Thursday, May 5, 2016


Eberhard W. Sauer, Hamid Omrani Rekavandi, Tony J. Wilkinson, Jebrael Nokandeh, Persia's Imperial Power in Late Antiquity: the Great Wall of Gorgan and the Frontier Landscapes of Sasanian Iran. British Institute of Persian Studies. Archaeological monographs series, 2. Oxford; Oakville, CT: Oxbow Books, 2013. Pp. xvi, 712. ISBN 9781842175194. $150.00.

Reviewed by Josef Wiesehöfer (

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The book under review here is not only a significant contribution to the study of the dating, origins, and function of the Great Wall of Gorgan in northeastern Iran. It also touches on broader themes in Sasanian history, including economic, administrative, and military matters as well as the question of the empire's cohesiveness.

Archaeologists and historians have long tried to uncover the secrets of the so-called Wall of Alexander, i.e., the Great Wall of Gorgan, a structure that was protected in antiquity by 30 forts and ran from the Kopet Dagh mountains in the East to the Caspian Sea in the West, thereby separating the fertile lands in the South from the steppes in the North. However, both the rudimentary state of research as well as underdeveloped survey, excavation and dating methods have prevented scholars from generating reliable insights. The same holds true for the remains of the neighbouring Tammisha Wall, another structure discussed in the present volume, which ran north from the Elburz to the Caspian Sea. Little wonder, then, that attempts at dating have varied considerably: one estimate put the construction of the walls between the 2nd century BC and the 1st century AD, i.e., during the Parthian period; another dated them to the 5th century AD, when the Sasanian Empire was threatened by the Hephthalites; and yet another assigned them to the time of Husraw I in the 6th century AD.

The research of an Irano-British mission between 2005 and 2009, which adopted a methodologically versatile approach to landscape archaeology and whose results are published in this impressive book, has clarified this issue. But this work has also shown that the construction of the (probably connected) walls, the most monumental border defenses between Central Europe and China, not only served to prevent invasions, but also regulated agriculture and transhumance in the land north of the Elburz as well as trans-Caspian trade. The channel accompanying the Gorgan Wall was not simply another obstacle; it also aided in the manufacture of the millions of bricks that were needed for the construction of the wall. Moreover, it helped supply water to guards and civilians, and finally, with the help of secondary channels, it contributed to the irrigation of the hinterland. Also impressive are the studies of the fortified settlements and cities of this hinterland, one of which, Dasht-e Kaleh (near present-day Gonbad-e Kavus), was at least twice as large as the famous city of Bishabuhr and served as a military and political centre for some 30,000 border troops. The land behind the walls with its forts and fortified settlements was therefore well suited for the projection of military force. As regards the chronology of the walls, archaeometric analyses have made it unequivocally clear that they were built in the 5th century CE, under Yazdgerd II (438-457) or Peroz (457-484), and were abandoned between 600-630 (or shortly thereafter).

These results, obtained from satellite, surface, geophysical and underwater surveys and from archaeometric, zooarchaeological, palynological and other investigations, are impressive in their own right. Also valuable are the broader historical conclusions drawn by the authors, many of which can be found in the concluding chapter. These arguments provide deep and surprising new insights into Sasanian military organisation, and they make clear that the middle and late Sasanian realm was economically, politically, administratively, and socially far from an underdeveloped empire; this was no loosely organized confederation, nor a polity in which regional noble houses could operate without supervision from the centre. The huge investment in the walls; the 'economized' and 'militarized landscape' of Hyrcania; the urbanization policy of the kings in the same region: all of these initiatives illustrate, in connection with recent archaeological and historical studies from other parts of the empire (Azerbaijan, Merv, etc.), how the Sasanian Empire was able to become a potent rival (and partner) of East Rome and of Iran's hostile neighbours in Central Asia (cf. the respective articles in the Journal of Ancient History 2.2, 2014; a review of that fascicle was prepared by this author for BMCR 2015.11.25). At the same time, the authors' conclusions support the argument of J. Howard-Johnston in his masterpiece Witnesses to a World Crisis that the end of Sasanian rule in the Near East was surprising and hardly predictable.

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Crystal Addey, Divination and Theurgy in Neoplatonism: Oracles of the Gods. Ashgate studies in philosophy and theology in late antiquity. Farnham; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014. Pp. xv, 335. ISBN 9781409451525. $134.95.

Reviewed by Ilinca Tanaseanu-Doebler, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (

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In the last decades, the religious and ritual side of Neoplatonism has attracted growing scholarly interest. Crystal Addey's study is part of this discourse. It explores divination as a central facet of the rituals that were subsumed in Neoplatonic circles under the label "theurgy". The focus lies on two major figures whose debate shaped the Neoplatonic discourse about rituals: Porphyry and Iamblichus. The book aims to demonstrate the basic harmony between the two philosophers as far as divination and rituals are concerned. In so doing, it inserts itself into a strand of research that emphasises the fundamental unity of the Porphyrian oeuvre, also as far as rituals are concerned (e.g. Smith 2007 and 2011, Busine 2004 or 2005, Johnson 2013).

The book is divided into eight chapters. The first chapter is a lengthy introduction, which lays out the general framework of the book and its working definitions and assumptions. The second chapter presents Porphyry's Philosophy from Oracles (PO): it argues that, for Porphyry, oracles are analogous to mystery cults in their encrypted structure and their soteriological function; consequently, allegorical interpretation of the oracles is taken to be central to Porphyry's endeavour. The third chapter pursues the analysis of the PO by contextualising it within the polemic between pagans and Christians. It inquires into its possible connections with the Diocletian persecution, and into its attitude to rituals (here, the discussion would have profited from consulting Riedweg 2005), and contrasts it with Eusebius' critique of pagan divination in the Praeparatio evangelica.

A fourth chapter takes up the old problem of the relationship of Porphyry's Letter to Anebo (EpAn) and Iamblichus' De mysteriis (DM), reading the two works as steps in a constructive, rather than a polemical, exchange, amounting to a "mystagogic dialogue" (157) which Addey interprets as structurally comparable to the dialogues of the Hermetica. Porphyry's questions about the compatibility of ritual with a Platonic notion of the divine in EpAn are read as a didactic device: he asks "a wide range of questions, many of which he would not have personally endorsed, in order to gain a comprehensive account of pagan religion for educational and protreptic purposes" (141). According to Addey, these questions may have intentionally taken up Christian objections in order to provide an impetus for their discussion and dismissal (166-8). The issue of rationality, divination and ritual in Plotinus, Porphyry and Iamblichus is treated in Chapter 6. Building inter alia on Mazur's interpretation of Plotinian contemplation and ascent, Addey argues that all three philosophers share structurally similar patterns of imagining contemplation and the ascent towards the divine—although she allows for "differences of emphasis" (212). Chapter 7 presents an analysis of the forms of inspiration and possession in DM, while Chapter 8 is devoted to the relationship between divination and theurgy in the same work. A short last chapter summarises the results.

The study offers a good overview of the ongoing discussion about ritual and religion in early Neoplatonism. Its perspective offers a fresh approach to the general question of theurgy and philosophy by focusing on a specific complex of ritual practices. Thus, it enables a more nuanced discussion and a better understanding of the detailed workings of Neoplatonic discourse on rituals. The focus is well chosen: divination is central to Porphyry's PO and EpAn, as well as to Iamblichus' DM, where it is occasionally described in glowing colours as almost the quintessence of theurgic life (e.g. III 31). Moreover, it is also a prominent phenomenon in the wider religious panorama of the third and fourth centuries. It rests on and perpetuates the postulate that humans—or at least the properly trained experts —have at their disposal clear-cut means and techniques of communication with the divine. Hence stem both its importance and its vulnerability: on the one hand, successful divination may be regarded by late antique religious practitioners as a proof that the pagan gods are alive and real; on the other hand, failed divination, e.g. false oracles, may be interpreted as proof of the contrary. This makes divination one of the most prominent loci of debate and conflict between pagans and Christians in the later third and early fourth century (see e.g. the controversies surrounding Apollonian oracles analysed by Busine 2005). Addey takes into account these connections selectively, by highlighting links from Porphyry and Iamblichus to Plotinus or Eusebius; her main focus lies not on divination in general but on divination in the context of theurgy.

Although divination plays a central role in all of the texts explored in the book, the only comprehensive philosophical analysis that the sources yield is the one found in Iamblichus' DM, which takes its cue from Porphyry's EpAn and offers a theoretical discussion of (and apology for) divination in a theological and ritual-theoretical framework. Iamblichus' terminology and interpretative models lay the groundwork for subsequent Neoplatonic understandings of theurgy as a distinctive ritual tradition (e.g. van Liefferinge 1999). The prominence of Iamblichus at the level of the sources is mirrored in Addey's study. Addey discusses the Iamblichean view of divination and rituals with empathy and with a keen sense of the connection between Iamblichus' worldview and his theory of ritual and divination. Her analysis of divination in DM contributes towards a better grasp of Iamblichus as a philosopher who consciously fits the supra-rational relationship with the divine into his system. This can be viewed as a further contribution to the re-evaluation of Iamblichus as a philosopher as advocated by Smith 2002, Shaw 1995 or Taormina 1999. From Iamblichus' DM Addey also draws her notion of theurgy, which she uses synchronically as a systematic term to denote philosophically acceptable ritual means of existential transformation and communication with the gods which are rooted in a philosophical way of life and which operate with symbols to effect assimilation to the divine (24-40). This approach parallels that of van Liefferinge 1999; like her, Addey adopts Iamblichus' normative distinction between (bad) magic and (good) theurgy (37), which she then applies to the assessment of rituals in her various sources. This systematic and synchronic approach may enable her to recognize and assess Porphyrian and Plotinian points of comparison to the DM, yet she does so at the risk of importing Iamblichus' views into earlier material and of not reading the treatments of rituals by Porphyry, Plotinus or Eusebius on their own terms (cf. e.g., for Plotinus, 174-8).

In her treatment of the parallels between Porphyry's PO and Iamblichus' DM, Addey takes up the discussion of Busine 2005, 261-79. However, where Busine points to Iamblichus' critique of Porphyry (2005, 266) and shows how Iamblichus probably also includes the PO into his critical response to Porphyry, Addey seeks to prove the fundamental harmony of the two philosophers (cf. 95-6 or 98-103; 115-16). This leads sometimes to strained interpretations of particular passages (e.g. 104), but also to valuable reflections, e.g. concerning the relationship between astrology and oracles (104-5). However, an excessively strong emphasis on common points tempts the reader to overlook the differences between the PO and DM, e.g. when Addey accuses Eusebius, in his handling of the PO, not only of conflating gods with evil daimones, which he certainly does, but also of conflating magic with theurgy, because both attempt to influence the gods ritually (110-26). This Iamblichean distinction is not found in the PO. Nowhere in the extant fragments does Porphyry speak of theurgy, or attempt any classification of rituals into evil/disreputable and good/respectable. Thus, although some of the elements that allow Iamblichus to solve the problem of ritual efficacy and divine impassibility and freedom, and to articulate a comprehensive theory of ritual influence on the gods, may also be found in the fragments of the PO, as Busine 2005 and Addey note (113-17), they are not yet assembled to form a comprehensive, systematic theory.

