Tuesday, May 22, 2018


Jennifer Knust, Claudia Moser (ed.), Ritual Matters: Material Remains and Ancient Religion. Supplements to the memoirs of the American Academy in Rome. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2017. Pp. 152. ISBN 9780472130573. $65.00.

Reviewed by Emma-Jayne Graham, The Open University (emma-jayne.graham@open.ac.uk)

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[Authors and titles are listed below.]

The editors of this volume observe in their Introduction (p. 2) that 'The disciplines of anthropology, archaeology, art history, and religious studies have each made materiality an increasingly principal focus, recentering the relations between human as actor and object as actor, enabling those who study religion to move away from inferences about beliefs and doctrines.' This volume seeks to situate itself within this wider work on, amongst other themes, 'the "thingliness" of things' and 'object agency' (p. 2). The reader hoping for a consistent or critical investigation of the agency of objects, particularly the affective qualities of the very materiality or 'matter' of objects as they entangle with humans in ritual practices, may find themselves a little disappointed. Instead, we are treated to essays covering everything from animal bones to funerary commemoration, architecture to papyri, and statues to divination, only one or two of which really attempt to grapple with the complex relationship between humans and ritual objects as material things. Nevertheless, if not quite succeeding in putting the agency of objects on a par with that of humans, the collection certainly demonstrates some of the ways in which studies of ancient ritual practices are at least beginning to find ways to bring material things out of the shadow cast by human agents. In this sense, the volume offers a useful collection of wide-ranging case studies and achieves the other aim of the editors to begin 'from the ground up, so to speak, giving voice to the diverse spaces, structures, artifacts, and organic remains' (p. 3) of the ritual phenomena of the ancient Mediterranean world.

The volume opens with an Introduction by the editors, who note its origins in a conference at the American Academy in Rome in 2013, as well as pointing towards some recent work in the realm of 'thing theory'. This very brief overview cites work by the likes of Ian Hodder, Bjørnar Olsen, and Carl Knappett, although unfortunately this theoretical background is rarely acknowledged or explored by the individual essays that follow. The conference and subsequent volume are also described as inspired by Inez Scott Ryberg's seminal Rites of the State Religion in Roman Art1, a work that several contributors reference. These two inspirations are loosely mapped onto the organising principles of the volume, which begins with largely empirical papers seeking to draw attention to objects that have previously been overlooked or undervalued in investigations of ancient ritual (i.e., objects that represent or were present in the course of ritual activities). These are then followed by essays that explore more closely the relationships between humans and objects during such activities (i.e., objects that worked with people to produce ritual or religion). Surprisingly, there is little acknowledgement here or elsewhere in the volume (with the exception of the chapter by Zsuzsanna Várhelyi), of the substantial body of theory surrounding the other element of the volume's title: ritual.

Ritual is nonetheless at the heart of the first chapter, by Valérie Huet. This contribution owes most to the legacy of Scott Ryberg in that it seeks to expand upon her original study of Roman sculpted relief scenes by collating comparable evidence from Italy, Gaul and Germania, as well as paralleling these with what Huet describes as 'the other', represented by Mithraic scenes. In what is a valuable but largely descriptive account of the relevant scenes, she suggests that provincial communities made different decisions about which parts of sacrificial ritual to emphasise iconographically, especially when it came to representing the presence of the divine. She does not comment on the significance of these observations for understanding localised Roman ritual practices more broadly, beyond noting that evidence from archaeology suggests that these different emphases were not reflected in actual practice.

The theme of sacrifice is continued in the next chapter, in which Gunnel Ekroth sets out the various ways in which the faunal remains from sacrificial activities were either disposed of, or built into, the physical landscape of Greek sanctuaries. This is the most successful of the largely empirical chapters, prompting the reader to reconsider not only the category of 'waste' in religious settings, but also—although not stated in so many words—the organic dynamism of the sanctuary itself. This enlightening chapter certainly forces the reader to rethink an understanding of the composition of sacred architecture.

Claudia Moser's chapter focuses on more traditional forms of architecture, examining the sacred area of the Republican temples at Ostia. Through a close reading of the evidence for how aspects of the material setting for rituals was actively transformed over the course of several centuries, she argues that these reflect the different forces at play within the same sacred area. Although the rituals that took place in relation to the altars that are her focal point remain largely in the background, she presents a strong case for looking closely at the relationships between different communities, space, and ritual practices, and for not assuming that these were universal, even within a comparatively small area.

The final empirical chapter by Henri Duday and William Van Andringa reports on some aspects of their recent work in the Porta Nocera necropolis at Pompeii. They offer some thoughts about the ways in which different forms of memory (displayed, erased, maintained, negative, and arranged) can be inferred from the material remains of graves, including the treatment of human remains, the presence of offerings, and forms of commemorative action. The chapter does not engage with any wider discourse concerning either ritual, memory, treatment of the corpse, or materiality, and lacks any definitive conclusion about the broader significance of their observations beyond this set of Pompeian burial enclosures.

Moving away from the primarily empirical, Zsuzsanna Várhelyi's chapter on the placement of Roman-period statues of civic individuals in religious contexts is perhaps the most successful of the volume. Situating her study in relation to scholarship on ritualization and embodied experience, she argues persuasively for exploring beyond the representational capacities of statues in order to understand them as a part of the physical environment, which not merely framed, but actively produced religious practices. Placing statues of non-divine figures alongside those of deities, and more importantly engaging them directly in the same types of religious activities, blurred the boundaries between them, serving to trigger 'a certain kind of ritualized engagement' (p. 96, original emphasis).

Jennifer Knust's study of Christian miscellany manuscripts seeks to materialise late antique texts, by spotlighting how collections such as those from Dishna (Egypt) might be described as having many of the same relational features? as traditional material objects. The papyri she considers emerge as material mediators for the choices and agency of a particular group of Christian worshippers. Her chapter leads us towards Richard Gordon's examination of inductive divination, in which the objects are often textual and as much objects of the imagination – what he calls 'materialities of the mind' (p. 119) – as of the physical world. He suggests that objects offered ancient people engaged in divination a way of gaining a purchase on an otherwise virtual religious world, not least because these objects are open to varying modes of comprehension and action.

The volume closes with David Frankfurter's reflective Afterword, an excellent demonstration of the value of bringing an objective eye to bear on a set of collected papers. He teases out the deeper implications of each chapter for a 'materiality of religion' approach (p. 145) in which the agency of objects is foregrounded. Indeed, the cases he makes for the papers as contributions to, or examples of the value of. such an approach are in some instances stronger than those made within individual essays.

These case studies prompt new ways of thinking about apparently familiar things and, individually, each chapter offers a useful addition to scholarship in its own particular area within the wider study of ritual practices. The chapters that stand out are those that explicitly attempt to engage with the relationships between humans and objects, although even here human agency is often still dominant, and rarely does the actual 'matter' of ritual objects fully surface: Várhelyi, for example, takes it for granted that her reader can imagine the physical statues that she writes about, providing no images and largely overlooking the materials from which they were made, their dimensions, and their multisensory qualities. Only rarely do the essays explicitly consider the strengths and limitations of approaching ritual via material objects, or address the bigger questions concerning material agency described in the Introduction. Indeed, some chapters make no attempt at all to acknowledge a bigger picture, or to suggest how the material under study might contribute to these debates. The bibliography for the chapter by Duday and Van Andringa, for instance, contains only four items, three of which are written by the authors of the chapter themselves (one of which is forthcoming). So, while it is refreshing to see the breadth of material under discussion being expanded to encompass animal and human bones, spatiality, even texts and imagined objects and, in the process, attention being drawn to new ways of considering the boundaries of the material culture of ritual, the agency of ritual matter itself remains underemphasised. This lack of attention feels like a missed opportunity, since the questions raised by the editors and the examples under discussion are particularly pertinent to the recent material turn in the study of religion, past and present. These tensions perhaps arise from the volume's origins as a conference designed for multiple purposes. On the one hand, it was trying to spotlight the value of this emerging theoretical work concerning human-object and object-human action to understandings of ancient ritual performance, while, on the other, seeking to cite the much more traditional approach of Scott Ryberg to material representations of ritual. As a consequence, the volume presents itself as a collection of individual studies united by the loose concept of 'material evidence', rather than a coherent affirmation of the 'materiality of religion' approach described by Frankfurter.

Despite these issues and its unevenness, Ritual Matters offers an overview of current work concerning the material aspects of ancient cult. The volume reveals the persistence and continued value of empirical studies, as well as a burgeoning, if yet to be fully realised, interest in finding new ways to understand religion as the product of human-object interactions. It is certainly likely to prompt new work on both areas.

Authors and titles

1. "Ritual Matters: An Introduction", Claudia Moser and Jennifer Knust
2. "Roman Sacrificial Reliefs in Rome, Italy, and Gaul: Reconstructing Archaeological Evidence?" Valérie Huet
3. "'Don't Throw Any Bones in the Sanctuary!' On the Handling of Sacred Waste in Ancient Greek Cult Places", Gunnel Ekroth
4. "Differential Preservation: The Changing Religious Landscape at the Sacred Area of the Republican Temples at Ostia", Claudia Moser
5. "Archaeology of Memory: About the Forms and the Time of Memory in a Necropolis of Pompeii", Henri Duday and William Van Andringa
6. "Statuary and Ritualization in Imperial Italy", Zsuzsanna Várhelyi
7. "Miscellany Manuscripts and the Christian Canonical Imaginary", Jennifer Knust
8. "'Straightening the Paths': Inductive Divination, Materiality, and Imagination in the Graeco-Roman Period", Richard L. Gordon
9. "Ritual Matters: Afterword", David Frankfurter


1.   Scott Ryberg, I. Rites of the State Religion in Roman Art, Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, vol. XXII (American Academy in Rome, 1955).

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Monday, May 21, 2018


Aryeh Finkelberg, Heraclitus and Thales' Conceptual Scheme: A Historical Study. Jerusalem studies in religion and culture, 23. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2017. Pp. x, 415. ISBN 9789004337992. $145.00.

Reviewed by Tom Hercules Davies, Princeton University (tdavies@princeton.edu)

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In this book, Aryeh Finkelberg presents a novel interpretation of Greek intellectual history over the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. Chapters 1-10 are a close study of the thought of Heraclitus. Chapters 10-14 argue that the ideas ascribed to Heraclitus should be used to interpret Thales and other early Greek thinkers. The main argument, then, is that Thales is the originator of, and Heraclitus our best evidence for, an Archaic Greek soteriological religion founded on the view that the world is cyclically produced from and reabsorbed into a cosmic God. Finkelberg calls this the "Thaletan mysteriosophic cosmo-theology," and argues that it undergirds the entire tradition known as "Presocratic philosophy"; all major figures of that tradition drew from Thales' well. The title therefore undersells the book: while the bulk concerns Heraclitus and Thales, Finkelberg also presents in considerable detail his original views on Anaximander, Anaximenes, Xenophanes, Parmenides, and Orphic thought. Two methodological discussions surround this revisionary history. The book is more than a study of Heraclitus; it is the summation of a career devoted to the study of early Greek thought, and as such rich, learned, often idiosyncratic but always stimulating.

