use of polemic as resistance to Islam in the context of the persecution of Christians on the Iberian Peninsula. Writing about the virtues of the martyrs of Córdoba, a cleric named Eulogius composed the first short account of Muhammad's life to survive in Latin. Several features of his story, including the prophet's insatiable lust and the consumption of his corpse by animals, became tropes in later polemical accounts of his life. In an obscure story from tenth-century Spain known as the Tultusceptru from the Book of Lord Metobius, Mohammad was originally a Christian monk named Ozim. While on a missionary journey, he was beguiled by an angel of temptation, who taught him incantations for summoning demons that loosely resemble the Muslim call to prayer. Much more influential than these Spanish texts was the Greek world chronicle of the Byzantine monk Theophanes (ca. 760-818 CE), which circulated in Latin by the end of the ninth century. This account introduced the character of the false monk (pseudomonachus) as a witness to the authenticity of Muhammad's visions and the notion that the prophet suffered from epilepsy.

A flowering of verse renderings of the life of Muhammad appeared in the age of the early crusades, including 1149 lines of elegiac couplets written in the late eleventh century by Embrico of Mainz and 1090 lines of elegiac couplets composed in the mid-twelfth century by Walter of Compiègne. Embrico's account relates how a deceiving magician raised up a former slave named Mammutius as the prophet of a new religion. He drew on earlier traditions to depict Mammutius as an epileptic. In this tradition, the prophet is eaten by pigs, which explains to Christian readers why Muslims do not eat pork. The story is replete with false miracles performed by the magician and at the tomb of Mammutius, which led John Tolan to characterize the poem as a work of "anti-hagiography."2 Walter's poem relates similar themes, but he jettisons Embrico's magician to present Muhammad as an autonomous agent of his own religious agenda, aided only in part by a Christian hermit who foretells his coming. The editors' suggestion that "the poem may be understood as a sort of elegiac comedy and akin to Old French fabliaux" (p. xvii) requires further elaboration to substantiate, especially given the monastic context of its composition. Contemporary with Walter's poem was a prose account of the life of Muhammad by a pilgrim named Adelphus, who allegedly heard the story in Antioch on his return to the west from Jerusalem. In this story, the fifth-century heresiarch Nestorius plays the role usually attributed to a Christian monk or hermit in fostering the young prophet.

The centerpiece of the volume (comprising pp. 217-537, a book in its own right) is the Apology of al-Kindī, a refutation of Islam couched as an exchange of letters between a Muslim and a Christian. Written in Arabic in the ninth century, this work was part of the dossier of Muslim religious texts rendered into Latin by the team of translators assembled in the early 1140s by Abbot Peter the Venerable of Cluny. The inclusion of this very long text in a collection devoted to Latin accounts of Muhammad's life struck me as slightly odd. While portions of it do, in fact, draw on polemical traditions about the life of Muhammad to discredit the authority of his teaching (as does Peter the Venerable's treatise against Islam, written in the mid-1150s), much of the sprawling Apology is not directly related to the prophet's life at all.3 In particular, the Muslim interlocutor spends much of his time explaining the fundamental tenets of Islam and refuting core doctrines of the Christian faith, which, while interesting, bear little affinity with the other texts in this anthology.

The volume concludes with two short, anonymous texts from the later Middle Ages: The Book of Nicholas and Where Wicked Muhammad Came From. Both of these works originated in Dominican circles in the thirteenth century. The first text offers a rare divergence from the polemic tradition by depicting Muhammad as a late antique Christian missionary named Nicholas, who founded a new religion when his ambitions to become the bishop of Rome were thwarted. As the editors note, "the purpose of the Book of Nicholas was not to provide accurate information on Islam, but to satirize the papal Curia" (p. xxvii). The second text returns to the tradition of time-honored invective. In this work, an exiled Christian named Nicholas takes as his disciple a young man named Maurus ("Moor"), who carries on his master's nefarious plans after his death. Maurus, in turn, tutors the young Muhammad, whose lust for a married Jewish woman leads to his demise. While drawing on earlier tropes about the prophet, neither of these obscure texts exercised any influence in the western polemical tradition about Islam.

The editors of the Medieval Latin Lives of Muhammad have done a good job of assembling a diverse array of polemical Latin accounts of the life of the prophet. The volume has all of the positive aspects of the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library series as a whole: a handsome appearance, superior production quality, and a reasonable price. It also shares the primary shortcoming of the series: a laconic introduction. The decision to exclude a translation of Bonaventure of Siena's 1264 Latin version of a story about Muhammad's ascension known as the Liber scalae Machometi struck me as a missed opportunity (see p. xl, n. 80). Even so, scholars and students with an interest in Christian-Islamic relations and religious polemic will find much food for thought in this volume.


1.   See my review in BMCR 2013.02.07.
2.   John Tolan, "Anti-Hagiography: Embrico of Mainz's Vita Mahumeti," Journal of Medieval History 22 (1996): 25-41.
3.   Peter the Venerable's Contra sectam Sarracenorum has recently been translated into English by Irven Resnick in Peter the Venerable: Writings against the Saracens (Washington, D.C., 2016), pp. 51-161; and discussed in Scott G. Bruce, Cluny and the Muslims of La Garde-Freinet: Hagiography and the Problem of Islam in Medieval Europe (Ithaca and London, 2016), pp. 93-98.

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Sunday, November 18, 2018


John O. Hyland, Persian Interventions: The Achaemenid Empire, Athens, and Sparta, 450–386 BCE. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017. Pp. xi, 257. ISBN 9781421423708. $54.95.

