Thursday, January 19, 2017


Michele Renee Salzman, Marianne Sághy, Rita Lizzi Testa (ed.), Pagans and Christians in Late Antique Rome: Conflict, Competition, and Coexistence in the Fourth Century. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Pp. xv, 419. ISBN 9781107110304. $120.00.

Reviewed by Alexandra Eppinger, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz (

Version at BMCR home site

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

The relations between pagans and Christians in late antiquity have been the subject of many scholarly works over the last decades. The present volume continues the tradition by focusing on fourth-century Rome and assembling contributions by some of the leading experts in the field. This has the advantage that the book, which has grown out of a 2012 conference at the Hungarian Academy in Rome, is not limited to one scholarly tradition, but offers a range of different perspectives from European and American scholars (p. 2).

The 18 chapters are grouped in three parts with a total of five sub-headings, starting with "Senatorial Politics and Religious Conflict", followed by "The Construction of New Religious Identities" and "Pagans and Christians: Coexistence and Competitions", which is divided into three sections on religious practice, death and afterlife. and religious iconography respectively. This subdivision facilitates the reader's orientation and creates thematic focal points, although the individual contributions are not interconnected. The chapters incorporate a wide range of evidence, comprising archaeological material, literature, inscriptions and coinage, and succeed in offering a comprehensive picture of pagan-Christian relations in late antique Rome. For reasons of space, this reviewer has decided to concentrate on select contributions.

Michele Salzman stands at the beginning of the volume with her analysis of Constantine's relationship with the Roman senate, focusing on his visits to Rome and the appointments of urban prefects. She sees Constantine as "openly Christian" in 312 (p. 18. 21), a view that is contested by other scholars, not least Nágy in the present volume (p. 391).1 She succeeds in showing that, far from using appointments to the urban prefecture as a means of Christianising the aristocracy, Constantine mainly chose men from old, established pagan families. Those findings are presented in the form of a useful chart including dates, religion, and evidence. Salzman asserts that, in general, the senate and Constantine chose cooperation over conflict in their interactions; while evidence of concealed senatorial resistance exists, opportunities for voicing criticism were limited. Salzman interprets the Senate's consecration of Constantine as a "disguised form of resistance to change" (p. 41); this does not convince, however, being unsupported by evidence.

Salzman's chapter, unfortunately, sets the tone for much of the collection in that it suffers from sloppy editing. We get CIL-volumes, as well as the books of the Codex Theodosianus, in both Roman and Arabic numerals (p. 15 no. 18; p. 26 no. 66; p. 31), while both "D" (e.g. p. 26 no. 66) and "ILS" (p. 21 no. 44) are used for Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae. Citations of RIC are inconsistent, one footnote giving the name of the mint (p. 20 no. 37), another providing the page (p. 38 no. 114). Both "RM" and "MDAI R" are used for Römische Mitteilungen (p. 43).

More serious is citing Lact. De mort. Pers. 17.2 in the footnote while speaking of Libanius in the text (p. 23 no. 52). For "heirs of a divi", read divus (p. 39). Readers will realise for themselves that coins are struck using a "die", not a "dye" (p. 26), and that Constantine, being dead at the time, did not in fact "issue coins to commemorate his deification and consecration" (p. 39).

Thomas Jürgasch's subject is the conceptual interdependence of late antique "Christians" and "pagans". He makes a convincing case for seeing the late antique paganus as a construct emphasising social rather than purely religious or theological aspects: the term describes those outside the social group of the Roman Christians. Serving as a reminder to be careful in our use of "pagan" (just as, in his contribution on the imperial cult, Douglas Boin cautions against using "religion" for ancient phenomena without taking into account the problems inherent in applying our modern notion of the term to other times and cultures), the chapter might better have been placed at the beginning of the book, since it also cautions against automatically assuming a direct correlation between statements about pagans and their existence in the "real world" (p. 135).

Maijastina Kahlos offers a concise overview of the function of "magic" in fourth-century discourses of the "other". She convincingly shows the importance of the label "magic"—a "discursive category that depends on the perspective of the perceiver" (p. 162)—as a polemical tool in the contexts of pagan practices, Christian heresies, political rhetoric and legislation. Kahlos continues the move away from the conventional distinction between magic and religion and uses "magic" to illustrate late antique strategies of contesting religious authority and marginalising political or religious opponents.

Daniëlle Slootjes draws our attention to crowd behaviour in late antique Rome, and shows that it was a more complex phenomenon than simply an unruly group of people being discouraged from rioting by the offer of "bread and circuses". She looks at ancient terminology as well as modern theories of crowd psychology before showing the new dimension of crowd behaviour facilitated by Christianity, namely the emergence of crowds induced to action in general, and violence in particular, by religion. She succeeds in establishing collective behaviour as an element of the ancient world that deserves a reassessment based on current sociological, anthropological and psychological theory.

In his illuminating chapter on the late antique Mithras cult, Jonas Bjørnebye weighs the assumptions of Mithraic studies against the evidence, providing a valuable reassessment of received opinions. By analysing epigraphical, literary and archaeological sources, he shows that the cult was still active in fourth-century Rome, in a continuity of cult practices from earlier times. Bjørnebye cogently argues for a mostly peaceful coexistence of Mithraism and Christianity at least in Rome until the cult simply faded from existence due to a lack of new initiates in the fifth century, and provides a useful list of literary references to Mithraism from the fourth century (p. 205 no. 29).

Nicola Denzey Lewis aims to arrive at a "new, revisionist understanding of 'pagans' and 'Christians' in late antique Rome" (p. 275) based on mortuary evidence. In an enlightening overview of the history of Christian archaeology, she highlights the importance of the rediscovery of the catacombs in 1578 in the context of the Counter-Reformation and mentions tinkering with the archaeological evidence in the interests of a Catholic agenda. She shows that the catacombs were by no means exclusively Christian burial-places, and emphasises the religious agenda of earlier scholars who had subjected pagan motifs to an interpretatio Christiana without any evidence. She poses the important question if images convey religious identity and asserts persuasively that catacomb images deal with grief, loss, or hope, but are not to be interpreted as weapons in a war between Christianity and paganism. That in death pagans and Christians were indistinguishable raises the question of how to recognise a late antique Christian at all. Her chapter shows the ramifications of religious bias in earlier scholars and cautions against continuing in this fashion.

Marianne Sághy argues for interpreting the efforts of Damasus on behalf of Christianity as a deliberate attempt to connect Christianity to traditional Romanitas by appropriating classical poetry in order to exalt Christian martyrs and casting Rome as the holy city of the new religion. In this context, her definition of the catacombs as "terrifying places" for Christians, evoking a "topography of terror" (p. 321) does not quite ring true, especially in light of the content of Nicola Denzey Lewis' chapter.

Sághy's contribution is the only one without footnotes, which makes it nigh impossible to separate her own insights from those of the scholars named in the four-page-bibliography, and necessitates using internet resources to find the ancient texts from which the citations are taken. Furthermore, "violating the sanctity of the grave was (…) a universally accepted norm" (p. 322), should probably read "NOT violating".

Statues of deities are Caroline Michel d'Annonville's focus of interest. She describes different modes of treatment of statues (restoration, transfer, condemnation, removal), with recourse to the contemporary literary, epigraphical and legal sources. She speaks of statues as parts of a heritage, but does not define the term nor explain how pagan statues qualified as heritage in late antiquity. In general, her chapter might have benefited from the inclusion of more recent Anglophone scholarship on the subject of late antique pagan statuary.2

Levente Nágy focuses on the Via Latina catacomb in Rome with its Hercules iconography in conjunction with a fourth-century casket mount from Ulcisia (Hungary). He interprets the famous Alcestis scene (Alcestis, contrary to his assertion p. 379, is not depicted in orans posture), in combination with the rest of the décor, as allusion to eternal love and a blessed afterlife. That is certainly an important, if not exactly new, aspect, but Nágy might have added that the other motifs (among them the tree of the Hesperides and Hercules slaying the Hydra and an unidentified enemy) should not be forgotten insofar as they allude to a broader view of Hercules as a redeemer from death and saviour of mankind from all kinds of evil. In this function he appears in other funerary contexts: e.g. the "Coptic" funerary reliefs depicting the hero, and the textile fragments with Hercules motifs, which probably also came from graves, where they often functioned as funeral shrouds. A nod to Hercules' almost universally accepted function as exemplum virtutis is also a possibility: visitors to the catacomb might have felt encouraged to follow in his footsteps, in the hope of the same reward, namely, eternal life beyond the grave. 3

Some chapters are supported by black and white illustrations, which are of a good quality and generally add to the understanding of the matter on discussion.

The book would have profited from a more rigorous proof-reading, starting with the introduction, which, for example, gives "Block" for "Bloch" (p. 2) and speaks of a view that became "influent" (p. 1). Some other examples of inadequate editing: "Arminimum" for "Ariminum" (p. 188), "Arrian" for "Arian" (ibid.), "Alföldi" for (Géza, not András!) "Alföldy" (p. 161). Valentinian III most certainly did not order the corporations of Rome to do anything in the year 400 (p. 261). In citations of RIC, the number of the coin is not always provided (e.g. p. 148 no. 46: "RIC 5. 145" for "RIC 5.2 p. 145 n. 96") nor even the correct number of the volume (p. 148 no. 44 should read "RIC 5.2 p. 135 n. 4" instead of "RIC 4. 135").

All in all, the quality of the editing is inconsistent, with some contributions free or virtually free of typographical or other mistakes and others fairly replete with them. This might seem like excessive nitpicking, but such inadequacies of form are an irritation, since, as they accumulate, and especially in cases of faulty citations, they start detracting from the worth of the contents, until this reader, at least, in some cases started to doubt the veracity of the argumentation.

