Wednesday, August 23, 2017


J. N. Adams, An Anthology of Informal Latin, 200 BC - AD 900: Fifty Texts with Translations and Linguistic Commentary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Pp. xi, 719. ISBN 9781107039773. $200.00.

Reviewed by Eleanor Dickey, University of Reading (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

Anthologies of Latin texts are usually aimed at students, often ones who have not been studying Latin for very long and need easy selections with notes focussing on translation difficulties. This anthology is completely different, a huge body of meticulous scholarship and high-level academic discussion. It was originally intended as an appendix to the latest of Adams' monumental tomes on Latin, Social Variation and the Latin Language,1 but when that work turned out to fill 956 pages even without an appendix, this one took on a life of its own. It offers short (often very short) extracts, each with an introduction, translation, and commentary focussing on linguistic features; although unsuitable for most students, it is a gold mine for scholars interested in the Latin language, Latin stylistics, the beginnings of the Romance languages, or the specific texts included.

The texts all share one feature: their language differs significantly from the Ciceronian Latin typically described by grammars both ancient and modern. 'Informal' Latin is not the ideal description of this type of Latin, as Adams explains in the introduction, since some of the texts contain literary features and some were in fact their authors' best attempts at writing formal Latin. But since the ousting of the term 'Vulgar Latin', a standard term for Latin texts containing interesting linguistic features has been lacking, and 'informal' is as good as any. The vast majority of Latin spoken and even written in antiquity contained some of these 'informal' features, but the transmission process by which Latin texts have survived favours 'correct' Latin, giving us a distorted impression of how Romans generally used their language. By reading 'informal' texts one can gain a better understanding not only of the language as a whole, but also of the usage of writers like Cicero who made conscious choices not to do certain things that other Romans did.

A few of the texts included will be familiar to most Classicists, for example Plautus, Petronius, Seneca, graffiti from Pompeii, the Vindolanda tablets. But most of the texts are from lesser-known literary works (e.g. Ennius'Euhemerus, the Confessio of St Patrick, the Historia Apollonii regis Tyri) or documentary material that has hitherto been largely unknown and in many cases inaccessible to non-specialist Classicists, including curse tablets, papyrus letters, ostraca, inscriptions, and a mosaic with acclamations for a wild beast fight. Although most of the documentary texts are late, a few are surprisingly early, including a curse tablet from Rome dating to c. 100 BC (text 6) and a loan contract from Puteoli dating to AD 37 (text 15). The highlighting of this material is useful in itself, as it will allow ordinary Classicists to learn about works that are of great interest, not only for their language — but as the extracts provided in this book are usually very short, it cannot be used as an actual source for these works.

The commentary is intended to be read continuously from the beginning of the book to the end (concepts such as 'OV order' are explained once when they first come up and then used without any further explanation or cross-reference to the original one) and focusses on the points where Adams has something to add to the current scholarly consensus, rather than offering an introduction to that consensus. That approach, which Adams' followers will be familiar with from his other recent books, gives scholars maximum value per page but can be challenging for readers without extensive background; for example, common spelling errors such as the interchange of b and v may be passed over without any comment at all. Readers new to non-standard Latin may find it easier to use this work alongside one that provides more basic information, such as Adams' own The Vulgar Latin of the Letters of Claudius Terentianus.

The commentary goes into particular depth on certain points, including word order, relative clauses, asyndeton bimembre, indirect statement, and the relationship between case usage and prepositions. A number of appendices with additional data are included; these are not listed in the table of contents, which is unfortunate as they have a utility going beyond the particular texts to which they are attached.2 Fortunately there is a 'conclusions' section to the commentary on each text, a 'final conclusions' section, and a detailed index; these will mostly suffice to allow readers to find discussion of specific linguistic features.

Adams often spends particular energy attacking previous scholarship on specific points without stating exactly how he thinks the overall scholarly consensus should be revised to incorporate his findings. When this happens it is easy to misunderstand what he means, so readers should be very careful: I once heard someone summarize Adams' Regional Diversification with 'Adams says there wasn't any', revealing a disastrous failure to appreciate that the points on which Adams argued against regionalisms previously claimed by others were numerically outweighed by the points on which he did find regional variation. Summaries of the Anthology with 'Adams says there are no informal texts', 'Adams says Latin did not change over time', or 'Adams says the grammars are all wrong' would be equally unfortunate, but they could be equally tempting. To clarify, what Adams' conclusions on these points really boil down to is the following.

1) Many of the texts included turn out not to be as 'informal' as they have previously been considered: a recurring theme is the discovery of elevated stylistic features in unlikely places, such as a private letter from Myos Hormos (text 24) or Ennius' Euhemerus (text 1). Other texts, however, have large numbers of informal features.

2) The neat classification of Latin into early, Classical, and late varieties is artificial and often misleading, since there was vast diversity at all periods: even Classical Latin was not as standardized as we think. Moreover, older usages nearly always remained available for use by later writers, and there are some interesting continuities between early and late Latin. Nevertheless, significant changes can be seen over the timespan included in this volume.

3) The tendency of Latin grammars to focus on Cicero's usage means that they do not accurately represent Latin as a whole: Cicero's usage was not typical, and on certain points not even typical of educated usage in his own time (cf. pp. 144-5, 641). Our assumption that educated Romans of the first century BC shared Cicero's attitudes towards particular linguistic features sometimes causes us to misunderstand what other Latin authors were doing when they used non-Ciceronian features: some of those features were not 'informal' at all from the point of view of either writers or audience.

Other interesting conclusions concern the development of technical languages, whose genre-specific features Adams scrupulously distinguishes from simple informality (see e.g. text 11 from Vitruvius, text 25 from a surveyor's inscription from Algeria, text 5 for the beginnings of medical prose in Cato's De agricultura, text 50 for a medieval veterinary treatise, and pp. 654-5). Bilingualism, the use of Latin in the army in Greek-speaking regions, and convergence between Latin and Greek are also themes (see e.g. pp. 288, 645-6).

Connections and contrasts between different texts are frequently highlighted; these discussions can be hard to evaluate, or even to follow, when only one of the texts concerned is reproduced in the anthology (e.g. text 31, a letter of Publicola to Augustine, is compared in detail to Augustine's reply, which does not appear in the anthology). More manageable — and equally interesting — are the comparisons between different texts in the anthology, such as the observation (p. 316) that the significant differences in spelling between two second-century AD private letters do not show that the speech of their writers differed, merely that one was more literate than the other. Likewise, a series of curse tablets from Britain are connected by the argument that British Latin did not have certain distinctive conservative features it has been alleged to contain (texts 32-7; the arguments here almost look as though Adams thinks British Latin had no distinctive features, but that would be a misunderstanding: see p. 646). Occasionally multiple versions of essentially the same text are presented, a practice that is very helpful in understanding the peculiarities of each version (text 38 provides a New Testament passage in a Vetus Latina version, the Vulgate version, and the original Greek; text 42 provides two versions of the late medical compilation Physica Plinii; text 43 two versions of the late novel Historia Apollonii regis Tyri; text 44 two versions of the sixth-century Itinerarium Antonini Placentini; text 48 two versions of the eighth-century Annales regni Francorum).

A few features of the work make it harder to use than would have been necessary. There are a lot of abbreviations of obscure works, only a few of which appear in the list of abbreviations; abbreviations for non-Biblical literary texts appear to follow the Index of the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, but this is not stated. The texts are presented without an apparatus criticus; often this is because Adams reproduces a particular earlier edition, but sometimes (e.g. text 26) it is not clear exactly what the text presented is based on. Moreover the reproduction of earlier editions means that editorial conventions shift between one passage and the next. For example, texts 6, 14, and 26 all have interpuncts in the original, but whereas 26 is presented as a diplomatic transcript (ancient interpuncts and no modern punctuation), text 6 has only modern punctuation (with the interpuncts found in the original omitted 'because editors usually omit them', p. 107), and text 14 has both the ancient interpuncts and modern punctuation. Such inconsistencies require alertness on the part of the reader, who must not make assumptions about the relationship of Adams' texts to the original.


1.   Cambridge University Press 2013; this work is the third part of a trilogy including Bilingualism and the Latin Language (Cambridge 2003) and The Regional Diversification of Latin (Cambridge 2007).
2.   The appendices can be found on the following pages; I include here also a few major digressions not presented as appendices that have a similar self-standing utility for readers:

Connectives in Cato's Origines: 22-3
Relative constructions in Cato's Origines: 23-4
Two passages from Terence ... exemplifying the popular narrative style: 24-5
A brief passage from Plautus illustrating a completely different narrative style: 25
Quid tibi debetur: 53-8
Asyndeton bimembre in Cato, De agricultura: 78-4
Asyndeton bimembre in Varro's Res rusticae: 81-3
Everyday language in the letters of Augustus: 194-6
Object pronouns, direct and indirect, in chapters 3-13 of the Passio sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis: 341-2
Word order in the Passio sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis: 342-8
Authorship of different narratives in the Passio sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis: 348-53
Tollo and levo: 517-19
Ad and the dative: 523-31

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Christine Delaplace, La fin de l'Empire romain d'Occident: Rome et les Wisigoths de 382 à 551. Histoire. Série Histoire ancienne. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2015. Pp. 373. ISBN 9782753542952. €21.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Jeroen W.P. Wijnendaele, Ghent University (

Version at BMCR home site

Publisher's Preview

If one were to notice Christine Delaplace's monograph stacked in a library shelf, there could be an immanent risk of not being recognized for what it truly is. Labelled on its spine "La fin de l'Empire romain d'Occident", a weary reader might skip over yet another book ostensibly recounting the end of western Roman power; a topic well covered over the last decade. The equally unfortunate choice of choosing Joseph-Noël Sylvestre's 1890 Sac du Rome for the cover, featuring semi-naked Gerard Butler-esque warriors tearing down statues, might even urge one to skip another seemingly Romans-versus-Barbarians driven narrative. Fear not, weary reader, because its profound focus emerges via the front cover's subtitle "Rome et les Wisigoths de 382 à 531". While the Visigoths have obtained satisfactory attention in those recent surveys charting the late fourth to early sixth century CE, they have not yet received a modern monograph treating them on their own especially concerning their ninety-year long settlement in Aquitaine. This crucial episode is the core of Delaplace's work, and a topic conspicuously absent in our ever-expanding libraries. Hence this is a most welcome addition to a recent growing body of scholarship treating groups such as the Huns, Ostrogoths or Vandals.

Part 1 surveys the historiography of the Goths. Part 2 gives us a longue durée grounding in Rome's external relations with foreign powers, through assessments of envoys and embassies, espionage, and the mechanics of treaties, from the Republic to the fourth-century Empire. This is fundamental to understand one of Delaplace's main theses: the Goths who emerged from the Adrianople fiasco and were integrated into Rome's military structures after 382 were never conceived as an independent foreign nation on imperial soil. Part 3 charts the involvement of Gothic leaders during the many wars bedevilling imperial courts between 382-418. Delaplace argues that Alaric was not the ethnic leader of the 'united Balkan Goths', but essentially a war-leader with a significant military following in tow, willing to seek an agreement for armed service. She identifies the main problems destabilizing the imperial centre not as migrations, but politics—especially the vexed issue of how to counter usurpation.

