Thursday, May 21, 2015


Edward J. Watts, The Final Pagan Generation. Transformation of the Classical Heritage, 53. Oakland: University of California Press, 2015. Pp. xvii, 327. ISBN 9780520283701. $34.95.

Reviewed by Thomas M. Banchich, Canisius College, Buffalo, NY (

Version at BMCR home site

In another of his perceptive studies of various aspects of Late Antiquity, Edward Watts uses the lives and careers of Ausonius, Libanius, Vettius Agorius Praetextatus, and Themistius as a foundation for generalizations about what he calls "the final pagan generation," for him "the last group of elite Romans, both pagan and Christian, who were born into a world in which most people believed that the pagan public religious order of the past few millennia would continue indefinitely" (p. 6). His book is well written, carefully structured, and clearly argued. Its Introduction offers a helpful overview, most chapters open with a preview of their contents and a glance back at what has come before, and its final paragraph concisely states Watts' overarching thesis: "Their [the final pagan generation's] fourth century was the age full of storehouses of gold coins, elaborate dinner parties honoring letter carriers, public orations before emperors, and ceremonies commemorating officeholders. [All of which] occurred in cities filled with thousands of temples, watched over by myriads of divine images, and perfumed by the smells of millions of sacrifices" (p. 220). Current scholarly concerns with "generations"—baby boomers, Xers, millennials—often inspire Watts and, when not explicit, are regularly discernible just beneath the surface of his narrative. Besides the heuristic value they impart, they will make a work already accessible and engaging for students and general readers even more so.

Chapter One, "Growing Up in the Cities of the Gods," is an evocative overview of the acculturation at the hands of family members, attendants, and teachers of youths born in the second decade of the fourth century into a world full of gods, temples, churches, and synagogues, whether fully functioning, recycled, looted, vandalized, or abandoned. Chapter Two, "Education in an Age of Imagination," concentrates on the school years of the final pagan generation, a time (the mid 320s to early 330s), Watts maintains, devoted to an education in grammar and rhetoric and to the joys and sorrows of student life. These formative years were spent largely in settings relatively insulated from religious developments and innovations central to our judgment of the reign of Constantine. Their overriding objective was to earn the emperor's attention and a position of status at his court, to become part of the establishment at its highest level. Consequently, many features of the Fourth Century which to us portend immense change made little or no impression on young men whose principal aim was prominence within what they thought to be a stable elite.

Chapter Three, "The System," relates how, in the 330s and 340s, the final pagan generation began their careers, focused on advancement and situated themselves in networks to gain influence, and began families, all the while oblivious to the establishment by Constantine's sons of the formal Christian domination of a formally Christian empire. Chapter Four, "Moving Up in an Age of Uncertainty," describes how career and kin again took precedent, this time during the 350s and 360s. Despite doubts about some of Constantius' Christian concerns, members of the final pagan generation continued to vie for prominence and prestige within an imperial system that yielded rich rewards to those who could use it to their advantage. Chapter Five, "The Apogee," examines the effects of Julian's and Jovian's brief reigns, during which the stock of some—Themistius, for example—fell, while that of others—notably Libanius—depended often on meeting the challenge of ingratiating one's self with the emperor while looking out for those adversely affected by that same emperor's policies. Chapter Six, "The New Pannonian Order," considers the period of relative tranquility with regard to religious affairs that prevailed during the reigns of Valentinian and Valens, a hallmark of which was an infusion of new men into a broad range of positions in the imperial bureaucracy. The consequences of this process for the final pagan generation varied. Ausonius, Praetextatus, and Themistius benefited, while Libanius' prestige fell. For all four, maintenance of their own status trumped cares about matters religious.

Chapter Seven, "Christian Youth Culture in the 360s and 370s," treats the impact of Athanasius' Life of Antony on the children of the final pagan generation. This, Watts maintains, manifested itself in two ways. Some rejected not only their parents' paths to success but also the very criteria by which they had defined their goals. Some became ascetics, others followed traditional routes, though to new destinations, prominent positions in the Christian institutional hierarchy, for example. Thanks to the growing riches and worldly power of the church, these now attracted the ambitious, and, once they were ensconced in office, permitted them to parlay their talents, connections, and the force of their personalities into heightened prestige and power.

Chapter Eight, "Bishops, Bureaucrats, and Aristocrats under Gratian, Valentinian II, and Theodosius," treats the transfer of power from the final pagan generation to that of their children, while Chapter Nine, "Old Age in a Young Man's Empire," surveys the behavior of the generation of Ausonius, Libanius, Praetextatus, and Themistius during the period from 384 to 394. Themistius' urban prefecture of 384 was resented by the younger generation, whose reaction prompted Themistius' "silent retirement." On the other hand, Libanius' correspondence, reveals his wish to remain connected to those he judged important, despite the challenges of age and his increasing isolation as he coped with the loss of correspondents, colleagues, friends, and family. But these letters reveal, too, that their author's view of precisely who mattered was still determined by the values of the fourth-century imperial system within which Libanius' career had unfolded and which had determined with whom he had established and maintained connections. For all their diversity, this group did not include increasingly prominent, younger Christians whose clout and inclinations now counted as much, if not more, than the power and predispositions of members of the milieu in which Libanius had attempted to situate himself. To the end, the final pagan generation remained engaged "on their own terms" (p. 210) with a world it hardly recognized had changed in fundamental and irreversible ways.

Chapter Ten, "A Generation's Legacy," considers the reception of the final pagan generation by its immediate successors. Here religion comes prominently into play. While the pagan Praetextatus, who died in 384, may have been buried with honors and respectfully represented for his learning by Macrobius in the Saturnalia, the author of the Contra Paganos dismissed him with disdain. One Christian, Ausonius, became a foil to another, his grandson Paulinus, the former a success within the framework of the old imperial system, the latter deemed a success precisely because he forsook that system for an ascetic life. Themistius became a rational advisor of emperors rather than the champion of not-necessarily-Christian religious sensibilities. Libanius, who had ridden rhetorical virtuosity to fame in the old system, was compared to his disadvantage to his alleged star pupils John Chrysostom and Basil.

Eighty-three pages of informative notes, together with a twenty-one-page bibliography, contain much of the very best recent scholarship. There is one map—the clarity of which just compensates for its small size—and fourteen well-chosen illustrations, these ranging from images of coins to photographs of modern Indian temples. Duces for dux on p. 60 is inconsequential, and, by time of its publication, what Watts refers to as The Cambridge Companion to Libanius had become Libanius: A Critical Introduction.1

Watts' book is far more than a rehash of the careers of its principal protagonists. His interests and objectives have required that he set them within historical contexts. In the process of so doing, he often sketches with admirable clarity and succinctness what changed and what remained constant in the course of the Fourth Century. Not just non- specialists will be appreciative. A good example of this strength is Watts' treatment of what the reigns of Valens and Valentinian meant to those who aimed to make their marks in the service of the emperors, their courts, and the imperial system (pp. 129–137).

To use Ausonius, Libanius, Praetextatus, and Themistius as a basis for generalizations about a "final pagan generation" will strike some as problematic at best. "Generation" itself is a slippery concept, and even if one accepts Watts' chosen four as representative of one segment of the Fourth Century elite, it is a big step from that to accepting them as standard-bearers for even a small majority of those born in the late Third or early Fourth Centuries. They are, of course, among the very few about whom we possess enough evidence to permit us to appreciate their lives in any depth. Yet all are atypical and unrepresentative of anything apart from the circles in which they moved. And even if one ignores or minimizes variables of momentary circumstance and locale, is it possible to tease out from them the hopes, dreams, and disappointments of a generation? Whether they are "the final pagan generation" or four representatives of a small subset of that generation is a question worth asking. Regardless of the answer, Watts has given us a clearer and much more empathetic vision of what mattered most to four fascinating figures and of what was, in their hearts, minds, and memories, an "age of gold" (p. 220).


1.   Edited by Lieve van Hoof, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014, with a contribution by Watts himself.

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Diane J. Rayor, André Lardinois (trans.), Sappho: A New Translation of the Complete Works. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. x, 173. ISBN 9781107023598. $70.00.

Reviewed by P. J. Finglass, University of Nottingham (

Version at BMCR home site


This beautiful book offers exactly what it says on its cover: a new translation of the complete works of Sappho. It includes the new fragments published early in 2014, just as this book was going to press (p. 19), as well as the slightly less new fragments which first appeared in 2004. But it also includes every single fragment from which even a single word can be recovered; contrast the Loeb Classical Library, for example, which usually requires twice as much text before a fragment can be included. The fullness and quality of the work make it a wonderful resource for the Greekless, and it will be of considerable value to students of classical literature too.

The volume opens with a sixteen page Introduction by Lardinois: a masterpiece of concise, effective writing. Lardinois begins by emphasising how difficult it is to make effective use of the information about Sappho's life that has come down to us. He distinguishes three types of evidence – the testimonia, the fragments themselves, and the historical context – and in separate sections discusses the problems involved in using all three. Wisely, Lardinois dispenses almost completely with references to secondary literature (only seven in all); this is not the place for that.

After a small, rather unsatisfactory picture of P.Köln inv. 21351+21376 (would a plate have been too expensive?) containing the fragments published in 2004, there follows a four page 'Note on Translation: from Sappho to Sappho' by Rayor. Rayor explains that she has been guided by 'the double goal of accuracy, guided by the best textual editions and recent scholarship, and poetry' (p. 20). This is immediately followed by a Key setting out the meaning of symbols used in the translation to indicate supplements, missing words and lines, and the beginnings and endings of poems; correctly, the authors do not assume that these conventions can simply stand without explanation.

The main part of the book (pp. 25–75) consists of the translation of Sappho's poems. This is accurate and eminently readable; scholars will find it of great value, and need not hesitate to put it in the hands of their students. The presentation is careful, with, for example, supplements clearly marked. The finds of 2014 allow us to restore the beginning of fragment 5, which is duly rendered 'O divine sea-daughters of Nereus'; contrast Campbell's '(Cypris and) Nereids' and West's 'Love-goddess and sea-nymphs', which translate a supplement now known to be incorrect. Scholars should never have printed it in the text of an edition as if no alternative supplement were equally possible; now for the first time a book offers the opening of this poem as written by Sappho herself. The opening of the well-known fr. 31 is translated 'To me it seems that man has the fortune | of gods'; compare Campbell's 'He seems as fortunate as the gods to me', and West's 'He looks to me to be in heaven'. All these seem less striking than Sappho's forthright statement 'He seems to me to be to be equal to the gods', which for some reason translators appear to shy away from. Sometimes the successive short fragments almost seem to make a new poem in their own right. I particularly enjoyed p. 87, where the translations of fragments 181–6 yield the following: 'easy passage | I might go | gusting | danger | honey voice | sweet voice | Medea.' (Perhaps someone could try it out in a practical criticism class?)

The translation is followed by a substantial section of Notes, by Lardinois (pp. 97–154); these helpfully clarify where each of the fragments comes from, discuss occasional problematic readings, and offer contextual information where relevant. The book is concluded by a ten-page appendix containing the new fragments that appeared in 2014, with notes and a brief account of their publication. A 'Selected Bibliography' follows. For once, the term 'Select[ed]' is justified: the authors cite just sixty items, together with a reference to published and online bibliographies where more can be found. Less is undoubtedly more in a volume of this kind. The volume concludes with an Index of First Lines, in which the first line of each poem appears, in numerical order of the fragments.

