Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Jürgen von Ungern-Sternberg, Les chers ennemis: deutsche und französische Altertumswissenschaftler in Rivalität und Zusammenarbeit. Collegium Beatus Rhenanus, 7. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2017. Pp. 309. ISBN 9783515116121. €54.00 (pb).

Reviewed by François Gauthier, McGill University (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is found at the end of the review.]

Modern tourists visiting the French region of Burgundy may encounter a large statue of the Gallic chieftain Vercingetorix near Alise-Sainte-Reine. On it, one can read: "La Gaule unie, Formant une seule nation, Animée d'un même esprit, Peut défier l'Univers (Gaul united, Forming a single nation, Animated by a common spirit, Can defy the Universe)." The text was taken from Caesar's Gallic War (7.29) and the statue was commissioned by Napoleon III a few years before the Franco-Prussian War. If the same tourists continue their way into Germany and towards Detmold (North Rhine-Westphalia), they might come upon a huge statue dedicated to Arminius (or Hermann), the German leader who defeated a Roman army in the forest of Teutoburg in 9 CE. The statue holds a sword which bears the following inscription: "Deutsche Einigkeit, meine Stärke. Meine Stärke, Deutschlands Macht (German unity, my strength. My strength, Germany's might)." These two monuments are a vivid reminder of how both France and Germany used ancient history to bolster their political agenda in the late 19th century, the period Jürgen von Ungern-Sternberg's volume mostly deals with.

Les chers ennemis is a collection of essays previously published by von Ungern-Sternberg along with a few unpublished contributions. The volume takes its name from a passage in a letter written by the French scholar Ernest Renan addressed to Theodor Mommsen in the context of the Franco-Prussian War: "Tenez donc pour certain, mon cher ennemi que, quoi que vous disiez ou fassiez, vous aurez toujours en moi un admirateur et un ami." (9) The book offers an overview of the relations between French and German classicists in roughly the period 1850-1930.

The first two contributions highlight the collaboration between French and German scholars but also their different understanding of Roman history. Vercingetorix and Arminius are depicted through a detailed look at several French and German late 19th century ancient history works. German historians tended to represent Vercingetorix as a tragic hero whose defeat was ultimately positive because it brought about the emergence of Roman culture in Gaul. On the other hand, their French colleagues, especially after 1871, embittered by the war, depicted Arminius and the Germans in an unfavourable light. The most influential of them, Camille Jullian, the volumes of whose seminal Histoire de la Gaule were published before and over the course of World War 1, while praising Mommsen, went on to declare that: "Toute mon histoire de la Gaule est une œuvre d'insurrection contre les pages de Mommsen qui ont pesé sur toute la science française pendant cinquante ans." (59) A troubling feature of nearly all French and German classicists of the time, even men of immense and unequaled erudition such as Mommsen, was to attribute modern features of national character to the ancient Gauls and Germanic tribes.1 Although some scholars acknowledged that this was nothing more than projecting modern ideas into the ancient world, they were more prone to denounce this tendency among their neighbours on the other side of the Rhine than to admit that they were doing the same.2

The discussion on clientelae by Jean-Michel David was originally published in a Franco-German volume in the early 1990s and offers a useful summary of the origins of modern scholarship on clientelae. David highlights the fact that the first German studies on clientelae in the 19th century focused on the patricians in early Rome as the matrix of Roman society whereas those of the early 20th century (most famously Gelzer) tried to understand the functioning of the entire system. David's chapter is followed by a short response from von Ungern-Sternberg. The next essay zooms in on the work of Gaston Boissier, Matthias Gelzer, and Eugen Täubler on the Roman republic. Von Ungern-Sternberg shows how the society in which each historian lived influenced his perception of Roman history. While Boissier witnessed the power politics of his time in Paris, Gelzer observed the declining aristocratic structures in Switzerland. Partly due to this, both focused on the Roman aristocracy in their work at the expense of other social classes. On the other hand, Täubler, who lived in the province of Posen (modern-day Poznań), was influenced by his perception of the Prussian state in arguing that it was the state which was the most important force in society.

Three essays deal with Mommsen and his relations with French classicists. The great German scholar, whose main works were quickly translated in French, was highly praised in France and he was honoured with membership in several sociétés savantes. While happily working with French colleagues, Mommsen was a staunch German patriot and saw war between France and the German states as unavoidable, though allegedly without wishing it. (135) The letters he wrote to the Italian people advocating the conquest of Alsace-Lorraine infuriated many of his colleagues in France.3 Still, some French scholars expressed their admiration for Mommsen's scientific achievements while criticizing his political views.4

"Die deutsch-französische Zusammenarbeit bei der Edition der Inschriften von Delos" is a tale of cooperation and then confrontation. Originally a project profiting from a well-established bond between French and German scholars, the Great War severed this tie, and the work had to be carried on by the French. Collaboration would only slowly resume in the 1920s.

"Vom Ende einer Freundschaft. Maurice Holleaux und Georg Karo im Herbst 1914" opens with a very moving exchange of letters between Maurice Holleaux und Georg Karo who were good friends before the outbreak of the First World War. While being very respectful of each other in their letters, Holleaux and Karo express very contrasting views, each aligning with his country's political agenda. Their discussion mostly focuses on the German shelling of the cathedral of Reims and the early aerial bombing of Paris. Karo's last letter was never granted a response by Holleaux and the two never met again. After the end of the war Karo was very bitter about Germany's treatment by the Entente. He was especially angry at paragraph 231 of the Versailles treaty which made Germany and the Central Powers solely responsible for the outbreak of the war. Karo's bitterness against the Entente did, however, make it possible to retain his position, under the National-Socialist government, at the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut in Athens until 1936, despite his being Jewish. He then wisely took the decision to move to the United States in 1939.

"Deutsche Altertumswissenschaftler im Ersten Weltkrieg" and "Les conséquences de la guerre sur la communauté scientifique en Europe" cover similar themes. Many enlisted classicists were killed in action and the war created a profound divide between German and French scholars. Several works published after the war made comparisons between Sparta and France on the one hand, and Athens and Germany on the other. The French were keen on banning German and Austrian scholars from international scientific conferences. Although initially somewhat successful, the ban gradually lost its power and German scientists were admitted again in the 1920s.

Von Ungern-Sternberg's book will appeal to those interested in the reception and interpretation of classics in the modern world. More generally, it is also relevant for all classicists since it highlights the social and political background in which several key works of ancient history still relevant today were written. It might be tempting for us in the 21st century to look down upon French and German historians of the late 19th century as shamelessly using ancient history to serve the political agenda of their country. But I wonder whether we would really fare better today.

As is perhaps difficult to avoid in a largely bilingual volume, the book contains some typographical errors, mostly concerning French diacritical signs.5 Moreover, since the tome consists of a collection of articles published in various volumes and journals, there are some repetitions between contributions. The title of the book could have specified a more precise time- frame as there is no essay dealing with the period of the Second World War or its aftermath. This was also a time (sadly) in which classical scholars were pressed into service and when ancient history was twisted for political reasons. The idealization of Sparta by the National-Socialists is a notable example. Thus, a more accurate title for the volume would add: 1850-1930.

Despite these minor criticisms, the book is a useful contribution for all those interested in the founding figures of German Klassische Altertumswissenschaft and French études classiques. By putting modern pioneers of ancient history such as Mommsen and Holleaux in context, the volume successfully demonstrates how historians are always the product of their own time, influenced as they are, for better or worse, by the world in which they live.

Table of Contents

Avant-propos. Notizen zu einer deutsch-französischen Zusammenarbeit
Deutsche und französische Altertumswissenschaftler vor und während des Ersten Weltkriegs
Der deutsche Blick im 19. Jahrhundert auf Vercingetorix – der französische auf Arminius und Varus
La clientèle, d'une forme de l'analyse à l'autre (Jean-Michel David)
Forschungen zur Klientel in Rom. Kommentar zum Beitrag von Jean-Michel David
Drei Beiträge zu einer römischen Gesellschaftsgeschichte: Gaston Boissier – Matthias Gelzer – Eugen Täubler
Rezension zu Elisabeth Erdmann, Die Römerzeit im Selbstverständnis der Franzosen und Deutschen. Lehrpläne und Schulbücher aus der Zeit zwischen 1850 und 1918, 2 Bde., Bochum 1992
Rezension zu Sarah Rey, Écrire l'histoire ancienne à l'École française de Rome (1873–1940), Rom 2012
Theodor Mommsen und Frankreich
Mommsen in Frankreich: Übersetzungen und Rezensionen
Theodor Mommsen und Straßburg
Die deutsch-französische Zusammenarbeit bei der Edition der Inschriften von Delos
Vom Ende einer Freundschaft. Maurice Holleaux und Georg Karo im Herbst 1914
Deutsche Altertumswissenschaftler im Ersten Weltkrieg
Les conséquences de la guerre sur la communauté scientifique en Europe
Vorreden zu den CBR-Newslettern 1998 – 1999 – 2000 – 2007 – 2008


1.   p. 58: "[…] Mommsen wie fast alle seine Zeitgenossen den Nationalcharakter für Zeitlos fortdauernd gehalten hat."
2.   p. 70, According to the French scholar Jules Zeller: "Trop souvent l'histoire, en faisant d'Armin [Arminius] un héros de la liberté germaine, lui a prêté des idées classiques de patriotisme qu'il n'avait pas." Zeller goes to say that Vercingetorix is celebrated in France without being a national hero (!).
3.   p. 142: "Vogliamo non la conquista, ma la rivendicazione, vogliamo il nostro, non più, non meno."
4.   p. 157 The French scholar René Pichon wrote: "Nous admirerons en lui [e.g. Mommsen] le professeur d'histoire romaine, mais nous détesterons le professeur de brutalité germanique."
5.   For example: p. 28: operations; p. 33: majorité; p. 35: è (for à), especes, presenter; p. 37: societies; p. 39: democratique, a (for à); p. 41: a (for à); p. 42: tous les déprédrations; p. 44: a (for à); p. 65 trahision; p. 68: représanter; p. 70: und (for une); p. 72: recontre, greco; p. 135: Louis XIV., Italienne et Espagnol; p. 138: ideal,; p. 142 patriot; p. 149: a detester; p. 153 pluspart; p. 155 doleur; p. 156 mâitre; p. 217 Premiere.