Due in part to the fragmentary nature of the sources, some of the interpretations Addey proposes have a speculative ring and are sometimes weakly argued. The reading of the PO starts from the assumption that the extant fragments are not representative (45), which in turn renders further engagement with the work highly speculative, with the constant temptation to read the extant material as it must have been meant (e.g., 97-8; 111-13). Eusebius is regarded as the main culprit, and his selective and polemical handling of quotations is contrasted to "Porphyry's intellectual honesty, openness and philological approach" (93), without due attention being given either to the fact that Eusebius still had the whole of the PO at his disposal (as, we may assume, did a number of his readers: Riedweg 2005), or to the workings and rhetorical quality of late antique practices of quotation and paraphrase. Consideration of the latter would have helped to place both Eusebius and Porphyry in their shared context and show them making conscious use of the same techniques for their divergent ends.

Another rather weakly argued point is the proposed reading of EpAn and DM as a pedagogical and mystagogic exchange. Given the lack of solid evidence, the case is built on incremental reflections on the proximity of the genre of aporiai kai lyseis to philosophical dialogue (131-3), the general importance of the dialogical method in the Platonic tradition as a whole, and in Plotinus' and Porphyry's own practice in particular (133-5), and the assumption that an irenic reading would be more appropriate for Platonists than conflict and polemic (136). A valuable observation that would have deserved further discussion is the comparison of EpAn with Runia's reading of Philo's De aeternitate mundi (145-6). The comparison with the Hermetica would have profited from the reception of the new book on education and ritual in the Hermetica by van den Kerchove 2012. The considerations adduced in order to strengthen the case for the compatibility of the Porphyrian and Iamblichean stances to ritual are sometimes too eager and go against the grain of the texts, e.g. the interpretation of selected passages from De abstinentia and De regressu animae (150-7). The reading of DM as not only a discursive defence of ritual but also at least partly a textual symbolon (165) or a " guided visualisation or meditation in ritual terms, rather than as a straightforward philosophical discourse" (164-5), or an "initiatory tool for philosophical contemplation leading to theurgic visions for the ideal 'philosophic' or 'theurgic' reader" (166), is not convincing. To be sure, DM is indeed a book about rituals and their rationale, and it constantly alludes to ritual settings; but it never addresses any reader beside Porphyry and his objections, and it takes its structure not so much from the Neoplatonic sequence of procession and reversion (165-6), but rather from that of Porphyry's EpAn. The suggestion that Porphyry had a secondary goal of inducing Iamblichus to provide a defence of pagan ritual against Christian polemic (166-8) should have been more carefully argued, e.g. by considering why Porphyry did not choose to do so himself in his fifteen books against the Christians.

A final point that calls for further reflection is Addey's thesis of a fundamental similarity between Plotinus, Porphyry and Iamblichus with regard to the valuation and understanding of rituals. While Addey is right to emphasise that all three share a profoundly religious view of the world and the ascent to the divine, the issue of whether and to what extent Plotinian methods and practices of meditation and visualisation are comparable to the rituals described in the PO or DM, or to the hierarchy of forms of worship in the De abstinentia, requires a more nuanced investigation; cf. the pertinent criticism of Mazur's ritualistic interpretation of the Plotinian ascent by Brisson 2013. Religion and ritual need not be coextensive: here, a closer look into the blossoming field of modern ritual studies, which is taken into account here only very selectively (184-7) may be of help in refining and theorizing the notion of ritual and its specific difference with regard to other aspects of religion and religious practice in general.

Although some of the arguments may not convince the reader, the book offers a good interpretation of Iamblichus' De mysteriis and a wealth of important observations on various details of the material. The new approach it proposes to the study of Neoplatonic rituals promises insights in the field of Neoplatonic religiosity well beyond Porphyry and Iamblichus. This is an important contribution to research on theurgy.1




Luc Brisson, 'Plotinus and the Magical Rites Practiced by the Gnostics', in Kevin Corrigan and Tuomas Rasimus (eds.), Gnosticism, Platonism and the Late Ancient World. Essays in Honour of John D. Turner, Leiden/Boston 2013, 443-63.
Aude Busine, Paroles d'Apollon. Pratiques et traditions oraculaires dans l'Antiquité tardive (IIe-VIe siècles), Leiden/Boston 2005.
Aude Busine, 'Des logia pour philosophie. À propos du titre de la Philosophie tirée des oracles de Porphyre', Philosophie antique 4, 2004, 151-68.
Aaron P. Johnson, Religion and Identity in Porphyry of Tyre. The Limits of Hellenism in Late Antiquity, Cambridge 2013.
Christoph Riedweg, 'Porphyrios über Christus und die Christen: De philosophia ex oraculis haurienda und Adversus Christianos im Vergleich', in L'Apologétique chrétienne gréco-latine à l'époque prénicéenne, Entretiens Hardt LI, Genf-Vandoeuvres 2005, 151-98.
Daniela Patrizia Taormina, Jamblique critique de Plotin et de Porphyre. Quatre études, Paris 1999.
Andrew Smith, 'Further thoughts on Iamblichus as the first philosopher of religion' in Michael Erler/Theo Kobusch (eds.), Metaphysik und Religion: Zur Signatur des spätantiken Denkens, Munich/Leipzig 2002, 297-308.
id., 'Porphyry: Scope for a Reassessment' in Anne Sheppard and George Karamanolis (eds.), Studies on Porphyry, London 2007, 7-16.
id., 'Religion, Magic and Theurgy in Porphyry' in his Plotinus, Porphyry and Iamblichus: Philosophy and Religion in Neoplatonism, Farnham/Burlington, VT 2011, no. XIX.
G. Shaw, Theurgy and the Soul: the Neoplatonism of Iamblichus, University Park, PA 1995.
Anna van den Kerchove, La voie d'Hermès. Pratiques rituelles et traités hermétiques, Leiden/Boston 2012.
Carine van Liefferinge. La théurgie des Oracles Chaldaïques à Proclus, Liège 1999.
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Wednesday, May 4, 2016


Lena Hakulin, Metals in LBA Minoan and Mycenaean Societies on Crete: A Quantitative Approach. Helsinki: Unigrafia Oy Yliopistopaino, 2013. Pp. xvii, 253. ISBN 9789521092688. €35.00.

Reviewed by Christina Clarke, Australian National University (

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This volume is the author's PhD dissertation, defended at the University of Helsinki in October 2013. The author examines the relationships between metal and society across Late Bronze Age Crete with a systematic quantitative analysis of bronze finds. Specifically, the metal record is quantified by weight rather than number of items, the more usual method of quantitative analysis. The author's goals are to determine whether such an analysis is a valid means for studying metals and, if so, to discover the political-economic and cultural role of metals in Minoan and Mycenaean societies in Crete and to characterise the approaches to metal use over time. The data used has been collected from published evidence on approximately 3300 items—copper-based artefacts, copper ingots and refractory materials—and compiled in a database designed by the author and titled ΧΑΛΚΟΣ. Hakulin estimates that her data represents 80-90% of published finds from the preserved record and stresses that the focus of the present study is the amount, volume, use and circulation of metals and the "metal cycle", a term she uses to describe the flow of metals in each region and period.

The volume consists of three parts subdivided into 9 chapters, and two appendices. Part One, "Context of the Study" (Chapters One and Two), outlines the aims, methods, background and limitations of the study, and reviews published archaeometallurgical studies. In Part Two, "Implementation of the Study", Chapter Three discusses the framework of the study and Chapter Four describes the study material, arranged according to finished object type (ingots and refractory materials), and summarises the data on weights. Chapters Five, Six and Seven discuss and summarise the published metal finds from the Neopalatial, Final Palatial and Postpalatial periods, respectively, with geographical subdivisions of eastern, central and western Crete. These three chapters are remarkable in terms of the amount of data and detail they encompass and are certainly a valuable source of information for future studies in Minoan metallurgy. I am not aware of any previous scholar who has addressed the published material so comprehensively.

Part Three, "Results of the Study", consists of two concluding chapters. In Chapter Eight, Hakulin characterises the role of metals in LBA society in Crete over the three periods under study according to what her data suggests and attempts to identify metal strategies, "...a catchword for strategies for metal import, metalwork production, metal distribution, use and deposition..." (120). To achieve this, Hakulin applies a method outlined by M.E. Smith1 that characterises the political economy of early states by describing strategies for the accumulation, bureaucratisation and capitalisation (ABC) of economic resources. This interesting approach provides a useful means for comparing the changing role of metal use in LBA Crete. The conclusion, Chapter Nine, addresses the initial aims of the study. Appendix One presents the data collected in the database, ΧΑΛΚΟΣ, and used in the study, and Appendix Two lists the estimation of object weights and the data that the estimations are derived from.

Hakulin examines the weight of items alongside the parameters of function and find context in order to draw conclusions about the characteristics of metal use during the Neopalatial, Final Palatial and Postpalatial periods. The function of an artefact is classified as utilitarian, prestige or ritual; ingot functions are either raw material or ceremonial. 'Find context' is a term Hakulin uses to describe an artefact either in circulation at the time of its deposition or permanently deposited in a burial or as a votive. These parameters are analysed in terms of three aspects. The first, the spatial distribution of the objects and refractory materials by first and second order centres and ritual sites, may provide data on the political geography of Crete. The second aspect, divisions of metal weight, refers to (i) the amounts of metal used to make objects of different categories (utilitarian, prestige or ritual), which can inform us about the priorities for metal usage, and (ii) the amounts deposited in different find contexts (permanent deposit or still in circulation), which "...could mirror cultural habits in the society, the amount of metal lost from circulation and perhaps deliberate strategies to restrict the availability of and access to metal in the society..." (66). The final aspect considered is the point of the metal cycle at which objects were deposited. The metal cycle is a hypothetical model created by Hakulin for visualising the phases which a quantity of metal in a region passes through: supply/trade, use/circulation (which includes storage, production, use and recycling) and deposit.

The quantification of the metal record by weight is a new and interesting approach. Hakulin regards this as " objective measure for comparing the material value of different types of metal finds" (8). By studying metal weight, the volume of metal distributed, circulated and deposited may be elucidated. The weights of metal finds are rarely published so Hakulin has developed a series of methods for estimating the weights of object types based on dimensions of finds, the published weights of similar artefacts or artefacts of similar shape or size and information on the weights of bronze objects from Linear B archives and Near Eastern texts. Hakulin groups her weight estimations by object type and period, so we have, for example, an estimated total weight of 10.4 kg of Neopalatial chisels, 3.6 kg of Final Palatial razors and 0.3 kg of Postpalatial sickles.