Those points of criticism notwithstanding, everyone interested in the interactions between pagans and Christians in Late Antiquity will find this collection worth reading, especially as it covers a wide range of topics and evidence and ably sums up the current scholarly trends.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Biographies of Authors
Introduction. Rita Lizzi Testa, Michele Renee Salzman, and Marianne Sághy

Part I Senatorial Politics and Religious Conflict
1  Constantine and the Roman Senate: Conflict, Cooperation, and Concealed Resistance. Michele Renee Salzman
2  Beyond Pagans and Christians: Politics and Intra-Christian Conflict in the Controversy over the altar of Victory. Robert R. Chenault 
3  Were Pagans Afraid to Speak Their Minds in a Christian World? The Correspondence of Symmachus. Alan Cameron

Part II The Construction of New Religious Identities
4  Christians and the Invention of Paganism in the Late Roman Empire. Thomas Jürgasch
5  Late Antique Divi and Imperial Priests of the Late Fourth and Early Fifth Centuries. Douglas Boin
6  Artis heu magicis: The Label of Magic in Fourth-Century Conflicts and Disputes. Maijastina Kahlos
7  Crowd Behavior in Late Antique Rome. Daniëlle Slootjes

Part III Pagans and Christians: Coexistence and Competition
Section A. Pagans and Religious Practices in Christian Rome
8  Reinterpreting the Cult of Mithras. Jonas Bjørnebye
9  Napkin Art: Carmina contra paganos and the Difference Satire Made in Fourth-Century Rome. Dennis E. Trout
10  Poetry and Pagans in Late Antique Rome: The Case of the Senator "Converted from the Christian Religion toServitude to the Idols." Neil McLynn
11  Professiones Gentiliciae: The Collegia of Rome between Paganism and Christianity. Francesca Diosono
Section B. Death and the Afterlife
12  Reinterpreting "Pagans" and "Christians" from Rome's Late Antique Mortuary Evidence. Nicola Denzey Lewis
13  On the Form and Function of Constantine's Circiform Funerary Basilicas in Rome. Monica Hellström
14  Romanae gloria plebis: Bishop Damasus and the Traditions of Rome. Marianne Sághy
15  Storytelling and Cultural Memory in the Making: Celebrating Pagan and Christian Founders of Rome. Gitte Lønstrup Dal Santo
Section C. Reading Religious Iconography as Evidence for Pagan–Christian Relations
16  Rome and Imagery in Late Antiquity: Perception and Use of Statues. Caroline Michel d'Annoville
17  What to Do with Sacra Antiqua? A Reinterpretation of the Sculptures from S. Martino ai Monti in Rome. Silviu Anghel
18  Myth and Salvation in the Fourth Century: Representations of Hercules in Christian Contexts. Levente Nagy

Concluding Remarks: Vrbs Roma between Pagans and Christians. Rita Lizzi Testa


1.   E.g. K. Rosen, Konstantin der Große. Kaiser zwischen Machtpolitik und Religion, Stuttgart 2013, 156-158.
2.   E.g. B. Caseau, Religious Intolerance and Pagan Statuary, in: L. Lavan/M. Mulryan (eds), The Archaeology of Late Antique 'Paganism', Leiden/Boston 2011, 479-502; T.M. Kristensen, Making and Breaking the Gods. Christian Responses to Pagan Sculpture in Late Antiquity, Aarhus 2013; C. Machado, Religion as Antiquarianism: Pagan Dedications in Late Antique Rome, in: J. Bodel/M. Kajava (eds), Dediche sacre nel mondo Greco-Romano, Rome 2009, 331-54.
3.   See A. Eppinger, Hercules in der Spätantike. Die Rolle des Heros im Spannungsfeld von Heidentum und Christentum, Wiesbaden 2015, 66-72. 90-99.

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Alice Accardi, Teoria e prassi del beneficium da Cicerone a Seneca. Letteratura classica, 39. Palermo: Palumbo, 2015. Pp. 262. ISBN 9788868892272. €24.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Filippo Carlà-Uhink, University of Exeter (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

The topic of gifts and giving in the ancient world, in its economic, social and anthropological significance, as well as for the forms through which it is inserted in philosophical, political and moral discourse, has been enjoying more attention in the past few years.1 Accardi's monograph concentrates on a systematic analysis of two works, Seneca's de beneficiis and Cicero's de officiis, which are treated in two different sections of the book. The first, composed of two chapters, is dedicated to Cicero; the second, made of three chapters, to Seneca. Even if a chapter providing a systematic comparison is missing, the two works are continuously measured against each other, with a particular attention to cultural change. The author convincingly shows that the gift undergoes, with Seneca, a form of "dematerialization", as the "object gift" becomes less important in favor of a stronger focus on the "intention" of the giver. Cicero by contrast still operates (or wishes to operate) in the context of traditional Republican aristocratic competition where the main aim of the gift was bestowing glory on the giver.2 In this sense, Accardi's conclusions fit in the pattern of change from the Republic to the Principate identified for the Roman beneficia by Wolkenhauer.3

The treatment of Cicero begins with a thorough lexical analysis, centered in particular on the concepts of munus, beneficium, and gratia, which is well-constructed and shows, for example, that munus means a compulsory counter-performance for a received officium, while the latter word does not seem to mean in any way an obligatory service or action. The gratia that must be "given in exchange" appears to have in Cicero a material nature of counter-performance, while it is completely de-materialized in Seneca, for whom it only represents a feeling of gratitude (pp. 15-24). Starting from there, the author highlights the embeddedness of the beneficium in Late Republican society and its function, according to Cicero, in the creation and consolidation of social bonds. In this sense, Accardi argues, the exchange of beneficia does not automatically create hierarchical nor equal relationships; it is not a euphemistic version of clientela and patronage, but has a more generic, overarching meaning of creating, through a material exchange, of social relationships of different kinds.

Seneca's treatment comprises the largest part of the volume, almost half of the entire book (pp. 91-198). Accardi insists here too on the fact that for Seneca the beneficium is primarily constitutive of society, as it establishes and maintains social bonds. The biggest change is, according to the author, a shift from the gift to the giver and his intention, in the frame of what Accardi considers a broad proposal of ethical reform. In imperial society, the traditional form of exchange and reciprocity had become impossible, and in order to reorganize and restart this basic social mechanism, in the context of a complete social and political asymmetry between the giver and the receiver, with the emperor as "great giver" dominating the scene, Seneca proposed to focus on their voluntas, their conscience and disposition, to reestablish reciprocity.

The last and shortest section of the book, comprising only one chapter, is dedicated to theoretical models, and to a comparison between the theorization of beneficia in Cicero and Seneca and the theorization of gifts in modern literature. It is first of all surprising that this presentation of modern literature, of the dominating theoretical models (and of the ways they used ancient sources!), is placed at the end, rather than at the beginning. Even the definition of beneficium is provided only here (p. 216). This is by far the weakest part of the book. This depends not only on the fact that the author could not consult recent publications that would have contributed to a substantial rethinking of the subject but also concentrated on a very narrow selection of the "modern literature." Apart from discussing Marcel Mauss, and quickly mentioning Godelier, Weiner, and others, Accardi concentrates on the MAUSS group,4 and particularly on Godbout and Caillé. About them she raises some important criticisms, especially in connection to the rigid separation between gift and commodity implied by them, which risks hiding the deep embeddedness of the "system gift" in the broader economic, social, political, cultural context.

Accardi provides the readers with a useful reflection on the ways in which Cicero and Seneca saw the beneficium, and how they built it into their philosophical and political systems, reacting to the shifting social, political and cultural contexts of their times. The detailed work on the ancient sources is useful; most of the arguments about the change in the social dynamics of giving and receiving between Cicero and Seneca and the "dematerialization" characteristic of the Principate are convincing; and some of them will constitute useful starting points for further research.


1.   E.g. M. L. Satlow (ed.), The Gift in Antiquity, Malden, MA – Oxford 2013; F. Carlà – M. Gori (eds.), Gift Giving and the 'Embedded' Economy in the Ancient World, Heidelberg 2014.
2.   See in particular ch. 3, pp. 91-126.
3.   J. Wolkenhauer, Senecas Schrift de beneficiis und der Wandel im römischen Benefizienwesen, Göttingen 2014.
4.   See the homepage of the MAUSS journal: La Revue du M.A.U.S.S.. When considering the coexistence of gift-giving with other forms of exchange, it would have been useful to use also Alain Testart, whose absence from the bibliography is surprising: A. Testart, Critique du don. Études sur la circulation non marchande, Paris 2007.

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Edward Schiappa, David M. Timmerman, Giles Laurén (ed.), Jebb's Isocrates. Newly Edited. Sophron Editor, 2016. Pp. cxxvi, 430. ISBN 9780989783651. $17.50 (pb).

Reviewed by Christopher Moore, Penn State University (

Version at BMCR home site

"Sophron Editor" names a self-publishing venture of Giles Laurén, providing digitally re-typeset editions of public-domain translations and monographs in Classical rhetoric, history, and literature. The present text collects Jebb's Introduction to the Attic Orators (xxxviii–cxxv), including his "Annals" (giving for each year 436–338 bce the Athenian archon, key literary or Isocratean milestone, and military and political events); the Life of Isocrates (1–248), and Isocratean Greek passages and English commentary in the Selections from the Attic Orators (251–423). It uses the second edition of both, from 1893 and 1888 (not mentioning the first editions of 1876 and 1880). These works are already available for free online on Perseus, and many libraries have older versions, and at cost in the 2010 Cambridge reprint of the Attic Orators and the 2005 reissue of the Selections introduced by Pat Easterling and Michael Edward (Bristol Phoenix Press, not mentioned in this volume). So the present volume has its niche as a low-cost legible hardcopy of Jebb's major Isocrates materials. Any scholarly value it might have depends, of course, on its formatting and its editorial materials, so to them this review now turns.

The English font and text is clear, and page-position appropriate. The Greek font, by contrast, is unappealing and (in the footnotes) backed by light grey highlighting. The "Contents" has dropped the accents from all Greek words. The absence of running heads makes the Selections difficult to use. Many lines in the Annals have their lower portions sheered off. The "Works Cited" indents the authors' names rather than uses hanging indents, which slows use. I ran into many typos and proof-reader's highlighting.

This is a lightly edited volume. In the five-hundred fifty pages, there are seven footnotes.1

The Introduction (x–xxxiv) starts with one page of canned biography and two pages of quotations from recent authors concerning scholarly interest in Isocrates over the past two decades.