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P. G. P. Meyboom, The Nile Mosaic of Palestrina: Early Evidence of Egyptian Religion in Italy. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2016. Pp. 490. ISBN 9789004283848. $59.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Joshua J. Thomas, University of Oxford (

Version at BMCR home site

Preview 1995 edition

Scholars have long debated when, why and how the famous Nile Mosaic came to be laid in Praeneste, modern Palestrina, a town situated just 23 miles east of Rome. In the original introduction to his 1995 monograph on the mosaic, Paul Meyboom resolved to "reach more definite conclusions" in response to these important questions. More than two decades on, the publication of this new paperback edition offers an excellent opportunity to re-assess Meyboom's ideas concerning the composition, which still do much to illuminate the significance of its iconography and the nature of the cultural and political climate in which it was conceived.

The contents of this new edition are nearly identical to those of the hardback original. The only substantive change occurs among the Figures, where seventeen colour photographs of individual sections of the mosaic have replaced their black-and-white counterparts (Figs. 6, 9, 11-22, 24-25, 27). Printed on non-glossy paper, these photographs are a useful addition, providing readers with a clearer sense of the extraordinary detail of the scenes that make up the composition. It is unfortunate, then, that a handful are out of focus: certainly Figures 12, 21, 24 and 25, by this reviewer's reckoning.

After a brief introduction containing a cursory overview of (then) recent scholarship on the mosaic, Chapter 1 addresses the reconstruction of the original composition. The chapter begins with an account of the turbulent history of the mosaic in early modern times, starting with its piecemeal removal from Praeneste and subsequent transfer to Rome. It was here that Cassiano dal Pozzo commissioned a series of watercolour copies of the mosaic, each of which reproduced one of the removed pieces. The composition was then damaged, restored and consolidated on several occasions over the following centuries, with the result that its appearance today is different from its original appearance in antiquity. Against this background, Meyboom recounts how Helen Whitehouse's re-discovery and publication of the dal Pozzo copies permitted her to re-arrange the original parts of the mosaic "in a convincing way" (p. 5).1 His own reconstruction of the mosaic (Fig. 8) is similar to Whitehouse's in many details, and the same is true of other reconstructions published in the years since.2

Already in this chapter a pattern is established whereby the ideas and observations enumerated in the main body of text are substantiated by a long series of closely printed endnotes. This format permits the author to present his arguments concisely, but readers seeking to learn more about how these arguments have been constructed will be frustrated by the constant need to turn back and forth through the volume.

The second chapter contextualises the Nile Mosaic both spatially and chronologically. Here Meyboom re-examines the function of the architectural complex in which the mosaic was laid, and presents a strong case that it was not part of the famous sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia mentioned by Cicero and Pliny the Elder, nor a sanctuary of Isis, but rather "a group of public buildings on the forum of Praeneste" (p. 14). He dates this complex to c. 125-120 B.C., thanks partially to its architectural correspondences with the neighbouring sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia, and proposes that the Nile Mosaic was also laid at approximately this time.

Chapter 3 contains a scene-by-scene description of the iconography of the mosaic, with each section numbered according to its corresponding dal Pozzo copy. Meyboom begins by describing the scenes of the upper register of the composition, which together depict a rocky landscape populated by Aethiopian animals labelled in Greek and by groups of native African hunters. He is right to stress the correspondences between the animals depicted here and those described by Agatharchides of Knidos in his account of Ptolemaic expeditions to the Red Sea, although not all readers will be convinced by his interpretation of the fantastical creature with a crocodile-like head as the "carnivorous buffalo" mentioned by this author (p. 23). Attention then turns to the scenes of the lower register, which together constitute a panorama of Hellenistic Egypt at the time of the annual flood. The description here is exemplary in its accuracy and detail, although three priests (and not two) follow the main procession of litter-bearing priests in Section 16, contrary to the text on p. 39.

The long fourth chapter, entitled "Interpretation", attempts to make sense of this complex iconography. The chapter title is misleading in its simplicity, since the interpretation here pertains to the iconography in an Egyptian context, and so relies on an implicit supposition (made explicit only in Chapters 6 and 7) that the Nile Mosaic was a later version of one or more earlier Ptolemaic works of art. In any case, the author here compares the upper register of the mosaic with the painted frieze that decorated a third century tomb in Marissa in Palestine, which likewise depicted a series of Aethiopian animals accompanied by identifying labels in Greek. He then demonstrates how the animals, hunters and landscape of this register combine to form "a synoptic and symbolic representation of Aethiopia" (p. 50), a territory that was explored and exploited by the Ptolemaic kings during the third century B.C.

The discussion then shifts to the lower register, and specifically to the question of whether its individual vignettes should be identified with particular sites and buildings in Ptolemaic Egypt. Meyboom proposes that the Egyptian temple in Section 11 represents the Temple of Osiris at Canopus built by Ptolemy III Euergetes, a theory that remains highly speculative in the absence of much hard archaeological evidence for this building. This identification provides the backdrop for a detailed interpretation of the procession of Egyptian priests in Section 16. For Meyboom, the litter carried by these priests represents the ritual sarcophagus of Osiris, and the scene as a whole depicts a ceremony that took place during the annual Khoiak festival, in which an effigy of Osiris was transported from his temple to his tomb. Several other scenes are likewise interpreted as parts of this Khoiak festival, including the vignette showing soldiers and a priestess celebrating in front of a pavilion. Particularly compelling is Meyboom's examination of a now-lost fragment of this pavilion scene, known only from its dal Pozzo copy, which featured a large red parasol with a yellow fringe. This parasol is compared to other representations of parasols in ancient art, several of which occur in the context of royalty or royal women, suggesting that the figures represented beneath the parasol originally included "the Ptolemaic queen, and possibly both sovereigns" (p. 68).

Two aspects of this chapter are deserving of comment. The first is the author's decision to diagnose the iconography of the upper and lower registers of the Nile Mosaic entirely independently, which he justifies with reference to "an essential difference in content" (p. 43), and which later leads him to suppose that the two registers were modelled on separate works of art (p. 103-104). This approach is unnecessarily restrictive, and ignores the possibility for conceptual links between the upper and lower registers of the composition. It is conceivable, for instance, that the juxtaposition of the Ptolemaic ruling couple with the newly reconnoitred territory of Aethiopia would have had ideological implications for an Alexandrian audience, especially when we consider the imperialistic territorial rhetoric that constituted a recurring topos in Ptolemaic court poetry. Also contentious is the author's overarching theory that the lower register constitutes a visualisation of the Khoiak festivities. While the procession of priests in section 16 may indeed allude to a ritual associated with the Nile inundation, it is less certain whether this religious element constituted the central, unifying theme of the iconography. After all, the procession itself did not occupy an especially prominent position within the overall composition, and it remains possible that the pavilion scene featuring soldiers and the royal couple referred to a military-focused celebration of a different kind. One wonders whether the chapter would have benefitted from a more flexible presentation of the evidence, allowing for alternatives such as these to enter the discussion.

Chapter 5 addresses the function of the mosaic in its Italian context. After re-iterating his view that the mosaic was laid in a public building, Meyboom proceeds to examine a series of near-contemporary Nilotic scenes surviving from Pompeii and elsewhere. He concludes that these comparanda were exotic in function and lacked a clear religious meaning, leading him to propose that the Nile Mosaic was "an early and very elaborate example of a new decorative fashion" (p. 89). Only briefly does he suggest that the mosaic was also imbued with a religious significance in its local setting, owing to the assimilation of Fortuna, the patron goddess of Praeneste, with Isis-Tyche, the goddess of abundance whose presence is implicit in the composition. The lukewarm formulation of this argument may lead readers to question whether the mosaic really deserves to be heralded as the kind of "Early Evidence of Egyptian Religion in Italy" alluded to in the title of the monograph.

The final chapters address how a mosaic of this kind came to be laid in a public building in central Italy. In Chapter 6, the author develops his pre-existing theory that a single workshop was responsible for the mosaics of the House of the Faun in Pompeii and the Lower Complex in Praeneste, and suggests that this workshop specialised in Alexandrian motifs and used Alexandrian models.3 In Chapter 7, these Alexandrian connections are examined more closely. Here Meyboom is careful to distinguish between "models", material prototypes used by the workshop responsible for the mosaic, and "archetypes", original works of art whose iconography the models transmitted. After establishing that the models were probably "of considerable size" (p. 98), Meyboom proposes that the archetypes were large-scale wall paintings in Alexandria, probably of the third century. His desire to date these paintings to the reign of Ptolemy III is conditioned by the earlier interpretation of the Egyptian temple in Section 11 as one built by this king, but his closing suggestion that they decorated a royal building in Alexandria remains an attractive hypothesis.

The text proper is followed by twenty-one appendices spread over eighty pages, and by some 191 pages of endnotes. The appendices tackle subjects ranging from the fantastical creatures depicted in the mosaic to the relationship between Ptolemaic Egypt and Rome in the centuries prior to Actium. Particularly interesting is the discussion of illustrated papyrus scrolls in Appendix 19, in which Meyboom expresses doubt that models of this kind were used by the designers of the mosaic on the grounds that "the richness in detail can hardly be conceived within the limited height of a painted scroll" (p. 180). These comments find some support in the sketchy animal illustrations of the more recently published Artemidoros Papyrus, which, despite claims to the contrary, lack the finesse (and polychromy) required to suggest that they could have been used as models for a composition of this kind.4

In sum, while aspects of the composition continue to invite debate, Meyboom's monograph remains an indispensible resource for study of the Nile Mosaic at Praeneste. Students will benefit from the clear manner in which arguments are presented, and scholars familiar with these arguments still have much to gain from sifting through the goldmine of endnotes. It remains highly recommended.


1.   For these copies, see now: Whitehouse, H. 2001: Ancient mosaics and wall paintings, London, 70-131.
2.   Recent reconstructions are published in Hinterhöller, M. 2009: 'Das Nilmosaik von Palestrina und die Bildstruktur eines geographischen Großraums', Römische Historische Mitteilungen 51, 15-130.
3.   For an earlier iteration of this theory: Meyboom, P.G.P. 1977: 'I mosaici pompeiani con figure di pesci', Mededelingen van het Nederlands Instituut te Rome 39, 49-93.
4.   For the Artemidoros papyrus: Gallazzi, C., Kramer, B., and Settis, S. 2008: Il papiro di Artemidoro (P. Artemid.), Milan.

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Kerstin Höghammar, Brita Alroth, Adam Lindhagen (ed.), Ancient Ports: The Geography of Connections. Proceedings of an International Conference at the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University, 23-25 September 2010. Boreas, 34. Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2016. Pp. 346. ISBN 9789155496098. SEK 305.00.

