Sunday, February 17, 2019


Katrien Levrie, Jean Pédiasimos: Essai sur les douze travaux d'Héracles. Édition critique, traduction et introduction. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 270. Bibliothèque de Byzantion, 16. Leuven: Peeters, 2018. Pp. 149. ISBN 9789042935570. €86,00.

Reviewed by Paula Caballero Sánchez, University of Málaga (

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Table of Contents

This book by Katrien Levrie presents a new critical edition, translation and complete introduction of the mythological libellus De Herculis laboribus, written by the Palaeologan scholar John Pediasimus (ca. 1250-1310/1314). The Libellus is a paraphrase of the second book of the Bibliotheca by Pseudo-Apollodorus (II, 72-126), probably penned during Pediasimus' period as Imperial Professor, i.e., as ὕπατος τῶν φιλοσόφων ('consul of the philosophers') in Constantinople. The opuscule, which was previously edited by Leo Allatius (1641),1 Anton Westermann (1843),2 and Richard Wagner (1894),3 is an important testimony that allows us to delve deeper into how Greek mythography was received in Byzantium, more specifically in the Palaeologan Period, and Pediasimus' exegetical contribution.

This new edition adds to the interest shown in recent years in Pediasimus' work, for example, Inmaculada Pérez Martín's identification of his hand 4 or this reviewer's critical edition and translation of Pediasimus' commentary on Cleomedes' Caelestia. 5 In this new edition of the Libellus, the reader will find a complete introduction to the life and work of Pediasimus and an exhaustive study of the Libellus from a philological and mythographic approach. The most important contribution, though, is the critical edition, which for the first time takes into account the more than thirty manuscripts preserving the work, and the first translation of the work into a modern language, French.

The book is composed of seven chapters. Chapter 1 ("Introduction à Jean Pediasimus") presents the biography of Pediasimus, his works, and intellectual value to the reader. It is divided into three sections: A. Biographie; B. Œuvres; C. Valeur de Jean Pédiasimos. Chapter 2 ("Introduction au Libellus de duodecim Herculis laboribus") is divided into four sections: A. La genre de la mythographie; B. Relation du Libellus avec la Bibliotheca de Pseudo-Apollodore; C. Comparaison du Libellus avec le poème iambique; D. La genre du Libellus de duodecim Herculis laboribus et son usage.

Section A. reflects on the mythographic genre and its role in Byzantium, where it seems to have disappeared due to the tendency of the Byzantines to imitate and conserve the ancient texts. However, texts such as the Libellus by Pediasimus could reveal a real interest in the genre. In Section B. the author conducts an interesting and exhaustive analysis of the Libellus; Pediasimus' reworking of the mythographic material by Pseudo-Apollodorus (employing literal quotations, paraphrases, the omission of words, phrases or passages, textual elaborations, etc.) illustrates well his method of working in the text.

Section C. is devoted to the study of an iambic poem about the twelve labours of Hercules, solely preserved in the Uppsaliensis graecus 15 (ff. 128v-132v, fourteenth century). In this section, the author offers a complete study of the different datings proposed for the poem, the debate over its authorship, its sources, and its function in relation to the Libellus. Levrie supports the theory of Aubrey Diller, 6 who attributed the poem to Pediasimus. In this way, according to the author, the poem would just be a narrative exercise or poetic composition in accordance with Pediasimus' role as Imperial Professor in Constantinople. Section D. introduces us to the context of the Libellus as a genre. The author here reflects on the nature of the Libellus as a grammatical exercise (schedography), as a mythographic treatise and as literary paraphrase meant to facilitate the comprehension of the text.

Chapter 3, "Traditio textus du Libellus de duodecim Herculis laboribus", is devoted to the textual transmission of the work. It is composed of two sections: A. La tradition directe: descriptio codicum; B. Éditions antérieures et traductions. Section A. opens with a list of the 39 manuscripts that transmit the work (fourteenth to eighteenth centuries). This is followed by a study dedicated to the testimonies, which is centred on their history and content more than on codicological or palaeographical aspects (as, indeed, Levrie notes: 32, n. 103). In this section we have detected an erratum: on p. 32, the date of the Laurentianus Plut. 60,19 is given as fourteenth century, perhaps due to the influence of the erroneous dating of Bandini's catalogue,7 while p. 43 presents the correct date, provided by the project Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca et Byzantina), i.e., the second half of the fifteenth century (n. 156 on p. 43 gives the erroneous dating of Bandini). Finally, section B. offers an interesting analysis of the three prior editions (v. supra), through a comparative table showing their divergent readings.

