Wednesday, January 16, 2019


Roshdi Rashed, Athanase Papadopoulos, Menelaus' 'Spherics': Early Translation and al-Māhānī/al-Harawī's Version. Scientia Graeco-Arabica 21. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. Pp. xiv, 873. ISBN 9783110568233. $199.95. ISBN 9783110571424. ebook.

Reviewed by Nathan Sidoli, Waseda University, International School for Liberal Studies (

Version at BMCR home site


Menelaus' Spherics was written in the 2nd century CE, addressing and extending earlier work in spherical geometry, but it was probably never seriously studied in its entirety in the ancient period and only fragments of the Greek text survive, preserved in later authors.1 The treatise can be divided into three topics. The first treats the geometrical properties of spherical triangles by developing analogies between these and the properties of plane triangles developed in Euclid's Elements. The second shows how certain arcs of spherical triangles can be treated using the lengths of chords related to these and based on a theorem known as the Sector Theorem (Menelaus Theorem). The third topic develops these methods for application to problems in spherical astronomy—a field that investigated issues such as the length of daylight and night-time, and the rising times of stars or arcs of the ecliptic.

The book under review is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the history of Menelaus' Spherics in the medieval period, as well as the mathematics developed in the treatise. The first part deals with the various medieval versions of, and witnesses to, Menelaus' treatise; the second part provides mathematical commentaries, including commentaries and studies by medieval scholars; the third part gives critical editions of a fragment (breaking off in Proposition 36) of an early Arabic translation (A, pp. 408-483) and of the al-Māhānī/al-Harawī version (M/H, pp. 500-777), along with English translations. There is also a postface on spherical geometry and its history. The mathematical commentaries are useful for understanding the text and the critical editions, and the many editions and translations of medieval sources are an extremely valuable contribution to our knowledge of this text.

The M/H version of the Spherics, edited and translated along with A, in "Part III: Text and translation," is historically quite interesting, but al-Harawī's many interventions, along with his failure to grasp some of the mathematical details, introduce nearly as many problems as they resolve.2 Al-Harawī has added two historical and philosophical prefaces to the text (pp. 500-505, 684-685); inserted a number of lemmas (pp. 686-695), one of which is mathematically incorrect (pp. 692-695); rewritten some propositions, sometimes incorrectly; and introduced some terminological innovations, which cause more confusion then help and are not used by any other medieval scholar (pp. 688-691). Hence, this version of the treatise cannot be taken as a reader's text, and Naṣr Manṣūr ibn 'Irāq's version, N, edited by Krause, and the revision by Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī, available in the Hyderabad series, must still be consulted in order to understand the mathematics involved.3

Another welcome contribution of Rashed and Papadopoulos's book is "Part II: Mathematical commentary," which explains the mathematical details of the text and gives commentary to each proposition, including the relevant scholarship of both Ibn 'Irāq and al-Ṭūsī. Hence, this section of the book provides a fairly clear picture of the mathematical issues involved.

In "Part I," Rashed and Papadopoulos give an introduction to Menelaus and his work, and then discuss the text history of the Spherics in the medieval period. Here, they follow the scholarship of Krause and Hogendijk,4 although they provide some new evidence to support the findings of these scholars—namely, that the source translation for M/H and N differ, and that the source used by Ibn Hūd has the same characteristics as that used for the Latin translation by Gerhard of Cremona. They also propose that the new fragment they found and edited, A, is not the source translation for M/H, which is not convincing; and that the source translation for N is that attributed in some scholia to Abū 'Uthmān al-Dimashqī, which is possible but not proven.5

One disappointing aspect of this book is Rashed and Papadopoulos's lack of any attempt to situate their work in the context of previous scholarship. This means that the only readers who will be able to appreciate what is new and what was already known are those who have previously read all of the literature on the subject. Three examples will make this case: (a.) Rashed and Papadopoulos argue at length that the first part of the Latin version is based on al-Māhānī's version, while the second part is based on the same source as Ibn 'Irāq's edition (pp. 26-71). The way that they express themselves makes it sound like they have discovered this—but this was also argued for at length by Krause. Rashed and Papadopoulos do give further evidence beyond that presented by Krause, for which we are grateful, but their work serves to confirm Krause's findings. (b.) In the section on Ibn Hūd, Rashed and Papadopoulos claim that the question of his source has "not been correctly addressed until now" (p. 74), and then proceed to address the question using the same methodology as Hogendijk and come to the same conclusion—namely that the first part is from al-Māhānī's version and the second part from the same source translation as N (pp. 73-121). Again, Rashed and Papadopoulos's actual contribution is to give further evidence, including edited texts, which help to confirm Hogendijk's previously established position. (c.) Finally, Rashed and Papadopoulos caution against believing that there was ever a full Syriac copy of the Spherics, while noting the Syriac influence on A (p. 486), a position already argued for by Sidoli and Kusuba.6

We should be grateful to Rashed and Papadopoulos for their work in producing two new editions of the Spherics (A and M/H), in providing the original sources for much of the medieval scholarship on this important work, and in commenting on the overall mathematical development of the treatise. As noted above, however, we cannot simply read M/H as Menelaus' Spherics, because it is a highly edited version of the treatise. In our current state of knowledge, it remains that we must read M/H along with N and al-Ṭūsī's texts in order to assess Menelaus' work, and we still await critical editions of the Latin and Hebrew versions before we can hope to fully understand the medieval transmission of the text.