Reviewed by David Branscome, Florida State University (

Version at BMCR home site


When modern historians of ancient Greece have approached the interactions between the Greeks and the Achaemenid Persians, two time periods have taken pride of place: 499–479 BCE (the Ionian Revolt through Xerxes' invasion) and 336–323 (the career of Alexander the Great). By contrast, the history of Greek-Persian interactions that took place in between those two periods, whether in the Pentekontaetia or in the Peloponnesian War, has received relatively short shrift.1 For forty years, the only comprehensive historical treatment of Greek and Persian relations in the years from around 450 to 386 has been Lewis' monograph. 2 With his book, Hyland aims not only to offer an updated study of those years but also to argue against the traditional scholarly reading of Persian policy and goals toward Greeks of the period. Hyland provides a revisionist narrative of Persian interventions in Greek affairs during 450–386 that is compelling and persuasive.

The book consists of eight chapters, a brief conclusion, and detailed endnotes; while the text runs to 172 pages, the endnotes run to almost 50 more. Chapter 1 serves as the introduction. In it, Hyland argues that advances in Achaemenid studies enable us to revise the view expounded first by Thucydides (8.87.4) that Persia's main goal in 450–386 was to regain control of Ionia. The Persians therefore enacted a defensive policy of balancing, trying to ensure that neither Athens nor Sparta became too powerful, and they also tried to avoid direct military conflict between Persians and Greeks.3 But this theory does not match the worldview revealed by Achaemenid royal inscriptions: Persia had a claim to world dominion, and Persian kings had a duty (sanctioned by the god Ahuramazda) to establish order over chaos at the earth's edges, which included Greece. Persian interventions in Greek affairs during this period were motivated primarily by such ideological beliefs and by economic considerations.

Chapter 2 explores why the Persian king Artaxerxes I (465–424) formed the Peace of Kallias with Athens in (probably) 449. Scholars have considered this peace—the historicity of which most now accept—a defeat for Artaxerxes because he lost control of Ionia. In Hyland's view, the peace simply made good economic sense for Artaxerxes, since it would have removed the threat of constant naval skirmishes in the Aegean. Hyland explains how expensive building and maintaining a trireme fleet was, even for the Great King. Besides, Artaxerxes may have considered Athens a client state. It would have been in Artaxerxes' interests that Athens be powerful (not weak), so that it could better defend the Persian Empire's northwest borders. After 449, Artaxerxes' support for Athens never seriously wavered.

In Chapters 3–5 Hyland turns to the reign of king Darius II (423–405). Scholars have usually seen Darius' change of Persian support from Athens to Sparta in the Peloponnesian War as a response to Athens' siding with the Persian rebels Pissouthnes and Amorges and to the Athenian disaster in Sicily (415–413). While both of these may have been contributing factors, Hyland argues in Chapter 3, a major reason for the change was that Athens, after Sicily, stopped collecting tribute in Ionia. Since Darius would have looked at Athens' tribute collection as a gift conferred by the King, now the King was taking that gift back and giving it instead to the new western Anatolian satraps Tissaphernes and Pharnabazos. The Persians were operating under the false expectation that a weakened Athens would be defeated soon after 413. Chapter 4 concentrates on Tissaphernes and the treaty he brokered with Sparta in 411. Tissaphernes' halving of his promised pay to the allied Peloponnesian fleet was due not to the balancing policy, but to the economic difficulty placed on his personal resources by the protracted war. He even began negotiations with Athens, until his agent, the Athenian exile Alkibiades, undermined them. Tissaphernes was trying to end the war as expeditiously and economically as possible. A favorable result of the Persian outreach to Athens was that Sparta became quicker to accept the treaty. In Chapter 5 Hyland dismisses the balancing policy as the reason behind Darius II's recall of the Phoenician fleet sent in 411 to join the Peloponnesians in Ionia. Instead, Hyland blames the expulsions of Persian garrisons in Ionia. Not only did the expulsions—instigated by Peloponnesian sailors in anger over Tissaphernes' payment delays and Alkibiades' switching sides to Athens—represent a breach of the treaty by the Spartans, but also cities such as Miletos losing their Persian garrison meant that the Phoenician fleet would not have had friendly places to land.

The help in winning the Peloponnesian War that Darius II's younger son, Cyrus, gave to Sparta forms the subject of Chapter 6. In the vain hope that his father would name him successor rather than his older brother Arsakes (the future Artaxerxes II), Cyrus was committed to ending the war. Cyrus contributed a large portion of his own fortune in 405–404 to propel Sparta to victory. He did not engage in a balancing policy, even when in 406, after the Spartan defeat at Arginousai, he temporarily stopped funding the Spartans.

The last two chapters focus on Artaxerxes II (405–359). Chapter 7 examines this king's Anatolian policies in the wake of Cyrus' failed rebellion against him. Artaxerxes' preference for (cost-saving) diplomatic solutions for Ionian unrest is why it took so long for Persians to deal with Spartan incursions into Anatolia; contra Xenophon, it was not because of Tissaphernes' cowardice. The restraint shown by Tissaphernes came from the King, who only executed him after the defeat of the satrap by Agesilaos and the Spartans in 395. By contrast, Pharnabazos, joined by the Athenian exile Konon, crushed the Peloponnesian fleet at Knidos in 394. If Artaxerxes II had only wanted Ionia back (as scholars argue), he would have stopped fighting Greeks after Knidos. Instead, he sent Pharnabazos and Konon to ravage the Laconian coast and to fortify Cythera. As Hyland points out in Chapter 8, Artaxerxes II was not practicing a balancing policy during the Corinthian War (395–387) and leading up to the King's Peace in 386. In the 390s, the king had helped Athens (under the guidance of Konon) rebuild its walls. It was after the Persian karanos Tiribazos arrested Konon in 392 and an offended Athens turned against Persia that Artaxerxes switched his support back to the Spartans, who would become the agents for guaranteeing the dictates of the King's Peace. By establishing peace in Greece and dictating its terms Artaxerxes demonstrated the reach of his influence.