It may be a while before we see a full critical edition of Sappho that includes the new fragments published since 2004. In the interim, this book is all the more welcome as the only one currently in existence containing, albeit in translation, all the surviving works by one of the great poets of antiquity. Cambridge University Press deserves our thanks for producing such an accurate and attractive volume at such a reasonable price. Alcaeus next?

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Boudewijn Sirks (ed.), Nova Ratione: Change of Paradigms in Roman Law. Philippika, 72. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2014. Pp. vii, 181. ISBN 9783447102193. €48.00.

Reviewed by Martin Avenarius, Universität zu Köln (

Version at BMCR home site

Der Gedanke, an die wechselvolle Geschichte des antiken römischen Rechts die Fragestellung heranzutragen, inwieweit etwa Wandlungen von Richtigkeitsvorstellungen, Änderungen in der juristischen Begrifflichkeit oder Neuerungen im Spektrum der Rechtsschutzinstrumente auf den Wechsel grundlegender Paradigmen zurückzuführen sind, ist überaus reizvoll. Er durchzieht die Beiträge des vorliegenden Sammelbandes, welcher aus einem 2011 in Oxford abgehaltenen Kolloquium hervorgegangen ist.

In einer Einleitung (1-8) führt Boudewijn Sirks als Herausgeber in das Rahmenthema ein und erklärt, leitender Gedanke seien im weitesten Sinne Perspektivenwechsel, die sich in der Entwicklungsgeschichte des römischen Rechts der Antike beobachten ließen. So kennzeichne der den Bandtitel prägende Ausdruck „nova ratio" in einzelnen Quellentexten, dass eine Rechtsfrage unter einem neuen Gesichtspunkt betrachtet und einer neuen Bewertung zugeführt wird. Der Titel verrät aber zugleich, dass es bei dieser auf das Detail gerichteten Sichtweise nicht bleiben soll. Vielmehr werden Paradigmenwechsel im weiten Sinn in Betracht gezogen, welche die Regelungen des römischen Rechts oder der Umgang mit demselben durchlaufen haben. In diesem Sinn weist Sirks darauf hin, dass die Vorstellung vom Wandel der Paradigmen im Sinne von „Grundauffassungen", wie sie Thomas Kuhn maßgeblich geprägt hat, sicherlich auf die römische Rechtswissenschaft übertragen werden kann. Es liegt nahe, dass die Untersuchungen vom älteren republikanischen Recht ausgehen und jeweils fragen, inwieweit Veränderungen aufgetreten sind, welche als paradigmatisch erscheinen. Sirks nennt verschiedene Neuerungen in den Bestimmungen des römischen Rechts und verknüpft mehrere davon mit dem bedeutenden Entwicklungsschritt, den die Aufnahme hellenistischer Philosophie mit sich brachte, wobei er vor allem an die stoische Philosophie denkt.

In ihrem Beitrag „The nova clausula Iuliani – a change of paradigm in the pretorian law of succession?" (9-31) zeichnet Ulrike Babusiaux einen Ausschnitt aus der Entwicklung des auf die Weitergabe von Vermögen innerhalb der hierarchisch konzipierten Familie abzielenden Erbrechts zu einem solchen nach, das die Interessen außenstehender Individuen schützte und die zivile Erbfolge insoweit korrigierte. Ausgehend von der abschließenden Redaktion des prätorischen Edikts durch Julian beschreibt sie, wie der Jurist prätorische Bestimmungen über die bonorum possessio, die vom zivilen Erbrecht bislang grundsätzlich unterschieden worden waren, in einem neuen Edikt zusammenfasste, wodurch sich der Gegensatz zwischen ziviler Erbfolge und prätorischen Regelungen abmilderte. Auf die Systematik der Vermögensnachfolge, die Julian im Wege der Integration der Regelungen verschiedenen Ursprungs schuf, nehmen die Quellen teilweise mit dem Ausdruck „nova clausula" Bezug. Die Verfasserin stimmt Biondi mit der Auffassung zu, dass dieser Schritt eine Verfestigung des Rechts der bonorum possessio bewirkt habe.1 Verschiedene in dem Beitrag entwickelte Feststellungen laden dazu ein, den Bogen zu der von Julian neu begründeten Rechtsquellenlehre sowie zu den systematischen Folgen derselben zu schlagen, nämlich zu der Erstreckung der institutionellen Ordnung des zivilen Rechts auf die prätorischen Schöpfungen und zu dem die bisherige Zweiteilung der Rechtsquellen zurückdrängenden systematischen Modernisierungsschritt, den die Gaius-Institutionen unter dem Einfluss Julians aufweisen, der – entwicklungsgeschichtlich ältere – pseudo-ulpianische liber singularis regularum dagegen noch nicht.2

Roberto Fiori behandelt in seinem Aufsatz „Rise and fall of the specificity of contracts" (33-49) die Bedeutung der Verwissenschaftlichung der römischen Jurisprudenz für die Kontroversen zwischen den Rechtsschulen der klassischen Zeit, und zwar mit Rücksicht auf das Vertragsrecht und die daran anknüpfenden Rechtsschutzinstrumente. Er zeichnet den Weg der allmählichen Ausdifferenzierung der Vertragstatbestände nach, die in der klassischen Zeit zum Numerus clausus regelhaft gefasster Vertragstypen führt. Von dieser Entwicklungsstufe gehen die bekannten Diskussionen aus, die Juristen in der Kauf-Tausch-Kontroverse oder um die rechtliche Qualifikation des Werklieferungsvertrags führten. Fiori zeigt, wie bestimmte Konstellationen, die infolge des formalen Verständnisses der Vertragstatbestände vom System nicht erfasst wurden, durch vordringende Einrichtungen wie die Durchsetzbarkeit des Innominatrealkontrakts und das agere praescriptis verbis aufgefangen wurden.

„'My Lord, save me from my father!' Paternal power and Roman imperial state" (51-61) lautet der Titel von Johannes Platscheks Abhandlung, in der der Wandel des römischen Familienbegriffs unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Veränderung von Bedeutung und Tragweite der väterlichen Gewalt erörtert wird. Nachdem das ältere Recht eine absolute Unterwerfung des Hauskindes unter die patria potestas gekannt hatte, welche sich z.B. auf Eingehung und Fortbestand einer Ehe erstreckt hatte, kam es später zur Aufwertung der Individualität auch für das Recht und zur Durchbrechung der väterlichen Hausgewalt durch staatliches Recht, auf das sich zunehmend auch Hauskinder berufen konnten. Der Verfasser behandelt die aufkommende Praxis der Anrufung staatlicher Gewalt gegen die häusliche. Sein wichtigstes Beispiel ist die Begrenzung des Rechts eines paterfamilias, die seiner Gewalt unterworfene Tochter aus deren Ehe zurückzurufen. Platschek schildert den allmählichen Eingang der Richtigkeitsvorstellung, dass eine harmonische Ehe nicht auf diese Weise auseinandergerissen werden dürfe, in das Recht (Ulpian 71 ad ed. D. 43,30,1,5). Für die Interessenlage und insbesondere die dem – grundsätzlich bestehenden – Recht des Vaters entgegenstehenden Argumente stellt er den Streit um die Folgepflicht der Ägypterin Dionysia dar (P. Oxy. II 237), die bei einem römischen Magistrat Rechtsschutz sucht, und zeigt, dass auch die Familienstrukturen in der Provinz Ägypten dem Wandel der Überzeugungen und damit dem zunehmenden Eingriff der staatlichen Gewalt unterworfen waren.

Im Rahmen der Bandbreite, in der das Rahmenthema verstanden werden kann, unterzieht Ingo Reichard einen besonders eng zugeschnittenen, technischen Gegenstand der Betrachtung. Sein Beitrag „The creation of the stipulatio Aquiliana (first century BC) – a change of paradigm?" (63-86) verfolgt den Gedanken, dass die Entwicklung der Jurisprudenz zu einer Wissenschaft zu einem Paradigmenwechsel führte, an einem Beispiel aus dem Vertragsrecht. Der Verfasser erörtert Struktur und Wirkung der Novation, und zwar am Beispiel der Schaffung der stipulatio Aquiliana. Diese Einrichtung ermöglichte, dass mehrere, aus verschiedenen Rechtsgründen entstandene Forderungen zunächst noviert und damit abstrakt anerkannt wurden, bevor der Gläubiger anschließend förmlich die Erfüllung anerkannte. Das Thema, das Reichard u.a. ausgehend von Gaius inst. 3,176-179 erörtert, bietet ihm Anlass zur Auseinandersetzung mit denjenigen Standpunkten Flumes, die ein Licht auf dessen Verständnis von der Novation werfen. Hierzu gehört die im Hinblick auf Obligationen geäußerte Auffassung dieses Autors,3 die Vorstellung von Rechtspositionen und Rechtsverhältnissen sei dem römischen Rechtsdenken fremd gewesen. Der Verfasser zweifelt sie mit guten Gründen an. Leider wird die Arbeit Effer-Uhes von 2008,4 in der Flumes Ansichten ausführlich erörtert worden sind, nicht berücksichtigt.

Gianni Santucci behandelt in seinem Aufsatz „The equality of contributions and the liability of the partners" (87-105) Veränderungen in der Begrifflichkeit der Gesellschaft (societas) und insbesondere den u.a. durch wirtschaftliche Interessen geförderten Wandel zu einem Konsensualvertragsverhältnis. Ausgehend von der bei Gaius inst. 3,149 referierten magna quaestio stellt der Verfasser den Widerstreit zwischen der älteren, noch von Q. Mucius Scaevola vertretenen Auffassung dar, nach der das Wesen der Gesellschaft verlangte, dass der Anteil eines Gesellschafters am Gewinn seinem Anteil am möglichen Verlust entsprechen müsse, und der von Servius entwickelten, vordringenden Meinung, nach der ein Gesellschafter sogar ausschließlich am Gewinn beteiligt sein könne, nicht aber am Verlust. Dieser Standpunkt ermöglichte die Erbringung von Arbeitsleistungen als Einlage und machte die Rechtsform der Gesellschaft flexibler einsetzbar. Es handelt sich um ein wichtiges Beispiel für eine der zahlreichen Neuerungen, die sich aus Servius' grundsätzlich neuer Herangehensweise an das Recht ergaben.

Seiner Abhandlung „From non-performance to mistake in contracts: the rise of the classical doctrine of consensus" (107-132) schickt Martin Schermaier eine relativ ausführliche Einführung in methodische Grundsätze voraus. Dabei wendet er sich u.a. der Arbeitshypothese von Behrends zu, nach der der Gegensatz zwischen den beiden Rechtsschulen der hochklassischen Zeit im Kern auf den Methodenwechsel zurückgeführt wird, der in der späten Republik zwischen der vorklassischen Jurisprudenz der veteres und dem durch Servius begründeten, durch Wissenschaft gekennzeichneten, spezifisch klassischen Rechtsdenken stattfand. Leider wird dieses komplexe Modell stark vereinfacht referiert, und so verrät die Kritik Missverständnisse. Dies gilt insbesondere im Hinblick auf die – Schermaiers Eindruck zum Trotz – ausgeprägte Offenheit des Modells für die Historisierung der einzelnen Entwicklungsschritte des Rechtsdenkens. Die Vorstellung, hier werde dogmatische Uniformität erwartet, verkennt sowohl, dass es sich um eine Arbeitshypothese handelt, die ständiger Überprüfung ausgesetzt ist, als auch den Reichtum an durch sie vermittelten Einsichten. Schermaiers eigentliches Thema ist der Wandel des consensus-Begriffs vom Einverständnis zur Übereinkunft. Er beschreibt, wie, hiervon ausgehend, eine allgemeine Vertragstheorie entstanden sei, auf deren Grundlage dann die Rechtsfolgen des Vertragsbruchs dogmatisch ausgearbeitet werden konnten. Das Aufkommen dogmatischer Strukturen, an denen es zuvor gefehlt hatte, zeigt der Verfasser am Beispiel des Irrtums im Vertrag. Er meint schließlich, Ulpian habe offenbar den error als Grundlage für das Scheitern des consensus aufgefasst, und sich damit dem Standpunkt angenähert, dass jeder consensus aus einzelnen Willensakten bestehe. In der von ihm aufgeworfenen Frage, welche Willenstheorie womöglich um 200 n. Chr. hier Eingang gefunden haben könnte, zieht Schermaier bestimmte philosophische Konzepte in Betracht. Vielleicht lohnte auch die Überlegung, ob ein entsprechendes Konzept bereits im Rechtsdenken etabliert gewesen sein und z.B. in Julians voluntas-Konzept bestanden haben könnte.