Reviewed by Clayton Miles Lehmann, University of South Dakota (

Version at BMCR home site

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

As the editors explain in their brief introduction, this collection includes eleven peer-reviewed papers delivered at a conference about ancient Greek and Roman ports as distinctive social and economic systems connected to each other and to their hinterlands. The editors do not explain whether the conference included other papers; the published collection treats no ports outside the Aegean, Adriatic, Ionian, and Tyrrhenian Seas other than Leptis Magna and Hispalis (Seville), though the authors do include comparative references to other ports, such as Alexandria. Each article includes an abstract and bibliography. The production meets high standards of editing and presentation, including many tables, plans, and photographs in color; unfortunately, the book has no index.

Surprisingly for papers originally presented at a single venue, the authors rarely engage with each other, a failure especially noticeable between the two papers on the ports of Rome. The exception comes in the first article, Reger's theoretical discussion of the sociology of port towns, or "sailor towns," which have a distinct character due to their connectivity with people across the seas and into the hinterland. Melville's New Bedford, colonial Havana, and ancient Delos evoke the distinctiveness of sailor towns, and Reger references the papers by Bouras, Lindhagen, and Boetto for discussing the networking of Aegean ports, the sociology of Narona in Dalmatia, and the exclusively commercial character of Portus, respectively. Intriguingly, Reger asks us to think of ports in a flexibly comparative way by considering oases as desert ports.

The papers by Archibald and Bonnier focus on the commercial connections of inland peoples to each other and the sea. Archibald draws on his work at ancient Pistiros in Thrace to move from a theoretical discussion of connections between sea ports and inland harbors to a valuable case study of the movement of goods from northern Aegean ports up the Strymon and Nestos rivers and over mountain passes into Thrace. Legal and practical structures facilitated trade: for example, the Pistiros inscription (SEG 43.486) and the availability of farm animals for transport during agricultural off seasons. Bonnier summarizes his dissertation about connections from the archaic through Hellenistic periods between Achaean poleis on the Corinthian Gulf and "satellite" sites and microregions located on the coast and up the valleys to Arcadia. He argues that the mountains did not obstruct but rather channeled through the valleys trade of upland timber and animal products for imported grain, wine, and oil.

The next two papers consider the connections of Kos to the Aegean and the wider Mediterranean world. Höghammar surveys three types of Koan "webs" in the Hellenistic period attested by proxeny decrees, bronze coins, and grants of asylia to the sanctuary of Asclepius and of panhellenic status to its games. She finds that the connections were always most important along the trade route running up and down the western coast of Anatolia. Most interestingly she argues persuasively that Kos's grants of proxeny honor non-Koans who assisted the city during food crises. The decrees regularly include a provision securing the persons and goods of the proxenoi, whom she identifies as "heads of shipping and trading houses" (p. 129). Höghammar emphasizes the provisional nature of her results, and suggests that a fuller study should look at epigraphs, shipwrecks, and the distribution of ceramics. Nevertheless, she has produced a small monograph, which at seventy pages more than doubles or triples the length of the other articles. Next, Kokkorou-Alevras, Grigoropoulos, Diamanti, and Koutsoumpou draw on their excavations and surveys at Halasarna on the southern coast of Kos to chart the history of the town's imports from the Neolithic through the end of antiquity. They summarize only provisional data, and they have not identified the harbor, but they can give an impression of increasing imports in the classical period when the Halasarnans began shipping their wine and oil in locally produced amphorae; contacts increased in the later Hellenistic through the Roman periods; and in the fourth through seventh centuries Halasarna flourished with plentiful trade throughout the Aegean, eastern Mediterranean, and North Africa.

Bouras offers a general overview of the Aegean network in the Roman period, noticing that ancient geographers did not understand our Aegean as a discrete subregion of the Mediterranean but rather as a group of discrete seas defined by groups of islands. She highlights the disconnect between the literary evidence, which identifies major east-west and north-south navigational routes between a few terminal ports, and the archaeological evidence, which points to a hierarchy of ports according to the extent of the development and the size of the harbors.

Lindhagen takes us to the Neretva River in Dalmatia and describes the long history of the area that gave access from the Adriatic coast into the hinterland of Dalmatia from before the Roman annexation after 168 BCE to modern times. He studies the river harbor town of Narona (modern Vid), which controlled this area until the course of the river shifted during the Middle Ages. Lindhagen investigates the changing sociology of this multicultural town, first a gateway between Adriatic Greeks and Illyrian tribes trading wine for agricultural products, minerals, slaves, and timber, then a staging area and administrative center for Roman control of Dalmatia as well as a center for commerce managed by freedmen agents for merchants in Rome. Under the empire, once Narona became a colony, Italian elites settled there and took over the trade directly. Finally, after the second century, as Dalmatia Romanized, the military and administrative importance of Narona declined, and Salona became a more important commercial harbor.

Lentini, Blackman, and Pakkanen turn to the Greek west and draw on their recent excavations at Sicilian Naxos to make some preliminary observations about its situation as a node in the colonial network eastward to Chalcis and Naxos and northward to Pithecusae and Cumae as well as a node in the local network of eastern Sicily and the straits. They conclude with the interesting observation that Sicily's character as a small continent with many port cities rather than a large island with a few complicates our current understanding of the maritime character of typical Greek cities.

The following two chapters on Rome's port system review much of the same material with respect to the infrastructure of Portus, but otherwise address quite different problems. Boetto's fascinating, multidisciplinary paper studies the hydrography, hydrology, and geography of the Tiber from its headwaters to its mouth as well as its archaeology and history. She distinguishes the river's various transport zones, defined by depth and rate of flow—each requiring a distinctive type of vessel—and the transit zones between them, where goods moved via storage facilities from one type of vessel to another. Finally, she distinguishes the seaport of Portus from the fluvio-maritime port of Ostia and the fluvial ports of Rome as components of "an integrated harbour complex" (p. 269). Boetto shows that the imperial-period Grandi Horrea of Ostia, currently a subject of her research, could have held 1645 to 2430 tons of grain. Twelve to eighteen seagoing ships of some 150 tons would have filled it, then a fleet of twenty to thirty river-going ships of some seventy tons could have carried it up to Rome within a month during the period of at least three hundred days per year when the Tiber was navigable. Keay's paper extends the analysis from the port system of the Tiber to the "poly-focal hub" of the Tiber ports with other central Italian ports such as Puteoli—Rome's seaport until the development of Ostia and Portus in the imperial period—and then to patterns of trade among Mediterranean ports in general with their respective connections to their hinterlands. In effect, Keay offers a preliminary report on his comprehensive study of the relationship among Portus, Rome, and Mediterranean ports, the Portus Project. In this paper he asks two specific questions: How did the development of Rome's port system in the second century affect the development of other Mediterranean ports as they moved local goods to the imperial center? To what extent did regional development depend on imperial direction as opposed to local initiative? He answers these questions in two case studies involving the provision of olive oil to Rome. Hispalis (modern Seville) does not show signs of central direction as its port infrastructure developed in the second century; Leptis Magna does, due to the personal interest of its native son Septimius Severus, but Keay cannot say whether economic motivations account for the development as opposed to imperial display. Further study will also investigate changes in the volume of shipping and the extent of economic integration in the Roman Mediterranean.

The volume concludes with Malmberg's study of the port of Ravenna. Here the focus returns to the sociology of a sailor town subject to major changes throughout the Roman period due to political and geographical alterations as much as to commercial developments in the Po valley and the lagoon systems of the northern Adriatic. Augustus developed Ravenna's harbor for military purposes, but the infrastructure became available for local and Mediterranean trade, which Malmberg charts chronologically. The presence of the fleet meant an influx of soldiers from outside Italy, especially from the Balkans, and the arrival of the imperial court in the fifth century meant an influx of luxury-hungry elites, bureaucrats, and the soldiers of the praetorian prefecture. Add Goths and the clergy of the now powerful Ravenna bishopric and you have a remarkably cosmopolitan and varied population. But silting from the Po put the harbor and lagoon out of use, and Ravenna declined as towns to the north took over its commercial functions until Venice emerged as the Queen of the Adriatic.

This collection constitutes a valuable contribution to the study of the ancient (and in some cases medieval and modern) Mediterranean, particularly with respect to geography, commerce, networks, and the sociology of port communities. The theoretical work of Polanyi, Braudel, Horden and Purcell, and Malkin inform these studies, and the authors' familiarity with the scholarship of their subjects and in most cases their direct participation in excavation and survey ensures immediacy and practicality. All eleven papers fulfill the organizers' intention to study ports as distinct types of communities due to their connection to each other and to their hinterlands.

Authors and titles

Kerstin Höghammar and Adam Lindhagen, Preface
Gary Reger, "Nodes of sea and sand. Ports, human geography and networks of trade."
Zosia H. Archibald, "Moving upcountry: ancient travel from coastal ports to inland harbours."
Anton Bonnier, "Harbours and hinterland networks by the Corinthian Gulf, from the Archaic to the Early Hellenistic period."
Kerstin Höghammar, "International networks of an island port in the Hellenistic period—the case of Kos."
Georgia Kokkorou-Alevras, Dimitris Grigoropoulos, Charikleia Diamanti, and Maria Koutsoumpou, "Maritime connections of Halasarna on Cos from prehistory to Late Antiquity: a view based on the pottery and other finds."
Catherine Bouras, "The geography of connections: a harbour network in the Aegean Sea during the Roman Imperial period?"
Adam Lindhagen, "Narona in Dalmatia—the rise and fall of a 'gateway settlement.'"
Maria Costanza Lentini, David Blackman, and Jari Pakkanen, "The port in the urban system of Sicilian Naxos (5th century BC)."
Giulia Boetto, Portus, "Ostia and Rome: a transport zone in the maritime/land interface."
Simon Keay, "Portus in its Mediterranean context."
Simon Malmberg, "Ravenna: naval base, commercial hub, capital city."
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N. Arslan, E.-M. Mohr, K. Rheidt (ed.), Assos: neue Forschungsergebnisse zur Baugeschichte und Archäologie der südlichen Troas. Asia Minor Studien, 78. Bonn: Dr. Rudolf Habelt Verlag, 2016. Pp. x, 234; 102 p. of plates. ISBN 9783774939516. €85.00.

Reviewed by Stefan Feuser, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed below.]

The publication under review has its roots in an international congress on Assos and the southern Troad held from November 15th to 17th, 2012 in Cottbus, and brings together the different groups and independent researchers working on the monuments and areas of the city and its vicinity. The collection succeeds in profoundly enhancing our knowledge of the city's architectural history and layout from Archaic to Byzantine times and, thus, is a major contribution to the field of ancient urbanism. Most of the articles are based on the latest excavations, the urban survey, and analysis conducted by an international roster of scholars. Short summaries of the reconstruction of the Archaic temple of Athena and of the excavations in the Western necropolis published extensively elsewhere are welcome additions. Access to this wealth of new insights is hampered, however, by the fact that they are spread over several contributions, and the editors do not provide a comprehensive conclusion. For a quick overview, the reader might want to start with pages 144-152 of the article by Eva-Maria Mohr and Klaus Rheidt, who present a thoughtful discussion of the city's architectural development. In order to highlight the major achievements of the publication, this review will follow the diachronic development of the city and its architecture.