In his conclusion, Hyland reiterates the implausibility of the balancing policy theory. He stresses the overall success of Persia in ending the Peloponnesian and Corinthian Wars, the latter culminating in the King's Peace. But two things prevented Persia from having even greater success against Greece in 450–386: economic conservatism, which led to reluctance on the part of the kings to commit money to the Persian fleet, and misunderstandings of Greek motivations, as evidenced by Tissaphernes and Tiribazos misunderstanding Alkibiades and Konon, respectively.

My criticisms of the book center on how Hyland deals with his target audience/s (presumably, students and specialists in ancient Greek history). First, it is not entirely clear how great a command of Greek he expects readers to have. All Greek in the text and endnotes is transliterated; the endnotes, which are geared more toward scholars, contain more transliterated Greek (and some Old Persian) than the text does. Readers of the text are still expected to know, however, what an oikos (59) is and what poleis and even chora (73) are.

Second, Hyland does not tell readers exactly why he begins his narrative at 450 and ends at 386. Although he does refer to the "interventionist period" (4) in relation to Lewis' monograph, he does not establish what makes this period a distinct one worthy of study by itself. Why does Hyland not begin his narrative, say, in 479 and end it in 336? He needs to explain to readers what is unique about 450–386.

Third, by seeking to demolish the balancing policy theory, Hyland admirably tries to offset the Hellenocentric bias of ancient sources and modern historians depending on those sources. And yet such a bias occasionally appears in the book. Hyland says (171) that the King's Peace represented "the point at which all the Greeks who mattered accepted membership in a universe ruled from Susa." We do not know why ancient Greeks (beginning with Aeschylus in the Persians) believed that the Persian king's primary royal capital was located at Susa; could it have been that the King conventionally met with Greek ambassadors at Susa, rather than at any of the other capitals? And for a book whose thesis rests in large part on how Achaemenid royal ideology shaped and motivated Persian interventions into Greek affairs, it is notable that Hyland almost never quotes from Achaemenid royal inscriptions, our main evidence for such ideology. In the text Hyland frequently mentions and occasionally quotes briefly or more extensively from Greek authors like Thucydides and Xenophon. While Hyland often cites Achaemenid inscriptions in endnotes (beginning with the very first note from Chapter 1: "XPh §3; cf. DSe §3; DPe §2" (173 n. 1)), quotations from non-Greek ancient sources in the book's text are rare: a letter of Arshama, satrap of Egypt (58–9); a Persepolis Fortification tablet (80); seven words from an inscription of Darius I (165), and ten words that recur in inscriptions of Darius I and of Xerxes (167). These last two in-text quotations are the only ones from Achaemenid royal inscriptions, and they do not appear until the end of the book's eighth and final chapter.

Fourth, there are problems with Hyland's treatment of Pharnabazos. Hyland consistently refers to him as the satrap of Daskyleion (reflecting Greek terminology: Hdt. 3.120.2; Thuc. 1.129.1), but he never indicates for readers (in the text, at any rate) the region in which this satrapal seat was located, Hellespontine Phrygia. This region only appears in Map 3 on page 82. Overall, Hyland treats Pharnabazos sympathetically, and so it is all the more striking that, shortly after he has related (165) that Pharnabazos married Artaxerxes II's daughter Apame, he lets Pharnabazos disappear from his narrative without a comment: he refers (167) to "the new satrap of Daskyleion, Ariobarzanes." While we do not know what (if any) connection Ariobarzanes had with Pharnabazos, Weiskopf has reasonably suggested that Ariobarzanes was Pharnabazos' son, especially since Pharnabazos had succeeded his own father, Pharnakes, as satrap of the region.4

These criticisms aside, Hyland's book is an important one that all scholars dealing with ancient Greek or Persian history will henceforth have to take into account. As Hyland convincingly shows, the balancing policy theory will no longer stand.


1.   Scholarly studies of Greek and Persian relations have tended to concentrate less on historical events and more on either cultural interchange (e.g. M. C. Miller, Athens and Persia in the Fifth Century BC: A Study in Cultural Receptivity [Cambridge 1997]) or Persian perceptions of Greeks (e.g. R. Rollinger and W. F. M. Henkelman, "New Observations on 'Greeks' in the Achaemenid Empire according to Cuneiform Texts from Babylonia and Persepolis," in P. Briant and M. Chauveau, eds., Organisation des pouvoirs et contacts culturels dans les pays de l'empire achéménide, [Paris 2009], 331–51).
2.   D. M. Lewis, Sparta and Persia (Leiden 1977). Lewis takes a single event, the Athenian general Aristeides' capture of the Persian emissary Artaphernes, whom the Persian king had sent to Sparta in 425/4 (Thuc. 4.50), and fills in the historical narrative of 450–386 around it.
3.   See, for example, M. Waters, Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the Achaemenid Empire, 550–330 BCE (Cambridge 2014), who refers (185, cf. 166) to Persia's "successful policy to keep the Greek city-states unbalanced and diminish their threats to Persian interests."
4.   M. Weiskopf, The So-Called "Great Satraps' Revolt," 366–360 B.C.: Concerning Local Instability in the Achaemenid Far West (Stuttgart 1989), 27.

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Ariadne Konstantinou, Female Mobility and Gendered Space in Ancient Greek Myth. Bloomsbury classical studies monographs. London; New York: Routledge, 2018. Pp. x, 189. ISBN 9781474256766. $102.00.

