Thursday, April 23, 2015


Michael Gehler, Robert Rollinger (ed.), Imperien und Reiche in der Weltgeschichte: epochenübergreifende und globalhistorische Vergleiche (2 vols.). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2014. Pp. ix, 1762. ISBN 9783447065672. €198.00.

Reviewed by Janneke de Jong, Leiden University (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

The volumes under review are the result of an international congress on 'Imperien und Reiche in der Weltgeschichte – epochenübergreifende und globalhistorische Vergleiche', organized in Hildesheim in May 2010 by the editors, as a fruitful conclusion of their collaboration in a joint project supported by their respective institutes at Hildesheim and Innsbruck. The purpose of the conference was to compare a substantial number of empires from antiquity to the present, in order to explore the notion of 'imperium' from a global historical perspective. The product of this epoch-transcending and global-historical approach has materialized in some sixty contributions by a host of prominent scholars. The majority of these deal with historical empires (or realms), but some thematic discussions are also included. Given the number of contributions, it is impossible to assess each of them individually.1 Instead of doing so, I will focus on the introduction, where the editors explain the background and aims of this work, before discussing the design of the book and making some general evaluative observations.

In the introduction, with the same title as the book, Gehler and Rollinger observe an increased interest in 'Imperiumsforschung' in the past decades, resulting from contemporary developments in international relations. In order to explain such changes, the term 'imperium' came to denote a universal phenomenon and functioned as a framework in which structures (such as origin, zenith, decline) and agents (such as leaders) were identified and analyzed (pp. 1-3). However, as Gehler and Rollinger point out, imperium is not a clearly demarcated concept, as it is used for various forms of rule throughout history: "Die geschichtliche Verwendung des Begriffs "Imperium" umfasst somit sehr differente Herrschaftsformationen und Staatenbildungen" (p. 5). Apart from this, different scholars have come up with different definitions of imperium and, as the editors repeat on p. 26, the problem is that the term's analytical potential diminishes. On top of this absence of an unambiguous definition of imperium, Gehler and Rollinger criticize studies of empires because of their limited nature, as they often focus on isolated cases or aspects only and because of the lack of a theoretical foundation of the criteria that define an imperium. Rome and China are often taken as paradigmatic empires, without further reflection or explanation. It is with an eye to deal with these shortcomings that Gehler and Rollinger propose to explore the notion of imperium in global historical perspective, with the aim to "einen weiteren Schritt in der Forschung zu setzen, um der komplexen Thematik der Imperiums-definition besser Herr werden zu können" (p. 17). Their method is to analyze empires for their 'Realgeschichte' and 'Rezeptionsgeschichte.' In order to enable comparison between the different empires they have developed a catalogue of characteristics (Kriterienkatalog) of imperia, both for the 'real history' and the 'reception history.' This serves as a directive for the contributions on historical empires and should facilitate comparison. Next, they attempt to give a new definition of imperium, which they base on the findings from the various contributions (pp. 16-19). Again, several points are mentioned that in varying manifestations recur in empires, many of which had already been addressed in previous pages. To me, this did not add clarity to the notion of imperium or to what the novelty of this notion would be. Moreover, given Gehler and Rollinger's criticism of lack of theoretical foundation by others, it is noticeable that they do not explain how and why they chose their criteria. On p. 21 they announce their 'preliminary attempt to define' (Definitionsversuch) imperium as the result of the observations they made from the individual contributions. However, this gives the impression of the same circular reasoning for which they criticize others on p. 15: attempting to deduce a definition of imperium based on contributions that are based on a set Kriterienkatalog seems to be curious. Furthermore, as Gehler and Rollinger indicate, this publication does not claim to be comprehensive: not all historical empires are included, and aspects of or topics relating to empire remain to be studied, for example 'architecture', 'language', or 'meta-empires.' That a publication on empires is not comprehensive is understandable. However, their remark on 'aspects' leads to the question in how far the criteria in the Katalog are hard criteria for a state to be designated as empire, or whether they should be considered as aspects. In short, in spite of – or perhaps due to – the discussion of the various aspects of empire, in my view its essence is still not pinpointed; or rather, its essence seems to be exactly the wide-ranging divergences implied. The question then is whether this is a problem, as Gehler and Rollinger note, or not, if Greg Woolf's opinion is followed.2

The introduction is followed by 60 chapters that are clustered in six parts:

Part 1: Imperien des Altertums (18 contributions)
Part 2: Mittelalterliche und frühneuzeitliche Imperien (13 contributions)
Part 3: Neuzeitliche Imperien (12 contributions)
Part 4: Zeitgeschichtliche Imperien (7 contributions)
Part 5: Imperien in Theorie, Geist, Wissenschaft, Recht und Architektur (5 contributions)
Part 6: Wahrnehmung und Vermittlung von Imperien (5 contributions)

The first four parts contain discussions of individual empires in a chronological-geographical arrangement. These chronological demarcations are not discussed. Admittedly, these demarcations may be well-known enough, but given the global historical perspective and recent views on, for example, historical demarcations of Antiquity and Middle Ages, some elucidation of the editors' conception of world history would have fitted well. The contributions in these parts are generally uniform in format, thanks to the specification of topics presented in the Kriterienkatalog in the introduction. The use of common literature as guideline for the divergent articles contributes to considerable correspondence in the conception of empire by the different authors.3 Most contributions to a greater or lesser degree discuss the same aspects of empire, offering solid and up-to-date accounts of current views. Yet, due to the extensiveness of a topic as empire, it is not surprising that there is little room for profound discussion of the aspects. The result is that many contributions are best characterized as overview articles, the majority of which provide good introductions to a specific empire (or a not-empire) with valuable bibliographies.

Parts 5 and 6 are a receptacle for contributions that do not specifically focus on one empire (with the exception of Bichler on the reception of [the achievements] of Alexander the Great, a chapter that could have been included in Part 1), but have a thematic focus. As such they offer a better opportunity for in-depth discussion, with more room for diachronic discussion and hence for comparison, such as Vietta's chapter on rationality as a directive force adopted and adapted by consecutive empires, and to a lesser degree Reginbogin about international law.4 Well-suited for comparison would also be Naredi-Rainer's chapter (on the architecture of the building where the symposium was convened) that now stands as an isolated case; it would have gained value had there been other contributions on the use of architecture for political-divine legitimation. Still others have a more theoretical approach. Leitner, Pittl, and Menzel's contributions deal with criteria for empires, and once more illustrate the concomitant difficulty and subjectivity accompanying attempts to come up with strict delimitations. Lekon proposes a model to conceptualize paradoxality in perceptions of empires. Schulz pleads for integration of the subject of empires in the curriculum of secondary schools. May's examples of political postcards conclude the book.

Turning to the book's editing, the following remarks can be made. The book is nicely designed and the contributions have a clear structure. Yet, some inconsistencies and deficits are noticeable. For a book that brings together so much 'globalhistorische' and 'epochenübergreifende' information, it is a bit surprising that it contains only one index, of persons (Personenindex, pp. 1741-1762). Perhaps the explanation for this is the fact that many chapters focus on recurrent topics, which would congest a general index, but some selected terms (e.g. 'diadochs', 'iconoclasm') could have been included. A geographical index would also contribute to completeness. An 'imperial overview or timetable' at the end of each chapter as appendix might have been useful as a kind of resumé, offering a quick overview of each empire discussed in chronological relation to other empires. Inconsistency in the references in the bibliographies following each chapter is another point of notice. Whereas the bibliography following the introduction and other contributions lists the authors' surnames first, in many other contributions authors are referred to by her/his first name preceding the surname (of course still the alphabetical order of the surname being followed), having a distracting effect (at least, on the reviewer). Most contributions use footnotes, but some have a different reference system (e.g. Radner). Some authors (e.g. Halm, Wende) have remarkably short bibliographies and others (e.g. Salvini, Chrysos, Thamer) give full bibliographical information in footnotes only. The use of maps can only be welcomed, and fortunately many contributions add one. However, the inclusion of the maps only after the bibliographies is awkward: a geographic visualization in the beginning of the chapter is more likely to catch the reader's attention. Less important is the difference in the quality of the maps; some maps are not so straightforward, which can be ascribed to a too high level of information or detail. As random examples the maps on pp. 362 and 815 may serve. The latter combines two different legends in grey-scale, one indicating Aztec leagues, the other indicating heights. Apart from the question whether indications of height are crucial here, the grey scales unfortunately have not come out clearly in print. The aerial photos on pp. 312, 319-321 would be more useful if they would have been put in perspective in a proper map.

These notions are of course only secondary to the question whether this volume fulfills its intention: did the editors succeed in creating a new notion of empire in a world historical perspective? Drawing up the balance, Gehler and Rollinger deserve to be praised for their effort and success in producing this voluminous work. Bringing together so many different scholars and contributions is quite an achievement and they have succeeded in producing an 'epochenübergreifend' and 'globalhistorisch' work. However, in my view the attempt to create a new understanding of empire on the basis of 'Vergleiche' is less successful. Notwithstanding their Kriterienkatalog, the general question what was exactly compared with what, and why, remains unanswered. Comparing the political organizations under consideration with the criteria formulated in the Katalog is rather ticking the boxes than assessing uniqueness or commonality in relation to other empires. Fortunately some authors have added a more or less elaborate assessment, by relating empires to immediate preceding, succeeding or rival empires and to their use as a point of reference in later periods, and also by referring to the global perspective. But an overarching discussion of how the different empires discussed fit in a global-historical perspective is absent: how did the empires and realms contribute to world history? Are there decisive differences between empires of antiquity and of other periods and if so, what would they be?5 Or is the chronological compartmentalization just a way to structure the book without further implications? Do the Roman and Chinese empires stand the test as paradigmatic empires and why? If not, which alternative paradigms can be brought in? Of course it cannot be expected that conclusive answers are given, but a concluding chapter or epilogue with some afterthoughts on the main results and a general assessment of how each of the individual empires contributed to the course of world history would have been in place.6 If anything has become clear from the publication, it is that all empires originated and evolved in their own specific historical and dynamic contexts, resulting in different evolutions and outcomes. This would suggest that 'empire' defies a strict definition, even if several aspects such as power relations, territoriality, and chronological span – to name but a few – can be identified as recurring. Be this as it may, Gehler and Rollinger's effort has resulted in a substantial collection of historical empires and realms, which are by no means exhaustively discussed, but offer plenty of opportunities for further discussions.