Chapter 4 is devoted to the "Recensio codicum". It is divided into: A. Témoins non classables; B. Témoins aves des caractéristiques saillantes; C. Familles; D. Stemma codicum. Section A. includes the seven non-classifiable testimonies, as they contain the fragmentary text, as well as two testimonies to which Levrie has not had access: Mosq (Mosquensis Synodalis graecus 311) and the now lost Wroc (Wroclaviensis Biblioteka Uniwersytecka, Rehdiger 30). Section B. presents the testimonies with relevant characteristics: manuscripts in which the Libellus is accompanied by scholia (12 testimonies) or in which the text contains headings that were probably added by a scribe (7 testimonies). Section C. presents the manuscript filiation of the Libellus, which consists of three families that are derived from a lost common archetype: α, β, γ. Lastly, D. offers the stemma codicum, which does not include the fragmentary, non-classifiable testimonies.

Chapter 5 consists of the "Ratio edendi" prior to the critical edition: A. Principes d'édition du texte grec; B. Présentation du texte C. Orthographe, accentuation et ponctuation; D. Remarques concernant la traduction française. Chapter 6 provides the list of the exhaustive and updated biography employed in the volume. Finally, chapter 7, "Édition critique et traduction française", begins with the conspectus siglorum of the 33 manuscripts employed for the edition, which also takes into account the three preceding editions (v. supra) and the text of the Bibliotheca by Pseudo-Apollodorus.

As far as the Greek text of the edition is concerned, it is divided into 12 chapters just as in the manuscripts. The author has opted to respect this structure, as it facilitates its reading and comprehension. There is no doubt that the edited text is philologically correct, though from a typographic point of view it is noteworthy that the publisher has chosen to present the Greek text in bold. Below the text there are two critical apparatus. The first, which is shorter, presents the manuscripts that transmit the work in question. The second, a rich critical apparatus, mentions only those testimonies that do not present the lectio adopted in the text.. An apparatus of sources is not included, although section C. (pages 25-28) already deals with the sources of the poem in detail. The French translation is presented facing the Greek text. It is without literary pretensions (as, indeed, Levrie notes in chapter 5D., p. 108), but is faithful to the Greek text and in correct French idiom.

This edition is an important contribution for classical philology, presenting the first critical edition that collates all the testimonies that transmit the opuscule De Herculis laboribus by Pediasimus and offers the contemporary reader a translation into a modern language. Indeed, Levrie has conducted a philologically rigorous work, well structured and of great quality, which allows us to delve deeper into the reception of a mythographic text such as the Bibliotheca by Pseudo-Apollodorus in Byzantium. Furthermore, an exhaustive philological analysis of the text also allows us a better understanding of Pediasimus' interest in mythography and his exegetical method.


1.   Allatius L. (ed.), "Pediasimis de utroque genere foeminarum", BollClass, III.6 (1985): 96-9.
2.   Westermann A. (ed.), Μυθογράφοι. Scriptores poeticae historiae graeci, Brunsvigae 1843.
3.   Wagner R. (ed.), Apollodori Bibliotheca. Pediasimi Libellus de duodecim Herculis laboribus (Mythographi Graeci 1), Leipzig 1894.
4.   Pérez Martín I., "L'écriture de l'hypatos Jean Pothos Pédiasimos d'après ses scholies aux Elementa d'Euclide", Scriptorium 64 (2010): 109-19.
5.   Caballero Sánchez P., El Comentario de Juan Pediásimo a los Cuerpos celestes de Cleomedes: estudio, edición crítica y traducción (Nueva Roma 48), Madrid 2018.
6.   Diller A., "The Text History of the Bibliotheca of Pseudo-Apollodorus", in Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 66 (1935), pp. 305-6.
7.   Bandini A. M., Catalogus codicum manuscriptorum Bibliothecae Mediceae Laurentianae varia continens opera graecorum Patrum, vol. II, Firenze 1768, col. 610.

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Claudia Deglau, Der Althistoriker Franz Hampl zwischen Nationalsozialismus und Demokratie. Kontinuität und Wandel im Fach Alte Geschichte. Philippika 115. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2017. Pp. xv, 696. ISBN 9783447109055. €115.00. ISBN 9783447196994. ebook.