In seinem Beitrag „Change of paradigm in contractus" (133-162) beschreibt Boudewijn Sirks schließlich einen grundsätzlichen Wandel im Vertragsbegriff. Ausgehend von einem im älteren Recht zugrundegelegten äußeren Verhalten, das teilweise in formalen Handlungen hatte bestehen müssen, beschreibt der Verfasser eine Orientierung auf den motus animi als entscheidenden Gesichtspunkt hin, welche er mit der Rezeption stoischer Lehren in das Rechtsdenken erklärt. Er meint, so sei die spätere Auffassung entstanden, dass Realverträge und formale Akte immer mit einer Übereinkunft (conventio) einhergingen. Sirks zeichnet einen Bedeutungswandel des Ausdrucks „contractus" nach, von der einseitig betriebenen „Annäherung" zum zweiseitigen Rechtsakt, wie er Gaius' Systematisierung des Obligationenrechts zugrundeliegt.

Die Beiträge zeigen, dass innerhalb von etwa zwei Jahrhunderten im Übergang zwischen Republik und Prinzipat wesentliche kulturelle und gesellschaftliche Veränderungen eintraten, die auf das Recht ausstrahlten. Diese Veränderungen fanden in Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft statt und hingen selbstverständlich auch mit der territorialen Ausdehnung der Herrschaft Roms und der Begegnung mit neuen religiosen Konzepten zusammen. Die wichtigsten Einflüsse auf das Recht dürften allerdings, wie mehrere der Aufsätze abermals zeigen, von der Begegnung Roms mit griechischer Philosophie ausgegangen sein. Von ihren Traditionen findet in dem Band ganz überwiegend die Stoá Berücksichtigung, in deren Lehren Anstöße zu bestimmten Entwicklungen gesehen werden. Im Lichte dieser Konzentration auf stoische Einflüsse ist vielleicht Sirks' Ansicht zu verstehen, jedenfalls seit den Tagen von Q. Mucius sei das Recht nicht nur die Kunst gewesen, Gerechtigkeit korrekt zu verwirklichen, sondern sogar eine Wissenschaft von ius und iustitia (8). Hier wird der zweifellos in der Tradition stoischer Lehren stehende Mucius als Neuerer wahrgenommen, doch hat Cicero in aller Deutlichkeit mitgeteilt, dass dieser Jurist für die herkömmliche Jurisprudenz der veteres stand, während das eigentlich Neue, nämlich die Behandlung des Rechts als Wissenschaft (ars), erst durch Servius begründet wurde (Brut. 41,152). Und tatsächlich erweist sich an mehreren in den einzelnen Beiträgen untersuchten Gegenständen Servius als Initiator neuer Konzepte. Auch Julian, der im 2. Jahrhundert als Reformator des hochklassischen Rechts auftrat, kommt verschiedentlich angemessen zur Geltung.

Die anregenden Beiträge lassen den Leser mit der Frage zurück, warum die überzeugend herausgearbeiteten Veränderungen insbesondere dann, wenn sie mit bestimmten Juristen verbunden werden konnten, nicht noch eingehender in den wissenschaftsgeschichtlichen Zusammenhang gerückt worden sind. Dies hätte freilich erfordert, den Blick von der Entwicklung bestimmter Rechtseinrichtungen zu lösen und auf die Wandlung des Rechtsdenkens insgesamt zu richten, wozu das Rahmenthema womöglich nicht explizit aufgefordert hat. Der Leser, der offen ist für die Überlegung, ob die verschiedenen herausgearbeiteten Entwicklungen nicht vielleicht in einem Zusammenhang gestanden haben könnten, wird sich fragen, ob nicht viele der einzelnen Entwicklungsschritte, zusammen genommen, als Hinweise auf grundsätzliche, umfassende Paradigmenwechsel verstanden werden könnten, die sich z.B. im Wandel der Rechtsquellenlehre oder methodischer Grundüberzeugungen geäußert hätten. Von hier aus wäre es nur ein kleiner Schritt zur Diskussion des Gegensatzes zwischen dem vorklassischen und dem klassischen Rechtsdenken sowie zur kritischen Erörterung, inwieweit hier vielleicht durchaus Traditionen zu beobachten sind, welche, wenn sie auch einer kohärenten Entwicklung unterworfen waren, ihre jeweilige Eigenart nicht aufgaben.5 Verschiedene Beiträge des Bandes tragen zu dieser Diskussion bei, vielleicht ohne dass die Verfasser dies beabsichtigt haben.


1.   Biondo Biondi, Diritto ereditario romano. Parte generale, Milano 1954, 140-142.
2.   Martin Avenarius, Il „liber singularis regularum" pseudo-ulpianeo: sua specificità come opera giuridica altoclassica in comparazione con le „Institutiones" di Gaio, in: Index 34 (2006), 455-477 (468-470).
3.   Werner Flume, Rechtsakt und Rechtsverhältnis, Paderborn 1990, 23.
4.   Daniel Oliver Effer-Uhe, Die Wirkung der condicio im römischen Recht, Baden-Baden 2008.
5.   Grundlegend Okko Behrends, Institut und Prinzip, Göttingen 2004.

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Klaus Fittschen, Paul Zanker, Katalog der römischen Porträts in den Capitolinischen Museen und den anderen Kommunalen Sammlungen der Stadt Rom, Band IV: Kinderbildnisse. Nachträge zu Band I-III. Neuzeitliche oder neuzeitlich verfälschte Bildnisse. Bildnisse an Reliefdenkmälern (2 vols.). Beiträge zur Erschließung hellenistischer und kaiserzeitlicher Skulptur und Architektur. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2014. Pp. xiv, 200. ISBN 9783110353624. €149.00.

Reviewed by Fred S. Kleiner, Boston University (

Version at BMCR home site

This is the fourth and final volume cataloging the Roman portraits in the Capitoline Museums and in Rome's other municipal collections—a mammoth project begun nearly 50 years ago by Klaus Fittschen and Paul Zanker under the auspices of the German Archaeological Institute in Rome and featuring the superb black-and-white photographs of Gisela Fittschen-Badura. This latest volume, like its predecessors, has been lavishly published as a two-volume (text and plates) folio set by Walter de Gruyter. All who work in the field of Roman art generally, and Roman portraiture specifically, owe a great debt to the authors and photographer and to the authorities in Rome who granted permission for the study and publication of this rich and important material.

The first three volumes focused on familiar masterpieces (and scores of less familiar works) portraying emperors, empresses, and other members of the imperial family, as well as adult private portraits. This volume catalogs the "leftovers"—portraits in the round of anonymous children, portraits in relief (primarily on funerary altars and sarcophagi, but not on historical reliefs such as those from a lost arch of Marcus Aurelius or the Hadrianic "Arco di Portogallo"), plus miscellaneous addenda to earlier volumes and modern portraits and forgeries. For many readers, this diverse group of material will be of less interest than the likenesses of the Twelve Caesars and their successors, but many of these "marginal works" deserve detailed consideration and the kind of high-quality reproductions featured here. Moreover, because these are private portraits, the text is not dominated, as the previous volumes are, by long discussions or imperial portrait typology based on the pattern of locks of hair, shape of eyes, etc.—that is, by the kind of largely formulaic analyses that often "miss the forest for the trees." This body of material compels the authors to treat each work individually rather than as a replica of an official portrait that was more likely in gilded bronze than in marble. This has yielded, for me at least, a series of more interesting catalog entries than has been the norm in this series.

The following works deserve to be highlighted in this brief review of a very large body of material:

Nos. 23–25: Three portrait statues of infants, two from the same tomb complex on the Via Latina but of widely differing date, the third with a pet dog. These are notable for the careful reproduction of the distinctive appearance of very small children with chubby bodies in awkward postures and disproportionately large, almost neck-less, heads. This is a rare phenomenon in the history of art, both ancient and modern, where children are very often portrayed as miniature adults with adult bodies and adult personalities.

No. 29: Probably the best-known piece in the collection, a statue of the infant Hercules strangling two serpents. The head is a portrait of a boy datable to the end of the second or early third century usually thought to be a retrospective likeness of Caracalla after his father Septimius Severus had become emperor and declared himself the adopted son of Marcus Aurelius and brother of Commodus (the Hercules Romanus) whose damnatio memoriae Septimius lifted. Here, that identification is rejected, in large part because of the absence of replicas—a very weak argument in my judgment—in favor of a private funerary portrait of a boy who died prematurely. The discussion surprisingly omits reference to a similar portrait statue in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, which many scholars have identified as the young Commodus.

No. 107: An early Trajanic funerary relief of unknown provenance depicting a young man reclining on a kline and holding a scroll. He is clearly the deceased. Seated beside him is a veiled matron, whose gaze he meets by turning his head over his left shoulder. She is doubtless his grieving mother. At his feet is a servant boy, and behind the kline (displayed on a wall?) is a male portrait bust in the form of an imago clipeata. This must be the young man's father, who died earlier. The relief, of unusually high quality, is nonetheless one of countless instances in Greco-Roman art of the living and dead depicted together, implying that the family will be reunited in the afterlife.

Nos. 110 and 111: Two Hadrianic reliefs, one from Lanuvio and one from the Via Triumphalis in Rome/Monte Mario depicting priests of Oriental deities (Cybele and Bellona-Ma). Both are important documents of the growing interest in eastern cults in Rome and central Italy during the first half of the second century; they are also invaluable sources for our knowledge of the costumes worn by priests of these religions as well as of the ritual instruments they employed. The second relief incorporates a seven-line inscription naming the deceased (L. Lartius Anthus) as a cistophorus of Bellona Pulvinensis. Lartius's portrait has been dated to the third century, but the authors' Hadrianic dating is convincing.

No. 116: A funerary relief depicting an Antonine woman reclining on a kline holding a pomegranate, from the Albani collection and very likely from Rome, possibly the Via Appia. The relief is of greater interest for the inscription than the portrait. In five lines of Greek verse, we learn that Claudius Agatheinos is commemorating his beloved wife Phelikitas, whom he compares to Penelope, who wished that she die rather than be unfaithful to Odysseus during her long wait for his return. The husband in turn wishes that Pluto will permit him to be reunited with Phelikitas when he dies, a recurrent theme in funerary art, as noted above. Long Greek inscriptions such as this one are unusual on Roman monuments, especially one commissioned a century after the family seems to have been manumitted under Claudius. The authors attribute the relief to an Attic workshop.