Reviewed by Paola Angeli Bernardini, Università degli Studi Carlo Bo​ (

Version at BMCR home site


Ricostruire gli aspetti più importanti della vita degli antichi Greci e dei popoli che si affacciavano sul Mediterraneo significa anche prendere in considerazione la possibilità per il genere femminile di spostarsi da una parte all'altra del luogo di residenza, di uscire dall'oikos per affrontare l'ambiente esterno e per confrontarsi con realtà non domestiche, di intraprendere viaggi. Non si tratta solo di spostamenti abituali per le donne nell'ambito delle strutture cittadine, come andare alla fonte ad attingere acqua o partecipare a cerimonie religiose o ad un'assemblea, ma di una mobilità più complessa nell'ambito di più vasti orizzonti, che comportava un allontanamento impegnativo dal proprio ambiente, un distacco non solo fisico e, in ogni caso, un cambiamento rilevante.

Il fenomeno della mobilità muliebre nella cultura degli antichi è giustamente e opportunamente ripensato da A. Konstantinou a partire dalle numerose testimonianze che di essa sono presenti nel mito greco: mobilità delle dee e mobilità delle eroine. Il supporto fondamentale è rappresentato dall'esegesi dei testi nei quali queste storie sono raccontate, dall'epica al teatro, alla mitografia. Non è affrontato (ed è un peccato) il tema dell'effettiva mobilità delle donne comuni nella realtà storica e quotidiana dell'antica Grecia, anche se l'argomento, come vedremo, rimane necessariamente sullo sfondo e non è del tutto obliterato, come indicano le conclusioni (pp. 155-158).

Il volume si apre con un'introduzione da leggere con particolare attenzione perché utile e direi indispensabile per comprendere la struttura e lo sviluppo del discorso portato avanti dall'Autrice. In poche pagine sono sviluppate con rigore questioni che hanno avuto un posto rilevante nella più recente bibliografia—soprattutto anglosassone—sulla posizione delle donne nell'antichità e viene suggerita una nuova prospettiva per spiegare i loro movimenti, i viaggi, gli spostamenti nell'ambito del territorio o della polis. Il confronto tra dei e dee, eroi e eroine, uomini e donne è inevitabile. Gli spazi riservati all'uno o all'altro sesso o ad ambedue i sessi oppure la possibilità di passaggio da uno spazio all'altro sono intesi con valore prevalentemente sociale, in relazione anche alla fissità e alla dinamicità delle due categorie. La domanda che si impone è sempre la stessa. Come può il mito con le storie di dee e di eroine far luce sulla "actual experience" delle donne greche? Tra la posizione di Dowden (1995), che privilegia il significato mitico dei racconti sulle donne nel mito, e quella di Pomeroy (1975), che utilizza simili racconti per ricostruire la mentalità e le istituzioni dei Greci, Konstantinou si allinea con quest'ultima e, a ragione, indirizza la sua ricerca sullo spazio e il movimento nel pensiero mitico in rapporto sia alla realtà fattuale, sia al genere di appartenenza dei personaggi mitici.

Naturalmente la ricerca riguarda quelli femminili che nel mito hanno un ruolo di assoluto rilievo. Il volume si divide in due grandi sezioni: nella prima parte le dee in movimento (divinità vergini come Hestia, Atena, Artemide, nel cap. 1; divinità Olimpiche spose e madri come Afrodite, Demetra, Hera nel cap. 2); nella seconda parte le eroine in movimento (nella tragedia greca nel cap. 3; nei rituali e nella caccia nel cap. 4). Il cap. 5 fornisce le coordinate ideologiche per inquadrare e illustrare il materiale sulla mobilità femminile, raccolto dall'Autrice nelle fonti greche antiche, prevalentemente letterarie e raramente archeologiche. In realtà risulta il capitolo centrale e quello più influenzato dalle problematiche presenti nella critica femminista contemporanea. Sui limiti e sulle prerogative della mobilità femminile nell'antico mito greco si allunga l'ombra delle difficoltà professionali e degli ostacoli incontrati dalle donne nella cultura odierna nell'ambito dei rapporti di lavoro e di carriera. Il ricorso a una terminologia—a dire il vero un po' abusata—come "il soffitto di cristallo" per definire l'impedimento per tante donne, a parità di merito, di accedere a posizioni di responsabilità in senso verticale, o le "pareti di cristallo" per indicare le invisibili barriere che prevengono l'avanzamento laterale delle donne e di altre minoranze a causa della differenza di genere, è in tal senso significativo. È tuttavia necessario precisare che per Konstantinou l'accostamento tra passato e presente riguarda sempre l'immaginazione mitica e le caratteristiche della mobilità femminile, divina ed eroica, nei più antichi racconti mitici dei Greci. Non è funzionale per descrivere la posizione delle donne greche nell'oikos e nella polis, anche se, alla fine, l'Autrice ammette che "la mobilità delle donne nel regno del mito sembra essere parte e porzione dell'ideologia sociale" (p. 152). Il problema è sempre se il mito può essere una "lente costruttiva, una categoria di studio che può aprire una finestra sulle posizioni sociali del Greci , sui presupposti sociali, sull'immaginario"(p. 12). Con la prudenza che deriva dalla difficoltà e dall'opinabilità di questo tipo di ricostruzione mi sentirei di condividere le conclusioni di Konstantinou sulla possibilità che i movimenti delle dee e delle eroine nel mito riflettano abitudini in uso nelle varie zone della Grecia (vedi Atene) e nelle diverse epoche.

Come già sottolineato, non è questo, tuttavia, il focus dell'indagine condotta dalla studiosa. I suoi interventi in prima persona (nell'Introduzione, nel sommario dei capitoli, nelle note accurate, nella Conclusione) chiariscono e precisano i confini entro i quali ella intende muoversi.