1.   My main focus has been on the contributions of Part 1 and 2. Even then, my comments are only generalizing.
2.   Greg Woolf, Rome. An Empire's Story . Oxford, 2012, pp. 24-27, especially 26.
3.   See introduction, pp. 3-8. Many authors refer to Herfried Münkler, Imperien. Die Logik der Weltherrschaft – vom Alten Rom bis zu den Vereinigten Staaten (Berlin 2005) and Hans-Heinrich Nolte, '1.2.3. Reich? Zum Begriff Imperium', in: Hans-Heinrich Nolte (ed.), Imperien. Eine vergleichende Studie (Studien zur Weltgeschichte). Schwalbach/Taunus, 2008.
4.   Also Schima's article on papacy is diachronic (and thematic) and would have fit well in Part 5.
5.   Cf. Vogtherr's observation on the impossibility to define 'imperium' in the Middle Ages, p. 707.
6.   As for example was done in Peter Fibiger Bang, Dariusz Kołodziejczyk (ed.), Universal Empire: A Comparative Approach to Imperial Culture and Representation in Eurasian History, Cambridge University Press, 2012. Cf. also some remarks on the utility of a comparative approach by Phiroze Vasunia, 'The Comparative Study of Empires', JRS 101 (2011), pp. 222-237.

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Lydia Pugliese, Anfore greco-italiche neapolitane (IV-III secolo a.C). Fecit te, 6. Roma: Scienze e lettere, 2014. Pp. 243. ISBN 9788866870685. €38.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Elena Gabriella Lorenzetti, archeologa indipendente (

Version at BMCR home site


Sesto volume della collana Fecit te, dedicata all'archeologia della produzione nel senso più ampio e completo del termine, l'opera di Lydia Pugliese trae origine dallo scavo per la realizzazione della metropolitana di Napoli, che nella piazza Nicola Amore ha portato alla luce una sequenza stratigrafica complessa, le cui fasi di occupazione sono datate al IV e III secolo a.C. , occupandosi nel dettaglio di un complesso artigianale funzionante durante il III secolo a.C. e gli inizi del II a.C.

Il lavoro è suddiviso in sei capitoli che illustrano una produzione locale di anfore Greco-Italiche: I- Stratigrafia dei contesti (Pp. 1-24), II- Stato degli studi sulle Greco-Italiche dal punto di vista tipologico, epigrafico, archeometrico (Pp. 25-32), III- Le anfore Greco-Italiche neapolitane rinvenute, quanto a tipologia ed indicatori di produzione (Pp. 33-54), IV- Sistema di comunicazione epigrafico (Pp. 55-129), V- Interpretazione storica e archeologica del sistema produttivo (Pp. 131-154), VI - Nuovi dati e future ricerche, seguiti da un catalogo delle anfore e dei bolli.

I contesti sono descritti in maniera generale, approfondendo solo quelli databili tra l'inizio del III e l'inizio del II secolo a.C. e tra questi quelli che mostrano maggiori indicatori di produzione; mentre tra i materiali sono studiati quelli di cui si può, secondo l'autrice, con più sicurezza ipotizzare una produzione negli stessi laboratori. Non si ha quindi una quantificazione generale né dei contesti né degli strati di cui si pubblicano le anfore.

La catalogazione delle anfore segue, dal punto di vista tipologico, la rielaborazione di F. Cibecchini1 della classificazione di C. Vandermersch,2 denominando le anfore rinvenute come Gr.-Ita. IV Napoli e Gr.-Ita. V b Napoli, che mostrano costanti caratteristiche morfologiche e metrologiche. Il primo tipo è poi distinto in due varianti, cui sono associati in maniera univoca i bolli: Π/ΓΑΡ corona Μ, variante 1, e ΧΑΡΜΕΩ e ΧΑΡ, variante 2, mentre è genericamente associato al tipo il bollo ΜΑΜΑΡΚΟΥ.

Il tipo Gr.-Ita. V b Napoli è stato invece sempre rinvenuto in condizioni frammentarie e non permette associazioni epigrafiche precise.

Nonostante l'assenza di fornaci, l'esistenza di una produzione locale è giustificata dalla presenza di indicatori primari: scarti e pezzi con difetti, sostegni di cottura, utensili per la lavorazione come stecche e pestelli, punzoni per la realizzazione del bollo ΣΙΜΙΑ sulle anse delle anfore; indicatori secondari: frequenza e omogeneità morfologica dei tipi, omogeneità di impasto, assenza di rivestimento in pece; indicatori provenienti dal contesto di scavo; indicatori provenienti dalle analisi archeometriche sugli impasti.

Gran parte del lavoro è dedicata all'analisi epigrafica dei bolli di cui si ipotizza un'origine locale. Utilizzando schemi e concetti della teoria della comunicazione di Shannon e Jacobson,2 l'autrice cerca di ricostruire fonte, codifica e messaggio, ed eventuali rumori che possano aver disturbato la comunicazione, applicando questo processo a quattro gruppi di bolli: Π/ΓΑΡ corona Μ, ΧΑΡΜΕΩ, ΜΑΜΑΡΚΟΥ e ΣΙΜΙΑ, illustrando tutte le varianti, le possibili letture e identificazioni dei personaggi coinvolti. Da questa analisi si deduce che il bollo è legato al circuito produttivo del contenitore, come personalizzazione/titolarità della produzione.

L'analisi della produzione neapolitana delle Greco-Italiche è costantemente confrontata per i modelli produttivi, per la pratica della bollatura e per l'articolazione tra territorio, istituzioni e laboratori, con alcune delle produzioni greche insulari, in particolare con quelle di Taso e Rodi.

Un ultimo elemento interessante è il collegamento che si ipotizza tra il bollo con corona e il λαμπδούχος δρόμος in onore della sirena Partenope, per la particolare forma della corona e la vicinanza, in età imperiale, del complesso monumentale degli Italikà Rhomaia Sebastà Isolympia. Le anfore entrerebbero quindi nel complesso sistema dell'organizzazione e dei personaggi legati all'agone, che per carattere rituale e politico sarebbe vicino alla lampadedromia organizzata ad Atene per le Panatenee.

Nonostante l'accuratezza dell'opera dal punto di vista bibliografico e analitico si scontri con la difficoltà di utilizzo del catalogo delle anfore e dei bolli e la carenza delle quantificazioni, l'opera rimane comunque molto interessante per il nuovo approccio al dato epigrafico e un buon esempio di integrazione tra una tipologia consolidata, come quella delle anfore Greco-Italiche, e la necessaria flessibilità richiesta da una produzione così estesa in termini di spazio e tempo.


1.   Cibecchini F., Capelli M., 2013, Nuovi dati archeologici e archeometrici sulle anfore greco-italiche: i relitti di III secolo del Mediterraneo occidentale e la possibilità di una nuova classificazione, in F. Olmer (a cura di), Itinéraires des vins romains en Gaule, IIIer-Ier siècles avant J.-C., confrontation de faciès, Actes du Colloque européen organisé per l'UMR 5140 du CNRS (Lattes, 2007), Lattes, p. 423-452. Vandermersch C., 1994, Vins et amphores de Grande Grèce et de Sicile. Ive-IIIe s. avant J.C., Napoli (
2.   Shannon C.E., 1948, A Mathematical theory of communication, in Bell system technical journal 27, p. 379-423. Jacobson R., 1966, Saggi di linguistica generale, Milano, p. 181-218.

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Victor Cojocaru, Bibliographia classica orae septentrionalis Ponti Euxini. Vol. 1: Epigraphica, numismatica, onomastica et prosopograhica. Pontica et Mediterranea, 2. Cluj-Napoca: Editura Mega, 2014. Pp. 560, 1 CD ROM. ISBN 9786065434752. 150 lei.

Reviewed by Georgy Kantor, St John's College, University of Oxford (

Version at BMCR home site

An up-to-date bibliographic guide to studies in the ancient history of the Northern Black Sea shore has long been a desideratum, particularly for Western scholars, as coverage of epigraphic publications from that part of the world in SEG and Bulletin épigraphique has often been patchy, and the latest detailed numismatic bibliography appeared in 1975.1 Even in Russia there was no systematic survey of new publications between the cessation of the annual bibliographic appendix to the Vestnik drevnej istorii (covering Soviet publications only) after 19902 and the appearance of epigraphic surveys by A. V. Belousov in the exciting new periodical Aristeas, covering the years 2011 onwards.3

Victor Cojocaru, a distinguished Romanian epigraphist, equally conversant with Soviet and Romanian scholarly tradition, is very well positioned to supply the need and puts us all in his debt. He begins on his home turf with epigraphy, numismatics and onomastics. Future volumes (listed at 9 n. 7) are planned as II. Archaeologica; III. Ars, res sacrae & mythologica; IV. Historica & Historiographica; V. Varia. Addenda & Corrigenda. The geographical area covered is roughly co-terminous with modern Moldova, Ukraine and Russia, wider than in the recent synoptic study by Christel Müller (who excludes Tyras and Nikonion), but in line with traditional boundaries of the subject in Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet historiography.4

The current volume includes 5057 entries (nos. 5029-5057 are an addendum out of normal sequence) and covers publication up to and including 2013. The coverage is very full, including even some unpublished dissertations (e.g., no. 4154); random checks on more obscure items known to this reviewer have not detected many omissions. The most important one seems to be the annotated edition of the oeuvre of Paul du Brux (1770-1835), which includes some previously unpublished first reports of inscriptions.5 In a few cases one wonders whether an item deserved a separate entry: while it was arguably useful to create a separate entry for each inscription included in the epigraphic appendix to Christel Müller's D'Olbia à Tanaïs, was it really necessary to accord one to each of A. Avram's sections in the Bulletin épigraphique? Publications of the same article in different languages, not uncommon where original publication was in Russian, Ukrainian or Romanian, are listed within the same entry (e.g., no. 345 or no. 1328; less correctly in no. 1317, where contributions of S. Luria to the infamous Diophantos decree controversy in Russian and in Polish are, in fact, different in content). Less conveniently, Cojocaru does not give a separate entry to some articles he has not read, appending them to the most closely similar entry by the same author with a 'non vidi' note (e.g., no. 3821).

Names and titles are given in Latin transcription, accompanied by German translation of the titles: those not familiar with the endless changes of conventions in transcribing Cyrillic should stand warned that the transcription is probably not the one they are acquainted with. Epigraphic entries include convenient references to further republication or summaries of inscriptions in SEG (up to vol. LIX), Bulletin épigraphique or standard corpora; entries on numismatic publications include cross-references to Golenko's 1975 bibliography, where relevant.