Besides an encomium to Jebb's extensiveness (xi, xxxiii–iv), the editors offer no discussion of the nature, structure, or quality of Jebb's texts, responses to them in the 1870s and 1880s, the earlier or later history of Isocratean scholarship, or recent scholarship on Jebb (see for example BMCR 2014.03.49 and 2006.04.36).The vast bulk of the Introduction (xiii–xxxiii) concerns Isocrates' picture of philosophia (to which the footnote at p. 29 cited below refers). These twenty pages reprint a version of Timmerman's "Isocrates' Competing Conceptualization of Philosophy," which I find quite problematic and to which I will now turn.2

In his Life of Isocrates, Jebb has a section on Isocrates' "Theory of Culture," his analysis of philosophia — which Jebb refers to as "philosophy," with the quotation marks denoting the English word's role as mere transliteration (28–41; he is not using them as scare-quotes, as the editors insist [xiii]). Jebb does a fine job presenting Isocrates' way of distinguishing his mode of philosophia from the modes of philosophia of his contemporaries; the way Isocrates uses speeches and verbal exercises to train his students; the way he cares both for practical activity and "the largest public interests"; and in general the moral and political content of his instruction. Timmerman and Schiappa take issue with Jebb's account. In their footnote on p. 29, they disagree with

tak[ing] the common step of believing [Isocrates] really meant to use the term rhetoric, [and with] this step that Jebb takes which is to speculate that what he was really after was a theory of culture. Rather, we believe his use warrants understanding it on its own terms, as philosophy.

This note mystifies me, since Jebb is hardly speculating about what Isocrates was after; he is saying that Isocrates generated a broad and systematic outlook (a "theory") about the education of his students (their "culture"), and that in practicing philosophia he endeavored to advance that education.

A similarly misguided remark concludes the editors' Introduction: with his language of philosophia, they say, "Isocrates was out to define not culture, but philosophy" (xxxii–iii, 3). No doubt Jebb is not the final word on Isocrates' philosophia.4 In his defense, however, Jebb does not say that Isocrates was trying to define "culture," construed as pedagogy or as anything else. Jebb wanted mainly to understand how Isocrates used the term philosophia. I must add that Isocrates could not have been out to define philosophy (as the editors say), since philosophy as the concept referred to specifically by an English word would not yet have existed.

In sum, for under twenty dollars one can get a lot of Jebb on Isocrates, which seems a pretty good thing. It is a pity the present volume does not do a better and more elaborate job arguing in favor of doing so.


1.   Listed by the page on which they appear, these contain: P. lxvi: observation of the existence of a distinction between Attic and Asiatic styles, with a longish garbled quotation from John Kirby. P. lxxxii: dates and jobs given for the "unfamiliar" George Canning, Henry Grattan, Thomas Erskine, and Edmund Burke. P. cix: reference to two Schiappa works that contest the Sicilian origin of rhetoric. P. cxii: reference to same Schiappa works contesting Corax as the founder of rhetoric. P. cxxiv: note calling attention to the limits of Athenian democratic franchise and citation of works by Timmerman and Blundell. P. 29: claim that Jebb was wrong to interpret Isocrates' philosophia as part of his theory of culture, and that it should be – as the Introduction argues – taken as "philosophy." P. 147: bare reference to two articles by Haskins and Usher on Panegyricus.
2.   Philosophy and Rhetoric 31 (1998), 145-159 — not cited in this volume — a paper that was in turn reprinted in Timmerman and Schiappa, Classical Greek Rhetorical Theory and the Disciplining of Discourse (Cambridge University Press, 2010), chapter 3 — which the present volume does cite (p. xiii n.1).
3.   Incidentally, the editors have as their explicit target of this remark "Jaeger and Forster," who are hardly otherwise discussed, practically forgetting Jebb!
4.   Important studies include Stephen Halliwell, "Philosophical Rhetoric or Rhetorical Philosophy? The Strange Case of Isocrates," in B.D. Schildgen's The Rhetoric Canon (Wayne State University Press, 1997), 107–125 (not cited in the present volume), and Kathryn Morgan, "The Education of Athens: Politics and Rhetoric in Isocrates and Plato," in Takis Poulakos' and David Depew's Isocrates and Civic Education (University of Texas Press, 2004), 125–54.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Walter Lapini, L'Epistola a Erodoto e il Bios di Epicuro in Diogene Laerzio: note testuali, esegetiche e metodologiche. Pleiadi, 20. Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2015. Pp. xxiv, 282. ISBN 9788863728279. €38.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Sergio Audano, Centro di Studi sulla Fortuna dell'Antico "Emanuele Narducci" – Sestri Levante (

Version at BMCR home site


Si può entrare nel laboratorio di un filologo testuale? E soprattutto, accanto al necessario armamentario teorico, è possibile analizzare nel concreto la "cassetta degli attrezzi" necessaria per tentare di dare senso a un testo giunto in condizioni problematiche? Walter Lapini ha dedicato molta della sua produzione scientifica a interrogare i testi nel modo più corretto, sollevando spesso cruciali riflessioni metodologiche (come ha giustamente notato José C. Baracat nella sua recensione al precedente volume di Lapini: BMCR 2015.04.45), e propone, mediante questo volume, una concreta risposta attraverso l'analisi filologica della tormentata Epistola a Erodoto epicurea (aprendo anche importanti spunti di riflessioni sul testo del X libro di Diogene Laerzio che delle lettere del filosofo del Giardino è notoriamente il testimone).

Quali sono, dunque, gli "attrezzi" del buon filologo? In primo luogo la conoscenza solida della lingua e dello stile dell'autore che si sta studiando. Può sembrare persino una banalità, ma così, purtroppo, non è. E i filologi dovrebbero ben sapere che le parole sono pietre, in grado, anche per minime differenze, di creare problemi enormi: « la differenza stava in uno iota » disse Voltaire nel suo Trattato sulla tolleranza a proposito della feroce polemica tra l'omoiousia degli ariani e l'omousia degli ortodossi, che divise drammaticamente, anche col carico di persecuzioni e di morti, il mondo cristiano. Ovviamente i refusi sono sempre possibili, ma oggi si assiste a un generale superamento dei limiti fisiologici, quasi che la puntualità nella lingua risultasse un ostacolo da rimuovere, una pedanteria per pochi eruditi sepolti dalle loro carte polverose.

A ciò si aggiunga (Lapini lo ha più volte denunciato anche in pubblici interventi) come lo studio delle lingue classiche, a partire da quello scolastico, stia subendo un attacco concentrico in tutta Europa. Sono recentissime, ad esempio, le dure prese di posizione della comunità accademica francese contro il tentativo di rendere definitivamente opzionali il loro insegnamento, mentre in Italia si ventila di "riformare" l'esame di stato, ridimensionando lo spazio tradizionalmente assegnato alla versione dal greco (o dal latino). E sono sempre più numerosi gli studenti di filosofia o di storia antiche che si accostano solo a testi in traduzione, senza nemmeno disporre delle elementari conoscenze necessarie per fruire, almeno parzialmente, dell'originale.

Ma se il possesso della lingua è il requisito imprescindibile, Lapini, come argomenta nella Premessa a p. XII (per poi ritornare con maggior decisione sul punto, in una sorta di Ringkomposition, a conclusione del libro, alle pp. 234-235), insiste anche sull'atteggiamento critico che il filologo deve conservare di fronte all'oggetto del proprio studio. La classica diatriba tra conservatori e innovatori assume oggi una valenza diversa rispetto al combattuto dibattito tra Ottocento e Novecento, in particolare per quanto riguarda la fazione conservatrice che associa il formale rispetto dell'autorità dei codici a « una più antica e quasi dimenticata sottomissione al ne varietur di edizioni considerate importanti ». Si applica troppo spesso un principio di autorità che in più di caso impedisce di cogliere la reale problematicità di un passo. Si farebbe, tuttavia, torto a Lapini e al suo pensiero se volessimo inquadrare le sue riflessioni metodologiche come un manifesto dell'interventismo sic et simpliciter. Al contrario, proprio un sano utilizzo degli strumenti filologici, alieno da pregiudizi e da condizionamenti psicologici, induce a una distinta valutazione caso per caso di ogni singolo problema testuale, diverso per genesi, per grado di criticità, per strategie di intervento. Più volte lo studioso si pone una domanda che, presa in sé, potrebbe avere del paradossale, ma che invece dovrebbe costituire un solido principio di metodo che ogni editore dovrebbe far proprio: quando si interviene su un testo, tanto in forma congetturale (quindi distanziandosi dalla paradosi) quanto con criteri più conservativi, l'autore, o qualsiasi lettore a lui contemporaneo, avrebbe compreso realmente il greco (o il latino, ma il principio vale per ogni lingua) che ne scaturisce? Gli studiosi moderni rispondono a logiche (o, meglio, a "sistemi" per usare il termine a cui Lapini ricorre più volte) che sono ovviamente diverse da quelle degli autori antichi (mossi da altri principi estetici o "creativi"); non di rado anche gli interventi dei filologi moderni, anche quelli di gran vaglia, possono risultare viziati anche da veri e propri luoghi comuni, rispetto all'attenta e minuziosa analisi linguistica (si vedano, in particolare, le pp. 185- 188, in cui Lapini polemizza appunto contro alcune di queste opinioni ormai penetrate nella vulgata critica, come il supposto carattere informale delle Epistole: si veda, ad esempio, la perentoria affermazione a p. 186: « Non credo che le epistole filosofiche di Epicuro fossero 'informali' »).

È necessario tenere presenti preliminarmente queste riflessioni per poter comprendere al meglio questo libro dottissimo e complesso, che non a caso coniuga dialetticamente critica del testo, esegesi e metodo. Lapini, a p. XI, afferma di volersi occupare essenzialmente della costituzione del testo della difficile e spinosissima lettera epicurea a Erodoto, precisando che « la componente esegetica non mancherà, ma sarà finalizzata unicamente a tale obiettivo », senza la pretesa, come ulteriormente si preciserà a p. XIX, di essere un running commentary. L'esegesi si propone, dunque, in primo luogo come esito di una discussione approfondita di lingua e stile: è la loro analisi serrata, a seguito di un attento e minuzioso processo logico, a determinare, pur al netto di loci che restano indubbiamente problematici, l'interpretazione del testo. Questo porta Lapini a doversi confrontare con la grande filiera degli studiosi di Epicuro, da Usener, a Bailey, a Bignone, a Diano, ad Arrighetti, senza però trascurare i contemporanei (in particolare Francesco Verde, autore di una meditata edizione commentata della Lettera a Erodoto). Non mancano, inoltre, gli spunti polemici dello studioso contro certi approcci, per così dire, più "disinvolti", in cui l'incomprensione del senso, spesso derivata da scarsa conoscenza linguistica, si manifesta in maniera evidente con gravi e diffusi fraintendimenti (per tacere di interpretazioni già in origine tendenziose, per ragioni ideologiche o confessionali, che sono arbitrariamente attribuite a testi che dicono tutt'altro, con evidenti propositi manipolatori).