The main concern with this volume is its dependence on data that is incomplete. There is, for example, a skewing of data by depositional bias. The differences in the types of metal items recovered from the different periods is significant. For example, Neopalatial metals are almost exclusively from destructions and Final Palatial metals are primarily from graves, so we are comparing accidental Neopalatial deposition with deliberate Final Palatial deposition. It is problematic to regard these finds as comparable. Because Neopalatial burial practices are largely unknown, we do not truly know whether or not any Neopalatial metal was destined for burial. This presents problems for Hakulin's suggestions that Neopalatial metal strategies maximised the "accumulation of metals for the living" (124) while Final Palatial strategies focus on the prestige of the elite because extant metal items from the period are primarily grave goods (127). Hakulin does acknowledge this problem and a number of others regarding the reliability of the data, but is forced to ignore these in order to carry out the study (14), which seems problematic for a quantitative survey.

The quantification by weight may also be questionable. Hakulin has made an admirable effort to estimate object weights, but it seems precarious to attempt calculations of metal quantities in circulation based on the estimation of the total weights of thousands of items. There might also be some problems with her dependence on published classifications of object types (utilitarian, prestige or ritual), where there are often disagreements about the function of an object. It is often unclear, for example, whether a metal object is a finished object or a piece of scrap or billet. In some cases a single item might also function across more than one classification type. A vessel could be utilitarian, prestige or ritual, for example, and in many cases the primary function of an object is highly debatable or unknowable. Hakulin acknowledges the problem of determining function type. For practical reasons, however, she assigns each item type to one category according to an assumed primary function (30) and subsequently uses the quantities of object types to determine priorities for metal use. One is wary of the cumulative effect of so many assumptions as a foundation for quantitative analysis.

Overall, this volume presents a useful and extensive survey of metals in Bronze Age Crete. Although there are some problems with how the data is analysed, the scope of the study is impressive. As a reference book on LBA metals in Crete, it is invaluable.


1.   Smith, M.E. 1991. "The ABCs of Political Economy" in Early State Economics, edited by H.J.M. Claessen and P. van de Velde, 31-73. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers.

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Umberto Roberto, Paolo A. Tuci (ed.), Tra marginalità e integrazione: aspetti dell'assistenza sociale nel mondo greco e romano. Atti delle Giornate di Studio, Università Europea di Roma - 7-8 Novembre 2012. Quaderni di Erga-Logoi.. Milano: LED - Edizioni Universitarie di Lettere Economia Diritto, 2015. Pp. 186. ISBN 9788879167062. €24.00.

Reviewed by Carrie L. Sulosky Weaver, University of Pittsburgh (

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Studies of the Greco-Roman world have traditionally focused on the life histories of elite males because it is they who have made the most distinct mark on ancient literature, art, and material culture. Over the past fifteen years, scholarly attention has shifted away from this conventional narrative and focused instead on marginalized and disenfranchised groups.1 Roberto and Tuci's edited volume, which explores the theme of social assistance, contributes substantially to the growing corpus of literature on marginality in the ancient world. Drawing primarily upon epigraphical and literary evidence, the papers contained in the volume examine diverse topics ranging from legislation regarding orphans in Classical Athens to the social and economic practices of Late Antique Christian heretical sects in Anatolia. As a result, the volume provides a glimpse into the ways in which social assistance varied across time and geographical space in the ancient Mediterranean from the 5th century BCE to the 5th century CE.

The book consists of an introduction and seven essays arranged in chronological order, two concerned with Classical Greece, two on the Hellenistic world, and the remainder on Roman subjects. The Introduction, by Roberto and Tuci, briefly describes the impetus for the volume and summarizes the content of the subsequent chapters. In "La città e gli orfani," Cinzia Bearzot explores the ways in which legislation regarding orphans evolved in Greece during the Classical period, relying primarily on textual evidence from Athens. A critical analysis of extant legislation reveals that the collective concern was not only for the civic rights of Athenian orphans, but also their emotional and physical well-being. Also focusing on Classical Athens, Paolo Tuci examines the forms of public assistance that were provided for widows. Unlike orphans, public support was not legally granted to widows unless they were pregnant and could potentially produce legitimate citizens. Otherwise, most widows were relegated to the care of their respective oikoi.

The Hellenistic section begins with an essay by Franca Landucci Gattinoni on evergetism in Athens during the late 4th century BCE ("Il ruolo sociale del «benefattore» nell'Atene del primo ellenismo"). During this period, the historic personage that best exemplifies evergetism, the practice of public benefaction, is Evenor, an Akarnanian physician upon whom multiple civic honors and privileges were bestowed. Based on extant epigraphic evidence, the author argues that Evenor was an ally of the Macedonians, and that his honors were granted by a pro-Macedonian government. This fresh assertion is in opposition to the widely held opinion that the honors were bestowed by Athens' democratic anti- Macedonian leadership. Again on the subject of evergetism, Lucia Criscuolo in "Aspetti dell'evergetismo scolastico: l'ellenismo, tempo di integrazioni," describes the ways in which educational and social institutions supported by public benefactors (e.g., gymnasia) functioned as disseminators of Greek language and culture. These institutions aided the integration of the many foreign peoples who found themselves under Greek rule after the conquests of Alexander the Great.

In the first of the chapters on the Roman period, John Thornton in, "Marginalità e integrazione dei Liguri Apuani: una deportazione," examines evidence for the forced migration of Apuan Ligurians to Samnium around 180 BCE. The author maintains that this deportation event, instituted as a means of controlling the rebellious group, resulted in the immediate marginalization of the Apuan Ligurians and required their reluctant integration with the Samnites. Next, Umberto Roberto provides a thoughtful appraisal of the political and religious connections between the preamble of Diocletian's Edict of Prices (Edictum de pretiis, 301 CE) and the Alexandrian grain dole (302 CE) in "Diocleziano e i «poveri» di Alessandria: sulla donazione del panis castrensis (marzo 302)." Finally, Alister Filippini analyzes the social and economic practices of Late Antique Christian heretical sects of Anatolia (ca. 4th to 5th centuries CE) in "Schiavi, poveri, e benefattori nell'Anatolia tardoantica: la vision socio-economica delle communità enkratite attraverso gli atti apocrifi degli apostoli." These sects, belonging to the so-called Enkratite movement, were comprised of ascetics who practiced a radical form of self-restraint and regarded as their most important task their ministrations to the poorest members of society.

This book will be a useful resource to scholars interested in ancient social responses to detrimental circumstances commonly experienced by the disenfranchised. The volume would have benefitted, however, from an expanded introduction that situated the essays more thoroughly within the framework of current scholarship. Nevertheless, the case studies presented here contribute substantially to our understanding of social assistance in the Greco-Roman world and invite future research on the degree to which less fortunate groups were either marginalized or integrated into their respective societies.


1.   Recent works include B. Cohen (ed.), Not the Classical Ideal: Athens and the Construction of the Other in Greek Art. Leiden: Brill, 2000; J. R. Clarke, Art in the Lives of Ordinary Romans: Visual Representation and Non-Elite Viewers in Italy, 100 B.C. – A.D. 315. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006; E. S. Gruen, Rethinking the Other in Antiquity. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010; and E. E. Mayer, The Ancient Middle Classes: Urban Life and Aesthetics in the Roman Empire, 100 BCE—250 CE. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012.

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Debra Hamel, The Battle of Arginusae: Victory at Sea and its Tragic Aftermath in the Final Years of the Peloponnesian War. Witness to Ancient History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015. Pp. $19.95. ISBN 9781421416816. ixx, 125.

Reviewed by Jason Crowley, The Manchester Metropolitan University (

Version at BMCR home site


Part of the Witness to Ancient History series edited by Greg Aldrete, Debra Hamel's The Battle of Arginusae is a great little book. The subject, Arginusae, which the Athenians famously won in 406 BC, was, without a doubt, one of the most important naval engagements of the Peloponnesian War. That long war, as Thucydides stresses, was a peculiar, asymmetric contest between states whose chosen means of power projection were diametrically divergent: Athens, with her maritime empire, developed into a naval superpower, whilst Sparta, as the head of the Peloponnesian League, maintained the only professional army in Greece. To complement further the oppositional nature of the protagonists, Thucydides also emphasises their very different characters: the Spartans are conservative, traditional, predictable, whereas the Athenians are restless and innovative.

In this portrayal, of course, Thucydides plants the seeds of one of his favourite motifs—the unexpected reversal of fortune. Naturally, in a contest between the forces Thucydides describes, there were only two ways to win: either Sparta had to develop a fleet capable of defeating Athens at sea, or Athens had to produce an army capable of defeating Sparta on land. The difficulty of such a transition, of course, explains the protracted nature of the Peloponnesian War, and given their respective 'national' characteristics, any reader of Thucydides would expect the innovative Athenians to adapt before the conservative Spartans. By 406 BC, however, it was clear that this was not the case. The Spartans, with Persian aid, had finally learned to project their power across the Aegean, and slowly, but surely, they were heading up the west coast of Asia Minor. The Athenians had to stop them, because if they did not, the Spartans would prevent them importing grain from the Black Sea region. Such a development, of course, would be fatal: the Athenians were already denied access to their arable land by the Spartan epiteichismos at Decelea, and without imported grain they would be unable to continue the war.

It is at precisely this dramatic point in the Peloponnesian War that the focus of Hamel's study, the battle of Arginusae, was fought. The book, however, does far more than examine the engagement itself. The first chapter, helpfully entitled 'Setting the Scene', does just that. Starting from the Persian Wars, it offers a narrative overview of Greek history up to the eve of Arginusae. This naturally includes a brief account of the Peloponnesian War as well as an outline of Athenian and Spartan power. What emerges is the time-honoured picture of a war between an Athenian 'whale' and a Spartan 'elephant', which then acts as a firm foundation for the rest of the book.

Chapter two is just as useful. This offers a very succinct summary of the nature of naval warfare in the fifth century BC, which starts with an introduction to the trireme and the struggles of historians and archaeologists to understand and reconstruct it. This includes, interestingly, links to videos of the Olympias on YouTube, so that, having seen a modern reconstruction of a trireme at sea, the reader can fully appreciate its potential in combat, as well as its technical limitations and the need for a professional crew. With this additional groundwork laid, chapter two moves on to a more sophisticated analysis of naval tactics that includes a good overview of, as well as Hamel's own opinion on, the ongoing debate about the diekplous and periplous.

Chapter three then examines the battle itself, starting with the social make-up of the crews raised by Athens and their uneven readiness for combat. As part of this chapter, Hamel offers a very useful exploration of the problematic nature of the evidence, the debates that dog its interpretation, as well, of course, as a reconstruction of the evolution of the engagement itself. The aftermath, naturally, also receives considerable attention. Hamel examines the conflicting demands faced by the victorious Athenians, the role of the weather, the decisions made by the commanders, and finally, the resultant delay in launching an effective rescue mission.