Chapter 1 treats Heraclitus' biography and treatise: Finkelberg demonstrates that the book was widely available and read up to the first century A.D., and survived, with fewer but equally keen readers, into the twelfth. Chapters 2-3 argue that Heraclitus taught a cosmic cycle. First, fire generates the sea. The sea then divides itself entirely into earth and bright exhalation. The bright exhalation fills the superlunary region, where, ignited by a remnant of the primordial fire, it burns in the bowls of the heavenly bodies. As it burns, it "loosens" the earth, and the sea reemerges as a secretion. The earth continually melts into sea, and the sea evaporates into the bright exhalation, which, as it burns, reverts to the originary fire. Eventually, all the differentiated world will be fire once more, and the cycle will begin anew.

Chapters 4-5 hold that Heraclitus identified his bright exhalation with the soul of the world. The cosmic cycle of elemental transformation from earth into water into the bright exhalation, then, is an ascent from body to soul, and accordingly the stars are "intelligent beings indwelling the heavenly bowls whence they descend to become human souls." (86). Humans are theatres for a proxy war between the bright exhalation and earth: the soul and body of the world battle as the soul and body of a human being. Heraclitus' horror of psychic liquefaction (B36, B117, B118) is rooted in his conviction that the soul may physically revert to its watery state; humans must, through ascetic practice, keep their soul dry and light enough to ascend after death to the superlunary realm, where they may live as astral δαίμονες until the great conflagration. Those whose post-mortem purity is less than stellar must undergo remedial dehydration on the Moon, while some impish souls, bored of astral existence and craving the pleasures of the flesh, descend to slum it in a mortal frame once more. Chapter 6 locates these teachings in the wider cultural framework of salvation cult in Archaic Greece.

In Chapter 7, Finkelberg reinterprets the famous doctrine of flux attributed to Heraclitus: rather than the general relativism reported by Plato, it refers to the changes undergone by the cosmic God, of whom all created things are mere transient states. Chapter 8 surveys Heraclitus' epistemology, and his theory that human beings inhale their minds from the rational body surrounding the cosmos. Chapter 9 treats Heraclitus' notion of λόγος, which Finkelberg claims "stands for both the agent of the management of all things and the knowledge of how all things are managed" (189). Whereas the senses provide only qualified knowledge (sea water is good for fish, bad for humans), the λόγος has and is knowledge that is universally valid. Chapter 10 connects Heraclitus' moral teachings to his epistemology. To conquer bodily pleasure and ensure our soul a spot among the stars, we must strive for the self-knowledge and self-restraint attendant upon a grasp of the λόγος.

Scholars of early Greek philosophy will read the above with skepticism. A world-soul, an intelligent περιέχον, astral existence after death, the unity of the human intellect with God—these are precisely the ascriptions for which our secondary sources are typically charged with anachronism; theories accidentally imported or smuggled in by doxographers, but properly belonging to later developments in Greek philosophy. And Finkelberg's reconstruction of Heraclitus is through-and-through dependent on the reports of our secondary sources; these reports strongly condition his interpretation of the fragments. But Finkelberg anticipates objections along these lines. His methodological Introduction defends our secondary sources against the view that interpretations of early Greek thought must work from the ipsissima verba, and that testimonial evidence is to be evaluated against the fragments. Finkelberg rightly argues that fragments are incomplete evidence: inherently ambiguous, the context of their quotation in our sources should condition our interpretations. The scholar's duty is to accommodate all evidence, including testimony. This discussion is worth a review of its own: it is salutary to see a direct treatment of methodology in a work on the Presocratics, especially one enriched by extensive engagement with literature on historiographical theory and practice. I will unhappily limit myself to a few critical remarks.

Finkelberg succeeds in his argument against blanket rejection of the testimonial tradition. But he has a more ambitious goal: to show that skepticism regarding our sources is, per se, an error in historical method. He argues, for instance, that to reject evidence on suspicion of untrustworthiness is to fall into the "fallacy of the possible proof, viz. deducing the falsity of a piece of evidence from the possibility of its being such" (5). Not so. The skeptical interpreter need not deduce the positive falsehood of evidence in order to discount it. The serious possibility of falsehood may be held sufficient grounds for rejection. Some readers of Finkelberg's book will reject its conclusions not because they are positively false, but because there is no overwhelming probability that they are true. Finkelberg may disapprove of this interpretive stance, but that does not make it fallacious.

Finkelberg also claims that distrust of secondary evidence is elicited by "the scholar's presuppositions about what can or cannot be true of, say, Thales." As Finkelberg lays it out, this would be question-begging: testimony is pronounced inaccurate because it contradicts a scholar's prior hunch about a figure, but the scholar is obligated to reconstruct the figure from a corpus of evidence including precisely this testimony (5). This is true so far as it goes, but suspicion about evidence is not always motivated by external presuppositions. It can be grounded in concerns internal to the analysis of that evidence: Did our source have access to a reliable text? Does he habitually read primary texts, or crib from handbooks? Is he a careful and judicious reader of texts that remain extant? Does he quote from texts or memory? Such considerations can motivate distrust without reference to presuppositions about the figure our source reports, so are not question-begging at all. So Finkelberg fails to convincingly rule out skeptical objections on purely methodological grounds, and fails to show that as a matter of principle we should place our trust in the testimony of secondary sources. Each reader will have to assess Finkelberg's use of secondary sources the old-fashioned way: case by case, and by their own evidentiary standards.

Finkelberg's positive proposal for interpreting secondary evidence centres on a method of "iterative reflection": the scholar must look for "agreements, complementarities, and convergences" between independent reports, gradually integrating the available evidence into a meaningful whole. "The argument is cumulative, progressively persuasive and explanatory, for the emerging whole is explicatory of the parts" (7-8). It seems right that a strong interpretation will, as it develops, furnish new insights into previously intractable evidence. But there is also a serious danger in this cumulative approach: in deciding the significance of an ambiguous fragment or report, Finkelberg sometimes opts for a reading because it is compatible with his theory as so far developed, while the equally possible alternative would contradict it. The reader who seeks independent confirmation of the preferred reading will not always find it in Finkelberg's argument. So the "emerging whole" does more heavy lifting than its parts, and the cumulative structure is unstable: if the reader is unpersuaded at any stage of the argument, much that follows will be rendered unpersuasive, and I expect that many readers will sooner or later encounter an interpretive gulf they cannot follow Finkelberg across.

Those still persuaded at the end of Part 1 will face a perilous leap indeed. Part 2 is built on Finkelberg's conviction that, absent sufficient primary evidence for Milesian philosophy, Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes must be assimilated to the "context of contemporaneous discourse"—namely, to the foregoing interpretation of Heraclitus. This principle, Finkelberg insists, is not "merely permissive" but obligatory: "whenever the evidence on the Milesians admits of an interpretation to the same effect as the evidence on Heraclitus . . . it must be interpreted to that effect" (247 n. 35). Accordingly Finkelberg ascribes the central ideas of Part 1 to Thales: he too must have taught the "notion of the divine as a pantheistic and creator deity, of the world as created and controlled by the divine soul/mind, of the soul as a portion of the divine soul, and of human life as an initiatory experience" (310-11).

I find this interpretive principle difficult to accept. Imagine we had lost the works of Plato and Xenophon, and so our best evidence for the thought of Socrates. Could we fill the gaps by assimilating all three figures to Aristotle? After all, Aristotle lived in Athens a generation after Socrates, and worked as Plato's student and colleague for two decades: the link is in fact far stronger than that between Heraclitus and Thales (whom Heraclitus never mentions). But reconstructions on these lines would be misleading and anachronistic. I see no reason to believe that reading Milesian philosophy to align it with Heraclitus should do any better, and no reason to accept that I am obligated to read in this way. If Heraclitus is truly our best evidence for Milesian philosophy, so much the worse for students of the Milesians. The treatments of the Milesians in Chapter 12, and of Xenophanes and Parmenides in Chapter 13, are predicated on Finkelberg's principle of generalization, and stand or fall according to whether the reader is prepared to entertain the principle.

Despite these concerns, Finkelberg's book is essential reading for scholars of Presocratic philosophy, particularly for the careful and learned treatment of philological problems, and the detailed analysis of virtually every fragment of Heraclitus. I do not say this as a polite concession—everybody working on Heraclitus must now make a habit of consulting Finkelberg's well-prepared indices. Every few pages, the reader is treated to a close examination of some issue or piece of evidence. These passages are scattered like jewels throughout the main argument: even those who break faith early will find much to admire in later chapters. Highlights include the phraseological comparison of ps.-Linus with the surviving fragments (51-7), Finkelberg's persuasive argument that the analogy between σῶμα and σῆμα originates not in Orphic thought but with Heraclitus (98-100), a brilliant piece of sleuthing involving an anecdote from Ioannes Siceliota (166-7), and the stimulating appendix to Chapter 9, which argues that the coincidentia oppositorum idea so often associated with Heraclitus is a Hegelian mirage (212-15). The appendix on Marcus Aurelius' habits of quotation alone constitutes a major contribution to Heraclitean studies. One of the most useful features of the book is Finkelberg's fine ear for echoes, paraphrases, and allusions to Heraclitus (and other thinkers) in later authors, often resulting in new insights into the meaning and arrangement of our fragments (e.g. 76-9, on B76a/b and B60). Some identified allusions carry more conviction than others, but that is to be expected; Finkelberg's sensitivity to and diligent enumeration of many possible parallels is a major service to future scholarship on Heraclitus.


Typographical mistakes are not such as to impede understanding, with the possible exception of some mistyped names: Andaximander for Anaximander (136 n. 37); herakitischen for heraklitischen (157 n. 32); Sexus for Sextus (175); Shleiermacher for Schleiermacher (212); Heraclius for Heraclitus (245); Chrisippus for Chrysippus (297).

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Stefan Timm (ed.), Eusebius Werke. Dritter Band. Erster Teil, Das Onomastikon der biblischen Ortsnamen: Kritische Neuausgabe des griechischen Textes mit der lateinischen Fassung des Hieronymus. Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte (GCS), Neue Folge, 24. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. Pp. clxxxix, 444. ISBN 9783110315653. $210.00.