Part 4 looks at the evolution of the Visigoths as auxiliaries of the western Roman army (c. 418-455). Delaplace demonstrates that the Goths who settled in Aquitaine got a considerably less favourable deal than Alaric had during his stints as imperial commander. The few times that their reges—kings of men but never kings of a state—went to war with the western court, the wars were almost inevitably driven by two factors: trying to revise the terms of Vallia's 416 agreement, which enabled Gothic military reintegration, or having to take sides in conflicts emanating from the centre (such as Ioannes' usurpation or the conflict between Aëtius and Sebastian). When a new foedus was finally awarded in 439, they continued playing their part in a substantially weakened defence system following the Vandal conquest of the Roman Maghreb (for which the onus is firmly squared on Aëtius' shoulders). Part 5 shows how a Visigothic army finally ended up achieving a territorial kingdom between 455 and 477. Delaplace is at her finest when deconstructing Sidonius Apollinaris' anti-Gothic testimony, originating from his collusion with the Burgundians who had propped up the illegitimate imperial upstarts Olybrius and Glycerius (472-474), which ultimately led to his exile. Only when the last western emperors had made themselves obsolete, and Odoacer struck a treaty with Euric that recognized the latter's acquisition of Provence in 477, did a true successor kingdom come into being. Finally, an epilogue shows how even in the period up to 531, Clovis' victory at Vouillé in 507 did not mark a terminus post quem for Visigothic history, but rather one more re-shuffling of the Late Roman 'Commonwealth' as had occurred in previous decades and was bound to continue until Justinian's wars. Delaplace does a painstaking job analysing the fragmentary contemporary sources, and placing them in their proper context. This reviewer finds himself in agreement with many of her verdicts and guiding principles in her reconstruction of events, but with some caveats.

There is a rigid tendency to paint a consistent picture of the Visigoths as loyal to legitimate emperors throughout the period of 416-476. This certainly counts as an improvement over visions of "predatory migrants", but sometimes the pendulum swings too far in the other direction. Occasionally one encounters some very special pleading, up to the point where, e.g., the generalissimo Ricimer suddenly becomes a bête noire for obstructing this Romano-Gothic dynamic. He is even found responsible for sabotaging Majorian's fleet in 460 (p. 228), using Childeric's Franks against Aegidius in the mid 460s (p. 238), and employing Rhiotamus' Britons to the detriment of Anthemius in the late 460s (pp. 249-250). Ricimer will probably always be remembered as the western Roman Empire's Kingslayer, but no source ever connected him to any of the aforementioned events.

While Delaplace should be applauded for placing Visigothic history in a suitable institutional framework, a few of her conceptual paradigms could have benefitted from more thorough elaboration. To state the most pertinent one, the Gothic groups emerging from the post-382 settlement are often described as mercenaries. This is a term that has merit for military actors in antiquity, especially during the Hellenistic era, but is fraught with much more difficulty for Late Antiquity. It conjures modern images of men willing to hire out their armed services to various parties in order to reap private gains. In fact, the only Late Antique groups whom we could identify serving the Empire thusly are the various Hunnic bands before Attila's consolidation of autocracy in the 440s. Similarly, Delaplace often styles Gothic leaders such as Alaric or Sarus even more anachronistically as condottieri, suggesting a level of professionalism that may not always seem compatible with their modus operandi . Faute de mieux, these models can work if one is willing to define them more in depth, as seen in other recent studies on ancient warfare.1

In fact, Delaplace is at her most convincing when she analyses Visigothic military interaction with the Empire from a much better established Roman perspective, namely that of the Republic and its socii. Indeed, from the 380s to the 470s, the Goths essentially acted as clients and allies of a government that desired their military aid, but was generally unwilling to grant them the status that would have allowed them to participate in state affairs. This becomes abundantly clear in Alaric's negotiations with Honorius (408-410), a rare case where the sources elucidate various terms, and where the former was much more concerned to become a magister militum than getting land to farm.

One has to admire the rigor with which Delaplace spells out the debate. Very few pages pass where a scholar is not properly credited in the main text, even to the extent of providing a chart to point out key differences between Wolf Liebeschuetz' and Peter Heather's views on the Visigothic genesis (p. 103). But one stumbles upon a striking limit in the status quaestionis. Delaplace admits that the brunt of this work was composed before 2008 and this is principally where the bibliography stops (pp. 16, 301). When one inspects the critical apparatus, however, it becomes clear that the literature rarely goes beyond the early 2000s.

More surprisingly, there is very little engagement with some of the major cited works defining and polemicizing the current debate, such as Heather's Fall of the Roman Empire, Guy Halsall's Barbarian Migrations and Michael Kulikowski's Rome's Gothic Wars. Sometimes this leads to awkward cases, such as her championing of Kulikowski's re-dating of the Rhine invasion by Alans, Vandals and Sueves to 31 December 405 (p. 131). Yet Kulikowski himself has conceded that Anthony Birley's vindication of the traditional date of 31 December 406 may stand after all. 2 Similarly, among the many dates proposed for the inception of a (semi) sovereign Visigothic polity, Halsall's arguments in favour of 439 are glossed over.3 To list one final example: while there is a justified dismissal of Giuseppe Zecchini's key argument to appraise Aëtius' 442 treaty with the Vandals, i.e. that it allowed him to shore up defences against a Hunnic war that would not occur until a decade later, it goes unmentioned that this is also vital in Heather's vigorous appraisal of Aëtius' policies.4 None of this undermines Delaplace's work, but it could have been rewarding to tease out the distinctions between these various landmarks and how they complement or contrast her central theses.

Some errata: The map depicting Alaric's itinerary in the Balkans places his 397 battle with Stilicho in Epirus, but this should be the Peloponnese (p. V). Vandals, Alans and Sueves did not cross a frozen Rhine in 406 (p. 19)—this is a Gibbonian construct for which there is no source evidence. Ammianus was not the last Roman author producing a classical Latin historiography (p. 36), but Renatus Profuturus Frigeridus. John Rich's Declaring War in the Roman Republic was published in 1976, not 1946 (p. 48, n. 2). "L'auteur de la Chronique de Prosper, publiée vers 443", is naturally Prosper himself (p. 109). Honorius did not arrange the murder of Belleridus, but did allow the murder to go unpunished (pp. 149-150). Bonifatius did not participate in Castinus' Spanish campaign, since he had already deserted it previously (p. 197). Prosper did hail from Aquitaine, but was no longer living there when he was writing his works (p. 210). The treaty of 475 was struck between Julius Nepos and Euric, not Theoderic II (p. 213). There is no evidence that Leo I ever appointed the warlord Marcellinus as magister militum Dalmatiae in 461 (p. 231), only that his nephew Julius Nepos became one later (CJ 6.65.1). The comes Paulus killed near Angers c. 470 was perhaps a successor of Aegidius, but certainly not of Syagrius floruit c. 486 (p. 249, n. 76). Last but not least, the pagan historiographer Zosimus is probably spinning in his urn hearing that he wrote a Histoire ecclésiastique (p. 102).5 Nevertheless, at the end of the day, this reviewer cannot emphasize strongly enough that this book is one of the most important new contributions to the field of Gothic studies. It has all the hallmarks of becoming a seminal work. Indeed, in French literature it already stands unrivalled. In 21st-century academia, where not only students but even scholars engage overwhelmingly with works published in their own language, one can only hope that Delaplace's monograph will earn the recognition and impact it deserves via a revised English translation.


1.   Cfr. Trundle, M. (2004), Greek Mercenaries from the Late Archaic Period to Alexander, London; Armstrong, J. (ed.) (2016), Circum Mare: Themes in Ancient Warfare, Leiden.
2.   Kulikowski, M. (2007), Rome's Gothic Wars from the Third Century to Alaric , Cambridge, p. 217 (n. 37).
3.   Halsall, G. (2007), Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376-558, Cambridge, pp. 245-247.
4.   Heather, P. (2005), The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians, London, pp. 292-298.
5.   Some typographical errors: 'Transformation od the Roman World' (p. 27, n. 21) 'Journal of Mediaval History' (p. 27, n. 22), 'firts' (p. 105, n. 19), 'generallismos' (p. 122), 'Byzantines studies' (p. 124, n. 76), 'essentielly' (p. 178, n. 25), 'Manatianus' instead of Namatianus (p. 180), 'wardlords' (p. 230), 'Gillet' instead of Gillett (p. 240), 'Gestaltungspeilräume' instead of Gestaltungsspielräume (p. 349), 'Formasino' instead of Formisano (p. 357), 'Sarentis' instead of Sarantis (p. 358), 'Van Warrden' instead of Van Waarden (p. 359).

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Paola Cotticelli-Kurras, Alfredo Rizza (ed.), Variation within and among Writing Systems: Concepts and Methods in the Analysis of Ancient Written Documents. LautSchriftSprache / ScriptandSound. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2017. Pp. 384. ISBN 9783954901456. €98.00.

Reviewed by Anna P. Judson, Gonville & Caius College, University of Cambridge (

Version at BMCR home site

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

This book is the first of a new series, 'LautSchriftSprache / ScriptandSound', focusing on the field of graphemics (the study of writing systems), in particular historical graphemics. As the traditional view of writing as (merely) a way of representing speech has given way to a more nuanced understanding of writing as a different, rather than secondary, means of communication,1 graphemics has become an increasingly popular field; it is also necessarily an interdisciplinary field, since it incorporates the study not only of written texts' linguistic features, but also broader aspects such as their visual features, material supports, and contexts of production and reading. A series dedicated to the study of graphemics across multiple academic disciplines is therefore a very welcome development.

This first volume presents twenty-one papers from the third 'LautSchriftSprache' conference, held in Verona in 2013. In their introduction, the editors stress that the aim is to present studies of writing systems with as wide a scope as possible in terms of location, chronology, writing support, cultural context, and function. The contributions represent an impressive chronological and geographical range, from the 2nd millennium BCE to the 20th century CE and from the Middle East and Caucasus to Iceland, with the writing systems under discussion including Mesopotamian and Hittite cuneiform; Luwian Hieroglyphs; Linear A and B; runes; and the alphabets used for writing ancient Greek, various Italic and Anatolian languages, medieval Italian dialects, Old and Middle High German, Icelandic, and Ossetic. It would have been welcome to see some chapters focusing on writing systems from outside of Europe and the Middle East, particularly the independently-created writing systems of China and Mesoamerica;2 it is to be hoped that future volumes in the series will also cover writing systems from these and other areas of the world.

The editors set out the main themes of the conference from which this book is derived as follows: analysing readers'/writers' conceptions of linguistic and graphemic concepts; considering how far the concept of a 'perfect fit' (i.e. an exact correspondence) between written signs and linguistic content is valid and useful; and incorporating different levels of analysis, especially focusing on issues relating to the transmission of writing systems and variation within and among these systems. The book presents a wide range of levels of analysis, from studies of individual script signs (e.g. Raschellà, Waxenberger), to discussions of systemic issues in the creation of particular writing systems (e.g. Bernard, Marinetti & Solinas), to theoretical or historical perspectives on the relationship between writing and culture (e.g. Tomelleri, Waldispühl).