Chapter four pauses to analyse Athenian command structures, and the influence democratic theory and practice had on the nature of military leadership. This is definitely one of the most useful chapters. Hamel, of course, is the author of an excellent monograph on the subject (Athenian Generals: Military Authority in the Classical Period (Boston, 1998)), and her authority underpins a very clear and persuasive argument. This reveals how, in order to stomach the aggregation of military expertise and nascent professionalism in a regime predicated on institutionalised amateurism, the Athenians subjected their commanders to a considerable degree of democratic accountability. This constant overwatch, however, stifled the willingness of Athenian commanders to take the sometimes necessary risks required to transform tactical challenges into stunning victories, and inculcated instead a command culture that made safe decisions irresistibly attractive.

Chapter five returns to the events following the battle, and focuses on the reaction thereto back in Athens. This, as Hamel explicitly acknowledges, is the most speculative chapter of the book, but also the most original. It offers, essentially, a reconstruction of the events leading up to the trial of the generals, as well as an analysis of the trial itself, and concludes (p.90), disturbingly, that 'the Athenians, with due consideration and in accordance with all standing statutes, reached a verdict in the Arginusae affair that was perfectly legal but at the same time perfectly reprehensible.'

The book ends with an epilogue that takes the story of the Peloponnesian War to its grim conclusion. This examines the role of Persia and the Athenian failure at Aegospotami. The main aim of the epilogue, however, is to normalise the trial of the generals and situate it, albeit as a notable mistake, within the wider context of successful Athenian governance. The book, then, provides the reader with far more than an expert discussion of a famous battle—as discussed, the author expends a great deal of effort establishing the historical context and setting out the nature of naval warfare and command at sea, and this strongly suggests a wide audience is envisaged.

This audience, of course, does not exclude academics and students, but the focus, presumably, is a more popular readership. Despite this target audience, Hamel combines accessibility with historical good practice. Her prose, certainly, is lively and entertaining, and maps, timelines and a guide to further reading support the general reader. However, the clear narrative and the thematic explanations offered are also coupled with source analysis, references in endnotes, and even, in chapter three, extended discussion of Xenophon's Greek.

Naturally, the focus on a popular audience entails some limitations. Although Hamel contributes to the debate regarding naval manoeuvre, brings her expertise on Athenian command to the discussion of the battle and subsequent trial, and offers a reconstruction of the trial itself and the events at Athens leading up to it, the aim is not to generate new knowledge, but to bring existing knowledge to a popular audience. This aim, happily, is admirably achieved. The book is lively, accessible, interesting, and it will, no doubt, be well received by the popular audience for which it is intended. The scholarly rigour with which the book is written, as well as the valuable discussions about evidence, naval warfare, and particularly the complexities of democratic command, however, will also make it extremely useful for undergraduates. Certainly, it is now on my reading lists, and I suspect my students will, like me, very much enjoy reading it.

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Monday, May 2, 2016


Books Received April 2016.

Version at BMCR home site

This list contains all books and notifications of new books received in the previous month by BMCR. Potential reviewers should not respond to this email, but should use the request form linked here (Books Available for Review). Some books listed in this email may already have been assigned to reviewers.)

Albanese, Gabriella, Claudio Ciociola, Mariarosa Cortesi and Claudia Villa (edd.). Il ritorno dei classici nell'Umanesimo: studi in memoria di Gianvito Resta. Firenze: SISMEL - Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2015. xxxi, 699 p. € 75.00 (pb). ISBN 9788884504777.

Allen-Hornblower, Emily. From agent to spectator: witnessing the aftermath in ancient Greek epic and tragedy. Trends in classics - supplementary volumes, 30. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2015. viii, 336 p. $112.00. ISBN 9783110439069.

Amiri, Bassir and Johannes Deißler (edd.). Esclaves et affranchis des Germanies: mémoire en fragments. Étude des inscriptions monumentales. Forschungen zur antiken Sklaverei, 41. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016. ix, 249 p. € 44.00 (pb). ISBN 9783515110884.

Antonaras, Anastassios Ch. Arts, crafts and trades in ancient and Byzantine Thessaloniki: archaeological, literary and epigraphic evidence (edited by Antje Bosselmann-Ruickbie and Leo Ruickbie). Byzanz zwischen Orient und Okzident, 2. Mainz: Verlag des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums, 2016. 268 p. € 48.00. ISBN 9783884672518.

Antonopoulos, Panagiotis. Early peril lost faith: Italy between Byzantines and Lombards in the early years of the Lombard settlement, A.D. 568-608. Saarbrücken: Lambert Academic Publishing, 2016. 121 p. € 49.90. ISBN 9783659292293.

Armstrong, Jeremy. War and society in early Rome. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. xiv, 317 p. $99.99. ISBN 9781107093577.

Audano, Sergio and Giovanni Cipriani (edd.). Aspetti della Fortuna dell'Antico nella Cultura Europea: atti della Dodicesima Giornata di Studi Sestri Levante, 13 marzo 2015. Echo, 18. Foggia: Il Castello Edizioni, 2016. 260 p. € 20.00 (pb). ISBN 9788865721704.

Averna, Daniela. Tra vultus e persona: ricerche nella filigrana eidografica della drammaturgia greca e latina. Bibliotheca, 41. Palermo: Palumbo, 2015. 120 p. € 19.00 (pb). ISBN 9788868892258.

Backes, Burkhard. Der "Papyrus Schmitt" (Berlin P. 3057): ein funeräres Ritualbuch der ägyptischen Spätzeit (2 vols.). Ägyptische und orientalische Papyri und Handschriften des Ägyptischen Museums und Papyrussammlung Berlin, 4.1-2. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. xvi, xi, 1242 p. $280.00. ISBN 9783110414486.

Bagnall, Roger S., Nicola Aravecchia, Raffaella Cribiore, Paola Davoli, Olaf E. Kaper and Susanna McFadden. An oasis city. New York: Institute for the Study of the Ancient World; NYU Press, 2015. xvi, 240 p. $55.00. ISBN 9781479889228.

Benefiel, Rebecca and Peter Keegan (edd.). Inscriptions in the private sphere in the Greco-Roman world. Brill studies in Greek and Roman epigraphy, 7. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2016. xviii, 284 p. $135.00. ISBN 9789004307117.

Bérard, François. L'Armée romaine à Lyon. Bibliothèque des Écoles françaises d'Athènes et de Rome, 370. Rome: École française de Rome, 2015. viii, 620 p., [8] p. of plates. € 54.00 (pb). ISBN 9782728310852.

Beretta, Marco (ed.). Lucrezio. De rerum natura: editio princeps (1472-73). Bologna: Bononia University Press, 2016. [272] p. € 150.00 (pb). ISBN 9788869230660.

Beste, Heinz- J., Dieter Mertens and Salvatore Ortisi. Die Mauern von Syrakus: das Kastell Euryalos und die Befestigung der Epipolai. Sonderschriften des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts Rom, 18. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2016. 328 p. € 98.00. ISBN 9783954900336.

Bettini, Maurizio. Il dio elegante: Vertumno e la religione romana. Piccola Biblioteca Einaudi. Nuova serie, 645. Torino: Giulio Einaudi editore, 2015. viii, 221 p. € 24.00 (pb). ISBN 9788806220211.

Boehringer, Sandra and Daniele Lorenzini (edd.). Foucault, la sexualité, l'Antiquité. Philosophie en cours. Paris: Éditions Kimé, 2016. 196 p. € 20.00 (pb). ISBN 9782841747399.

Bölke, Wilfried. Dein Name ist unsterblich für alle Zeiten: das Leben Heinrich Schliemanns im Briefwechsel mit seiner mecklenburgischen Familie. Duisburg: Wellem Verlag, 2016. ix, 711 p.; 1 CD-ROM. € 79.00. ISBN 9783941820180.

Bonati, Isabella. Il lessico dei vasi e dei contenitori greci nei papyri: specimina per un repertorio lessicale degli angionimi greci. Archiv für Papyrusforschung und verwandte Gebiete. Beiheft, 37. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. x, 399 p. $182.00. ISBN 9783110456097.

Bonelli, Maddalena (ed.). Aristotele e Alessandro di Afrodisia (Questioni etiche e Mantissa): metodo e oggetto dell'etica peripatetica. Elenchos, 62. Napoli: Bibliopolis, 2015. 196 p. € 30.00. ISBN 9788870886399.

Boozer, Anna Lucille. A late Romano-Egyptian house in the Dakhla Oasis: Amheida house B2. Amheida, 2. New York: NYU Press; Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, 2015. 460 p. $55.00. ISBN 9781479880348.

Bosnakis, Dimitris and Klaus Hallof (edd.). Inscriptiones Coi insulae: tituli sepulcrales urbanae. Inscriptiones Graecae, Vol. XII: Inscriptiones insularum maris Aegaei praeter Delum; Fasc. 4: Inscriptiones Coi, Calymni, insularum Milesiarum; Pars 3. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. 420 p. $489.00. ISBN 9783110451726.

Broekaert, Wim, Robin Nadeau and John Wilkins (edd.). Food, identity and cross-cultural exchange in the ancient world. Collection Latomus, 354. Bruxelles: Éditions Latomus, 2016. 106 p. € 22.00 (pb). ISBN 9789042933040.

Bucciantini, Veronica. Studio su Nearco di Creta: dalla descrizione geografica alla narrazione storica. Studi di Storia greca e romana, 11. Alessandria: Edizioni dell'Orso, 2015. 251 p. € 18.00 (pb). ISBN 9788862746434.

Canali De Rossi, Filippo. Hippiká: corse di cavalli e di carri in Grecia, Etruria e Roma. Le radici classiche della moderna competizione sportiva. Volume II: Le corse al galoppo montato nell' antica Grecia. Nikephoros - Beihefte, 22. Hildesheim: Weidmannsche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 2016. x, 158 p. € 39.80 (pb). ISBN 9783615004212.

Cardete del Olmo, María Cruz. El Dios Pan y los paisajes pánicos: de la figura divina al paisaje religioso. Historia y geografía, 303. Sevilla: Universidad de Sevilla, 2016. 300 p. € 23.00 (pb). ISBN 9788447217984.

Caston, Victor and Silke-Maria Weineck (edd.). Our ancient wars: rethinking war through the classics. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2016. vi, 289 p. $45.00 (pb). ISBN 9780472052981.

Chemain, Jean-François. L'économie romaine à l'époque républicaine. Paris: Éditions Picard, 2016. 192 p. € 33.00 (pb). ISBN 9782708410107.

Colesanti, Giulio and Laura Lulli (edd.). Submerged literature in ancient Greek culture, volume 2: case studies. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. x, 396 p. $112.00. ISBN 9783110434576.

Cortés Copete, Juan Manuel, Elena Muñiz Grivaljo and Fernando Lozano Gómez (edd.). Ruling the Greek world: approaches to the Roman Empire in the East. Potsdamer Altertumswissenschaftliche Beiträge, 52. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2015. 192 p. € 44.00 (pb). ISBN 9783515111355.