1.   The Greek fragments are collected and studied by A.A. Bjørnbo, Studien über Menelaos' Sphärik (Leipzig, 1902): 22-25 and F. Acerbi, "Traces of Menelaus' Sphaerica in Greek Scholia to the Almagest," SCIAMVS 16 (2015): 91-124.
2.   For an overview of the al-Harawī version of the text, see N. Sidoli and T. Kusuba, "Al-Harawī's Version of Menelaus' Spherics," Suhayl 13 (2014): 149-212.
3.   M. Krause, Die Sphärik von Menelaos aus Alexandrien in der Verbesserung von Abū Naṣr Manṣūr b. 'Alī b. 'Irāq (Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1936); Naṣr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī, Kitāb Mānālāwus, Taḥrīr (Hyderabad: Osmania Oriental Publications Bureau 1359AH/1940CE).
4.   For Krause, see note 3; J. Hogendijk, "Which Version of Menelaus' Spherics was Used by Al-Mu'taman ibn Hūd in his Istikmāl?" in: M. Folkerts (ed.), Mathematische Probleme im Mittelalter (Wiesbaden, 1996): 17–44.
5.   I will discuss the details of these transmission issues in a longer review to appear in Aestimatio.
6.   See note 2, pp. 191-192.

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Gernot Michael Müller, Fosca Mariani Zini (ed.), Philosophie in Rom - Römische Philosophie? kultur-, literatur- und philosophiegeschichtliche Perspektiven. Beiträge zur Altertumskunde, 358. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2018. Pp. vii, 531. ISBN 9783110488722. €129,95.

Reviewed by Wolfgang Polleichtner, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen (

Version at BMCR home site

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

Müller and Mariani Zini present us with a very useful collection of what can in general be called case studies on various topics and current trends in research in the field of Roman philosophy. As the title of their book indicates, the question of whether we can talk about a specifically Roman way of writing and dealing with philosophy also plays an important role for their Sammelband. In accordance with the general agreement between researchers that philosophy was received in Rome under specific historical and cultural conditions and actively developed further under exactly those auspices, Müller and Mariani Zini publish (with the one exception of Jörn Müller's contribution) the papers of a conference that was held at Beilngries in 2013. Roman philosophy never developed its own independent schools. The editors claim that what was typically Roman about philosophy in Rome was the reassessment of philosophy in general against the background of Rome's, and these Roman authors', sociological and cultural interests, including, but not limited to, the liking for questions relevant to practical daily life (14-15). This highly recommendable collection of essays has by and large restricted itself to late republican and early imperial times.

The introduction in itself includes a very thorough overview of current secondary literature. Even without the other chapters that follow, this review of the pertinent literature recommends the volume to anyone who desires greater familiarity with the field.

For the majority of the articles, the editors succeed in making their volume exceptionally coherent. Jolivet stresses the Roman interest in justifying why Greek philosophy and education was received and accepted in Rome, something they did when they talked about the embassies from Pergamon and Athens which were crucial for the introduction of philosophy to Rome. Sauer elaborates on this topic and characterizes the Roman interest in philosophy as the search for affirming and not so much for challenging Roman moral standards within the framework of Roman society. Sauer convincingly argues that some systematic weaknesses of argumentation in Roman philosophical works have their origins in that same motivation. Fuhrer's contribution also deals with these attempts of Roman philosophical authors to mold their identity as philosophers within and under the conditions of Roman society. According to G. Müller, Horace, too, fashions his identity as a poet and teacher of philosophy within the framework of the realities of his life. Tsuni's article argues in the same vein that Antiochus of Ascalon's teachings were attractive for members of the Roman upper class like L. Licinius Lucullus because they resembled to a certain extent the Roman way of talking about their mos maiorum through series of exempla. The importance of an elaborate ekphrasis of examples in Philodemus leads Delattre to his conclusion that Philodemus, too, recognized this Roman need and adapted his didactical methods of teaching Epicureanism to the Romans accordingly. This rhetorical device of accumulating examples and arguing about the same points in various ways can also be found in Lucretius' efforts to establish philosophy as a discipline of healing, as Erler shows. Powell and Steel argue that practical considerations for using philosophical thinking are also at the heart of Cicero's evaluation of the usefulness of philosophy in his own circumstances. Mariani Zini and Wiener take this therapeutic interest in philosophy in Rome even further. Mariani Zini recognizes it in Cicero's approaches to consolation in the Tusculan Disputations and Wiener in Seneca's attempt to overcome the image of the heartless Stoic. Wildberger demonstrates that Seneca also adapts the Greek understanding of ἔρως and φιλία between a wise man and a philosophical novice in a way that makes it more palatable to the Roman sense of decency. Likewise, J. Müller's very interesting piece on ἀκρασία in Seneca's Phaedra interprets this tragedy as philosophical case study of the possible consequences of psychological weakness of will. This interpretation of the Phaedra shows how Seneca reworked a literary motif to provide a didactic example for his philosophy. Gauly argues that the same trait of explaining current moral views in Rome through philosophy can be detected in Pliny the Elder's zoology. Nature not only shows general moral perspectives in life, but also even foreshadows Roman history, like Marc Antony's defeat. Even when Schirren shows that Quintilian looked at philosophy from the viewpoint of its usefulness for rhetoric and speeches, we see a Roman approach to philosophy.

While these previous chapters are parts of a wonderfully coherent discussion on Roman discourses about philosophy and its use, Lévy's study of the development of Cicero's use of temeritas and Reinhardt's article on the understanding of κατάληψις in Cicero and Augustine fit less well with the other contributions in this book. Convincing as the content of both articles is, it does not become clear in how far the results of these studies on specific problems of translations of individual words or phrases and the history of the meaning of certain words chime in with the overarching theme of the volume. The same is true about the concluding essay. Auvray-Assayas' article, as the editors themselves suggest, is supposed to show that Cicero became part of the philosophical heritage that he wanted to establish in Rome (32).