No. 121: A touching relief, probably the front panel of a funerary altar, showing a boy, C. Petronius Virianus Postumus, on horseback, whose father died before he was born and who died himself before reaching his 11th birthday. One of the enduring attractions of this material is the insight it gives into the lives, often tragic, of ordinary Romans.

No. 134: A Trajanic funerary altar set up by Junia Venusta in honor of her husband M. Junius Satyrus and their two children, M. Junius Justus and Junia Pia. The three appear together as bust-length portraits in a framed panel above the inscription. Above, in a lunette between pulvini, is the bust-length portrait of M. Junius Persus, the patron who granted freedom to the family. The portrait of the patron, an elderly man, is also stylistically a generation older than the portraits of his freed slaves.

No. 139: A large funerary altar of Trajanic or early Hadrianic date with a full-length portrait of T. Statilius Aper on the front and a bust-length portrait of his wife Orcivia Anthis in a shell above. As befits a man with the cognomen Aper, Statilius stands beside a dead boar. The lengthy inscription refers, not surprisingly, to the death of Meleager, but the deceased wears a toga. On later sarcophagi, the deceased will play the role of the Greek hunter of the Calydonian boar and appear heroically nude.

No. 152: The best-known funerary altar in the Capitoline Museums, it comes from the tomb of Quintus Sulpicius Maximus on the Via Salaria and portrays the deceased, an 11-year-old boy. The altar has long been of interest to classicists because the inscription informs us that in 94 CE this "child prodigy" won a competition among 52 Greek poets in honor of Jupiter Capitolinus. The verses that he composed were inscribed on the altar by his "unhappy parents" Quintus Sulpicius Eugramus and Licinia Januaria, who implore passersby to admire the beauty of their son's verses and to mourn his loss at so early an age. He may have died, they say, but his verses live on.

This is a volume that, like the earlier volumes in the series, deserves a place in any personal or institutional collection of books on Roman portraiture.

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Douglass Parker, Timothy J. Moore, Aristophanes and Menander. Three Comedies: Peace; Money, the God; Samia. Indianapolis; Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2014. Pp. xiv, 230. ISBN 9781624661853. $16.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Karen Rosenbecker, Loyola University, New Orleans (

Version at BMCR home site


Douglass Parker (1927–2011) did so much to transform how Greek and Latin may be translated and adapted for modern audiences that it is hard to overstate his influence. Many of us who fell in love with Aristophanes, in particular, first became smitten with the poet thanks to Parker's translations, and his Lysistratahas become something of a modern classic in its own right. In his introduction to Aristophanes and Menander. Three Comedies: Peace; Money, the God; Samia, Timothy Moore wisely does not attempt to explain Parker's importance beyond a brief summation: Parker "created a new style of translation, lively and modern while remaining true to the ancient texts, which opened the door to ancient literature to countless students, readers, and audiences" (xii). Moore chooses instead to let the comic bite and verve of the three plays that follow speak to the eloquence and skill of their translator. The book presents a set of three comedies, each drawn from one of the three ancient periods of the genre (i.e. Peace from Old Comedy; Money, the God from Middle; Samia from New) and each translated and revised by Parker, with introductions and supporting materials from Moore. Those familiar with Parker and Berg's Plautus and Terence: Five Comedies BMCR 2000.01.11 will find this to be something of a companion volume in that it also aims to make these plays accessible to anyone who wants to read comedy and enjoy it.

In putting together the introductory materials for the volume and the individual plays, Moore is an ideal editor in that he provides context for the newcomer who may need some support in understanding the complexities and playfulness of ancient comedy, as well as providing more detailed information for those who may already know Parker's work and would like specifics about the history of these translations. In addition to the general introduction to the volume, each of the three plays is given a brief foreword that provides background on the author, the historical moment of the play, a drawing of the stage, and a bit about how the plays connect with each other stylistically. The introduction to Samia, for example, contains a brief discussion of the continuing marginalization of the chorus that began in Money, the God (157). Also included in the introduction to each play is a structural outline of the piece, drawn from Parker's scene headings for the scripts. For teachers and practitioners of drama, these summaries are a welcome addition in that they offer students a convenient flow chart for action and provide an illustration of how often-opaque terms, like syzygy, really do describe an important facet of the construction of a piece. All three plays contained in the volume were performed several times during Parker's life and were subsequently revised by him before his death. Moore is careful to note that Parker planned on polishing them still further, but he also states that, as an editor, he felt each was more than ready to be published. And indeed, anyone with an appreciation of the bounce and zest of Greek and Roman comedy will be hard-pressed to intuit what either translator or editor might have done to make the plays, and the volume that contains them, any better. Moore is scrupulous in enumerating where he has made changes (vii) and discusses his work in collating Parker's various manuscripts for the plays, even down to considerations of font and layout, so that each is as close to a definitive version of Parker's work as is posthumously possible.

As for the translations themselves, each is singular yet all bear witness to Parker's talent. It is a particular boon to have a lively and stage-tested translation/adaptation of Ploutos (Money, the God), given the renewed interest in the play in the wake of the global economic downturn. Part of the fun of reading each play is that Parker's vision for the production fairly leaps off the page. In this, again, much credit is due to Moore who has done a great job in keeping Parker's style for noting copious stage directions and for indicating shifting tones and volumes for characters. A wonderful example of how this attention to layout can matter in a scene is the entrance of the goddess Poverty in Money, the God (111–12). In this scene, Aristophanes' paratragic language and mock solemnity are actually visible on the page.

Poverty: [majestically in measured tones] I…AM…SHE…WHO
Blepsidemos: That's one of those foreign gods.
[a slight pause] MENT…ON…YOU…WHO…DO
Blepsidemos: Another foreign god.
Blepsidemos: I'm wrong. It's the barmaid from down the block,
the one who does the vanishing trick with my cash
with false-bottomed mugs.
[Tableau of terror. Then, Blepsidemos' nerves break.]

Here, far from being intrusive, the details in Parker's script invite the reader to fully construct a vision of Poverty's ridiculous and self-appointed gravitas as it is set against the initial insouciance of the men.

Parker's talent for eliciting modern laugher from ancient jokes is admirable, but occasionally the comic timing isn't quite right. For example, at the very opening of Peace, Parker has Xanthias and Sosias conduct their back-and-forth about feeding the dung beetle in canned French accents (6).

Sosias: Azzonair! Ze special!
Xanthias: Ze special? Ze donkey shit al burro? Voilà encore. What 'appen to ze patty you take 'eem jus' now? 'Ee should 'ave gobble eet down.

This may work marvelously on stage, but for the reader the Anglicized faux-French may become a bit much. Thankfully, the bits featuring phonetically-represented accents in all the plays are usually of short duration, but for a reader they can feel a bit wooden, especially if one cannot "hear" the accent in one's head. For students who are newcomers to ancient comedy in particular, Parker's representation of accents may even be off-putting, but reading such passages aloud can sometimes help bring across the tenor of the scene and the reason for the thick accent.

At the end of the volume, Moore has chosen to append Parker's 1988 James Constantine Lecture at the University of Virginia, entitled "A Desolation Called Peace: Trials of an Aristophanic Translator" (217–230), in which Parker discusses his tenets as a translator/adaptor specifically in the context of his struggles with Peace. And to be sure, the text of Peace itself, with its extensive re-christening of characters for descriptive and comic effect (e.g. Trygaios is "Jack the Reaper" [5]) and copious inter-script annotations, also suggests that it may be the most revised of the three plays; it is illuminating to read this final version of the script in light of the difficulties and triumphs Parker shares about its construction. In fact, Parker cites the play's first scene as emblematic of the problem that the characteristic "cold open" of Aristophanic comedy provides for a translator. How is one to engage the audience for those hundred some lines before the nature of the problem besetting the on stage world is revealed? Despite advice from readers that a joke-accent scene between Xanthias and Sosias would alienate his audience (226–228), Parker determined that such a choice would have created a tension that would hold the audience until the revelation of Jack's plan. Such insights into the why's and how's of the translator's art may be the hidden gem of the volume. Parker's overview of the process of translation, with its insightful and humorous discussion of what a translator must be willing to endure to get just one line as well-turned in English as it is in Greek, would be engaging and important even if it were only reflective of his ideas on the role of the translator. But as it stands, this lecture is also a reflection of the ethos behind the style of translating that Parker, Richmond Lattimore, and William Arrowsmith gave birth to in the middle of the last century and that has revolutionized how we read and translate Classics today.

It is reported that Douglass Parker requested that his epitaph read, "but I digress", CAMWS Necrologies. Those of us who have benefitted so much from his works might be tempted to suggest that, given his love of spontaneous and inclusive performance, if Parker did digress, he was the sort who wanted you to digress with him, and if you did, you were surely the better and the smarter for it. More importantly for all who translate and adapt the classical past, Parker leaves us with this: "The classical translator is favored, I hold, by…the fact that there are, and will very likely continue to be other versions in the field. […] Were his to be the only Aristophanes ever, this would not be the case. His audience and his responsibilities would be quite different. As it is, he can choose one of a number of possible aims" (219). Aristophanes and Menander. Three Comedies: Peace; Money, the God; Samia continues Parker's aim of presenting plays that are accessible, performable, and scholarly; and thanks to Moore's decisions as an editor, we are also presented with a discussion of the craft of translation and adaptation from one of the greats. Those who study comedy, whether teachers, students, scholars, or performers, will not be disappointed in taking the time to experience how Parker "absorb[s] the true colors of an ancient choral song, transpose[s] a lost pun, or channel[s] a venerable, giant, dung-eating cockroach for the benefit of those who couldn't be there the first time" (back cover).

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Gregorio del Olmo Lete, Incantations and Anti-Witchcraft Texts from Ugarit. Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Records (SANER), 4. Boston; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014. Pp. vii, 254, 23 p. of plates. ISBN 9781614516279. €99.95.

Reviewed by Bronson Brown-deVost, Brandeis University (

Version at BMCR home site

The remains of Ugaritic literature furnish a rich source for understanding the small but influential Mediterranean village of Ugarit in the late second millennium B.C.E. While one may think immediately of the colorful mythological narratives or even the cultic texts in this regard,1 del Olmo Lete tackles here the less well understood issue of magic at Ugarit.

A comprehensive study of anti-witchcraft literature from Ugarit, both in narrative settings and in stand alone rituals, forms the primary basis for del Olmo Lete's approach to the topic. del Olmo Lete presents transliterations, translations, and discussions of nearly all anti-witchcraft incantations uncovered at Ugarit. This includes texts in the native Ugaritic language as well as Mesopotamian texts in the Akkadian and Sumerian languages (the Mesopotamian texts were prepared by Ignacio Márquez Rowe and receive less discussion than the Ugaritic ones).

del Olmo Lete efficiently defends his selection of KTU 1.82, 96, 100, 107, 169, 178, and possibly 1.179 as valid exemplars of Ugaritic incantation texts, and refutes, often summarily, such a classification for a number of other proposed incantations (KTU 1.12, 13, 20–22, 23, 24, 65, 75, 83, 86, 93, 108, 113, 114, 124, 2.31, 5.2, and 7.5). Classical scholars may find it of interest that del Olmo Lete does not see a hydrophory ritual in KTU 1.12, though he does appear to favor a Near Eastern origin for such rituals in the Hellenistic world (pp. 83–4).