Ancora molto si potrebbe dire, ad esempio sui due aspetti determinanti di ogni spostamento femminile nell'antichità: (a) la prassi e le modalità dell'allontanamento (quindi sotto il profilo antiquario); (b) il significato umano e sociale del viaggio femminile (quindi sotto il profilo antropologico). Nel libro il secondo interesse, proiettato nella sfera mitica, prevale nettamente sul primo. Lo prova il fatto che ad eccezione di alcuni spostamenti tramite carro come quello di Afrodite (Il. 5, 359), oppure attraverso un libero vagabondaggio tra le montagne come quello di Artemide (Hymn. Hom. 27, 4) o ancora mediante le corse sfrenate delle Menadi (Eur. Bacch. 677-774; 1088-1094), poco spazio è dedicato ad un altro tipo di mobilità femminile. Quella che si realizzava per mare. Una mobilità non scarsa e di poco conto, come si riteneva fino a qualche decennio fa, nell'ottica di un paragone con l'incidenza forte e predominante dell'elemento maschile. Le dee, le eroine, le donne comuni erano in grado di lasciare la terra ferma e di attraversare il mare fendendo le onde o salendo su una imbarcazione o rinchiuse in una cassa galleggiante. Ma, come si diceva, lo scopo della ricerca è un altro.

In conclusione si tratta di una lettura stimolante, che provoca diverse domande e che affronta in maniera problematica alcuni concetti chiave nell'immaginazione mitica relativa all'universo femminile. La discussione investe di volta in volta lo spazio e gli spazi, il privato e il pubblico, il viaggio, la finalità del movimento riservato alle donne. La ricca bibliografia e l'indice delle cose notevoli agevolano la consultazione del libro, non sempre facile nonostante l'ordinata struttura editoriale, l'opportuna presenza di traduzione dei testi greci e l'abbondante apparato di note.

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Thursday, November 15, 2018


Engelbert Winter, Vom eisenzeitlichen Heiligtum zum christlichen Kloster: neue Forschungen auf dem Dülük Baba Tepesi. Asia Minor Studien, 84. Bonn: Habelt-Verlag, 2017. Pp. xiii, 302; 67 p. of plates. ISBN 9783774940796. €89,00.

Reviewed by Catherine Steidl, Dartmouth College (

Version at BMCR home site

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

As Engelbert Winter argues, Dülük Baba Tepesi is perhaps one of the most important sites in southeast Turkey for the new insight it offers into the religious and cultural history of the Near East from the 1st millennium BCE through the Byzantine period. He calls it a stroke of luck that long-term continuity of cult activity took place there (p. 12). While we are fortunate that such continuity is richly attested, the chapters collected in this volume illustrate that it is no fluke. The volume succeeds in making this point clear, and the reader who approaches the chapters as a full set will see that the continuous occupation of a sacred space on the hill resulted from several constants: the choice by individuals to maintain local religious practices alongside those of an expanding imperial cult; the preservation of strong economic, religious, and cultural ties to numerous far-flung locales, including the western Aegean, Iran, and Afghanistan, which emphasized its status in the broader landscape; and, it seems, the local memory of the space's sacred character. With their latest publication, Winter and colleagues present the tail end of a 15-year program of excavation at Dülük Baba Tepesi. This rich volume provides a timely, detailed publication of the excavation results from the sanctuary site, offering a window into its history from a site for resource extraction in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB), to its development as a substantial Iron Age cult site, a local and supra-regional Roman sanctuary, and finally a Byzantine monastery. The work contained within will be of interest to readers concerned with Anatolian archaeology in the 1st millennia BCE/CE, or questions of continuity, cult practice, and long-term occupation, as well as to specialists seeking regional detail on specific materials (e.g., ceramic and bone products, architecture of the cult precinct or monastery, or local examples of hybridity and syncretism).

The book consists of 17 chapters. Winter's overview of the project's work and major finds from the seasons in question (2013-2015) serves as a helpful introduction to previous research at the site and the context for this latest work in the sanctuary. He also outlines the major contributions of the team's research program—namely, finer-grained detail about Iron Age, Roman, and Medieval activity on Dülük Baba Tepesi than was previously available, and important new insights into various threads of continuity and change in cultural and religious practice, such as the collected votive offerings from the Iron Age and Roman Imperial period, and the architectural development of the sanctuary. Because the individual contributions function more or less independently and seldom interact with one another, Winter's setting of the thematic stage ties together numerous strands of discourse and directs the reader's attention to these common threads.

Subsequent chapters are organized roughly chronologically. Because of their focus and detail, the chapters work well as standalone pieces of scholarship that will be of interest to any specialist seeking high-resolution particulars or comparanda with other materials —Byzantine glazed ceramics or African Red Slip ware in the Commagene region, ultramarine pigment, or Neolithic blades, for example. In the case of both comparatively smaller bodies of material (e.g., lithics, bone artifacts, and locks) and larger (e.g., Roman and Byzantine ceramics), detailed catalogues and figures are provided in conjunction with the texts. This attention to detail—along with its prompt publication—is one of many commendable aspects of the book. The chapters can also be read in order as a full volume, however. Few readers are likely to undertake this, but doing so provides substantial insight into the breadth of evidence available for the sanctuary, from lithics and ceramics, to architectural structure and décor, and osteological remnants of sacrifice and daily consumption. The result is a book that fulfills two roles: it offers a valuable reference for one of Commagene's major sites, which is able to speak to broader regional trends; and it illustrates what the site is already known for in intense detail—its rich and complex long-term history, simultaneously rooted in the local landscape and impressively connected to far-reaching, robust networks that brought with them ceramic imports from the Mediterranean, lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, and myriad cultural influences that contributed to evolving local practice in all aspects of life.

The chapters work well together to illustrate the tensions between local and far-reaching connection and influence. Wolfgang Messerschmidt, for example, offers a vivid picture of an active Iron Age sanctuary; the hypaethral temenos (enclosed but not fortified) reflects its southeast Anatolian/north Syrian location, while a large cache of roll and stamp seals (640 in total) was sourced from the Levant, Mesopotamia, and Iran. A late Hittite relief bearing Luwian inscriptions expands the scope of connectivity to the north, and the evidence for animal sacrifice suggests practices with West Semitic and Levantine parallels.