Reviewed by Gary Beckman, University of Michigan (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

In this latest publication from the "Marburg school" established by the late Karl Christ to study the modern historiography of the Classical world, Claudia Deglau considers the life and career of Franz Hampl (1910–2000), professor of Alte Geschichte at several German and Austrian universities.1 Her approach is what she calls the "biographical triad," investigating her subject's social and professional environment, in addition to his life experiences and his scholarly works (p. 9).

Accordingly, much attention is paid here to the circumstances under which Hampl pursued his researches—first on the nature of the Macedonian monarchy, on the place of the perioikoi in Spartan society, and on fourth-century Greek diplomacy, and then in his mature years on the towering figures of Augustus and Alexander the Great.2 These attendant circumstances were, of course, the rise to power of the National Socialists in Germany, the annexation of Hampl's Austrian homeland, the Second World War, and post-war reconstruction in the Bundesrepublik Deutschland and the Second Austrian Republic. Interesting times!

Deglau examines in great detail the academic politics—which in this instance were intimately tied up with national and later with international politics—surrounding her subject's career, from his student days under his Doktorvater, the enthusiastic Nazi Helmut Berve (p. 325), through the various competitions for university posts in ancient history under the Third Reich and in its successor states following defeat in 1945, to encounters with leftist scholars and students in Innsbruck during the 1960s (pp. 542–53). She draws upon—and quotes at great length from—several extraordinary sources: from a tape-recorded interview that Hampl gave to his former student Stefan Dietrich in 19863 and from the surprisingly extensive preserved records of the position searches for jobs in Greek and Roman history during the late 1930s to the mid-1950s. These latter materials include the candid letters that senior authorities in the field wrote assessing the available candidates, providing a view not only of their maneuvers on behalf of their own students and protégés, but a snapshot of informed opinion concerning the future of ancient studies in German-speaking Europe during the Nazizeit and in its immediate aftermath.

It is interesting to observe that in these evaluations, Germany's leading lights in the history of the Classical world, many of them enthusiastic supporters of the national revolution4, took little notice of the degree to which younger colleagues adhered to National Socialist research agendas, as set forth in the advisory opinions submitted by Party authorities (p. 225). Rather, in addition to engaging in the usual academic politics, these senior scholars applied the profession's traditional standards—carefulness, imagination, and productivity. Indeed, Hampl's patron Helmut Berve loyally supported all his own students, no matter how lukewarm their embrace of Nazi doctrine (p. 127).

That is not to suggest, however, that an academic could maintain his distance from the Party and its various subsidiary organizations and still pursue a successful career in 1930s Germany. Franz Hampl, who was not taken seriously as an NS Althistoriker by his contemporaries (p. 206), nevertheless became a member of several Nazi auxiliary organizations (p. 76) and in February 1939 applied to join the Nazi Party, most likely in order to secure his position as a Dozent (assistant professor) (p. 79). Fortunately for his post-war prospects, because of a technicality—he was never presented with his membership card before he was called up for military service and thereby remained an Anwärter (candidate) (p. 80)—Hampl was later able to claim somewhat truthfully that he had never been a Party member (pp. 233, 431).

But how great was the impact of Nazi ideology on Hampl's early scholarship? On the one hand, in his youthful writings he stresses the importance of the individual leader, for instance expressing admiration for Philip II of Macedon's Wille zur Macht (p. 110), but on the other he rejects his teacher's clearly fascistic interpretation of Spartan society (p. 151) and seems never to have exhibited the crude racism propagated by Berve and Fritz Schachermeyr. Deglau concludes that while Hampl's work was influenced by the Zeitgeist, it was not particularly National Socialist in character (p. 180). In any event, Hampl was able to devote little time to his research from 1939 through 1945, being heavily engaged in military duties (see p. 177).5

Soon after the German surrender, Hampl was appointed to a position at the Universität Gießen, but by 1947 had departed for the Universität Innsbruck, where he would serve until his retirement in 1981. Repaying his debt to Berve, he supported his teacher through his Entnazifizierung process, downplaying the latter's fervent support of the Nazi regime (pp. 406–16). Declau observes that such loyalty to one's superiors was an aspect of the "Ordinarius University," still operative in Germany and Austria in the postwar years (p. 416). The intensity of this system's patron-client relationships ensured that no genuine reckoning with the crimes of the Third Reich would take place in German academia until the late 1960s (p. 368).