Passiamo ora a una presentazione più puntuale del volume, anche se non sarà possibile dar conto delle numerose proposte che Lapini suggerisce al testo epicureo (e laerziano). Il libro si articola, dopo la già menzionata Premessa metodologica (pp. XI-XVI) e le documentate Avvertenze (pp. XVII-XX), in tre sezioni: le Note sull'Epistola a Erodoto (pp. 3-117), le Note sul Bios laerziano di Epicuro (pp. 119-173) e per terzo Su alcuni idola della critica epicurea (pp. 175-235).

Le prime due sezioni hanno una struttura di fatto analoga: il testo è sezionato per capitoli, molto di frequente con apparato (semplice, ma completo nei dati essenziali: si veda la gustosa polemica contro gli apparati sovrabbondanti di sigle inutilmente ermetiche alla n. 9 di p. 178), e a seguire (ma solo per la prima sezione) la classica traduzione di Graziano Arrighetti, talora con qualche adattamento. Ogni pericope è analizzata in dettaglio sul piano testuale: Lapini sottopone a un vaglio serratissimo le interpretazioni proposte, che vengono analizzate soprattutto nella loro coerenza tra dettato linguistico ed esegesi vera o presunta del testo. Come detto prima, sono numerosissimi gli interventi dello studioso: in qualche caso, più raro, alla selva di congetture che troppo spesso gravitano sulla lettera epicurea Lapini preferisce un meditato ritorno alla paradosi, ma il « supporto testuale » non è mai, agli occhi del nostro autore, un feticcio assoluto tale da impedire, ovviamente sul fondamento della lingua e dello stile, nuovi interventi. « Le congetture si fanno proprio per contrastare l'autorità dei codici », così scrive Lapini, sulla scia di un'osservazione di Bruno Chiesa, a p. XV, anche se l'asserzione, dal vago sapore bentleyano, va presa, a mio avviso, non alla lettera, ma come intelligente provocazione verso atteggiamenti eccessivamente (e talora alla Housman stupidamente) conservativi. Si vedano nel concreto alcuni specimina di questa metodologia: si prenda il cap. 45 (pp. 29-37), in cui Epicuro, sulla scia di Democrito, riflette sulla funzione causale degli atomi. Lapini polemizza, garbatamente, ma con decisione, con le conclusioni di P.-M. Morel, il quale arriva a proiettare sugli atomi una priorità ontologica, che rischia di assegnar loro una componente attiva e produttiva. Si veda, in particolare, la discussione di 45 b1-2: οὐ γὰρ κατανήλωνται αἱ τοιαῦται ἄτομοι, ἐξ ὧν ἂν γένοιτο κόσμος ἢ ὑφ' ὧν ἂν ποιηθείη. A Morel, che rischiava di ricavare da ὑφ' ὧν di 45 b(2) « l'idea di un determinismo temperato, smussato » (p. 34), Lapini replica rivendicando al sintagma, con l'ausilio di numerosi paralleli epicurei (si veda l'elenco delle attestazioni dalle tre epistole di ὑπό « con valore agentivo ed efficientivo » a p. 35), la funzione logica di complemento d'agente, traducendo a p. 29: « non vengono esauriti infatti tali atomi, dai quali ha origine o viene costituito un mondo » (a differenza del « per effetto di » adottato da Morel per la sua esegesi, ma senza adeguato riscontro linguistico e sintattico).

La terza parte offre, invece, un repertorio di riflessioni critiche, suddiviso in dieci sezioni, su cui è opportuna qualche, seppur veloce, riflessione. Alle pp. 175-182, Lapini rivendica la grandezza di Usener, pur a fronte di alcune "intemperanze" giudicate non necessarie. Non sarei, tuttavia, così drastico nel giudizio contro i critici successivi che avrebbero « abbassato gli standard di lettura » (p. 181). Non si tratta solamente del pure esistente meccanismo psicologico, per il quale ogni studioso vuole aggiungere alle congetture precedenti qualcosa di proprio, magari col fine di « mostrare la propria bravura » (p. 182), ma del fatto che il Novecento ha affinato (ovviamente non sempre con risultati uguali) l'approccio storico al testo e alle sue modalità di tradizione. Ovviamente di questo Lapini è ben consapevole (si veda il più volte ripetuto tributo verso l'edizione di Arrighetti, a p. 194 definita « il più serio e più riuscito freno all'interventismo di Usener ») e ogni proposta è accompagnata da un nutrito manipolo di esempi. Questi ultimi sono, però, sempre di base concretamente linguistica e sintattica, non fondati su vaghe analogie lessicali, spesso di uso comune: non a caso lo studioso polemizza duramente, alle pp. 202-204, contro gli eccessi del « locosimilismo » (p. 202). Molto interessante è la riflessione (nella sezione Philosophisierung, pp. 205- 210) contro la tendenza, nei testi filosofici, a caricare necessariamente di valenza "tecnica" ogni lessema potenzialmente inquadrabile nel lessico filosofico. Non sono pochi i casi, secondo lo studioso, nei quali l'occorrenza, al contrario, rientra più semplicemente all'interno dell'uso comune. Oltre ad esempi specifici dalla lettera epicurea (ad esempio la valenza di πίστις nel cap. 63, di cui Lapini, a differenza di Verde, non riscontra nessuna specificità epicurea), si propone a p. 205 un esempio da Clemente Alessandrino (Strom. 2.23.3-4 = fr. 526 Usener), in cui si testimonia la contrarietà di Democrito ed Epicuro verso il matrimonio e la procreazione. Lapini polemizza contro l'esegesi, in questo passo, di ἀναγχαῖον avanzata nel 1971 da Alberto Grilli,1 il quale assegnava al termine una precisa valenza tecnica, ritenendo al contrario che si tratti di un utilizzo « in senso corrente ». Sul punto specifico mi sentirei di dissentire: la lettura di Grilli mi pare corretta, in quanto inserita in una più ampia riflessione sulla polemica antiedonistica della tarda Accademia. In questo contesto il lessema ἀναγχαῖον, da parte di Epicuro e della sua scuola, era usato tecnicamente per indicare quella parte dei φυσικά senza i quali non si raggiunge il piacere catastematico. Ciò non toglie che Lapini abbia perfettamente ragione sulla necessità di una valutazione caso per caso.

Un'ampia Bibliografia (pp. 237-267), oltre all'Indice dei nomi moderni (pp. 269-277), chiude un libro importante che rivendica con orgoglio la centralità della lingua nella prassi critica ed esegetica e propone importanti riflessioni metodologiche, valide e opportune non solo per gli studiosi di Epicuro, ma per ogni filologo classico.


1.   A. Grilli, "Epicuro e il matrimonio (D.L. X, 119)", Rivista Critica di Storia della Filosofia 26: 52.

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Otto Zwierlein, Die antihäretischen Evangelienprologe und die Entstehung des Neuen Testaments. Abhandlungen der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaftlichen Klasse, Jahrgang 2015, Nr. 5​. Mainz; Stuttgart: Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur; Franz Steiner Verlag, 2015. Pp. 86. ISBN 9783515112109. €15.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Joshua Yoder, Bryn Mawr, PA (

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Classicist and philologist Otto Zwierlein, professor emeritus of the University of Bonn, has recently turned his attention to Christian origins, most notably in his work on the early Christian traditions about Peter and Paul. In his new book, Zwierlein tackles the so-called "anti-Marcionite prologues" to the Gospels of Mark, Luke and John found in varying combinations in an array of manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate dating from the 8th–12th centuries (though one ms. containing the prologue to Luke is dated to as early as the 5th century). These Latin gospel prologues elicited a good deal of comment in the early 20th century, culminating in a monograph by Jürgen Regul published in 1969.1 Since that time, however, critical work has been limited. Some recent research on Marcion has returned these prologues to discussion, and Zwierlein's book is a welcome addition to this conversation.

Scholarship on these prologues has generally held that they were originally written in Greek, though only one copy (and a fragment) of a Greek text for the prologue to Luke survives. It is also thought that the longer versions of the prologues found in a group of Vulgate manuscripts from the 10th –12th centuries (TXEOY) represent an expansion of the original, shorter versions with material from Jerome's De viris illustribus. In an article of 1928, Donatien de Bruyne designated the prologues "anti-Marcionite" and traced them to a single author of the late second century.2 Other scholars have called into question this early date and the unity of authorship and theme that de Bruyne found.

Zwierlein challenges much of this orthodoxy. He argues that the long recension was the original, the short recension a later abbreviation of it. The Greek text is merely a translation of the later, abbreviated form. Zwierlein supports de Bruyne's position that a single author composed all three prologues, and traces them to a catalogue of Christian authors that would have been composed in the first half of the fourth century. The use of this source by both the prologue composer and by Jerome explains the similarity of certain parts of the prologues to what we find in De viris illustribus.

The argument of the book falls into four main parts. In the first, the author tries to establish the priority of the longer recension of the prologues over the shorter, and to establish that all are the product of a single author. In the second, he argues that the Greek form of the prologue is merely a translation of the secondary form of the text. In the third, he compares the longer prologues with Jerome and argues that the similarities are due to use of a common source. In the fourth, he suggests that this common source may have drawn on a lost work of Eusebius.

Following a brief introduction, Zwierlein offers a list of the manuscripts containing one or more of the prologues, organized by families, and a stemma (presupposing the author's view of the prologues' sources). Zwierlein's list includes the sigla of both de Bruyne and Regul for each manuscript (Zwierlein employs de Bruyne's sigla rather than those of Regul).