Reviewed by Kai Brodersen, Universität Erfurt (kai.brodersen@uni-erfurt.de)

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Table of Contents

Eusebius of Caesarea was not only an influential theologian in general, but more specifically a great innovator. In his Chronicon, he presented Christians and non-Christians with an innovative learned work that was based on the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) and aimed to demonstrate that the Christian tradition was older and better than the traditions of past empires like the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes, Persians, or Greeks. While the Chronicon discussed, as it were, the time of history, another work dealt with its space.

The only preserved part of this latter work, the Onomasticon of Biblical Place Names, lists and describes 985 places mentioned in the Old and New Testaments, and organizes the material alphabetically from Alpha to Omega. Biblical places were thus shown to be not a mythical never-neverland, but real sites in a real historical world. Eusebius' work, which is likely to date to 313 or 314 (p. CXLIX), was translated into Latin by Jerome (Hieronymus) some eighty years later, and became the most influential work on biblical geography in the Latin West.

The Greek text of Eusebius' Onomasticon survives only in the late tenth-century Codex Vaticanus gr. 1456 (and its apographs), and a Syrian translation for which we have to rely on an edition of 1922/23 (and this edition's re- edition by Timm1), while the manuscript appears to be lost. However, there are more than 125 copies of Jerome's Latin version, for which there is still no critical edition. For Jerome's version, neither Timm nor Georg Röwekamp, in his recent bilingual Latin-German edition,2 aimed to replace the 1904 edition by Erich Klostermann, which is based on just three of the more than 125 Latin manuscripts preserved.3

Timm's fresh edition of the Greek text is based on the above-mentioned Codex Vaticanus gr. 1456 (obviously, its apographs cannot contribute anything useful to an edition and are rightfully ignored). In his very full introduction, Timm first discusses the manuscript and its peculiarities at length, and always convincingly. Timm's thorough knowledge of the codex justifies his decisions on the best readings in the edition. A second part of the introduction presents an equally thorough discussion of the work's date, and a third explains why this new edition differs from Klostermann's 1904 edition, which was published in the first series of the very same collection of Greek Christian Writers (Griechische Christliche Schriftsteller). In addition to numerous improved readings, Timm is to be applauded in marking conjectures in the text of his edition, not just in the apparatus, thus alerting users to the fragility of some readings. The edition itself presents the newly established Greek text, with a full apparatuses, and annotations, and Jerome's Latin version (based on Klostermann's 1904 edition) on facing pages; in keeping with the format of the series there is no translation into a modern language. The book closes with full indices and a comprehensive bibliography.

Timm argues at length in his introduction (p. CLXXVII) that, even if one day a scan of the codex were to be published, this would prove to be disappointing for its users. In fact, the manuscript has since been made available as part of the Digital Vatican Library, and allows the users to check Timm's readings, and judge for themselves whether they are disappointed or not. But Timm is right, of course, when he points out how much more than a mere scan a proper edition provides, and he is to be congratulated on his thorough and most helpfully annotated edition of the Greek text. In the late 1970s, British Rail ran an advertisement campaign with the slogan "This is the age of the train" to shake off the impression that trains were a thing of the past. The airline industry replied with the slogan "This is the time of the plane," pointing to the speed of air travel. Forty years later, the rarity of fresh critical editions and the fast availability of scanned codices online might lead to the impression that "This is the time of the online scan." However, Timm's excellent work amply demonstrates that "This is the age of the critical edition".


1.   Timm, Stefan (ed.). Eusebius von Caesarea, Das Onomastikon der biblischen Ortsnamen: Edition der syrischen Fassung mit griechischem Text, englischer und deutscher Übersetzung. Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur (TU), 125. Berlin; New York: De Gruyter, 2005.
2.   Röwekamp, Georg (ed.). Eusebius/Hieronymus. Liber Locorum et Nominum / Onomastikon der biblischen Ortsnamen. Fontes Christiani, 68. Freiburg; Basel; Wien, 2017.
3.   Klostermann, Erich (ed.) Eusebius Werke. Dritter Band. Erste Hälfte, Das Onomastikon der biblischen Ortsnamen. Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte (GCS), 11.1, Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1904, available on archive.org.

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Sunday, May 20, 2018


Philip Burton (ed.), Sulpicius Severus' 'Vita Martini'. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xiv, 298. ISBN 9780199676224. $155.00.

Reviewed by Raymond Van Dam, University of Michigan (rvandam@umich.edu)

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Sulpicius Severus' Life of Martin is a short text, only twenty-nine pages in the standard edition in Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, vol. 1. But that text was the starting point and the foundation for the most influential saint's cult in post-Roman Merovingian Gaul. It has also been featured widely in modern scholarship on the later Roman empire during the fourth century, not only in studies of hagiography and saints' cults, but also in accounts of the rise of bishops and monks, the authority of emperors and their administrators, the influence of Gallic notables, the effectiveness of the Roman army, and the coming of the barbarians.

In the late 1960s Jacques Fontaine revitalized study of the Life of Martin with a new critical edition and French translation. Fontaine should be considered one of the important founders of modern late antique studies, and his publications combined great philological skills with sensitive literary criticism and significant historical interpretation. His interests were primarily in Latin prose and poetry, and his study of the Life of Martin set a high standard. It also set a rather elephantine standard. In addition to the edition and translation, the three volumes of his study included an introduction of 240 pages, a commentary of almost one thousand pages, and another seventy pages of indices.

Sulpicius thought that any value in his "little book" would have to come entirely from its subject, bishop Martin of Tours. He claimed to be so embarrassed by his own "grammatical lapses" that he suggested a friend publish his book anonymously. False modesty was just another sophisticated trope, however, and Philip Burton rightly highlights Sulpicius' "virtuosity" (52, 63) as a stylist. His new book is an excellent introduction to and overview of the many noteworthy literary aspects of the Life of Martin.

Burton's book includes an edition of the Latin text, largely based on Fontaine's edition but with a few variant readings, and a very readable translation. Following the format of Fontaine's edition, the text is preceded by an introduction and followed by a commentary. But both are more compact and hence more accessible, and both are important contributions to our appreciation of late Roman and early medieval Latin.

Burton's introduction includes an overview of Sulpicius' life, compiled largely from his own writings and the letters of his friend Paulinus of Nola. An overview of Martin's life is more difficult, however, because it requires evaluating the accuracy and reliability of the Life of Martin. Even though Sulpicius visited Martin at Tours and could describe him firsthand, the sources for his information about Martin's earlier life and episcopacy remain largely unknown. Sulpicius furthermore shaped that information to represent his own agenda, and in the process he obscured the chronology. Burton explains the uncertainties about Martin's age and the length of his military service by appealing to the conventions of genre. Sulpicius was writing under the influence of the Gospels, whose narratives consisted of a series of short episodes; the passions of martyrs, which emphasized confrontations and conflicts; and biographies of Christian holy men, such as the Life of Antony. As a result, even as he modeled Martin's actions on the behavior of biblical characters, he offered Martin as a model for others to imitate: "the language of imitation is effectively used to describe a typological theology" (40). This emphasis on literary styling and theological concerns implies that the Life of Martin cannot be read straightforwardly as a trustworthy depiction of the life of the historical Martin.

The most useful section of Burton's introduction is the meticulous analysis of the prose style of the Life. This analysis includes a detailed discussion of vocabulary, concluding that Sulpicius was "a careful traditionalist rather than a linguistic antiquarian" (49). His syntax and morphology recalled "the archaizing style of Sallust" (55). In fact, the influence of Sallust and the Sallustian tradition often reappears: "Sallust… stands in a similar relation to the Vita Martini as the Iliad or Odyssey does to the Aeneid" (81). Burton furthermore highlights the rhythms of Sulpicius' prose, which featured classical quantitative or metrical patterns over the accentual cadences that became more common in late antiquity. Some of his rhythms turned into fragments of dactylic verse, often close to full hexameter verses. As a result, these rhythms linked Sulpicius "to the traditions of classical hexameter poetry, as represented by Virgil, Ovid, and their successors" (81). Like many modern scholars of late antiquity, Sulpicius apparently had a background in classical studies, and he seems to have prepared to write hagiography by reading classical Latin prose and poetry.

Burton's commentary examines the Life section by section, often word by word. Some of his comments are extended discussions of relevant topics and themes: prose prefaces (139); the influence of military hagiography (146-51); clothing and Martin's cloak (158-160); Sulpicius' theology (178-80); resurrection stories (184-85); the selection and consecration of new bishops (190-92); sacred trees (213-14); Martin's apparent inclination toward Origin's doctrine that God's love might redeem even the Devil (242-43); and visions of the Devil wearing a diadem and an imperial robe (247). Most of Burton's comments are remarks on the meanings, morphology, and syntax of words and phrases: for instance, the comparative of the adjective incultus (134); the scarcity of gerundives (135), and the archaic form of a third- conjugation gerundive (151); the use of rex as the title for an emperor (153), and the appropriation of candidatus as the term for a neophyte after baptism (157); the odd use of vis with a noun in the genitive (160); the meanings of virtus (138), religiosus/a (176), sacerdos and fides (179), deformis ("tonsured," 193-94), altare (rather than ara, 206), pallium (221), signum (244), and videbantur (the equivalent of English "scare quotes," 258-59); the form of the pluperfect subjunctive passive (185); sentences that begin with verbs (216); the use of hyberbata as "a stylistic tic" (227); and the "dangling nominative" (234). The sequence of topics really is as haphazard and unpredictable as it appears in this summary. Only a few obvious mistakes pop up. For instance, "the defeat of Licinius at the Milvian Bridge in 307" (169): the defeated emperor, the battle, and the date do not match. Despite the eclectic nature of the comments, everyone planning to translate a late Roman or early medieval Latin prose text should read Burton's commentary as a very sensitive and astute primer.

Even though Sulpicius professed misgivings, his style was worthy of his subject. His "little book" became a bestseller at Rome, and his friend Paulinus of Nola was pleased to read it aloud to a visitor. These days historians of late antiquity are increasingly aware of the "literary turn" in historical studies that questions the reliability of ancient texts by interpreting them as presentist representations of the past, and literary critics amplify the aesthetics of ancient texts by examining intertextual allusions. Sulpicius' Life of Martin was certainly a literary construct that incorporated allusions to classical authors. But the underpinning for its representation and intertextuality was its grammar and style. Burton's book is a very helpful exposition of the impressive artistic and philological infrastructure of the Life.

