Monday, October 21, 2019


Marion Bellissime, Frédéric Hurlet, Dion Cassius. Histoire romaine: livre 53. Collection des universités de France. Série grecque, 537. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2018. Pp. lxxxviii, 106. ISBN 9782251006215. €39,00 (pb).

Reviewed by John Rich, University of Nottingham (

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French scholars have played a leading part in the remarkable recent revival of interest in Cassius Dio and his Roman history. An extended research project resulted in the publication in 2016 of a collection of no fewer than 48 essays on Dio's work, including several by the editors of the volume under review.1 A new edition, with French translation and commentary, projected to include all that survives of the history, has been under way in the Budé series. Earlier volumes have covered Books 36-42 and 45-51. The present volume, the eighth to be published, deals with one of Dio's most notable books, and fully maintains the high standards of the series.

As with the earlier volumes, this has been produced by a team of two editors, with one (Bellissime) establishing the text and both sharing responsibility for the introduction, translation and commentary. Bellissime's contribution is based on the edition of Dio's Books 52–53 which she produced as her doctoral thesis, while Hurlet brings the expertise of a leading authority on Augustus and his regime.

The reviewer must declare an interest. Nearly thirty years ago, I published an edition, with translation and commentary, of this and the immediately following part of Dio's history. Shortly afterwards, an Italian commentary on this book was published by Eralda Noè.2 It is a pleasure to welcome this excellent new edition, which takes thorough account of the huge volume of relevant recent research.

Dio gave Augustus' establishment of the monarchical regime under which he still lived a place of central importance in his history, and for us he provides much the fullest narrative account of Augustus' reign.3 Book 53 covers the years 28–23 BC, but over half the book is devoted to the year 27 and the political settlement made then, which Dio represents as securing the consent of the senate and people to his rule (2.7–22.5). The narrative of the ensuing years covers both domestic and external developments, in Dio's usual annalistic manner, and concludes in the year 23 with further changes to Augustus' constitutional position and the first succession crisis (30–33). In handling this complex material, the editors do admirable justice both to Dio's techiques and interpretations and to the intricacies of Augustan policies.

Boissevain's edition of Dio's text has long held the field as standard, and his text was followed by the Loeb editor E. Cary and (with a few changes) in my own edition.4 As with earlier volumes in the series, Bellissime provides a new text, based on her own collations, but her divergences from Boissevain are not very numerous. Boissevain's text was largely based on the consensus of the only two significant manuscripts (M and V), and Bellissime wisely follows his lead at most points where they differ or conjectures need to be adopted. She offers a neat new solution for the crux at 16.2, but her main disagreement with Boissevain is in retaining the consensus of M and V at a number of points where he adopted conjectures (2.5, 8.2, 10.3, 11.5, 12.1–2, 16.8, 21.6, 22.5, 25.1, 26.1, 33.3, 33.5). In a good many of these passages her conservatism seems prudent, but at two the conjectures favoured by Boissevain seem to me to yield better sense (11.5, where MV's διεπράξαντο makes the senate responsible for doubling the praetorians' pay, rather than Augustus as the following sentence implies, and 22.5, where the context seems to require the future infinitive rather than MV's ἐπικηρυκεύσασθαι). At two other points Bellissime does not note that Boissevain's preferred reading appears in both Xiphilinus' and Zonaras' epitomes of Dio and so must represent a variant tradition (12.2 τῇ βουλῇ inserted after ἀπέδωκε; 21.6 ἤρεσκε instead of MV's ἤρεσε).5

The translation is generally clear, readable and accurate, and I noted only a few small flaws.6 The interpretation of Dio's often tortuous Greek is usually in line with that of earlier translators. One exception occurs at 32.3, where Dio attributes Augustus' resignation of the consulship in 23 to his wish to enable more to hold the consulship by stopping the recent practice of himself and most of his colleagues of holding the office δι' ἔτους. This phrase is normally translated 'for the whole year', which implies an inaccuracy on Dio's part, since, although Augustus thereafter no longer normally held the consulship, most consuls continued to hold office for the whole year until 5 BC. The editors insist (in the translation and commentary) that the phrase here means 'for more than a year' (i.e. from one year to another). However, in other passages where Dio uses this phrase of the consulship or another magistracy it always signifies year-long tenure (46.13.1; 58.20.1; 60.10.1, 27.1).

The notes (keyed into short individual passages in accordance with the series practice) provide thorough and acute treatment both of the often complex historical issues and of their handling by Dio. Besides taking full account of recent research, the editors have been able to draw on several notable new discoveries, namely the aureus of 28 BC commemorating Augustus' edict annulling his illegal acts as the restoration of leges et iura (2.5 n., and pp. xxiii–iv); the edict de Paemeiobrigensibus, which confirms Dio's claim that Augustus took the title proconsul when in the provinces (17.4 n.); the municipal law of Troesmis, whose reference to a commentarius of AD 5 on marriage law, confirmed four years later by the Lex Papia Poppaea, appears to shed light on Dio's account of Augustus' consultation over proposed laws (21.3 n.); and excavations at the Pantheon which may elucidate Agrippa's temple (27.1 n,).

Like its predecessors, the volume opens with an extended 'Notice'. After a summary analysis of Book 53, this introduction focuses chiefly on Dio's presentation there of Augustus' establishment of a monarchy secured by consent. The discussion is divided into two sections, each with the heading 'La mise en place de la monarchie'. The first section, subtitled 'Les choix narratifs de Dion' (pp. xi–xxx), is devoted to Dio's portrayal of Augustus as announcing his resignation of all his powers in 27 and then achieving his planned constitutional compromise. Much space here is devoted to the direct- discourse resignation speech, which is given a perhaps over-rigorous analysis in terms of ancient rhetorical theory. It is rightly stressed that the contents of the speech are Dio's free invention, and that Dio signals clearly that the speech is to be taken as insincere, designed to achieve the confirmation of monarchy. The second section, subtitled 'la fiabilité des informations de l'Histoire Romaine' (pp. xxx–lvi), is mainly devoted to analysis (with a good deal of summarizing) of Dio's accounts of the years 28–27 and 23 and of the Arabian expedition (as an instance of his handling of external events).