In the first movement of the argument, Zwierlein places a lightly emended text of the long version (α) side by side with de Bruyne's text of the short version (β) (with some alterations to orthography and punctuation and the deficits from the long version marked by spaces). Text-critical notes supplied for the long version mainly focus on the variations of β from it (for a full text-critical apparatus one must look to Regul). Zwierlein reads the long versions in the order in which they appear in Jerome—Luke, Mark and John—thus putting the most extensive prologue in the first place. In this way he is able to bring out a self-consistent, unified conception in the prologues as a whole, leading from the beginnings of the gospel in the "forerunner" John the Baptist at the start of the Luke prologue to the expulsion of Marcion narrated at the end of the John prologue. He also points to linguistic parallels and common motifs as evidence of unified authorship. Zwierlein finds a rhythmic pattern to the endings of clauses that is disturbed by the abbreviation found in β.3 Additionally, anti- Marcionite elements are present in the long versions that are lacking in the shorter recensions. Nevertheless, Zwierlein concludes that these prologues are more broadly anti-heretical than specifically anti-Marcionite in character.

In the next phase of the argument, Zwierlein tries to demonstrate that the Greek version of the short recension of the Luke prologue is not the original prologue text, as has often been supposed, but represents a late translation. The Greek composition is preserved within a collection of introductory material for the Acts of the Apostles that according to its preface comes from the hand of a Patriarch Methodius. This led Chapman to aver that St. Methodius Patriarch of Constantinople must have obtained the prologue at the time of his visit to Rome in the early ninth century.4 However, Zahn and Harnack objected on philological grounds, and their arguments won the day. Zwierlein subjects the Greek text and short version to a close philological and text-critical analysis and concludes that the evidence weighs in favor of the Latin being the original. The Greek text of the prologue to Luke, therefore, is not the sole surviving copy of the original Greek version of one of the prologues, but a later translation of an abbreviated version of the original Latin prologue.

In the third movement, Zwierlein approaches the question of the sources of the prologues (long versions). He concludes that neither Jerome nor the prologues can be the source of the other. Instead, the close agreement in wording between Jerome and portions of the long recensions of the prologues is due to use of a common source. Through close comparison of the two, Zwierlein is able to speculate on how that text might have run. A comparison of Jerome with both the long and short versions would have been helpful here. In the prologue to Mark, for example, the composer of the short version seems to have left out precisely those things in the long version that coincide with Jerome. This puts Zwierlein's arguments in favor of the originality of the long version into question.

The common text, which Zwierlein thinks of as an index of Christian authors, may have drawn from Eusebius: in the final stage of the argument, Zwierlein posits that the catalogue (οἱ πίνακες) of books assembled in the library of Caesarea that Eusebius included in his now lost Vita Pamphili of ca. 315-320 (Hist. eccl. 6.32.3) is the ultimate source of the author catalogue used by Jerome and the prologue writer. Callimachus' Pinakes of the library of Alexandria in 120 books must have contained not simply lists of authors and their works, but also biographical data as well as information on sources, time of publication, authenticity, and so on. Similarly, Eusebius' Pinakes may have contained the kind of information we find in the prologues. This use of Eusebius explains why we find echoes of Eusebius in the catalogue of authors as it is represented in both the prologues and in Jerome. If this is the case, the prologues cannot reasonably have been composed before 340. This fourth movement elicited the most skepticism from this reviewer. Was the library catalogue contained in Eusebius' Vita Pamphili so extensive as to have incorporated into its entries the kind of information found in the prologues? Is it not more likely to have been more of a list of works with occasional comments on their content, such as the list of the works of Origen we find in Hist. eccl. 2.18?

Given his dating of the prologues to the mid fourth century, Zwierlein's estimation of their worth for early Christian history and the development of the NT canon is largely negative. The information they provide about the gospel authors is mostly legendary. Though the John prologue cites Papias as a source, the only part of the prologue that can be securely linked to Papias is the notice that John disseminated his gospel in his lifetime. The John prologue is interested in fourth century heresies, not second century ones, and it mentions Marcion because Marcionism still had some purchase at that time.5

This brief summary of the author's main claims hardly does justice to the intricate argumentation in each section and the wealth of observations and inferences made along the way. Zwierlein has given ample material for further discussion and has shown that it is possible to construe the evidence differently than how it is commonly done. ​


1.   Jürgen Regul, Die antimarcionitischen Evangelienprologe, Vetus Latina: Aus der Geschichte der lateinischen Bibel 6 (Freiburg: Herder, 1969).
2.   Donatien de Bruyne, "Les plus anciens prologues latins des Évangiles," Revue Bénédictine 40 (1928), 193-214.
3.   Zwierlein uses a system of notation for these clause endings that is explained in his article, "Augustins quantitierender Klauselrhythmus," ZPE 138 (2002), 43-70.
4.   John Chapman, Notes on the Early History of the Vulgate Gospels, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1908), 237.
5.   For this he cites Epiphanius, Adv. haeres. (Panarion) 42.1. ​

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Daniel Orrells, Sex: Antiquity and its Legacy. Ancients and moderns. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. x, 246. ISBN 9780195380934. $24.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Rosario Moreno Soldevila, Universidad Pablo de Olavide de Sevilla (

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Despite its straightforward title, this book is not about ancient sex or sexual ideas and practices and their influence in modern society, but rather about language: it explores how the Latin language and ancient texts came to be crucial for the development of a scientific approach to sex and, ultimately, of sexology as a medical/psychiatric science. Orrells offers a clear introduction on what the reader should and should not expect from this work: taking Foucault's Histoire de la sexualité as a starting point, the author clarifies that he will neither argue against the idea of a historical continuity between ancient and contemporary notions about sex nor offer a history of the classical tradition in broad terms; instead, he will examine "how the appropriation of certain classical texts facilitated and helped to authorise the modern medical systematisation of sexuality" (p. 8). Orrells invites the reader to travel from Antonio Beccadelli's Hermaphroditus in the fifteenth century to Freud's classical mythology of sexual desire, dwelling on six moments of this fascinating history.

The first part of the book (Chapters I-III) addresses the questions of how Latin became "the authoritative language of the science of sex" and how the Latin sexual vocabulary helped to develop sexology as a science. Chapter I ("Sex, Latin and Renaissance Humanism: 'A Precious Stone in a Pile of Dung'") tackles Beccadelli's motivations for writing Hermaphroditus, a collection of erotic epigrams inspired by Martial and Catullus, and the reactions of his contemporaries to such a controversial and provocative work, which explored the difficulties and complexities of reading and writing epigrams about sex in Latin.

While this chapter deals with male authority, the following one (chapter II: "The Satyra Sotadica and the Erotics of Latinity") starts by describing both male concerns about women interpreting ancient texts and the questioning of male-centered humanism in sixteenth century Europe. This was the breeding ground for Nicolas Chorier's Satyra Sotadica de Arcanis Amoris et Veneris, a seventeenth-century sexual-fantasy dialogue in which an educated woman, Tullia, instructs her cousin Octavia in the arts of sex. Chorier's dialogue addressed male concerns about women's instruction in classical texts, further dwelling on the idea of Latin as an authoritative language for knowing and writing about sex. The name of one of the protagonists recalls Tullia D'Aragona, author of the Dialogue on the Infinity of Love, published in 1547, but this is not the only way in which Chorier plays with the ideas of authority, sex and gender: the Satyra Sotadica appeared as a Latin translation by a Dutch scholar of a Spanish dialogue written by the sixteenth-century Spanish humanist Luisa Sigea, another woman; but both the translation and the original are Chorier's invention, a trompe l'oeil pointing at the relevance of Latin as the language for sex, as well as the concept of authority, and male concerns about women's classical education and their consequent empowerment. This chapter aptly analyses the re-use of classical texts (Virgil, Ovid, Ausonius) in the dialogue; yet curiously it fails to explain its title, an allusion to the Alexandrinian poet Sotades of Maroneia,1, "an obscure figure who is credited with the invention of cinaedic poetry, mime-like verses written for performance in the persona of an effeminate homosexual." He was also, in Kathryn Gutzwiller's words, the first to compose poetry of literary quality in the so-called sotadean metre, a line-by-line ionic verse used for scurrilous mockery".2 In his epigram 2.86, Martial defends the simplicity of his poetry, stating that he does not write Sotadean verses that can be read backwards (2.86.2 nec retro lego Sotadem cinaedum), the implication being that lines of this kind acquired an erotic meaning when read backwards. The title of Chorier's dialogue itself—together with Martial's intertext—provides the framework for the fictitious Tullia's reinterpreting of classical texts: in the same way as the Sotadem cinaedum acquires a sexual meaning when read backwards, "[when] read by Women, the Latin language incites—creates—sexual desire" (Orrells, p. 60).

Both Beccadelli's and Chorier's works converged into Forberg's famous 1824 edition of the Hermaphroditus and his explanatory essay known as De figuris Veneris, in which he extensively quotes from ancient and modern writers and works including the Satyra Sotadica. This is the link between Chapters I and II and Chapter III ("Sexual Enlightenment? From Archaeology to Science"), which begins by surveying eighteenth-century interest in ancient phallic worship as well as in collecting erotica and anthologizing Latin epigrams, which paved the way for the creation of "a fully institutionalised Sexualwissenschaft, the scientific study of sex" (p. 73). In his essay, "Forberg organised the references to sex scattered across ancient and early-modern Greek and Latin texts", turning "the language of Latin epigram into something approaching a lexicon for clarifying sexual practice" (p. 80). His work influenced other scientists, such as the medical historian Julius Rosembaum, who in 1839 published his work Die Lustseuche im Alterthume, a work on the classical origins of venereal diseases. As opposed to Forberg's scientific approach, Rosembaum's taxonomy aimed at "frightening its readers from sexual contact" (p. 84). The final step of the story of the nineteenth-century creation of a scientific language and taxonomy of sex based on the Latin language is the publication of Kraft-Ebbing's Psychopathia Sexualis in 1886. The work, written in Latin, analyses sexual perversions with a technical approach, but it also includes extensive autobiographical accounts written by correspondents, conveniently translated into Latin, a combination that accounts for the blurring of linguistic registers: that is, the incongruous mixing of technical terms and slang. This, together with the evolution of the author towards the "perverts" he intended to cure, and his progressively more compassionate approach in each subsequent edition, eventually deprives Kraft-Ebbing's Latin of "an aura of scientific professionalism": his Latin rather reflects the uncertainties of the fin de siècle (p. 97).