What the introduction to this volume lacks, however, is a broader theoretical or methodological discussion of the book's potential interdisciplinary impact: how developing methodological approaches to or studying particular aspects of one writing system may help to illuminate others. Similarly, although the volume's title implies a focus on 'variation', this is only mentioned briefly, without any discussion of what kinds of variation might be meant (e.g. individual, chronological, geographical, generic) or why this issue may be a particularly important one for graphemics (e.g. its potential to shed light on writing systems' developments over time, or on the effect of different contexts and purposes of writing on the form of texts, or on the habits of individual writers). Only around half of the contributions specifically discuss variation within writing systems (Busse, Collins, Kazzazi, Pellegrini, Poccetti, Raschellà, Solling) or between different systems (Bernard, Marinetti & Solinas): the volume's sub-title, 'Concepts and methods in the analysis of ancient written documents', more accurately reflects its fairly broad focus. In addition, despite the volume's potential to attract readers from disparate backgrounds, individual chapters' level of accessibility to non-specialists varies considerably: those by Bernard, Marinetti & Solinas, Payne, Pellegrini, Poccetti, and Rizza, in particular, could have been made more accessible to readers from other disciplines by including more introductory background information, illustrations of the writing systems, signs, or inscriptions under discussion, and/or translations of quoted texts.

As it is not possible to discuss every chapter individually in this review, I shall now focus on three selected chapters, dealing with three of the overall themes mentioned in the introduction: variation within a single script (Busse), the adaptation and creation of scripts (Bernard), and the concept of a 'perfect fit' between script and language (Consani).

Busse's chapter on graphic variation in Hittite cuneiform (a logosyllabary) is divided into two sections: the first offers a detailed description and examples of various different types of scribal errors (e.g. omitting signs, adding extra signs, or replacing the intended signs with graphically or phonetically similar ones), while the second provides examples of scribes deliberately deviating from the usual writing conventions and the motivations behind these choices. These include simplification for economy in writing; adding extra signs for disambiguation; and extending signs' valency, e.g. by using Sumerian or Akkadian logograms to denote a Hittite sound-value. Busse's overall point that not all deviations from standard writing practices should necessarily be classed as 'errors' and her focus on the choices of individual writers are both important issues, and ones which could be applied to other writing systems, though Busse does not explore the possible wider implications. This chapter could also have more explicitly addressed the methodology behind identifying a feature as an error or a deliberate deviation, since in practice this may often be difficult when dealing with ancient texts whose language and/or script are now imperfectly understood.

Bernard's chapter deals with the origins of the alphabets used to write several ancient Anatolian languages (Phrygian, Lydian, Carian, Lycian, and Sidetic), specifically with the question of whether they were adapted from the Greek alphabet or from a Semitic script (e.g. Phoenician). As mentioned above, her introduction (which describes the Greek alphabet's creation from Phoenician and the characteristics of these Anatolian alphabets) would benefit from providing more background information, as well as illustrations of the various alphabets, for non-specialist readers. Bernard then sets out the arguments for a Greek or Semitic origin for each Anatolian alphabet (e.g. chronology, cultural and linguistic contacts, and structural, formal, and phonological correspondences between the scripts); her emphasis on the complexity of the linguistic and cultural situation of ancient Anatolia and the possibility of multiple influences on individual writing systems is particularly welcome. However, her conclusion that although the Phrygian alphabet was adapted from Greek, others (e.g. Carian and Sidetic) were created directly from Semitic scripts, is ultimately unconvincing: it relies on assuming that these scripts' systems of vowel notation (which are structurally extremely similar: 40-42) were developed independently, a hypothesis which seems improbable in itself and for which the use of matres lectionis in Phoenician and the occasional omission of vowel signs in Carian inscriptions do not seem sufficient evidence. Bernard's hypothesis also does not take into account the non-linguistic factors which may influence processes of script adaptation: the Anatolian alphabets' varying degrees of similarity to Greek may well be (at least partly) due to differing sociocultural factors (cf. Marinetti & Solinas on such factors' effects on Italic alphabets).

Consani's chapter discusses the concept of a 'perfect fit' between language and writing – i.e. the exact representation of linguistic content by script signs – with reference to the Linear B writing system. It is frequently stated that Linear B is 'inadequate' for representing the Mycenaean Greek language: the script is a syllabary whose signs all stand for open syllables (whereas Greek has many consonant clusters and word-final consonants), and does not systematically distinguish some Greek phonemic features. Consani's counter-argument, that the 'adequacy' of a script should be judged by its actual use (in this case, within the Mycenaean palace administrations), and that Linear B shows evidence of deliberate developmental choices by its writers in that context, is a valuable one, providing a reminder that many non-linguistic factors affect writing systems' structure and use; however, the details of this chapter often fail to support this overall argument. For instance, although some Linear B signs undoubtedly were created within a Greek linguistic context, the specific processes of creation which Consani suggests for some signs (95) are unconvincing;3 there is little discussion of the practical use of the spelling conventions used to represent Greek linguistic features in Linear B; and Consani's own remarks in the conclusion (101) imply that Linear B is less 'sophisticated' than the related Cypriot Syllabary due to the latter's wider range of uses – a view which seems at odds with his earlier demonstration of the sophisticated ways in which scribes used Linear B, particularly its ideographic component, in their administrative work. If anything, the Cypriot Syllabary demonstrates that Linear B's restriction to administrative documents was a choice on the part of its writers, not imposed by any structural 'inadequacy' of the writing system.

Overall, individual chapters in this volume will be of significant interest to scholars working in the same specialist area, and many raise important methodological points which could also be applied to the study of other writing systems – but relatively few contributions explicitly discuss the potential broader impact of their methods or conclusions, and this, combined with the similar lack of methodological or theoretical discussion in the introduction, as well as the relative inaccessibility of some chapters to non-specialists, may limit the extent of their interdisciplinary impact. However, the foundation of this 'LautSchriftSprache / ScriptandSound' series is a significant development in promoting interdisciplinary work in historical graphemics, and subsequent volumes in the series will undoubtedly contribute further to progress in this field.

Table of Contents

P. Cotticelli Kurras & G. Waxenberger, Presentation of the series
P. Cotticelli Kurras & A. Rizza, Introduction
A. Bauer, Orthophonic Spelling: Providing a Different Kind of 'Perfect Fit'
S. Bernard, Sur la piste des alphabets anatoliens entre les mondes grec et sémitique: diverse adaptations possibles
A. Busse, Überlegungen zur graphischen Variation in der hethitischen Keilschrift
B.J. Collins, Logograms and the Orthography of Animal Terms in Hittite Cuneiform
C. Consani, In search of the 'perfect fit' between speech and writing. The case of the Linear B writing
K. Kazzazi, Convention and creativity in writing: Similarities between historical writing systems and (multilingual) child writing samples
M. Marazzi, Die Sprache der Schrift
M. Marazzi, Lineare B: sistema notazionale inadeguato o sistema scrittorio strategico?
A. Marinetti & P. Solinas, Conservazione e innovazione fra ottimizzazione e ideologia nelle tradizioni alfabetiche derivate dell'etrusco
M. Muscariello, Elementi di continuità fra lineare A e lineare B: la 'doppia scrittura' e la mise en page
A. Nievergelt, Kürzungen im Althochdeutschen
A. Payne, Anatolian Hieroglyphs: a second writing system
P. Pellegrini, Sounds and signs in old Italian texts: two examples (veronese and abruzzese)
P. Poccetti, Ponctuation « blanche » et ponctuation « noire » dans l'épigraphie des langues anciennes
F.D. Raschellà, Z in Icelandic. The vicissitudes of a letter over the centuries
D. Solling, Compound nouns in German (1550-1710): open, closed and hyphenated forms
V.S. Tomelleri, Die Latinisierung der ossetischen Schrift. Sprachliche und kulturelle Implikationen im sowjetischen Diskurs (Gedanken zu einem Forschungsprojekt)
M. Waldispühl, Schrift im Gespräch. Medientheoretische Überlegungen zur historischen Schriftinterpretation
G. Waxenberger, Graphemes: (Re)construction and Interpretation
C. Zinko & M. Zinko, Bemerkungen zur sidetischen Schrift – Eine aktuelle Bestandsaufnahme
A. Rizza, Appendix: a provisional concordance to the sign list


1.   As stressed in this volume by, e.g., Consani (pp.89-91) and Marazzi (pp.115-24).
2.   Although Marazzi's chapter 'Die Sprache der Schrift' includes some mentions of Mayan glyphs and Aztec codices as examples in a theoretical discussion.
3.   On the origins of some of these signs, see A.P. Judson, 'Processes of script adaptation and creation in Linear B: the evidence of the "extra" signs', in P.M. Steele (ed.), Understanding Relations Between Scripts: The Aegean Writing Systems (Oxbow Books, 2017), pp.111-26.

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Monday, August 21, 2017


James R. Harrison, L. L. Welborn (ed.), The First Urban Churches 2: Roman Corinth. Writings from the Greco-Roman world Supplement series, 8. Atlanta: SBL Press, 2016. Pp. xvi, 353. ISBN 9780884141112. $51.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Laura S. Nasrallah, Harvard University: The Divinity School (

Version at BMCR home site

Let me first offer disclosures: I was doctoral advisor to one of the contributors, and I now serve on the publication board of the Society of Biblical Literature, although I was not at the time of the submission and publication of this volume.

This co-edited volume investigates Roman Corinth and the relevance of its social, political, and economic context to the study of the apostle Paul's letters to the Corinthians. 1 and 2 Corinthians, written in the mid first century CE, are embedded within the New or Christian Testament and comprise more than two letters. 2 Corinthians, as we have it, is likely an edition of multiple letters, and 1 Corinthians is not in fact the beginning of Paul's correspondence with an ekklēsia in Christ at Corinth, since it mentions an earlier letter. 1 and 2 Corinthians are co-written by Paul, a Jew who professes Jesus as the Christ/Messiah. (3 Corinthians is an early Christian text that reads like a writing assignment to bored scribes to imitate a Pauline letter; Eddie Izzard's "St. Paul's Letter to the Corinthians" is something else altogether.) Within a broader field of contemporaneous Jewish missionaries, Paul seeks to convince various Gentiles in Corinth that his teachings regarding social life, ethics, and theology are the right ones to follow (with mixed success, as 2 Corinthians indicates). Paul's letters, written before the term "Christian" was coined, are part of the evidence we have for Jewish diversity in antiquity and the appeal of Jewish ethics and practice to "the nations" or Gentiles. The Acts of the Apostles is a later text, with its own ideological agenda and a portrait of Paul which conflicts in various ways with his self-depiction; this text is nonetheless often used for reconstruction of Paul's life or of the life of the earliest Christ-community in Corinth. (In the volume under review, some authors use Acts to provide historical data for Paul's life, and some don't.)

These Christian Testament materials, as well as other early Christian writings, are relevant to those interested in Roman history, although they have generally been underutilized. So too, scholars of the New or Christian Testament often miss the opportunity to use a range of Roman-period sources. Both fields have suffered from the Tupperware syndrome of sealing our texts away in separate containers, and/or of thinking that our heuristic categories of Christians, pagans, and Jews were largely separate in antiquity.