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Tyler V. Franconi (ed.), Fluvial Landscapes in the Roman World. Journal of Roman archaeology. Supplementary series, 104. Portsmouth, RI: Journal of Roman Archaeology, 2015. Pp. 164. ISBN 9780991373086. $89.50.

Reviewed by Toon Bongers, Ghent University (toon.bongers@ugent.be)

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

Fluvial Landscapes in the Roman World results from a conference organised by the Oxford Roman Economy Project, entitled 'Shifting fluvial landscapes in the Roman world: new directions in the study of ancient rivers'. "The conference aimed to explore the social and environmental context of rivers in the Roman world, especially how Roman activity influenced hydrological activity and how, in turn, hydrological activity influenced Roman life" (p. 6).

The aim of the resulting publication is similar: it highlights the potential of interdisciplinary investigations into the relationship between society and rivers, including the surrounding areas or "fluvial landscapes". 1 Case studies from France, Italy, Germany, Syria, and Egypt examine "how hydrological events like floods, sedimentation, channel movement, droughts, and deltaic movement influenced settlement location, economic networks, transportation systems, agricultural schemes, and irrigation networks." 2 The various expert contributors, including editor Tyler V. Franconi, offer wide- ranging experience in (geo)-archaeology, history, physical geography and (hydro)-geomorphology. Although not explicitly mentioned, the volume seems to be aimed primarily at a professional audience (PhD students and researchers).

Franconi starts the volume off with his chapter "Studying rivers in the Roman world", in which he lays the foundation for the historical narratives explored further throughout the subsequent chapters. Franconi explains very well the dynamic relations between rivers, economic activities, and (military) settlements. Furthermore, he highlights the importance of (including) environmental data in archaeological research. This chapter and its bibliography, may (and should) serve as an introduction for anyone interested in the topic.

Campbell avoids the "hard sciences" in "Watery perspectives: a Roman view on rivers" and moves on to topics such as Rome's interventionist attitudes towards rivers and the various interactions between rivers and society. He clarifies that a river was not one thing, but that it could simultaneously be a border, communication line, divinity, source of life, military strategic point, transportation route, etc. He neatly integrates archaeology and epigraphy in this historical chapter, which offers insights into societies' views on altering rivers, but also the ways in which rivers shaped the ever-changing society. With regard to river transport in particular, this contribution offers a short but thorough introduction to the various questions surrounding the study of riverine transport (cost vs. distance, upstream vs. downstream transport, integrated transport systems etc.). Despite the modest length of this article, more reference to related works would have been welcome. Furthermore, Campbell refers to "efforts — over-ambitious in my view — to assess climate change" (p. 23) It is not clear whether the author refers to specific studies or to the entire study of past climate change. If the latter, I disagree: the use and optimisation of climatic data in the reconstruction of historical narratives is not only helpful, but necessary (as many chapters in this volume prove).

In "River Adjustment to change: the Rhône in France during the Roman period" Bravard provides a preliminary summary of studies on river change in France. Next, he presents several case-studies on flooding in the Rhône valley, which according to him "demonstrate the existence of a wet period within a long dry period" (p. 34). By presenting the evidence, or lack of evidence, for flooding Bravard explains the complexity of a fluvial system, which responds to climate-induced hydrological change and sediment transportation. He ends by rightfully stating that it is not easy to differentiate between climate- or human-induced hydrological crises. To conclude, Bravard is successful in building a bridge between (sometimes overly detailed) geological studies and archaeology, e.g. the use of archaeological artefacts to date alluvial deposits.

Leveau's chapter "Environmental risk in the Lower Rhône valley: high water levels and floods" complements Bravard's in both subject (e.g. flooding, hydrological processes) and in spatial focus (lower Rhône valley). Leveau writes about environmental risks in the Lower Rhône valley, focusing on negative high water levels. He describes the relationship between Arles (Arelate) and the Rhône delta with regard to the management of fluvial risk. Leveau begins his chapter with the geographical and historical context of the study area, which simultaneously serves as a chronological overview of the relevant (geo)archaeological studies performed in the Lower Rhône area. The picture that emerges is one of a conflict between economic versus environmental explanations for the attested archaeological record, a conflict which he tries to transcend by combining all the available sources (historical, economical, archaeological and environmental). Leveau's chapter is dense, information-rich and integrates all the available sources in an orderly fashion. However, it is perhaps too detailed at times, causing the reader to lose track of the bigger picture.

"High chrono-stratigraphical resolution of the harbour sequence of Ostia: palaeo-depth of the basin, ship draught, and dredging" by Goiran et al. tries to reconstruct the port of Ostia based on a high-resolution chrono-stratigraphic study of two core drillings. The aim was threefold: (1) understand the nature and speed of the filling, (2) compare basin depths with draughts of ships and (3) find the relationship between the depth of the ancient Tiber at its mouth and the depth of the harbour basin. Using a multi-disciplinary approach, the authors confirm the presence of a depression that they interpret as a harbour basin. Their conclusions show the possible results of such an approach, but they remain cautious.

In "Pater Rhenus: the hydrological history of Rome's German frontier" Franconi discusses the study of the Rhine in relation to fluvial change. He focuses on four questions: (1) how to attest and prove fluvial change; (2) the possible reasons for fluvial change (anthropogenic, climatic or both); (3) the consequences of fluvial change to the archaeological record; (4) how all of this changed over time. This chapter is a reaction to a passive view of the environment, specifically rivers, in the reconstruction of historical narratives. Franconi highlights often overlooked aspects of fluvial archaeology, such as: the role of rivers in society (as opposed to their military use); the backward projection of modern elements to the Roman era by scholars; and the necessity of identifying the different segments of rivers and attributing environmental data to either human or climatic events (also see Bravard). His comparative, integrative and summarising approach makes this chapter a very enjoyable read.

Morhange et al. ("Geoarchaeology of ancient harbours in lagoonal contexts: an introduction") provide a chapter on the durability of lagoonal harbours and the factors affecting it. The article's point of departure is that ancient harbours provide valuable insights into landscape changes, by allowing the reconstruction of paleo-environmental processes, which in turn shed light on both longue durée environmental events and short term high-energy events such as storms and floods. This study shows the significance of studying and understanding sediment processes, both in environmental and in historical sciences. Furthermore, it is interesting to see the continuous changing of the fluvial system explained by looking at the movement of energy through the system. The chapter, however, sometimes lacks a clear link to historical research and comes across as descriptive, rather than explanatory.

Wilson addresses the study of paleo-climatic events, rivers, torrents, floods, drought and to a lesser degree the transportation of goods in Roman North Africa in "Rivers, wadis and climate in North Africa: torrents and drought". He starts his article by not only stressing the importance of climatic factors and rainfall to agriculture, but also the importance of these factors to the transportation of agricultural goods. Next, he reports on the attested traces of water management in relation to environmental change. While doing so, he remains rightfully cautious about the interpretation of certain palynological data, since it is not always clear whether they refer to climate- or human-induced change (also see the chapters of Bravard and Franconi).

Whiting ("Gift of the Orontes: fluvial landscapes of northwest Syria in late antiquity") is critical of the general perception of the Orontes as a tool for transportation or irrigation. The exact nature of the river, its uses, and its impact on the surrounding settlements have only recently been studied. With this chapter she weakens the general perception that all rivers would have been used on a large scale in antiquity, for either economical or agricultural purposes. Whiting, from the start, makes a clear distinction between current and former hydrological conditions, and she rightfully points out the pitfalls when using climatic data. The geographical focus of her chapter makes it well-placed beside that of Wilson. In addition to providing an overview of recent research to frame the questions mentioned above, Whiting displays a clear view of future opportunities in the study of fluvial landscapes.

"360 Days of Summer" by Brendan Haug, discusses Roman-Egyptian papyri from the Fayyum. The first part of his lengthy contribution reveals the untapped potential of using geographic, historical and administrative writings from the mediaeval Islamic period. The second part focuses solely on the information that written evidence reveals on the character and rhythm of the Fayyum fluvial landscape. Here Haug brings to life the local inhabitants living in the Fayyum, not only focusing on elites, officials or soldiers (as is often the case). Haug shows that he is aware of the interaction between the human (social) system and the environment (the ecosystem). Or in his words: "These myriad and ever-changing human entanglements with the fluvial have in turn produced a complex tapestry of liquid landscapes whose intricate evolutionary histories have received little scholarly analysis." He furthermore refers to concepts such as "resilience of the landscape", adding to the discourse of this volume, which states that the landscape is no longer a static backdrop to historical narratives, but an influencer and shaper of historic events.

Purcell's short conclusion ("A second Nature? The riverine landscapes of the Romans") offers "a historian's reaction to the new directions represented by this research, with some hints to wider questions which fluvial approaches may illuminate" (p. 159).

The volume achieves what it set out to do: highlighting the potential of interdisciplinary approaches studying hydrological activity in the Roman world. Out of the various chapters, the implicit image has emerged that both society and the fluvial landscape can be conceptualised as a system, between which a dialectic relationship exists. This negates the image of a static environment that forms the backdrop to historical events. When discussing the environment and environmental proxies, all authors rightfully mentioned the ambiguities connected to this type of data. Regrettably, this volume shows a general lack of attention to theory. A single chapter on possible theoretical frameworks would have offered valuable guidance for future scholars in this field.

There are a moderate number of editing errors throughout (p. 69 "(ii) this sector could be a landing stage and handling cargoes with a quay to the north along the left bank of the Tiber (fig. 2)"; p. 79: "but can estimated based on vertical position"; p. 90: "geo-morphological"; p. 104: "(3)" should be "(c)", while chapters 3, 4, 7 and 8 contain mislabelled figures and grammatical errors which impede the reader's understanding. Finally, fig. 2 and 3 on p. 112-13 would have been more successful at bringing their message across if they had been presented in colour.


1.   Water.
2.   Water.

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Dirk Rohmann, Christianity, Book-Burning and Censorship in Late Antiquity: Studies in Text Transmission. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2017. Pp. ix, 360. ISBN 9781481307826. $49.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Raphael Brendel, München (raphaelbrendel@arcor.de)

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is given below.]

Vorbemerkung: Das Buch ist identisch mit dem gleichnamigen Werk Rohmanns, das 2016 bei De Gruyter erschien; die Unterschiede beschränken sich auf Bindung und Einband sowie Preisgestaltung (49,95$ statt 99,95€/140,00$).

Das Phänomen der Bücherverbrennung in der Spätantike wurde bislang nicht systematisch untersucht und nur durch Spezialstudien zu einzelnen Phänomen berücksichtigt. Diese bislang fehlende Studie wird nun mit dem Buch von Dirk Rohmann, der sich bereits mit den Bücherverbrennungen der Kaiserzeit auseinandergesetzt hat,1 vorgelegt.