Dana, Madalina and Franck Prêteux (edd.). Identité régionale, identités civiques autour des Détroits des Dardanelles et du Bosphore (Ve siècle av. J.-C. - IIe siècle apr. J.-C.). Dialogues d'histoire ancienne. Supplément, 15. Besançon: Presses universitaires de Franche-Comté, 2016. 311 p. € 28.00 (pb). ISBN 9782848675435.

Dickey, Eleanor. Learning Latin the ancient way: Latin textbooks from the ancient world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. xii, 187 p. $29.99 (pb). ISBN 9781107474574.

Dijkstra, Roald. The apostles in early Christian art and poetry. Supplements to Vigilae Christianae, 134. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2016. xv, 551 p. $218.00. ISBN 9789004298040.

Ehrenheim, Hedvig von. Greek incubation rituals in classical and Hellenistic times. Kernos. Supplément, 29. Liège: Presses Universitaires de Liège, 2015. 282 p. € 35.00 (pb). ISBN 9782875620859.

Federico, Eduardo (ed.). Ione di Chio: Testimonianze e frammenti (testo critico di Francesco Valerio). I Frammenti degli storici greci, 8. Tivoli: Edizioni Tored, 2015. xxvii, 310 p. € 80.00. ISBN 9788888617862.

Felle, Antonio E. and Anita Rocco (edd.). Off the beaten track: epigraphy at the borders. Proceedings of 6th EAGLE International Event (24-25 September 2015, Bari, Italy). Oxford: Archaeopress, 2016. vi, 154 p. £ 30.00. ISBN 9781784913229.

Fleet, Barrie. Plotinus, Ennead IV.7: On the immortality of the soul. Translation with an introduction and commentary. The Enneads of Plotinus with philosophical commentaries. Las Vegas; Zurich; Athens: Parmenides Publishing, 2016. 337 p. $47.00 (pb). ISBN 9781930972957.

Föller, Carola and Fabian Schulz (edd.). Osten und Westen 400-600 n. Chr.: Kommunikation, Kooperation und Konflikt. Roma æterna: Beiträge zu Spätantike und Frühmittelalter, 4. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016. 316 p. € 58.00. ISBN 9783515109420.

Frangoulidis, Stavros, Stephen J. Harrison and Gesine Manuwald (edd.). Roman drama and its contexts. Trends in classics - supplementary volumes, 34. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. xii, 625 p. $210.00. ISBN 9783110455571.

Frasca, Massimo. Archeologia degli Iblei: indigeni e Greci nell'altipiano ibleo tra la prima e la seconda età del Ferro. Mediterraneo e storia, 4. Scicli: Edizioni di storia e studi sociali, 2015. 189 p. € 16.00 (pb). ISBN 9788899168070.

Gagarin, Michael and Paula Perlman. The laws of ancient Crete c.650-400 BCE. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. xxiv, 566 p. $199.00. ISBN 9780199204823.

Gerzaguet, Camille. Ambroise de Milan, La fuite du siècle. Introduction, texte critique, traduction et notes . Sources chrétiennes, 576. Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 2015. 379 p. € 45.00 (pb). ISBN 9782204104647.

Gori, Maja. Along the rivers and through the mountains: a revised chrono-cultural framework for the south-western Balkans during the late 3rd and early 2nd millennium BCE. Universitätsforschungen zur prähistorischen Archäologie, 268. Bonn: Verlag Dr. Rudolf Habelt, 2015. 392 p. € 84.00 (pb). ISBN 9783774939639.

Guyomarc'h, Gweltaz. L'unité de la métaphysique selon Alexandre d'Aphrodise. Textes et traditions, 27. Paris: Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin, 2015. 351 p. € 32.00 (pb). ISBN 9782711626779.

Haldon, John. The empire that would not die: the paradox of eastern Roman survival, 640-740. Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press, 2016. xii, 418 p. $45.00. ISBN 9780674088771.

Harvey, Brian K. Daily life in ancient Rome: a sourcebook. Edited and translated, with an introduction. Indianapolis: Focus, 2016. xii, 346 p. $24.95 (pb). ISBN 9781585107957.

Haug, Annette. Bild und Ornament im Fruhen Athen. Regensburg: Schell & Stenier, 2015. 224 p. € 39.95. ISBN 9783795430047.

Havener, Wolfgang. Imperator Augustus: die diskursive Konstituierung der militärischen persona des ersten römischen Princeps. Studies in ancient monarchies, 4. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016. 424 p. € 69.00. ISBN 9783515112208.

Hollmann, Elisabeth. Die plautinischen Prologe und ihre Funktion: zur Konstruktion von Spannung und Komik in den Komödien des Plautus. Göttinger Forum für Altertumswissenschaft - Beihefte N. F., 7. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. viii, 288 p. $140.00. ISBN 9783110470864.

Houghton, H. A. G. The Latin New Testament: a guide to its early history, texts, and manuscripts. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. xix, 366 p. $39.95. ISBN 9780198744733.

Incorporated Association of Assistant Masters in Secondary Schools. The teaching of classics (first paperback reprint; originally published 1954). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. xii, 244 p. $29.99 (pb). ISBN 9781316509661.

Iori, Luca. Thucydides Anglicus: gli Eight bookes di Thomas Hobbes e la ricezione inglese delle Storie di Tucidide (1450-1642). Pleiadi, 21. Roma: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 2015. xx, 308 p. € 52.00 (pb). ISBN 9788863728507.

Jenkins, Tiffany. Keeping their marbles: how the treasures of the past ended up in museums ... and why they should stay there. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. ix, 369 p. $34.95. ISBN 9780199657599.

Joyner, Danielle B. Painting the Hortus Deliciarum: medieval women, wisdom, and time. University Park: Pennsylvania State UniversityPress, 2016. xiv, 242 p. $89.95. ISBN 9780271070889.

Karavas, Orestis. Κόλλουθος: Ελένης αρπαγή. Εισαγωγή, μετάφραση, σχόλια. Βιβλιοθήκη Αρχαίων Συγγραφέων. Athens: Δαίδαλος Ε.Π.Ε., 2015. 159 p. (pb). ISBN 9786188006058.

Kolovou, Foteini. Der gefangene Gelehrte und sein nächtlicher Gast: Geschichtskonzeption und Phantasie in Nikephoros Gregoras' Rhomaike Historia. Sitzungsberichte der Sächsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, Philologisch-Historische Klasse, Bd 141, Heft 4. Leipzig; Stuttgart: Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig; In Kommission bei S. Hirzel, 2016. 43 p. € 14.00 (pb). ISBN 9783777625553.

Konishi, Haruo. Hesiod's rationale & literacy: Theogony; Works & days; The shield of Herakles. Classical and Byzantine monographs, 87. Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert Publisher, 2015. 136 p. (pb). ISBN 9789025613150.

Kotwick, Mirjam E. Alexander of Aphrodisias and the text of Aristotle's Metaphysics. California classical studies, no. 4. Berkeley: California Classical Studies, 2016. xvi, 339 p. $39.95 (pb). ISBN 9781939926067.

Kyriakou, Poulheria and Antonios Rengakos (edd.). Wisdom and folly in Euripides. Trends in classics - supplementary volumes, 31. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. x, 445 p. $154.00. ISBN 9783110452259.

Lamascus, Lorelle D. The poverty of Eros in Plato's Symposium. Bloomsbury studies in ancient philosophy. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016. ix, 188 p. $112.00. ISBN 9781474213806.

Lanza, Diego and Gherardo Ugolini (edd.). Storia della filologia classica. Studi Superiori, 1041. Roma: Carocci editore, 2016. 408 p. € 34.00. ISBN 9788843080595.

Lemcke, Lukas. Imperial transportation and communication from the third to the late forth century: the golden age of the cursus publicus. Collection Latomus, 353. Bruxelles: Éditions Latomus, 2016. 161 p. € 30.00 (pb). ISBN 9789042933569.

Lerouxel, François and Anne-Valérie Pont (edd.). Propriétaires et citoyens dans l'Orient romain. Scripta antiqua, 84. Bordeaux: Ausonius Éditions, 2016. 364 p. € 25.00 (pb). ISBN 9782356131522.

Lianeri, Alexandra (ed.). Knowing future time in and through Greek historiography. Trends in classics - supplementary volumes, 32. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. vii, 443 p. $154.00. ISBN 9783110439533.

Lidauer, Eva. Platons sprachliche Bilder: die Funktionen von Metaphern, Sprichwörtern, Redensarten und Zitaten in Dialogen Platons. Spudasmata, 166. Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 2016. x, 272 p. € 39.80. ISBN 9783487154046.

Ligt, Luuk de and Laurens E. Tacoma (edd.). Migration and mobility in the early Roman Empire. Studies in global social history, 23. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2016. xvii, 517p. $219.00. ISBN 9789004307360.

Lombardo, Stanley (trans.). Sappho, Complete poems and fragments. Indianapolis; Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2016. xl, 100 p. $15.00 (pb). ISBN 9781624664670.

Luciani, Sabine and Patricia Zuntow (edd.). Entre mots et marbre: les métamorphoses d'Auguste. Scripta antiqua, 82. Bordeaux: Ausonius Éditions, 2016. 298 p. € 25.00 (pb). ISBN 9782356131515.

Luschnig, Cecelia Eaton. Three other Theban plays: Aeschylus' Seven against Thebes; Euripides' Suppliants; Euripides' Phoenician women. Translated, with introduction and notes. Indianapolis; Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2016. lxii, 208 p. $15.00 (pb). ISBN 9781624664717.

Master, Jonathan. Provincial soldiers and imperial instability in the Histories of Tacitus. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2016. viii, 238 p. $70.00. ISBN 9780472119837.

McKeown, J. C. and Joshua M. Smith. The Hippocrates code: unraveling the ancient mysteries of modern medical terminology. Indianapolis; Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2016. xxiii, 370 p. $50.00 (pb). ISBN 9781624664649.

Meier, Mischa. Der Völkerwanderung ins Auge blicken: individuelle Handlungsspielräume im 5. Jahrhundert n. Ch. Karl-Christ-Preis für Alte Geschichte, 2. Heidelberg: Verlag Antike, 2016. 104 p. € 19.90 (pb). ISBN 9783938032992.

Mulliez, Maud. Le luxe de l'imitation: les trompe-l'oeil de la fin de la République romaine, mémoire des artisans de la couleur. Collection du Centre Jean Bérard, 44; Archéologie de l'artisanat antique, 8. Naples: Centre Jean Bérard, 2014. 236 p. € 49.00 (pb). ISBN 9782918887683.

Nadolny, Sonja. Die severischen Kaiserfrauen. Palingenesia, 104. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016. 257 p. € 52.00. ISBN 9783515113113.

Neri, Valerio and Beatrice Girotti (edd.). La famiglia tardoantica: società, diritto, religione . Quaderni di Erga-Logoi. Milano: LED - Edizioni Universitarie di Lettere Economia Diritto, 2016. 294 p. € 35.00. ISBN 9788879167642.

Paolucci, Paola. Pentadius Ovidian poet: music, myth and love. Anthologiarum Latinarum Parerga, 5. Hildesheim: Weidmann, 2016. xiv, 132 p. € 49.80 (pb). ISBN 9783615004229.