Two useful indices (nominum and locorum) conclude this massive and well produced volume. One minor flaw is that the table of contents lacks coherent editing. There is inconsistency in the use of upper and lower case in English titles; Latin words or titles of ancient works are not italicized; and so forth.

In sum, the editors present us with a very useful and widely coherent volume that keeps its promise. It sheds more light on the cultural, sociological, and literary conditions in Rome under which philosophy was adapted and appropriated not only by Romans, but also by Greek thinkers like Philodemus. The explorations into what is considered belletristic literature are especially appreciated, and indeed more could be done here. Just as Philodemus wrote On the Good King According to Homer, Crates of Mallus had already introduced the Romans to the exegesis of Homer. Philosophical thought informed literary works like Horace's poems or Seneca's Phaedra to a far greater extent than some would be prepared to admit. And as in the case of the Phaedra, these "interdisciplinary" considerations can lead to new discoveries or perspectives.

Table of Contents

Gernot Michael Müller, Fosca Mariani Zini: Einleitung, 1
I. Kultur und mentalitätsgeschichtliche Grundlagen der Philosophie in Rom
Jean-Christophe Jolivet: Philosophes et philologues helénistiques, ambassadeurs et héros culturels à Rome: le cas de Cratès de Mallos, 43
Jochen Sauer: Römische Exempla-Ethik und Konsenskultur? Philosophie und mos maiorum bei Cicero und Seneca, 67
II. Gesellschaftliche und literarische Rollenkonzepte für eine Selbstdefinition des Philosophen in Rom
Therese Fuhrer: Philosophische Literatur in Rom als Medium der Definition sozialier Rollen, 99
Gernot Michael Müller: Philosophie im Plauderton. Zum philosophischen Gehalt der Horazischen Episteln, 115
III. Griechische Philosophen und ihr römisches Umfeld im 1. Jh. v. Chr.
Georgia Tsouni: The ‚Academy' in Rome: Antiochus and his vetus Academia, 139
Danie Delattre: Philodème et le portrait moral dans le livre X des Vices ([LʼArrogance], PHerc 1008), 151
IV. Zum Verhältnis von Philosophie und Rhetorik in philosophischer Literatur und rhetorischer Theorie
Michael Erler: Beweishäufung bei Lukrez. Zum Verhältnis von Philosophie und Rhetorik in philosophischer Literatur, 175
Thomas Schirren: Wieviel Philosophie braucht der Redner? Zur Bedeutung der Philosophie in der Institutio oratoria des Quintilian, 189
V. Ciceros politische Philosophie und die Krise der römischen Republik
Jonathan G. F. Powell: Philosophising about Rome. Cicero's De re publica and De legibus, 249
Catherine Steel: Re publica nihil desperatius: salvaging the state in Cicero's pre-civil war philosophical works, 269
VI. Skeptizismus und Erkenntnistheorie bei Cicero und Augustin
Carlos Lévy: De la rhétorique à la philosophie: le rôle de la temeritas dans la pensée et l'œuvre de Cicéron, 285
Tobias Reinhardt: Cicero and Augustine on Grasping the Truth, 305.
VII. Argumentationsthechniken für eine Philosophie als Therapie: Cicero und Seneca im Vergleich
Fosca Mariani Zini: Argumentation als Trost. Bemerkungen über Ciceros Tusculanen, Buch I, 327
Claudia Wiener: Stoa ohne stoische Terminologie? Senecas Vermittlungsstrategien, 349
VIII. Elemente einer stoischen Anthropologie für die römische Gesellschaft des 1. Jhs. n. Chr. im Œuvre Senecas
Jula Wildberger: Amicitia and Eros: Seneca's Adaptation of a Stoic Concept of Friendship for Roman Men in Progress, 387
Jörn Müller: Senecas Phaedra: Stoisches Porträt einer akratischen Persönlichkeit, 427
IX. Philosophie und Naturkunde im 1. Jh. n. Chr.
Bardo Maria Gauly: Plinius' Zoologie und die römische Naturgeschichte, 469
X. Zu Rezeption und Überlieferung römischer Philosophie am Ausgang der Spätantike
Clara Auvray-Assayas: Lectures néoplatoniciennes de Cicéron: le témoignage du manuscript Reg. Lat. 1762 de la Bibliothèque Vaticane, 491
Index, 501
Index locorum, 507
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Gunther Martin, Euripides, 'Ion' : Edition and Commentary. Texte und Kommentare, Band 58. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2018. Pp. vii, 613. ISBN 9783110522556. €129,95.

Reviewed by Matteo Pellegrino, Università di Foggia (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

Ho già avuto modo di scrivere (cfr. BMCR 2009.08.57) che, a differenza di altre tragedie euripidee, che sono state al centro dell'interesse anche di autorevoli studiosi, lo Ione non ha goduto di una pari, rilevante attenzione filologica: si possono ricordare il fondamentale, ma ormai datato, commento di U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (Berlin, Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1926); quello di K. H. Lee (Warminster, Aris & Phillips, 1997), fondato sulla magistrale edizione curata da J. Diggle (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1981, Vol. II), e il testo con introduzione, traduzione e note a cura di D. Kovacs (Cambridge [Mass.]- London, Harvard University Press, 1999, Vol. IV); in italiano si possono ricordare il volume Euripide. Ione, introduzione, traduzione e commento a cura di M. Pellegrino (Bari, Palomar 2004) e la traduzione con pregevole commento di M. S. Mirto, Euripide, Ione (Milano, BUR, 2009). Di rilievo sono anche le recenti analisi critico-testuali e metriche sulle parti monodiche e sulle parti corali dello Ione condotte da M. De Poli (Le Monodie di Euripide. Note di critica testuale e analisi metrica, Padova, Sargon, 2011; Monodie mimetiche e monodie diegetiche. I canti a solo di Euripide e la tradizione poetica greca, Tübingen, Narr, 2012) e da P. Santé (Euripide, Ione. I Canti, Pisa-Roma, Fabrizio Serra Editore, 2017).