There is much subtle and valuable discussion in this introduction, but a number of significant topics would have benefited from fuller treatment here and/or in the commentary. One such is Dio's organization of his material: readers could have been given more guidance on the complex interplay between narrative and excursuses which enabled Dio to integrate an account of the year 27 BC with wider analysis of the imperial regime established by Augustus and of his conduct as a ruler, and more could have been said too about his use of thematic links to structure some of his other year-narratives. Another topic which gets oddly little attention is Dio's probable sources in this book and how he may have handled them. His main sources here, as elsewhere in his work, are likely to have been earlier annalistic histories, but these are not discussed. It is surprising to be told that Dio appears to have read and reworked Strabo's and Suetonius' statements on the division of the provinces (p. xli): while it is possible that he may have made some use of Suetonius' imperial biographies, it seems most unlikely that he consulted Strabo's geography.

Dio provides our only detailed account of the crucial senate meetings in January 27 which resulted in the division of the provinces and the grant of the name Augustus. The introduction rightly insists that Dio's account of these events is distorted by his desire to stress Augustus' single-minded aim, disingenuously pursued, to establish his monarchy on a consensual footing, but does not clearly bring out the form which the distortion takes (see esp. pp. xxvi–vii). We should not doubt that Augustus began the meeting on 13 January 27 by announcing his resignation of all his remaining extraordinary powers, so paving the way, as he had planned, for the compromise by which he accepted the command of most of the legionary provinces, initially for a ten-year period. Dio's distortion consists in representing Augustus as resigning all his powers together in a single act in 27, defining them in the speech as comprising the armies, provinces, revenues and laws (4.3, 5.4, 9.6). Augustus' own statement in the Res Gestae (34.1) shows that he regarded himself as having transferred the res publica from his potestas to the control (arbitrium) of the senate and people over his sixth and seventh consulships, that is 28 and 27 BC. Thus the transfer process was held to have included the measures which Dio reports as taken in 28 (1–2). In his announcement in January 27, Augustus probably claimed that he had already transferred his other powers, and was now completing the process by handing over the armies and provinces. The interpretation of the leges et iura aureus has proved controversial, but on any view it attests the restoration of the laws as proclaimed in 28 BC. It must follow that Dio is misleading us when he portrays Augustus as claiming to be handing them over the following year. The editors are wrong to speak of Dio and the Res Gestae as in agreement in presenting the restoration of the res publica as a process extending over two years (p. xxxvii).7


1.   V. Fromentin, E. Bertrand, M. Coltelloni-Tranoy, M. Molin, and G. Urso (eds), Cassius Dion: nouvelles lectures (Bordeaux, 2016), on which see now the thorough and perceptive review-discussion by A. Kemezis at Histos 13 (2019), xxvii-l.
2.   J. W. Rich, Cassius Dio: The Augustan Settlement (Roman History 53–55.9) (Warminster, 1990); E. Noè, Commento storico a Cassio Dione LIII (Como, 1994).
3.   For simplicity I here refer to Augustus throughout by that name, including for events occurring before he was granted it on or around 16 January 27.
4.   U. P. Boissevain, Cassii Dionis Cocceiani Historiarum Romanarum quae supersunt (Berlin, 1895–1931).
5.   A few further minutiae: at 16.2 πεμπτάκις is almost unparalleled, and the normal form πεντάκις seems preferable (so Zonaras here, and Dio elsewhere in compounds); at 22.5 a colon is missing after ἐνδιέτριψεν; at 27.1 the conventional chapter division is misplaced; at 30.3 Boissevain's siglum N is taken over without explanation.
6.   E.g. at 12.4 ἐνομίσθη does not explicitly refer to a law (Cary's 'were held to belong to' is better than 'une loi attribua'); at 13.1 and 16.7 σφᾶς is translated as referring to the senators, but the reference is broader; at 24.4 ἐν τῷ ἔτει ἐκείνῳ is not translated. The section headings in the translation of chapters 25–28 (pp. 29–33) unfortunately misdate to 26 and 25 BC events which Dio put in the following years: he starts the year 25 BC at 25.3 and 24 BC at 28.1 (correctly reported in the summary at p. x).
7.   See further J. W. Rich, 'Making the emergency permanent: auctoritas, potestas and the evolution of the principate of Augustus', in Y. Rivière (ed.), Des réformes augustéennes (Rome, 2012), 37–121, at 50–3, 89–111.

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Blossom Stefaniw, Christian Reading: Language, Ethics, and the Order of Things. Oakland: University of California Press, 2019. Pp. 264. ISBN 9780520300613. $95.00.

Reviewed by Aaron Pelttari, University of Edinburgh (

Version at BMCR home site


Didymus the Βlind was a Christian author and teacher active in Alexandria during the second half of the fourth century. He was so marvellous, said Jerome (De viris illustribus 109), that he mastered dialectic and geometry even though he was blind from a young age. Jerome attributed to Didymus a number of commentaries on scripture and translated his treatise On the Holy Spirit. His treatises On the Trinity and Against the Manichees also survived and were published by Migne in Patrologia Graeca 39. But Didymus was hardly noticed until a number of his commentaries appeared in a large find of late antique papyri uncovered during World War II in Tura in Egypt; most of them were eventually published in the series Papyrologische Texte und Abhandlungen. After many centuries forgotten in a dusty cave, another late antique Christian exegete emerged to fill the shelves of research libraries, or at least that is how he has been treated by most scholars who bothered to pay him any heed.