In der Einleitung (S. 1-23) benennt Rohmann seine Grundthese, die Verbrennung von dem Christentum entgegenstehenden Werken habe einen negativen Einfluss auf die Überlieferung von Texten in Antike und Mittelalter gehabt; daneben bietet er dort einen Überblick über die Forschung zu diesem Phänomen sowie zur Thematik der Textüberlieferung. ersten beiden Kapitel (S. 24-61 und S. 62-110) stellen die Fälle von Bücherverbrennungen zusammen, die durch staatliche Autoritäten angeordnet oder unterstützt wurden; der Schwerpunkt liegt auf der Christenverfolgung Diokletians und der Religionspolitik der christlichen Kaiser bis Justinian. Als Ergebnisse sind festzuhalten: Eine schärfere Form der Zensur und Büchervernichtungen auf Basis von Magiegesetzen sind erst in der Spätantike festzustellen. Die christliche Wahrnehmung, wonach die Christenverfolgung Diokletians von Philosophen angetrieben wurde, hat zu einer höheren Bereitschaft geführt, mit ähnlichen Mitteln vorzugehen. Zensurgesetze als Mittel größerer Kontrolle wurden von Diokletian und Julian eingeführt. Einer harten Gesetzgebung der theodosianischen Dynastie stehen wenige Belege für tatsächliche Büchervernichtungen entgegen.

Das dritte Kapitel (S. 111-148) sammelt die Fälle, in denen christliche Gruppierungen aus eigenem Antrieb literarische Werke zerstörten. Hieraus ist zu notieren: Die weltliche Zensurgesetzgebung ging auch in die kirchliche Gesetzgebung ein. Während die staatlichen Autoritäten keine systematischen Nachforschungen anstellten, wurde solche durch Kleriker sehr wohl durchgeführt. Denunziantentum hat eine wichtige Rolle gespielt, war aber oft nicht religiös, sondern sozial, wirtschaftlich oder persönlich motiviert. Die Vernichtung magischer Bücher fand nicht aus Gründen der Zensur statt, sondern es sollten darin vermutete dämonische Kräfte vernichtet werden.

Das vierte Kapitel zu „Materialist Philosophy" (S. 149-197) stellt die Kritik christlicher Autoren an Vertretern solcher Richtungen (insbesondere Epikur) zusammen, um zu belegen, dass derartige Texte häufiger vernichtet und seltener kopiert wurden. Im fünften Kapitel (S. 198-237) wird versucht, eine allgemeine Vernachlässigung klassischer Literatur in der Spätantike zu belegen. Das sechste Kapitel (S. 238-261) sammelt die Fälle, in denen Bücher im Rahmen der Zerstörung von Bibliotheken vernichtet wurden. Rohmann gelangt hier zu dem Ergebnis, dass gezielte Aktionen gegen Bibliotheken die Ausnahme waren. Das siebte Kapitel (S. 262-295) wirft einen Blick auf die Nachfolgestaaten des römischen Reiches. Rohmann stellt hier ein systematisches Vorgehen nur gegen häretische und christenfeindliche Schriften fest, während die (zur Karriereförderung uninteressanten) Klassiker oft mit anderen Inhalten überschrieben wurden. Das Schlusskapitel (S. 296-302) fasst die wichtigsten Ergebnisse zusammen.

Das Buch stellt als erste ausführliche Behandlung einer kaum gewürdigten Thematik einen wichtigen Beitrag dar. Dennoch weist es einige Mängel auf, die weitere Forschungen unumgänglich machen. Ein Grundproblem ist, dass nicht klar wird, was eigentlich erforscht wird. Nach der Lektüre der Einleitung erhält man den Eindruck, es solle um überlieferungsgeschichtliche Fragen gehen. In den ersten beiden Kapiteln werden Themen behandelt, die man eher im Bereich der politischen Geschichte verorten würde. Kaum sind dafür gewisse Grundlagen geschaffen (denn ein wirklicher Beitrag dazu müsste sich eingehender damit befassen), wird auf die ideen- und bildungsgeschichtliche Ebene umgeschwenkt, um sich dann am Ende (auch) mit überlieferungsgeschichtlichen Fragen zu befassen. Rohmanns Buch bietet ein wenig von allem und kann so nirgends in die Tiefe gehen. Wie aber soll man beispielsweise die Zensurgesetze der Spätantike zuverlässig beurteilen, wenn man sie nicht in den allgemeinen Kontext der Fragestellung einordnet, ob es in dieser Zeit eine Art Meinungsfreiheit (für und gegen die es gleichermaßen Argumente gibt) bestand?

Unzureichend ist das fünfte Kapitel (S. 198-237). Rohmann zieht hier in der ersten Hälfte drei Autoren heran, die belegen sollen, dass in der Spätantike das Interesse an klassischer Literatur und Philosophie stark zurückgegangen war. Der erste Zeuge ist Johannes Chrysostomos (S. 200-209), von dem Rohmann selbst zugibt, dass seine Behauptungen Wunschdenken seien (S. 208). Als zweites wird die Kritik des Libanios über die Schulpolitik der christlichen Kaiser (S. 209-212) angeführt. Ein genaueres Eindringen in die Materie hätte aber gezeigt, dass dessen Beschwerden weniger im eigentlichen Sinne schulpolitisch, sondern eher verwaltungstechnisch sind: Libanios sah sich mit der Tatsache konfrontiert, dass Rhetorik für eine Karriere in der Reichsadministration immer unbedeutender wurde, ohne dass allerdings systematisch das Studium der Rhetorik unterbunden worden wäre. Auch die Bezeichnung des Statuenaufstandes von 387 in Antiochia, dessen steuerliche Hintergründe Rohmann selbst anführt, als „major example for the religious unrest of that time" (S. 211) ist sehr bedenklich. Zuletzt kommt Ammianus (S. 212-217) zu Wort, der in seinem ersten Romexkurs über den Niedergang der Bibliotheken spricht. Dass die Exkurse des Ammianus im Allgemeinen und die beiden Romexkurse im Speziellen hochliterarische Passagen sind, die nicht einfach als aktuelle Tatsachenbeschreibung angesehen werden dürfen, ist eigentlich nichts Neues. Für den Rest des Kapitels genügt der Verweis darauf, dass Rohmann selbst zugesteht, die Kritik christlicher Autoren an klassischen Werken sei von den Laien nicht immer geteilt worden (S. 230). Ein Niedergang oder auch nur Desinteresse wird so nicht bewiesen.

Eine Reihe von Punkten erschien bei der Lektüre problematisch: S. 2 wird nicht problematisiert, dass das Höchstpreisedikt nicht die tatsächlichen, sondern die höchsten erlaubten Preise ansetzt. Wenn S. 3 behauptet wird, „the concept of liberty of speech (libertas dicendi) did exist, it did so more as a privilege of the elite rather than as an accepted legal and cultural human right", ist nur der Teil über den rechtlichen Status richtig; lautstarke (oft als legitim anerkannte) Protestaktionen der Bevölkerung sind ebenso belegt wie Beschränkungen der Eliten. Die Übersetzung von humiliores als „less privileged people" (S. 26, Anm. 12) erscheint wenig gelungen. Die Charakteristik von CI 9,18,2 als „general, empire-wide ban of astrology" (S. 26 mit Anm. 15) ist dem Überlieferungszustand des durch die Kompilatoren des Codex zu einem solchen allgemeinen Verbot geformten Gesetzes geschuldet. Ähnliches gilt für die Einschätzung des nur aus literarischen Quellen bekannten diokletianischen Christengesetzes als „surprisingly unspecific" (S. 29). S. 32-33 wird die religiöse Dimension des Gesetzes gegen die libelli famosi stark überschätzt; ebensowenig ist eine Verbindung entsprechender Gesetze mit Africa zwingend (S. 55). Welchen Sinn macht die Diskussion christlicher Reaktionen auf die diokletianische Verfolgung (S. 35-54), wenn Johannes Chrysostomos übermäßig ausführlich berücksichtigt wird, um dann festzustellen, dass er sich auch auf aktuellere Ereignisse beziehen kann (S. 43-44)? Eusebios betont zwar seinen Einfluss auf Konstantin, doch sollte dieser nicht zu hoch eingeschätzt werden (S. 40 und S. 53). Die Behauptung, Konstantin habe sich griechischer Terminologie in Bezug auf Büchervernichtungen bedient (S. 42), übersieht, dass ein Kirchenhistoriker des fünften Jahrhunderts (S. 34, Anm. 56), nicht aber Konstantins eigene Worte zitiert sind. S. 56 wird unter Berufung auf Julians Vorgaben für die Lektüre der Priester behauptet, „he also argued for censorship" (S. 56); da aber die Lektüre solcher Schriften nicht darüber hinaus untersagt wurde, handelt es sich um einen berufsbedingten Verhaltenskodex. Die Plünderung der Bibliothek des Georgios (S. 56-57) geht aus dem Brief an Ekdikios nicht hervor; der Inhalt deutet eher darauf hin, dass das Problem nicht in der Entwendung von Büchern, sondern in einer Aufbewahrung an unterschiedlichen Orten lag. Die reichsweite Gültigkeit aller im Codex Theodosianus enthaltenen Gesetze nach dessen Publikation (S. 63), wird immer wieder behauptet, aber nie bewiesen; angesichts einander widersprechender Verordnungen ist vom Gegenteil auszugehen. Das (moralischen Kriterien geschuldete) negative Bild, das Ammianus von Valens hat, geht nicht (oder nur zu einem geringen Teil) auf dessen Scheitern bei Adrianopel zurück (S. 67). Selbst die S. 75 gebotene Argumentation macht es nicht unmöglich, dass Prudentius sich auf die Usurpation des Eugenius bezieht. Synkellos hat nicht die Chronik des Hieronymus benutzt (S. 78, Anm. 76), sondern beide die des Eusebios. Das Kapitel über Rutilius Namatianus (S. 91-93) äußert sich eingehend zu Rutilius allgemein, aber kaum zur behandelten Stelle und den entsprechenden Forschungsdiskussionen. Die damnatio Julians ist nicht die „immediate policy following Julian's death" (S. 239), sondern lokale Aktionen unterschiedlichen Ausmaßes. Bei der Diskussion des wohl aus Eunapios stammenden Suda-Artikels über Jovian (S. 240) wird übersehen, dass Johannes Antiochenus ebenfalls auf Eunapios zurückgeht. Die S. 241, Anm. 7 als Beleg für Jovians „actions against pagan philosophers" zitierte Passage aus Themistios ist bislang nicht zuverlässig gedeutet, allerdings tendieren die meisten Interpreten zur Identifikation der dort genannten Person mit Julian.