The book opens with a lengthy introduction on magic, and its nature in Ugarit (especially in comparison to magic in Mesopotamia). Much of this is predicated on a problematic opposition between black and white magic—a problem del Olmo Lete is apparently aware of (p. 4, n. 19). Thus, he maintains a distinction between "moralized magic" of the cult and "the actual practice of magic," which is "in some sense amoral, if not immoral" (pp. 13–14). In many ways, interested readers would do well to familiarize themselves especially with the works of Cunningham and Abusch that largely form the bedrock of del Olmo Lete's discussion. I would also note that the references to Akkadian ritual and incantation texts on page 1 (note 2) may be confusing to the non-specialist: Namburbi rituals are not anti-witchcraft, they are intended to counteract the portents of ill-omens; Ušburuda is not a type of bad witchcraft, rather the term is a designation for certain rituals and incantations that counteract witchcraft.

del Olmo Lete proposes that Mesopotamian anti-witchcraft literature, with its common recourse to various deities, exerted a strong influence on the role of the Ugaritian pantheon in dealing with harmful magics. He argues that magic at Ugarit was originally atheistic (p. 205), which explains why even the high god ʾIlu lacked the ability to undo the witchcraft of the snakebite in KTU 1.100 or to personally cure king Kirta's illness in KTU 1.16 V 10–22, though ʾIlu could "set in motion the force of magic" (p. 20). In order shift control of magic into the divine sphere, del Olmo Lete proposes that a proper god of magic, Ḥôrānu, was introduced into the Ugaritic pantheon. In this way, the Ugaritians would have acquired their own equivalent to Mesopotamian Asalluḫi or Marduk, son(s) of Ea and lord(s) of magic and incantation.

The result of integrating this outsider, Ḥôrānu, into the pantheon is a complex set of relationships between him, his consort ʾum pḥl pḥlt or ʾušḫry (?), and the other deities involved in magic: ʾIlu, Šapšu, and Baʿlu. Using such texts as KTU 1.82, 100, 107, and 169, del Olmo Lete attempts to present a schema of the relationships between Ugaritian gods of magic that resembles the Mesopotamian system, but he is ultimately forced to admit that those two systems are not entirely parallel and that the Ugaritian schema itself is not entirely consistent (pp. 32–3).

del Olmo Lete also turns to Mesopotamian evidence for help in defining some of the human agents involved with magic at Ugarit: kšp "sorceror" = Akkadian kaššāpu, dbb "adversary" = Akkadian dābibu and bēl dabābi (it is not clear to me how his dbb "foul-mouthed" fits into this comparison). But he also uses the Ugaritic textual and archaeological data to define native terms, most notably khn "diviner," which he relates to the the Arabic word kāhin-.

Perhaps most fruitful is del Olmo Lete's usage of Mesopotamian anti-witchcraft literature to explain the form and nature of Ugaritic incantation texts. This comparison has aided in the decipherment of some of the more damaged or poorly understood Ugaritic texts (e.g., KTU 1.179 and the famous KTU 1.96). The Ugaritic texts do imitate Babylonian ones in several respects, using similar motifs and formulae. Furthermore, del Olmo Lete notes that the presence of an Akkadian lexical list on the reverse of KTU 1.96, which he reads as an incantation against the evil eye, underscores the close proximity of Mesopotamian and Ugaritic literature in the scribal training at Ugarit, and may even suggest an Akkadian background for the evil eye incantation in KTU 1.96.

I do wonder at the double treatment of KTU 1.96 (once on pp. 129–39 and "once again" on pp. 140–56); an integrated presentation would have been simpler. The second treatment deals extensively with the previous literature, and ends up being largely a rebuttal of Tarahazi's recent work on the text. The close reading of this and other texts in the book benefit greatly from del Olmo Lete's mastery of comparative Semitics and his thoughtful and nuanced approach towards lexicography. One innovation in this respect is his understanding of Ugaritic bṯy(t), which he proposes is etymologically related to Ethiopic (Geʿez) budā "one who causes harm by means of the evil eye," (Tigre) bozzay "magician" (and also the C-stem verb ʾabzaza "to stare [with one's eyes wide open]"); a very tantalizing and apt proposal. The proto-Semitic (ps) root of the word would most likely be bḏy; the shift of ps / ḏ/ to /z/ in Ethiopic is well attested, but should result in or d in Ugaritic, as del Olmo Lete notes. Nevertheless he offers the well-known ṯd/ḏd/zd "breast" as support for the phonetic realization of ps /ḏ/ > in Ugaritic; this is possible, but ṯd/ḏd/zd is likely the result of babble talk and the three realizations may not properly be the result of established phonetic shifts (cf. Hebrew dad, šad, but zîz, with a different vowel).

In general I prefer to see s1 (/š/), s2 (/ś/), and s3 (/s/ or better /ts/) in linguistic discussions of the Semitic sibilants. This would help prevent confusing arguments such as the "Ugaritic-Ethiopic isogloss ṯʕy // šwʕ" (p. 139), which del Olmo Lete presents as a parallel of "the supposed /ḏ/ > /š/ shift" (p. 139 n. 56), even though the above cited isogloss is really a rare example of /ṯ/ > s2 (with s1 /š/ as an intermediary?), for š in Classical Ethiopic (Geʿez) is s2 (i.e., the so-called lateral fricative /ś/; so Renfroe, as cited in the note).

As regards the second -n of ʕnn in KTU 1.96 line 1 (p. 143), I am unsure that the complicated discussion in note 15 is necessary or correct; the use of -n as a determiner/deictic is common in ESA. (One may also note that the odd ESA verbal form yknnn [root kwn, CIS IV 609:5] may provide an analogous orthography to the suffix -nnn found in RS 15.174:17 and RS 1.026+:12 = KTU 2.7; in both cases only one or two sets of geminate n's are anticipated, not three).

Unfortunately, the text suffers from numerous typos—too many to be listed here—I offer only a few of the more important examples: kispu for kišpu (p. 1); šỉmtu for šimtu (p. 2, n. 4); the sentence "From ... supremacy" (p. 15) is mangled and now a fragment; ṣu-bur-ri in RS 17.155 obv. 41 (p. 50) should be šu-bur-ri; the line numbering is off for the translation of RS 17.155 obv. 30–32 (p. 53); ušn in KTU 1.40 line 28 for ủ šn (p. 107); tšsy for tššy (p. 118 n. 40); 2kysmsm for 3kysmsm (p. 130); ina bi-rit ŠEŠ.MEŠ (p. 144, n. 16) should be ina bi-rit ŠEŠ.MEŠ DUG3.MEŠ; in the transliteration for KTU 1.107 (pp. 159–162) missing r at beginning of line 2, at end of line 18 kʕn should be kpʕn, beginning of line 39 [bʕl. should be [bʕl.], in line 45 lp[. should be lp[.]; del Olmo Lete notes that Pardee omitted the dividing line between lines 14 and 15 of KTU 1.107 (p. 163, n. 21), the dividing line is also absent in del Olmo Lete's edition (p. 160); 2ʕṣ for 3ʕṣ (p. 173). The representation of and is problematic throughout the book: nḫš for nḥš (p. 159, KTU 1.107 l. 5) and nḫš ʕảqšr for nḥš ʕảqšr in the index; ḥph for ḫph (p. 160, KTU 1.107 l. 32); šḥr for šḥr (p. 160, KTU 1.107 l. 43); yḫr<n> for yḥr<n> (p. 196, KTU 1.100 l. 73) and elsewhere with in the DN Ḥôrānu. Sometimes the index is incorrect (no reference to Hebrew ˀefod on p. 100).

Several issues arise with the translations of Ugaritic and Akkadian texts: "penetrate" seems inappropriate for Ug. tbủ on p. 20; in KTU 1.23 line 45 is translated "Oh, father, father!" (p. 22), it should be "Oh man, man!" (also remove comma after "Oh" here and in l. 42); tql in KTU 1.19 II 35 is translated "he fell" (p. 25), it should be "she fell;" a-mat-[ki in RS 25.420+ iii 22' should be translated "[your] word" not "[your] spittle" (= imat[ki) (p. 44); in RS 17.155 obv. 6 occurs twice but is translated only once (p. 52); missing translation for [mim]ma sakkigâ kuššid in RS 17.155 obv. 15 (p. 53), it is "remove [an]y head disease;" the reconstructed line 14 of KTU 1.96 (p. 130) should be translated "[Incantation against the restless eye (or) evil-doer/sorcerer(?)];" "approached" for ủqrb in KTU 1.169 line 5 (p. 167) should be D-stem "brought near." The Assyriologist may find qi2-e2 to be an odd transliteration in RS 25.420+ iii 19' (p. 40) and RS 17.155 obv. 14 (p. 49), qi2-bit would have been simpler.

I can't help but wonder why del Olmo Lete did not use the Arslan Tash amulet inscriptions in some of his discussion. The first amulet makes mention of Baʿal and Ḥôrānu (ḥwrn) together in a prophylactic context, suggesting the association of these two deities for anti-witchcraft purposes beyond Ugarit. The first amulet also contains a parallel to KTU 1.96: bt ʾbʾ bl tbʾn (KAI 27 ll. 5–6) = bt.ủbủ.ảl.tbỉ (KTU 169:16); such phrases are common in Mesopotamian incantations (see, e.g., Tummu bītu). What is more, the "eye" (ʿyn) figures largely in the second amulet, and may provide some clues to wider ancient Northwest Semitic evil eye traditions.

del Olmo Lete is to be commended for making this volume available to a wide audience in the English language, and the infelicities due to translation from Spanish can easily be overlooked (e.g., "/ḏ/ y /d/" for "/ḏ/ and /d/" on p. 139, and numerous other odd phrases throughout). The several references to Spanish language are colorful, and in the case of alcabalero (p. 154, n. 54) particularly enlightening.

The book is accompanied by hand copies of the Ugaritic texts (by Lluis Feliu) and by photos of the Akkadian and Ugaritic texts (by Faansa Saad and Dibbo ed-Dibbo). The process of photographing with ammonium chloride powder indeed provides an image generally superior to physical inspection of the tablet itself (let alone copies by hand).

The discussion of Ugaritic texts in this volume is exemplary, insightful, and thought provoking. del Olmo Lete is to be commended for bringing Mesopotamian anti-witchcraft literature to bear on the interpretation of Ugaritic incantations, and with this work he opens a much needed and welcome discussion of magic in Ugarit.


1.   For collections of these texts, see especially N. Wyatt, Religious Texts from Ugarit, 2nd rev. ed., The Biblical Seminar 53, Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 2002, S. Parker ed., Ugaritic Narrative Poetry, SBL Writings from the Ancient World 9, Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997, D. Pardee, Les Textes Rituels, 2 vols., Ras Shamra-Ougarit 12, Paris: Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 2000, and idem, Ritual and Cult at Ugarit, Writings from the Ancient World 10, Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2002.

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Aaron Pelttari, The Space that Remains: Reading Latin Poetry in Late Antiquity. Cornell studies in classical philology. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 2014. Pp. xi, 190. ISBN 9780801452765. $49.95.

Reviewed by Marco Formisano, Ghent University (

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Let's imagine a world where the literature of the classical period has been irreparably lost or is available only in a highly fragmentary condition. In this hypothetical situation "classicists" would be able to read Greek and Latin texts only via late antiquity, and would have to make sense of them without considering the works of Cicero, Vergil, Horace, Ovid or Statius. How different our perception and appreciation of late antique literature would be and, consequently, how different our methodologies for investigating the uncertain terrain of late antique textuality would be!