In this book, Blossom Stefaniw argues that Didymus was a grammarian whose teaching should be understood in the same terms as any other ancient grammarian, say Helladius or Donatus. Her evidence derives from two texts, his so-called Commentaries on the Psalms and on Ecclesiastes. On the basis of their style and inclusion of real questions from students, Stefaniw concludes that they are stenographic records of teaching that actually took place over an extended period of time in Alexandria (61–67). Although the same conclusion had been reached previously by Anne Browning Nelson, Stefaniw deserves credit for drawing attention back to the classroom setting of these texts, because they are precious evidence of how one real classroom worked in antiquity.1

Stefaniw begins with a captivating prologue that positions her book as a deeply personal (albeit not less than scholarly) treatment of how a subject reading an authoritative text can transform the object at the same time as she is transformed. Stefaniw says that "reading is an act of love" (3) and explains as follows the goal of her first chapter, which is in short the goal of her entire book: "I integrate my own patrimony as the heir of the last six decades of philosophy and criticism around text, narrative, knowledge production, race, gender, and history to tell you the story of the Tura papyri as they move through time, from reader to reader, circulating through diverse forms of Christian reading" (3). To be sure, the archetypal European male philologist is slow to embrace such categories, because he construes himself as a direct descendant of Aristarchus and Didymus the sighted (a.k.a. Χαλκέντερος). However, such theoretical machinations make ancient grammatical practices meaningful to new classes of participants, who may be motivated to share this Greek textual patrimony; and that is how such a book can be received—not as the only way in, but as one way.

Besides her thesis about Didymus as a grammarian, the most innovative aspect of this book is the narrative history that takes up most of the first chapter. Stefaniw recreates the material history of the classroom transcripts that she will study, from the teaching of Didymus in Alexandria in the year 376 to Germany in 2016 (6–31). Quotations from ancient sources are interleaved in these pages with impressionistic scenes that stood out for me as the highlight of the book. For example, John Colobos is imagined as welcoming the Roman nobleman Arsenius to his monastery in Sketis, with more than a little impatience and suspicion (the latter might have brought the books of Didymus from Alexandria):

"He taught his disciples, as he would this fool Roman waiting outside his door, that you build a house from the bottom up (this man, from the look of his hands, had never so much as picked up a stone in his life). You take your time over the foundations. You stake a claim." (12)

Such, we are to understand, is the wider context in which Didymus taught his students how to use the tools of ancient grammar. In this place and time, distinguished Romans and astonishing hermits competed for authority to explain the Christian scriptures. Stefaniw follows her daring narrative history with an untitled twelve-page introduction that refers back to the same material in standard academic prose (31–42).

In each of the three central chapters of her book, Stefaniw offers translations of several pages of the transcripts of Didymus's teaching, which is one of the ways that she makes this material newly accessible to an English-reading audience. Chapters 2–4 treat the central topic of grammar: Chapter 2 ("Reading with a Grammarian") is a meandering explanation of why Stefaniw reads Didymus as a grammarian; Chapter 3 ("The Textual Patrimony: Knowledge, Language, and Reading") introduces grammatical topics in his teaching; and Chapter 4 ("The Intellectual Patrimony: Ethics, Logic, and the Order of Things") presents some mainly philosophical aspects of his teaching. Chapter 5 ("Christian Reading: Chronography, Cartography, and Genealogy") puts the grammatical work of Didymus in dialogue with recent critical work in the humanities around topics such as curation and imitation. A brief epilogue asks the reader to include Didymus in their mental map of late antique intellectual culture. Because all Greek in this book is translated, it will be accessible to students of all levels.

Stefaniw dismisses "The received story of Didymus," which presents him as "the head of 'the' catechetical school of Alexandria, an imagined institution oft saluted but never satisfactorily defined" (61). The criticism is apt, but it would have been useful to include that this story comes from Rufinus, who says that Didymus became so well known that he emerged as the (a?) scholae ecclesiasticae doctor (Rufin. Historia ecclesiastica 11.7). The question of what Rufinus meant by this formulation and why he would bother to claim such a thing is germane to Stefaniw's entire topic; and it is noteworthy that Richard Layton was careful in his previous chapter on Didymus as a teacher, starting which he says, "The existence and function of the famous 'catechetical school' of Alexandria during the lifetime of Didymus is notoriously obscure".2 Stefaniw is correct that Church historians are prone to imagine the ancient classroom as somehow like a modern university seminar and that ancient teachers were almost always freelance practitioners. She does not, however, explain precisely how Didymus might have negotiated his position amid a range of other Alexandrian teachers.

Because Didymus often uses grammatical categories in his teaching, the transcripts of his lessons offer a remarkable way to understand how late antique Christians interacted with the dominant intellectual framework of their time. Stefaniw considers his use of literary terms such as hyperbole and catachresis (113–15) but unfortunately misunderstands (76, 113) the reference in Dionysius Thrax to accurate reading in terms of prosody (ἀνάγνωσις ἐντριβὴς κατὰ προσῳδίαν, Ars grammatica1.1) as a reference to some kind of interpretation rather than accurate pronunciation. This does not inspire confidence. Presumably because she is concerned with grammar as a way of thinking rather than with Didymus's own understanding of his teaching, Stefaniw passes over without comment several cited passages in which he refers in general terms to grammarians (102, 105, 121, and 139). Nevertheless, the fact that Didymus three times contrasts the expressions "all men" and "all grammarians" might suggest that his students really did think of him as a grammarian.3 Indeed, it seems perfectly possible that some of Didymus's students or auditors might have continued their education with another more advanced teacher, studying law or medicine or other specialized topic, or that they might have proceeded directly to a career in some other field—which is to say that there is no reason to assume that all of Didymus's students were preparing themselves for a life of Christian service or that they were engaged in a merely devotional project. However, describing Didymus as a grammarian is problematic in the sense that his students would have been lost if they had gone on directly from his classroom to the school of a rhetor and the progymnasmata that assumed a thorough familiarity with Homer and Greek mythology.