Ora della tragedia euripidea disponiamo, per i tipi di De Gruyter, dell'Edition and Commentary a cura di Gunther Martin, valente studioso che sul dramma euripideo ha pubblicato anche altri lavori che esplorano la pièce da diversi punti di vista: analisi del testo ('Three deletions in Euripides' Ion', GRBS 50, 2010, pp. 29-40; 'Durch Konjektur zum Verschwörer. Zu Eur., Ion 690-693', WS 129, 2016, pp. 63-69), questioni pertinenti alla datazione ('On the Date of Euripides' Ion', CQ N.S. 60, 2010, pp. 647-651), esegesi di alcuni passi dell'opera sul fondamento di un'attenta disamina di Realien di natura antropologico-culturale ('Weben und Wahrheit. Die Hermeneutik von Geweben in Euripides' Ion', in H. Harich-Schwarzbauer, ed., Weben und Gewebe in der Antike. Materialität - Repräsentation - Episteme - Metapoetik. Texts and Textiles in the Ancient World. Materiality - Representation - Episteme - Metapoetics, Oxford-Philadelphia, Oxbow Books, 2016, pp. 133-145).

La presente edizione si apre con una densa Introduction (pp. 1-44), in cui sono illustrati: le parti strutturali del dramma; le problematiche relative alla definizione dell'opera (diversamente interpretata dalla critica moderna come melodramma, dramma di intrigo, tragedia romanzesca, tragicommedia); i motivi fondanti del mito correlato alle origini della gente ionica, al culto di Erittonio, alla celebrazione dell'autoctonia, e i possibili (ma non certi) legami contenutistici con altre opere (su tutte la Creusa di Sofocle); la controversa datazione, per la quale Martin ha riesaminato il dato metrico-stilistico, fondato sul principio che Euripide avrebbe modificato nel corso degli anni la versificazione delle parti dialogate, con una maggiore libertà di soluzioni nel trimetro giambico (le statistiche collocherebbero lo Ione sullo stesso piano delle tragedie messe in scena dopo il 415, con una comune percentuale di soluzioni pari al 25-27%) e i possibili elementi cronologici interni ed esterni al testo, pervenendo alla conclusione che "the most interesting and nuanced reading probably points to a date after the desertion of allies in 412" (p. 32); gli aspetti pertinenti alla drammaturgia (facciata scenica, entrate e uscite dei personaggi, ripartizione dei ruoli degli attori) e al testo (trasmissione, interpolazioni, edizione). Seguono le pagine contenenti la Critical Edition (pp. 45-112), per cui Martin stampa un limpido testo (con la dovuta, meritoria cautela metodologica fondata sul principio che lo Ione "is among those tragedies with the slimmest basis of evidence for the constitution of the text": p. 36), corredato di un'utile concordanza con il testo oxoniense di Diggle (pp. 113-116: si tratta di poco più di centocinquanta divergenze, in cui Martin rivela, rispetto a Diggle, una maggiore tendenza a crocifiggere il testo: cfr., ad es., vv. 2-3, 222, 300, 481, 507, 589, 721, 755, 1106, 1198, 1276), e il Commentary (pp. 117-547), che costituisce, con tutta evidenza, la parte più corposa del volume: vi ricorrono puntuali note di commento di carattere testuale, grammaticale, retorico, metrico, scenico, nonché di interesse storico-letterario e mitologico-antiquario; e di grande efficacia si rivela la capacità di indagine condotta sui personaggi del dramma: degno di menzione il focus su Ione, rappresentato come novello Erittonio/Eretteo (cfr. note ai vv. 1412-25, 1426-32a); su Hermes e sulla fondamentale funzione di divinità prologante (cfr. note ai vv. 14-27, 29-36a); su Apollo, il dio che pur in absentia è centrale nel dramma, e che Martin studia mettendone in evidenza le ambiguità, così come emergono dai giudizi espressi nei suoi confronti nel corso della tragedia (cfr. note ai vv. 10-11, 362b-80, 384-400, 859-922, 1553-1605, 1606-13); su Atena, valorizzata nel suo ruolo di nume tutelare della gens ionica e del primato ateniese (cfr. nota ai vv. 1553-1605); su Creusa e sul suo rapporto 'conflittuale' con Apollo (cfr. note ai vv. 252-4, 384-400, 859-922, 1282-1319) e sulla di lei 'complicità' con il Coro (cfr. note ai vv. 1048-60, 1229-49); sul Vecchio Pedagogo e sulla sua devozione verso Creusa (cfr. note ai vv. 725-34, 950-9); su Xuto e sui suoi 'equivoci' rapporti con le altre personae dramatis (cfr. note ai vv. 401-28, 410-12, 525-7, 582-4, 650-67); e sulla Pizia e sul suo legame affettivo con il protagonista (cfr. note ai vv. 41-51, 1320-68, 1355-63). E parimenti meritevoli di interesse sono le riflessioni su aspetti fondanti del dramma: il tema dell'autoctonia (cfr. note ai vv. 29, 184-218, 542, 607-11, 714-24, 1297); la valenza simbolico-rituale degli uccelli, considerati 'intermediari' tra dèi e uomini (cfr. note ai vv. 82–183, 1191); le ekphraseis sia del frontone del tempio di Apollo, così come appare alle donne del Coro nella parodo, sia delle immagini istoriate sulla tenda, descritte dal Messaggero nel quarto episodio (cfr. note ai vv. 184-218, 1122-1228, 1132b-66a, 1141-66a); le scene di riconoscimento presunto e reale (cfr. note ai vv. 517-62, 1439-1509); l'happy ending e il ruolo della τύχη (cfr. note ai vv.1380-4, 1516-20, 1553-1605); i motivi eziologici e paretimologici, che sono peraltro peculiari dell'arte euripidea (cfr. note ai vv. 20-7, 74-5, 81, 661-3a, 802, 997, 1553-1605).