Einige Anregungen für weitere Forschungen: Das Kapitel zum Codex Iustinianus (S. 96-101) behandelt lediglich nach der Publikation des Codex Theodosianus erlassene Gesetze. Die stärkere Einbeziehung früherer Gesetze, die nicht nur mit der Kodifikation Justinians Gültigkeit besaßen, sondern nicht selten von den justinianischen Kompilatoren gekürzt, modifiziert oder stellenweise sogar verändert wurden, bietet einen weiteren Ansatzpunkt. Das Kapitel zu den christlichen Schriftstellern und ihrer Stellung zur curiositas (S. 85-91) ist nützlich, hätte aber noch davon profitiert, die Aussage der Historia Augusta curiositas nil recusat (Vita Aureliani 10,1) in Zusammenhang mit deren allgemeiner Kenntnis christlicher Literatur als mögliche Entgegenung einzubeziehen. Einige Literaturtitel sind nachzutragen. 2 Druckfehler sind selten 3, allerdings sind sonderbare Worttrennungen häufig (etwa S. 258: „Antiq-uity").

Ein Gesamturteil fällt nicht leicht: Es handelt sich um die erste systematische und umfassende Studie zu dieser Thematilk und nicht nur gemessen daran hat Rohmann gute Arbeit geleistet. Andererseits führen die übertrieben ambitionierten Zielsetzungen (vor allem die, Bücherverbrennungen der Spätantike nicht nur als Phänomen dieser Zeit, sondern auch als Element der Nicht-Überlieferung zu erforschen) dazu, dass die notwendige Aufmerksamkeit für Details ausbleibt. Mit stärkeren thematischen Beschränkungen hätte Rohmann ein Standardwerk für eines der behandelten Themen schaffen können; so liegen (durchaus wichtige) Vorarbeiten für mehrere vor. 4

Table of Contents

Preface (V)
Introduction (1-23)
Overview of Previous Scholarship (4-7)
Text Transmission in Antiquity (8-10)
Factors Affecting the Transmission of Texts (10-23)

1. The Great Persecution, the Emperor Julian and Christian Reactions (24-61)
1.1 Laws against Astrologers and Magicians before the Fourth Century (24-27)
1.2 The Great Persecution (27-31)
1.3 Constantine (31-35)
1.4 Christian Reactions to the Great Persecution (35-54)
1.5 Julian and the Constantinian Dynasty (54-57)
1.6 Christian Reactions to the Emperor Julian (57-60)
1.7 Conclusion (60-61)

2. Fahrenheit AD 451 – Imperial Legislation and Public Authority (62-110)
2.1 Magic Trials under the Emperor Valens (64-69)
2.2 The Theodosian Dynasty (69-77)
2.3 Philosophy and Astrology (77-85)
2.4 Curiosity and Illness (85-91)
2.5 Rutilius Namatianus and the Burning of the Sibylline Books (91-93)
2.6 Magic and Hellenist Trials in the Fifth Century (93-96)
2.7 Codex Justinianus (96-101)
2.8 Religious Inquisitions in the Age of Justinian (102-109)
2.9 Conclusion (109-110)

3. Holy Men, Clerics and Ascetics (111-148)
3.1 Book-Burning in the Acts of the Apostles (111-113)
3.2 Ecclesiastical Law in Late Antiquity (114-116)
3.3 Philosophy and Heresy (116-123)
3.4 Zacharias' Life of Severus (124-132)
3.5 „I Give You Power to Trample on Serpents" (132-137)
3.6 Individuals Renouncing their Past (137-144)
3.7 Philosophy and Magic (144-146)
3.8 Conclusion (146-148)

4. Materialist Philosophy (149-197)
4.1 Materialist Philosophies in Late Antiquity (151-157)
4.2 Christianity and Ancient Materialist Philosophy (157-163)
4.3 Augustine's Letter to Dioscorus (163-174)
4.4 The Eschatological Crisis of Babylon and Jerusalem (174-182)
4.5 Prudentius and Epicurus (182-186)
4.6 Polemics against Materialist Philosophies in the East (186-195)
4.7 Conclusion (195-197)

5. Moral Disapproval of Literary Genres (198-237)
5.1 John Chrysostom and the Decline of Ancient Philosophy (200-209)
5.2 Libanius' Complaints (209-212)
5.3 The Decline of Libraries in Rome (212-217)
5.4 The Jerome-Rufinus Controversy (217-219)
5.5 Christianity and Classical Literature (220-230)
5.6 Christianity and Paideia (231-235)
5.7 Conclusion (235-237)

6. Destruction of Libraries (238-261)
6.1 A Temple Destroyed in Antioch (239-241)
6.2 The Palatine Library in Rome (241-243)
6.3 The Library of Alexandria (243-255)
6.4 The Sack of Rome (256-258)
6.5 The Library of Constantinople (258-260)
6.6 Conclusion (260-261)

7. The Post-Roman Successor States (262-295)
7.1 Burning and Confiscation of Books after the Fall of Rome (263-278)
7.2 Ecclesiastical Law (278-281)
7.3 Isidore of Seville (281-289)
7.4 Membra Disiecta (289-294)
7.5 Conclusion (294-295)

Conclusion (296-302)
Bibliography (303-324)
Primary literature (303-310)
Secondary literature (310-324)
Index of persons (325-329)
Subject index (330-337)
Index of passages (338-360)


1.   Dirk Rohmann, Book burning as conflict management in the Roman empire (213BCE-200 CE), in: Ancient Society 43 (2013), S. 115-149. Dazu jetzt auch Joseph A. Howley, "Book-burning and the uses of writing in ancient Rome: Destructive practice between literature and document" in: Journal of Roman Studies 107 (2017), S. 213-236.
2.   Alan Cameron, "Were pagans afraid to speak their mind in a Christian world? The correspondence of Symmachus" in: Michele Renee Salzman, Marianne Sághy, Rita Lizzi Testa (Hrsg.), Pagans and Christians in Late Antique Rome: Conflict, Competition, and Coexistence in the Fourth Century, (Cambridge 2016), S. 64-111 = Alan Cameron, Studies in Late Roman Literature and History, (Bari 2016), S. 223-265; Graeme W. Clarke, "Books for the burning" in: Prudentia 4 (1972), S. 67-82; Pieter de Jonge, "Censuur in de late keizertijd" in: Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis 61 (1948), S. 276-289; Alexander Demandt, Zeitkritik und Geschichtsbild im Werk Ammians, (Bonn 1965) (Diss. Marburg 1963), insbesondere S. 61-69; Kay Ehling, "Zwei Anmerkungen zum argyrion in Apg 19,19" in: Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 94 (2003), S. 269-275 (zu S. 113); David Neal Greenwood, "Plato's pilot in the political strategy of Julian and Libanius" in: Classical Quarterly 111/N.S. 67 (2017), S. 607-616 (zu S. 83-84); Arthur S. Pease, "Notes on bookburning" in: Massey Hamilton Shepherd (Hrsg.), Munera studiosa. Studies presented to William Henry Paine Hatch on the occasion of his 70. birthday, (Cambridge, Mass. 1946), S. 145-160 (non vidi); Danny Praet, "Parrhèsia, asebeia en censuur. Het vrije spreken en het beknotten vet het vrije meningsuiting in het klassieke Athene en de Late Oudheit" in: Tetradio 18 (2009), S. 61-87; Wolfgang Speyer, Verkannte Magie-reinigendes Feuer. "Die kulturellen Voraussetzungen für die Vernichtung heterodoxer Literatur und des Heidentums in der christlichen Spätantike" in: Hans Reinhard Seeliger (Hrsg.), Kriminalisierung des Christentums? Karlhinz Deschners Kirchengeschichte auf dem Prüfstand, Freiburg 19942, S. 303-310. Ebenfalls mit der Thematik auseinandergesetzt haben sich zahlreiche Beiträge von Stéphane Ratti, die hier nicht alle einzeln aufzuzählen sind.
3.   S. 25 „Hipollytus" (S. 25, Anm. 2 aber richtig abgekürzt „Hipp."); S. 26 „to jurist Iulius Paulus"; S. 31, Anm. 41 „Delehay" (statt richtig „Delehaye"); S. 248, Anm. 52 „Tetrachenzeit"; S. 249: Theodosius I. regierte von 379 bis 394 (richtig: 395); S. 271 „Bishoff" (richtig S. 310-311 „Bischoff"); die französische Ausgabe von Ernst Steins großem Überblickswerk erschien 1959 und wurde 1968 (S. 322) nur nachgedruckt. S. 29 scheint Maximianus mit Galerius (der auch Maximianus hieß) verwechselt worden zu sein. S. 54 heißt es „Constantine reacted to slanderous rumours", was entweder zu „Constantius" zu ändern ist oder einen sehr plötzlichen Themenwechsel bedeutet.
4.   Bisherige Rezensionen: Balbina Bäbler in: Plekos 19 (2017), S. 493-498 (plekos.uni-muenchen.de); Ulrich Lambrecht, in: H-Soz-Kult 16. Januar 2017 (h/soz/kult); Volker Menze in: Sehepunkte 17/1 (2017) (sehpunkte).

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A. M. Juster, Michael Roberts, The Elegies of Maximianus. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018. Pp. 240. ISBN 9780812294644. $65.00.

Reviewed by Christine Kossaifi, CELIS – Université Clermont Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand​ (christine.kossaifi@ac-paris.fr)

Version at BMCR home site


Poète, traducteur et essayiste,1 A. M. Juster s'intéresse ici, après B. Goldlust2 en France, aux six élégies du poète tardo-antique, Maximianus (également appelé en français Maximien), qui vécut vraisemblablement au VIe siècle après J.-C., dans l'Italie ostrogothique. Il propose aussi, en appendices, le texte et la traduction des Variae 1.21 de Cassiodore (A), de l'Appendix Maximiani (B) et du De Boetio spata cincto d'Ennode de Pavie3 (C); il donne également le texte (sans traduction) des anonymes Imitatio Maximiani (D) et Le regret de Maximian (E).