The second part of the book turns to Greece, starting with the figure of John Addington Symonds (a contemporary of Kraft-Ebbing's), who focused on Greek love between men as a way to gain insight into his own feelings and to reflect on the necessity of a more understanding science of sex (Chapter IV: "Sexology, Historicism and Ancient Greece"). Chapter V ("From the Tribad to Sappho") relates to the first chapters, which dealt with the access of women to knowledge as something to be feared in the Renaissance and the seventeenth century. At the end of the nineteenth century, the entrance of women to universities was not well received by men, especially in the field of classical scholarship. This chapter deals with female same-sex sexuality in antiquity and its reception, together with the issues of women in higher education and their access to Greek culture, since "knowing about same-sex sexuality intersected with the theme of women's access to knowledge" (p. 134). Against the image of the "tribad" as a degenerate inversion of male sexuality, the nineteenth century constructed a pious version of Sappho, and even male writers appropriated her voice. Conversely, the chapter is rounded off with the story of two women, Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper, who adopted the voice of Sappho in their poetry written under a male pseudonym. Bradley and Cooper were aunt and niece, lovers and classicists: in their work they questioned the male appropriation of Sappho's voice and reflected on the varied and complex nature of female homosexuality. The final chapter is devoted to Freud ("Freud's Classical Mythology"). According to Orrells, this final section resumes three topics already discussed in previous chapters: 1) the questioning of whether the historical discourse was the best way to understand sexuality (Freud resorts to "prehistory", using the metaphor of "excavation", taken from archaeology); 2) the collection and anthologizing of sexual pleasures, dealt with in chapter III; 3) the battle of the sexes for authority in sexual desire, here in the form of the battle with the "phallic mother".

The book is completed with a "Further reading" section and "Notes", as well as a useful "Index". The editing has been careful and typos are seldom spotted.3 In sum, this is a very illustrative and coherent work, which focuses on the centrality of Latin and Greek texts in the creation of a scientific language of sex, but also explores the tensions between all these—sometimes discordant—voices. The train of thought might be at times slippery for the uninformed reader, since the topics discussed require a sound knowledge of the texts and ideas of sex in Antiquity, as well as of (early) modern intellectual history.4 Orrells tries, therefore, to find a balance in order to cater for a wide readership, offering as many explanations as required, translations, biographical and historical information, and summaries, as well as signposting the links between the different parts of his book and, hence, of the authors, works, and ideas discussed within. This tendency to recapitulation and repetition can be burdensome at some points, often hindering fluent reading, but it clearly serves the purpose of gently guiding the general reader through the maze of ideas the book unravels. All in all, Sex: Antiquity and its Legacy is an informative and worthwhile read, full of insight and acuity.5


1.   A. J. L. Blanshard, "The Early Modern Erotic Imagination", in T. J. Hubbard (ed.) A Companion to Greek and Roman Sexualities, Chichester, 2014, p. 569.
2.   K. J. Gutzwiller, A Guide to Hellenistic Literature, Oxford, 2007, p. 135.
3.   Foucuault (p. 3), ancent (p. 110).
4.   The wide variety of materials used leads the author to occasional inaccuracies: for instance, the suggestion that Martial could freely lampoon real people during the Saturnalia is both inaccurate and simplistic (p. 77). Also, the word tribas does not appear in the second century CE, as Orrells states (p. 130, p. 140), but rather in the first century, since Martial uses the term in Book VII of his Epigrams.
5.   Thanks are due to Daniel Nisa for revising the English version of this review and to the Spanish MICINN (FFI2014-56798-P) for its financial support.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017


J. C. McKeown, Joshua M. Smith, The Hippocrates Code: Unraveling the Ancient Mysteries of Modern Medical Terminology. Indianapolis; Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2016. Pp. xxiii, 370. ISBN 9781624664649. $50.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Rebecca Fallas, Open University (

Version at BMCR home site


The Hippocrates Code is a textbook designed for medical students to help them understand English medical terminology derived from ancient Greek and Latin. Learning Ancient Greek and Latin is, of course, no longer a compulsory part of medical education as it was until well into the 19th century. However, teaching ancient medical terminology as a way of understanding modern medical terms does feature in many medical schools, particularly in central Europe and the US. In the Czech Republic, for example, learning Latin medical terminology is compulsory for first year medical students.1

Whilst there are, of course, some names for bodily parts, diseases and drugs in English that do not stem from the ancient languages, the authors of this book, McKeown and Smith, suggest studies have shown that 90% of biomedical terms in English are derived from Greek, Latin or a combination of the two. Unfortunately the authors do not cite the study in question but it is certainly the case that both Greek and Latin have had an influence in medical terminology for over 2000 years and this book provides an excellent insight into this.

Although this book is aimed at medical students, the focus is very firmly on the development of medical terminology in the ancient languages. A variety of diseases and conditions that are common in modern society are discussed but, as the authors state, the focus is not on providing encyclopaedic knowledge of what a given term means so much as understanding where the word comes from. As Mckeown and Smith say 'We're classicists, not doctors!' (p.xix).

Their classical background is be visible in the arrangement of the book, which is structured not by specific areas of the body or types of diseases but according to linguistic elements such as nouns, adjectives, prefixes and suffixes. Whilst textbooks aimed at teaching the Classical languages would not normally start with prefixes and suffixes, for a book aiming to help students understand modern medical terms this is a sensible structure.

In total there are 28 chapters. The first 14 chapters focus on Latin: these are followed by a further 10 chapters on Greek. The final considers other kinds of constructions, for example, terms that are produced from a combination of Greek and Latin such as appendectomy, 'cutting out the appendix', which derives from append (Latin) + ectomy (Greek).

Opting to begin the book with the Latin language and not the Greek might seem something of an anomaly considering the language of medicine throughout antiquity was primarily Greek. However, the authors acknowledge this and state this is for reasons of pedagogy because students are likely to be more familiar with terminology derived from Latin than that from Greek. I think that this is a reasonable assumption and a good reason for organising the book in this way.

Each chapter follows a similar pattern: after an introduction to the grammar covered in the chapter, there is a list of vocabulary to be learnt followed by a series of exercises. These include naming medical terms or filling in the missing part of a word from a given description and coining your own terms based on what you have learnt in the chapter.

The exercises are interesting and offer a chance to explore the languages from different points of view. The exercises in the book are complemented by those on the website that accompanies this book ( for those who want more practice.

In addition to exercises, each chapter is complemented by another 4 sections giving background to both the languages and history. 'Word to the Wise' gives explanations of medical terms that the authors have identified as having interesting histories. Another section, 'Know Yourself', looks at a different part of the anatomical system in each chapter with details of the etymologies of the names of each part. In chapter 1 the skeleton is the focus and the authors describe how the names of bones come either indirectly or directly from Latin, for example the tibia, which means flute in Latin, being named so because of the supposed resemblance of the bone to a flute.

There are many textbooks that aim to teach medical students the principles of medical terminology. However, rather than providing a long list of words and grammar to be memorised by medical students as many textbooks do, McKeown and Smith state their approach is one that is focused on understanding how these languages work. They do this with a combination of exploring the grammar behind the languages alongside exercises to test knowledge and introducing the history of ancient medicine to put these into context.

The authors of this book correctly note that understanding Greek and Roman medicine is an important aspect of learning about medical terminology as it can help us understand how medicine has developed through time and, of course, languages do not operate in a vacuum but are influenced by the culture within which they operate. To do this, McKeown and Smith insert Hippocratic quotations at regular intervals throughout the book. These quotes tend to focus on how a doctor should behave, the doctor-patient relationship and how to diagnose a disease, with many of the quotes coming from the Hippocratic texts The Art, Precepts and On Ancient Medicine, all of which seems befitting for the audience of this book.

Each chapter closes with a section on a different disease (e.g. epilepsy in chapter 5) or area of medicine (e.g. chapter 11 covers gynaecology). Each follows the formula of a series of quotations from the ancient texts followed by a short analysis. What is particularly impressive in these sections is the wide range of sources utilised by Mckeown and Smith, which go beyond not only the Hippocratic Corpus but also the ancient medical texts. There are quotes from Galen, Soranus and Celsus, as one might expect, but also Herodotus, Xenophon and Pliny the Elder to name but a few. Of course, the analysis of these sources is by no means comprehensive and many of the nuances of ancient medicine maybe lost (for example the problems associated with the authorship and dating of many of the Hippocratic treatises) but what is offered is impressive for a textbook of this kind.

While other textbooks do use offer coverage of ancient Greek and Latin grammar in order to understand modern medical terminology I have not come across any that introduce ancient medicine in anything close to the amount of detail McKeown and Smith do.2 Feeding the background of ancient medicine and some of the theories involved throughout the book not only helps make the grammar more relevant to the student but also breaks up the grammar and exercises. The sources and quotes have clearly been chosen to be relevant and interesting to the medical students who are the intended audience.

Although the emphasis of this book is on medical language, the authors note that it may be useful for students of a variety of scientific disciplines including botany, zoology, physics and astronomy. However, the audience for this book could be potentially wider than the authors suggest. Anyone studying the history of medicine in the western world will be faced with terminology stemming from ancient Greek and Latin, whether in historical texts or in the modern medical terminology applied to them. This book could, therefore, appeal to medical historians. From the point of view of a Classicist who studies ancient medicine and ancient medical terminology, I found this textbook a very interesting read. It allowed me to increase my knowledge of modern medical terms and the anatomy of parts of the body, both areas which are outside my area of research.

This is a very comprehensive textbook and offers a very detailed approach to how modern medical terms have developed from ancient Greek and Latin. It explores the theory behind different aspects of grammar and offers a wide range of exercises that suit different learning styles. The background of ancient medicine is interesting and places the language into its historical context.