Due ultime osservazioni più di dettaglio.

a) Nel commento ai vv. 752-62, concordo con Martin, quando afferma che "the chorus do not say why they decide to reveal Xuthus' secret, but from the preceding stasimon one may infer that sympathy for and loyalty to Creusa and patriotic revulsion at the idea of Ion as king are their motives" (p. 335); non altrettanto, quando soggiunge che "another reason presumed by Pellegrino, suspicions at the veracity of the oracle, does not surface here or later and is not communicated to Creusa" (p. 335): i) nel mio commento (p. 264) io rilevo che "le esclamazioni del Coro […] sono interpretate da Creusa come presagio di sventure", cosa peraltro confermata dall'evidenza testuale del v. 753 (τὸ φροίμιον μὲν τῶν λόγων οὐκ εὐτυχές); ii) che il Coro nutra sospetti in merito alla veridicità dell'oracolo trova riscontro nel v. 685 (οὐ γάρ με σαίνει θέσφατα μή τιν' ἔχῃ δόλον).

b) A proposito del valore simbolico della collocazione all'ingresso della tenda dell'immagine del re ateniese Cecrope (vv. 1163-5), confermerei le conclusioni a cui sono pervenuto in 'Nel segno degli antenati: Euripide, Ione 1163-1165', in O. Vox (a cura di), Ricerche euripidee, Lecce, Pensa Multimedia, 2003, p. 108: "Ione compie un atto in cui mi sembra lecito individuare tutto il valore di una prefigurazione, non intenzionale e dunque tragicamente ironica, della felice scoperta, giustificabile esclusivamente in ragione del ricongiungimento con la vera madre, dei suoi legami con la dinastia regnante in Attica; una scoperta che nell'esodo, nella fase culminante dell'anagnorisis (vv. 1463-7), troverà la sua più alta consacrazione nelle stesse gioiose parole di Creusa, evocanti il sospirato ritorno dell'erede della celebrata famiglia 'nata dalla terra'".

Il libro, che non mi è parso caratterizzato dalla presenza di errori tipografici particolarmente degni di nota, si conclude con una documentata bibliografia (pp. 548-604) e con utili indici (pp. 605-613).

In definitiva, gli studiosi dello Ione euripideo troveranno un sicuro punto di riferimento in questo volume che si lascia apprezzare per ricchezza di informazione, acribia critica, rigore metodologico e ampiezza espositiva.

Table of Contents

Preface v
Introduction 1
1) Structure 3
2) Problems of Interpretation 6
3) Myth 13
A) Ion's Genealogy 13
B) Ion and the Erichthonius Myth 20
C) Ideological Implications 22
4) Date 24
A) Metrical Criteria 24
B) Structural Criteria 27
C) External Criteria 28
5) Set, Entrances and Exits, Actor Distribution 33
6) The Text 36
A) Transmission 36
B) Interpolations 36
C) The Edition 44
Critical Edition 45
Commentary 117
Conventions, Abbreviations, Bibliography 548
Indices 605

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019


Rose MacLean, Freed Slaves and Roman Imperial Culture: Social Integration and the Transformation of Values. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018. Pp. xi, 208. ISBN 9781107142923. xi, 208.

Reviewed by Tatjana Sandon, The University of Edinburgh (

Version at BMCR home site


Freed Slaves and Roman Imperial Culture, the result of a doctoral thesis written by Rose MacLean at Princeton, focuses on the transformations that freed people underwent during the Principate to integrate fully in Roman society. The book advances the study of the lives of slaves and ex-slaves in the Roman world, following specifically in Weaver's and Mouritsen's footsteps. In particular, MacLean's focus on wealthy and powerful freedmen and their relations with the imperial family cannot but remind us of Weaver's study on the Familia Caesaris,1 while her approach to the ancient sources, both epigraphic and literary, resembles that of Mouritsen in his work on freedmen.2 MacLean's study is a constructive contribution to the analysis of slavery through the words left behind by those individuals who actually experienced slavery.

The book's first chapter begins with an exhaustive introduction to the world of liberti and the effects that manumission had on the lives of Roman ex-slaves. MacLean emphasises the importance of not considering freedpersons as an isolated group: liberti coexisted, cohabited and worked with servi as well as ingenui, inhabiting not just the same environments but also cherishing the same expectations and values. The author is well aware of the elite's biases that permeate the ancient literary sources, hence the decision to analyse inscriptions. These texts, mainly tombstones, were commissioned by freedpersons themselves, regularly speaking to two audiences: the texts that were inward facing spoke to the familial context of the deceased; those that were public-facing addressed the passersby (p. 21).