The teaching of Didymus should be put into dialogue with the work of other teachers and interpreters around the ancient Mediterranean, and it would reward further exploration especially because he was well connected: beyond his wide reading of Christian texts, Didymus refers several times to the Stoics and also to a wide range of Greek writers including Plato, Aristotle, Homer, Philo, and Epicurus.4 In short, Stefaniw's vivid and lively study returns attention to the teaching of a learned Alexandrian whose texts remain understudied.


1.   Stefaniw prominently cites an important predecessor: Nelson, A. B. (1995) "The Classroom of Didymus the Blind," PhD Diss., University of Michigan. In contrast to Stefaniw, Nelson presented Didymus as working within "the fourth-century version of a Christian university" (8). However, some basic information is not provided by Stefaniw or is occluded by the theoretical discussion, and Nelson's work provides a more readable introduction to the material, for example in her explanation that over three hundred student questions are set off by επερ (= ἐπερώτησις or a cognate form) followed by a stroke (Nelson 1995, 9–10).
2.   Layton, R. (2004), Didymus the Blind and His Circle in Late-Antique Alexandria: Virtue and Narrative in Biblical Scholarship, Urbana, 15.
3.   Nelson (1995), 64n46. Didymus's forty references to teachers are collected at Nelson (1995), 184.
4.   Nelson 1995, 187–88.

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Friday, October 18, 2019


Marco Antonio Santamaría (ed.), The Derveni Papyrus: Unearthing Ancient Mysteries. Papyrologica Lugduno-Batava, 36. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2019. Pp. viii, 173. ISBN 9789004384842. €116,00.

Reviewed by Matthieu Réal, Cornell University (

Version at BMCR home site

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

Although the times of Boccaccio, Salutati, and Bracciolini are long gone, we are still sometimes blessed with epoch-making discoveries that change the face of our field. The discovery of the Derveni papyrus (henceforth DP) in 1962 is certainly one of these. Found among the residues of a funeral pyre within a tomb near the Derveni Pass (north of Thessaloniki), the carbonized papyrus scroll preserves significant portions of a fifth-fourth century BCE "commentary" on an Orphic hexametric poem. On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of its discovery, leading experts gathered at the University of Salamanca for an international conference on the DP. This important volume collects eight of the papers delivered at the conference as well as two additional contributions from Ferella and Edmonds. The papers are arranged thematically in five parts.

Part one addresses the conservation and restoration of the papyrus and consists of one paper by Roger T. Macfarlane and Gianluca Del Mastro. After a survey of some other cases of carbonized papyri and a brief history of the conservation of the DP, the authors discuss multispectral imaging (MSI), a technique that was used on the DP in April 2006. The comparison between a photograph and the digital image of the same section of the papyrus (Figure 1.2, p. 14) vividly captures the enhanced legibility that this new technology provides. The article ends with a description of the current state of conservation of the papyrus and recommendations for future conservators and users. Given that this is the first examination of the material history of the DP, the data compiled by the contributors is particularly precious.

The next section of the book comprises two papers dedicated to the first six columns of the DP. The editorial history of these seriously damaged columns, though fairly recent, is already intricate. Valeria Piano's contribution helps the reader to navigate the many editorial problems connected with the first part of the text. The core of her paper is an edition of lines 4–9 of col. III with an apparatus, translation and comments. This portion of the text has been used as a starting point to explore the Derveni author's (henceforth DA) conception of the daimons which, according to Piano, shows "points of contact with the idea of retributive justice that characterizes the more sophisticated and complex Platonic doctrine", as well as with earlier Greek thought. Piano's text is based upon a careful examination (whose full results are forthcoming) 1 of the papyrological and paleographical evidence. The reconstruction of lines 4–9 in col. III is, overall, convincing. The translation of lines 5–6, however, is a bit tendentious. Given that the text printed here reads [εἰσὶν] δὲ δ]αίμονες οἳ κατὰ [γῆς ο]ὐδέκοτ̣[(ε)….]ρ̣ο̣υ̣σι [?, the translation "[there are] daimons under the earth who never [withdraw (or delay) ?…]" – which presupposes the existence of a category of chthonic daimons – is unwarranted. Only if ΟΙ is interpreted as οἱ, a possibility that Piano's 2016 text2 (accepted in the new Loeb edition3) admitted, can the pericope "under the earth" be taken attributively with δαίμονες. Given her new text, a more accurate translation would thus be "[there are] daimons who never [withdraw (or delay) ?] under the earth…"

The daimonological conception of the DA is also the subject of the next paper. On the wave of many recent studies devoted to the relationship between the DA and early Stoicism, Carlos Megino proposes daimonology as another possible parallel. He uncovers many similarities between the DA's conception of the daimons and that of the Stoics, but also some significant differences. He concludes that the DA is not a Stoic, but rather that his cultural milieu is the same as that in which the early Stoics will later participate. The author handles the two bodies of evidence with due caution and presents his argument in a nuanced way. A solitary exception is his use of the scholium to Pindar's Olympian 2.104, which in fact reports Chrysippus' interpretation of Pindar's opinions rather than Chrysippus' own beliefs: to prove that the two coincide, Megino would require further argumentation.