L'introduction, rédigée par M. Roberts, spécialiste de la poésie latine tardive, présente de façon claire et concise le poète et son œuvre, tous deux marqués par une essentielle ambiguïté. Nous connaissons en effet principalement Maximianus par l'auto-fiction, hautement sujette à caution, des 686 vers de ses Elégies, dont la dimension ludique et érudite rend problématique le déchiffrage du sens. Voici, résumé à grands traits, le contenu des six poèmes du recueil. Le premier et le plus long (292 vers) est une deprecatio de la déchéance causée par la vieillesse ; entrelacée au souvenir de la jeunesse rayonnante et conquérante, qui avive le poids du présent, elle se termine sur un appel à la mort, seule capable de faire cesser cet état contre-nature de mort-vivant. L'Elégie II dit la rupture amoureuse entre le poète vieillissant et la femme avec laquelle il a vécu de nombreuses années, Lycoris, dont le prénom évoque à la mémoire du lecteur les Amores de Gallus. Le troisième poème remonte à la jeunesse de Maximianus, alors épris d'Aquilina; Boèce y est mis en scène dans le rôle de l'entremetteur, les parents étant hostiles à cette liaison; mais l'absence d'obstacle tue le désir et le couple se défait, avec l'approbation surprenante de Boèce, qui loue l'extrême chasteté de Maximianus. La chanteuse Candida occupe l'Elégie IV, laquelle nous donne aussi le nom du poète (v. 26), alors épris de cette artiste au point d'en rêver à haute voix devant le père de celle-ci; ce souvenir du passé rend plus pesante encore la vieillesse présente. Le cinquième poème décrit une aventure sexuelle « vécue » par Maximianus avec une Graia puella dans le cadre d'une mission diplomatique en Orient. Mais le poète, vraiment âgé, ne parvient pas, la deuxième nuit, à la satisfaire sexuellement: réécrivant les Amores d'Ovide (III, 7) et le Satiricon de Pétrone, il nous donne alors à entendre la colère furieuse de la jeune femme, qui, de dépit, entonne un éloge cruel et funèbre de la mentula impuissante à assurer son devoir de perpétuation de la vie et de l'univers, puis abandonne le poète comme si les funérailles étaient terminées (v. 154). La courte Elégie VI est un appel à la mort.

Devant la diversité de ces motifs, on peut s'interroger sur les intentions poétiques de Maximianus. Il est visible, comme le dit M. Roberts, qu'il joue sur les genres et principalement sur l'élégie érotique augustéenne, dont il reprend le mètre, mais dont il renouvelle la perspective puisque Ego est vieux et occupe une « position sociale respectable » (p. 9). Il brouille ainsi les critères d'analyse, entre dimension morale (à portée chrétienne?), fiction réaliste à contours autobiographiques et parodie ironique, en une « multitude d'approches possibles » (p. 12) qui sont autant d'invites à la réécriture, dont les six poèmes courts de l'Appendix Maximiani, « sans doute d'un imitateur » (p. 13), sont un exemple.

On comprend que cette œuvre ouverte ait pu séduire une personnalité éclectique comme celle d'A. M. Juster. Sensible à la polyvalence du sens, il a choisi de ne pas ponctuer le latin4 (qu'il présente sans majuscules en début de phrases) et de le mettre en regard du texte anglais, ce qui permet d'apprécier le passage d'une langue à l'autre ; attentif à l'architecture musicale des vers, il s'efforce d'en transcrire la partition dans sa traduction et se montre soucieux de faire sentir le rythme propre au distique élégiaque et de faire entendre en anglais l'étoffe sonore des vers latins, tissés sur le chant des allitérations et des assonances.5 Cette traduction, qui se veut « fidèle, sans être littérale » (p. VII), et qui est basée sur l'édition ancienne de R. Webster6, s'efforce de transcrire tout à la fois la forme et la signification, intimement liées; de fait, « when you compose / a line, it is a message, not just art ».7 Entre traduction et poésie, Juster s'affirme comme un maillon de la grande chaîne des enfants de Mnémosyne et comme un passeur de mémoire: assurément, comme il le dit lui- même, Maximianus mérite d'être connu, lu et étudié. Nous disposons maintenant pour cela d'une belle traduction anglaise, après celle, en français, de B. Goldlust.

Malheureusement, traduire, c'est toujours un peu trahir, parce qu'il faut faire un choix là où le texte s'offre dans son ambiguïté – c'est tout l'exercice délicat et subtil de la traduction! En voici un exemple, tiré de l'ElégieVI, vers 11-12, qui sont les derniers du recueil :

infelix ceu iam defleto funere surgo
hac me defunctum vivere parte puto

Morose, I rise now as if mourned at my last rites;
I think I'm living partly dead this way.

Cette traduction reflète la façon dont A. M. Juster comprend ces vers, dans lesquels il lit une « réécriture pessimiste » du vivam optimiste qui clôt les Métamorphoses ovidiennes (p. 197): pour lui, il n'y a pas ici « d'affirmation de l'immortalité par la poésie ». La lecture se trouve ainsi orientée dans un sens particulier (en lien avec « la sensibilité lucrétienne ») au détriment des autres approches possibles (rappelées brièvement dans le commentaire, p. 197). Car ce distique pourrait bien ne pas être aussi négatif que le pense Juster. Il se construit en effet sur un tressage signifiant de la mort et de la vie, qui me paraît pointer vers le mythe du Phénix, dont on connaît l'importance dans la littérature païenne et chrétienne8; le fait de placer funere à côté de surgo (qui, dans la langue chrétienne, a le sens de « ressusciter ») et defunctum juste avant vivere me semble, à cet égard, assez significatif, si l'on songe au mode de résurrection de cet oiseau. L'adjectif infelix, qui ouvre le distique et le verbe puto qui le ferme renvoient à l'ἔλεγος élégiaque, qui tresse plaintes affectives et sensibilité personnelle. Maximianus pourrait ainsi indiquer qu'il vient de finir son recueil (il est donc hac defunctum parte, si l'on donne au substantif un sens métapoétique), mais qu'il envisage (puto) d'en commencer un autre (surgo). L'ElégieVI ne serait pas alors simplement la suite du poème précédent ou l'épilogue du recueil… Quoi qu'il en soit de la traduction ou de l'interprétation de ce texte subtilement fuyant, le travail d'A. M. Juster mérite assurément d'être reconnu et salué.

Le commentaire (p. 103-209) commence par une nouvelle présentation de l'œuvre: titre (celui d'Elégies étant par défaut), structure, datation de l'auteur et du texte (que Juster, plus catégorique que Roberts, situe vers 539 après J.-C.) et complément sur la vie de Maximianus (p. 103-105), ce qui fait quelque peu double emploi avec la présentation de M. Roberts. Le commentaire, nourri et érudit, de chaque élégie se fait vers par vers, avec la volonté, de la part de l'auteur, d'élucider le sens, de faire le point sur les différentes analyses qui ont été faites et, parfois, de proposer sa propre interprétation, mais sans jamais l'imposer, conformément au but fixé au début du livre : « I want to stimulate debate, not to stifle it. With the same rationale, I try to highlight disagreements between scholars about the meaning of lines instead of pronouncing a definitive answer where there is uncertainty » (p. VIII) ; il ne faut donc pas chercher de synthèse d'ensemble, comme ce que l'on trouve chez Goldlust. C'est au lecteur de se faire sa propre idée sur l'œuvre de ce poète fuyant, maître de l'illusion et capable de construire une solide matrice de l'apparence trompeuse.9 On peut, de ce point de vue, regretter l'absence de tout index. Les textes donnés en appendices font ensuite l'objet d'une analyse concise mais serrée et l'ensemble se termine sur une très large bibliographie, qui comporte toutefois des articles non exploités dans le commentaire.

Nous avons donc ici un ouvrage de qualité et, de surcroît, de belle facture; sa couverture, qui représente une peinture murale pompéienne, capte parfaitement l'esprit de la poésie de Maximianus, donne le plaisir de la vue et suscite le désir de la lecture, désir intellectuellement satisfait par la qualité de l'étude. Complétant utilement celui de Goldlust10, il facilite la connaissance de ce poète subtil et raffiné, aux accents étrangement modernes, et invite à (re)découvrir la littérature latine de l'Antiquité tardive.


1.   A. M. Juster a notamment traduit les Satires d'Horace (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008) et les Elégies de Tibulle (Oxford World's Classics, 2012). Pour plus de précisions sur cette personnalité éclectique, active dans de nombreux domaines, voir le site http://www.amjuster.net/.
2.   B. Goldlust, Maximien. Elégies, suivies de l'Appendix Maximiani et de l'Epithalame pour Maximus d'Ennode de Pavie, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 2013.
3.   Par contre, l'Epithalame pour Maximus, que l'on trouve dans l'édition de Goldlust, est omis. Or, tout comme l'épigramme (CCCXXXIX, carm. 2, 132, éd. Vogel, MGH AA 7), il éclaire de façon intéressante la signification de la laudatio funebris de la mentula dans l'Elégie V de Maximianus ; voir, à ce sujet, Goldlust, p. 109 et 181-182 (n. 65).
4.   Il est cependant resté fidèle à la structure traditionnelle en six élégies, même si « les manuscrits n'ont généralement pas de divisions » en poèmes (p. 104).
5.   Cf. p. VII : « I try to replicate the feel of the Latin elegiac distich with couplets in alternating iambic hexameter and iambic pentameter while allowing myself the customary substitutions of formal poetry in English ».
6.   R. Webster, The Elegies of Maximianus, Princeton, Princeton Press, 1900.
7.   Poème de l'auteur, intitulé No, Premier prix du Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award, en 2007, en ligne sur son site.
8.   Sur ce mythe, voir, entre autres, L. Gosserez (Dir.), Le Phénix et son autre. Poétique d'un mythe des origines au XVIe siècle, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, coll. « Interférences », 2013, 359 p.
9.   Comme le lecteur l'aura compris, je fais ici allusion au film des frères Wachowski, Matrix, sorti en 1999.
10.   Contrairement à ce que l'auteur affirme, de façon quelque peu péremptoire, dans son introduction (le commentaire est plus nuancé), « la plupart des analyses textuelles des Elégies ne s'arrêtent pas près d'un siècle auparavant avec les éditions très différentes de Baehrens et Webster » (p. VII). Voir, par exemple, peu avant Goldlust, l'ouvrage, utilisé d'ailleurs par Juster, d'A.-M. Wasyl, Genres Rediscovered: Studies in Latin Miniature Epic, Love Elegy, and Epigram of the Romano-Barbaric Age, Kraków, Jagiellonian University Press, 2011 (cf. BMCR 2012.02.41). ​

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Friday, May 18, 2018


Federico Favi, Fliaci testimonianze e frammenti. Studia comica, 7. Heidelberg: Verlag Antike, 2017. Pp. 532. ISBN 9783946317043. €89,00.