The qualitative, rather than quantitative, study of the epigraphic evidence is supported by the analysis of literary sources that aid our understanding of the elite's conceptualisation of freedpersons. It also helps us understand how freedpersons adapted the social expectations and strategies for advancement of the elites in early imperial society (p. 24). A good, although not new, example of how a parallel use of these two types of evidence provides a more complete understanding of slaves and ex-slaves, is the comparison between the Tomb of the Baker from Rome and some passages about Trimalchio's life from Petronius' Satyricon. MacLean argues in Chapter 1 that what we can extrapolate from these two contexts is how the cursus of slavery led slaves to become masters, to own slaves themselves, and to make a fortune, and that this could be achieved by foregrounding particular qualities, such as obedience, industry and honesty, that were expected from servi and liberti (p. 14).

Chapter 2 focuses on the attempt by freedmen to achieve immortality through the use of (funerary) monuments. MacLean analyses, in particular, those inscriptions that contain the word 'fama', a term that captures a range of different meanings and values. MacLean argues that the word was used to cover several aspects of a freedperson's achievements—from domestic virtues and respect towards their patrons, to occupational skills and economic activity (p. 42). The freedmen's desire to get ahead in life and to advance their social position was influenced by the changes in values and monumental practices that the elite had to face when adapting to the new form of power under imperial government and its rules. MacLean very capably illustrates the case of (Tacitus') Agricola and his submission to the emperor, highlighting how the political transformations at the highest levels of Roman society managed to alter the entire social system, in a domino effect that moved from one group to another (p. 58). The obsequium that was expected from the 'good' freedman was not a prerogative of the enslaved and libertine people; rather, it became a tacit and implicit requirement for all those who wanted to advance in imperial society. Similarly, MacLean contends that obedience and humility were adopted by Paul in his vision of Christian values. Thus, Paul is presented as applying the rules of slavery and manumission to his ideology of Christianity: the slave-master and freedman-patron relationships became the models of interaction between Christians and their God, the best—if not only—way to achieve immortality through religion. According to MacLean, then, Roman social values were adopted and adapted by Paul and other Christians, marking a continuity, rather than an interruption, between Roman imperial society and Christianity (p. 62).

In Chapter 3, MacLean investigates the use and consumption of freed culture by the elite through analysing the words of several Latin authors and their points of view. MacLean contends that Petronius' Satyricon is the most emblematic text that presents stereotyped freedmen, specifically in Trimalchio's persona, through the lens of the Roman aristocracy. We can be fairly certain that Petronius' text documents that the elite were well aware of the freedmen's practices, particularly those connected to epigraphic production; the Satyricon, according to MacLean, was written by and for the elite, with whom Petronius is in dialogue about the freedmen's culture (p. 82). At the same time, the biases that can be deduced from the Satyricon are almost completely absent in Horace's poetry: being himself the son of a freedman, Horace presents a favourable picture of his father and, consequently, of the libertine class. Furthermore, Horace compares the "moderate libertas" of ex-slaves to that of Roman citizens during the turbulent times of late Republican Rome (p. 87). A positive appreciation of freedmen can be seen also in Seneca and Stoic philosophy: virtue is the supreme good to which all men have to aspire, irrespective of their legal and social condition. Roman aristocrats, in Seneca's words, tend to measure personal worth according to what MacLean terms 'externals'. Liberti could, by contrast, not rely on an ancestral heritage, and thus, they had to build their virtue by themselves (p. 94). The final author that MacLean takes into consideration is Phaedrus and his Fables. Phaedrus, whose status is commonly assumed to be that of an imperial freedman,3 provides a few general rules to follow in order to successfully integrate socially: the weak should not overcome the strong, while modesty is represented as a survival strategy. The weak can react, but their actions can be unpredictable, sometimes even self-harming, and the benefits may not be so rewarding. All these tactics, in Phaedrus' eyes, are typical of libertine people, who accept their place in the social system and think carefully before reacting (p. 98).

Chapter 4 analyses imperial freedmen and the Familia Caesaris, and how their influence and power grew to the point that they became a fundamental instrument for the emperors' political propaganda. By citing a few examples, like the case of Claudius' freedman Pallas, who was given a public monument by the Senate in order to celebrate his actions and person, MacLean investigates how the role of the members of the Familia Caesaris shaped a new owner–slave and patron–freedman model in which the owner/patron was the emperor himself. This model soon became a paradigm to which aristocrats had to respond, MacLean argues, and some imperial freedmen were such important figures on the political scene that even freeborn Roman citizens had to show respect towards them in order to gain the emperor's favour (p. 119). Through the analysis of elements that characterised the epigraphic production of the Familia Caesaris, MacLean highlights how the connection with the Emperor, which could be very personal and direct for some freedmen, allowed imperial liberti to reach exceptional social standing that was no longer dependent on a single particular ruler but on the imperial system (p. 124).

The final chapter takes a practical approach to the epigraphic evidence, focusing on how manumission was perceived by freedmen. MacLean looks in particular for elements of continuity, i.e., for elements that persisted beyond the transition from slavery to freedom. While manumission created the new social entity of the freedperson, the stain of the previous servile condition never left an ex-slave, and sometimes even affected the next freeborn generation. The best type of evidence for investigating the life narratives that freedmen considered important enough to be shared with others, including (other) citizens, is represented by inscriptions, especially those on funerary monuments. On their tombstones, freedpersons commemorated their own persona by recalling specific moments, achievements and relationships that influenced their life. MacLean, by analysing several epigraphic texts, highlights how the patron-freedman relationship, economic and civic achievements, and the continuity of personal relationships with former fellow slaves, were for many freed commissioners fundamental elements in the celebration of their new life. A key example for the transition from being an enslaved person to a freed person marshalled by MacLean is the (inscriptional) formula servus vovit, liber solvit, which closes many votive inscriptions. This formula underlines both the continuity and the discontinuity between the two statuses: a vow that was undertaken by a slave, was fulfilled afterwards by a free person (p. 150). The end of the chapter returns to the question of the role of the slave-owner relationship and the language of slavery in the formation of Stoic thought, as well as in Christian thought, reading the transition that a person experienced from slave to free from an eschatological point of view.