As it is, scholars of late antique literature have a hard time of it and operate in a peculiar situation. First, they deal with an epoch which escapes definition: classicists, naive as they sometimes can be, may take late only as a chronologically neutral indication, but more attentive readers cannot avoid seeing a pejorative term: here antiquity, there late antiquity. Secondly, they are classicists (truth to tell, more in certain parts of the world than in others), who have been almost exclusively trained in the canonical texts of the classical periods and more importantly have internalized a certain approach to ancient texts, and a certain conception of literature in general which in fact might not be universally valid. A typical example is the use of intertextuality as prime interpretive criterion. This has an important practical implication: in order to have a successful academic career, scholars working on late antique literature are generally (again, perhaps particularly within certain academic traditions) expected to demonstrate the conformity of the texts they write about to the aesthetic values and research methodologies applied in the field of Classics. It is as if a scholar of late antiquity not only has to convince her readers of the aesthetic quality of the texts of her inquiry but also to reassure them that these texts are worthy elements in the venerable tradition of the discipline. Thirdly, because of a particular characteristic of late antique literature which very much makes knowledge and the mechanisms of its transmission a pillar of its own textual language, scholars tend to consider late antique writers more as distinguished classicist colleagues than as poets: after all, they too wrote commentaries and monographs!

I have made these points not (only) to be provocative, but more importantly because the book under review shows — in an exemplary way, and precisely because it is a good book — the methodological and epistemological impasses that any scholar of late antique literature (still) has to face. The Space That Remains (the title alludes to Giorgio Agamben's Il tempo che resta) is an ambitious book which addresses the question of whether there exists a distinctive literary aesthetic of late antiquity. In consonance with the growing interest devoted to the literature of this period, this issue has increasingly attracted scholarly attention, after decades in which late antique literature was studied almost exclusively from a historical and philological perspective (the latest monumental manifestation of this approach is Alan Cameron's The Last Pagans of Rome). Pelttari, however, provides a hypothesis which represents the macro-theme of his book: late antique textuality creates a space for the reader, whose role is inscribed within the text in a more accentuated manner than it was before. Placing the reader at the center of his investigation, Pelttari rightly emphasizes that he is not interested in the historical and material aspects of reading. His Reader, Pelttari argues, "is not an individual or historical person, but an abstraction drawn from the individual texts of late antiquity" (p. 8). Pelttari acknowledges that the inscribed reader already played a role in the poetic production of previous ages of Latin literature, but it is his argument that in late antiquity "the poet writes for a reader who he expects will make sense out of the fragments of the text" (p. 8). According to Pelttari, precisely this attention on the part of poets towards their readers, who are called to play an active part within the text, marks a fundamental shift within the new literary aesthetic of late antiquity. In order to demonstrate his hypothesis, Pelttari navigates through an impressive number of authors and texts. His authors are both Christian and secular, they wrote in prose and poetry, and they worked in the fourth century, a particularly productive period for a specifically late antique aesthetic sensibility. In particular, however, Pelttari focuses on Ausonius, Claudian, and Prudentius as poets who "stand out" in that context (p. 2).

Pelttari's relatively small book contains an introduction, four chapters, and a short conclusion. Both its size and structure invite a comparison with Michael Roberts' The Jeweled Style, described as "fundamental" in the jacket text and published in 1989 by the same publisher. Chapter 1 ("Text, Interpretation, and Authority") is devoted to the most prominent late Latin interpreters of the Bible and Vergil: Jerome and Augustine on the one hand, Macrobius on the other. Pelttari rightly considers these authors' works as texts in their own right, nicely emphasizing the double role of these writers as readers: on the one hand they are themselves readers and interpreters of canonical texts, therefore their work is an act of reading. But on the other they launch exegesis as a literary form that is inherently directed towards other readers of the Bible or of Vergil. As Pelttari argues at the end of the chapter, the massive attention directed by late antique writers towards canonical and authoritative texts needs to be considered in its own terms as a factor which situates the reader more than before at the center of textuality. In Chapter 2 the focus is on the preface as a typical feature of late antique texts. Following the definition of the paratext given by Genette in his famous Seuils, Pelttari considers the omnipresence of prefaces in late Latin texts as clear proof of the centrality of the reader since — quite as one would expect — "they are directed towards an audience interested in the creation of poetic meaning" (p. 46). Moreover, applying Genette's discussion to the late antique context, Pelttari introduces the distinction between a proem — i.e. the introductory part directly embedded in the text — and a preface, which stands apart and creates the space for the author as such to have the function of commenting over the text. After a helpful overview of the how authors used the preface during previous ages, Pelttari concentrates on the allegorical prefaces by Claudian and Prudentius, along with those by Ausonius. While the former are presented as allegory, which needs to be decoded, the latter problematize both the role of the author and the text, which presents itself to the hermeneutic ability of a powerful reader. Both kinds of prefaces create a distance between text and author, and emphasize the instability of the text by advocating — and eventually implicitly exalting — the function of the reader.

The third chapter, in my opinion the most problematic part of the book, draws inspiration from one of the most used and abused terms of 20th century literary criticism, the opera aperta as conceived by Umberto Eco in the 1960s. In order to show that many late antique works can be considered open texts, Pelttari discusses three strands of late Latin textuality: figural poetry, famously represented by the work of Optatian; allegory, as conceived in Prudentius' Psychomachia; and the Vergilian centos. In general, this chapter applies a term that can be used to describe virtually any kind of text written in any age. A further reservation concerns the way in which Pelttari, regardless of arguments to the contrary, nonetheless conceives of the cento exclusively as a text that receives its own meaning from another text (i.e. Vergil); in this Pelttari follows recent scholarly trends on the cento.

The last chapter, "The Presence of the Reader," is devoted to the use of allusion in late Latin poetry. Here Pelttari argues that late antique allusion — by being quite transparent and lying on the very surface — more than any other factor points to the presence of the reader within the text. A factor of particular interest is that late antique allusion is not referential in the way classical allusion was. It is also usually not directed towards aemulatio, i.e. that competition through imitation which we tend to conceive as a typical mark of classical Latin poetry. Late antique poets, directly appropriating the words of the canonical text as they do, tend to ignore the meaning of the context from which they draw those very words. According to Pelttari another important distinction is that, while the textual world mapped out by a classical poet is "devoid of temporality" (p. 130), the poetical universe of late antique poetry is conceived sub specie praeteritatis, i.e. quotations and allusions clearly indicate a past, which is in turn perceived and depicted as distant, and thematized as such. Pelttari furthermore distinguishes among nonreferential allusions, i.e. as allusions to classical texts which remain undetermined, juxtaposed fragments of classical poetry (typical of the mos centonarius), and the apposed allusion, i.e. an allusion that is not well integrated within the text and therefore ends up marking itself as an extraneous element. (Here Pelttari re-discusses the term Kontrastimitation, first introduced by Klaus Thraede and more recently applied to Prudentius' work by Maria Lühken.)

Here I have offered only a compact overview of the structure and content of the book, which is of course much more complex. Pelttari has produced an important and useful book, perhaps more convincing in the discussion and analysis of individual texts rather than for its overarching hypothesis that the figure of the reader plays such a particularly important and original role within late antique literature. This book is destined to be quoted in every discussion on late antique literary studies and it makes a significant contribution to the debate on Latin poetry of the 4th century.

Final coda

The Space That Remains like the majority of scholarly contributions to the field, rests on a set of methodological principles that remain undiscussed and accepted as such. A short review is not the place to enter into a detailed discussion, but it is perhaps worthwhile to indicate some of those principles, which are tightly connected with my remarks presented above in the opening paragraph. Since Pelttari dedicates a chapter to the discussion of paratexts, I will limit myself here to the subtitle of the book: Reading Latin Poetry In Late Antiquity. The most noticeable element is the preposition in, rather than for example of. That little word in Pelttari's title powerfully resonates as a hint at a specific methodology. On the one hand, Pelttari aims at reconstructing both the late antique context in which poetry was read and produced and, on a more implicit level, the intentions of the authors as historical individuals situated in that context. Perhaps more importantly still: the subtitle shows that the true aim of the book is to explore how Latin poetry was read in late antiquity; another book might have borne the subtitle Reading Late Latin Poetry. But which Latin poetry? Why not just Reading Poetry? The Latin poetry at stake here is in fact the classical canonical poetry of the Augustan age, in particular Vergil. The subtitle, together with the rather apologetic text of the jacket, seems to indicate that the true object of this study is in fact classical Latin poetry. The orientation of Pelttari's study, in accordance with the way in which he conceives of late Latin poetry, is directed at the past, i.e. texts are always read as dialoguing with or contrasting to the classical background, as texts deprived of their own voice and as such only able to ventriloquize the canon.

The most relevant implications of this methodological background are two: on the one hand late Latin poetry as discussed by Pelttari turns out to be a supreme act of reception, and on the other he implicitly takes for granted that late antique authors shared the same concept of literature which informs classical texts. This point emerges in both a presence and an absence. A presence: Pelttari's discussion of the cento, a genre which, despite its critical revival in the last years, still remains studied from the limited perspective of the classical hypotext. And an absence: Pelttari excludes biblical epic from his study precisely because he considers it a "secondary" type of text. The discourse of the discipline of Classics strongly if invisibly influences this book on another level. As his establishment of the triad Ausonius, Claudian, and Prudentius seems to suggest, Pelttari tends to canonize one of the most uncanonical ages of European literature — an age whose own "signature" is precisely un-canonicity.

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James Robson, Sex and Sexuality in Classical Athens. Debates and documents in ancient history. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013. Pp. xxiv, 311. ISBN 9780748634149. $40.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Riccardo Vattuone, Università di Bologna (

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Il libro di James Robson tratta un argomento molto discusso negli studi di antichità classica: la ricerca è inserita fra i Debates and Documents in Ancient History', editi a Edinburgo sotto la direzione di Emma Stafford e Shaun Tougher, e si prefigge di presentare il tema in oggetto, vale a dire 'Sesso e sessualità nell'Atene dell'età classica' non solo quale introduzione per i non specialisti, ma anche come strumento per la ricerca nel campo. Lo scopo è molto impegnativo, come sempre accade quando si cerca di coinvolgere destinatari eterogenei. La struttura della serie sembra favorire l'obiettivo, mettendo ordine e schemi nel dibattito scientifico, ma temo crei qualche disagio per entrambi i tipi di lettori: i primi forse alla ricerca di una sintesi più agile e di fonti selezionate; i secondi di qualche proposta di lettura e stimoli originali. Il libro è comunque molto ricco di dati, ben organizzato, ben scritto, e non sono meriti questi di poco conto.

Il testo è suddiviso in due parti, rispettivamente Debates e Documents, che contengono alcuni importanti temi sull'argomento: la prima suddivisa in cinque capitoli (1. Sexual Unions: Marriage and Domestic Life; 2. Same Sex Relationships; 3. Prostitution; 4. Sex and the Law: Adultery and Rape; 5. Beauty, Sexual Attractiveness, Fantasy and Taboo) e la seconda che presenta la documentazione relativa ai temi discussi, segnalata nei singoli capitoli della prima parte e qui poi pubblicata, in traduzione, seguendo un ordine alfabetico. Robson limita il suo orizzonte all'età classica e ad Atene, consapevole dell'ampiezza dei problemi e della difficoltà di coprire tutto il campo. Potrebbe sembrare una rinuncia troppo dolorosa, ma sono persuaso con l'autore che la scelta non precluda di avvicinarsi alla sostanza dei problemi.