Silke Haps' discussion of the architectural development of the sanctuary and its walls in the Hellenistic and Roman periods provides similar context for the trajectory of the sanctuary and its continued importance for regional and supra-regional cult activity into the early 1st millennium CE. One of the clear themes that emerges from these collected chapters is the strength of the local influence maintained in the sanctuary through its physical character and the practices evidenced there, even as influence from supra-regional networks was clearly visible as well (e.g., in the prominence of Roman ceramic imports or the growth of the cult around Iuppiter Dolichenus). Haps presents evidence for the changing nature of wall construction, which is contrasted with the maintenance of techniques for stone preparation and foundation construction over the course of several phases of renovation. Her argument that the large, square temenos of the Hellenistic and Roman periods has parallels at other sacred sites in the Commagene (e.g., Köşk) is echoed by others, as well. The chapters, in fact, fall into two general groups: those presenting catalogued materials that generally reflect trends seen from other regional sites, and those detailing singular case-study finds that offer insight into the commingling of very local traditions and farther-flung contact and influence.

Into this first category fall chapters from, for example, Werner Oenbrink and Eva Strothenke, who detail aspects of the ceramic repertoires from the 5th c. BCE, Late Roman, and Medieval periods, further developing the overall narrative of Dülük Baba Tepesi's place within the landscape of southern Anatolia. Oenbrink's Attic imports reflect the northernmost discovery of their kind in southwest Anatolia, underscoring the particular importance and status of the sanctuary before the middle of the 1st millennium BCE. Strothenke's profiles of Late Roman and Medieval wares, on the other hand, emphasize the high degree of connectivity and preference for specific materials found at other nearby settlements.

Chapters in the latter category act as unusual case studies for the exploration of syncretism, continuity, and change both on the site and in the surrounding region, and the character of the site in different periods. Michael Blömer's vivid discussion of the 'god in the leaf chalice' delivers a convincing argument for a tentative identification of the relief not as Iuppiter Dolichenus himself, but as one of his attendants, the Castores Dolicheni. Similarly, Blömer and Margherita Facella present a small altar of the local god Turmasgade, an enigmatic discovery that they use to pose a series of stimulating questions around the issue of syncretism between Roman and local Near Eastern gods and the origins of Turmasgade's cult. Together, these chapters exemplify the provocative nature of the questions that remain unanswered about the sanctuary and religious practice there, but also highlight the complex interplay between local and non-local traditions that together engendered new forms of local practice.

The theme of local anomaly is carried into the Medieval period by Nadja Plöllath and Joris Peters' insightful discussion of faunal remains, especially fish bones, in the Byzantine monastery. They consider the effect of personal preference on the adherence of the local monks to proscribed dietary restrictions. Extensive connectivity, on the other hand, is clearly demonstrated by work from Constanze Höpken and Frank Mucha, who argue for the presence of ultramarine blue pigment in two vessels found at the Byzantine monastery of Mar Salomon, illustrating the import of lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and the likely production of high quality manuscripts.

Given the size and quality of the body of material coming from the 2013-2015 seasons, the temptation to offer equally rich interpretation is strong. The individual authors, however, strike a measured balance between straightforward reporting and compelling extrapolation. Readers new to the site will gain a clear sense of the state of its current understanding, but also appreciate the chance to engage critically with the ongoing incorporation of new materials into understandings of the site.

The volume lacks a concluding discussion. Stronger linking of the themes noted here would have been a welcome addition to round out the compilation. At times, this reviewer would have also wanted the maps and plans, which are added separately at the end, to include more detailed captions or contextual information. Phased plans of the sanctuary (Plans 2-4), for example, are not labeled by period, and so one is required to flip between the chapter at the start of the book and the images at the back to properly understand the architectural development. Captions would also have been helpful for a number of images only presented as numbered objects (e.g., bone artifacts, pieces of marble, locks and keys, etc.). The tables (in color and black and white) offer a number of very helpful line drawings, however, and the merits of the large selection of accompanying images and plans far outweigh the small inconveniences described here.

Readers following the excavations at Dülük Baba Tepesi, or interested in cultural interaction, continuity, and the interplay between global and local tradition and influence, will find an extremely useful presentation of final excavation at the sanctuary in this volume. The authors' clarity and thoroughness, as well as thoughtful discussion will appeal equally to readers interested in the aforementioned overarching themes, and specialists concerned with individual types of material. The tentative (although nonetheless, at times, provocative) interpretations offered here leave little to quibble with, and will no doubt be further illuminated by planned work in the monastery, as well as at the ancient settlement on nearby Keber Tepe.

Table of Contents

Engelbert Winter, Das Heiligtum auf dem Düluk Baba Tepesi bei Doliche. Die Grabungen der Jahre 2013-2015
Dirk Leder, The Lithic Finds from Dülük Baba Tepesi and their Place in the PPNB of the Western Euphrates Region
Wolfgang Messerschmidt, Das Heiligtum auf dem Dülük Baba Tepesi in der vorhellenistischen Eisenziet – Versuch einer kulturgeschichtlichen Einordnung
Werner Oenbrink, Neufunde attischer Keramik vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Silke Haps, Überlegungen zu den Mauerzügen des (hellenistisch-)römischen Heiligtums auf dem Dülük Baba Tepesi bei Doliche. Ergebnisse der Kampagnen 2013-2015
Michael Blömer, Der Gott im Blätterkelch. Ein neues Relief vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Margherita Facella, A New Altar for the God Turmasgade from Dülük Baba Tepesi
Werner Oenbrink, Gorgo Medusa? – Beidseitig reliefierte Fragmente aus dem Heiligtum des Iuppiter Dolichenus auf dem Dülük Baba Tepesi
Jan Pieter Löbbing, Kaiserzeitlicher Marmor vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Torben Schreiber, Ein Feldherr, Bonus Eventus und eine Ziege. Drei Gemmen vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Daria Olbrycht, Beinartefakte vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Constanze Höpken, Schlüssel und Schlösser vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Eva Strothenke, Die African Red Slip-Ware und Late Roman C-Ware vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Nadja Plöllath and Joris Peters, Fish and Fasting – Insight into the Diet of Late Antique-Byzantine Dülük Baba Tepesi