The volume under review seeks to bring together the study of the New Testament and Roman history, particularly including archaeological remains. Moreover, its title, The First Urban Churches 2, situates it in relation to two larger fields. First, an earlier volume by the same co-editors, The First Urban Churches 1, provides methodological foundations; each chapter presents a case study or experiment, working across archaeological remains and a New Testament text. 1 Second, The First Urban Churches 2: Roman Corinth emerges in the wake of Wayne Meeks's influential The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul and retrospectives on that volume.2 Meeks emphasized the complexity of Greco-Roman social and economic life within the poleis of antiquity as an important context in which to understand the letters of Paul. The academic genealogy of Meeks and others is nicely summarized in Pettegrew's contribution in the volume under review (see p. 154), even as he insists upon the importance of looking at the broader countryside. The First Urban Church 2: Roman Corinth also takes part in a larger Zeitgeist regarding Roman Corinth, New Testament Studies, and archaeology, found in the volumes edited by Steven J. Friesen, Daniel Schowalter, and others, which bring together archaeologists, epigraphers, and scholars of the New Testament.3

The theoretical framework of The First Urban Churches 2: Roman Corinth is historical or historical critical, and all the essays to greater and lesser extent use archaeological remains, primarily epigraphic, to expand our understanding of the social, economic, and political life of the ekklēsia at Corinth.

James R. Harrison's "Introduction: Excavating the Urban Life of Roman Corinth," surveys the development of the Roman colony of Corinth up to end of the first century CE. The essay articulates five methodological desiderata (although this reviewer didn't understand the enumeration), which match the volume's commitment to placing New Testament texts within a broader historical context, including archaeological remains. This concern is important, and could be enhanced in several ways. Harrison works to reconstruct the "Corinthian group" which Paul addresses; it is unclear how this essay's reconstruction fits within recent debates about scholarly terminology of group, community, or house church.4 The chapter, with its concerns about ekklēsia and polis, would have been enriched by Anna Miller's study of 1 Corinthians and the political valence of the term ekklēsia even in Greek cities under Roman rule, as well as scholarship regarding civic life under the Roman Empire.5

Larry Welborn's "Inequality in Roman Corinth: Evidence from Diverse Sources Evaluated by a Neo-Ricardian Model" continues his important work on poverty. He describes the current scholarly impasse regarding the economic (and social) status of those in the ekklēsia in Christ at Corinth: Was a scholar like Meeks correct, that the range of social and economic status of Roman Corinth was mirrored in the ekklēsia to which Paul wrote, or is Justin Meggitt right that the majority of the community was poor?6 Welborn introduces a Neo-Ricardian model that predicts that land-owning urban elites will enjoy an increase in wealth and rural tenants, while urban wage laborers experience a downward economic spiral into poverty, as an increase in a population leads to scarcity of land relative to labor (p. 61). The chapter uses the Corinthian correspondence for a prosopographical study—limited given the available data— and argues that a Neo-Ricardian model fits Roman Corinth. The essay includes a helpful survey of some wealthy Corinthians who were freedmen. Further integration between chapters in this volume would have allowed Welborn to consider how his economic model might be impacted by Pettegrew's and other's theories about the diolkos, the expansion of the isthmus road, and harbor-trade routes.

Cavan Concannon's "Negotiating Multiple Modes of Religion and Identity in Roman Corinth" focuses not on Paul's thought or a singular narrative regarding those who followed Christ at Corinth, but on "some Corinthians," and particularly on the "im/migrant" identity of those whom Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians. Bilingualism, evidence of gods from Egypt and around the Mediterranean, "itinerant" myths central to Corinth but also well-known elsewhere: all these form the grounds for Concannon's argument that 1 Corinthians offers "some Corinthians new ideas about how to reconcile the problems occasioned by distance from home" (p. 101). Concannon also discusses the diverse conceptualities of ancestors that might inform practices of baptism of the dead in the Corinthian ekklēsia.

Kathy Ehrensperger's "Between Polis, Oikos, and Ekklesia: The Challenge of Negotiating the Spirit World (1 Cor 12:1-11)" is a close exegetical study. She explicates ancient ideas of spirits and daimones that inhabit not just the domestic sphere but also the civic, using this to contextualize Paul's argument that a diversity of daimones is not necessary: that all comes from the one God. This essay could have been further enriched by engagement with Caroline Johnson Hodge's work on mixed marriages7 and Plutarch's discussions of Apollo, divine presence, and daimones at the oracle of Delphi in De defectu oraculorum.

Michael Peppard's "Brother against Brother: Controversiae about Inheritance Disputes and 1 Corinthians 6:1-11" interprets the puzzling question: "Don't you know that wrongdoers will not inherit God's kingdom?" (Peppard's translation), reading it in light of depictions of legal controversiae in antiquity, particularly inheritance disputes between brothers. Peppard interestingly suggests that addressees of 1 Corinthians, frequently addressed as adelphoi, are enjoined to keep their arguments within the "family," and that the spirit/genius available to this new ecclesial family allowed Paul or another sophos to be able to judge the controversy. This reviewer would be eager to hear Peppard address how the enslaved or poor—and we know both are part of the community at Corinth—might receive and interpret such a passage in the context of their relation to the law in Roman Corinth.

David Pettegrew's "The Changing Rural Horizons of Corinth's First Urban Christians" explains how scholars of the Corinthian correspondence have relied on outmoded data regarding the diolkos, a paved roadway from north to south across the isthmus. Pettegrew details the current state of archaeological evidence and interpretation of this roadway, which do not indicate a system of portaging ships' cargo in the Roman period. This excellent chapter suggests a more important avenue for the study of early Christianity: the work under Nero of digging a canal across the Isthmus involved significant manpower, engineering coordination, and disrupted travel routes. The essay concludes with implications for the study of Paul at Corinth —at a crucial moment between its identity as a small colonial city and a bustling provincial capital.

Bradley J. Bitner's "Mixed-Language Inscribing at Roman Corinth" is a clear, technical discussion of epigraphic evidence. He rightly argues that scholars should attend more to the study of "mixed-language inscriptions and other inscribed instances of language contact at Roman Corinth" (p. 212). No clear connection to Paul's letters is made, but the chapter's methodology helps the non-specialist to think about the differences between bilingualism, code-switching, and other modes of multiple language use.

Fredrick J. Long's "'The God of This Age' (2 Cor 4:4) and Paul's Empire-Resisting Gospel at Corinth" argues that Paul's phrase "the god of this age" refers to the emperor(s), not a Satanic figure. The first portion of this chapter discusses imperial cult in Corinth around the time of Paul; the second treats passages in 2 Corinthians that the writer sees as evidence of a sophisticated argument against the emperors (see e.g. the chart on p. 256). The chapter begins with archaeological evidence local to Corinth, and it would have been strengthened by keeping this at the center of the essay: there is, for example, no discussion of how imperial veneration at Corinth compared to a city like Ephesos. The chapter's strong, close analysis of 2 Corinthians would benefit from engagement with Timothy Luckritz Marquis's work on Paul's language of triumphal procession and Shelly Matthews's study of language of mercy in early Christian texts in the context of Roman imperial rhetoric of clementia.8

James R. Harrison's "Paul and the Agonothetai at Corinth: Engaging the Civic Values of Antiquity" uses epigraphic evidence of agōnothetai to argue that while Paul does not upend the "Greco-Roman honor system," he does parody the cursus honorum in his fool's speech in 2 Corinthians 11-12. The essay provides a useful and interesting discussion of the Isthmian games as a site for athletics and oratorical prowess. The chapter could also have addressed performances of masculinity in oration, as well as Joseph Hellerman's argument about a Christian "cursus pudorum" in the Letter to the Philippians.9

The book bears the usual hallmark of an edited volume: unevenness. Depending on the chapter, contributions could have considered 2 Corinthians in more depth, knowledge of ongoing archaeological work is spotty, arguments regarding Paul's anti-imperial attitude are asserted rather than argued, significant scholarship on evolutions in the "epigraphic habit" is missing. Original languages for the inscriptions are unevenly provided. Small typographical errors, while not tragic, do exist (e.g., Sherry Cox for Sherry Fox, and the dreaded automatic spell checker disaster: "negotiators" for negotiatores). In addition, the overwhelmingly historical critical framework for the volume constrains the creativity and potential impact of these essays. For example, feminist scholarship is largely ignored (although Concannon's contribution is undergirded by feminist scholarship), and Harrison's admirable reference to postcolonial criticism in the introduction does not fully engage Bhabha's ideas of hybridity for understanding ethnicity in Roman Corinth. Some essays seem to grapple sub rosa with theology; better to discuss these openly and with an eye to constructive theological and historiographical purposes. I note that out of the eight contributors to this volume, only one was a woman, and I am not sure that any would identify as a racial or other minority.

In sum, this book adds depth and detail to the study of the Corinthian correspondence. It is particularly helpful for specialists in the Corinthian correspondence who wish to consider how to use archaeological remains and a broader historical context in their analysis of these letters.


1.   James R. Harrison and L. L. Welborn, eds., The First Urban Churches: Methodological Considerations. Writings from the Greco-Roman world supplement 7 (Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2015). 
2.   Wayne Meeks, First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983).
3.   Daniel N. Schowalter and Steven J. Friesen, eds., Urban Religion and Roman Corinth: Interdisciplinary Approaches, Harvard Theological Studies (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 2005); Steven J. Friesen, Daniel N. Schowalter, and James C. Walters, eds., Corinth in Context: Comparative Studies on Religion and Society (Leiden: Brill, 2010), and Steven J. Friesen, Sarah A. James, and Daniel N. Schowalter, eds., Corinth in Contrast: Studies in Inequality (Boston: Brill, 2014; full disclosure: I have an essay in this volume).
4.   E.g., Stanley Stowers, "The Concept of 'Community' and the History of Early Christianity," Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, vol. 23(3-4) (2011): 238-256; John Kloppenborg, "Membership Practices in Pauline Christ Groups," Early Christianity, vol. 4(2) (2013): 183-215; Jorunn Økland, Women in Their Place: Paul and the Corinthian Discourse of Gender and Sanctuary Space (New York: T & T Clark, 2004).
5.   Anna Miller, Corinthian Democracy: Democratic Discourse in 1 Corinthians (Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications, 2015). See also Onno M. van Nijf and Richard Alston, eds., Political Culture in the Greek City after the Classical Age (Leuven: Peeters, 2011); Arjan Zuiderhoek, The Ancient City (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017); and Cédric Brélaz's work, e.g., "Entre Philippe II, Auguste et Paul : la commémoration des origines dans la colonie romaine de Philippes," in Une mémoire en Actes: espaces, figures et discours dans le monde Romain, ed. Stephanie Benoist, Anne Daguet-Gagey, and Christine Hoet-van Cauwenberghe (Villeneuve-d'Ascq: Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 2016).
6.   Justin Meggitt, Paul, Poverty, and Survival (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1998).
7.   Caroline Johnson Hodge, "'Mixed Marriage' in Early Christianity: Trajectories from Corinth," in Corinth in Contrast.
8.   Timothy Luckritz Marquis, Transient Apostle: Paul, Travel, and the Rhetoric of Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013); Shelly Matthews, "Clemency and Cruelty: Forgiveness and Force in the Dying Prayers of Jesus and Stephen," Biblical Interpretation 17 (2009): 118-146. Reprinted in Ra'anan Boustan, Alex Jassen and Calvin Roetzel, eds., Violence, Scripture, and Textual Practice in Early Judaism and Christianity. (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2010), 117-144. Also see her Perfect Martyr: The Stoning of Stephen and the Construction of Christian Identity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).
9.   Joseph Hellermann, Reconstructing Honor in Roman Philippi: Carmen Christi as Cursus Pudorum (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

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Alan J. Ross, Ammianus' Julian. Narrative and Genre in the Res Gestae. Oxford Classical Monographs. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. Pp. xvii, 253. ISBN 9780198784951. $105.00.