A brief introduction in German provides some detail on earlier bibliographic publications (pp. 7-15). It is followed by a detailed list of abbreviations (pp. 16–61), particularly useful for information on obscure local or museum periodicals, often inaccessible even in the best academic libraries in the West. The bibliography itself is organised on a geographical principle from the Achilleos Nesos in the West to the Bosporan Kingdom in the East in sections I-VI (it ought to be noted that geographical sections are not of equal weight: Bosporos is a larger and more important area than the Achilleos Nesos or Scythian Neapolis), followed by general works (section VII). Sections VIII and IX are dedicated (on a linguistic principle) to 'Iranica', including the Scythians and Sarmatians, and 'Cymmerica' respectively.

Each geographical section is subdivided into 'Epigraphica', 'Numismatica', (where available) 'Pondera' and 'Onomastica & Prosopographica'. Given the prevalence of ceramic epigraphy in the studies of the region (one area where Russian classical scholarship has arguably been at the forefront of new approaches), it is perhaps a pity that the work on amphora and tile stamps has not been put in a separate section from the rest of the epigraphic publications.6 The 'Generalia' section contains, beyond those, a further subsection of 'Epigraphica linguistica' (publications on the language of inscriptions) and 'Numismatica methodica'. The principle of separation is not always obvious to me: why, for instance, is one publication on the intractable term ΣΑΣΤΗΡ in the civic oath of Chersonesos listed in its geographical order (no. 1332) and another under the general 'Epigraphica linguistica' (no. 4276)? Each section is usefully preceded by a list of references to corpora and other standard surveys and bibliographies. It is perhaps worth noting that publications of each author are listed in chronological rather than alphabetical order.

A useful and accurate concordance with the Année épigraphique, Bulletin amphorique, Bulletin épigraphique, Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum and the main corpora, an index of authors' names and a rather more selective general index complete the volume. A CD-ROM supplied with it contains the book in a searchable publishers' pdf-format.

All in all, this publication will be an indispensable tool for anyone working on the Northern Black Sea and adjacent regions in antiquity, and every serious research library should get it and Cojocaru's subsequent volumes. As a member of the SEG editorial team working on this region I shall be using it constantly. However, even a convinced Luddite such as myself needs to ask whether a transition to online format would not eventually improve the bibliography's usability and allow for a more seamless expansion. The impressive online edition of IOSPE V, available both in English and in Russian, shows the way forward.


1.  K. V. Golenko, Chiron 5 (1975), 497–642 (see the volume under review, p. 32).
2.   Not 1987 as erroneously stated by Cojocaru at p. 10 n. 10; see A. N. Staritsyn, 'Ukazatel' literatury po istorii antichnogo mira, opublikovannoj v SSSR v 1986 godu', VDI 191 (1989.4), 165–78; 192 (1990.1), 215–27 (nos. 370–612 are Northern Black Sea region-related items). A convenient bibliography of all publications (including Black Sea related) appearing in the VDI itself is now provided in I. S. Arkhipov, Je. V. Liapustina, Je. I. Solomatina and S. A. Stepantsov, Ukazatel' materialov, opublikovannykh v "Vestnike drevnej istorii" v 1937-2012 gg. (Moscow 2012); for articles on classical subjects (including the Black Sea-related ones) in the main Russian academic periodical of the imperial period, see now A. Ruban and E. Basargina, Russische klassische Altertumswissenschaft in der Zeitschrift des Ministeriums für Volksaufklärung. Žurnal Ministerstva Narodnogo Prosveščenija (ŽMNP): Annotiertes Verzeichnis der in den Jahren 1873-1917 erschienenen Beiträge (St Petersburg 2012). Both seem to have appeared too late to be noticed by Cojocaru.
3.   A. V. Belousov, Aristeas: Philologia Classica et Historia Antiqua 6 (2012), 206–25 (no. 3896 in the bibliography under review). Now followed by id., Aristeas: Philologia Classica et Historia Antiqua 8 (2013), 153–70 (for 2012) and 10 (2014), 317–41 (for 2013). For the neighbouring Black Sea region falling outside the scope of Cojocaru's bibliography, note also the annual 'Cronica epigrafică a Romaniei' by Constantin Petolescu, published in SCIVA since 32 (1981), 593–613.
4.   C. Müller, D'Olbia à Tanaïs: Territoires et réseaux d'échanges dans le mer Noire septentrionale aux époques classique et hellénistique (Bordeaux 2010) (no. 4141 in Cojocaru's bibliography).
5.   P. du Brux, Sobranie sochinenij, ed. by I. V. Tunkina, N. L. Sukhachev (St Petersburg 2010), 2 vols. (in French and Russian). Note, e.g., vol. 1, 169 (Thasian amphora stamps found in the Kul-Oba mound); 291 (earliest report of CIRB 41); 329 (provenance of CIRB 17, 37, 41, 63, 74, 823, 867, 1036, and of two further inscriptions, now lost)
6.   For a magisterial survey of the current state of the discipline, see now Y. Garlan, 'Les timbres amphoriques en Grèce ancienne. Nouvelles questions. Nouvelles méthodes. Nouveaux résultats', Journal des Savants (2013), 203–70 (especially pp. 223, 225–7, 259–61 for contributions by Russian scholars).

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Alex Gottesman, Politics and the Street in Democratic Athens. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. xii, 247. ISBN 9781107041684. $95.00.

Reviewed by Benjamin Keim, Pomona College (

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In this timely volume, described as 'the first in-depth study of the classical Athenian public sphere,' Alex Gottesman assesses the significance of extra-institutional communication within the Athenian democracy (p. i). Acknowledging the complementary roles of Athenian institutions and ideologies, Gottesman draws our attention to that middle ground, abuzz with rumor-mongerers and publicity stunts, where decrees were effectively enacted and verdicts truly enforced. Here initial sketches of Athenian social spaces and networks (Chapters One and Two) are followed by case-studies illustrating how diverse individuals—whether rhetores or slaves, historical Athenians or Plato's Magnesians—might employ rumor and publicity to effect changes within civic institutions (Chapters Three through Seven).

Gottesman prefers 'the Street' over 'public opinion' as his organizing concept for two reasons (ix-xi). First, his 'Street', derived from an Arabic metaphor that has gained wider currency in the aftermath of September 11th and the Arab Spring, has both positive and negative connotations, of vibrant sociality tinged with revolutionary fervor. Second, this 'Street' explicitly includes the politically marginalized. While both Arab and Athenian Streets feature politicking across social divides, the negative side of the Athenian Street is revealed not by an affinity for regime-shattering upheaval but rather by the intrusion of emotion and irrationality into institutional affairs.

Although he recognizes the importance of these institutional affairs, Gottesman believes too much attention has been focused on the Assembly and the courts: we overlook 'shabby Athens' (and the shabbier residents of Athens) instead of privileging the Street as the center of Athenian democracy (4, 26n.1). Drawing on Danielle Allen's model of the multiplicity of public spheres,1 Gottesman divides Athens into an institutional sphere (defined as the world of the Assembly, Council, and courts, 8-11) and an informal, 'extra-institutional public sphere' that 'existed wherever people gathered and socialized' (20). While institutional discourse was primarily uni-directional, the informal sphere was marked by multi-voice, multi-directional debates that yielded not only policing (as detailed within the earlier works of Virginia Hunter and David Cohen) but also rampant politicking.

Chapters One and Two elaborate this vision of the informal public sphere by painting the Athenians' spatial and social worlds in very broad strokes. Chapter One embarks on 'a tour of the Agora' that reveals an arena of orderly chaos, a mixed marketplace in which citizens and non-citizens were jostling side by side. Gottesman argues resolutely against 'a common view' of the Agora as a purified space in which trade and ritual were segregated: although there was a line between commercial and civic functions, it was a 'particularly fine' and 'porous' one (40-3). The institutional and non-institutional are separate and yet inseparable.

Chapter Two surveys 'Athenian social networks' and the manner in which these 'overlapping and extensive' networks effectively created a kind of face-to-face society (63). Within his introductory remarks Gottesman suggested associations were a significant means of institutional and extra-institutional interaction at Athens (7), and here, drawing inspiration from Kostas Vlassopoulos' work on 'free spaces', he surveys the range of citizen and mixed, inherited and voluntary associations at Athens as 'spaces in which people socialized across statuses' (45). While voluntary citizen associations might conjure up threats of political conspiracy, even more concerning, from a civic perspective, were those associations, such as financial eranoi or religious thiasoi, that brought citizens and non-citizens together (52-5). Yet individuals regularly associate even without formal ties, and in this city of words they were chattering away everywhere they went, especially around the Agora. The mixed-status banter within these public venues, whether the proverbial barbershops or workshops such as that depicted on the Foundry Cup, was critical to the enacting of the democracy's institutional decisions (63). If, without this banter, without action by individuals and groups, the decisions enacted by the institutions would not come into effect, we might well expect individuals to try to manipulate this dynamic (76). And so they did.

Chapter Three opens with a delightful reading of Plutarch's Solon as the embodiment of 'the problem of non-institutional politics', a leader who is worrying about the corrosive effects of Thespis' and Pisistratus' theatricality yet who is also carefully orchestrating his own rallying cry against Salamis (77-9). Thus the tension at the heart of this study emerges once again: while Athenian institutions could not function without the Street, the passions and potential irrationality of the Street threatened the ideological foundations of those institutions. Turning to Aeschylus' Suppliants, Gottesman adopts the playwright's critical eye as Pelasgus, absent any compelling 'institutional' reason to support the Danaids' appeals, does not reason with his fellow Argives (as Theseus does with the Athenians in Euripides' Suppliants) but instead employs the 'publicity stunt' of supplication to persuade them by other means (88-94). Similar passages extolling persuasion by argument, rather than performance or emotion, are adduced from comedy, historiography, and oratory: across genres and across centuries authors suggest that manipulative displays and emotional appeals should not be a part of institutional discussions, yet leading Athenians appear more interested in appropriating, rather than prohibiting, such theatricality.

Supplication remains prominent within Chapter Four, 'Institutionalizing Theatricality in the Assembly', as Gottesman considers the eight fragmentary fourth-century Attic inscriptions attesting (with the formula περὶ ὧν ἔδοξεν ἔννομα ἱκετεύειν) supplication within the Assembly. Each of these inscriptions involve the award of honors to non-citizens, honors that other contemporary foreign honorands were granted without supplication. Gottesman argues compellingly that these acts of supplication may be attributed to the ambitions of those citizens who were serving as sponsors. Read against the backdrop of fourth-century Athens' ever-increasing nostalgia for the past, these inscriptions suggest that leading Athenians of this period—from Eubulides to Lycurgus—viewed such efforts as yet another means of competing publicly. While such sponsorships might yield (rumors of) monetary reward, more significant was the 'symbolic profit' reaped by performing this traditional Athenian role of protector of suppliants (108).