Part three of the volume treats the Orphic poem quoted and commented upon by the DA. Similarities between Hesiod's Theogony and the Derveni theogony have been observed often, but Antonio Santamaría is the first to systematically collect and analyze each parallel. He demonstrates that Hesiod's Theogony is a model that the Orphic poet follows, though at times he innovates upon it significantly. Sometimes Santamaría goes a little too far in interpreting the evidence: for instance, the presence of ἔθελεν in OF 18.24 hardly implies that Zeus' incest is more the result of a deliberate plan than it is of mere sexual impulse, especially in light of the Homeric parallel in Iliad 6.165, which Santamaría indicates as a close precedent of the Orphic line. That being said, the author provides us with a scrupulous and valuable study.

In the next paper, Chiara Ferella argues that the debated term μουνογενές, one of Parmenides' attributes of what-is (DK 8,4 modified according to Simplicius' text) is an echo of the Orphic line quoted by the DA at col. XVI.6 (αὐτὸς δ᾽ ἄρα μοῦ̣νος ἔγεντο). On the basis of this parallel, she favors the interpretation of μουνογενές as a compound from the verb γίγνεσθαι (rather than from the noun γένος) and argues that the word means "being the only one", in the sense that, like the Orphic Zeus-μοῦνος, Parmenides' what-is is "all-embracing". This paper provides yet another plausible illustration of the relationship between the Orphic poem and pre-Socratic philosophy, not to mention a great amount of material for experts on Parmenides to debate.

The next portion of the volume is devoted to the DA's exegesis of the Orphic poem. What is the commentator's agenda and the meaning of his cosmogony? How well does his interpretation capture the spirit of the Orphic poem? And, consequently, how much can his interpretative solutions and exegetical techniques illuminate our understanding of the poem? These are some of the essential and difficult questions raised in the following three essays. In his thought-provoking contribution, Radcliffe G. Edmonds III directly tackles the contested issues of the DP's authorship and aim. He argues that its author is a "ritual practitioner in the age of Euripides" who aspires to win over clientele in the competitive marketplace of the time. He contrasts this work with the later Orphic Theogony associated with Hieronymus. Edmonds paints a lively portrait of the agonistic milieu of the fifth century and is right in pointing out that the DA's exegetical techniques, especially his use of allegory, fit that context well. At the same time, one may wonder whether his argument is sufficient to conclude that the DA's main aim is to show off his skills. The DA's employment of a running commentary to convey the exegesis is particularly troubling in this regard. As far as we know, this format is a unicum for the time; but it later became one of the principal means by which scholastic and systematic exegesis of texts was carried out—which is precisely what Edmonds claims the DA is not doing.

As the previous paper showed, one of the DA's most notable exegetical techniques is the use of allegory to interpret the poem. The DA, in fact, believes that Orpheus concealed "lawful things" through the use of riddling poetry. To assume hidden meanings under the literal text was a common way of defending traditional poetry from the attacks of its critics, and this might very well explain the DA's attempts to allegorize the Orphic poem. Sofia Ranzato, in her paper, however, further complicates this picture by adding that the DA might have intended the Orphic poem to be, like Parmenides' and Empedocles' works, a case in which the poet intentionally uses riddling language and a mythological framework to communicate his untraditional vision of the world.

A reconstruction of the cosmogony by which the commentator interprets the Orphic text completes the fourth part of the volume. Alberto Bernabé analyzes the DA's proposal step by step, along with each theogonic episode that emerges from the quoted bits of the Orphic poem. Although the overall result is, as the author himself notes, necessarily debatable, his analysis stands out for its efficacy, clarity, and concision.

The fifth and last part of the volume addresses questions related to the last columns of the DP. Among these is the much-discussed col. XX, to which Ana Isabel Jiménez San Cristóbal devotes her paper. In this section of the text, the DA apparently interrupts his exegesis to comment upon different ways in which sacred rites convey, or rather fail to convey, knowledge. Col. XX thus offers interesting if enigmatic information, which is frequently adopted to reconstruct the context and meaning of these rites. In her in-depth analysis of the text, the author maintains that the DA is a priest who, rather than interpreting the ritual in eschatological terms, offers "a physical exegesis for the rites and for the Orphic poem, in light of philosophy". She also considers the connections of col. XX with the initial columns of the papyrus and claims that, both in content and argumentative technique, col. XX perfectly matches the DP's overall textual context.

The final contribution of the volume is by Marisa Tortorelli Ghidini who analyzes the epithet Οὐρανία attributed to Aphrodite in col. XXI, 5. According to her, Aphrodite is called Urania because she is mythologically related to the Uranus Euphronides of column XIV,6, as opposed to the Hesiodic Uranus. The DA only comments upon the meaning of the theonym Aphrodite, which he interprets etymologically as a binding principle (ἀφροδισιάζειν). Nevertheless, the epithet Urania may have a cosmogonic meaning too. The author notes that the theonym Uranus is associated, both in the papyrus and elsewhere, with the semantic field of ὁρίζω, the verb indicating division/separation. She then concludes that Aphrodite Urania might have been intended by the DA as the principle that binds while "respecting the natural limits of things" and hence "transforms the union into a new differentiation". This is an intriguing but rather speculative reading.

A particularly welcome complete bibliography on the DP5 and indexes end the volume.

Overall, this book is well-conceived and nicely edited (with few typos). It certainly represents a step forward in the challenging task of unearthing the many mysteries that surround the Derveni Papyrus.