The first four papers deal with the Archaic phase of Assos and its surroundings. The articles by Bonna D. Wescoat and Klaus Müller focus on the upper part of the acropolis with the temple of Athena. While Wescoat gives a comprehensive and useful summary of the methodological basis and results of her thorough study of the temple published in 2012,1 Müller offers new insight into other structures in the vicinity of the Archaic temple. Based on rock cuttings and a small number of building blocks, he reconstructs three different edifices roughly contemporary with the temple. Cuttings in bedrock for the foundation of a building measuring 9 x 13 m were traced on the highest point of the Acropolis, north of the temple. A few meters southeast of the temple, more cuttings in bedrock and three ashlars are cautiously interpreted as the altar of the sanctuary. The foundations of a third structure 25 m south of the temple, at a lower elevation but aligned with its southern side, are interpreted as a propylon or a stoa. If Müller's dating of these structures, based on pottery and other considerations, is correct, the findings reveal the remarkable layout of a late Archaic sanctuary in Asia Minor, with a temple, an altar and at least two further edifices that were all built with regard to the natural topography, creating an architectural prospect for people approaching Assos from the sea. In light of the later history of the settlement, however, a late Classical or early Hellenistic date for these structures should not be ruled out.

Several articles offer further information about Assos in Archaic times. Walls of Archaic houses were documented by Oğuz Koçyiğit during the excavation of living quarters in the southwestern part of the site. Although it was not possible to reconstruct their ground plans, the pottery recovered leads to the conclusion that the houses were inhabited in Archaic and Classical times. On the basis of an urban survey conducted from 2010 to 2012, Mohr and Rheidt conclude that the settlement of Assos had probably already spread beyond the area of the still visible fortification wall in Archaic and Classical times. The second phase of the wall circuit is dated by Haiko Türk in the second half of the 6th c. BC. Furthermore, Reinhard Stupperich, in his account of the excavations in the so-called Westgate Necropolis from 1989 to 1994, points to the rich grave goods as evidence that Assos was a lively and flourishing settlement in the late Archaic and early Classical periods.

B. Ayça Polat-Becks broadens the analysis of Archaic Assos by looking at the archaeological remains of Lamponeia and Topçakıllar in the southern Troad. While Lamponeia was a small settlement founded in Archaic times and abandoned in Hellenistic times at the latest, Topçakıllar served as a temporary refuge fort ("Fluchtburg"). The pairing of an Archaic settlement with a refuge fort in the immediate neighborhood can also be found further north in the Troad and at the Lelegian settlements in Ionia and Caria.

A major building phase of late Classical times is presented by Mohr and Rheidt. During their architectural survey—the authors outline its shortcomings and restrictions due to post-depositional processes on the slopes of the hill—, parallel terraces were recorded west of the acropolis and in the western, eastern and southwestern areas of the city. They do not follow a common orientation, but have different alignments depending on the hill's topography. These traces, interpreted as terraces for houses, are contemporary with the street grid, which features three major streets running between gates in the west and in the east, and parallel to the slope of the hill. Minor north-south streets connected them. According to Türk, the fourth phase of the fortification wall is contemporary with the street grid and the terrace walls.

Several communal structures essential to the functioning of a polis were built around 300 BC: the bouleuterion, the predecessor of the North Stoa, an early version of the South Stoa, and presumably also the theater, with an orientation slightly skewed from that of the late Classical house terraces. Nurettin Arslan offers a most welcome new insight into the architectural history of the agora. In contrast to earlier assumptions of a coherent building program in the first half of the 2nd c. BC,2 Arslan convincingly argues for a successive development of the ensemble from 300 BC to the late 2nd/early 3rd c. AD on the ground of archaeological soundings. The bouleuterion was built around 300 BC and dedicated by a certain Ladames and his wife, a local man from Assos. At the same time, a banquet building was erected; its walls were excavated underneath the Hellenistic North Stoa and follow a different ground plan than the later building. The dating of this North Stoa to the first half of the 2nd c. BC is now supported by pottery from its foundation layers. The temple at the western end of the agora, however, does not belong to the Hellenistic phase; built over structures from early Imperial times, it can be dated to the late 2nd/early 3rd c. AD. Its deity and the reason for its construction remain unclear.

The knowledge of Assos' development in Roman Imperial times is still scant. In addition to Arslan's new dating of the temple at the western end of the agora, the publication under review can add a few more pieces of information. Mohr and Rheidt traced Roman building activities in several areas of the city, but could not date them precisely. From Augustan times onwards the area of the agora was rebuilt and refurnished with statues (Arslan), and the baths of the city used the wall heating technique of spacer pins found in other places in Asia Minor (Koçyiğit). Koçyiğit also points to a surprising hiatus in Imperial times within the residential quarter in the southwest part of Assos.

Three articles deal with the Byzantine era of Assos. Andreas Külzer presents an overview of the overland route system of Asia Minor and its terminology, administration and utilization in Roman Imperial and especially Byzantine times. Of special interest is his description of major and minor routes in northwestern Asia Minor, which would have benefitted from the addition of a map. Beate Böhlendorf-Arslan and Ursina Wittke discuss two of the Byzantine churches in Assos—the Ayazma Church in the Western Necropolis and the West Church within the ancient fortification circuit. The Ayazma Church was built on two ancient grave terraces and overlies several Hellenistic and Roman graves. Böhlendorf-Arslan identifies the grave of an unknown saint of the 5th c. AD as the nucleus that was integrated into a church building in the first half of the 6th c. AD. While the original building was put out of use around the middle of the 7th c. AD, the church was rebuilt in the first half of the 11th c. AD. Until the 12th c. the building was primarily used for burials, with a chapel in the east devoted to the graves of children. The West Church, excavated by the American Mission at the end of the 19th c., , has been restudied by Wittke. She distinguishes two building phases, with the establishment of the church in the second half of the 5th c. AD and a rebuilding within the course of the 6th c. AD. The West Church was abandoned in the first half of the 7th c. AD.

The publication is lavishly produced with 86 pages of photos and plans in black and white and 16 pages in color, as well as a fold-out map indicating the different building phases of Assos. The collection is of special interest for scholars working on the urbanism and architecture of Asia Minor/the eastern Mediterranean from Archaic to Byzantine times, and thus should be found in research libraries concentrating on these topics. Its major strength is presenting Assos' urban development in a diachronic perspective based on the most recent archaeological research.

Authors and Titles

Nurettin Arslan, Eva-Maria Mohr, Klaus Rheidt: Vorwort
Haiko Türk: Bemerkungen zu den Befestigungsanlagen von Assos
B. Ayça Polat-Becks: Lamponeia und Topçakıllar. Zwei befestigte Höhensiedlungen der archaischen und klassischen Zeit bei Assos
Bonna D. Wescoat: Architectural Expectations and the Temple of Athena at Assos
Klaus Müller: Untersuchungen auf der Akropolis von Assos
Nurettin Arslan: Neue Forschungen zur Agora von Assos
Caner Bakan: Hellenistic Pottery from Assos. Deposits and Chronological Issues for Future Studies
Oğuz Koçyiğit: Early Layers within the Living Quarter in the Southwest City of Assos
Eva-Maria Mohr, Klaus Rheidt: Der Assos-Survey 2010-2012: Neue Forschungen zu Stadtkultur und Entwicklung von den Anfängen bis in römische Zeit
Oğuz Koçyiğit: New Evidence for a 2nd-3rd Century AD Phase of the Roman Baths at Assos
Dinçer Savaş Lenger: A New Commodus Medallion from Assos
Reinhard Stupperich: Die Grabungen in der Westnekropole in den Jahren 1989-1994 unter Berücksichtigung der neuen stadtentwicklungsgeschichtlichen Fragestellungen
Andreas Külzer: Von Assos nach Pergamon und Ephesos: Betrachtungen zu den Straßen Westkleinasiens in römischer und byzantinischer Zeit
Beate Böhlendorf-Arslan: Die Ayazmakirche in Assos: Lokales Pilgerheiligtum und Grabkirche
Ursina Wittke: Die Westkirche in Assos


1.   B. D. Wescoat, The Temple of Athena at Assos (Oxford 2012); see the review in BMCR 2013.05.40.
2.   A. W. Lawrence, Greek Architecture (Middlesex 1957) 265 f.; F. E. Winter, Studies in Hellenistic Architecture (Toronto 2006) 36.

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Monday, June 26, 2017


Clément Chillet, Marie-Claire Ferriès, Yann Rivière (ed.), Les confiscations, le pouvoir et Rome de la fin de la République à la mort de Néron. Scripta antiqua, 92. Bordeaux: Ausonius Éditions, 2016. Pp. 413. ISBN 9782356131720. €25.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Mario Adamo, University of Cambridge (

Version at BMCR home site

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

This volume contains the proceedings of a conference on confiscations and expropriations in the late republic and the Julio-Claudian dynasty, held in November 2010 as part of the collective research program on "confiscations and expropriations" carried out at the École française de Rome in 2008-2011. The same project has already produced a volume on Late Antiquity, which debates Walter Goffart's "minimalist" view on the impact of barbarians' settlement in the Roman Empire.1

The conference on Late Antiquity had ended in disagreement (and rightly so, given the inconclusive nature of the evidence).2 The present volume, by contrast, sets out with a more optimistic spirit (see Rivière's Introduction): the general aim is to demonstrate that, even though quantification is impossible, forced transfers of property were a major historical agent in the period under investigation.

By the end of the volume the accumulation of evidence has convincingly done the job. The only minimalistic note – or rather an overtone – is sounded by Saliou's suggestion that the land of Rome was public property, held by private citizens as a sort of ager occupatorius. This does not seem correct: the legendary bequests to the people of the agri Turax, Semurius, Lintirius and Solinius, as well as the campus Tiberinus, clearly demonstrate that only some portions of the land of Rome were considered public property. Saliou grounds her argument on Livy's references to the public status of the land in the early republic; these, however, rather than disclosing any legal Realien, only show that Livy reflected (and made inferences) on the "archaeology" of Rome's landscape of property (for the same kind of reflection – this time in a rural context – see Liv. 4.48: the patricians are scared by Sp. Maecilius' proposal to distribute the land conquered in war, because technically all the land would fall into this category, since Rome has expanded from being a city-state).