With Chapter Five, 'Publicity Stunts in Athenian politics', foreshadowings of another twentieth-century concept are found within ancient mêchanai. An introduction to the three axes of Gottesman's interpretive model—What meaning was the stunt meant to convey to its original audience(s)? How did the stunt influence institutional decision-making? How effective was the stunt?—is followed by exegesis of three significant stunts: Pisistratus' acquisition of a bodyguard and ceremonial entry with Phye (118-25); Ephialtes' 'naked' supplication on the altar (125-31); and the 'mournful' Apaturia after the Battle of Arginusae (131-40). Throughout his readings Gottesman remains sensitive to the difficulties raised by the surviving account(s), and emphasizes the structure, rather than historicity, of the narrated events. While these three stunts marked pivotal moments in Athenian history, they should not be thought unusual but rather exemplary of Athenian political culture through the end of the Peloponnesian War. The subsequent disappearance of such stunts might be attributed, Gottesman argues, to a wide range of causes: the violent political upheavals of 411 and 404, the instigation of probouloi after the Sicilian Expedition, the emergence of the graphê paranomôn, or the increasingly complex methods of allotting dikastai to the courts (144-6). More positively, Gottesman speculates that the rise of pamphleteering allowed for new means of communicating with the same audience, even as speechwriters (logographoi) were subject to the same aspersions cast at rumor-mongerers (logopoioi)

Stunts of an entirely different sort are the concern of Chapter Six, 'Slaves in the Theseion'. The framing argument suggests that individual slaves might stage stunts in order 'to improve their personal circumstance', either by obtaining a new master or by improving their treatment by their current master (155). More particularly, Gottesman argues that the slaves in the Theseion, the lowest of the low, hoped that by attracting a would-be master and staging an aphairesis eis eleutherian they would be able to achieve new and improved connections (178). While this interpretation is not implausible, the acknowledged lack of any clear and unambiguous evidence for slaves in the Theseion should not distract us from this chapter's fundamental point, which is shown to be of great interest to citizens and slaves alike: in the absence of any central database or authority an individual's identity is determined entirely by whom he knows, and thus with the right performance all sorts of Athenian ties and identities might be forged.

With Chapter Seven, 'The Magnesian Street', Gottesman moves from Athenian practice to Platonic theory. In the Laws, unlike the earlier Republic or the later Aristotelian corpus, Gottesman finds a 'robust, inclusive public sphere' that is envisioned as a 'force for order and reason' (183-4, 209). Thus the Guardians of the Republic are replaced by Ho Boulomenos of the Laws (186); the elections of the Magnesian Council and Law Guardians are orchestrated to ensure widespread participation; women play key roles, as marriage inspectors and as residents, within the maintenance of civic order; and, perhaps most importantly, the infelicitously-dubbed 'Nocturnal Council' is reconciled with the remainder of the Laws through its junior members, who, as both watchers and watched, allow their fellow citizens the opportunity to assess their quality of their community's elderly leaders (197-203). Beneficial gossip is encouraged for the good of the community, and its good, non-slanderous character is assured by individuals' desire for virtue rather than honor. Although somewhat distant from Athenian realities, the content and expansiveness of the Laws allows Gottesman ample material with which to model and explore the interactions of complementary institutional and public spheres.

The main challenge of this volume—that we acknowledge the politicking that occurred outside of Athenian institutions, even if the dynamics and details of those exchanges are even more obscure than the institutional debates they shaped—is a worthy one.2 Throughout this volume Gottesman remains very sensitive to the limitations of his evidence and its interpretation, whether he is reading Aeschylean tragedy or fragmentary third-century inscriptions; although they are merely 'glimpses' of the Street, together his individual sources provide an outlook on the Athenian experience that demands additional study (210). I close by offering four suggestions: first, building on these foundations, we must continue refining our model(s) of Athenian spheres. Throughout this volume, for example, the Assembly, Council, and lawcourts are sensibly said to define the institutional sphere, yet on one occasion the theatre is also included within the ranks of key institutions (10). Second, continuing Gottesman's sensitive engagement with non-citizen perspectives, we must continue exploring the experiences of—and contributions made by—women, foreigners, and slaves to Athenian politics broadly understood. Third, following Gottesman's emphasis on Athenian associations and on Robin Osborne's vision of the "miniature poleis" within the polis, we must scrutinize not merely these particular groups but also the various arenas—symposia, gymnasia, etc.—in which they met. Finally, we must draw into our conversation additional sources, such as the dokimasia-speeches of Lysias and Aeschines, that shed light on the interactions of institutional and extra-institutional conversations. Although Gottesman suggests that the preponderance of elite literary texts means that '[w]e cannot access the Street directly' (15), the line of inquiry he sets out leads not into a cul-de-sac but rather down a broad boulevard that will reward our further exploration.


1.   Allen advised the University of Chicago dissertation, on supplication, from which this volume descended (xii).
2.   For another recent contribution, albeit with a much broader Greek perspective, see Sara Forsdyke (2012) Slaves Tell Tales: And Other Episodes in the Politics of Popular Culture in Ancient Greece (Princeton: PUP), reviewed BMCR 2013.02.24.

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Biagio Virgilio, Studi sull'Asia Minore e sulla regalità ellenistica: scelta di scritti. Studi ellenistici, supplementi, 2. Pisa; Roma: Fabrizio Serra editore, 2014. Pp. xxxvi, 418. ISBN 9788862276368. €225.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Stefano Caneva, Université de Liège (

Version at BMCR home site

[An index of the papers is given below.]

This volume is the second Supplement of Studi Ellenistici, the journal founded and directed by Biagio Virgilio, and the first collecting his main contributions in the field of Hellenistic history. The selected studies include journal papers, acts of conferences and book chapters appeared between 1982 and 2013, which are re-published here with minor changes (bibliographical updates, suppression of outdated references and reduction of the number of images). The last, unpublished study provides a new textual and historical analysis of the letter of a Seleucid official from Limyra, Lycia, edited by M. Wörrle in 2011.1 The unity of the volume is assured by new internal references, a list of abbreviations and three indexes (of ancient sources, discussed topics and Greek words). Papers are divided into four main thematic sections: sociopolitical trends in Hellenistic Asia Minor; the Attalid kingdom; Hellenistic kingship; royal correspondence.

Two out of the three contributions gathered in Section I ("Poteri a confronto in Asia Minore") are long reviews of books. 2 In paper 3, Virgilio provides a detailed textual and historical analysis of the honorific decrees for Apollonios from Metropolis, focusing in particular on the role of non-royal benefactors in 2nd-century Asia Minor.

Section II ("Pergamo e gli Attalidi") explores various aspects of the history of the Attalid kingdom. The controversial reputation of the Attalids is investigated in paper 4, where the celebratory depiction transmitted by official inscriptions is contrasted with the denigrating portraits of Philetairos and Attalos III provided by historiography. Papers 5 and 6 focus on two aspects of the interaction between the Attalids and their subjects as they are revealed by epigraphic documents: the relationship between Eumenes I and his mercenaries and the royal concessions of the Attalids to local communities during the 3rd and 2nd centuries. This overview of royal euergetism is complemented by the dossier of Diodoros Pasparos (paper 7), the paramount case of a private benefactor in Pergamon, which enriches the analysis provided by the study of the dossier of Apollonios from Metropolis discussed in paper 5. The documentation concerning Diodoros also provides the starting point for a short note (8) on the festival Nikephoria in Pergamon.

Section III ("Re e regalità. Un potere non soggetto a rendiconto") deals with Hellenistic ideas of monarchy. Papers 9 and 10 provide an overview of Greek texts on kingship (from the 4th century BC to the Roman period, from Macedonia to the Indian borders) and an analysis of the Boscoreale frescoes, focusing on the representation of Macedonian monarchic power under Antigonos Gonatas. Paper 11 enlarges the scope of the discussion by drawing attention to Polybius' evaluation of the Hellenistic kings.

In Section IV ("La corrispondenza del re. Comunicazione, governo e potere"), letters written by kings or by their officials and collaborators are the object of an interesting discussion focusing on the practical implementation of monarchic power in Hellenistic Asia Minor. Paper 12 highlights the specificity of the Attalid documentation in comparison with the royal correspondence of other Hellenistic kingdoms. Virgilio observes that the typically assertive, performative tone of royal letters combines, in some Attalid documents, with unusual optative, emotionally charged formulae, revealing the difficulties kings might have in implementing their power. Explanation for this distinctive feature of the Attalid correspondence is convincingly sought at a two-fold level: on the one hand, by contextualizing the relevant texts within the progressive decline of the regional hegemony of Pergamon after Pydna (168 BC); on the other hand, by interpreting the stylistic specificity of the Attalid royal communication in relation to its model of dissemination. In this regard, Virgilio contrasts the bureaucratic procedure known for other Hellenistic dynasties, where royal messages usually reached their recipients through the mediation of officials, with the Attalid correspondence, which appears to have followed a more direct pattern of communication between the king and his correspondents.

In papers 13-16, the focus on the Attalids is replaced by a broader analysis of the relationships between kings, cities and temples in Hellenistic Caria, Cilicia and Lycia. The first dossier sheds light on the interventions of various Hellenistic kings and of the local mediator Olympichos in relation to the controversies opposing the city of Mylasa and the priests of Labraunda. Virgilio argues that, while the sovereigns did not operate in direct competition with local temples, they would in fact tend to favour the position of a Hellenised city against the interests of the indigenous priestly elites. Finally, the letters from Sinuri, Soloi (convincingly dated by Virgilio to 197 BC) and Limyra enrich the epigraphic dossier concerning the threats for citizens and private property caused by the Seleucid army during the campaigns of Antiochos III in Asia Minor.

Despite a number of typographical flaws, which clash with the high standard of the publication, the volume is a successful and deserved homage to Virgilio's extensive knowledge of Hellenistic political history and epigraphy and fulfils the purpose of clarifying the central topics of his research: the different and complementary roles of epigraphy and historiography in shedding light on the socio-political and cultural life of the Hellenistic world, with particular attention to Asia Minor; the representation and practice of monarchic power; and the interaction between kings, officials and armies on the one hand, cities and temples on the other.

Another positive observation concerns Virgilio's plain style, which will make his papers easily readable for a public not entirely comfortable with the Italian language. In a few cases (esp. papers 14 and 15), the chronicle of previous studies that precedes the new edition of an inscription would have benefited from more brevity. However, even in these cases, Virgilio's first-hand work on unpublished archives and notebooks of major epigraphists succeeds in winning the attention of the reader with an interesting portrait of a romantic period of the discipline, when epigraphists were also adventurous voyagers in Turkey.