Pellacani, Daniele. Cicerone, Aratea e Prognostica. Introduzione, traduzione e note. Il mito, testi e saggi, 7. Pisa: Edizioni ETS, 2015. 156 p., 8 p. of plates. € 15.00 (pb). ISBN 9788846743237.

Petrakos, Basil Ch. 'Ημερολόγιο Αρχαιολογικό: τα χρόνια του Καποδίστρια 1828-1832 (3 vols.). Βιβλιοθήκη της εν Αθήναις Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας, 301-303. Athens: Archaeological Society at Athens, 2015. xi, 507 p.; viii, 559 p.; viii, 458 p. € 24.00 (pb); € 24.00 (pb); € 24.00 (pb). ISBN 9786185047191; 9786185047207; 9786185047214.

Petridou, Georgia. Divine epiphany in Greek literature and culture. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. xv, 411 p. $160.00. ISBN 9780198723929.

Photos-Jones, Effie and Allan J. Hall. Eros, mercator and the cultural landscape of Melos in classical antiquity: the archaeology of the minerals industries of Melos. Early materials and practices series. Glasgow: Potingair Press, 2014. 249 p. £ 45.00 (pb). ISBN 9780956824011.

Pogorzelski, Randall J. Virgil and Joyce: nationalism and imperialism in the Aeneid and Ulysses. Wisconsin studies in classics. Madison; London: University of Wisconsin Press, 2016. x, 178 p. $65.00. ISBN 9780299308001.

Polemis, Ioannis (ed.). Theodori Metochitae Carmina. Corpus Christianorum Series Graeca, 83. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2015. cxii, 374 p. € 300.00. ISBN 9782503564562.

Poulle, Bruno (ed.). L' Etrusca disciplina au Ve siècle apr. J.-C. Actes du colloque de Besançon, 23-24 mai 2013. La divination dans le monde étrusco-italique, 10. Besançon: Presses universitaires de Franche-Comté, 2016. 259 p. € 24.00 (pb). ISBN 9782848675527.

Ratti, Stéphane. L' Histoire Auguste: les païens et les chrétiens dans l'Antiquité tardive. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2016. 347 p. € 27.50 (pb). ISBN 9782251445762.

Reeve, C. D. C. Aristotle, Metaphysics; translated with introduction and notes. Indianapolis; Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2016. liv, 652 p. $29.00 (pb). ISBN 9781624664397.

Renfrew, Colin, Olga Philaniotou, Neil Brodie, Giorgos Gavalas and Michael J. Boyd (edd.). Kavos and the special deposits. The sanctuary on Keros and the origins of Aegean ritual practice: the excavations of 2006-2008, Volume II; McDonald Institute Monographs. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, 2016. xxix, 614 p., 2 CD-ROM. £ 64.00. ISBN 9781902937700.

Romero Recio, Mirella (ed.). La caída del Imperio Romano: cuestiones historiográficas. Potsdamer altertumswissenschaftliche Beiträge, 53. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016. 220 p. € 52.00 (pb). ISBN 9783515109635.

Rüpke, Jörg. Superstition ou individualité?: déviance religieuse dans l'Empire romain (traduction par Ludivine Beaurin). Collection Latomus, 352. Bruxelles: Éditions Latomus, 2015. 126 p. € 25.00 (pb). ISBN 9789042932661.

Schmitt, Arbogast. Wie aufgeklärt ist die Vernunft der Aufklärung?: eine Kritik aus aristotelischer Sicht. Studien zu Literatur und Erkenntnis, 7. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2016. 472 p. € 42.00. ISBN 9783825364618.

Schmitz, Winfried (ed.). Antike Sklaverei zwischen Verdammung und Beschönigung: Kolloquium zur Rezeption antiker Sklaverei vom 17. bis 20. Jahrhundert. Forschungen zur antiken Sklaverei, 40. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016. xii, 259 p., [7] p. of plates. € 46.00 (pb). ISBN 9783515110891.

Schwindt, Jürgen Paul. Thaumatographia oder Zur Kritik der philologischen Vernunft. Vorspiel: die Jagd des Aktaion (Ovid, Metamorphosen 3, 131-259). Bibliothek der klassischen Altertumswissenschaften, NF, 150. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2016. 174 p. € 44.00. ISBN 9783825365509.

Straumann, Benjamin. Crisis and constitutionalism: Roman political thought from the fall of the Republic to the age of revolution. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. xii, 414 p. $85.00. ISBN 9780199950928.

Strudwick, Helen and Julie Dawson. Death on the Nile: uncovering the afterlife of ancient Egypt. Cambridge; London: Fitzwilliam Museum in association with D Giles Limited, 2016. 256 p. $70.00. ISBN 9781907804717.

Sulosky Weaver, Carrie L. The bioarchaeology of classical Kamarina: life and death in Greek Sicily. Bioarchaeological interpretations of the human past: local, regional, and global perspectives. Gainesville: University Press Florida, 2015. xxv, 336 p. $84.95. ISBN 9780813061122.

Summerer, Lâtife and Hazar Kaba (edd.). The northern face of Cyprus: new studies in Cypriot archaeology and art history. İstanbul: Ege Yayinlari, 2016. 495 p. 349.00 TL. ISBN 9786059680066.

Tarrant, Richard. Texts, editors, and readers: methods and problems in Latin textual criticism. Roman literature and its contexts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. xii, 192 p. $28.99 (pb). ISBN 9780521158992.

Taufer, Matteo (ed.). Studi sulla commedia attica. Paradeigmata, 31. Freiburg i.Br.; Berlin; Wien: Rombach Verlag, 2015. 248 p. € 48.00 (pb). ISBN 9783793098409.

Trabattoni, Franco. Essays on Plato's epistemology. Ancient and medieval philosophy - Series 1, 53. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2016. 336 p. € 80.00. ISBN 9789462700598.

Tracy, Stephen V. Athenian lettering of the fifth century B.C.: the rise of the professional letter cutter. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. xvi, 239 p. $168.00. ISBN 9783110401424.

Webster, Gary S. The archaeology of Nuragic Sardinia. Monographs in Mediterranean archaeology, 14. Sheffield; Bristol, CT: Equinox Publishing, 2015. xvii, 253 p. $100.00. ISBN 9781781791356.

Winther-Jacobsen, Kristina and Lâtife Summerer (edd.). Landscape dynamics and settlement patterns in Northern Anatolia during the Roman and Byzantine period. Geographica historica, 32. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2015. 354 p. € 58.00 (pb). ISBN 9783515112147.

Xenis, Georgios A. (ed.). Literature, scholarship, philosophy, and history: classical studies in memory of Ioannis Taifacos. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2015. 503 p. € 76.00. ISBN 9783515110341.

Zucker, Arnaud, Jacqueline Fabre-Serris, Jean-Yves Tilliette and Gisèle Besson (edd.). Lire les mythes: formes, usages et visées des pratiques mythographiques de l'Antiquité à la Renaissance. Mythographes. Villeneuve d'Ascq: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 2016. 336 p. € 27.00 (pb). ISBN 9782757411544.

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Friday, April 29, 2016


Olivier Devillers (ed.), Autour de Pline le Jeune: en hommage à Nicole Méthy. Scripta antiqua, 74. Bordeaux: Ausonius Éditions, 2015. Pp. 321. ISBN 9782356131324. €25.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Ulrike Roth, University of Edinburgh (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

The study of Pliny the Younger has benefitted from a significant recent revival. This is particularly true for what has been termed Pliny's 'private' correspondence, which is now widely viewed as a literary art-work, but also as an 'imperial project' in which Pliny attempts to design and shape his role—and that of the senatorial élite at large—in the world the emperors made, in clear (and sometimes not so clear) dialogue with other writers. But the Plinian Spring has also caught onto his correspondence with that seemingly best of emperors, Trajan; and the results are not unlike those established for Pliny's 'private' letters: when once the Pliny-Trajan exchange was the treasure grove for the industrious ancient historian who sought to patch together from these epistolary snapshots the workings of the Roman provincial system, through what has been called '(crudely put) socio-historical data-mining campaigns',1 scholars now readily talk of the letters' 'social economy', even of an 'ideology of Empire', and of 'the poetics of empire' crafted by Pliny's pen.2

The present volume is a welcome addition to the growing literature on Pliny and his world. It is a Festschrift for Nicole Méthy, the author of Les lettres de Pline le Jeune. Une représentation de l'homme (Paris, 2007), and edited by O. Devillers, primarily known for his work on Tacitus.3 It presents 20 chapters, by colleagues and friends, and Méthy herself, a total of 17 scholars, in 4 different languages (12 French, 5 English, 2 Italian, 1 Spanish), grouped in three parts: 'The political and ideological context'; 'The cultural and literary context'; 'Plinian themes and texts'. The cover blurb states that 'the book focuses on Pliny the Younger', aiming primarily though to contribute 'to a better understanding of the 2nd century'. It is opportune to ask in this review how the volume responds (and contributes) to the modern monumentalisation of the man from Como (and to what has been called hyper-critically 'fashions' in Plinian-studies),4 and to current understanding of the 2nd century.

It comes as no surprise that the reader should enjoy some serious analyses of Pliny's intertextual adventures. I. Marchesi and M. Neger both take Pliny's relationship with Martial (and friends) to task, with some very good results, showing, inter alia, how Pliny invites to dinner, to put into its place the genre we call satire, or how Martial functions as a foil for Pliny's self-fashioning as a distinguished poet. C. Whitton's cliff-hanger takes the reader into one of those thick forests of purple prose on an audacious hunt for a richer understanding of Ep. 9.26, or at least of its opening lines' complex relationship with earlier texts, in both Greek and Latin, and the verbal metaphors not otherwise typical for Pliny: he avoids, like Pliny, the media via, by stretching the bounds of genre, here academic writing. S. Tzounakas discusses skilfully Pliny's own skilful self-identification with Demosthenes (to the detriment of Cicero). A similar theme is picked up by L. Deschamps in her chapter on Pliny's take on M. Terentius Varro, who emerges as an exemplum in his Plinian garb (and as Pliny's mirror image—and vice versa), precisely because of his 'faults', i.e. the love of different genres, light and serious: here is another nihil peccat ... not!

Not strictly intertextual, but still concerned with questions of responding to (and aiming to overcome) other (textual) representations, A. Billault argues that Pliny's (and Trajan's) sketch of Dio Chrysostom makes all but disappear the man's place amongst the league of orators, instead representing (Cocceianus) Dio as a subject of empire (perhaps because he was too close a competitor to Pliny's claim to be the new Demosthenes, as discussed by Tzounakas?). The idea of seeing individuals or communities as subjects of empire instead of recognising their persona (also) in other contexts challenges Méthy's argument (in a previously unpublished study) that next to the political voice in Trajan's replies, there is also a strong personal voice that treats individuals (including Dio Chrysostom) as human beings, and humanely, rather than as mere objects of power, based on 'le sentiment d'humanité' (elaborated in her 2007 book). Ethical considerations, and existentiential questions of being, are also central to the two chapters discussing the body, health, disease and pain, by G. Galimberti Biffino and S. Stucchi, concluding that disease and pain are yardsticks for individual dignity and greatness in Pliny. Would it be twisting Pliny's arm too much to go beyond what meets the eye and to flesh out the scholarly chin-wag on empire with (t)his epistolary body-map? I.e. to see the imperial body-politic through this literary skeleton of health and disease (as has been done with other writers), its pressure points, warts and loose limbs, its potions, remedies and cures?