This book offers something for all tastes. Those interested in the intersection between the economy and social relationships (à la Verboven) will be delighted to find the familiar muddy mingling of senators, knights, money-lenders and sectores. As for elite culture and ideology, they are served especially well by the diptych on domus and horti by Guilhembet and Jolivet. There are also various comments on the effects of the sale of confiscated property on real estate prices, the volume of circulating money, and interest rates, which make a welcome addition to Woytek's study of the relationship between confiscations and military coin issues – the only contribution to explicitly take on the economic side of expropriations.

However, as the title reveals, the main foci are two.

One is the relationship between confiscations and power. The volume explores the use of expropriations as political weapons, to deal blows to ambitious competitors, and in extreme cases to cause the political death that inevitably accompanied the loss of one's patrimonium (so Roddaz, p. 351). Following a line of inquiry opened by Flower's Art of Forgetting, various contributions explore the opposed effects that confiscations could have on memory, including both total oblivion and exemplarity (destroyed houses, for example, left memory of their disgraced owners like scars in the urban fabric).

Readers will also find excellent material on the range of approaches to expropriations – and the underlying conceptions of power – adopted by different leaders. Caesar made a show of his clementia, setting the example for imperial behaviour (the theme is found again in the S. C. de Cn. Pisone patre). Augustus advertised his respect for private property, stressing in the Res Gestae that dispossessed landowners had all been reimbursed. The same propagandistic desire to avoid confiscations underlies Augustus' decision to downsize his projected forum (note Palombi's brilliant suggestion that a relative of Augustus especially benefited from the resizing).

Of great interest is Perrin's reassessment of Nero's treatment of private properties: in his enlightened quinquennium he seems to have only seized the property of condemned senators (a behaviour which by that time was customary for emperors); between 64 and 68, he did confiscate property to build his domus aurea, but apparently this was less traumatic than the sources would want us to believe: in this as in many other matters, Nero has received very bad press.

The other focus of the volume lies in the relationship between dispossessions, building programs and consequent changes to the topography of the Urbs.

If a critique can be made here, at times the focus is too narrowly legal. Brégi systematically analyses dispossessions for public utility (one wonders whether the 7-page-long survey of modern European law was strictly necessary: impatient readers may well pick up from the second paragraph of p. 31); yet, he leaves aside the fora, since these were paid for with private money. This distinction, though, misses the opportunity to reflect on why the only apparent difference between magistrates' and private individuals' building projects is the source of the money to fund them. By contrast, even though Borlenghi and Chillet discuss in no less detail the legal aspects of Maecenas' appropriation of a tract of the Servian walls – ultimately disagreeing on the matter –, they also use this episode to comment on the conflation of the categories of private and public in the figures of Augustus and his associates. Personal interpretations varied: whilst Maecenas' gardens – allegedly serving the purpose to make the Esquiline a wholesome place for the population – were inaccessible to the public, Agrippa's horti – formerly belonged to Pompey, then passed through Antony's hands – were bequeathed to the people of Rome. This theme is further explored in Perrin's study of the domus aurea, which comments on the combination of private areas and spaces open to the public.

Despite the excellent analysis of the legal framework of expropriations, at times the distinction between expropriations and other forms of public acquisition is lost. For example, Cic. Att. 4.16.8 (= LXXXIX Shackleton-Bailey, wrongly referenced at p. 41, n. 97) is not an expropriation, nor is the purchase of Scipio Africanus' house by the censor of 169 BC (p. 40). Likewise, even though Facchinetti admits that some apparent expropriations may have been donatives, for some reason she does not consider the possibility of public purchases, nor that the pre-existing structures may have already been public property.

A serious shortcoming of the volume is its failure to explain the choice of its geographical and chronological scope. Nowhere are we told why the phenomenon of expropriations in the late republic and early Empire is worth studying in isolation. In fact, the phenomenon of confiscations reveals an extraordinary continuity: for example, the treatment reserved by Clodius to Cicero's house resembles the consecratio of Ti. Gracchus' estate in 169 BC, or of Q. Caecilius Metellus Numidicus' property in 131 BC. It is not surprising that the volume simply disregards its purported chronological focus, including treatment of these episodes, as well as others from earlier and later periods.

Similarly perplexing is the spatial limitation. Most of the contributions deal with Rome alone, and Facchinetti's thorough survey of the cities of Northern Italy maintains this urban focus. But were urban confiscations different from their rural counterpart? Again, rural expropriations do find room in the volume, even though their selection is strikingly haphazard (post-Sullan land commissions and confiscations are deemed worth discussing, but not the Gracchan precedent, nor emperors' confiscations of senatorial villas).

Because of its unclear criteria for inclusion, the volume leaves out other forms of expropriation that would have constituted excellent material for comparison. Middle republican multae, for example, would have enriched the dossier on the use of confiscations as political weapons. 3 Discussing the usurpation of public land by private landholders would have provided an excellent contrast to the image of omnipotent emperors able of putting their hands on whatever they wanted. 4

Perhaps greater clarity in the scope of the enterprise could have been achieved by coordinating more closely with another collective study of confiscations in Classical Antiquity, edited by Ferriès and Delrieux in 2013. 5 To a large extent, the Roman section of that earlier volume overlaps with the book under review here (contributions by Allély, Couhade-Beyneix, Hollard, Deniaux, Kirbihler, Laignoux, Ferriès, and Hilbold). This is very odd, considering that the two publications have one editor in common.

At a mere €25, the book is excellent value for money. Yet, low price does not justify poor copy-editing: the book is marred by an astonishing number of typos, and some items are missing from the bibliography.

The most annoying problem is the lack of coordination between single papers, which produces repetitions and fragmentation of the information: just to give a few examples, the projected aqueduct of Liv. 40.51.7 is found both in Brégi's and Saliou's papers; L. Sentius' terminatio of the Esquiline is discussed at length both by Chillet and Borlenghi (who wrongly mentions him as C. Sentius on p. 303); to find out that the campus Esquilinus was used for executions, readers will have to peruse Borlenghi's contribution on the city walls, since the information is missing in Chillet's paper on the Esquiline; having been informed by Brégi that expropriations had been carried out to build the fora of Caesar and Augustus, one will have to reach the bottom of the book to find Palombi make a strong case against this idea. Cross-references would have avoided the nuisance: unfortunately, they are provided only in rare instances.

In conclusion, the single papers are of undeniable value, and make an enjoyable and instructive read. They deserved a more unified framework, and more careful editing, to fully do them justice.

Table of Contents

Y. Rivière, "Introduction. Confiscare, publicare, uindicare. Esquisse lexicale et procédurale des confiscations romaines": 9-20
1. Les confiscations.
Le cadre juridique.
Jean-François Brégi, "Les vicissitudes de l'expropriation pour cause d'utilité publique à la fin de la république et au début de l'empire": 25-52
Catherine Saliou, "Entre le droit, l'histoire et la mémoire: le statut du sol de Rome dans l'Histoire Romaine de Tite-Live": 53-66
Politique et confiscations.
Grazia Facchinetti, "Esproprio o donazioni? Dalla proprietà privata a quella pubblica nella documentazione archeologica delle città dell'Italia settentrionale tra la tarda repubblica e l'età imperiale": 69-138
Marie-Claire Ferriès, "Les confiscations durant les guerres civiles, une arme supplémentaire ou un mal nécessaire ?": 139-63
Jean-Pierre Guilhembet, "Les domus de Rome comme objet et enjeu de confiscations à la fin de la République et au Haut Empire": 165-81
Bernhard E. Woytek, "Exactions and the Monetary Economy of the Late Roman Republic. A Numismatic Perspective": 183-97
2. L'autorité publique dans la politique d'urbanisme.
Des crises
Vincent Jolivet, "Tempêtes sur les jardins du Pouvoir, de Pompée à Proba": 203-27
Yves Perrin, "Main basse sur la Ville? Les expropriations et confiscations de Néron à Rome": 229-46
Le moment augustéen
Clément Chillet, "Transferts de propriété à Rome sous le Triumvirat: le cas des jardins de Mécène": 249-78
Maria Pia Muzzioli, "Confische ed espropri nel Campo Marzio": 279-97
Collectif ou particulier?
Aldo Borlenghi, "Mura Serviane e Mura Aureliane : l'occupazione di spazi pubblici e di aree private in occasione dell'abbandono e della costruzione delle due cinte urbane": 301-34
Domenico Palombi, "Entre public et privé: le cas des Forums Impériaux": 335-49
Jean-Michel Roddaz, "Conclusions": 351-6


1.   P. Porena, Introduzione, in Y. Rivière and P. Porena (eds), Expropriations et confiscations dans les royaumes barbares. Une approche régionale, Rome 2012: 1-10. For Goffart's views see his Barbarians and Romans, A.D. 418-584: the techniques of accommodation, Princeton 1980; see also id. Barbarian Tides: The Migration Age and the Later Roman Empire (Philadelphia 2006), Chapter 6.
2.   See P. Heather's Conclusions in Rivière and Porena 2012.
3.   On censorial fines see S. Piacentin, The Role of Aedilician Fines in the Making of Public Rome, Historia forthcoming 2018.
4.   Vespasian, for example, was able to recover urban properties in Pompeii (CIL X 1018), but encountered resistance when eyeing subseciva, and Domitian had to drop the matter eventually (Agennius Urbicus 38.14 Campbell; Hyginus 98.22 Campbell).
5.   M.-C. Ferriès and F. Delrieux (eds) Spolier et confisquer dans les mondes grec et romain, des guerres médiques à l'avènement de l'Empire, Chambéry, 2013.

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Ricardo Martínez Lacy, ¿En busca del tiempo perdido?: ensayos sobre historia antigua. Cuadernos del Seminario de Hermenéutica, 22. Ciudad de México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones Filológicas, 2016. Pp. 334. ISBN 9786070281679. MXN $220.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Ben Jerue, IES Nicolás Copérnico (

Version at BMCR home site

¿En busca del tiempo perdido?: Ensayos sobre historia antigua consiste básicamente en una recopilación de 24 estudios publicados por Ricardo Martínez Lacy entre 1990 y 2012. En sus páginas se abarca una amplia gama de temas, tales como la obra polibiana, la relación entre Roma y Grecia, las rebeliones serviles, los ejércitos antiguos y, sobre todo, las perspectivas historiográficas en torno a la época helenística. Sin embargo, el valor e interés central del libro reside principalmente en el acto de "desnudar"1 nuestras maneras de interactuar con la antigüedad. En un intento por focalizar el debate sobre esta interacción, el lector encontrará numerosas interrupciones y acusaciones: el autor pretende—y logra—entablar conversaciones y debates en lugar de llegar al fondo de una determinada cuestión.