Table of Contents

Introduction, Marco Antonio Santamaría

Part 1: Conservation and Restoration
1. Problems Pertaining to the Restoration, Conservation, and Reproduction of the Derveni Papyrus, Roger T. Macfarlane and Gianluca Del Mastro

Part 2: Reconstruction and Interpretation of the First Six Columns
2. Some Textual Issues on Column III (ed. Piano), Valeria Piano
3. Daimons in the Derveni Papyrus and in Early Stoicism, Carlos Megino Rodríguez

Part 3: The Orphic Poem
4. The Orphic Poem of the Derveni Papyrus and Hesiod's Theogony, Marco Antonio Santamaría
5. Ζεὺς μοῦνος and Parmenides' What-is, Chiara Ferella

Part 4: The interpretation of the Poem: Exegesis and Cosmogony
6. Misleading and Unclear to the Many: Allegory in the Derveni Papyrus and the Orphic Theogony of Hieronymus, Radcliffe G. Edmonds III
7. The Sage Speaks in Riddles: Notes on Col. VII of the Derveni Papyrus, Sofia Ranzato
8. The Commentary of the Derveni Papyrus: Pre-Socratic Cosmogonies at Work, Alberto Bernabé

Part 5: The Last Columns
9. Rites and Officiants in Col. XX of the Derveni Papyrus, Ana Isabel Jiménez San Cristóbal
10. Aphrodite Urania and Uranus Euphronides in the Derveni Papyrus: A Semantic Genealogy, Marisa Tortorelli Ghidini

Bibliography of the Derveni Papyrus (1997–2018)
Index locorum
Index Nominum et Rerum Notabiliorum
Index Verborum Graecorum


1.   Valeria Piano. Forthcoming.L'inizio del papiro di Derveni: il rotolo e il testo, Studi e testi per il Corpus dei papiri filosofici greci e latini, vol. XVII, Firenze.
2.   Valeria Piano. 2016. "P.Derveni III–IV: una riconsiderazione del testo", ZPE 197, 5–16.
3.   André Laks, Glenn W. Most. 2016. Early Greek Philosophy. Volume VII: Later Ionian and Athenian Thinkers. Part 1 (London and Cambridge MA), 378–435.
4.   μητρὸς ἑῆς ἔθελεν μιχθήμεναι ἐν φιλότητι.
5.   The bibliography updates Maria Serena Funghi, Bibliography of the Derveni Papyrus, in André Laks and Glenn. W. Most (eds.), Studies on the Derveni Papyrus (Oxford, 1997), 175–185.

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Ian Christopher Storey, Aristophanes: Peace. Bloomsbury ancient comedy companions. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019. Pp. x, 177. ISBN 9781350020214. $17.99 (pb).

Reviewed by Dimitrios Kanellakis, University of Oxford (

Version at BMCR home site


On 11 Nov. 2018, at the centennial commemoration of World War One Armistice Day in Paris, which brought together all Western leaders, the Greek Prime Minister gifted his hosts a copy of Aristophanes' Peace, and said: 'This work is today more timely than ever, as it describes why we must struggle on a daily basis against war, and not consider peace as a given'.1 Storey, who concludes his book precisely by highlighting the significance of this comedy in the modern word (pp. 149–150), offers a rich introduction to this play.

This volume, as well as one on Plautus' Casina by David Christenson and one on Terence's Andria by Sander M. Goldberg, all published in 2019, 'launch a much-needed new series discussing each comedy that survives from the ancient world'.2 While this project succeeds in presenting 'accessible introductions'3 and is an expected choice for Bloomsbury Academic—they also publish the (formerly Duckworth) Companions to Greek and Roman Tragedy—it is rather a hyperbole to call it a 'much-needed' series, at least as far as Aristophanes' comedies are concerned, given the fine existing introductions by Dover, MacDowell, and those in the respective OUP commentaries. What is certainly fresh in Storey's introduction is the emphasis on the performative aspect and the inclusion of a short section on the post-classical reception of the play.

The book, which assumes no knowledge of Greek, is an introduction to Peace, but its contents also make it suitable as an introduction to Greek comedy in general since it explains the conventions of ancient drama and brings examples from all eleven plays by Aristophanes, on every matter discussed. Quite often, such information becomes an end in itself; for example, the description of the Choregos Vase (p. 117) has no relevance to the discussion of Peace. While this will be very helpful to those engaging with Greek drama for the first time, and indeed for non-classicists—some terms in the glossary are too obvious even for a first-year classicist—it will be rather tiring and time-consuming for someone who strictly needs an introduction to Peace and has studied any other comedy before. This also raises a question about the forthcoming volumes in the series: will each of them repeat information such as the characteristics of Old Comedy, the life of Aristophanes, or the dramatic conventions? Is this 'much-needed'?

The first chapter offers an overview of Old Comedy and Aristophanes' work, and a summary of Peace. The second chapter describes Peace as an Old Comedy, as far as its 'comic hero', its structure, and its chorus are concerned. The third chapter focusses on the historical background of the play, i.e. the political figures of the 420s and the negotiations that led to the Peace of Nicias. The fourth chapter picks up some themes and motifs in Peace, namely monsters, fairy-tales, life in the countryside, the statue of Peace, imagery revolving around smells and odours, food and sex, the presentation of non-Athenians, and metatheatre. The fifth chapter is devoted to the staging of Peace, starting with an introduction to the theatrical conventions of the era, and then discussing the doors, stage-levels, and scenic effects used in the ancient performance. The final chapter concerns the intertextuality of the play (its influences from other works and its references to other poets and public figures) and its reception in Late Antiquity and the modern era.

Some readers might miss a chapter on language and style, which some of the sister-series' Companions to Greek and Roman Tragedy have.