Freed Slaves and Roman Imperial Culture tackles various issues connected to slavery and its perception in both antiquity and today. An important aspect that this book brings to light is how the onset of imperial power provoked a profound change in Roman society to which the elite could not but adapt, sometimes by adopting the approaches and tactics of the freed. In this study, then, the cultural and social practices that moved from one group to another are considered from a fresh direction, challenging the usual and commonly accepted movement from the top to the lower strata; it is clear from the sources analysed that the libertine group influenced the elite as much as the elite influenced liberti, proving that the interaction between different strata was not one-directional. There are to my mind, however, a couple of drawbacks to MacLean's thesis and approach. First, although it is said in the first chapter that the epigraphic evidence has been chosen to provide the reader with the most reliable and authentic voices of freedpersons, the epigraphy is not given the prominence that one would expect, lingering often merely in the background compared to the literary sources, thereby actually privileging the elite. Second, although this study makes reference to the experiences of both freed men and women, the latter are almost invisible in the analysis, and when they are called upon, their lives are subordinated to the study of their male relatives. These criticisms aside, MacLean's book deserves credit for seeking to understand the dynamics of Roman slavery by studying the lives and experiences of the individuals who were actually subjected to the institution: slaves and ex-slaves.


1.   P. R. C. Weaver, Familia Caesaris: a Social Study of the Emperor's Freedmen and Slaves, (Cambridge 1972).
2.   H. Mouritsen, The Freedman in the Roman World, (Cambridge 2011).
3.   Phaedrus' legal status is arguable; he is considered by some scholars to have been a freeborn Roman citizen; MacLean, however, inclines towards the libertine option (p. 97).

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Elena Duvergès Blair, Plato's Dialectic on Woman: Equal, Therefore Inferior. Routledge monographs in classical studies. London; New York: Routledge, 2017. Pp. 250. ISBN 9781138243071. $40.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Rodolfo Lopes, Universidade de Brasília (

Version at BMCR home site


The book was originally published in 2012, in this same series (Routledge Monographs in Classical Studies), and the cataloguing data suggest that the only difference in this 2017 issue is strictly material: paperback instead of hardback. Also, since there is no evidence of changes within these five years, one must assume that its content is the same as the first issue. One year after the hardback publication, Prof. Julie Ward wrote a very positive review1 that covered most of the book's contents and structure. In this review, in order to avoid unnecessary overlaps, I will try to focus on some issues that, in my opinion, were not sufficiently highlighted.

Blair's authoritative study of Plato's views on woman is intended to fill a gap in recent scholarship, since "no comprehensive work identifying his position on the subject has yet appeared, and by now the flurry of articles that began in the 1970s (many limited simply to feminist critiques) has subsided" (p. ix). The main purpose of this study is thus to "draw an image of the Platonic woman as rich and full as the textual and historical information allows" (p. x). As I expect to show in the current review, the success of Blair's bold endeavour is only partial. If, on the one hand, she manages to collect and comment (in a very competent way) on all the Platonic texts on the subject, on the other hand, the conclusion of book falls short of answering its main question: what is Plato's "theory of woman"? This is particularly problematic since the book's main purpose was to answer it in the most unified way possible: "the quest for this coherent theory of woman is the overarching purpose that drives the argument of the book, and provides its logical structure" (p. 9).

Since there is no neutral or even single way of reading Plato's Dialogues, it is important to dedicate some lines to the methodological groundings of this book. If I had to sum it up in one word, I would choose 'eclectic'. The study follows the so-called 'analytic approach', which deals with the consistency of Plato's thought (vide pp. 2-3). Even though no one knows what an 'analytic' reading of Plato is exactly (moreover, what would be its opposite, i.e. a 'non-analytic' one?), I suppose that the search for doctrinal consistency and coherence are key features of that kind of approach. This is, of course, a very difficult task to perform given the singularities of Plato's writing: he never speaks in his own name; his characters say different things in different contexts; and he never defines (inside or outside the Dialogues) his positions on any matter whatsoever. Unfortunately, Blair does not explain which criteria she is using to attribute to Plato ideas that various characters express at various points in the dialogues. For instance, she assumes that both the misogyny exhibited by the character Timaeus and Socrates' egalitarian theory of virtue in the Meno are to be considered 'Platonic'. Such broad understanding of authorship produces a list of 'contradictions' or 'inconsistencies' that the interpreter has to solve with the help of the so-called 'analytic method', as if we are to solve an encrypted puzzle that, for some obscure reason, Plato left us in the Dialogues. If the task of the interpreter is to eliminate or reduce the inconsistencies and therefore to reach a coherent reading, this entails a soft version of unitarianism — I choose to limit the concept with the adjective 'soft', because unitarianism stricto sensu, as Paul Shorey originally put it, implies that there are no inconsistencies at all (or that they are only apparent). Yet, the possibility of reaching doctrinal coherence depends on argumentative resources that traditionally define the developmental view (in the version proposed by Gregory Vlastos, whose influence is particularly clear throughout Chapter 2). Finally, I would add that the study is based on the fundamental assumptions of the 'genetic' approach, which is implicitly followed by the vast majority of modern Platonists: the idea that Plato's personal opinions are somehow encrypted throughout the Dialogues and that therefore it is the interpreter's task to unveil them.