El volumen, que arranca con una introducción a cargo de Álvaro M. Moreno Leoni, consta de cuatro secciones. La primera contiene cuatro ensayos sobre Polibio; la segunda, cinco estudios sobre la historiografía más en general; la tercera, trece capítulos sobre "conceptos históricos"; y la cuarta, dos ensayos dedicados a asuntos filosóficos. Aunque no puedo extenderme al respecto, debo subrayar la excelente introducción analítica en la que se explica el desarrollo intelectual de los debates que le interesan a Martínez Lacy. Antes que nada, me gustaría hacer hincapié en el estilo, el enfoque y la ideología del autor. Después, resumiré algunos capítulos clave de cada sección.

Aunque el título proustiano del libro no lleva a engaño al lector, la colección contiene muchas sorpresas dado que el estilo, el tono y la actitud del autor no siempre se ajustan a las normas implícitas de la escritura académica. Dicho esto, no quiero sugerir que el libro carezca de erudición, ni tampoco de profesionalidad. Por el contrario, y como destacaré a continuación, Martínez Lacy tiene un profundo conocimiento de las fuentes primarias y también de las secundarias. Para algunos lectores (entre los que me incluyo), este libro resultará refrescante y rompedor; sin embargo, no me cabe duda de que la estrategia del autor molestará a otros. Martínez Lacy es un provocador y todo parece indicar que quiere serlo.

La primera sorpresa del libro es que los ensayos provienen de una gama heterogénea de publicaciones. Además de aparecer en revistas académicas, algunas de las aportaciones se divulgaron en el diario El financiero, mientras que otras, que fueron expuestas en conferencias, vieron la luz en versiones extendidas. El primer capítulo del libro, por ejemplo, consta de cinco páginas, si bien la primera versión publicada viene a ocupar unas veinte páginas. Por raro que parezca, existe un buen motivo para ello: Martínez Lacy no reúne estos ensayos para eruditos ya formados, sino para el público en general o para los estudiantes hispanohablantes que están al inicio de sus careras.2 Por eso, los capítulos suelen ser muy cortos, bien escritos y bastante directos. La mayoría del libro consiste en introducciones analíticas y atractivos resúmenes que generan un gran interés en asuntos propios de especialistas y/o proveen un buen mapa para navegar bibliografías inmensas. Dicho esto, también hay artículos que interesarán sólo al público más especializado.

Como dije, la primera parte del libro examina a Polibio. El primer capítulo habla sobre la symploke (entretejimiento) de las culturas helenísticas y la romana, o, en palabras del autor, "la forja de identidades." Aunque este ensayo me parece un poco acelerado y, por eso, menos fructífero, Martínez Lacy destaca cómo la historia siempre toma la forma de una narrativa y que el autor tiene un objetivo específico. Este enfoque, familiar para los lectores de H. White, P. Wiseman y A. Woodman, se desarrolla en el segundo capítulo, que trata sobre el valor de Polibio como fuente histórica. Martínez Lacy demuestra cómo el megalopolitano se contradice tanto a sí mismo como a otras fuentes bien establecidas a través de tres comparaciones entre los hábitos militares griegos y romanos que, en última instancia, podían explicar el éxito y el . Para Martínez Lacy, cada "error" polibiano resultaría del deseo del historiador para naturalizar el dominio romano sobre griegos, entre los cuales se encontraban también algunos de sus lectores. Aunque este argumento no sorprenda, Martínez Lacy lo usa para sostener que la narrativa polibiana es fundamentalmente teleológica. En esta misma línea están también los últimos dos ensayos de la primera parte, donde se hace especial hincapié en otro concepto polibiano: la anaciclosis (la evolución cíclica de los sistemas de gobierno), un asunto que debería llamar la atención hoy en día dada la situación política en el mundo occidental. El cuarto capítulo provee una explicación lúcida y crítica del concepto que destaca la relación entre la influencia de Platón, Aristóteles y Dicearco y el contexto en el que el megalopolitano se encontraba.

La segunda parte del libro es menos coherente y aborda diversos temas: desde el método de compilar los epítomes hasta un largo análisis del primer volumen de The Sources of Social Power de M. Mann. Me gustaría detenerme en el quinto capítulo ("Estrategias narrativas de Justino/Trogo"), ya que pone en relieve el modus operandi del autor y su clase de neo-historicismo. En pocas páginas, Martínez Lacy explica los distintos contextos e ideologías de Justino y Trogo. Una vez hecho esto, cuestiona los procedimientos habituales para reconstruir el texto de Trogo a partir del Epítome de Justino. A través de un análisis del tratamiento de Alcibíades y Trasíbulo en el libro V, Martínez Lacy afirma que a Justino no le interesa "la historia como realmente fue… [sino] como una consecuencia de sus virtudes y vicios [las de los personajes]" (p.84).3

Algunos capítulos de la segunda parte del libro se componen de resúmenes críticos del status quaestionis de varios temas. Estos ensayos (a saber: VI, VII y VIII) son sumamente útiles para los estudiantes que quieran aproximarse al mundo helenístico y a la esclavitud antigua. El sexto capítulo, donde se explican las posturas diferentes hacia la esclavitud y economía romana (desde E. Ciccotti hasta R. MacMullen y R. Samson), quizá es el más exitoso, dado que logra vincular las ideas sobre la esclavitud con la historia e ideología actuales.4 Por eso, funciona, a la vez, como introducción útil y explicación de la historia intelectual. Los otros dos capítulos tienen sus méritos, pero pueden rozar lo agresivo: en general, se caracterizan por una aversión legítima hacia el tratamiento de la época helenística, de la que trataré a continuación.

La tercera parte de la obra es tan eclética como la segunda. Sin embargo, un tema sobresaliente es el de las rebeliones serviles, que el autor también trata en su libro Rebeliones populares en la Grecia helenística (1995). En tres capítulos del presente volumen el autor hace hincapié en la ausencia de miedo por parte de los señores hacia los eslavos (XVII); la naturaleza de las fuentes de que disponemos y las informaciones que omiten (XIX); y los líderes de las rebeliones como "hacedor[es] de maravillas" (XX). Este conjunto provee una buena introducción del asunto y contiene atractivas ideas sobre las rebeliones. No obstante, y como el propio autor reconoce, estos temas se tratan con más detalle en su ya mencionado libro.

La tercera sección del libro también contiene un par de ensayos sobre las ideas y el léxico de la cultura helena. Estos capítulos (XIII y XIV) abordan conceptos como la democracia y la libertad, y son muy recomendables para estudiantes universitarios y el público no especializado. Por último, otra aportación de esta parte del libro que me ha entusiasmado y puede despertar curiosidad en los lectores es el capítulo XII ("El proceso legislativo en la antigüedad clásica"), en el que se ofrece un panorama de la ley y la justicia desde Homero hasta la compilación del Digesto. Aquí, Martínez Lacy brinda al lector un buen discurso que delinea la importancia de estudiar la antigüedad hoy en día.

La cuarta parte de este volumen trata sobre filosofía. Me gustaría centrarme en el capítulo XXIII, cuyo título, "Un nuevo fragmento de Pitágoras," podría sorprender incluso a los filósofos. Después de explicar brevemente las teorías sobre Pitágoras y la escritura, Martínez Lacy adopta la posición de C. Riedweg, quien defiende que hay evidencia suficiente de que el filosofo realmente escribió.5 Tanto es así que Martínez Lacy afirma que ha encontrado por casualidad un fragmento de Pitágoras en el libro XVIII de Diodoro de Sicilia. Aunque este argumento no convencerá a muchos, Martínez Lacy juega con el lector, aprovechando la situación para presentar una provocadora reflexión sobre la naturaleza de las colecciones de fragmentos. Como el libro en general, al autor le apetece la aporía más que una solución inadecuada.

Por último, es necesario comentar un aspecto notable: los estudios de Martínez Lacy están, a menudo, teñidos de ideas políticas. A veces, el autor sólo añade una pista al respecto, como una rápida crítica hacia Fukuyama y los neoliberalistas (p.41). En otras ocasiones, la importancia de la ideología política juega un papel fundamental: de hecho, no teme proclamar que es marxista, aprovechando la oportunidad de exponer lo que significa para él—lo cual está dentro de lo normal, aunque rompa con el dogma (p.140). Pero lo que llama más la atención (o por lo menos la de quien escribe) es el vínculo que Martínez Lacy forja entre el mundo helenístico y Latinoamérica, una relación que se manifiesta en diferentes aspectos de la presente obra. El autor sugiere varias veces que para entender la historia eurocéntrica de América colonial, hay que investigar las ideas clásicas a las que recurrieron los conquistadores: a saber, la etnografía, la filosofía y el pensamiento científico de Plinio el Viejo (p.29). Hasta aquí, nada fuera de lo habitual. Pero, tal y como Martínez Lacy explica una y otra vez, cada periodo de la historia antigua no se valora del mismo modo. Para él, el mundo helenístico ha perdido protagonismo por haber existido entre la Grecia clásica y Roma, y tenemos que "elaborar una visión propia de la época" (p.114), evitando la tendencia de resumir todo el periodo en una gran síntesis. Según el autor, Latinoamérica padece de una enfermedad semejante: suele ser analizada desde un punto de vista eurocéntrico y es considerada a menudo como una(s) colonia(s) o neo-colonia(s). En definitiva, examinar y estudiar el mundo helenístico de modo más matizado es "paradójicamente ineludible para la conservación de una cultura propia de la América Latina."6 Esta es, sin duda, una gran aserción, que revierte la tendencia actual de buscar modelos en otros campos para explicar a la antigüedad. La idea de Martínez Lacy de que los estudios clásicos pueden influir en el mundo actual es, cuando menos, revitalizante.

En definitiva, este libro es de gran utilidad para los estudiantes y también para los investigadores interesados en la historia de los estudios clásicos. Aquellos que no estén de acuerdo con Martínez Lacy, encontrarán problemas: el ritmo puede ser vertiginoso, el análisis suele detenerse antes de alcanzar una solución definitiva, el argumento no siempre se matiza, etc. Sin embargo, estas tendencias no parecen interesarle al autor en el contexto de este libro. De hecho, la manera en la que Martínez Lacy describe un ensayo de E. M. Staerman caracteriza perfectamente su propia obra: "no es una exposición exhaustiva, ni una síntesis, sino más bien un modelo que define líneas de investigación: es una obra programática" (p.93).

En cuanto a la edición, hay que señalar la existencia de unos cuantos errores tipográficos, en su mayoría sin importancia.7 Además, el libro contiene algunos índices muy provechosos y una amplia bibliografía, la que el autor ha actualizado en algunos casos.