Despite the statement by the series editors that the series is 'offering new interpretations of ancient comedy',4 there is hardly anything new in terms of content—which is reasonable for an introduction. On the few matters that still pose a challenge, such as the absence of a formal agōn in the play (pp. 28–29, 53–54), whether the chorus are Panhellenes or just Athenians (pp. 33–34), and how foreseeable a peace treaty was in early 421 BC (pp. 57–58), one would have wished for a deeper analysis and for the author to have taken a clearer stance on the respective debates. One argument that seems to stand out in the book is that there is no serious opponent of Peace/no monstrous antagonist for Trygaeus, unlike in other comedies, and that War vanishes without disturbing the progress of the plot (pp. 59, 63, 65, 67, 91).

This supports Storey's overall positive reading of the play: Peace is a nostalgic and fairy-tale-like celebration (pp. 59, 92–93). While this is undoubtedly the common interpretation among scholars, the book lacks a fair presentation and a critical treatment of the ironic readings.5 For example, Storey views the scene with the handing over of Theoria to the boulē (discussed at pp. 81-2, 88-9) as a blessing: 'The presiding counsellors […] are being given custody of a divine handmaiden, symbolic of the freedom to travel [theōrein] without the dangers of wartime' (p. 89). The alternative and rather more straightforward implication, i.e. that some of the counsellors are abusing/might abuse their power and 'fuck up' the negotiations, is not even mentioned. The alternative meanings of Theoria's name (translated as 'Holiday' throughout the book and linked to the peace negotiations at p. 47), such as 'Spectacle' and 'Theory', and their implications for the episode with the counsellors, are not mentioned either.

Some comments on particular points:

• The statement that 'critics and producers tend to highlight three of Aristophanes' extant plays: Clouds […], Frogs [… and…] Lysistrata' (p. 1) is not supported. The statement seems to be true as far as critics are concerned,6 but not as far as producers are concerned; the plays staged more often are Lysistrata, Birds, and Frogs.7
• That Trygaeus is 'the most straightforward and appealing of Aristophanes' leading characters' (p. 2) is a debatable claim. It is true that he lacks 'the rough edges or the self-centredness or the exasperating behaviour of some of the others', but does this make him a 'straightforward and appealing' character, or a flat and non-realistic one? And why assume that 'a simple son of the countryside' is (equally) appealing to an audience comprising different demographic classes?
• In the section 'Peace and the Politicians' (pp. 47–53), we read about Aristophanes' targets, especially Cleon (see also pp. 130–131). It would be useful if we could also read about his sympathies, such as Nicias and Demosthenes. The surprisingly infrequent references to Alcibiades in Aristophanes could also receive a comment.
• In the section 'The monsters in Peace' (pp. 61–63), Storey identifies two monsters: Cleon and War. But while the former is an obvious case/a true monster (vv. 752–9), the latter hardly fits this category; War's fierce eyes, the noise in the background, and the sound of his mortar (p.63) are only implicit markers of monstrosity. At the same time, the dung-beetle which is a monster in the narrowest sense possible (i.e. an apotropaic animal-hybrid) is not mentioned. This suggests that Story understands dramatic monsters in ethical terms (i.e. who the antagonists of the protagonist are) rather than in morphological terms.
• 'It is fair to say that for Aristophanes the country means a life of pleasure and co-operation and the city war and contentious behaviour' (p. 72). This is not 'fair to say' for all plays. In Lysistrata and Ecclesiazusae, for example, the idyllic society is a re-organised urban society, the reformation starting from the Acropolis and Pnyx—not a rural one. And Wealth shows how little pleasure exists in the lives of peasants, who can only hope for a miracle.
• Following Slater,8 Storey argues that 'it was Aristophanes' purpose not to make Peace a figure of fun and exploitation like the female personifications elsewhere in his comedies, but a solemn and august character' and for that reason he used a statue instead of a mute actor (pp. 76–77). I find it hard to accept this explanation (instead of the simpler explanation that Aristophanes employed a statue for its impressive size), because statues of gods are made fun of occasionally (cf. Eccl. 782–3: 'They stand holding out the hollow of their hand, so as not to give anything, but to receive something').
• In the section 'Breaking the dramatic illusion in Peace' (pp. 87–89), it is not clear why the author avoids the well-established term 'metatheatre'. Moreover, that 'Peace breaks the dramatic illusion more often than any of the extant comedies' (p. 88) is an assertion which would require a comparative analysis, not simply a listing of the metatheatrical instances in Peace.
• Some notes on copy-editing: a parenthesis is misplaced after 'Aristotle' at p. 8. In the index for City Dionysia and for Holiday (Theōria), p. 94 should be p. 95 (94 is a blank page). The 'Structure of Peace' summary (p. 37) should more naturally follow the respective section (pp. 25–32), rather than the 'The Chorus in Peace' section (pp. 32–37).

This book is welcome, as is the entire series, and it will be especially useful to fresher-classicists and non-classicists. However, it is neither 'a vital companion' to the play nor 'will [it] be the first port of call for anyone studying or researching Aristophanes' Peace'. 9 The first port cannot be anything but reading the plays themselves—which a book addressed to students should advise at the earliest opportunity.


2.   From the back cover.
3.   From the series title page.
4.   From the series title page.
5.   Of those, only Sulprizio 2013 is mentioned (p. 74). C. Sulprizio, 'You Can't Go Home Again: War, Women and Domesticity in Aristophanes' Peace', Ramus 42 (2013), 44–63. In a forthcoming paper (in A. Serafim et al. (eds.), Sex and the Ancient City), I endorse the ironic interpretation of the play, arguing that it employs metaphors traditionally linked to political dystopia.
6.   Indicatively, a quick search in L'Année Philologique gives 230 hits for 'Aristophanes Lysistrata', 195 hits for 'Aristophanes Frogs', and 173 hits for 'Aristophanes Clouds'. Fourth comes Thesmophoriazusae with 159 hits (as of August 2019)
7.   With 362, 256, and 212 performances respectively, according to APGRD. Clouds comes fourth, with 125 performances (as of August 2019).
8.   Spectator Politics, 2002: 123.
9.   From the back cover.