Constanze Höpken, Ultramarinblau-Pigment aus dem Kloster des Mar Salomon auf dem Dülük Baba Tepesi
Frank Mucha, Analysen der Blaupigmente vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Eva Strothenke, Ausgewählte Funde glasierter Keramik vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
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Floris van den Eijnde, Josine Blok, Rolf Strootman (ed.), Feasting and Polis Institutions. Mnemosyne, supplements, 414. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2018. Pp. xiii, 384. ISBN 9789004356726. €121,00.

Reviewed by Jessica M. Romney, Dickinson College (

Version at BMCR home site

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

This volume, the result of a three-day conference held at Utrecht University (2014), examines the relationship between the sacrificial feast, the symposium, and the political institutions associated with them. The volume's title and theme link feasting to polis-institutions, but the chronological spread from the Early Iron Age to the Imperial period necessitates that 'polis' be understood broadly. The volume is arranged roughly chronologically, allowing the reader to get a sense of the larger developments over time alongside the specific developments on which each contribution focuses. The geographical spread is narrower than one might hope; over half of the papers concern feasting patterns in Athens and Attica, or rely almost entirely on Athenian evidence for feasting institutions across the Greek world. The papers that specifically step out of Attica include Vlachou's contribution on Amykles, Whitley and Madgwick on the Cretan andreion, and Mari on the Macedonian influences on Hellenistic feasting. All in all, however, this volume will be a welcome contribution to the Greek room in the Food Studies house, particularly due to the spread of evidence for Greek feasting practices and for the focus on the ways that feasts contributed simultaneously to ideas of citizen equality and to hierarchies of power (the "dialectic of hierarchy and equality" is a common theme). The introduction will be particularly helpful for those new to the field.

That introduction establishes the feast as a "condensed social fact" (p. 6) and "the very institutional framework that keeps the polis in place" (p. 2). The volume is addressed to answering the question of how the framework of the feast supported the structures of the polis, particularly in regards to the question, 'who paid for what?' The introduction is grounded in work on the anthropology of feasting, particularly that by M. Dietler and B. Hayden on political commensality. Van den Eijnde devotes the bulk of it to reviewing six main topics: feasting and communication; feasting and power relations; ritual and religion at the feast; the rise of sacred temenē and the ideal of shared patronage; conbibiality and feasting; and the decline of egalitarian feasting. While all are addressed in the volume, the break-down is haphazard: feasting topics such as the first one in the above list (feasting and communication) are very broad, while others are far narrower in the scope of the volume (for example, the rise of sacred temenē and shared patronage). For those new to the anthropology of feasting and food studies, a break-down of the large topics into sub-groups, such as an overview of the various forms of communication at feasts and what they connote, would have been helpful. A section on group membership as predicated on participation at the feast would also have been appreciated, not only due to the prevalence of this theme but also because, as several papers demonstrate, membership can be flexible and even physical presence may not be necessary for participation in the feast and the feasting group. Van den Eijnde's subsequent contribution to the volume is most concerned with the question of who paid for what as he follows the changing feasting practices in Attica and patronage roles from c. 1100-600 BCE, over which time he argues that the consumption of meat migrated from feasts thrown by local big men to the sacred temenē with a divine patron. The shift to divine patronage means that individual elites are no longer competing with one another for status through increasingly large feasts; elite status is instead displayed by contributing to the divine feast. Van den Eijnde gives one of the more thorough explorations of theory and methods in the volume, focusing particularly on the distinction between 'ritual' and 'religion.'

Three papers examine how feasting contributes to self-definition. Alexandridou's paper on feasting in Early Iron Age Attica reviews the ceramic evidence from the "Sacred House" at the Academy and compares the assemblage to material from contemporary structures elsewhere in Attica. In contrast to previous work, which emphasizes the presence of sacred activities at the site, she argues that the ceramic assemblage points to feasting by an extended elite kinship group whose commensality was linked to EIA practices of elite self-definition; the subsequent abandonment of the site can then be traced to changes in elite status displays. Vlachou's contribution focuses on feasting at the sanctuary of Apollo Hyakinthos at Amykles (ancient Amyklai), from the late 11th to the late 8th century. Feasting is an important component of the ritual activities at the site, and Vlachou proposes that it "served as the crucial factor in maintaining the memory of the place" (p. 113) for the groups involved. Lambert's contribution returns to Attica as he focuses on the sacrifices and sacrificial calendar of the Marathonian Tetrapolis in the 4th century. Lambert includes an appendix with the text and translation of the calendar to accompany his study of how feasting, and particularly the funding of a feast, served as a site for individuals to articulate their status and relationship to the collective. In the Tetrapolis, local identity grounded itself in the sacrificial calendar, and the epigraphical evidence shows a "remarkably collectivist" (p. 168) approach to funding the sacrificial feasts, to which about a third of the adult men contributed.