The last observation is related to an unfulfilled expectation. Considering the large thematic scope of Virgilio's studies and the three decades that separate the oldest and the newest texts published in this volume, an introductory note, better contextualizing the author's contribution within the international scholarship of the last decades, would have been a useful companion to this new edition of his work. By effectively integrating the specific bibliographical updates provided in the footnotes, this general introduction would have strengthened the internal cohesion of the volume.

Index of the collected papers, with a synopsis of the alternative editions:

[1] Anatolia ellenistica, romana, cristiana (p. 3)
Studi Ellenistici VIII (1996), 223-244
[2] Sulle città dell'Asia Minore occidentale nel II secolo a.C. (p. 17)
Studi Ellenistici XVI (2005), 531-564
[3] Sui decreti di Metropolis in onore di Apollonios (p. 41)
Studi Ellenistici XIX (2006), 249-268

[4] Fama, eredità e memoria degli Attalidi di Pergamo (p. 57)
Studi Ellenistici IV (1994), 137-171
[5] Eumene I e i mercenari di Filetereia e di Attaleia (p. 81)
Studi Classici e Orientali 32 (1982), 97-140
[6] Su alcune concessioni attalidi a comunità soggette (p. 103)
Studi Ellenistici XIII (2001), 57-73
[7] La città ellenistica e i suoi 'benefattori': Pergamo e Diodoro Pasparo (p. 117)
Athenaeum 82 (1994), 299-314
[8] Nota sui Nikephoria pergameni (p. 131)
Studi EllenisticiXII (1999), 353-357

[9] Storiografia e regalità ellenistica (p. 137)
E. Luppino Mares (ed.), Storiografia e regalità nel mondo greco, Alessandria 2003, 304-330
[10] Re e regalità ellenistica negli affreschi di Boscoreale (159)
Studi EllenisticiXII (1999), 93-105
[11] Polibio, il mondo ellenistico e Roma (p. 171)
Studi EllenisticiXX (2008), 315-345

[12] Forme e linguaggi della comunicazione fra re ellenistici e città (p. 197)
Studi EllenisticiXXVII (2013), 243-26
[13] Re, città e tempio nelle iscrizioni di Labraunda (p. 217)
Studi EllenisticiXIII (2001), 39-56
[14] La lettera reale del santuario di Sinuri (p. 231)
Studi Ellenistici XXIII (2010), 55-107
French version: Studi Ellenistici XXV (2011), 79-178
[15] Le esplorazioni in Cilicia e la lettera reale sulla indisciplina dell'erescito acquartierato a Soloi (p. 275)
J.-B. Yon, P.-L. Gatier (eds.), Mélanges en l'honneur de Jean-Paul Rey-Coquais, MUSJ60 (2007), 165-240
French version: Studi Ellenistici XXV (2011), 179-268
[16] La lettera seleucidica alla città di Limyra in Licia (p. 333)
French version: forthcoming in Studi Ellenistici XXIX (2015)


1.   "Epigraphische Forschungen zur Geschichte Lykiens X: Limyra in seleukidischer Hand", Chiron 41 (2011), 377-415.
2.   S. Mitchell, Anatolia. Land, men and gods in Asia Minor, Oxford 1993; A. Bresson, R. Descat (éds), Les cites d'Asie Mineure occidentale au IIe siècle a.C., Paris-Bordeaux 2001.

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Theodora Suk Fong Jim, Sharing with the Gods: 'Aparchai' and 'Dekatai' in Ancient Greece. Oxford classical monographs. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Pp. xv, 373. ISBN 9780198706823. $150.00.

Reviewed by Giovanni Marginesu, Università degli Studi di Sassari (

Version at BMCR home site


La monografia di Theodora Jim è incentrata sulle ἀπαρχαί e sulle δεκάται, ossia, rispettivamente sulle 'primizie' e sulle 'decime' nell'antica Grecia. Si tratta di dediche retrospettive, ossia devolute non al momento in cui si intraprende un'impresa, ma solo alla sua conclusione, e con esse si offre alla divinità una quantità del bene prodotto o acquisito, nella forma grezza di una porzione del bene stesso o secondo un sistema che converta parte dei proventi in un oggetto specificamente creato come ἀνάθημα.1

A mo' di introduzione, una sintetica rassegna degli studi parte da William Robertson Smith e passa attraverso James Frazer, Jane Harrison, Henri Hubert e Marcel Mauss, per ragionare di come il fenomeno delle primizie sia stato collocato in un più ampio contesto storico-antropologico e comparativo, toccando temi come il passaggio dalla magia alla religione e alla scienza; o i processi di sacralizzazione e desacralizzazione alla base del sacrificio. Un significativo punto di svolta è riconosciuto nell'opera di Max Gluckman sulle primizie nell'ambito delle tribù Bantu in Africa sud-orientale: egli dimostrò come una finalità profonda della pratica fosse l'affermazione dei legami sociali, attraverso il concetto chiave di ritual of rebellion.

Il libro deve molto a una serie di indagini sulle dediche nel mondo greco, da quella di Rouse, che scandaglia l'universo degli oggetti votivi, alla memoria lincea di Maria Letizia Lazzarini, che si occupa delle formule delle dediche votive nel mondo arcaico, al saggio di Van Straten, che traccia alcune linee generali della pratica votiva, sino alla più recente sintesi di Parker.2 Tuttavia esso non solo copre, nell'ambito del più vasto tema delle dediche, un argomento trascurato, ma segna un notevole distacco dagli studiosi che si sono interessati specificamente di primizie, in particolare da Hans Beer, autore di una dissertazione del 1914 che poco si emancipava dalla visione generale di ascendenza frazeriana, laddove il già citato saggio di Rouse aveva già mostrato una notevole apertura agli aspetti antiquari, epigrafici e sociali.

In un simile quadro l'intento dell'Autrice non è tanto quello di stabilire quali tipi di dediche fossero le primizie o in quali contesti esse si collocassero, ma piuttosto quale motivazione spingesse gli Antichi a donare decime o primizie alle divinità. Al fondo sta la questione del nesso fra ritual acts e religious belief. Jim avverte subito il lettore del suo presupposto teorico: rifiuta l'idea che i comportamenti religiosi dei Greci siano dettati da una vuota e automatica ritualità, e in questo reagisce a una influente corrente di studi; pensa invece che il fedele antico nutrisse un 'sentimento' religioso, credesse nell'esistenza delle divinità alle quali dedicava e provasse delle autentiche emozioni e dunque che "a close investigation of the Greeks' religious behaviour can shed important light on their religious presuppositions, hopes and fears, and perceptions of the gods" (p. 22).

Discussi lo stato dell'arte e il metodo, tracciati il campo d'indagine e l'arco cronologico (dal 700 al 31 a.C.), dopo aver disquisito sulla terminologia e sugli aspetti della religious mentality nei primi due capitoli, Jim organizza l'universo delle fonti che contengono i termini ἀπαρχαί e δεκάται. Da subito è chiaro che si deve rinunciare a una interpretazione monolitica del fenomeno, e si procede a dividere la materia distinguendo fra dediche agricole; dediche dei pasti; dediche private; dediche di guerra; dediche a città egemoni e a santuari panellenici e intese come tributi.

In alcuni casi è utilizzato il modello teorico elaborato da Maurice Godelier: alla base della pratica di estrarre primizie o decime dal raccolto o da un pasto sarebbe il senso di angoscia e ansia causato nell'individuo dal suo sentirsi perennemente in debito nei confronti della divinità. Sotto un simile profilo lo studio presente tende a privilegiare il concetto di debito quale valore fondante la pratica votiva, mettendo in discussione quelli di χάρις e reciprocità.3

Il modello godelieriano non è tuttavia adeguato per spiegare tutte le forme di ἀπαρχαί: relativamente ai bottini di guerra la pratica di estrarre delle ἀπαρχαί si spiegherebbe piuttosto applicando la teoria di Gluckman, secondo il quale le primizie avrebbero ridotto, frenandole e schermandole, le potenzialità distruttive (e tendenzialmente erosive della coerenza del gruppo) insite nella divisione del bottino.4

Una lettura a parte rivendicherebbero le ἀπαρχαί intese come contributo a potenze dominanti, quali furono l'ἀπαρχή dedicata ad Atena da parte dei membri della Lega Delio-Attica a partire dal 454 a. C. e quella del grano devoluta ad Eleusi: in esse e nei casi simili si coglierebbe il tentativo di giustificare attraverso la pratica votiva un sistema collaudato di riscossione e, in sostanza, di sottomissione.

Segue un capitolo centrato sulla trasmissione del lessico delle ἀπαρχαί alla dimensione dei pagamenti, delle imposte e delle tasse nel santuario, con valutazioni relative anche al profilo finanziario dei culti cittadini, e al ruolo di decime e primizie - spesso impiegate per l'edilizia - nel finanziamento del sacro.

Theodora Jim attraversa e riunisce una materia controversa che evolve dal gesto spontaneo dell'individuo, all'azione strutturata e concertata della comunità, sino all'obbligo di un pagamento; le primizie investono poi un campo che, dalla microeconomia, giunge sino alla finanza, coinvolgendo quantità minimali di raccolto, oggetti in metallo prezioso e addirittura gli edifici pubblici e sacri.

L'approccio è interdisciplinare, e interessa in special modo l'epigrafia, dato che una gran parte delle fonti è rappresentata da iscrizioni; a maggior ragione poi esse meritano spazio dal momento che l'Autrice tratta alcuni documenti controversi. Si segnalano, a mero titolo esemplificativo: il calendario sacrificale da Cos, IG XII.4.275 linea 12, dove ad eparxamenoi degli editori la Jim preferisce aparxamenoi (pp. 33-34); la dedica di Nearchos, IG I3 628, che sembra essere stata offerta dal ceramista ormai nella sua tarda età (pp. 133-134); il decreto sulle primizie, IG I3 78, dalla cronologia vessata (pp. 207-219).

L'ampiezza cronologica e geografica dei dati e dei documenti comporta di necessità che alcuni temi siano toccati con rapidità. È così rievocato anche il capitolo delle spoglie di guerra e degli edifici costruiti dal bottino di Maratona. Tuttavia, anche se la realizzazione delle opere da bottini è un fatto conclamato, i rendiconti delle opere dimostrano che nella realtà agli edifici e alle statue monumentali, specie quelli ateniesi realizzati nel V secolo, era riservato un finanziamento complesso. La Promachos, per di più, pone problemi ardui (p. 183): la fonte (soprattutto Pausania I.28.2) parla di spoglie di Maratona, e sulle spese meritano ancora attenzione le ipotesi del Dinsmoor basate sull'integrazione dei rendiconti, ma il problema di questi documenti non è solo quello della cronologia; i testi potrebbero anche rendicontare una diversa fabbrica o cantiere, dal momento che nei frammenti non sopravvive alcun riferimento certo alla statua fidiaca.5

Edito in maniera pregevole, il volume è corredato da utili fotografie delle iscrizioni, e chiuso da un complesso di indici delle fonti letterarie ed epigrafiche e dei termini notevoli che rende agevole la consultazione del testo.