1.   Debo esa palabra a la introducción de Moreno Leoni (p.7).
2.   Además, las primeras versiones de algunos ensayos fueron escritas en otros idiomas (a saber inglés, francés y italiano), pero el autor los tradujo a español para que sean accesibles para los hispanohablantes.
3.   Ibid. Vea también p.230.
4.   Al respecto, hay también una descripción memorable de Diodoro de Sicilia que explica que no "era una fotocopiadora avante la lettre" (p.234).
5.   Riedweg, C. 1997. "'Pythagoras hinterliess keine einzage Schrift'- ein Irrtum? Anmerkungen zu einer alten Streitfrage." Museum Helveticum 54.2, pp. 65-92.
6.   Respecto a eso, el capítulo debe compararse con The invention of ancient slavery por N. McKeown.
7.   Salvo algunas excepciones: Wikham por Wickham (p.139); θύσις por φύσις (p.203); Eric Badian por Ernst (p.313). Los demás consisten en meras faltas de ortografía o preposiciones.

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Sunday, June 25, 2017


Jean-Baptiste Gourinat, Juliette Lemaire (ed.), Logique et dialectique dans l'Antiquité. Bibliothèque d'Histoire de la Philosophie. Paris: Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin, 2016. Pp. 480. ISBN 9782711626588. €40.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Luca Parisoli, Università della Calabria (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

Questo volume collettivo, scaturito dall'occasione di una conferenza parigina nel 2009, affronta un tema complesso ed intricato, quello dei rapporti tra logica e dialettica. Mentre la dialettica si presenta con un nome lessicale, dialektiké, sin da Socrate e Platone, un corrispettivo nome lessicale per la logica comparirà solo con Aristotele, come impresa analitica, e poi con gli Stoici che coniano la parola logica; tuttavia, se si guarda alla questione in una prospettiva neoplatonica, è difficile pensare a Platone senza evocare la categoria della logica. I curatori del volume osservano che la logica si enuclea quando le regole del ragionamento si staccano dalla forma dialogica, e dal contenuto concreto degli argomenti: in questo senso, aggiungo io, la logica formale, espressa in un linguaggio simbolico oppure in un linguaggio semi-simbolico (in parte naturale, in parte simbolico), si dissocia dall'ontologia, ossia pretende la sua validità indipendentemente dalle ipotesi ontologiche di ciascuno. Sin dalla definizione dell'implicazione - l'operatore logico equivalente al «Se ..., allora ...»- la logica classica si separa dall'ontologia, tanto che sin dagli Stoici si fa strada l'idea che quella definizione – la sua tabella di verità per dirla alla Wittgenstein – sia insoddisfacente, ed occorra un'altra definizione di implicazione che soddisfi le nostre intuizioni logiche. Lukasiewicz osservava che la logica degli Stoici è una logica delle variabili proposizionali associata a regole di implicazione, mentre quella aristotelica è una logica dei termini, simbolizzati nelle variabili, associata ad una costruzione assiomatica sillogistica – la tesi è contestata, ma a me pare che Lukasiewicz abbia sempre la capacità di cogliere l'essenziale. Nel volume recensito, a p. 15, si cita un contributo di John Corcoran, Aristotle's Natural Deduction System, apparso in Ancient Logic and Its Modern Interpretation, Reidel 1974, che contesta la lettura di Lukasiewicz: per ricostruire appieno il dibattito storiografico, Corcoran va letto insieme a Mary Mulhern, Corcoran on Aristotle's Logical Theory, che lo segue, e ne smussa giudizi troppo drastici, nello stesso volume del 1974. Ma mentre la logica separata da ogni ontologia aspira immediatamente all'universalità, grazie, se mi si passa l'anglicismo, all'irrilevanza dell'implicazione logica, la logica unita ad una ontologia, ossia una logica rilevante, genera problemi di non poco conto, anche se ha subito soddisfacenti sistemazioni formali nel secolo scorso sino ai giorni nostri. La logica formale è sempre un possibile strumento della filosofia, ma nella prospettiva in cui la logica rimanda ad una opzione ontologica la logica deve dotarsi di uno strumento che assicuri questo collegamento. In questo senso, la dialettica si candida ad essere una parte specifica della logica, con lo sguardo rivolto all'ontologia.

I contributi sono numerosi: Francis Wolff si interroga sulla portata generale della dialettica, e le sue considerazioni sulla contraddizione sono pregnanti. La contraddizione si gioca nella relazione tra i due parlanti, e nella relazione che le strategie argomentative hanno all'interno del discorso di chi replica. Nell'argomentazione dialettica ci si colloca in un terreno intermedio tra l'argomentazione retorica e la dimostrazione scientifica: la contraddizione, infatti, vi gioca un ruolo procedurale come nella retorica (parte da premesse opinabili), e un ruolo formale come nelle scienze (cerca la verità, non l'accordo). Le contraddizioni nel discorso retorico non possono essere eliminate una volta per tutte, mentre è proprio quello che accade nel discorso delle scienze: la dialettica sta tra questi due poli. Michel Narcy colloca lo stesso spazio di riflessioni nel contesto del Gorgia, e ci offre una utile introduzione al cuore significante di questo dialogo tra felicità e giustizia. Michel Gourinat affronta il tema della divisione, della diairesis, e la associa strettamente alla pratica della definizione, una associazione che fa giungere sino a Proclo quando commenta il Parmenide. Sullo stesso tema della divisione, Dimitri El Murr cerca di produrre uno spostamento di prospettiva storiografica, interrogandosi non tanto su quale sia l'oggetto della divisione platonica, quanto su come essa operi nei suoi passaggi procedurali che si pongono in una tensione finale che deve essere esplorata e analiticamente compresa.

Louis-André Dorion affronta il tema del progressivo indebolimento della tecnica della refutazione, dell'elenchos, nei dialoghi platonici, a partire dalla sua formulazione nell'Apologia di Socrate sino alla quasi-disparizione nella Repubblica; si tratta di una prospettiva importante, perché si collega all'importanza sempre più centrale della teoria delle Idee nella costruzione argomentativa platonica, ma anche di un ripensamento delle conseguenze della pragmatica di questa strategia della refutazione, che corrompe chi vi viene in contatto (cf. pp. 49-64), con una fluttuazione significativa nell'atteggiamento di Platone verso l'elenchos. Il tema non è nuovo in storiografia (Vlastos se ne è occupato lungamente) ma Dorion si sofferma su un passaggio specifico della Repubblica che costituisce una sensibile integrazione al dibattito storiografico.

Con Jonathan Barnes ci trasferiamo nello spazio aristotelico, con un tema, quello dei sillogismi dialettici, trattato magistralmente e con precisione, fonte di preziosi spunti per l'antichista. La sua conclusione è draconiana: i sillogismi dialettici non hanno alcuna importanza per i principi della scienza, e la dialettica non ha per Aristotele alcuna importanza per la filosofia. Se hanno importanza, accade solo perché partono da premesse vere, non già perché sono dialettici. Christof Rapp analizza la coppia dialettica-logica sotto la lente della retorica, e Cristina Viano si occupa degli endoxa, un tema trattato con acribia, e che altri autori come Enrico Berti in altra sede hanno spesso trattato sotto il segno dei diritti fondamentali dell'uomo (per esempio, E. Berti, Incontri con la filosofia contemporanea, Pistoia 1978, pp. 255-256). Anche Juliette Lemaire si intrattiene con il rapporto tra sintassi e semantica, dato che il termine logikos è correntemente tradotto con "dialettico" in Aristotele, sebbene egli disponga del termine greco dialektikos: ne consegue un'analisi utile per la conversione della semantica del termine logikos in Aristotele. Annamaria Schiaparelli affronta il tema della diaphora nei Topici, Luca Castagnoli quello della petizione di principio, e così si chiude lo spazio dedicato ad Aristotele.

Troviamo poi il contributo di Paolo Crivelli dedicato al posto della logica nella filosofia stoica: sebbene le nostri fonti documentali sullo stoicismo siano carenti, gli Stoici sembrano essere stati i primi a porsi il problema della struttura stessa della disciplina filosofica, o almeno a porselo in maniera sistematica e non già sporadica, tanto da configurare una filosofia della filosofia. Suzanne Husson si dedica alla dialettica cinica, tesa a confutare la sfera del divino in tutte le sue espressioni; con piglio tecnico Katerina Ierodiakonou affronta lo sviluppo della tecnica della reductio ad impossibile nella logica post-aristotelica, un elemento che sarà centrale nel rapporto tra filosofia e teologia nel contesto medievale; Jean-Baptiste Gourinat identifica in Plotino un restauratore della dialettica platonica, a differenza di altri neoplatonici come Ammonio: in questa prospettiva di recupero del genuino sentimento platonico, a p. 381 mi pare centrale l'osservazione di Gourinat per cui in Plotino la dialettica è superiore alla logica, e questo non gli permette strategie filosofiche irenistiche, oppure detto in altri termini, i miei, la logica è per Plotino inevitabilmente ancorata all'ontologia, altrimenti è del tutto subordinata alla dialettica. Concludono Angela Longo con un contributo su Ermia d'Alessandria commentatore del Fedro, e Maddalena Bonelli sulla dialettica scientifica in Proclo, debitrice tanto del discorso teologico, quanto di quello matematico. La dialettica è il compimento della matematica poiché riconduce l'immateriale e il puro verso l'immaterialità e la semplicità dell'intelletto.

Questa raccolta di saggi è all'altezza della sua ambizione: contributi densi e pregnanti, un volume di riguardo nella biblioteca dell'antichista.

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N. Gonis, F. Maltomini, W. B. Henry, S. Slattery, The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, Volume LXXXII [Nos. 5290 - 5319]. Edited with Translations and Notes. Graeco-Roman memoirs, 103. London: Egypt Exploration Society, 2016. Pp. xii, 176; 12 p. of plates. ISBN 9780856982309. £85.00.

Reviewed by Michael Zellmann-Rohrer, Oxford (

Version at BMCR home site

Between 1896 and 1907, B.P. Grenfell and A.S. Hunt led excavations at the site of ancient Oxyrhynchus with the purpose of recovering ancient texts on papyrus. Their finds, estimated at over 500,000 pieces, comprise the modern world's largest collection of papyri. Grenfell and Hunt also launched a publication series to disseminate their discoveries, which since its first volume in 1898 has set a standard for the accessible publication of papyri, with text, English translation, and commentary.

P.Oxy. has grown into the most venerable in the field of papyrology. After two recent thematic collections, on sport (LXXIX) and medicine (LXXX), the usual eclectic mix returns, with editions of 44 new texts from 14 contributors, whose contents range from high literature, through technical or para-literature, to documents (and one drawing).