Reviewed by Sebastiana Nervegna, Monash University (Sebastiana.Nervegna@monash.edu)

Version at BMCR home site

To most classicists, the word phlyax brings to mind one poet, Rhinton, who hailed from Syracuse but worked in Taras between the late fourth and the early third centuries BC, and a series of South Italian vases once associated with his plays. As Favi's work clearly shows, there is much more to be said about the whole topic. This book deals with both the testimonia related to the term phlyax and the testimonia and fragments related to the poets that ancient writers identify, or allow us to identify, as phlyax-writers: Rhinton, Sciras, Blaesus and Sopater. These sources have been already treated in three or four editions, including the work by Kassel and Austin, whose text and general organization Favi follows with some changes.1 For instance, he provides a different critical apparatus, includes another fragment by Rhinton (*fr. 26) present in earlier editions but excluded by Kassel and Austin, and considers a larger number of testimonia related to the term phlyax. But Favi's work goes well beyond the analysis of these testimonia and fragments. This is the first book to contextualise these sources and to identify their contribution to an increasingly popular field of study, 'theatre outside Athens' and, more generally, post-Classical dramatic production.2

The first chapter considers the testimonia related to the word phlyax, which Favi combines with select testimonia on Rhinton, Sopater and another author otherwise excluded from this work, Sotades. Favi reads the evidence carefully, paying due attention to a passage from Athenaeus (XIV 621d-f), and explores two key issues, the origin of the term phlyax and its relationship to the Greek West. He argues against the modern interpretation that has phlyax derive from the verb φλέω ('I teem with abundance') and indicate some sort of 'demon of abundance' belonging to the entourage of Dionysus. Earlier scholars identified this demon with the satyr-like figures appearing on the vases from South Italy once considered to reproduce phlyakes. Favi builds his case on the ancient testimonia relating phlyax to the verb φλυαρέω ('I talk nonsense') and points out the mistaken association between the phlyakes and the pictorial record, which is instead related to Attic comedy. In addition to having nothing to do with Dionysus, the phlyakes cannot be exclusively framed within a Western-Greek prospective. After reviewing and ultimately questioning various interpretations of the term phlyax, Favi concludes that it cannot be considered either Western Greek or Doric (although the case for the verb φλουάζω is more complicated). Favi then formulates a new definition of phlyax by tracing its various uses. Originally indicating simply ridiculous people, it was later applied to interpreters of farcical performances that did not constitute a specific dramatic genre. These are the phlyakes mentioned by Athenaeus, who records that this terminology was familiar in the Greek West although not exclusive to this area. Afterwards, phlyax came to indicate a type of Western (Tarantine) drama, a form of comedy dealing with paratragedy made famous by Rhinton. But since phlyax was not a label for a specific genre with its own sets of conventions, it was also applied to other literary products sharing some basic features. This is the case of the works by Sopater and Sotades, which were as parodic as Rhinton's plays.

Rhinton takes up the second chapter. Of the thirty-eight dramas ascribed to him, we have only twenty-five (or twenty-six) fragments. Before examining them, Favi reviews the testimonia for Rhinton and offers a wide-ranging discussion of Rhinton's biography, cultural milieu, his plays and their relationship with other kinds of drama, including the Atellana. Ancient sources never label Rhinton's plays 'comedies' but describe them as a mixture of tragedy and comedy. This suggests mythological comedy, which is attested from the beginning of comic theatre, flourished in Athens between the late fifth and early fourth centuries BC, and fell out of fashion by the time Rhinton started his career. At the same time, ancient writers also paint Rhinton as an innovator, the father of a new type of drama called hilarotragoidia. Favi examines the sources to identify what made Rhinton stand out: he wrote only mythological comedies, combined international and local elements (note here how Favi cleverly reads side-by-side the epigram whereby Nossis celebrates Rhinton and those in which she comments on her own work, AP 7.414; 7.718, 5.170; pp. 69–72) and used the dialect spoken at Taras. This was Rhinton's base-language, although the fragments also present Attic forms, be they restored, or, perhaps more likely, due to Rhinton's use of tragic models, and non-Greek forms drawn from Italic languages. These forms were commonly used in Rhinton's Taras, although we may not exclude that Rhinton brought onto the stage foreign speakers. Here as throughout his work, Favi pays particular attention to the linguistic element of Rhinton's fragments. After all, except for a proverb-like expression preserved by Cicero (fr.*12), these fragments do owe their survival to their linguistic and metrical peculiarities.

The nature of the evidence makes it hard to say much about the content of Rhinton's plays, and Favi keenly points out the few interesting bits. First of all, the coincidence between Rhinton's play-titles and those by Euripides, with Iphigenia among the Taurians and Iphigenia in Aulis as the most interesting cases. The word Kalabria, one of the many terms whereby the Greeks referred to modern Puglia, is first attested in Rhinton (fr. 16). This shows that his plays, just like mythological comedies in general, contained references to local realities. Also intriguing is the metrical parody of another fragment that mentions Hipponax (fr. 8) and sheds some light on Rhinton's plays and his audiences. They were both sophisticated.

The following two chapters are dedicated to two obscure authors: Sciras of Taras (two testimonia and one fragment) and Blaesus of Capri (two testimonia and five fragments). They are considered phlyax-writers because Johannes Lydus (Mag. 1.41) associates them with Rhinton. Sciras is otherwise called 'a poet of the so-called Italic comedy' while Blaesus is mentioned as 'a poet of those who mix serious and funny' (Athen. IX 402b, cod B; Steph. Byz. κ 69 Billerbeck).' Favi teases out of the evidence any possible clue to their dramas and their links to Rhinton's. The one surviving fragment from Sciras' Meleager recalls Euripides' Hippolytus (75–6), thus suggesting that Sciras and Rhinton drew inspiration from similar models. Tragic parody is not evident in either one of the titles attested for Blaesus, Mesotribas and Satournos, although the latter implies a mythological topic. Blaesus' fragments, however, do seem to be linguistically close to those by Rhinton, thus suggesting some continuity between these two dramatists and their works.

The final chapter deals with a better-known author, Sopater (six testimonia and twenty-five fragments), who is variously labelled παρῳδός, comic poet and phlyax-writer. While Rhinton, Sciras and Blaesus were all active in South Italy, ancient sources tell us that Sopater hailed from Paphos, on the island of Cyprus. Several reasons, however, suggest that he worked in Alexandria during the reign of Ptolemy II, to whom Sopater referred in one of his plays. Favi discusses what we know of dramatic activities in Cyprus (very little) and in Ptolemaic Alexandria (much more), concluding that Sopater was active in Egypt, as generally supposed. Another element that marks Sopater from the other poets discussed in this volume is his language: Sopater's fragments are all in Attic dialect and interestingly include forms typical of the raising koiné. Here too Favi does his best to examine the fragments, which are all preserved by Athenaeus, searching for clues to the content of the original plays. At least some fragments may have been spoken by cooks. One play, Nekyia, dealt with Odysseus' katabasis (fr. 13), and other titles too suggest mythological parody. We also have one instance of philosophical parody (fr. 6) and several examples of parody targeting tragic and dithyrambic diction. The twelve hapax legomena that we find in the twenty-five fragments ascribed to Sopater contribute to suggesting that he wrote learned plays. This feature, along with the parodic element and the circulation of Sopater's works within a regional context, makes Sopater close to Rhinton (who was one of his contemporaries).

The book closes with four helpful indices: sources for the testimonia and the fragments treated, select passages discussed, Greek words and topics of interest.

Favi's discussion is always detailed, lucid and cautious in handling the evidence, even when dealing with questionable sources (see for example his discussion of Johannes Lydus' claim that Rhinton used hexameters, pp. 91–3). Favi takes on philological minutiae and linguistic analysis as well as broader issues related more generally to the history of Greek drama. In a work of this scope, some topics are necessarily treated in more detail than others. I missed more discussion on the tragedy-related vases from fourth-century South Italy (mentioned on p. 86). Favi stresses the links between Rhinton's plays and Middle Comedy, and in discussing individual dramas refers only to the comedy-related vases possibly relevant to the myths treated by Rhinton (incidentally, one regrets the use of the expression 'vasi fliacici' although given in quotation marks). But some interesting questions spring to mind. Is it a coincidence that virtually all the Euripidean tragedies with which Rhinton more or less probably engaged can be identified in the tragedy-related vases, and that the same can be said for the two Euripidean plays more or less securely recalled by Sciras's fragment? More importantly, could we find some role for performance as the medium whereby Rhinton and his audiences familiarised themselves with tragedy? One of the most debated issues on the spread of Greek drama involves the Italic populations (see the references given on p. 86 n. 139). In the vast majority of cases, the tragedy-related vases from South Italy come from Italic tombs scattered across Apulia, Lucania, Campania and Sicily, raising interesting questions about the circulation of Greek tragedy among the Italic populations, or at least the commissioning clients. The Italics' exposure to Greek tragedy and their familiarity with the Greek language are two controversial issues, and Favi and the material that he discusses shed some light on them. Rhinton's fragments present non-Greek forms (fr. 5, 7, 17 and more tentatively fr. 1) that, as Favi points out, are to be considered loans from Italic languages. This kind of loan characterises the literary production from the Greek West, including Sicily, and betrays the cultural interactions between Greeks and non-Greeks in this area (see the references given on pp. 82, 124–5). Obscure as he is, Blaesus is a very interesting figure. His name and his hometown, Capri, identify him as an Osco-Italic (see on p. 251) yet he wrote drama, and did so in Doric. His chronology remains elusive, but we may compare him to Mamercus, the Italic mercenary with an Oscan name who seized Catania when Timoleon invaded Sicily. Mamercus wrote poems and tragedies, and he also thought highly of his poetic skills (Plut. Tim. 31.1).

Favi's book is timely and much needed. By combining a detailed and insightful analysis of the ancient sources with a wide-ranging discussion of the spread of Greek drama outside Athens, Favi has produced a work of great interest for philologists, linguists, historians and anyone interested in ancient theatre and drama. It will be mandatory reading for all of them.


1.   G. Kaibel, Comicorum Graecorum Fragmenta (Berlin 1899, 19582); A. Olivieri, Frammenti della commedia greca e del mimo nella Sicilia e nella Magna Grecia II. Frammenti della commedia fliacica (Naples, 19472), R. Kassel and C. Austin, Poetae Comici Graeci Vol I: Comoedia Dorica, Mimi, Phlyaces (Berlin, 2001). For Rhinton, see also the edition by E. Völker, Rhintonis fragmenta (Halle, 1887) and the study by M. Gigante, Rintone e il teatro in Magna Grecia (Naples, 1971).
2.   The expression comes from the volume edited by K. Bosher, Theater Outside Athens: Drama in Greek Sicily and South Italy (Cambridge, 2012).

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