Per concludere, Sharing with the Gods colma una lacuna e invita a riflettere su una pratica assai pervasiva nel mondo greco. Ben informato nella scelta della documentazione, il lavoro è destinato ad imporsi quale stimolante contributo. La sua riuscita si individua nell'apertura comparativa e nella rinuncia a segnare un quadro interpretativo rigido della pratica di versare le primizie nel mondo greco; e le ulteriori sortite dell'Autrice e di altri studiosi sull'argomento daranno conto di aree ancora da indagare della pratica votiva nel suo complesso.


1.   Importante risulta al proposito la classificazione di raw e converted offerings alle pp. 4-5.
2.   W.H.D. Rouse, Greek Votive Offerings. An Essay in History of Greek Religion, Cambridge 1902; M. L. Lazzarini, Le formule delle dediche votive nella Grecia arcaica, MAL 1976; F. T. van Straten, Votives and Votaries in Greek Sanctuaries, in J. Bingen, A. Schachter (edd.), Le sanctuaire grec, Geneve, 1992, 247-290; R. Parker, Dedications. Greek Dedications. I: Introduction. Literary and Epigraphical Sources, in ThesCRA I, Basel-Los Angeles 2004, 269-281.
3.   M. Godelier, L'énigme du don, Paris 1996.
4.   M. Gluckman, Order and Rebellion in Tribal Africa, London 1963.
5.   Sul problema dei rendiconti della Promachos oltre a R. Stroud, The Athenian Empire on Stone, Athens 2006, vedi G. Marginesu, Gli epistati dell'Acropoli. Edilizia sacra nella città di Pericle, Atene-Paestum 2010, pp. 28-32 (SEG LX 2010, 44). Per il problema del sigma a tre tratti v. ora A. P. Matthaiou, R. Pitt (eds), Athenaion Episkopos. Studies in Honour of Harold B. Mattingly, Athens 2014.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Bruce Routledge, Archaeology and State Theory: Subjects and Objects of Power. Debates in Archaeology. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013. Pp. ix, 195. ISBN 9780715636336. $78.00.

Reviewed by Franco De Angelis, University of British Columbia (

Version at BMCR home site


In discussing the beginnings of Archaic Greek state-formation, Robin Osborne has recently spoken about the "irrelevance of the polis" and wondered whether eighth-century Greeks consciously thought about its rise in the same way as modern scholars normally do.1 Bruce Routledge's book supplies grist to Osborne's mill and to other avenues of state-formation studies. It is a book rich in theoretical insights, supported via empirical case studies. The book represents a welcome addition to the bibliography.

The core of Routledge's book contains six chapters, sandwiched between a brief introduction and conclusion.

The introduction, entitled "Orientations," has an epigraph quoting Michel Foucault on the state as a practice. This quotation sets the tone for the rest of the introduction and for the book as a whole. Routledge begins by reviewing archaeological approaches to the state over the past thirty years, noting three problems encountered by archaeologists. The first is definition. So much of state theory derives from a Western tradition that began in the eighteenth century. For archaeologists this presents a challenge that current definitions do not resolve. Archaeologists have traditionally employed definitions derived from political science and social anthropology. As a result, the state has been defined either too narrowly as a set of institutions or too broadly as a kind of society. Doing so ignores the socially embedded nature of state power and the real limits of state power. Routledge observes, citing Jens Bartelson,2 that "…the definition of the state is not only ambiguous, it is this ambiguity that allows the state to play a central role in political discourse. This centrality, in turn, means that the state both gathers meanings to itself and ascribes them to other terms" (3). Since the state is such a discursive concept, archaeologists are presented with their second problem. Routledge asks, as Osborne before him, whether the absence of this discourse in premodern societies allows archaeologists to speak of the state when those living through it were not themselves doing so. The third problem concerns the "extended neo-evolutionary hangover" that archaeologists have had over the last generation. Routledge finds unsatisfactory the two solutions proffered to the critique of neo-evolutionism: the inward retreat of post-processualists and the proliferation of archaeological studies (on, for example, craft production, feasting, monument construction, and so on) that have shifted focus from what the state was to what a state did. According to Routledge, "If one needs a summary of my argument in this book it is 'forget the state; focus on state-formation'" (6). This is a point with which few scholars would disagree, but it requires adopting new ways of thinking.

Chapter 1 is called "After (neo-)evolution(ism)". Here Routledge argues that "…what we frequently call state-formation entails not the formation of an entity, but the configuring of relationships around political authority made transcendent and grounded in violence" (26). The state is, in other words, an effect. He goes on to label this configuration "sovereignty," devoting the rest of his book to elaborating on this point, especially via a series of case studies that seek to understand how and why such sovereignty came about at different times and places in history.

Chapter 2 focuses on the topics "Coercion and consent". Routledge begins with "Hobbes' dilemma" and tailors it to premodern states: how to keep together a collectivity when humans tend to pursue their own self-interest. After exploring various perspectives on how political authority may derive from coercion and consent, he settles on the work of the Italian Antonio Gramsci who developed, in the period between the two world wars, the tools for understanding political authority through the concept of hegemony. This perspective offers the following benefits, according to Routledge: "A Gramscian perspective involves analyzing the formation of hegemony as a social (and indeed cosmological) order through the selective articulation of cultural resources embedded in everyday life, such that specific interests are disseminated as general (and indeed essential) interests…. because both everyday culture (Gramsci's 'common sense') and hegemony are historically constituted, the experience of hegemonic power can be reinscribed into everyday life as a cultural resource" (44-45). In particular, Routledge focuses in on how hegemony selectively uses values, problems, and orientations from everyday life to create an historical bloc composed of these structures and superstructures.

Chapters 3 to 6 deal with case studies illustrating how hegemony has been constructed in particular historical cases. Routledge is appropriately wide-ranging with these cases studies, selecting examples from the Old and New Worlds that span in date from the Bronze Age to the nineteenth century AD.

Chapter 3 is entitled "Hegemony in action. The kingdom of Imerina in central Madagascar" and contains the nineteenth-century case study. As Routledge observes, almost every aspect of Merina royal policy—from state ritual, royal buildings, and royal labour service—was drawn from widely held traditions purposefully selected and transformed to constitute and reproduce its hegemony. While this case study provides a concrete base to illustrate Gramsci's theory of hegemony, it also reveals its limitations, as Gramsci paid little attention to the possibility of subaltern groups appropriating the same values on which the existing hegemonic order based its claim to power. Merina women transformed royal hegemony into a weapon of the weak by protesting Radama I's short haircut, styled after those of the British military advisers who helped him establish and train Imerina's first standing army (58-61). Both the Merina women and Radama I grounded their arguments in the hegemonic language of ancestral tradition. This case study demonstrates that hegemony is a historically dynamic phenomenon not necessarily involving static power structures and not without the possibility of revolution against them by the non-royal masses. The Merina case study shows us the need, Routledge concludes, to move beyond politics.

Chapter 4 tackles this subject and is called "Beyond Politics. Articulation and reproduction in Athens and the Inca Empire". Routledge starts by arguing that political power comprises much more than politics and in doing so seeks to understand how things "hang together" in specific historical contexts in relation to hegemony and sovereignty. Inspired by Actor-Network Theory (ANT),3 Routledge says that "Power, therefore, is not merely reflected or 'materialised' in matter. Power is a quality of networks linking humans and non-human actors as mediators or intermediators in a chain of interactions" (72). In adopting ANT, he sets out to merge it with the historical component of Gramsci's historical bloc, using the two case studies of Classical Athens and the Inca Empire. "In both cases," as he points out, "my concern is to show how hegemony weaves political power into the material interdependencies of objects, identities, technologies and life-ways. For the sake of brevity and comparability, in both cases I will emphasise relational networks involving politics, gender, domestic groups, labour and a single category of material culture" (73-74). The Inca Empire fused the domestic and political domains, whereas Classical Athens depended on their sharp distinction. The Athenian household became the locus for the reproduction of male citizenship, dependent relationships, labour, and gender, so as to assert hegemony by reinforcing the elements excluded from and included in the city's civic politics. The Inca rulers for their part fused together particular practices, orientations, and values shared in common by the different peoples of the Andes. The pan-Andean practice of labour service became the focus of attention. Before the Incan conquest, extended kin groups provided their labour for collective tasks for the whole community. This practice could take symmetrical and asymmetrical forms; in the case of the latter, the heads of the groups supplied food and beer to reward their labourers. Inca rulers seized on its asymmetrical version, redeploying it on the conquered for labour projects based in their subjects' local communities. Chapter 5 addresses "Spectacle and routine". Routledge first argues that visible power was necessary for premodern states because they knew little of their subjects. State authorities had limited direct interpersonal interaction with and knowledge of their subjects, being ignorant of many details of their everyday lives. While some readers may not completely agree with this viewpoint, they will more readily agree with Routledge's next point. Spectacle and routine were required as part of the social performance of political authority, which had to inscribe itself onto public spectacle in order for that authority to be reproduced. The remainder of the chapter illustrates this nexus by considering Mayan rulers, who put themselves at the centre of key rituals, especially reproducing stable water supplies, and so emphasized their centrality in the universe.

Chapter 6 is called "Routine lives and spectacular deaths. The Royal Tombs of Ur" and picks up where the previous one left off by inquiring how the spectacle of violence can be made into a routine and employed as part of the social performances of hegemony (127-56). Most of the chapter is devoted to discussing the various interpretations of the symbolism and meaning found in these tombs. Routledge believes that the burials may have involved feasting and were representations of the emphasis being placed on the exclusivity and the reproduction of class divisions in society (145-48). The wealthy households maintained sizable numbers of dependents via routine distributions of rations, a social ritual being emphasized now in death.

In the "Conclusion: The hazardous necessity of comparison," Routledge sums up his results. He reminds us that the state is an effect, adding that "…its solidity and the smoothness of its surfaces depends [sic] directly on our forgetting the practices, strategies and technologies through which this state-effect is constituted. A large part of this book has been about keeping this state-effect in view, crossing our eyes, as it were, in order to see clouds of dots instead of solid shapes. This focus is narrower than and rather different from what is usually discussed in literature on the archaeology of the state" (157). Using the analogy of a comic book, he sees the pictures on the pages as composed of dots, instead of taking for granted their solidly coloured pictures, as is normally done in studying the state. He adopts a comparative method, not so much to reveal universal principles (although comparativism is still regarded as important to enunciate similarities and differences to reveal the diversity of the human experience), but to stimulate discussion across specific contexts in order to fill out, modify, and challenge the concepts presented in his book.