Reviewed by Joachim Szidat, Riedholz (

Version at BMCR home site

Ross erörtert die Darstellungsweise Ammians unter Rückgriff auf moderne literaturwissenschaftliche Betrachtungsweisen wie die Narratologie oder die Intertextualität.1 Er behandelt Ammians Werk als literarisches und nur indirekt als Quelle für den modernen Historiker. Methodisch folgt er Kellys Darlegungen zu Ammian.2 Ross übernimmt bisweilen dessen Argumentation im Detail, so z.B. bei der Erörterung der Teilnahme Ammians an den Ereignissen im Westen (S. 76-78), um dann zur eigenen Interpretation überzugehen (S. 79/80), die sich aber methodisch nicht grundlegend von der von Kelly unterscheidet.

Ross will Ammians Werk unter drei Gesichtspunkten verstehen, nämlich erstens als solches der lateinischen Historiographie, zweitens als zeitlich letzten Beitrag eines Zeit- und teilweise Augenzeugen der geschilderten Ereignisse nach einer mehr als fünfundzwanzigjährigen Diskussion über Julian, an der auch andere Zeit- und Augenzeugen teilnahmen, die Julian unterschiedlich nahestanden, und drittens als erzählenden Text, in dem das Gewicht und die Bedeutung des Erzählers eng mit dessen eigener Person verbunden sind (S. XI). Der Erzähler tritt dabei als außenstehender Berichterstatter auf, gelegentlich aber auch als Teilnehmer an den Ereignissen, über die er berichtet.

Das Vorwort (Preface, S. V-XI) spricht von der Darstellungsweise und der Bedeutung Ammians für das Verständnis Julians, verweist auf die Bedeutung der Arbeiten Kellys für den Autor und legt auf S. XI die oben erwähnten Ziele des Buches dar. Dem Vorwort folgen der Dank an verschiedene Institutionen und Personen (S. XIII/XIV), das Inhaltsverzeichnis (S. XV/XVI) und eine Liste der Abkürzungen sowie Bemerkungen dazu (S. XVII). Es schließt sich das 1.Kap. an (In Search of the Latin Julian, S. 1-51), das vorwiegend methodischen Charakter hat. Es spricht von den historischen Darstellungen über Julian vor Ammian, über Erzählung und Geschichtsschreibung und über die Beziehung zwischen dem Text Ammians und dem narratee, vereinfacht gesagt dem Leser. Der Begriff narratee ist aber wesentlich komplexer und differenzierter. Es schließt mit einem Überblick über den Inhalt der folgenden Kapitel (Overview. S. 50/51). Ross unterstreicht dabei den Auswahlcharakter der von ihm erörterten historischen Ereignisse.

Kap. 2 diskutiert das Verhältnis von Erzähler und Teilnehmer am Beispiel von Gallus' Sturz und Silvanus gescheiterter Usurpation (S.52-95), Kap. 3 handelt von Tradition und Erneuerung in Rede und Erzählung am Fall von Julians Erhebung zum Caesar (S. 96- 125) und Kap. 4 von der Legitimierung Julians am Beispiel der Schlacht von Straßburg (S. 126-161). Kap. 5 erörtert, wie man Scheitern darstellt, und spricht von Julians Perserzug und Ammians Teilnahme daran (S. 162-202).

Es folgen ein Nachwort (Epilogue, S. 203-06) und ein Appendix. Das Nachwort faßt in gewisser Weise die Ergebnisse zusammen und macht auf Fragen aufmerksam, die nicht gelöst sind. Der Appendix beschäftigt sich mit dem Gebrauch des Griechischen in Ammians Res Gestae (The Res Gestae's Discourse on Greek, S. 207-18) und soll Ammian als verbindlichen (authoritative) Interpreten Julians erkennen lassen, den der Historiker als einzigen in den Res Gestae Griechisch sprechen läßt (S. 218).3 Julian zitiert Homer. Zur Bedeutung des Zitates im Rahmen der Darstellung Ammians vgl. S. 123-25.

Anschließend folgt eine umfangreiche Bibliographie (S. 219-237), in der dem Ziel des Buches entsprechend historische Arbeiten etwas weniger berücksichtigt sind. Den Schluß bildet ein Index der erörterten Quellenstellen (Index locorum S. 239-47) und ein Index, der Personen, Sachen und geographische Namen umfaßt (S. 248-53).

Die Bibliographie ist umfassend für die Themenstellung, und die meisten Bücher sind auch konsultiert worden. Es fehlen aber wichtige Arbeiten in deutscher und italienischer Sprache. So könnte der Bibliographie die Arbeit von Benedetti-Martig4 hinzugefügt werden, die zeigt, daß die öffentliche Diskussion über den Perserkrieg viel breiter war, als uns unsere Überlieferung und die klassische Quellenforschung glauben lassen, und die von Bitter, die sehr wichtig für die Schlachtbeschreibungen gerade unter literarischer Perspektive ist.5

Ross betont zu Recht, daß Ammians Werk eines der großen lateinischen Geschichtsschreibung sei. Dem Rezensenten ist dabei nicht ganz verständlich, warum Ross z.B. Nicomachus Flavianus' Annalen nicht auch als solche eingehender diskutiert. Zwar ist ungewiß, was ihr Umfang, Inhalt und Aufbau war, aber ein mindestens qualitativ bedeutender Teil der Forschung neigt der Auffassung zu, daß es sich um große Geschichtsschreibung handelt, was etwas schnell abgetan wird (S. 7;26). Der Rückgriff auf Amm. 25,10,5 (Kommentar Ammians zu Julians Begräbnisplatz )6 im Epilog (S. 203) unterstreicht z.B. problemloser die lateinische Tradition in Ammians Werk7 und ist zugleich ein Hinweis auf die distanzierte Haltung Ammians zum Christentum, was Ross entgangen zu sein scheint. Die Apostelkirche wird S. 203 als möglicher Begräbnisort Julians nicht erwähnt, obwohl er zur Familie Konstantins gehörte. Sie wird auch sonst bei Ammian niemals genannt.

Das Verhältnis von Interkontextualität und Verwendung schriftlicher Quellen ist offensichtlich nirgends thematisiert. Das liegt einmal am Werk Ammians selbst, bei dem das Verhältnis von Quellengebrauch im klassischen Sinn (Rückgriff auf andere historische Darstellungen) und anderen Informationsquellen wie mündliche Mitteilungen, Autopsie oder Aufzeichnungen verschiedenster Art nur schwer greifbar ist. Bleckmann/Stein8 gehen z.B. davon aus, daß Ammian und Philostorgios bei der Schilderung des Schicksals des Caesars Gallus auf eine gemeinsame Quelle zurückgehen (S. 276). Dieses ungeklärte Verhältnis liegt aber auch an der Methode von Ross. Sie verlangt bei der Intertextualität keinen Rückgriff auf die Quellenforschung, weil dabei nur die Besonderheit der Darstellung Ammians verloren gehen könnte. Im Fall von Philostorgios' Bericht zu Gallus spricht Ross bezeichnenderweise nicht von der möglichen gemeinsamen Quelle für Ammian und Philostorgios, sondern davon, daß Philostorgios der einzige Autor sei, der über Gallus' Herrschaft vergleichbar ausführlich wie Ammian berichtet (S. 79). Ross kennt aber durchaus die Ergebnisse der Quellenforschung (vgl. z.B. S. 129-131) und setzt sich auch wenn nötig mit ihr auseinander.

Das Buch ermöglicht ein besseres Verständnis der Darstellung, die Ammian von Julian gibt, und von dessen Bedeutung im Werk des Historikers insgesamt. Es stellt weitere Mittel bereit, um die Glaubwürdigkeit einzelner Stellen und ihre Verwendbarkeit für den Historiker überprüfen zu können. So lassen die Darlegungen zu Amm. 31,7,16 die Technik und die Vorlagen erkennen, die der Beschreibung von Schlachtfeldern nach dem Kampf zugrunde liegen. Sie machen auch deutlich, daß diese Stelle nicht als Beleg dafür verwendet werden kann, daß Ammian auf einer Reise das Schlachtfeld von Adrianopel später in Augenschein nahm.9

Ross's Buch läßt vorwiegend die Auswahl der überlieferten Fakten, die Art ihrer Darstellung und ihre Bewertung durch Ammian besser verstehen und ist somit auch für den Historiker wichtig. Es ist aber überwiegend von Bedeutung für die literarische Gestaltung der Res gestae. Eine deutliche Abgrenzung zur Studie von Kelly ist schwierig und kann in dieser Rezension nicht geleistet werden. Sie müßte Gegenstand eines größeren Forschungsberichtes über beide Autoren sein. Ross geht an einigen Stellen auf sein Verhältnis zu Kelly ein (vgl. z.B. S. X/XI; S. 40-45 zu Amm. 31,7.16).

Die englische Begrifflichkeit ist nicht einfach und erschwert den Zugang zu Ross's Text. Zu wenig scheint von Ross nach Meinung des Rezensenten oft bedacht zu sein, daß große Geschichtsschreibung natürlich Erzählung ist und in der Antike auf jeden Fall literarischen Charakter hat, aber der Erzähler, der Historiker, nicht frei ist, sondern an die Überlieferung gebunden. Sie bildet eine Basis, die die Freiheit des Erzählers begrenzt. Geht er zu frei mit der Überlieferung um, wird sein Text zu reiner Fiktion. Ross setzt sich z.B. S. 37/38 mit diesem Problem auseinander. Er betont dort den fiktiven Charakter der Historiographie etwa für die kausale Verknüpfung, was durchaus korrekt ist, aber nicht in jedem Fall stimmt. Eine in einem Text überlieferte kausale Verknüpfung kann z.B. auch eine offizielle Stellungnahme widerspiegeln und ist dann an eine Quelle gebunden.10 Ihre Umgestaltung wäre nur in einem historischen Roman möglich. Das Problem hätte eine vertiefte Auseinandersetzung verdient.

Viele Beobachtungen sind auch ohne Rückgriff auf moderne literaturwissenschaftliche Theorien und Begriffe möglich und auch schon gemacht worden. So sind etwa moderne Autoren in der Regel durchaus bestrebt, Aufbau, Darstellungstechnik und inhaltliche Gewichtung im Werk Ammians erkennen zu lassen11 und verwenden Methoden der Intertextualität, auch wenn der Begriff und die theoretischen Überlegungen dazu nicht auftauchen.12 Man weiß in der Regel sehr gut, daß mit Quellenforschung allein dem Text Ammians wie auch anderen nicht beizukommen ist.

Die Frage, ob die angewandte Methode Ergebnisse bringt, die für den Gebrauch Ammians als Quelle für den modernen Historiker über einzelne Stellen hinaus grundlegend und bedeutsam sind, bleibt für den Rezensenten offen.