Robson ritiene che il tema di cui egli tratta sia 'un territorio alieno', che abbiamo tuttavia il compito di attraversare [Preface, xix] : lo dimostrerebbe innanzitutto la concezione del tutto diversa fra passato e presente del concetto di 'adulterio' e di 'stupro', che mette in evidenza una mentalità molto particolare nell'intendere l'autonomia fisica e sociale della donna: il fatto stesso che manchino parole adeguate per definire ciò che per noi è 'rape' e abbondino per converso sfumature per definire l'amore e le sue molteplici manifestazioni, ci dice che ci troviamo davvero in mondi diversi. L'errore che spesso commettiamo a questo punto (Robson non vi cade) è quello di ritenerli anche 'separati' oltre che 'diversi'. Il compito del filologo è quello di tradurre, cioè di consentire il passaggio da un sistema codificato a un altro e di rendere comprensibile nella continuità ciò che sembra radicalmente estraneo. Il territorio è certamente 'alieno', per restare alla felice espressione di cui si serve l'autore, ma che non si può visitare supponendo che non esista contatto col presente o, peggio, che il presente dell'esploratore sia una sorta di progresso o di evoluzione morale. Qualcuno ha pensato che fosse utile, studiando questi temi, di applicare persino un criterio di indagine psicanalitico, pensato come scientifico, cioè fuori dal tempo e indiscutibile,1 ultimo sussulto (mai domo) del positivismo imperante in questo settore della ricerca.

Il libro di Robson suscita molte riflessioni e molti spunti interessanti, in particolare nel capitolo secondo e nel capitolo quinto a cui accenneremo oltre. Invero ciò che si dice riguardo al matrimonio e alla vita domestica nel cap.1 sembra assai meno 'alieno' di quanto promette il resto: per altro i Greci non amavano parlare molto in generale della sessualità, e in particolare di quella nel matrimonio; ciò che si legge nella succinta analisi dell'autore conferma l'impressione che 'sex and sexuality' appartenessero a regime del 'non detto' e trovassero parole e istituzioni al di fuori, ai margini (per gli uomini) in modo non diverso, mutato il mutabile, con ciò che ci è noto nelle società precedenti la 'sexual revolution'. Il capitolo primo può collegarsi con i capitolo terzo ('Prostitution', 67-89) in cui è trattato in modo esauriente uno degli aspetti con cui era 'regolata' – se così si può dire – la sessualità maschile ai margini della vita coniugale.

I capitoli più interessanti del volume sono il secondo e il quinto. Qui posso riferire per sommi capi soltanto alcuni degli argomenti trattati, premettendo che Robson mostra sempre una buona conoscenza dei problemi e delle fonti. Nel secondo capitolo si discute del tema che più di ogni altro ci porterebbe in 'alien territories', vale a dire 'Same-Sex Relationships' (36-66). Uso il condizionale perché l'alterità sarebbe assai più percepibile se si sottolineasse che, tra le varie forme di relazioni omoerotiche, è 'pederasty' che definisce essenzialmente ciò che chiamiamo in modo enfatico 'Greek love'. Robson è molto accurato nel presentare la lunga e ben nota diatriba fra 'essenzialisti e costruzionisti', a margine e ben al di sotto delle premesse teoriche di Michel Foucault sulla storia del problema, nella prospettiva di quella teoria del 'gender' che proprio negli studi di antichità classica ha trovato un terreno molto idoneo. Ma il tema più 'alieno' e più rilevante, a mio avviso, resta ai margini: i Greci ritenevano non solo accettabile, ma auspicabile la relazione affettiva fra un adulto amante e un ragazzo amato. L'età del secondo, diciamo fra i 12 e i 18 anni, ci obbliga a concludere che per Solone e i suoi successori, fino agli appassionati versi d'amore che Eschine cerca di spiegare e giustificare nel contra Timarchum, l'erotica in gioco è quella che nelle nostre società occidentali, per lo meno dopo gli anni settanta del secolo scorso, è considerata forse la peggiore delle attitudini, il più abietto dei costumi, fra pedofilia e pederastia. E il terreno si fa certo più 'alieno' ancora se si considera che quanto ci appare più normale (si fa per dire) e più accettabile in quelle 'same-sex relationships', vale a dire la relazione erotica fra adulti (o fra un adulto e un giovane oltre la nostra 'age of consent'), godeva della stessa pessima reputazione di cui gode tutt'ora nelle società non occidentali o pre-industriali. Pederastia (o 'pedofilia' se non si ha paura di considerare che il paidophiles nel mondo greco non era affatto un 'mostro') esclude la possibilità che l'eromenos (il ragazzo amato) possa proseguire relazioni affettive con un suo simile. Le obiezioni, la citazione di fonti iconografiche che sembrano alzare l'età dei giovani amati/amanti, non mutano la sostanza del problema. Ciò che è accetto, auspicato, lodevole è soltanto l'erotica asimmetrica intergenerazionale nella prospettiva dell'educazione e della trasmissione dei saperi dentro la polis. Questo mi pare davvero 'alieno', e non osservabile soltanto con un giudizio di incolmabile alterità. Forse è il passato a porci questioni che preferiamo evitare di considerare. La domanda ovviamente riguarda anche il presente e i sentimenti fobici che qualunque forma di relazione intergenerazionale suscita. Ho tentato di discutere questi temi in un libro recente2 che James Robson non sembra conoscere, ma che è noto ad altri suoi colleghi anglofoni.

Fra i temi trattati in questo secondo capitolo, interessante è anche il tentativo di mostrare come, passando dalla società aristocratica di VII –VI a.C. all'ultimo tempo del periodo che Robson considera (il IV sec.a.C.), progressivamente le relazioni omoerotiche sembrino perdere consenso, e come questo sia forse riscontrabile soprattutto tramite il codice 'popolare' della commedia. Ho cercato di chiarire, nel volume cui ho fatto cenno sopra, come l'irrisione che riguarda i 'cinedi' della scena comica non colpisca in nessun modo pederastia, governata da standard aristocratici anche quando le 'same-sex relationships' sono trascinate sulla tribuna degli oratori. Il cinedo è l'esatto contrario di ciò che un amante potesse desiderare nella figura del suo eromenos. Farsi beffe di un cinedo non significava in alcun modo deridere la relazione fra un adulto e un ragazzo. Robson crede, appoggiandosi sulle tesi di Thomas Hubbard, che pederastia fosse lodata solo ai piani alti della società greca e derisa dal popolo, dedito per lo più a relazioni eterosessuali. Ed è certo in nome di valori 'alti' che pederastia trova consenso nella società ateniese del tempo di Eschine: ma l'oratore cerca il consenso di demos dalla tribuna e lo trova, contro il prostituto Timarco, esaltando ciò che non poteva non essere benvisto dai più: vale a dire l'amore nobile di un uomo per un fanciullo. Hubbard ha scritto per altro pagine molto belle su 'Greek love' che qui non sono sufficientemente considerate.3

Io credo che se si doveva condurre un lettore, magari anche ingenuo, in territori così poco consueti, sarebbe stato opportuno accompagnarlo fra le contraddizioni culturali, mentali, politiche che costituiscono un apparente corto circuito fra passato e presente. Se ha un significato riproporre tematiche così delicate ai giorni nostri, mostrare la vivacità dell'epoca classica nei confronti del nostro tempo, lo ha essenzialmente per far riflettere non solo su temi eruditi di antichità, ma anche sulle contraddizioni del presente. Questo non è un obiettivo che Robson si è posto: il suo libro va letto nell'ambito che egli ha voluto circoscrivere, ma a mio avviso, ciò che dovrebbe essere messo al centro resta ai margini.

Nel capitolo quinto si affronta con completezza e buona scelta di argomenti un tema che potremmo definire 'trasversale' ('Beauty, Sexual Attractiveness, Fantasy and Taboo', 116-144), ponendo al centro dell'indagine 'the ancient body', vale a dire il modo in cui i Greci del periodo classico consideravano il corpo e il suo fascino. La conclusione cui giunge Robson è condivisibile: il vocabolario e i concetti che designano la bellezza, il fascino, l'attrazione sessuale riguardo alla donna e al ragazzo amato sono assai simili. L'occhio è quello del maschio predatore, per dirla con David Halperin, e i gusti suoi finiscono per coincidere. Anche se è un lamento più tardivo (' ci sono i peli odiosi'),4 l'eccesso di mascolinità non è certamente seducente. Ciò che purtroppo si confonde spesso è l'identità estetica del ragazzo amato che, per una frettolosa assimilazione ai lineamenti femminili, è confusa con quella di una donna. L'eromenos di Oxford o il piccolo pugile dell'Antologia palatina, per non parlare dello sguardo 'virginale' (certo non 'di fanciulla') del Cleobulo anacreonteo,5 hanno certamente tratti teneri, ma non per questo non sono pienamente maschili: ciò che attrae nel fanciullo amato, imparagonabile con qualsiasi altro fascino, è proprio la tenerezza del volto, la rotondità delle forme in un corpo agile, tornito, di maschio che si misura e si rispecchia nella virilità di chi lo osserva. Quando un uomo greco diceva, senza troppo imbarazzo, di amare donne e 'paides' indistintamente non pensava affatto di trovarsi di fronte soggetti simili, attrazione simile, o peggio dei surrogati dell'uno o dell'altra forma d'amore. La nostra epoca, con il suo carico gravoso di freudismo e di altri anestetici borghesi, ha trasformato persino il certo virile 'soldato di leva ', l'efebo, in una diafana figura androgina, senza nervi.

Anche questo ho tentato di dimostrare – oltre che nel libro a cui ho fatto riferimento sopra – in più di una pubblicazione. E' possibile che Robson giudichi irrilevanti gli argomenti che ho trattato a più riprese. Io non penso altrettanto di ciò che lui ha pubblicato quale che sia l'originalità delle sue riflessioni. e sebbene scritto in una lingua straniera. E' possibile anche che Robson – in modo invero non dissimile da molti suoi collegi anglofoni – non conosca l'italiano o non abbia nessuna intenzione di sforzarsi a leggerlo. Non mi sembra in ogni caso un pregio o un limite che si possa rimuovere a cuor leggero ignorare lingue di alta tradizione culturale. Ci sono altre omissioni nella bibliografia dell'autore, meno giustificabili probabilmente di quelle che riguardano le mie ricerche.6

La seconda parte del libro (Documents, 147-243) è ben curata: le traduzioni in lingua inglese offrono a ogni lettore uno strumento importante per avvicinare le fonti su cui è costruita la prima parte del volume. Non so se la disposizione degli autori in ordine alfabetico fosse la più auspicabile, ma anche così risulta chiara ed efficace. Non molto accattivanti sono le immagini in bianco e nero delle 'Illustrations' (244-272) che presentano documenti iconografici considerati nella discussioni della parte prima. La Bibliografia, con i limiti che ho detto sopra, è suddivisa in una sezione tematica per ulteriori approfondimenti (271-279) e in una sezione generale (285-295): fra queste è collocato un succinto, ma utile glossario (280-284). Chiude il volume un indice dei nomi e delle cose notevoli (296-311), che non include le fonti.

Il volume di Robson, concludendo, è un contributo chiaro, non sempre condivisibile, ma non per questo trascurabile per chi dovrà studiare ancora questo argomento e per chi vorrà soltanto informarsi in modo solido sui principali problemi trattati.