As stated at the outset, this book is a most welcome addition to the bibliography on state-formation, for two main reasons. First, it contains a wide range of case studies from several different temporal and spatial historical contexts. Second, Routledge fills a gap in the current archaeological literature, providing some much-needed theoretical orientations to move the subject forward from its current scholarly trajectories, just as Robin Osborne has recently pleaded for in future discussions of Archaic Greek state-formation. It is a must-read for all readers interested in state-formation.


1.   R. Osborne, Greece in the Making 1200-479 BC, 2nd edition (London and New York: Routledge, 2009) 128-30. Cf. also R. Osborne, "Greek Archaeology: A Survey of Recent Work," American Journal of Archaeology 108 (2004): 88, 91.
2.   J. Bartelson, The Critique of the State (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001) 11.
3.   J. Law, "Notes on the Theory of the Actor-Network: Ordering, Strategy and Heterogeneity," Systems Practice 5 (1992): 379-93; B. Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005). Both items are cited in Routledge's text and bibliography.

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Ingo Schaaf, Magie und Ritual bei Apollonios Rhodios: Studien zu ihrer Form und Funktion in den Argonautika. Religionsgeschichtliche Versuche und Vorarbeiten, Bd. 63. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2014. Pp. viii, 402. ISBN 9783110309485. €119.95.

Reviewed by Paul Ojennus, Whitworth University (

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Ingo Schaaf offers an extensive and detailed examination of the treatment of magic and ritual in the Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes. This study fills an important gap in contemporary research on Apollonius, and it promises to place the scholarship on magic in the Argonautica on the same level that geography now enjoys. Schaaf argues that comparison the text of the Argonautica and other evidence for magic and ritual in the third century demonstrates that Apollonius approaches these subjects with the same kind of scholarly precision that he brings to the study of the texts of Homer, geography, or medicine. He also places Apollonius' interest in magic and ritual in its Alexandrian context, in particular arguing that his frequent references to Dionysus and Dionysian ritual corresponds to the importance of that god in the religious program of the Ptolemies. Schaaf is inclusive in his search for comparanda to the practices described by Apollonius, often referring to Classical drama and the Greek Magical Papyri, when Hellenistic parallels are lacking, as they often are. This approach cuts both ways: on the one hand, it provides a much more global view of Apollonius' place within magical and religious thought throughout antiquity, and it provides what context there is for Apollonian descriptions that are otherwise hard to parallel. On the other hand, it tends to obscure potential distinctions between Apollonius' research on actual magical or ritual practices and literary references by or to Apollonius.

Schaaf organizes the work into seven sections: an introduction, discussing the state of the scholarship on the topic, and discussions of the terminology and methods he proposes to employ. Most important here is the note on the difficulty of drawing a clear line between "magic" and "religion", especially in the Hellenistic period. The next four sections are each devoted to one of the four books of the Argonautica, following the text in strict order. This promises ease of reference for those who know the epic well, but also means that thematically related discussions can be widely separated, e.g., the two subsections on Orpheus occur at the beginning of chapter 2 and near the end of chapter 5; later discussions usually reference earlier ones, but forward references are less consistent. In particular, this arrangement makes Schaaf's overall argument about the importance of Dionysian ritual appear less forceful than it is. A concluding section reviews the findings of the research, and an extensive and well-organized bibliography, index of ancient authors referenced, and a topical index completes the book.

The first chapter lays the groundwork for the study, defining the question to be addressed, reviewing the relevant literature, discussing problems of terminology, and outlining the methodological framework. In defining the subject of the study, Schaaf notes the need to update the 1939 dissertation, Brauch und Ritus bei Apollonios Rhodios,1 which applies an outdated Frazerian approach, and he refines the topic, arguing that modern discussions of Hellenistic culture helpfully blur the divisions between the modern concepts of "religion", "superstition", and "magic". The literature review briefly summarizes main trends in Apollonius scholarship, such as his relation to the Ptolemies, his Homer criticism, his character-technique, and so forth. The discussion of terminology primarily addresses what is to be understood by the terms "magic" and "ritual", and the section on method discusses the opportunities and, to a lesser extent, the problems of using later (i.e., imperial period) ritual and magical texts for comparison. This section also defends the use of the Argonautica as a source-text for the history of magic and ritual on the basis of the Alexandrian poet's commitment to a Hellenistic aesthetic of realism.

Chapter two addresses episodes in the first book of the Argonautica that connect with ritual or magic in some way. Schaaf approaches these connections very broadly, so that he includes a lengthy section on the proem discussing its hymn-like character and the ambiguous position of the Muses as ὑποφήτορες (interpreters/inspirers). The section on Orpheus demonstrates how Apollonius plays on the varied traditions around Orpheus to link his magical powers, religious authority, and poetic skill with the literary "charm" of the Argonautica, introducing what will become one of the main thematic threads of the study. Schaaf also collects the evidence for the Samothracian Mysteries, suggesting the narrator's refusal to divulge their secrets functions both to augment his own authority and to advertise the Ptolemaic sponsorship of the cult. The chapter ends with a discussion of the Argonauts' supplication of Rhea on Dindymon; this is the most rewarding part of the chapter, as Schaaf demonstrates that the myriad details of the episode correspond closely to the scattered evidence for the historical cult at Dindymon. Schaaf is selective in choosing which episodes to treat; for example, there are no sections on the embarkation rituals at Pagasai or the New Year's rituals that inform the Lemnian episode.

The third chapter continues by examining specific episodes in book two of the Argonautica, the passing of the Callichorus River and the ethnographies of the tribes of the south-east Black Sea coast. The Callichorus River occasions the etiology that Dionysus established dances there when he was returning from India; Schaaf uses this to introduce another of his main themes, that Apollonius evinces a wide-ranging interest in Dionysian ritual that mirrors the importance of the god in third-century Alexandria. This is a wide-ranging argument, connecting various aspects of the god, from his connection with Persephone in the Eleusinian Mysteries to his patronage of the Hellenistic "Technicians of Dionysus", with subtle references in the Argonautica. The section on the ethnographies is relatively straightforward. Schaaf argues that many of the details Apollonius uses to characterize these peoples as "barbarians" may in fact originate in reports of authentic local practices that can be paralleled elsewhere.

In chapter four Schaaf proceeds to Apollonius' third book, where he includes shorter sections on the innovative presentation of Eros and the Colchian burial practices, suggesting that they reflect actual Colchian worship of Sun, Moon, and Earth. Naturally, the presentation of Medea and her help for Jason comprise the center of this chapter. Schaaf compares Medea's status as priestess of Hecate with the evidence for priestesses of Hecate in the Greek world and Apollonius' temple of Hecate with an attested temple of a Colchian goddess variously identified as Rhea or Leucothea. He surveys the pharmacological literature for comparanda for the Προμήθειον, and finds it most comparable to charms against fire in the Greek Magical Papyri, though also influenced by literary antecedents Odyssey 11 and Sophocles' Root-cutters. He similarly finds that the ritual Medea prescribes looks both to earlier literature and contemporaneous practice. This chapter in particular displays Schaaf's diligence in tracing parallels and even- handedness in considering their appropriate weights in comparison to Apollonius' literary concerns; it provides a strong case that Apollonius incorporated contemporary research on magic and ritual practices into his poetry as much as he did his Homeric scholarship.

Chapter five concludes the linear progress through the four books of the Argonautica. Schaaf begins with a broadly literary look at Medea's flight from the palace, arguing that Apollonius invokes the imagery of Maenadism to convey her troubled state of mind in a way particularly appropriate to his Alexandrian setting. Short sections on Medea's door-opening spell and Mene's apostrophe relate them to extant magical texts and abilities attributed to witches in literature respectively. Schaaf similarly outlines a range of literary and magical/ritual practices in the background of Medea's enchantment of the dragon. He then compares the rites the Argonauts perform for Hecate with the mysteries at Samothrace and Callichorus, especially noting the narrator's refusal to divulge their secrets. A long section on the death of Apsyrtus thoroughly explores the literary and ritual antecedents of Jason's maschalismos; as part of his larger argument, Schaaf suggests the use of Hypsipyle's cloak, originating ultimately from Dionysus, foreshadows the sparagmos-like dismemberment of the Colchian prince. The purification of Jason and Medea by Circe receives somewhat cursory treatment, with the main literary precedents mentioned, but the main focus on the irony of a "civilized" Circe purifying Jason's "barbarous" murder. Schaaf returns to the figure of Orpheus in the discussions on the Sirens and Drepane, emphasizing his role as a sympathetic user of verbal θέλξις in contrast to Medea's dangerous pharmacological kind. The latter discussion also reiterates Apollonius' Dionysian researches, since Jason and Medea are married in the cave where Macris first nursed the god. The chapter concludes with a detailed examination of Medea's use of the Evil Eye against Talos; Schaaf again demonstrates that Apollonius faithfully represents contemporary practice and theory about the phenomenon. Proceeding from the narrator's apostrophe, Schaaf connects this episode to the theme of the opposition of Orpheus and Medea's different kinds of enchantment, and to the role of Orpheus as a figure of the narrator of the Argonautica.

The sixth chapter briefly summarizes the findings of the earlier chapters and emphasizes the thematic connections, and the final section groups together abbreviations, bibliographies of editions, collections of sources and fragments, reference works, secondary literature, an index of passages discussed, and a topical index.

Schaaf presents us with an important body of research that further connects the Argonautica to the realia of third century Alexandria, along the lines of Apollonius' recognized response to developments in Hellenistic geography. Schaaf's primary argument that Apollonius demonstrates a scholarly interest in magic and ritual, and that his descriptions of these practices can consistently be paralleled in literary and non-literary texts is compelling. Some readers may find that the secondary argument that Apollonius uses the epic to promote, or at least reflect the sponsorship of Dionysian cult in Alexandria by the Ptolemies less secure, but, at a minimum Schaaf provides a convincing challenge to the conventional wisdom that Apollonius excludes Dionysus from his epic, following the model of Homer. The literary theme, that Orpheus reflects a positive, verbal enchantment that is opposed to Medea's negative, pharmacological one is well-argued, though it perhaps awaits further development in relating it to the common experience of Apollonius' Medea as a broadly sympathetic character. The linear organization of the work, following the order of episodes in the Argonautica, may suggest that the work exhaustively treats all occurrences of magic and ritual in the epic, whereas Schaaf is in fact selective, and it is not the most effective at communicating the broader themes, though this does not detract from the quality or importance of the work. Similarly, a fuller discussion of the potential problems in appealing to parallels in Attic tragedy or the Greek Magical Papyri to demonstrate Apollonius' interest in non-literary magical practices could be desired, but, again, this is a minor point in the larger scale of Schaaf's work.