1.   Ross definiert beide Begriffe und ihren Gebrauch durch ihn etwa auf S. 38/39.
2.   Vgl. besonders G.Kelly, Ammianus Marcellinus. The Allusive Historian, Cambridge 2008.
3.   Homer, Ilias 5,83; Amm.15,8,17.
4.   I.Benedetti-Martig, Studi sulla guerra persiana nell'orazione funebre per Giuliano di Libanio. Firenze 1990 (vgl. auch Bern 1986). Es fehlen auch die italienischen Übersetzungen der Res Gestae von Selem und Sordi. Le Storie di Ammiano Marcellino, a cura di A.Selem, Turin 19732 (Text und Übersetzung) und Ammiano Marcellino. Le Storie, a cura di M.Caltabiano, Milano 1989 (nur Übersetzung). Die Ausgabe von Viansino (S. 220) enthält auch eine Übersetzung und einen Kommentar.
5.   N.Bitter, Kampfschilderungen bei Ammianus Marcellinus, Bonn 1976. Vgl. zum Verhältnis zu Ammian etwa auch den Kommentar von E.Bliembach, Libanius' oratio 18. Kommentar, Würzburg 1976. Die neue, kommentierte Philostorgios' Ausgabe von Bleckmann und Stein ist wahrscheinlich zu spät erschienen, um noch berücksichtigt werden zu können (Philostorgios Kirchengeschichte, ediert, übers. und kommentiert von B.Bleckmann und M.Stein, 2 Bde. Paderborn 2015).
6.   Vgl. dazu J.den Boeft/J.W.Drijvers/D.den Hengst/ H.C.Teitler, Philological and historical commentary on Ammianus Marcellinus XXV, Leiden/Boston 2005, 321-326; J.Szidat, Historischer Kommentar zu Ammianus Marcellinus, Buch XX - XXI, Teil 3: Die Konfrontation, Stuttgart 1996, besonders S. 238.
7.   Vgl. z.B. auch S. 188.
8.   Vgl Bleckmann/Stein S. 276 (n. 5).
9.   So vermutet es etwa J.F.Matthews, The Roman Empire of Ammianus, London 1989,17, kritisch schon G.Sabbah, La méthode d'Ammien Marcellin. Recherches sur la construction du discours historique dans les Res gestae, Paris 1978, 282. Bei Ross's Erörterungen fehlen ein Hinweis auf HA v.Claud.8,5, der den topischen Charakter der Stelle noch deutlicher hervortreten läßt, und eine mögliche Bezugnahme auf Lib. or.24,2.
10.   Vgl. z.B. Amm. 15,8,3.8.12 zum Motiv, Julian zum Caesar zu erheben. Ammian überliefert dafür Julians Verwandtschaft mit Constantius II., legt sie jedoch der Kaiserin Eusebia und Constantius II. in den Mund. Am offiziellen Charakter dieses Motivs ist aber nicht zu zweifeln.
11.   Man vgl. z.B. die Arbeit von G.Sabbah (vgl. n.9). Er verweist z.B. schon auf die Beziehungen zwischen der Schlacht von Strasbourg und der von Adrianopel sowie auf die Rolle Amidas dabei (S. 471 und passim). Man muß Ross allerdings zu gute halten, daß die Auseinandersetzung mit Tacitus' oder Sallusts Beschreibungen inhaltlich vergleichbarer Szenen wie z.B. Schlachten sich bisher eher selten findet. Dieser Aspekt ist aber schon in einzelnen Arbeiten vorhanden. Er geht nur teilweise auf Kelly zurück. Man vgl. z.B. P.Riedl, Faktoren des historischen Prozesses: eine vergleichende Untersuchung zu Tacitus und Ammianus Marcellinus, München 2002 oder A.Bargagna, Ammiano lettore di Tacito. Percorsi di confronto intertestuale, tematico e compositivo, Studi classici e orientali 61, 2015, 335-350.
12.   Ross spricht S. 39 ausdrücklich davon, wie Methoden der Intertextualität schon vor ihm für die Interpretation von Ammians Text verwendet wurden und setzt sich im folgenden damit auseinander. Das Verfahren findet sich schon in den Vorschriften der antiken Rhetorik, wenn auch vom Autor ausgehend. Es wird dazu geraten, auf Worte, Dinge (inhaltliche Elemente) und Personen bei anderen Autoren für das eigene Werk zurückzugreifen (Quint. instit.or. 10,2,26.27).

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James J. Clauss, Martine Cuypers, Ahuvia Kahane (ed.), The Gods of Greek Hexameter Poetry: From the Archaic Age to Late Antiquity and Beyond. Potsdamer Altertumswissenschaftliche Beiträge, 56​. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016. Pp. xiv, 472. ISBN 9783515115230. €69.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Christodoulos Zekas, Open University of Cyprus (

Version at BMCR home site

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

This is a particularly rich collection of papers on a very interesting subject that has not as yet been examined at so impressive a span of time. Taking its cue from the influential work of Denis Feeney, The Gods in Epic: Poets and Critics of the Classical Tradition (Oxford, 1991),1 the book under review spans Greek hexameter poetry from the Archaic period down to Late Antiquity (the last two chapters on Greek literature cover the Argonautica of Orpheus and the Sibylline Oracles), also offering a glimpse of resonances of the Greek gods in Latin poetry (Virgil, Ovid) and modern literature (Tennyson, Walcott, Oswald). Given the wider ramifications of this (seemingly confined) topic for the history of Greek literature, the employment of the solemn and majestic hexameter verse within a range of genres, and the association of literary presentation with societal norms, the volume should appeal to a wider audience, while also engaging with scholarly discussions in more specialised fields. Furthermore, several papers include a well-rounded introduction to the text they are discussing and could be used in course syllabuses.

The volume seeks to trace "developments in religious thought and practice and ongoing philosophical and literary-critical reflection about the nature and representation of the divine" (p. 1). As appears from the discussion, divine presence and action lie at the centre of concern in Archaic hexameter poetry, with Hesiod and the longer Homeric hymns representing the first stages in the formation of the Olympic pantheon before its establishment in Homer. This can be seen in the story of the Iliad, deeply warlike and antagonistic, and without doubt, following the will of Zeus. The Odyssey, on the other hand, foregrounds a more settled context in which strife lurks in the background and the gods, as suggested, provide patterns for human demeanour, while the Cyclic Epics and the Shield feature more anthropocentric world views. One may have concerns with this evolutionary, historical model in Archaic hexameter poetry, not only since in some cases evidence is scarce, but mainly because the works representing the proposed stages are very different in themselves. For instance, should it not be expected that the Theogony would suggest an outlook dissimilar to the Works and Days? Equally, to what extent does the story itself in each of the two Homeric epics influence the presentation of the gods? These questions are of course difficult to answer; but still one of the merits of the present volume is that it advances balanced discussions about this, and other issues, that generate thinking in broader terms.

In Hellenistic times things are not as complicated, though no less varied and intriguing. Despite the poets' association with, and even adherence to, the Homeric and Hesiodic models, the canonical status of divinities becomes a reflection of political power, while the gods are depicted more distant in the narrative. The latter feature is evident in Imperial poetry too, which additionally plays with ancient exegeses, philosophical thinking and a stronger tendency towards religious syncretism.

It is perhaps impossible to thematically categorise in a fair manner all the papers of the volume, since another strength of this collection is the variety of the issues discussed, which bears witness to the richness and manifold aspects of the topic of divinity and its depiction in Greek literature. Recurrent themes that receive special attention include the struggle for and succession of power among the gods, the features that distinguish deities from humans, divine action and interference in the story, the issues of double motivation and fate, as well as the association of divine performance with contemporary religion(s) and theological beliefs. These themes are treated from three main angles: narrative analysis (of character and plot), intertextual dialogues (predominantly with Homer, Hesiod, Callimachus, and Apollonius Rhodius), while a few papers approach the subject chiefly through religion and cult. The papers are sufficiently, or even heavily, footnoted, and the secondary literature used is extensive and (to my knowledge) up-to-date.

Inclusiveness in reviewing a volume of so wide a scope is far from realistic an aim. Thus, in what follows, I have tried to discuss most of the contributions (yet not all of them evenly), while regrettably not examining others at all. For more information the reader may wish to consult the comprehensive summaries of papers in the editors' Introduction.

Reflecting the development and establishing process of the Olympian pantheon, the volume sets off with Strauss Clay's paper on Hesiod, which seeks to underline the different nature between gods and humans, arguing for the absence of a justice (dike) for the gods in the Theogony, since this notion, as we may see in the Works and Days, is associated with the scarcity of goods and is therefore an intrinsic feature of the human condition.

With the longer Homeric hymns we enter into the next stage of formation of the Olympian pantheon. This sort of development is also reflected in the narrative of the hymns, which devote minimal lines to the voice of Zeus and do not preserve even a single hymn for the father of the gods. Taking these features into account, Falkner elaborates on two pairs of hymns that present a contrast in tone ('Demeter and Apollo', 'Hermes and Aphrodite') from the perspective of divine features and cult.

Ormand considers the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women from the angle of Zeus' agency and the human knowledge of it, and he persuasively argues that this fragmentary work represents a stage intermediary between the Theogony and the Works and Days; in the first poem Zeus' power is inescapable while in the second poem it is impossible to grasp. The Catalogue, however, narrates events from a slightly different perspective: humans (i.e. heroes), although already separate from the gods, may still entertain interaction with them but, in all their attempts, they ultimately fail to fully conceive of Zeus' will.

Marks' paper provides a subtle reading of Zeus' plan in the Iliad, focusing on Olympian assemblies and their sequels. As appears from his examination, Zeus is a master of words who, in the process of advancing his carefully concocted design, resorts either to threats and intimidations or to more nuanced strategies that include complex and subtle language. A minor concern about Marks' argument refers to the suggestion that Zeus could have been aware of Hera's plan in Book 14 (pp. 66-7).

Employing findings from the fields of myth and cult (drawn on Linear B tablets and later texts), Martin's reading of Poseidon's function in the Odyssey sheds light on some important associations between Poseidon and Odysseus.

The Epic Cycle receives a well-rounded treatment by Tsagalis, who carefully traces its divine themes (wrath, rivalry, metamorphosis, to mention but a few), also by reading them against the background of Homeric poetry.

The issues of divine involvement in the plot and interaction with humans are the subject of Clauss' paper from two main standpoints: the Apollonian influences from the Hesiodic Catalogue, and the distancing of the Olympians (though not of the minor divinities) from mortals, a stance that reflects beliefs contemporary to Apollonius' times. I have not, however, been convinced by the suggestion that the Apollonian allusion to the Catalogue, by means of the construction ξυνὸς γὰρ … ξυνοὶ δέ (twice in A.R.), implies the common era in which gods interacted with mortals; other than this shared construction, the three passages do not appear to have much in common (pp. 136-9).

Ryan investigates how Aratus' Phaenomena negotiates the dual and conflicting interpretation of constellations as objects of scientific observation and products of mythical thinking.

Petrovic, in one of the most interesting and rewarding papers of the volume, entertains the possibility of the performative nature of the Callimachean hymns and, by reading them against the background of the Homeric hymns, makes a strong case for the absence of strife within the Olympian family and the absolute rule of Zeus as a reflection of the Hellenistic monarchy.