The spectrum of interpretative possibilities of the emperor's actions is explored in the deft analysis of the vicesima hereditatum in Pliny's Panegyricus by E. Manoloraki, who shows with great clarity how Pliny not only used a seemingly dry administrative matter to shape the emperor's profile, but also his own as the 'architect of the imperial persona' (p. 258). The pax Traiana thus inaugurated could have been picked up in the discussion of familial and conjugal harmony in the survey of women's images in Pliny's letters by N. Boëls-Janssen, relegated to the cultural and literary part of the volume, and not concerned with its location in the Plinian imperial project, or with the role of Pliny's women, familial serenity and autonomia in his sketch of libertas. Differing (less charming) representations of women are explained through genre, e.g. Juvenal's satirical punch. Yes—but why and what for? Women's changing images (as those of some men) are also discussed by M.P. Gonzáles-Conde Puente with particular regard to those belonging to the gens Ulpia, in Pliny's Panegyricus and other (later) sources, to show how Trajan's rise to power required different representations of (for instance) Plotina and Marciana than Hadrian's reign. The theme of diverse depiction is developed further by S. Benoist, who argues for a fundamental unity even in contrasting representations of emperor and empire, such as in Pliny and Fronto, as proof of a shared responsibility towards construction of a political ideal: 'la preuve d'une construction collective d'un modèle politique idéal' (p. 47).

Back to Book 10, H. Zehnacker's survey of Pliny's (and Trajan's) use of Greek is introduced with an emphasis on the reciprocal influence of Latin and Greek. The chapter concludes that Pliny and Trajan (or his Chancellery) took different approaches to the use of Greek, and suggests that the emperor who was in charge of what was eight pages before referred to as 'un État officiellement bilingue', in which Greek dominated the eastern part, did not think Greek terms, loanwords, or Graecisms appropriate for use in communication with his provincial governor. This may well be so, and the Suetonian Tiberius serves as a role model for a bilingual emperor's avoidance of Greek in governmental contexts (Suet. Tib. 57.1): but why should it be emblematic of Roman rule in the 2nd century? And what does it say about Pliny to have fashioned a contrast between the good senator and the best of emperors in their choice of language? The role played by Greek (and Latin) amongst earlier emperors is discussed in the chapter by B. Rochette, mainly on the basis of the evidence provided by Suetonius: the conclusion that the attitude of the Julio-Claudians towards Greek is a reflection of an inherent ambivalence towards the Greek language at Rome, which one can never really master ('langue du même et de l'autre à la fois', p. 168), subscribes to the 'half-empty glass' approach, that perhaps not all living and working in two languages would inherently embrace without socio-linguistic proof. The last of the Julio-Claudian emperors, Nero, allows Devillers to explore some of the ways in which Pliny showcased Trajan as the better (and good) emperor, and to compare Nero's reign with that of Domitian—all neatly framed by Pliny's efforts to build a statue for his uncle. The volume is brought to a close with the chapter by G. Flamerie de Lachapelle, who discusses an entirely different reading of Pliny, by the 19th century French writer—one might say minor—Jules Janin, who, for us amusingly, rejected wholeheartedly the tempting notion, entertained by 'le républicain de 1789' Vittorio Alfieri (aka M. le comte Alfiéri d'Asti), of a Plinian attempt at persuading Trajan to abdicate in order to re-establish republican government.

Numerous issues explored in the volume would have benefitted from exchange between the contributors: the motivations for and effects of Pliny's use of silences, for instance (e.g. Billault and Marchesi); or the nature and purpose of Pliny's intertextual engagement with his contemporaries, Martial and others (e.g. Marchesi, Neger, Whitton); or his self-fashioning through alignment or contrast with one or other Greek or Roman (e.g. Deschamps, Tzounakas, Whitton); or his approach to and use of Greek (e.g. Tzounakas, Whitton, Zehnacker), as well as the issue of bilingualism (e.g. Rochette, Zehnacker); or, very generally, the representation of emperor and empire, and Pliny's (rhetorical) function in empire-building (e.g. Billault, Boëls-Janssen, Devillers, Manoloraki, Méthy, Rochette, Zehnacker). Naturally, such overlaps cannot always be explored without loss of focus or theme; but the complete isolation of the different chapters from one another makes for a somewhat odd read if the volume is enjoyed as a whole. There remains also the standard differentiation between the so-called 'private' letters and the ('public'?) correspondence with Trajan: given the recent revision of understanding of Book 10, there is surely scope to undo that separation with some good results? And what about intertextuality? A heavily employed concept in many contributions, and for a very good reason. But whether or not one should privilege oral delivery over textual consumption of Pliny's epistolary activity, as T.P. Wiseman has challenged us to do with regard to earlier Latin literature,5 if the Plinian exchange with (for instance) Martial is understood as a serious, and perhaps not entirely conjugal dialogue, then that exchange is not just taking place at the textual level, but has very serious roots and ramifications at the personal, social and political level. The question that arises is what we should call the exchange we refer to as 'Intertextuality' when not reduced to its present apogee, i.e. the surviving text?

There are other questions that press forward. What does it mean, for instance, for our understanding of the élite's role in the early second century that Pliny plays Demosthenes, or that he engages in a not entirely appreciative dialogue with Martial? How can (t)his ever better understood literary activity be used to advance our understanding not just of the texts that we study, or of the particular type of discourse, but of the society that has produced these? Put differently, how can one use Pliny's correspondence as a guide to what must have been an extraordinarily diverse ecology of political ideas, including disagreement on such fundamental concepts (and realities) as slavery and freedom, status and class, rights and duties? In his study of the allusive escapades of a quite different author in a quite different period, G. Kelly contends that '(b)y failing to read intertextually, political historians risk missing the politics'.6 It is a shame in this context that the papers put together to address the political and ideological situation in Part 1 do not engage as much as one would hope with those aspects and issues that are at the forefront of the papers more closely concerned with literary analysis of one kind or another. The tripartite grouping of the contributions is more generally not entirely satisfactory: many of the contributions in Part 2 could easily be fitted into Part 3, and vice versa. Why group them at all? And as with most volumes of this type, the quality of the contributions varies, as does their engagement with relevant scholarship, weakening the potential impact of the ideas presented on the debate, through a preference for unproblematised description and narration. Many of the chapters would have gained from being more tightly drafted. I personally see no need for an English abstract for a volume of this kind; but if one is offered, it should be in English. Leaving these quibbles aside, there is much here that will excite and enthuse, and not just those interested in Pliny's writings. Notwithstanding the original contribution on offer in many of the chapters, the volume leaves plenty of scope for future contextualisation of Pliny's 'architectural' endeavours towards the biggest-ever Roman building programme—and to get a better sense of the different roles played by planners, engineers, masons, sculptors, and brick-layers on the one hand, and squatters, saboteurs, industrial thieves and arsonists on the other, precisely to gain 'a better understanding of the second century', beyond the harmonising gaze on the best of worlds constructed by Trajan (or was it Pliny?). On y va.

Table des matières

Autour de Pline le Jeune. En hommage à Nicole Méthy
Avant-propos : p. 9
1. Le contexte politique et idéologique
Nicole Méthy : "L'Optimus Princeps : idéal et réalité. Les lettres de Trajan à Pline le Jeune" [inédit] : p. 13
Nicole Méthy : "Vainqueur et vaincu dans la pensée des empereurs romains de l'époque antonine" [1990] : p. 25
Stéphane Benoist : "Pline le Jeune et Fronton, deux protagonistes d'un discours impérial en actes" : p. 37
Pilar Gonzalez Conde : "El papel de la gens Ulpia durante el gobierno de Trajano: el Panegírico de Plinio y otras fuentes documentales" : p. 49
Olivier Devillers : "Néron selon Pline le Jeune : entre Pline l'Ancien, Tacite et Trajan" : p. 61

2. Le contexte culturel et littéraire
Nicole Méthy : "Le patriotisme des auteurs africains de langue latine au iie siècle p.C." [1982] : p. 75
Nicole Méthy : "Magie, religion et botanique. À propos de la formule herbae felicitas dans un passage de Pline l'Ancien" [1999] : p. 89
Nicole Boëls-Janssen : "L'image de la femme dans les Lettres de Pline le Jeune à la lumière de son environnement littéraire" : p. 103
Ilaria Marchesi : "The Unbalanced Dinner between Martial and Pliny: One Topos in Two Genres" : p. 117
Margot Neger : "Pliny's Martial and Martial's Pliny: the Intertextual Dialogue between the Letters and the Epigrams" : p. 131
Hubert Zehnacker : "Les mots grecs dans la Correspondance de Pline le Jeune avec l'empereur Trajan" : p. 145
Bruno Rochette : "Suétone et le bilinguisme des Julio-Claudiens" : p. 155

3. Thèmes et textes pliniens
Giovanna Galimberti Biffino : "'Scrivere' il corpo o della salute e della malattia nell'epistolario di Plinio il Giovane" : p. 169
Silvia Stucchi : "Lutto, dolore e dignitas in Plinio il Giovane" : p. 183
Lucienne Deschamps : "M. Terentius Varro vu par Pline le Jeune" : p. 197
Spirydon Tzounakas : "Pliny as the Roman Demosthenes" : p. 207
Christopher Whitton : "Pliny on the Precipice (Ep., 9.26)" : p. 219
Alain Billault : "L'image de Dion Chrysostome dans la correspondance de Pline le Jeune (Ep., 10.81-82)" : p. 239
Eleni Manoloraki : "Death and Taxes: The Vicesima Hereditatum in Pliny's Panegyricus" : p. 245
Guillaume Flamerie de Lachappelle : "Jules Janin et Pline le Jeune" : p. 259

Travaux et Publications de Nicole Méthy : p. 271
Bibliographie : p. 283
Index des passages : p. 311
Index des noms : p. 317


1.   I. Marchesi (ed.), Pliny the Book-Maker. Betting on Posterity in the Epistles (Oxford, 2015), 4.
2.   P. Stadter, 'Pliny and the ideology of Empire: the correspondence with Trajan', Prometheus 32 (2006), 61-76; C. Noreña, 'The social economy of Pliny's correspondence with Trajan', American Journal of Philology 128 (2007), 239-77; G. Woolf, 'Pliny/Trajan and the poetics of empire', Classical Philology 110.2 (2015), 132-51.
3.   e.g. O. Devillers, L'art de la persuasion dans les Annales de Tacite (Brussels, 1994); Tacite et les sources des Annales. Enquêtes sur la méthode historique (Louvain, Paris, Dudley/MA, 2003).
4.   'Moderichtungen': E. Lefèvre, Vom Römertum zum Ästhetizismus. Studien zu den Briefen des jüngeren Plinius (Berlin and New York, 2009), 14-8.
5.   T.P. Wiseman, The Roman Audience. Classsical Literature as Social History (Oxford, 2015).
6.   G. Kelly, Ammianus Marcellinus. The Allusive Historian (Cambridge, 2008), 30.