As for Hampl's post-war research, one immediately notes a continuity with his previous work in the emphasis he places on the role of great men—now Augustus and Alexander—in history (p. 452). Indeed, this interest seems to have only been intensified by the scholar's personal experiences under the Nazi dictatorship, for who can miss the allusion to Hitler in the dämonische Kraft Hampl attributes to Alexander (p. 518; cf. p. 494)? An echo of the previous era is also to be found in Hampl's emphasis on the importance of Blut as a determinant in inter-group affairs (pp. 516, 534), by which, however, he seems to mean ethnicity rather than the mystical/biological factor so dear to the National Socialists (p. 531). Still, one cringes when reading in a late essay the claim that his identification of the mingling of cultures as the cause of civilizational decay is "natürlich im Prinzip etwas ganz anders" than blaming the decline on the mixing of races (p. 533).

Late in his career Hampl anticipated somewhat the current vogue for World History—calling his own personal variety Universalgeschichte, engaging particularly with the writings of Arnold Toynbee (pp. 520–41). In this endeavor he was seeking to establish a Western counter-narrative to the Marxist historiography of the Soviet bloc (p. 526), but his efforts in this project achieved scant lasting influence because of his continued embrace of the obsolete principles previously mentioned. In sum, Deglau judges Hampl to have been "ein eher konservativer Modernisierer" (p. 562) as well as a "Kulturhistoriker par excellence" (p. 3).

This volume closes with a bibliography, a useful index of personal names, and several plates of photographs of Franz Hampl at various ages. With its extensive quotation of documents and short but informative biographical sketches of almost anyone who was anyone in the field from 1920 to 1950, it will be a continuing resource for all students of German Classical historiography.


1.   She defended it as her doctoral dissertation at the Philipps-Universität Marburg in May 2016.
2.   His scholarly publications are listed on pp. 582–85, and the record of the courses he offered throughout his career on pp. 675–96.
3.   Transcribed in full on pp. 619–74.
4.   In addition to Berve, these included Wilhelm Weber, Hans Oppermann, Joseph Vogt, and Fritz Schachermeyr, who all introduced elements of Nazi ideology (racism, struggle, etc.) into their own work (p. 89).
5.   His time on the Ostfront may have included some questionable anti-partisan activity (pp. 162–67), but he felt that he had always just followed orders (p. 558).

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Thursday, February 14, 2019


Arnaud Dubois, Jean-Baptiste Eczet, Adeline Grand-Clément, Charlotte Ribeyrol (ed.), Arcs-en-ciel et couleurs: regards comparatifs. Bibliothèque de l'anthropologie. Paris: CNRS Éditions, 2018. Pp. 301; 24 p. of plates. ISBN 9782271119421. €25,00 (pb).

Reviewed by Frédéric Le Blay, Université de Nantes, Centre François Viète EA 1161, F-44000 (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

Cet ouvrage collectif s'intéresse à la perception du phénomène naturel qu'est l'arc-en-ciel ainsi qu'à sa représentation dans les arts. Conformément à l'approche anthropologique, l'enjeu de cette réunion d'études consiste à mettre en évidence la diversité des expériences et des perceptions humaines envisagées selon les époques ou les lieux.

Si l'on considère la tradition occidentale, deux théories fondent successivement la conception du phénomène, celle exposée tout d'abord par Aristote dans ses Météorologiques, supplantée ensuite par les travaux d'optique de Newton. Parce que nous sommes désormais fortement tributaires des théories du second, il nous apparaît comme une donnée d'évidence que le prisme lumineux à l'origine de l'arc-en-ciel peut se résumer comme un composé de sept couleurs (rouge, orange, jaune, vert, bleu, violet, indigo). Mais un simple retour en arrière nous enseigne que ce météore est considéré par le philosophe grec comme l'effet de la densité inégale des nuages que doivent traverser les rayons du soleil et que les variations lumineuses qu'il percevait lorsqu'il observait le même phénomène que Newton étaient conçues davantage comme une opposition entre clarté et obscurité, sur un mode binaire donc, et non comme une palette chromatique. Nous apprenons toutefois dans ce volume que Goethe, dans son Traité des couleurs de 1810 fut un adversaire des théories newtoniennes en défendant l'idée ancienne selon laquelle la couleur était une forme assombrie de la lumière.