1.   Teufel, M. 1939. Brauch und Ritus bei Apollonios Rhodios. Diss., Tübingen.

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Dennis L. Fink, The Battle of Marathon in Scholarship. Research, Theories and Controversies Since 1850. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, Inc., Publishers, 2014. Pp. vii, 229. ISBN 9780786479733. $45.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Matthew P. Maher, University of Winnipeg (

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Fink's book aims to provide the reader with both a historiographical overview of, and the controversies in the scholarship surrounding the famous Battle of Marathon, which saw the allied Athenian and Plataean forces halt the attempted Persian invasion of mainland Greece in 490 BC. Including detailed and thorough endnotes and a bibliography comprised of some 400 different sources, the objective of this book is to make "available in one source most of the major scholarship available [on the subject] in English from the past 162 years" (p. 1).

After outlining his motives, the objectives, and the general structure of the book in the Preface, Fink proceeds in Chapter 1 to examine and evaluate the primary and ancient secondary sources that serve as our main body of evidence for the events surrounding the battle. Not surprisingly, it is Herodotus' Histories which is largely the focus of this chapter. The author proceeds to lay out the opposing arguments in the scholarship regarding the question of Herodotus' reliability and credibility. While warranting caution on the part of modern historians, Fink concludes that the arguments "on the dependability and usefulness of Herodotus are most convincing" (p. 11).

In Chapters 2 and 3, Fink provides general summaries of the Persian and Greek military systems. In the former, the author examines the Persian command structure, training, weapons and armour, troop strengths, Persian cavalry, and the organization of the Persian navy. In his discussion about the use of mercenaries and troop levies from the provinces, Fink raises an issue that has a bearing on the Battle of Marathon, arguing that "troops raised by the king had much experience and military training. Thus, the common perception of Persian armies consisting of hordes of untrained and undisciplined troop does not ring true" (p. 16). In Chapter 3, the author devotes a considerable amount of space to describing the intricacies of the Greek hoplite system including the arms and armour in terms of both their practical capabilities and psychological effectiveness. In this regard, because there is good archaeological evidence to support the discussion on the appearance of the much of the panoply, there is little of what might be deemed 'controversy'. Instead, the debates presented in this chapter lie with the origin of the hoplite panoply and phalanx formation, and especially the mechanics of the mass push. Again, as is the nature of his book, for all of these contentious issues, Fink presents the evidence promoted by different scholars in support of their arguments.

As further historical background to the Battle of Marathon, in Chapter 4, the author presents a brief and relatively uncontroversial summary regarding the rise of the Persian empire. Using primarily Herodotus (and occasionally Xenophon) as the main sources, Fink explores the origin and spread of the Persian Empire as well as short biographies of Cyrus, Cambyses, and Darius. By ending this chapter with events from around 500 BC—with the Persian subjugation of the cities in the Hellespont, Thrace, and Macedon—Fink has demonstrated the size, resources, and strength of the Persian empire on the eve of Marathon.

Chapters 5 and 6 are also largely historical summaries of the events leading up to the Battle of Marathon. Specifically, in Chapter 5, Fink explores the Ionian Revolt, which (because of the involvement of Athens and Eretria) was directly related to the later Persian landing at Marathon. Unfortunately, as the author himself acknowledges, Herodotus is our only source for the Ionian Revolt and his account is problematic. After presenting the problems with Herodotus' account, the author focuses on the scholarly consensus regarding its most trustworthy elements and proceeds to present a historical summary of the revolt, the chief Persian and Greek players and their motivations, as well as the major military conflicts. The relatively short Chapter 6 picks up the story after the Persian suppression of the revolt with a brief account of Mardonius' failed campaign of 492 BC and preparations for the invasion of 490 BC.

With the necessary background established, the substantial Chapter 7, comprising about a third of the book's total, addresses the "list of issues raised by the study of the Battle of Marathon and summarize[s] how various scholars have dealt with the issues identified" (p. 121). Unfortunately, the space permitted in this review is hardly sufficient to cover in depth all of the key issues raised by the author in this important chapter; issues such as scholarly controversies surrounding Herodotus' account of the battle, why the Persians chose Marathon, the topography of the plain, troop numbers and deployment, the delay and Athens' decision to attack, and the number of causalities. Fink also adeptly examines the different sides of the debates concerning some of the more contentious issues regarding the Battle of Marathon, such as the Greek charge, the question of the Persian cavalry, the supposed shield signal, and the Athenians' march back to their city. In concluding this chapter, the author brings together many of the controversies explored earlier in an attempt to discover why the Greeks won the Battle of Marathon: in short, he feels, through the superior generalship of Miltiades, ineffective tactics on the part of the Persians, and the generally superior hoplite panoply. Finally, while not discounting the bravery and loyalty of the Persian troops, Fink does seem to give credence to the idea that the Athenians' desire for freedom also played an important role in their unlikely victory that day in 490 BC.

In the short concluding Chapter 8, Fink does not take the opportunity to provide a summary of the book's main themes, nor to reiterate the chief controversies and scholarly debates explored in the previous chapters. Instead, the author examines the answer to a question foreshadowed in the preface: "was it really an important battle that saved Western civilization, or was it simply a minor defeat as the Persians viewed it?" (p. 2). Fink points out (correctly I think) that from a Persian viewpoint, their defeat at Marathon had little or no impact outside Greece, and by punishing Eretria and adding much of the Cyclades to the empire the expedition of 490 might actually have been viewed as successful. From the Athenian viewpoint (hypothetical questions afforded by hindsight about the effect of a Greek defeat with respect to the development of Greek, and thus Western culture notwithstanding), not only was the battle a turning point for the city of Athens and its young democracy, but "from a psychological viewpoint the "legend" that grew up around the victory was probably more important than the actual battle" (p. 189).

The remainder of this book is comprised of endnotes divided by chapters, an extensive bibliography, and an index.

In Chapter 7, in a discussion about the Athenian decision to attack the Persians at Marathon, Fink maintains that "perhaps the best approach is to accept the minimal information provided by Herodotus and attempt to fill in the details with speculation based upon probabilities… aren't all authors doing the same thing—making up details to fill in the information missing in Herodotus' account? Ultimately it is up to the reader to determine which is the "best" viewpoint based upon the criteria that the reader establishes" (p. 151). In a sense, this could be a maxim for the whole book and Fink's approach to all of the controversies surrounding the Battle of Marathon. Indeed, consistently throughout the book, he examines an issue (most often related to Herodotus' account), and then presents the different scholars, their work, and their arguments about the said issue. With the style and nature of this book, one is left with the impression that one is actually listening to a lively (if extremely specific) scholarly debate. That being said, Fink does not just passively present a given argument, and although the reader rarely is given the chance to hear the author's own voice or opinion, he does not report the different scholarly arguments without a critical eye—if a position is presented without evidence or if an argument is not widely accepted by other scholars, Fink points this out to his readers.

There are no significant problems I took issue with in this book, and instead there are only a few minor points to bring to attention. For example, in the discussion in Chapter 3 about the advantages of the hoplite's arms and armour, Fink presents a well-argued case for why a hoplite's shield must have been custom made (p. 32), but later, states that the hoplite's helmet "was not custom made for the individual so often the fit was poor" (p. 41). In a rare oversight, Fink provides neither arguments nor archaeological or historical evidence to support this opinion. Because of the ensuing discussion about the impact of the (Corinthian) helmet's deficiencies in battle and its subsequent evolution to address such failings, it is an important point—one that was passed over a little too quickly. Another example can be found in the same chapter, where Fink maintains that hoplites did "not feel any responsibility to fight if their own lands or lives were not threatened. This is seen by the little aid that Athens gained against Persia at the Battle of Marathon" (p. 46). I feel this statement is a little misleading and the truth may have had more to do with the specific realities of the situation. On the basis of their long-standing alliance, that Plataia joined the Athenian cause is not surprising. More surprising is the fact that, despite the delay, the Athenians succeeded in getting the Spartans to march north of the Isthmus to their aid—certainly a rare event for the time. As was the case on the eve of Xerxes' invasion a decade later, perhaps if the Athenians had had more time, other Greeks would have rallied to their cause. Finally, and on a more superficial note, while some of the chapters are a little repetitive in places and the book contains a few typographical mistakes, the most obvious shortcoming is the lack of any maps or plans. A map of Asia Minor showing the important cities would have complemented Fink's discussion of the Ionian Revolt; and a topographical map of the plain of Marathon would have greatly facilitated the debates regarding the proposed location of the Greek camp at the Sanctuary of Herakles, the main roads to Athens, and the topographical features which played a role in the battle.

Finally, it needs to be pointed out that although Fink does occasionally make use of translated modern scholarship in his research, the overwhelming majority of the material employed (as he himself admits) are works written in English. This is the most serious drawback of his book; by limiting his scope only to scholarship produced in English, Fink obviously and unavoidably excludes the important collection of scholarship on the subject of Marathon produced in languages other than English.

Such criticisms aside, Fink delivers exactly what he promises: a single book summarizing "most of the major scholarship available in English from the past 162 years on the Battle of Marathon" (p. 1). Moreover, by providing all of the background information (from Herodotus, to the rise of the Persian empire, to the Ionian Revolt), the author puts the Battle of Marathon into its proper historical context and thus ensures the controversies and debates presented are comprehensible. Finally, another objective met by the author is his desire to present the latest research on the subject in a summary form so that "rather than needing to be read cover to cover, the book's organization allows readers to zero in on their particular areas of interest" (p. 2). The structure of the book—organized into self-contained chapters detailing all the different aspects surrounding the battle itself—ensures that wherever the reader's specific interest in the battle lies, a comprehensive summary on the topic is readily accessible.

In the Preface, Fink modestly tells the reader that his "lack of specialized training in ancient history, lack of Greek and Latin language skills, and my lack of academic experience at the university level prevented me from presenting any new or unique perspective on the topic" (p. 1). On this point I would disagree with Fink and, in fact, by bringing together "some limited consensus, lots of controversy…lots of speculation, some unusual theories, and impressive scholarship" (p. 190), Fink has produced something not only useful, but unique. Indeed, although largely comprised of other scholars' arguments, his endeavour is, in its own right, a carefully and well-researched book which stands as an important contribution to our understanding of the Battle of Marathon. Despite his modesty, Fink is obviously an expert on the topic and having him actually weigh in more on the debates would have been welcomed. I hope to hear more from this author in the future.

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