One of the positives in this book is certainly the detailed approach to how English medical terms have developed from ancient Greek and Latin. However, this could also be viewed as a negative. It is a somewhat hefty book, and going through each of the chapters and associated exercises would take an awful lot of dedication and time. However, should someone wish to learn the roots of modern medical terminology in ancient Greek and Latin, this is an excellent textbook from which to do so.


1.   There have been several studies exploring both the use and effectiveness of teaching of medical terminology through ancient languages. See for example M. Bukalková (2013) 'Are the methods to use historical lexicology (etymology) in contemporary medical terminology teaching reasonable?' JAHR 4.7, pp. 469-478 and J.D. Pampush and A.J. Petto (2011) 'Familiarity with Latin and Greek anatomical terms and course performance in undergraduates' Anatomical Sciences Education 4.1. pp. 9-15. Although Bukalková is quite positive about the teaching of Latin medical terminology Pampush and Petto suggest that teaching medical terminology through the teaching of ancient grammar only provides marginally better results than learning a list of terms and vocabulary.
2.   For example in C. Walker-Esbaugh, L.H. McCarthy and R.A. Sparks' (2004) book Dumore and Fleicher's Medical Terminology: Exercises in Etymology the basics of both Greek and Latin grammar are covered (the order being Greek and then Latin), followed by discussion of the various anatomical systems. However, there is no background dealing with how the language relates to the understanding of the body and the theories current in ancient medicine.

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Mischa Meier, Christine Radtki, Fabian Schulz (ed.), Die Weltchronik des Johannes Malalas. Autor - Werk - Überlieferung. Malalas Studien, 1. Schriften zur Chronik des Johannes Malalas. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016. Pp. 310. ISBN 9783515110990. €58.00.

Reviewed by Staffan Wahlgren, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim (

Version at BMCR home site


According to one view, the sixth century is when Antiquity ends and Byzantium begins. A prominent sixth-century author generally considered to be on the Byzantine side of the divide, is John Malalas. That he is so classified is clearly due to the character of his Chronographia, the first in a series of similar Byzantine texts preserved for us. In contrast, his contemporary Procopius, the author of works composed in a style and format inspired by the Classical Age, is considered one of the Ancients.

One of the tasks of scholarship concerned with the sixth century is to challenge current conceptions of the age and help us understand what, if anything, there is to the perceived divide between Antiquity and Byzantium. Were Malalas and Procopius so very far from each other in their life experiences, or did they just prefer to express themselves differently?

The present volume may be placed in the context of such concerns. Containing papers read at a conference in Tübingen in 2014, it is the first in a new series of publications of a project at the University of Tübingen, financed by the Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften (as well as the Union der deutschen Akademien der Wissenschaften) and directed by Mischa Meier (an overview of the project may be found here). The Tübingen project aims at producing a commentary on Malalas, as well as generating some of the knowledge we still need in order to understand him and his age. This includes paving the way for a more definite edition of the text, to replace I. Thurn, Ioannis Malalae Chronographia, Berlin; New York: Walter de Gruyter (Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae 35), 2000.

The "Introduction" (pp. 7-23) provides the background, short summaries of the papers contained in the volume, and a bibliography. It is written in German, while the papers that follow are in English or German; all papers are accompanied by abstracts in English.

The rest of the book is divided into three main parts. The first part, "Malalas – Person, Werk und Umfeld", contains papers by J.M. Thesz ("Die christliche Paideia des Johannes Malalas", pp. 27-43), V.H. Drecoll ("Miaphysitische Tendenzen bei Malalas?", pp. 45-57), C. Saliou ("Malalas' Antioch", pp. 59-76), and Ph. Blaudeau ("Malalas and the Representation of Justinian's Reign: a Few Remarks", pp. 77-89). Thesz discusses aspects of Malalas' learning, whereas Drecoll tries to identify the author's stance in the christological debate of the day. In both cases, serious doubt must remain whether the Chronographia can tell us much. In the following paper, Saliou discusses the literary construction of urban space and "the unity of Malalas' project and the unity of Malalas' Antioch". Finally, Blaudeau anticipates a point to which we will return below: that the text of the Chronographia as it existed in the sixth century may have been fairly different from the shape it takes in the manuscript tradition of later centuries.

The second part, "Die Gattung der 'Chronik,'" begins with a paper by R.W. Burgess and M. Kulikowski, "The Historiographical Position of John Malalas. Genre in Late Antiquity and the Byzantine Middle Ages" (pp. 93-117). Its main contention is that Malalas's text is not a chronicle at all, but rather a breviarium. The authors' interest in the chronicle genre extends as far back as Ancient Mesopotamia, although the discussion does not seem always relevant here nor, from a Byzantinist's point of view, up to date. What is more, as much as I agree with the authors' view that modern opinions about genre are irrelevant, I cannot see that conceptions belonging to an age much earlier than Malalas are relevant either. Then follows A.-M. Bernardi and E. Caire, "John Malalas: from computation to narration" (pp. 119-136), a discussion of literary composition, and how a primary chronographic structure has been complemented with narrative elements. This is not an easy read; at least, it contains very useful appendices.

The third and final part of the book, "Zur Überlieferung der Malalas-Chronik," is divided into two sub-sections. Of these the first (III.1 "Handschriften") opens with "The manuscript transmission of Malalas' chronicle reconsidered" (pp. 139-151), in which E. Jeffreys returns to a field of study to which she has contributed so significantly in the past. Of especial interest I found the discussion, p. 145, of a thirteenth-century reference to a four-word terminology for persons involved in the production of books: scriptor, compilator, commentator, and auctor. Although taken from the Latin West, these distinctions (as pointed out by Jeffreys) are clearly worthy of the attention of Byzantinists as well. The second paper in this sub-section, F. Schulz, "Fragmentum Tusculanum II und die Geschichte eines Zankapfels" (pp. 153-166), deals with the very oldest manuscript witness to Malalas' chronicle, a seventh-century palimpsest discovered by A. Mai (Codex Cryptoferratensis gr. 54 (Rocchi Ζ.α.XXIV)). Thanks to spectral analysis (and modern computer software), it is now possible to read more of this palimpsest than before, and including elements of the text that were not available to Thurn when he was preparing his edition. Specifically, Schulz edits and discusses the part concerned with the famous apple given by emperor Theodosius II to his wife Eudocia (and then passed on to a courtier, Paulinus, with disastrous consequences). Although I am not convinced by Schulz' interpretation of the story, his new, improved reading of the fragment is of indisputable value, since it opens up the possibility of gaining insights into the very beginnings of the Chronographia's textual history. Thus the main manuscript, the Baroccianus 182, is put into perspective.

This leads us to the third part's second sub-section (III.2 "Literarische Beziehungen"), which is concerned with how later authors use the Chronographia, as well as further matters of textual history. Eminently readable is G. Greatrex, "Malalas and Procopius" (pp. 169-185). In this there are two main thoughts: First, that we should not treat the Baroccianus as a reliable witness to the original form of Malalas (cf. above on Schulz) and, secondly, that Malalas and Procopius are much closer to each other, in the sense of belonging to the same intellectual milieu, than a traditional view would suggest (cf. the introductory reflections to this review). Although not entirely new, both these ideas are worthy of further consideration, although Greatrex may overstate his case. Next, Chr. Gastgeber ("Die Osterchronik und Johannes Malalas. Aspekte der Rezeption", pp. 187-224) and E. Juhász ("Die Indiktionsangaben bei Johannes Malalas und in der Osterchronik" pp. 225-237) discuss if, and how, the Paschal Chronicle depends upon Malalas. Both give plausible arguments in favour of some kind of connection: Juhász mentions a common source as a possible explanation for the similarities. The subsequent three papers are concerned with the tenth-century Constantinian Excerpts: P. Carolla ("John Malalas in the Excerpta Constantiniana de Insidiis (EI): a philological and literary perspective", pp. 239-252), S. Mariev ("John of Antioch reloaded: a tutorial", pp. 253-264), and U. Roberto ("John Malalas as a source for John of Antioch's Historia Chroniké. The evidence of the Excerpta historica Constantiniana", pp. 267-286). Carolla demonstrates an impressive knowledge of relevant manuscripts in a wide range of libraries, and her way of arguing the need for future editorial work is worth taking seriously. Mariev's contribution is, to put it briefly, too much John of Antioch and too little Malalas, and, for all its usefulness (it is mainly an account of the principles behind his edition of John of Antioch), I do not understand its relevance here. Roberto's contribution, springing out of the same interest in John of Antioch but focusing on this author's dependence upon Malalas, is easier to follow and more to the point. In both cases much of the argumentation seems like fragments of a discussion belonging elsewhere. Finally, D. Brodka ("Die Weltchronik des Johannes Malalas und die Kirchengeschichte des Nikephoros Xanthopulos Kallistos", pp. 287-310) discusses the reception of Malalas in the last of the Byzantine church historians, active in the fourteenth century. Although the problem is rather too large and complex to be treated fully in a paper, Brodka makes a likely enough case that Xanthopulos used Malalas directly—and, to be more precise, in a manuscript very similar to the Baroccianus. This would seem to indicate that, in the Paleologan period, "Malalas" meant about the same as it means today).

In sum, this is a book with merits. Unfortunately, it is somewhat sloppily edited: there are many small errors (misprints and the like), the English of the non-native contributors is often sub-standard, and more care should have been taken to transform the oral presentations into something more readable. Further, the German employed (especially in the "Introduction") is heavy going—which is a pity if we want to keep German as an alternative to English in international scholarship. Also, a general index would have been helpful, as well as a unified bibliography; as it is, every contribution comes with its own bibliography, with a lot of repetition and slight variations of form. Throughout, there is a certain non-invasive attitude by the editors, which is also apparent in the fact that many contributors were permitted to stray far from a focus on Malalian scholarship. On the positive side, the volume provides a certain précis of the state of the art, and many avenues of prospective research are hinted at, including the need for an adequate edition of the Chronographia. It remains to be seen whether the Tübingen project will prove to be that much-needed powerhouse of sixth-century scholarship which could unite Byzantine scholars with scholars from Antiquity.

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Monday, January 16, 2017


Fritz Graf, Roman Festivals in the Greek East: From the Early Empire to the Middle Byzantine Era. Greek culture in the Roman world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Pp. xvi, 363. ISBN 9781107092112. $120.00.