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Mauro Tulli (ed.), In dialogo con Omero. Consulta universitaria del Greco, 2. Pisa; Roma: Fabrizio Serra Editore, 2018. Pp. 121. ISBN 9788833150376. €38,00 (pb).

Reviewed by Paavo Roos, University of Lund (

Version at BMCR home site

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

The Consulta universitaria del Greco is evidently a planned series of seminars, of which this is the second volume (the first concerned Hellenistic poetry and prose). This volume is the result of a seminar held at "La Sapienza" in Rome in 2017 with six papers on very varying topics with a bearing on Homer, not so much passages in Homer himself as on the treatment of points in Homer by later authors including Sophocles and Synesius. The volume consists only of a preface and the papers; the lively discussions referred to in the preface are not included.

The first piece, by Elena Langella, concerns Epeius, the person mentioned a few times in the Odyssey as the constructor of the Trojan horse and a few times in the Iliad as a participant in the funeral games of Patroclus, with a good result in the boxing and a less good result in the discus throwing. Although there is no conclusive evidence it has always been assumed that the two persons, of which the athlete has a patronymic and a Phocian origin while the horse-builder has neither, are identical. The possible etymology of the name is discussed, and the occurrences of Epeius in later literature (rather strange) and art are given. Of particular interest is an Archaic relief from Samothrace with Agamemnon together with the herald Talthybius and possibly Epeius (only Epe is preserved of the name).

The second chapter, by Isabella Nova, concerns the famous duel between Hector and Ajax following the challenge by the former. The motif of two warriors is common in vase-paintings, and already from the 7th century B.C. there are paintings with the names of the warriors in question. The article is illustrated with five Attic red-figure vase-paintings (the only illustrations in the book). Much of the article deals with references to the event in later works, especially the tragedies of Sophocles, and much interest is shown the fatal exchange of gifts by the warriors — Hector's sword and Ajax's girdle — in connection with the duel. The fatal results of the gifts for the receivers, mentioned by later authors although not referred to by Homer, are also stressed.

The third paper, by Giacomo Scavello, deals with the Homeric background of three passages in the choral parts of Sophocles' Ajax. The first is when the chorus begins to be optimistic about Ajax's mental state and hopeful concerning his recovery, and the phrase αἰνὸν ἄχος, ("un terribile dolore"— a metrical variation of Homer's ἄχος αἰνόν) is used in the antistrophe. The second part of the article deals with Ajax's killing the cattle of the Greeks 'with flashing sword', αἴθωνι σιδήρῳ, and the comparison of the huge shield of Ajax with a tower and of Ajax himself with the defense tower, πύργου ῥῦμα, of the Greeks, used in both the Iliad and the Odyssey.

The fourth piece, by Martina Savio, is a synthesis of the author's doctoral thesis of 2018. It consists of three parts, text, footnotes and bibliography, approximately equal in size. It deals with allegoresis, i.e. the allegorical interpretation of myths, in this case especially in the poetic texts of Homer and Hesiodos. The phenomenon was common from Archaic times to the Byzantine era, and many authors from different periods are mentioned as is the Derveni papyrus, but hardly any passage in Homer is referred to.

The fifth paper, by Maria Consiglia Alvino, deals with quotations from Homer in the works of Synesius of Cyrene, a subject that has never been the object of a concise study. Even here the whole production of the Cyrenaic bishop is not taken into account: only the prose opuscula, not the Christian hymns or the epistles. The six works examined contain more than 40 quotations, most of them in On Kingship and Praise of Baldness. Many of the passages had been discussed earlier by authors such as Dio Chrysostom, Aelius Aristides, Chrysippus, Galen, and Eusebius, who are also mentioned by Synesius.

The last paper, by Francesco Plebani, deals with interpretations of passages in the Iliad by Georgios Pachymeres, who at the end of the 13th century wrote an extensive Byzantine history as a continuation of the work of Georgios Acropolites. A number of Iliad scholia in a manuscript dated to 1275/6 are ascribed to him. They concern mostly the 7th book which contains the duel between Hector and Ajax. No doubt this event could be seen as an example of the philhellenism of Homer since the description of the duel makes it clear that Ajax gets the upper hand. But the few passages mentioned in the article are from the beginning of the book and hardly examples of philhellenism: the deeds of Paris, Hector and Glaucos before the duel, the discussion between Athena and Apollo on whether to bring aid to the parties or put an end to the battle, and finally the challenge put forth by Hector.

The number of ancient authors dealing with and commenting on Homer is great and the small selection in this book indeed displays a wide range of them. No doubt we shall see more collections of similar studies dealing with Homer in the future.

Table of Contents

Elena Langella, "Il personaggio omerico di Epeo: dall'etimologia del nome all'individuazione delle prerogative"
Isabella Nova, "Ettore e Aiace dopo Omero: la tradizione del dono fatale"
Giacomo Andrea Antonio Scavello, "Tre riprese omeriche nei corali dell'Aiace di Sofocle"
Martina Savio, "'A scuola' da Omero: letture allegoriche dei poemi e divulgazione scientifica nell'antichità"
Maria Consiglia Alvino, "Le citazioni omeriche negli opuscoli di Sinesio di Cirene"
Francesco Plebani, "Il filellenismo di Omero nell'esegesi di Giorgio Pachimere all'Iliade"
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