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Luke Lavan (ed.), Local Economies?: Production and Exchange of Inland Regions in Late Antiquity. Late antique archaeology, 10. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2015. Pp. xiv, 637. ISBN 9789004277038. $97.00.

Reviewed by Damián Fernández, Northern Illinois University (

Version at BMCR home site

The essays collected by Luke Lavan aim at assessing the significance of local exchanges in late antiquity, especially with regard to inland regions. Most studies on the late antique economy place considerable emphasis on the highly visible aspects of pan-Mediterranean trade (predominantly, though not exclusively, finewares and amphorae of African and Eastern Mediterranean origin). This volume's major contribution is to bring to the fore the non-coastal regions of the Mediterranean and North Atlantic world during late antiquity. While the chapters do not take a unanimous stand on the long-debated question of the relative prominence of taxes/government requisitions vs. market exchanges as drivers of the Roman economy, most of them endeavor to confront this historiographical issue. Indeed, one of the strengths of the volume is its presentation of a wide range of nuanced takes on this particular question.

The book is divided into four sections. The first section includes five bibliographical essays, including two essays by Alyssa Bandow (one on theoretical and methodological approaches to the late antique economy, the other on transport and distribution infrastructure), two by Andrea Zerbini (settlement patters and rural and artisanal production), and a final essay on ceramics and trade by Stefano Costa. For reasons of space I will not review them here, but they provide useful guidance for those interested in these issues.

The second section, titled "Theoretical Papers," consists of two chapters by Mark Whittow and Peter Sarris. In his contribution, Whittow addresses the question of marked change in the evidence for economic exchange between 400 and 700 (which he labels a "decline"). Based on comparative evidence from medieval England, he argues that the late antique economy was predominantly (though not exclusively) market-driven because of the cumulative effect of small, almost imperceptible transactions by peasants who had to pay rents and taxes. This model remained possible as long as the state secured the predictability of market exchanges, which, Whittow argues, it no longer did after the so-called fall of the western empire and the Islamic conquests. Sarris, on the other hand, sees the late antique economy as an aggregate of regional markets, many of which preceded the Roman Empire. The late Roman state would intervene in these markets for specific fiscal and political purposes. At the same time, the state fostered markets through the transportation of products to the capitals and the demand for tax payments in cash. But Sarris claims that the state alone cannot explain the late antique exchange system per se. As in his previous scholarship, he brings to the fore the role of local landed elites in stimulating exchanges, with their production oriented towards markets. Sarris believes that post-Roman elites in the West gave up certain economic privileges and the trade network stimulated by the late imperial tax system in exchange for local autonomy and enforcement of property rights. Overall, these two essays draw attention to the regulatory aspects of state intervention, without completely rejecting the role of state-sponsored tax collection in stimulating commercial exchanges.

The theory section is followed by six chapters dealing with production in inland regions. In the first chapter, Kim Bowes invites us to reconsider the significance of late antique rural villas in inland Hispania. Contrary to theories that relate these villas to property concentration and/or direct tax collection and transportation, Bowes argues that rural mansions were built to advance the interests of a landowning class in the context of a more intense bureaucratic (i.e. state) presence. The wealth-generating opportunities of the tax system allowed local elites to compete among themselves by investing in projects in the countryside, where the state's gaze was more intense due to the thinner urban network in Hispania. In the second chapter, Tamara Lewit analyzes the location of inland Gallic fineware workshops and the circulation of their products, which were widely distributed within Gaul though they scarcely made it out of the region in late antiquity. Lewit argues that fineware distribution had its own characteristics and that it was separate from the transportation of other local bulk products. Trade in fineware ceramics, Lewit suggests, was profitable enough to have its own dynamic, independent of tax-based circulation—at least at the local and regional levels. The third essay of this group, by Emanuele Vaccaro, also questions the primacy of the fiscal model as an explanation for the distribution of goods throughout the Mediterranean. In particular, he asserts that Sicily supplied Rome after 332 not only with taxes in kind but, more importantly, through the sale of agricultural surplus. This explains what Vaccaro sees as the late antique agricultural boom in inland Sicily. Through the study of the agro-town of Philosophiana, he traces the intense commercial contacts between inland Sicily and the Mediterranean (largely through African finewares and amphorae) into the second half of the fifth century, if not later. Vaccaro suggests that this marked continuity shows the relative independence of the inland Sicilian rural economy from the annona system. Elizabeth Fentress then looks at the highlands of Numidia in the region of Diana Veteranorum (Zana, Algeria). Through survey analysis, she argues that there was economic prosperity in the region during late antiquity, which may be puzzling since the earlier military garrison at Lambaesis no longer existed and there is little evidence of large-scale agricultural commodity production. Fentress argues that textile production, which was oriented towards local markets in smaller border garrisons and provincial capitals, must explain the apparent wealth of the region. She also suggests that the horse- and slave-trade provided the exchange network that facilitated textile distribution.

Two eastern Mediterranean case studies close this section of the book. Adam Izdebski takes the reader to the Anatolian countryside, where he also traces signs of prosperity in inland areas and coastal zones. Vine, olive, and walnut pollen is found in both regions, which leads him to stress the fundamental similarities between coastal and inland Anatolia. Their general prosperity, deduced predominantly from field surveys, allows him to argue that Constantinople, which was predominantly supplied from coastal areas, was not the only market for Anatolian agricultural products. Rather, he contends, we need to look at villages and small towns as places to which inland production was oriented, at least until the late fifth century. In the last chapter of this section, Fanny Bessard directs our attention to late antique cities east of the Jordan Valley. The main argument of her contribution is that this region had an active local exchange network during the Byzantine period, to which pottery attests. It was also in contact with Egypt and Arabia, in what Bessard calls "short-range trade." Under the Caliphate, however, short-range trade intensified and the region also fostered contacts with Iraq, supported by pilgrim routes and the caliphs' infrastructural investments in the road system. Bessard argues that this internationalization of exchanges may have favored the concentration of workshops in certain cities, in a virtuous circle of mutual reinforcement. The fourth and final section of the book, titled "Exchange in Inland Regions," offers five papers covering a wide range of the empire's geography. Jeremy Evans looks at the pottery evidence from late Roman Britain to demonstrate the increasing regional dimensions of the island's exchange network after the third century. While he does not deny the potential role of the army, he suggests that the military was supplied by local, rather than trans-regional (especially Mediterranean), sources. Evans suspects that both cash transactions and direct military appropriations in the form of taxes fomented the exchanges between southern Britain and the northern garrisons, but he seems to favor taxes as the principal engine behind circulation of goods. Phil Mills also analyzes British evidence, this time ceramic building materials. Mills describes the changing nature of regional demand from military and urban civilian constructions (early empire) to villa construction in southeastern Britain (late empire).

These two chapters on Britain are followed by three contributions dealing with Central Europe, Africa, and Syria. Piroska Hárshegyi and Katalin Ottományi analyze imported and locally produced pottery in Pannonia. While African wares reached Pannonia in late antiquity, the authors describe local traditions of finewares that supplied most of the sites—some traditions imitating Roman wares, others following traditions from outside the empire's borders. The presence of Mediterranean products is attributed to the annona and commercial exchanges. But these products overlapped in some sites, with local productions imitating Roman finewares. The question of ethnicity in relation to burnished wares appears at several points in their chapter. The authors suggest that this ceramic tradition was introduced by barbarians through trade and migrations/invasions. Michael Bonifay's chapter moves the focus to late Roman Africa, in which he compares the consumption of ceramics in inland and coastal regions. Whereas the coasts were in contact with the main pan-Mediterranean exchange networks (ARS wares, African, Spanish, Eastern Mediterranean, and Sicilian amphorae), the inland areas had scarce signs of amphorae and a limited variety of African finewares. Nevertheless, Bonifay is able to trace micro-regional variations in inland sites, from which he concludes that a closer look at the evidence reveals a less stark contrast between coast and interior in terms of distribution patterns. The final chapter of this section, by Agnès Vokaer, also focuses on local and imported ceramics, in her case from Syria. This region also participated in the pan-Mediterranean world of late antiquity, as the presence of African and Eastern Mediterranean wares indicates. More importantly, Syria was supplied by local producers of so-called "Brittle" cooking wares and other forms as well as Syrian amphorae, probably used for transporting wine. Vokaer seems to favor the idea that the success of these wares and amphorae was due to the trade routes associated with military garrisons.

It is clear from this brief (and irremediably incomplete) summary that the debates over the relative importance of taxes versus commercial exchange as drivers of the late antique economy, recently re-sparked by Chris Wickham's book, lie behind several of the contributions.1 In the case of inland economies, approaching this question is particularly challenging. While it is relatively simple to stress the fiscal connection between, say, Africa and Rome, it is almost impossible to trace "micro-tax worlds"—that is, circulation based on local networks of tax collection (at the estate, village, and city levels). What some of the papers seem to illustrate is the regionalization of exchanges during late antiquity (Gaul, Britain, Pannonia, Jordan). Does this mean that we are dealing with less commerce or with intensified local commerce? What is the role of the new tax system in this "regional turn"? These and other questions are crucial to understanding these "local economies" but are rather difficult to answer with the extant archaeological evidence.

Moreover, as some of the contributions stress, the interior and the coast could have been more connected economically than finewares and amphorae reveal. This leads us to the other looming question throughout the book: regional connectivity. This is crucial to defining an "inland region," since the connectedness of a region depends not only on its distance from the coast but also on the connectivity infrastructure. Has the recognizability of African and eastern Mediterranean products in the archaeological record exaggerated the apparent density of commercial exchange in coastal areas? The chapters on Anatolian, Sicilian, and African production and exchanges may suggest so. Perhaps a more direct engagement with Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell's work (and the responses of their critics) throughout the volume would have allowed for more explicit engagement with the complexities of overlapping regional and interregional systems of production and exchange.2

This reader's overall impression of this book is marked by the diversity of the inland world of late antiquity and the balance between trans-regional systems and local networks in each of the regions discussed in the contributions. The volume addresses one of the fundamental historiographical questions of the period (state-sponsored vs. market-driven exchanges) from a less studied angle (inland regions). The answers may not be uniform, and are in some cases very provisional due to the nature of the evidence. But the contributions confirm that we must take inland regions as more than a mere appendix to the ongoing discussion about what made the late antique Mediterranean economy tick.


1.   Chris Wickham. Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean 400-800. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
2.   Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell. The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History. Oxford; Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2000.

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