Il n'empêche cependant que le motif de la diversité des teintes, la ποικιλία des grecs (traduite par uarietas dans la littérature latine), est souvent traité par la référence à l'arc-en-ciel, comme le rappelle notamment la contribution d'Adeline Grand-Clément (« L'arc-en-ciel pourpre d'Homère. Poikilia et enchantement des couleurs », p. 191-215). Mais ce que viennent confirmer les premières contributions de ce volume est que l'on ne peut traiter un sujet tel que celui de la perception d'un phénomène lumineux et chromatique sans faire l'économie d'un retour sur les définitions et perceptions de la lumière et des couleurs qui, loin d'être un universel humain, relèvent d'usages et de représentations culturelles. Ainsi, à propos du prisme lumineux, Jean-Baptiste Eczet (« L'arc-en-ciel mursi (Éthiopie). Réservoir des couleurs et des personnes », p. 75-88) prend opportunément soin de rappeler en guise de préambule que « la stabilisation d'une description de l'arc-en-ciel à sept couleurs fut largement déterminée par Newton qui, rompu à l'angélologie et à la musique, opta pour ce chiffre sacré » (p. 76).

L'introduction pose en termes clairs qu'il n'est plus possible de se fonder sur une perspective évolutionniste qui voudrait que les Anciens ou les Primitifs, voire l'ensemble des peuples non occidentaux, aient une perception imparfaite ou incomplète des couleurs, du fait de facultés sensorielles insuffisamment développées. « L'anthropologie physique aussi bien que la philologie ou les sciences expérimentales cherchaient en effet alors à traquer les défaillances en matière de perception des couleurs. Pour ces cas d'étude, l'arc-en-ciel – avec son ordonnancement et ses nuances – servit d'étalon permettant de détecter toute déviance par rapport à la norme perceptive. Le « test de l'arc-en-ciel » fut ainsi l'occasion de théoriser, à partir d'exemples empiriques, textuels et ethnographiques, un évolutionnisme déployé de façon linéaire, allant du plus élémentaire (les Anciens et les Primitifs) vers le plus complexe (les Occidentaux modernes). […] On ne croit plus que les hommes des sociétés anciennes souffraient de problèmes de vision ou de perception des couleurs. (p. 14) »1 Arnaud Dubois (« Couleurs de l'arc-en-ciel et anthropologie : du laboratoire au terrain (Rivers et le détroit de Torres, 1898-1901) » , p. 25-43) démontre par exemple que les observations menées en 1898 par l'anthropologue W.H.R. Rivers dans le cadre d'une mission auprès d'habitants de l'Ile Murray (située entre la Papouasie-Nouvelle-Guinée et l'Australie) aboutirent à confirmer la thèse de l'évolution entre un « régime primitif » de la couleur et un « régime moderne ».2 La bibliographie accompagnant ce texte liminaire (p. 17-18) liste les travaux de référence relatifs à l'histoire ou à l'anthropologie des couleurs ainsi que quelques études théorisant l'approche comparative ou comparatiste, qui est l'outil méthodologique nécessaire à toute anthropologie globale. On regrettera que les sources (ainsi les poèmes de Keats ou les écrits de Newton) ne soient pas distinguées de la littérature secondaire. Il s'agit d'une distinction de principe à laquelle philologues et historiens restent attachés, dont on constate qu'elle tend à s'estomper dans de nombreuses publications parmi les plus récentes. Il est en effet difficile de traiter sur le même plan les analyses historiques de Michel Pastoureau et les textes théoriques de Newton et Burke car le risque est de perdre de vue ce qui fait l'objet de l'enquête ou de l'analyse. Il est également de s'affranchir de toute distance historique ou critique vis-à-vis de la documentation en jeu. La présente démonstration ne tombe pas dans cet écueil, les sources et les documents sont rigoureusement contextualisés mais leur mélange dans une liste alphabétique uniforme peut prêter à confusion.

Ce recueil d'études vient confirmer l'intérêt d'une tendance désormais bien établie où études classiques et antiques, dans une perspective comparatiste, s'allient aux travaux anthropologiques et aux analyses historiques portant sur diverses aires culturelles afin de renouveler les perspectives ou de recontextualiser notre approche des civilisations anciennes. On pourra certes regretter que ce collectif n'ait pas réservé une place plus significative aux théories elles-mêmes, celles de la météorologie des Anciens comme celles de l'optique moderne, qui sont souvent invoquées sans être véritablement traitées, mais cette absence n'enlève rien à la pertinence de l'ouvrage. La troisième partie du recueil accorde une place aux représentations et aux pratiques artistiques, qui ne pouvaient naturellement pas être tenues à l'écart de la réflexion.