1.   G.Devereux, Greek Pseudo-Homosexuality and the 'Greek miracle', "SO" XLII (1967), 69-92.
2.   R.Vattuone, Il mostro e il sapiente. Studi sull'erotica greca, Bologna, Pàtron 2004
3.   Fra i molti studi di Hubbard (che per altro Robson pare conosca) non si ricorda a sufficienza l'importante recensione a How to Do the History of Homosexuality di D.Halperin, comparsa in BMCR 2003.09.22.
4.   AP XII 39.
5.   Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, 304; AP XII 123; Gent.
6.   Fra gli altri, credo poco giustificabile ignorare gli studi di Claude Calame (e.g., I Greci e l'eros: simboli, pratiche, luoghi, Roma-Bari 1992, tradotto persino in inglese: Princeton 1999) , nonché G. Sissa, Eros tiranno. Sessualità e sensualità nel mondo antico, Roma-Bari 2003 (traduzione inglese: Sex and sensuality in the ancient world, New Haven 2008). Utile sarebbe stato comunque consultare: Il corpo e lo sguardo. Tredici studi sulla visualità e la bellezza del corpo nella cultura antica, a cura di V.Neri, Bologna, Pàtron 2005. Il francese e l'italiano possono non essere compresi dai lettori che Robson si augura di raggiungere, ma forse essi chiedono all'autore di conoscere, oltre steccati domestici, ciò che in altre lingue si studia su una tematica così rilevante.

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Monday, May 18, 2015


Stine Schierup, Victoria Sabetai (ed.), Regional Production of Red-Figure Pottery: Greece, Magna Graecia and Etruria. Gösta Enbom monographs, 4. Aarhus: Aarhus Universitetsforlag, 2014. Pp. 358. ISBN 9788771243932. $56.00.

Reviewed by Amalia Avramidou, Democritus University of Thrace (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

This well-edited and amply illustrated volume publishes the results of a much-needed study on the regional production of red-figure pottery in Greece, Magna Graecia, and Etruria. The editors of this high-quality and nearly error-free publication, Stine Schierup and Victoria Sabetai, have collected seventeen articles that shed new light on matters of pottery usage and diffusion, the birth and decline of workshops, and the transmission of techniques and iconography.

About half the papers draw upon new research based on their authors' MA or PhD work; the rest are re-appraisals of better-documented sites. Most welcome are contributions presenting material from recent excavations and equally intriguing are the fresh interpretations of well-known workshops. As expected, certain questions recur in all essays — on the emergence of the regional red-figure wares, their connection to Attic production, and the function of pottery shapes and imagery within local communities. These issues, along with a short presentation of the research pursued in each article, are succinctly summarized by the editors in the Introduction.

More or less equally divided between the ceramic production in Greece and on the Italian peninsula and Sicily, the articles are neatly arranged within geographic regions, starting with four papers on Boeotian red-figure. The relation of Boeotian red-figure vases to Attic is still difficult to pinpoint as it poses numerous questions regarding the identity of the craftsmen (e.g., Athenians migrating to Boeotia or locals trained in Athens) and the method of transmission of potting artistry and iconographic knowledge.

In a masterful essay, Sabetai identifies Boeotian civic values through a contextual examination of three local red-figure kraters from a female grave in Akraiphia dated ca. 440-425 BCE. A sacrifice, a Dionysiac thiasos, and an athletic scene decorate the main side of each krater. The author traces these iconographic themes, as well as the departure- and the more generic conversation-scenes, in all styles of Boeotian ceramic production and Attic imports, concluding that these narratives reflect facets of a civic lifestyle in which both women and men were steeped.

Kyriaki Kalliga presents a well-documented deposit from a family plot in Haliartos. She focuses on the grave gifts of a young aristocrat who died around the time of the battle of Delion and rightly interprets them as representative of his sex, gender, and social status. A single Boeotian red-figure kantharos by the Argos Painter stands out from the group and Kalliga considers its decoration (a hoplite leading his horse) as a reflection of the aristocratic values once embodied by the Boeotian ephebe: striving for excellence as a son, a cavalry man, and a citizen.

Alexandra Zampiti's article examines the interaction between the red-figure and the long-enduring black-figure technique in Boeotia, focusing on a typically Boeotian shape: the kalathos-pyxis. She traces the origins of the shape and its iconographic motifs, concluding that red-figure vase-painters must have worked regularly in contemporary black-figure workshops or at least collaborated on occasion. One wonders, however, if that kalathos-pyxis can be construed as representative of the whole production of red-figure vases in Boeotia and the intricate nexus of influences among the black-figure, silhouette, and bilingual styles, since it was a 'special' vase with a highly votive and funerary character, acknowledged as such by Zampiti herself.

A Boeotian red-figure pyxis in a private collection is the topic of Avronidaki's essay. The vase has a unique shape and composition, both meticulously described, and its multifigural nuptial scene is unparalleled in Attic works. Despite the absence of archaeological context, Avronidaki offers a plausible interpretation of the pyxis as a grave gift that glorified the role of women in the oikos and, ultimately, in the polis.

Even though one would expect Kristine Gex's article on Euboean pottery to follow next as a logical step after Boeotia, it is instead preceded by Ian McPhee's assessment of Corinthian red-figure pottery. He offers a well-rounded survey of shapes, findspots and iconography, giving particular emphasis to the beginnings of the workshop. Quite crucial is his discussion of a nearly forgotten terracotta altar decorated in the red-figure technique, whose stylistic analysis helps us date the birth of Corinthian red-figure a generation earlier than usually estimated, i.e., to 440/430 instead of 410/400 BCE.

Around the same date scholars place the beginning of Euboean red-figure. Gex offers a thorough discussion of this ware, as well as a theoretical framework for when an artifact might be called 'local.' Two points stand out from her article: the attractive, albeit tentative, suggestion of a pottery workshop in Chalkis active after 400 BCE, and the reasons explaining the peculiar scarcity of Euboean kraters compared to other regional wares. Such absence probably reflects an intriguing change in local sympotic preferences rather than a lack of interest/mastery in red-figure pottery during the fourth century.

Jutta Stroszeck's presentation on the Laconian red-figure production highlights an exceptional case, characterized by quality vessels and intriguing iconographic themes despite its short lifespan (440/430-400 BCE). After a concise overview of the history of research and the development of the workshop, Stroszeck turns to an instructive discussion of iconography and transmission of artistry. She rightly associates this new fabric with public and private ceremonies, since the majority of shapes are related to feasting. Found primarily in local sanctuaries, Laconian red-figure is characterized by a distinct preference for local shapes and rarity of Athenian iconographic motifs, which indicates some type of usage during Spartan rituals. As in most regional workshops, the identity of the craftsmen and the way they mastered their craft remain puzzling.

Of particular interest is Anthi Aggeli's essay on the practically unknown workshop of Ambracia, an early Corinthian colony in northwestern Greece. The impetus for this study was given by the discovery of several local red-figure vases in the city cemeteries. Aggeli is to be commended for the methodical presentation of the shapes produced by this workshop (limited to squat lekythoi, pelikai, and lebetes gamikoi), the thorough discussion of the iconography (mainly female themes), and the succinct observations on the influences from Athenian and South Italian pottery of the fourth century BCE.

Similar traits characterize the equally unknown red-figure production of the Pella workshop in Macedonia, studied by Nikos Akamatis: again, the shapes are limited and the iconography is dominated by female topics. But, in contrast to the Ambracian examples, most vases come from the Pella Agora, indicating a targeted production towards specific local needs (dated ca. mid-fourth to mid-third century BCE). Akamatis' suggestion to locate the workshop industry in that agora and to associate it with the production of many pottery techniques is well-founded. What is more difficult to accept is his hesitation to attribute its foundation to an Athenian immigrant on account of the absence of vessels made with Attic clay—especially given the strong Athenian influence on the Pella workshop and the plethora of Attic imports through the middle of the fourth century.

Crossing the Ionian Sea, two articles, by Stine Schierup and by E. G. D. Robinson, are on South Italian red-figure. . Schierup offers a concise overview of the earliest South Italian red-figure workshop, its pioneers (the Pisticci, Cyclops, and Amykos Painters), and the legacy of the earlier Attic imports. After noting the problematic information regarding the findspots of Metapontine vases, the author focuses on the distribution patterns of the works by the above-mentioned painters, taking into account the preferred shapes and iconography in key-areas, such as Metaponto, central and southern Apulia and Lucania. This meticulous analysis allows her to discuss the variety of usages of the local red-figure pottery and to propose a targeted production for specific markets.

Robinson presents an instructive reappraisal of early Apulian red-figure. He advises caution when considering Taranto as the birthplace of a new workshop or when debating the identity of the first craftsmen. At the same time, he avoids overemphasizing the funerary context of Apulian red-figure vases, since they carry different connotations from one period to the next. With these preconditions in mind, he explains the success of Apulian red-figure as the result of the stylistic variety of the painters and the production of specific shapes and iconographic themes, catered towards the Italic clientele.

The next three papers deal with the Sicilian red-figure production and more specifically with its beginning and end (Sebastiano Barresi), its relation to South Italian pottery (Marco Serino), and its association with Attic imports (Claude Pouzadoux and Pierre Rouillard). Barresi's essay successfully treats the workshop's foundation, proposing a more complex process with emphasis on the role of South Italian painters, and its end, which he associates with new social realities and the wider circulation of metalware. He also argues for more than one production site and wonders whether or not the common elements between the Sicilian and South Italian production originate from common Athenian prototypes.

Following a similar path, Serino explores the relation between South Italian and early Sicilian red-figure production through the case study of the Himera Painter workshop and a contextual approach of the Attic imports. His innovative analysis and the detailed examination of the workshop's style and iconography lead him to the conclusion that it should be dated to ca. 420 BCE and not in the early fourth century, as previously thought.

Quite interesting is the study of the material from a residential area of Megara Hyblaia, which includes both Attic and early Sicilian red-figure. Pouzadoux and Rouillard examined the shapes and iconography of both wares and conclude that in the fifth century Attic imports dominate the scene, while in the fourth century local production prevails. It is noteworthy that in the Sicilian production (and among Attic imports) the krater appears in large numbers, followed by skyphoi and other drinking vessels, while there is an increase of smaller perfume containers and hydriai after 400 BCE.

The Sicilian trilogy is followed by Diego Elia's overview of the red-figure workshop at Locri Epizephyrii. Encompassing a variety of methodological approaches, the author outlines the two phases of the workshop—the Sicilian at first, and then the Locrian—and presents their prevailing shapes and iconographic themes. One of the most interesting points of his contribution is the comparison of the local red-figure production to other contemporary crafts (e.g., coroplastic).

Last but not least come two papers on Etruscan red-figure pottery authored by Maurizio Harari (with an Appendix by Mariachiara Franceschini) and Lisa C. Pieraccini and Mario A. Del Chiaro. Harari's essay offers a new interpretation of the conversation scenes decorating the exterior of ca. 50 Etruscan kylikes, known as the Clusium cups. Banal and repetitive at first sight, these formalized depictions of a dressed female holding a fibula and a horn and facing a nude man are ingeniously associated by the author with eschatological and Dionysiac iconography. In his conclusion, Harrari considers the conversation scenes in relation to the tondos and interprets them as reflections of erotic and Dionysiac elements of the human and mythical sphere, respectively.

A famous Etruscan red-figure krater of ca. 350 BCE is the topic of the last essay of this volume. Pieraccini and Del Chiaro examine the Greek myth of Admetus and Alcestis and how it is transformed in Etruscan vase-painting. Taking into account the occurrence of the myth on other forms of art, they trace common elements between the composition on the krater and tomb paintings, pondering the relation between monumental painting and the red-figure ware. Despite the interesting outcome of their research, their examination would have benefited from a discussion of the Dionysiac thiasos depicted on the reverse side of the vase, and how it may correlate with the main narrative of Alcestis.

Overall, this comprehensive group of essays is a welcome addition to the studies of red-figure pottery and will be of interest to archaeologists, ceramologists, and scholars of iconography alike.

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