The introductory material includes a very concise and useful preface that explains the structure of the book and the results at which the research aims. After the acknowledgments, the Introduction deals almost exclusively with the status quaestionis of the book's subject. It is an extremely accurate analysis of the modern scholarship from the late years of the 19th century onwards. According to Blair, systematic studies first appeared only in the 1970s, the sole exception being a book by Ithurriague2 on Plato's positions on the equality of sexes — all other publications are limited to sparse references. The result of this analysis is a list of 16 contradictions raised by several authors that would undermine the claim that Plato held a consistent theory of woman (pp. 3- 8). It is not clear if every cited author shares the 'consistency assumption' or if Blair has only included authors who interpret Plato's works from this standpoint. In any case, such a procedure is improperly partial and arbitrary, since either it projects onto those authors assumptions that they would not acknowledge or it excludes others that read Plato from different standpoints (perspectivism, contextualism etc.). The introductory material ends with an excellent Prologue on methodological considerations, which explains in great detail and with admirable precision the criteria used to organise the textual materials (pp. 10-12) and also refers to some historical elements that could bring light to the selected passages of Dialogues. Unfortunately, this contextual aspect of the research is limited to a set of general topics that are listed in less than 2 pages.

Parts I and II deal with the interpretation of the selected passages (the most relevant are Republic 5, i.e. 449a-457c, Meno 71e-73c, Symposium 189c-193d, Timaeus 41d-42d; 90e-91a and Laws VI, VII), according to the criteria established in the Prologue. Part I ("The Dramatic/Rhetorical Texts") works with a set of texts that "belongs to Plato's literary and argumentative artistry", where "woman appears (among many other elements) to give a scene the color and character the particular topic demands" (p. 14). As for Part II, which deals with the passages that Blair considers to be "philosophical" (sic), it "contains Plato's specific reflection about woman herself" (p. 15). Ward's review is particularly extensive on these sections of the book and, for that reason, I refer the reader to her analysis.

Part III, the last, is divided into three chapters. The first (Chapter 8) works as prolegomena to the conclusions. The second (Chapter 9) draws the conclusions. The third (Chapter 10) provides the groundwork for a theory of woman "Beyond Plato" (the title of the chapter). Since in this last chapter the emphasis changes to ideological positions and debates, I will abstain from commenting on it, because this would demand my personal opinions on that matter, which I consider irrelevant to philosophical debate.

Chapter 8 ("Prolegomenon to the Results") deals with three difficulties that, according to Blair, need clarification, before drawing the conclusions of the study. The first two are indeed relevant to most of the subjects that a Platonist must face when interpreting the Dialogues: the challenge of unitarianism and Plato's use of myths. Unfortunately, each of them requires more than half a page of discussion. The challenge of unitarianism is dismissed with a confident assertion, after three paragraphs, which would be, at most, introductory to another debate: "The debate becomes irrelevant to the validity of my conclusions, because they avoid errors caused by simplistic notions of the text's unity" (p. 189). The clarification of the second challenge is even shorter (one paragraph), but it has already been discussed earlier (pp. 136-138), even if quite incompletely (at a minimum Brisson's classic work on this topic should have been mentioned3). As for the third difficulty, to which six pages are dedicated, it is, in my opinion, impossible to accept as relevant to any philosophical topic whatsoever. It is worth citing the first paragraph of this discussion (p. 190):

The third difficulty regards the possible influence of Plato's sexual orientation on his conception of woman. A general reticence to discuss this issue has limited the commentaries to indirect and general allusions. For a serious investigator, discussing it is apt to seem either irrelevant or indiscreet. In our particular case, however, I intend to show that Plato's sexual orientation could have contributed to his theoretical view on woman.

The irrelevance of personal positions to interpreting philosophical aspects is noted earlier by Blair herself, when she says that "his [Plato's] personal attitudes are in large measure irrelevant to his philosophical thought; it is reason and evidence that govern his reflection, not personal inclination" (p. 19). And even if one had the 'personal inclination' to assume that a philosopher's sexual orientation is somehow relevant to his philosophy, there is no evidence whatsoever of what may have been Plato's preferences on that matter.

Chapter 9 draws the conclusions of the book. After the 16 'inconsistencies' that had been highlighted in the Introduction, we would expect an analytic set of answers that help to shed light on this problem. The result is, however, disappointing. Blair starts with a set of defining features of Plato's theory on woman that, according to her own words, do "not yet give us Plato's unified insight on what woman is" (p. 199). The solution is to use the famous divided line sketched by Socrates in the Republic (509d-511e) to explain how humans acquire knowledge and also to establish which kinds of knowledge one is able to acquire. However, Blair seems to assume that the image of the divided line is somehow autobiographic and self-reflexive, since the progression of knowledge illustrated by Socrates' divided line is used to show how Plato himself would understand woman. This methodological leap, from an image used in a text to the personal life of the author of that text, is very hard to accept as valid. Blair seems to take its validity for granted, since she does not provide any justification for using it. In any case, even if we accept this awkward solution to the problem of unifying Plato's position on woman,

we must conclude that, as U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorf has said, and now we have confirmed by examining Plato's theory of knowledge, Plato does not understand woman.' (p. 201; the italics are hers)

In sum, the book is very useful as a systematic collation of the passages that may be used to infer a Platonic theory of woman. However, its main purpose, which was to reach such theory, is far from being fulfilled.


1.   Ward, J. in The Classical Review, 63.2, pp. 364–366, 2013.
2.   Ithurriague, J., Des idées de Platon sur la condition de la femme au regard des traditions antiques (Paris, J. Gamber, 1931).
3.   Brisson, L., Platon. Les mots et les mythes, Paris, Maspero, 1982, English version: Plato the Myth Maker (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2005).

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