Morrison's chapter on Moschus' Europa and Eros on the Run argues for an "aestheticized" treatment of the gods as "a subject for narrative" aimed at the pleasure of the audience (p. 207), a depiction that does not include much detail and lies outside any (performative) context we may see in Homeric epic and Archaic hymnic poetry.

Divine presence in Quintus of Smyrna's Posthomerica is examined in a well-rounded paper by Bär. Despite Quintus' tendency towards over-Homericizing, Bär highlights the Posthomerica's divergence from the Homeric model (e.g. reduced references to divinities, the almost complete absence of verbal interaction between the gods ['depersonalization'], the decreased amount of double motivation, an elevated authority of Zeus), and aptly interprets this "shift from conventionality to singularity" (p. 223) as serving Quintus' narrative purposes.

Miguélez-Cavero argues for the employment of ancient exegeses (mainly the Scholia and Heraclitus' Homeric Problems) in the interpretation of the gods in Triphiodorus' Sack of Troy. This poet generally follows Homer in key issues, such as anthropomorphism and double motivation, but tends to favour allegorical reading of the gods too. In Miguélez-Cavero's discussion, however, the issue of fate receives too brief a treatment.

Bartley's paper, a celebration of intertextuality, highlights Artemis' rivalry with other deities in the Cynegetica, as well as examining the representation of religious syncretism in the portrayal of the goddess.

Schelske's well-documented discussion addresses the translation of philosophy into the epic poetry of Late Antiquity, arguing for the combination of Orphic and Neoplatonic elements in the two theogonies of the Argonautica of Orpheus.

Briggs, in a well-balanced examination of the subject in Virgil's Aeneid, draws attention to the political and historical aspects of the gods and their differences from deities in Homer.

The volume includes a general Index, though more detailed references to ancient sources (which are cited by title only), perhaps through the inclusion of a separate Index locorum, would make the references more accessible. Typos are minimal,2 and in general the book is nicely produced.

Overall, the present collective volume succeeds in examining the main aspects of the depiction of the gods in Greek hexameter poetry, and, where appropriate, contributions foreground associations of this issue with history, religion, and cult, along with contemporary trends in literary representation. Readers will benefit from many papers in this collection, and it is certainly a fortunate occasion that a topic of such significance is treated in mainstream alongside less studied authors and texts, which, in all their diversity, share the hexameter as a single element of construction.

Authors and Titles

1 James J. Clauss, Martine Cuypers and Ahuvia Kahane, Hiero's Question: An Introduction
2 Jenny Strauss Clay, The Justice of Zeus in the Theogony?
3 Andrew Faulkner, The Gods in the Narratives of the Homeric Hymns
4 Kirk Ormand, Divine Perspective and the Plots of Zeus in the Hesiodic Catalogue
5 Jim Marks, Herding Cats: Zeus, the Other Gods, and the Plot of the Iliad
6 Richard P. Martin, Poseidon in the Odyssey
7 Christos Tsagalis, The Gods in Cyclic Epic
8 Timothy Heckenlively, Ares in the Pseudo-Hesiodic Shield
9 James J. Clauss, Heldendämmerung Anticipated: The Gods in Apollonius' Argonautica
10 John Ryan, Zeus in Aratus' Phaenomena
11 Ivana Petrovic, Gods in Callimachus' Hymns
12 Massimo Giuseppetti, Gods in Fragments: Callimachus' Hecale
13 A. D. Morrison, Erotic Battles? Love, Power-Politics and Cosmic Significance in Moschus' Europa< and Eros on the Run
14 Silvio Bär, Reading Homer, Writing Troy: Intertextuality and Narrativity of the Gods and the Divine in Quintus of Smyrna's Posthomerica
15 Laura Miguélez-Cavero,'With a Little Help from my (Divine) Friends': Double Motivation and Personification in Triphiodorus' Sack of Troy
16 Adam Bartley, The Huntress and the Poet: Artemis in the Cynegetica
17 Domenico Accorinti, Naming the God of Metamorphosis: The Ever-changing Shape of the Infant Dionysus in Nonnus' Dionysiaca
18 Anna Lefteratou, Jesus' Late Antique Epiphanies: Healing the Blind in the Christian Epics of Eudocia and Nonnus
19 Enrico Magnelli, Gods and Men in Colluthus' Rape of Helen
20 Oliver Schelske, The Argonautica of Orpheus as 'Poetic Theology'? Divine Hierarchies in Late Antique Philosophy and Poetry
21 J. L. Lightfoot, Polytheism in the Sibylline Oracles
22 Ward Briggs, Homer's Gods and Virgil's Aeneid
23 Fritz Graf, The Gods in Ovid's Fasti
24 Edward Adams, From Epiphanic Idyll to Faith-bound Epyllia: Tennyson's Poetic Descent from Virgil to Gibbon


1.   BMCR 03.02.08
2.   I have noticed the following misprints: p. xiv: "the names [of] ancient authors"; p. 1: "where[as]"; p. 269: "an attempt [to] replace"; p. 286: "and thrrefore"; p. 362: "its is she".

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Peter Attema, Jorn Seubers, Sarah Willemsen (ed.), Early States, Territories and Settlements in Protohistoric Central Italy. Proceedings of a specialist conference at the Groningen Institute of Archaeology of the University of Groningen, 2013. Corollaria Crustumina, 2. Groningen: University of Groningen / Groningen Institute of Archaeology; Barkhuis, 2016. Pp. x, 152. ISBN 9789491431999. €42.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Joshua R. Hall (

Version at BMCR home site

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

The work under review is the second publication of the Corollaria Crustumina series which aims to publish research on the settlement of Crustumerium and Italian protohistory more generally. The papers which make up its chapters were originally presented at a workshop in Groningen between 31 January and 1 February 2013. As stated by the editors in their preface, the workshop was primarily organised by Jorn Seubers and its main aim 'was to support the theoretical and methodological progress of Seubers' doctoral thesis and to feed expert knowledge into it' (VII). The essays, as they exist, go beyond this and make for an interesting collection.

John Bintliff's chapter functions as a theoretical foundation for the following papers. He provides an introduction to the study of early states in different parts of the European Iron Age. The regions discussed are Greece, Iberia, Central Europe, and Latium-South Etruria. Bintliff's chapter is an interesting 'launching point' for the rest of the volume. He briefly looks at phenomena such as the polis in Greece, the Morgenroth model in Iberia, and Terrenato's 'mafia' model for Central Italy. He favors, in general, 'Annaliste Structural History' as an organizing principle, and argues that processes outside of human control are important in social development. His conclusion is that with rapid urbanization comes both class formation and the formation of early states, with every civilization driven on different paths by human actors and otherwise uncontrollable events.

Alessandro Guidi's contribution looks at a wide range of data concerning the development of Italian societies during the Iron Age. His introduction, in many ways, sets a pleasant theoretical tone. Importantly, Guidi points out that 'in Italian archaeology, little attention has been given to theoretical matters' (p. 9). This situation has been changing in recent years, but there is still a considerable disparity compared to other sub-disciplines in archaeology. Perhaps the most important aspect of this paper is that it rehabilitates, to some extent, the place of ideological power in the formation of early states in Italy.

The third chapter, by Fabiola Fraioli, examines the evidence for occupation in the southern territory of Crustumerium between the seventh and fifth centuries BC. The following chapter, by Andrea di Napoli, discusses the results of a number of exploratory trenches dug in the southern territory of Crustumerium in 2012. Unlike other areas of Crustumerium's hinterland, the Tenuta Inviolatella Salaria flourished in the mid-Republican Period. The possible identification of an extra-urban cult place and Imperial Period villa are notable. An important contribution of both of these chapters is to show how modern activities can drastically impact the preservation of archaeological deposits.

Jorn Seubers provides the fifth chapter, with the aim of re-evaluating the territory of Crustumerium through a 'GIS- based cost surface analysis' (p. 51). He goes on to critique the traditional approach to modelling territorial size, rightly criticizing many of the earlier approaches. He then moves on to a survey of existing models of territorial sizes and arrangements for Latium and illustrates the many differences between them. Seubers then proceeds to outline and discuss the results of his approach to calculating the 'catchment' area of the settlement. This attempts to illustrate how much of the land around Crustumerium was exploited; the theory behind this kind of analysis is based in the 'optimal foraging theory' (p. 57). He details the results under three sets of conditions: viewing streams as barriers, assuming some level of infrastructure and seeing streams as obstacles, and finally looking at Crustumerium and the surrounding settlements. The result of these analyses is a more nuanced view of the land that Crustumerium likely exploited compared to earlier models, especially those which assign all land available to one settlement or another and do not allow for 'dead space' in between (i.e. Thiessen Polygons). Seubers' conclusions are promising and the present reviewer would like to see them applied more widely in the analysis of Central Italy during the Iron Age.

Luca Alessandri traces settlement patterns in Latium Vetus from the Middle Bronze Age through to the Early Iron Age. He highlights a number of important trends, such as the evidence for increasing social complexity and the move towards more defensible settlement sites over time. Hierarchical settlement systems are hypothesized for the area around the River Astura, Casale Nuovo, and the Tiber estuary. In a subsection entitled 'social and economic changes during the Early Iron Age: the early states,' Alessandri discusses evidence from a number of settlements which points towards the emergence of 'states'. Though I am very sympathetic to the constraints of a word limit, given how important and widely discussed the topic of the emergence of states has become, it would have been helpful to include a more robust theoretical foundation. The survey concludes that by the Roma-Colli Albani IIB phase, much of Latium was divided between either hierarchical settlement systems or federative settlement systems, within which the major settlements were of similar rank. The author uses the earlier survey in his conclusion to argue that the emergence of the Early Iron Age settlement pattern of Latium Vetus can be tied back to the early stages of the Bronze Age.

Angelo Amoroso attempts to define the territories of the proto-urban settlements of South Etruria and Latium Vetus. This is accomplished through the use of 'calibrated Thiessen polygons.' His base calculation uses the size of the primary settlement to estimate its territory. Having applied the polygons to the territory, they are then adapted to the major rivers. Using this method, it is unsurprising that Bisenzio's calculated territory (970 sq km) is a little over half that of Veii's (1,780 sq km) when their settlement sizes are in a similar ratio, at 90 ha to 185 ha, respectively. The application of Thiessen polygons is always an interesting exercise, but given the complexities of territorial control their usefulness is suspect in the mind of this reviewer. Perhaps the most interesting conclusion of this chapter, however, is that the calculated territory belonging to Rome (447 sq km), relatively small compared to its core settlement size (180 ha), forced the Romans to expand their holdings through force, linking this theory to the literary record in which Rome was notoriously bellicose.

Fulminante, Lozano, and Prignano apply social network analysis to Latium Vetus in the form of 'centrality indexes' in order to test the validity of this type of work in predicting the emergence of urbanizing centres. The present chapter is a refinement of earlier work done by Fulminante.1 The data used in the analysis consists of a network reconstructed on the basis of either fluvial or terrestrial connections (i.e. rivers or roads). The authors go on to describe their 'unified index' which combines 'degree centrality' and 'betweeness centrality' (measures of the connectedness of individual nodes (settlements) within the network). The results are striking, with 14 calculations accurately predicting the emergence of central settlements with accuracy in excess of 50%. Interestingly, their analysis found that fluvial connections were considerably more important in the Bronze Age than the Iron Age, a conclusion which they cite as having been reached by other scholars through different means. This reviewer cannot help but agree that the paper 'confirms the validity' of this type of approach in the analysis of urbanization processes (p. 108).