Three papers examine the connections between the citizen collective and feasting institutions. Whitley and Madgwick's contribution on the Cretan andreion examines the evidence for the 5th/4th-century building in the First Acropolis of Praisos identified as the Almond Tree House/Andreion by the excavator. They argue that this building was an andreion, as evidenced by the cup deposits, high numbers of wild/feral caprines and hares, and the masculine iconography. As a space where the male spheres of commensality and ritualized bonding produce citizens, the Cretan andreion constituted citizenship through consumption of the wild. Steiner's paper turns to the more formalized Athenian parallel, the public dining of the prytaneis at the Tholos in Athens. She argues that the principle of isonomia that Ephialtes' reforms articulated was tangibly expressed in the dining practices of the Tholos, as seen in the round form of the building, the polis' role as host, and the standardization of ceramic vessels used. Enforced equality accompanied the mandatory shared meals of the prytaneis, reinforcing the new reforms and values of the Athenian democracy. Complementing this, Blok and van't Wout's paper examines the institution of sitēsis at the Prytaneion, the polis hearth of Athens. Their paper includes a new text and translation of the Prytaneion decree, and, while the focus of their paper is on the text and situating it in the early 420s, they also note the significance of sitēsis for Athens as an institution with diacritical significance among the citizen body and for effecting external relationships.

Two papers, those by Lynch and Wecowski, focus on the symposium as such, and both examine its evolution in line with the changing needs of the Classical elite. Wecowski's paper argues that the twilight of the symposium should be dated to the mid-4th century, with the decline beginning in the mid-5th (versus arguments that date it to the late Hellenistic period). He argues that the diminishing importance of musical accompaniment by the symposiasts themselves, the increasing practice of drinking to one's pleasure, and the gradual disappearance of the skolion game all point to a change in sympotic practices. Furthermore, during this period the symposium began to lose its role as the site of elite cultural expression and status performance. Lynch's paper turns to the change from 'symposium' to 'symposium-feast' as food becomes increasingly important to elite banqueting in the late Classical to Hellenistic period (c. 425-200). Starting in the late 5th century, fine ware assemblages suggest that food becomes more important to elite social activities, and by the 3rd century, food service and consumption vessels exceed the drinking equipment. The square andron is replaced by a rectangular hall, and the emphasis is now on personal relationships with the host rather than group bonding. The increased reliance on wealthy individuals to fund polis initiatives in this period helped shift the diacritical symposium to the empowering and promotional symposium-feast.

The final four papers of the volume focus on feasting in the Hellenistic period. Mari's paper examines the influence of Macedonian feasting practices on Hellenistic feasting, and she argues that the Macedonian influences go back further than Alexander. She traces five elements of Hellenistic feasting (moveable events; massive increase in scale; masses as audience; mixed contests; and strong military element) to three major Macedonian festivals: the Olympia at Dion, the Xandika, and the Daisia. The other three papers concern themselves with who shares in the sacrifice and how. Strootman's contribution examines how the Hellenistic kings become members of polis communities through feasting. He argues they did so through patronage feasts hosted by the king and by coopting civic feasts through ceremonial entry into the poleis. Paul turns to the practicalities of civic sacrificial division, where the shares of the sacrifice participate in a dialectic of equality and hierarchy. As seen in the sacrifices to Zeus Sosipolis in Magnesia on the Meander and the Athenian Lesser Panatheneia, the division of special portions among priests and/or those who participate in the pompē define a group separate from the general sacrificial assembly, whose membership is stressed through their notional participation in the sacrifice and division of meat. Finally, Carbon's paper turns to the issue of 'traveling meat': the sending of portions to honorands who are not present at the sacrifice. The granting of honorific portions of meat allowed foreigners and/or metics to participate in the polis community, while the additional grant of meat to those in absentia defined a Mediterranean-wide network through a commensality relationship that overcame the distance between host and guest.

This book will be useful to graduate students and scholars specializing in ancient food studies; the untranslated Greek will pose difficulties for undergraduates, as will the general assumption that the reader shares the same level of contextual knowledge that the authors do concerning specific points in Greek history, regions, and the theory concerning food and feasting. Adherence to the theme established in the introduction varies, as some papers focus more on food than the accompanying political institutions. There are a few typos,1 but the photos and line drawings are generally of high quality. In all, this contribution is valuable for its breadth and for its attempts to link feasting practices to the political institutions which operate beside and through them.

Authors and Titles

1. Floris van den Eijnde, "Feasting and Polis Institutions: an Introduction"
2. Alexandra Alexandridou, "Feasting in Early Iron Age Attika: the Evidence from the Site of the Academy"
3. Floris van den Eijnde, "Power Play at the Dinner Table: Feasting and Patronage between Palace and Polis in Attika"
4. Vicky Vlachou, "Feasting at the Sanctuary of Apollo Hyakinthos at Amykles: the Evidence from the Early Iron Age"
5. James Whitley and Richard Madgwick, "Consuming the Wild: More Thoughts on the Andreion"
6. Stephen Lambert, "Individual and Collective in the Funding of Sacrifices in Classical Athens: the Sacrificial Calendar of the Marathonian Tetrapolis"
7. Josine Blok and Evelyn van't Wout, "Table Arrangements: Sitêsis as a Polis Institution (IG I3 131)"
8. Ann Steiner, "Measure for Measure: Fifth-Century Public Dining at the Tholos in Athens"
9. Kathleen Lynch, "The Hellenistic Symposium as Feast"
10. Marek Wecowski, "When Did the Symposium Die? On the Decline of the Greek Aristocratic Banquet"
11. Rolf Strootman, "The Return of the King: Civic Feasting and the Entanglement of City and Empire in Hellenistic Greece"
12. Manuela Mari, "The Macedonian Background of Hellenistic Panegyreis and Public Feasting"
13. Stéphanie Paul, "Sharing the Civic Sacrifice: Civic Feast, Procession, and Sacrificial Division in the Hellenistic Period"
14. Jan-Mathieu Carbon, "A Network of Hearths: Honors, Sacrificial Shares, and 'Traveling Meat'"


1.   Most egregious perhaps is temenoi in the introduction for temenē.

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