Among the literary texts, of greatest interest to most classicists will be a new fragment of Sophocles, Tereus edited by S. Slattery (5292), dated to the second century CE and offering a scene between Procne, a messenger, and the chorus-leader, which overlaps with and continues a fragment in Stobaeus (4.22.25). Noteworthy too is a copy of Euclid, Elements in abridged form, with diagrams and elucidations but without proofs (5299), edited by A. Cairncross and W.B. Henry, a branch of the tradition likely related to the text from which Boethius made his Latin version. Smaller fragments of known works by Menander, Polybius, Theocritus, and Plutarch complete the literary portion (5293-5301); the Plutarch is the first attestation of the Life of Alexander on papyrus, with some text-critical interest. No Latin texts are included in the strict sense, but a Greek-Latin conjugation table of the second century (5302), edited by M.C. Scappaticcio and A. Wouters, bears new witness to the interest of Egyptians of the Roman period in learning Latin.

Among theological texts is a fragment of the Apocryphon of Jannes and Jambres edited by S. Beresford (5290), from a fourth-century codex contemporary with the most extensive Greek witness to the text (the codex Chester Beatty XVI). The new fragment fills out a dialogue between Jannes, near death, and his mother, of which only the beginning was previously known, where the new fragment overlaps with the Beatty codex. Here too comes a further fragment of a third-century codex of Philo (P.Oxy. IX 1173, with additions), edited by D.A. Fisher (5291).

Accorded a section of its own, and deserving special mention here too, is a group of texts relating to magic. Here is the largest collection of such texts in Greek since the publication of the Supplementum Magicum (1990-1992) augmented the landmark corpus of K. Preisendanz, Papyri Graecae Magicae. The present texts are edited, and furnished with superbly detailed commentary, by the able hand of F. Maltomini, one of the editors behind Supplementum Magicum (along with R.W. Daniel). In total 14 new texts are offered (5303-5314, the latter two by L. Tagliapietra), plus a treatise on the occult medicinal properties of animal products (5315).

The first three (5303-5305) belong to ritual formularies, in book-roll format, from the third century. The most substantial portion of 5303 offers a procedure for engraving a ring, and another associated with Typhon-Seth, whose purpose is obscure but likely aggressive. The goal of the ring is taken to be "sexual intercourse," based on ἔντευξις (line 2). In my view the noun might be also signify "petitioning," as does the cognate ἐντυχία in a contemporary formulary:1 the ring may have been meant to aid its wearer before authorities. In the directions for the engraving, the puzzling ὀρθὸν τά τ' [ is printed in line 4, which gives better sense re-divided, ὀρθὸν Τατ; the apostrophe, given by the papyrus, marks the end of a non-Greek word, hence, "Thoth, erect," object of a preceding γλύψον ("engrave"). As illustrated in the commentary, divine names qualified by ὀρθός are at home in directions for engravings on gems; Τατ, although unusual in the magical papyri (vs. Θωθ or similar), is the standard spelling in the Hermetic Corpus.

In 5304 are more substantial remains, of three formulae for erotic procedures, of which one, notably, was designed for the use of a woman upon a man; a procedure for the subjection of an enemy (ὑποτακτικόν); and another to restrain anger (θυμοκάτοχον). The fragmentary first column includes an invocation of Isis, and may belong to the erotic procedure in col. ii, or a separate one, likely promoting sex or fertility. This invocation includes at line 2 the "credential" clause ὅτι ἐγώ ἰμι (i.e. εἰμι: "For I am ..."), followed by a short word ending in -ος (before which, as printed, an estimated two unread letters followed by uncertain ξ). Might I propose Ὧρος, attractive as the son of Isis and frequent appellant of her assistance in Egyptian magic? From the published photograph it looks possible, and fits with the appellation μήτηρ in line 7. On the back, in the fourth century, another text was added (5315), medical recipes listing the beneficial properties of a substance derived from various animals: the identity of this substance is lost, but Maltomini makes the probable suggestion of excrement, setting the text within a known genre of "stercoraceous" medicine. The arrangement here resembles the late ancient Cyranides, popular also in Byzantium.

The formulary 5305, copied by two hands on a single sheet, offers another θυμοκάτοχον; a procedure for erotic magic of a well-known type, seeking to inflict "burning" discomfort on the female target, here via a written, exorcistic invocation deposited in the steam-room of a bath; and an amulet to gain favor, again for the benefit of a man in the eyes of a woman.

In 5306 and 5307, the cultic landscape shifts, with two recognizably Christian amulets – the preceding texts, as often in Roman Egypt, mix traditional Egyptian and Jewish divinities. Many Christian amulets survive from Egypt; of interest here is the identification of the new objects as the work of the same hand as an earlier publication, P.Oxy. VI 924.2 The texts are similar, exorcistic invocations seeking protection against fever, and Maltomini draws the reasonable conclusion that they were produced by a single Oxyrhynchite "magician" (though some, the putative "magician" included, might object to the term), working from written formularies but with "fluidity" in composing individual texts. Perhaps a coincidence, but all three are for women: Aria, Eulogia, and Bassa. 5306 is expanded with a pseudepigraphic "prayer of Adam," perhaps reflecting a Jewish apocalyptic tradition; the editor also entertains a borrowing from the liturgy of baptism.

Seven further amulets are offered (5308-5314), most recognizably Christian, of which I note only the most interesting two. 5308 is another fever amulet for a woman, not markedly Christian but at least monolatrous. After the amuletic text, the last three lines are in fact ritual instructions copied from a formulary, "Tie a strip to the right arm with a holy thread (ἱερῷ μίτῳ) from a garment (ἀπὸ στολλίσματος)." The editor acknowledges that the "garment" (στόλισμα) may have been a ritual one. An Egyptian priestly context seems all but certain, in view also of the "holy thread:" outside of the magical papyri, we find στολισταί as a grade of priest, and in the same context the term στόλισμα has the sense of cloth used for mummification of sacred animals3–the latter might have offered the practitioner an easy means of getting such material. 5312 is a rare Christian instance of an amulet for favor (χάρις), invoking a catalogue of 17 angels and their "appointed realms" (e.g. Μιχαὴλ ὁ ἐπὶ τοῦ ἡλίου), a motif of wide diffusion and ultimate Jewish origin. The "realm" of one of the angels has so far escaped explanation: ἐπὶ τῶν βραθ̣ατων (line 20). Of the alleged θ, the editor remarks that the crossbar is "oddly high." If β were read instead, a variant spelling of βραβευτῶν ("judges") might be discerned, which seems more appropriate than προβάτων, the editor's tentative suggestion: favor before judges would have been desirable indeed, and other angels ruling over "powers" (ἐπὶ τῶν δυνάμεων) and "places of judgment" (ἐπὶ τῶν κριτηρίων) are also invoked.

These texts attest a flourishing application of ritual practices, primarily drawn from traditional Egyptian and, later, Christian sacral contexts, to the needs and desires of private individuals in Roman and Byzantine Oxyrhynchus. The so-called Theban magical library, ritual handbooks allegedly discovered together in Egyptian Thebes in the 19th century, has long dominated modern scholarship on such practices, thanks to its well-preserved, book-length remains, and to the detriment of the scattered but considerable survivals from the rest of Egypt. Oxyrhynchus, otherwise the city with the richest papyrological documentation, has gradually been providing materials to redress this Theban bias, through publications in P.Oxy. and elsewhere.4 A synthesis informed by this array of texts is now even more desirable, which would enhance the diversity of our picture of ritual practice in Egypt and the broader Mediterranean world.

The section on documentary texts (5316-5342) offers considerable historical interest. A second-century petition challenges a summons to appear before the prefect of Egypt, lodged by a "temple-carpenter" (ἱεροτέκτων) to Athena-Thoeris in Oxyrhynchus (5316). In 5319, an early third-century petition, a priest of Hermes-Thoth from the Small Oasis asserts his entitlement to tax relief upon reaching the age of 60. A private letter of the same century, addressed to a priest at Oxyrhynchus, mentions research on legal precedents in a nome archive of lower Egypt (5321). 5323 is the first example of a documentary protocol published in P.Oxy. from the fifth century. There are also additions to some known papyrological archives and dossiers: 5320 to the papers of Claudia Isidora alias Apia; 5325, 5327, 5333, 5337, and perhaps 5332, to the well-known Apion archive.

The volume closes with an enigmatic drawing (5343). This charming sketch shows an orant male figure flanked by fawning lions, which lick his feet. A Greek caption identifies the biblical Daniel. The editor, H. Whitehouse, notes the popularity of Daniel in contemporary Christian art, but remains agnostic as to the purpose of his depiction here. The drawing is on scrap papyrus—remains of an earlier document survive on the other side—and the absence of further text around the drawing rules out a fragment of an illustrated literary text; the "rudimentary image ... in thick lines with little clear detail" would be of little help as a preparatory sketch for a painting or textile. In light of the wealth of magical texts in this same volume, I might raise the possibility of an amulet. On the published photograph there are signs of folding along the horizontal, in patterns in the wormholes and other surface damage. Daniel and his miraculous encounter with the lions are cited in amuletic prayers in Coptic and later Byzantine texts: e.g. "Saint Daniel who bridled the tongues of the lions, bridle the tongues of the evil men who fight with the servant of God so-and-so."5

The volume is carefully and elegantly typeset and furnished with useful indices and plates, illustrating the literary and para-literary texts, the drawing, and selected documents; all should eventually be available through the POxy: Oxyrhynchus Online project. It remains only to congratulate the editors and the Egypt Exploration Society on an achievement that will surely advance the understanding of Greek literature, and of society in Roman and Byzantine Egypt and its Mediterranean surroundings.


1.   See D.R. Jordan, GRBS 46 (2006) 163.28, [ὕμνος ἐ]ντυχίας πρὸς Ἥλιον.
2.   Reprinted as PGM P5a; Maltomini offers an improved text and commentary, based on the new amulets, in Galenos 9 (2015) 229-234.
3.   E.g. the Gnomon of the Idios Logos, BGU V 1210.203.
4.   Texts in Greek published through 1990 are collected in the Supplementum Magicum; add P.Oxy. LVIII 3931, LXIV 4406, LXV 4468-4469, LXVIII 4672-4674, LXXIII 4932, LXXIX 5205, and LXXX 5245.
5.   A Byzantine text in A. Delatte, Anecdota Atheniensia (Liège 1927) 1:503.13-15; for Coptic, see P.Bad. V 140.13-16, in which an angel is invoked to muzzle enemies as he once "muzzled the lions for Daniel the prophet."

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