Ulla Rajala presents a new methodology for calculating ancient populations which takes into account her theories on 'taskspace' and 'ceramiscene' in combination with statistical methods and GIS tools. In this chapter, she applies this to the sites of Il Pizzo (Middle – Final Bronze Age) and Nepi (Early Iron Age). For Nepi, Rajala suggests a population of around 1,500 persons by the Archaic Period. In her conclusions, she proposes that growing populations, such as that of Nepi which had grown by her estimate from around 255 persons in the Early Iron Age, would have helped influence the settlement patterns of Latium Vetus and encourage the development of intraregional trading.

Jarva and Tuppi survey the evidence for a number of different types of infrastructure in the proto-urban centres of Central Italy: settlements themselves, fortifications, sacred buildings and space, goods production, urban planning, roads, and water works. Much of this is well laid out using a combination of both archaeological data and literary sources. The latter are more present in this chapter than any other throughout the volume. The different topical surveys provide a treasure-trove of bibliography for interested readers. The most important takeaway from this chapter is the authors' conclusion that 'Early infrastructures attest to the ability to employ remarkable labour forces' as well as developed organizational and management capabilities (135).

The final chapter, by Elizabeth van't Lindenhout, traces the gradual change from huts to houses in Latium Vetus. She analyses the change both from an architectural perspective as well as from one of social change, questioning what exactly we should read out of the transition. Her observation that it is not emblematic of drastic social changes, but rather one part of ongoing changes, is welcome.

This collection of papers is a nice addition to the corpus on urbanization and state formation in Central Italy. Each chapter provides a different way of examining these important, readily discussed, and often controversial topics. Although every author took a different avenue of exploration, a coherent picture emerges. Central Italy between the later phases of the Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age was a region of dramatic change in a number of ways – in populations, settlement patterns, and even preferred networks of trade. The bibliographies for each contribution are thorough and close to comprehensive, meaning that they can provide even the most casual reader with enough material to build a robust understanding of the topic.

On a more superficial note, the volume is well presented. The layout and print quality of the text itself makes it easy to read and is aesthetically pleasing. The work is well edited, although there are a number of instances where the grammar could have been touched up, but these do not in any way detract from the quality of the papers contained in this volume. Both for the results of the papers it contains and for the authors' suggested paths forward, this book is an important step toward a better understanding of both Crustumerium and its hinterland as well as Latium and Central Italy more broadly.

Table of Contents

1. John Bintliff - Early States in the Mediterranean Iron Age (ca. 1000-400 BC) 1-8
2. Alessandro Guidi – Religion, Art, Law, Ethnicity and State Formation in Protohistoric Italy 9-15
3. Fabiola Fraioli – The Southern Ager of the Ancient City of Crustumerium 17-31
4. Andrea Di Napoli – Exploratory Trenches in the Southern Territory of Ancient Crustumerium (Tenuta Inviolatella Salaria) 33-49
5. Jorn Seubers – Many Rivers to Cross – Revisiting the Territory of Ancient Crustumerium With a Cost Surface Based Site Catchment Analysis 51-65
6. Luca Alessandri – Hierarchical and Federative Polities in Protohistoric Latium Vetus. An Analysis of Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Settlement Organization 67-82
7. Angelo Amoroso – Settlement Patterns in South Etruria and Latium Vetus 83-100
8. Francesca Fulminante, Sergi Lozano & Luce Prignano – Social Network Analysis and Early Latin Cities (Central Italy) 101-110
9. Ulla Rajala – The Town and Territory of Nepi: The Population of the Earliest Nepi 111-123
10. Eero Jarva & Juha Tuppi – Emerging Infrastructures at Proto-urban Centres in Central Tyrrhenian Italy 125- 141
11. Elisabeth van 't Lindenhout – Taking Courage: From Huts to Houses. Reflections on Changes in Early Archaic Architecture in Latium Vetus (Central Italy) 143-152


1.   F. Fulminante, 'Social Network Analysis and the Emergence of Central Places: A Case Study from Central Italy (Latium Vetus),' BABESCH 87 (2012), 27-53.

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Jörg Rüpke, On Roman Religion: Lived Religion and the Individual in Ancient Rome. Townsend lectures / Cornell studies in classical philology. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 2016. Pp. x, 198. ISBN 9781501704703. $49.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Ine Jacobs, University College, Oxford (

Version at BMCR home site

This book is the result of three Townsend Lectures delivered at the Department of Classics at Cornell University in autumn 2013. As such, this monograph forms a counterpart to Robert Parker's volume on Greek religion.1 However, Rüpke takes a whole new approach to Roman religion. Like many more of his recent publications, this book places individual interpretations and appropriations of gods, rituals, and religious functions in the foreground. Emphasis no longer lies on deities or on collective expressions of religious feelings towards these deities, but on named or unnamed real people who left traces in the literary and epigraphic record. Whereas individuals have only been given attention in previous studies of Roman religious institutions and ritual if their actions provoked outrage amidst contemporaries, the individuals that interest Rüpke are not necessarily famous or even known by name.

In each chapter he presents the reader with individual actors, interpreters or creators, living between the third century BC and the third century AD, all with specific interpretations and motivations guiding their communication with both gods and humans. Not only does such an approach do justice to the messiness of religion and life in general, as Rüpke rightfully remarks, it makes it much easier to understand how and why religious expressions and ritual changed over time. Indeed, even though individuals make original choices, when their example is followed by others they can influence and re-shape institutionalised forms of religion and ritual. This intricate interplay between individualisation and institutionalisation forms a recurring theme throughout the book. In addition, the reader is repeatedly made aware of the related and equally complex relations between texts and rituals ("discourse and action," p. 121), the one constantly shaping the other.

After a brief introduction and a first theoretical chapter, chapters 2 to 8 each deal with very diverse aspects of Roman religion, some of which have been elaborated in other publications by the same author and are mentioned in the footnotes of this overview volume. The introduction offers a concise overview of traditional and recent trends in the study of ancient Mediterranean religion and contrasts them with the approach taken in the volume. It introduces and briefly dwells on the concept of "lived religion", as reformulated by urban anthropologist Meredith McGuire2 and transposed by Rüpke to antiquity. "Lived ancient religion is concerned with action and experience" (p. 61). The first chapter analyses what the concept of an individual meant in antiquity and provides on overview of the ways one can gain insight into individualisation and individuality. Rüpke decidedly turns away from the generalised individual found in theoretical works on individuality, as well as from autobiographical texts written with an audience in mind. Instead, he explains how he seeks and finds individuality in distinct combinations of deities both in domestic contexts and in sanctuaries (one of the few places in the book where material culture in the form of statuettes and depictions is briefly considered), in exceptional religious roles and in individual communication with a deity through revelations and dedications.

Chapter 2, "Individual Decision and Social Order", provides a new analysis of individual appropriation and interpretation of traditional political and priestly roles in the late republican period. Religious specialists had to adhere to a set of regulations and expectations. Yet, despite social expectations and the promise of harsh penalties for non-compliance, a few individuals managed to interpret their responsibilities in unconventional ways. Rüpke shows in particular how the coating of a religious office could impact the political realm as well. Appropriation, as the way in which the individual interprets existing norms and traditions, and in particular those surrounding images of gods, provides the starting point of Chapter 3 ('Appropriating Images-Embodying Gods'). The discussion begins with a poem of Propertius (Carmen 4.2), composed around 16 BC, in which a (statue of a) god by the name of Vertumnus addresses the reader/listener. The poem makes clear that Vertumnus is virtually impossible to define, has no single function, is both god and statue and can be worshipped in multiple manners. In other words, the deity can be appropriated by every individual worshipper.

The next chapter ("Testing the Limits of Ritual Choices") then investigates the circumstances in which magic was used and how individuals saw it as part of or separate from sacred rituals. After a short overview of the mentioning of magic in Hellenistic and Roman literature, Rüpke focuses on the period of the 30s and 20s BC, during which a heightened number of poems on magic coincided with stronger rules regarding such practices. Propertius again serves as the starting point of the discussion, as in his poems, magic is entirely permissible, even though there are many other possible solutions to deal with adversity and control the surrounding world, and even though engaging in magic remains dangerous.

Chapter 5, 'Reconstructing Religious Experience', focuses on the anticipated audience of texts, their users or "connected readers". Using Ovid's Libri fastorum, or calendar of Roman festivals, Rüpke reconstructs Ovid's individual readers as the "informed and sympathetic observer or bystander" (p. 95), interested in major public festivals as well as local cults, eager to learn what is proper on which day of the year and what emotional tone should be adopted when participating. Though such calendars form part of an established tradition, the connected reader is directly addressed and encouraged to make individual choices against the backdrop of institutionalised cult.

In both Chapter 6 ("Dynamics of Individual Appropriation") and Chapter 7 ("Religious Communication") the potential of individual choices and originality in enacting a ritual is studied. Rüpke strongly argues for thinking in terms of "ritualization" and "performance" (p. 99-100), supplementing the perceived repetitive and stereotypical nature of an act with the uniqueness of every single time it was carried out. In Chapter 6, Rüpke opens the reader's eyes to individual interpretations and motivations of established ritual happenings as diverse as auspicia, inaugural meals for the priesthoods of the pontifices, triumphal processions, war declarations, priesthood rituals and Roman calendars. The delicate balance between tradition and originality in communication with the gods then is discussed in Chapter 7. After an overview of potential strategies of communication, including location, timing, multi-channelling in words and gifts, and so on, there follows a section on the epigraphic habit. The decline in the epigraphic habit starting in the third century is linked to an increase in specialisation of religion, meaning that religion was increasingly dominated by a few intellectual specialists who usurped all lines of communication. These are certainly interesting ideas, but the section is too short and dense to really make a strong impression.

Finally, Chapter 8 ("Instructing Literary Practice in The Shepherd of Hermas") focusses on a text which "is characterised by uncoordinated, parainstitutional, and even contrainstitutional appropriations" (p. 140). After a brief presentation of the content, which enjoyed great popularity in the decades after its conception, Rüpke sketches the social context in which it was conceived and, in a long-term process of individualization, became transformed from an oral account into a written text before the end of the second century.

Despite the fact that this is not an easy read – the argument is often dense and a decent amount of pre-existing knowledge on Roman religion is required – Rüpke manages to provide unique insights into appropriation of religion in both the public and private realm. A lot is discussed in these 160 pages. The book may therefore come across as somewhat fragmented, its argument only attaining full strength when read from cover to cover. The attentive reader will be left with the firm impression that we are entering a whole new era of religious studies. Indeed, there is no reason why research into individual interpretations and appropriations should remain limited to the timeframe of this book. Like Rüpke's other recent publications, this volume should be used as a source of inspiration for all those interested in past religious experience.


1.   BMCR 2012.03.06
2.   McGuire, Meredith B. 2008. Lived Religion: Faith and Practice in Everyday Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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