Reviewed by W. Andrew Smith, Shepherds Theological Seminary (

Version at BMCR home site


Fritz Graf is Distinguished University Professor and Director of Epigraphy at Ohio State University, and this book represents his ambitious exploration of pan-Mediterranean festivals in the eastern Roman Empire from the reign of Augustus to Constantine Porphyrogennetos. For the beginning of this period Graf makes abundant use of epigraphic and other often overlooked evidence to build a cogent explanation of how Roman city festivals were integrated into the culture of the Greek East and what forms required adaptation. For the subsequent post-Constantinian era, when evidence is abundant, Graf turns to the question of how these pagan festivals continued to survive in the Holy Roman Empire despite ardent opposition from the Christian bishops. In both periods, Graf meets the daunting challenge of connecting the dots in a very lacunose picture; where the dots are few he confesses to speculation or admits that not all scholars will agree with the foundational material used to build his case. Regardless, Graf's constructions remain imaginative and compelling, rooted in expansive knowledge of imperial festival practices.

In the first part of this three-part volume, Graf examines festivals in the Greek East during the imperial age prior to Constantine. While much has been written on the polis-centered religious festivals of Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic Greece, the evidence is sparse for festival life in Greek cities during this period. Throughout this book Graf's footnoting is superb, providing readers with supporting text both in the original Greek or Latin and in translation; the cited epigraphical evidence in these chapters is particularly helpful.

In Chapter One, Graf makes a case study of the restoration of Ptoia, the festival of Apollo Ptoios in Boiotian Akraiphia by a certain Epameinondas. By that time the greatest asset of the Greek city was its glorious past, so reviving a festival (that had lapsed for thirty years) along with its traditional elements provided an opportunity to increase the city's status. The epigraphical evidence records the inclusion of the "traditional" dance of the syrtoi, of which we know nothing. Graf speculates that with the passing of three decades the population may have forgotten the dance and perhaps this represents an instance of invented tradition à la Hobsbawm and Ranger (18-20). For some readers, this application of invented tradition may appear a bit forced, since practitioners of the dance were very likely still living and the complexity or fixed nature of the dance is unknown. Yet the introduction of innovation in "traditional" practices provides a challenging perspective from which to view the flexibility and adaptability of festivals for the remaining chapters. Following this study, Graf effectively demonstrates how cultic dedications, images, and processions provided a means for the Greek East to elevate their cultural commodity before their Roman rulers while interweaving innovative practices that cemented the relationship with Rome.

Shifting from Greek to Roman festivals in Chapter Two, Graf begins with a look at the rabbinic discussion of idolatrous festivals in Palestine. Evidence from the Mishnah on Avodah Zarah 1:3 has often been overlooked in discussions of Roman or Greek religion, but it provides a list of Gentile festivals in which transactions with "idolaters" were to be avoided on the three days prior to the festival itself (66). The Kalendae Ianuariae and Saturnalia are clearly identified there. The third festival, κράτησις (קרתסטס or קרתסטם) is less clearly identifiable, though Graf convincingly argues that this "Empowering" is the commemoration of the emperor's accession (68-69). Finally, though there is confusion in Jewish literature surrounding the "day of birth and the day of death," Graf aligns himself with the Babylonian Talmud's interpretation of these days being the public imperial celebrations of the birth and death days of kings (in this case the birthdays and memorial days of the imperial household). Regardless, Graf demonstrates that the Mishnah provides an early and unambiguous witness to the celebration of Kratesis, Kalendae, and Saturnalia in the Greek East.

In the remainder of the second chapter, Graf analyzes how Roman city festivals were transplanted into the Greek East, either as a complex mingling of the imperial cult (and vota) with local practices or as a globalizing of a local Roman festival for practice elsewhere. As an example of the latter, Graf considers Hadrian's transformation of the Parilia (a shepherds' festival for the purification of sheep) into the Natalis Urbis that celebrates the birth of Rome. While it would have been difficult to draw easterners into a festival for a goddess they did not know (Pales), celebrating the birthday of the ruling city was an easy sell.

In the second part of the book, Graf delves into the persistence of Roman festivals in the east after Constantine. This begins in Chapter Three, where he reviews an imperial rescript of Theodosius I. The people (including many Christians and Jews) loved festivals because they were times of merriment, dancing, singing, feasting, and the like. Additionally, Rome benefited from the unity and shared identity created by an empire-wide calendar of holidays and rituals. In 389, Theodosius I reformed the Roman legal calendar to include not only the Christian holidays of Sundays and Easter, but also to guarantee celebration of these pagan feriae: the Kalendae Ianuariae, the Foundation Days of Rome and Constantinople, and the birthdays and accession days of the rulers. While the number of holidays (here culled by Theodosius) eventually expanded, Graf notes the wisdom of Theodosius' ruling here, evidenced by the rescript's persistence in Roman law.

Not all agreed with Theodosius, however. In Chapter Four, Graf interrogates four public voices of the late-fourth and early-fifth centuries that address the debate over the appropriateness of celebrating the Kalendae. On the positive side, Graf presents Libanius' enkomion on the Kalendae, which praises the festivities for their spirit of generosity and the swapping of anxiety and disharmony for peace and joy, among other lesser benefits. Graf believes Libanius was responding to the second voice, an attack on the Kalendae by John Chrysostom. In the earliest extant sermon against the festival, Chrysostom preached against specific "devilish all-night celebrations" and toward a model in which Christians do not observe any festival day (137). The remaining two contemporary public voices are Asterius of Amaseia (who preaches that the poor suffer from the gift-giving and that those in power act shamefully or self-servingly during the celebration) and Augustine (who urges the Christian to replace the drinking, eating, and merriment of the idolatrous festival with fasting and alms-giving). Though Theodosius had ended the sacrifices of January 1 (so that the festival was no longer directly related to a pagan god), the behavior during the festivals remained problematic for Christian leaders. Additionally, Graf sees "two spikes of Church resistance against the Kalendae, the first in several sermons in East and West between c. 390 and c. 420, the second in canons of regional synods between Autun (after 561) and Tours (567) in the West and Trullo (692) in the East, with Martin of Braga referring to the Eastern canon pre-dating Trullo" (150).

Chapter Five turns to celebration and transformation of the Lupercalia from the period of Augustus to Constantine. The festival is nearly invisible during the first three imperial centuries (163), but it persisted well into the Christian era despite the disgraceful public nudity (i.e., of little clothing) involved in the race. Graf traces the transformation of the festival from the condemnation of Pope Gelasius in the fifth century to the barely recognizable variant of the festival found in Constantinople in the tenth century; what was once a celebration of fertility and prosperity later marked the change from winter to spring (180-181).

In Chapter Six Graf notes that "festivals are not only performed, their performance is also explained and legitimized by aetiological myths" (184). Considering transformation and innovation in festival practices, the question is raised as to whether these modified festivals are equally supported by aetiological myths. To answer this question, Graf calls upon the sixth-century John Malalas, who wrote on the origins of the Brumalia and Concilia (185). In both cases, the new forms are provided myths that equip them with legitimacy, dignity, and ancient tradition. Per Graf, John does the job of a historian "to explain the present from the past, even if with him this turned into an explanation of the past from the present—a not uncommon fate for any historian" (200).

Chapters Seven and Eight examine two of the festivals again: the Brumalia and the Kalendae. The festival of the Brumalia is the subject of Chapter Seven, its origins traced by Graf from the Bruma of the Latin West. While the Bruma was a western one-day pre-Constantinian festival celebrated indoors with gift-giving and banquets, it eventually became a 23-day celebration called Brumalia (lengthened perhaps to replace Saturnalia). Chapter Eight then considers the dichotomous form of the Kalendae in the twelfth century, when the elite intellectuals gathered for extravagant food and drink while the common people gathered for amusements (223). Despite the changing form of the festival, Graf notes that it remained a time of generosity and enjoyment.

Finally, a chapter on Christian liturgy and the imperial festival tradition rounds out this part of the book, examining "how paganism disguised itself in a Christian world, to the dismay of many bishops but to the delight of the crowds" (8). The lengthy liturgical processions that developed in Jerusalem by the fourth century will immediately remind the reader of the parallels in public use of space for a political/theological broadcast described in the earliest chapters of this volume—though Christians paired fasting with festivals instead of banquets (231). Christians in Jerusalem transformed Aelia Capitolina "into Christianity's most holy city by the construction of churches and by the invention of rituals that redefined public time and space" and revived some of the Jewish past that Hadrian "hoped to obliterate" (232).

The third part of the book provides a glimpse into Christianity and its surprising compatibility with pagan private ritual. Chapter Ten deals with the practice of incubation, or receiving healing through dreams. At first blush there appears to be a similarity between pagan incubation and Christian practices such as sleeping by the graves of saints. However, Graf notes that incubation (and sometimes dreaming itself) was universally condemned by Christian theologians; while visions were experienced by Christians, they were never in a ritualized setting nor initiated by the recipients. Graf's conclusion in this chapter is that the differences between pagan incubation and Christian dream healing miracles are far too great to ignore. Then in Chapter Eleven the much-studied practice of Christian magic serves as an excellent example of syncretism in the early church. While the pagan world distinguished between harmless theurgia and evil goetia, Christian theologians such as Augustine condemned both as the work of demons (270). Legally, Constantine had distinguished between divination and magic; divination had to be used in public and magic could only be helpful (e.g., for healing or protection of crops). Christian use of magic, especially in the form of amulets, suggests that learned people were producing these items despite injunctions against priest and monks from "freelancing as sorcerers or exorcists" (294).

The book closes with a seventeen-page epilogue that helpfully summarizes the trajectory of the book regarding why Roman festivals survived despite Christian opposition and how that survival is related to the end of sacrifices. Graf occasionally draws conclusions at the end of chapters, so the epilogue profitably ties together the material into the central themes of the book.

In conclusion, this engaging book serves a wide range of historical interests. Graf has produced a detailed and heavily researched guidebook that breaks new ground on Roman festivals and their practice in the eastern empire during the Christian and pre-Christian eras, raising and answering important questions about the miscibility of Christian and pagan practices during this period.

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