Un riche cahier d'illustrations en couleur est inséré au centre de l'ouvrage. Chaque contribution est suivie de sa propre bibliographie. Compte-tenu de l'unité thématique du volume, on peut se demander si un index général n'aurait pas été pertinent.

Table des matières

Introduction. – Retisser l'arc-en-ciel, p. 7-21.
Première partie : Quelles couleurs pour l'arc-en-ciel ? Le système newtonien confronté à d'autres regards.
Arnaud Dubois, « Couleurs de l'arc-en-ciel et anthropologie : du laboratoire au terrain (Rivers et le détroit de Torres, 1898-1901), p. 25-43.
Marie Parmentier, « L'arc-en-ciel japonais : au seuil d'un changement radical (XVIIe-XIXe siècle) », p. 45-73.
Jean-Baptiste Eczet, « L'arc-en-ciel mursi (Éthiopie). Réservoir des couleurs et des personnes », p. 75-88.
Charlotte Ribeyrol, « Les faiseurs d'arcs-en-ciel. Variations chromatiques et poétiques à l'époque victorienne », p. 89-108.

Deuxième partie : Les apparitions de l'arc-en-ciel. Entre achromie et polychromie.
Élodie Dupey García, « Serpent emplumé et serpent peint. Le vent et l'arc-en-ciel dans la culture nahuatl préhispanique », p. 111-148.
Sylvie Donnat, « Polychromies atmosphériques. De l'arc-en-ciel aux épiphanies chromatiques de l'aube égyptienne », p. 149-168.
Anne-Caroline Rendu Loisel & Lorenzo Verderame, « Joindre le ciel et la terre. L'arc-en-ciel en Mésopotamie ancienne », p. 169-189.
Adeline Grand-Clément, « L'arc-en-ciel pourpre d'Homère. Poikilia et enchantement des couleurs », p. 191-215.

Troisième partie : L'arc-en-ciel en couleur(s). Les défis de la mise en image.
François Jacquesson, « Dieu, Jésus et l'Arc-en-ciel. Représentations chromatiques de la profondeur », p. 219-244.
Jean-Loup Korzilius, « Constable et le problème de l'arc-en-ciel en peinture », p. 245-261.
Ivonne Manfrini, « Le signe d'un désenchantement ? L'arc-en-ciel, Hitler, Dinos et Jake Chapman », p. 263-281.
Barbara Turquier, « Cinéma, musique et 'sensation de couleur'. Autour de Rainbow Dance de Len Lye », p. 283-297.


1.   Charlotte Ribeyrol (« Les faiseurs d'arcs-en-ciel. Variations chromatiques et poétiques à l'époque victorienne », p. 89-108) rappelle que cette lecture remonte sans doute à W. E. Gladstone (Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age, 1858).
2.   L'auteur rappelle que cette mission est souvent considérée comme fondatrice de l'anthropologie sociale britannique et notamment de la professionnalisation et de l'institutionnalisation de l'ethnographie comme méthodologie de la recherche anthropologique.

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Coleen P. Zoller, Plato and the Body: Reconsidering Socratic Asceticism. SUNY series in ancient Greek philosophy. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2018. Pp. ix, 257. ISBN 9781438470818. $90.00.

Reviewed by Vicky Roupa, Open University in London and the South East, UK (

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This book challenges a prevailing orthodoxy that Plato viewed embodiment as inimical to philosophical endeavor and preached an austere kind of asceticism as a prerequisite to true knowledge. Proposed by such philosophical heavy-weights as Plotinus and Nietzsche and espoused by a number of Plato scholars, this view ascribes to Plato a dualist way of thinking about the body according to which, if we are to have knowledge of things as they are, we need to disentangle ourselves from the trappings of the body both as to how we acquire knowledge and as to the moral choices we make. As Socrates forcefully puts it in the Phaedo: "in truth or in fact no thought of any kind ever comes to us from the body. Only the body and its desires cause war, civil discord and battles;" and a bit further down: "if we are ever to have pure knowledge, we must escape from the body and observe things in themselves with the soul by itself" (66c3-5, 66d5-e2). It is no wonder, then, that such a scathing statement has been widely taken to suggest a deep-seated suspicion of the body as the enemy of philosophy.

Zoller does not contest that Plato prioritized the soul over the body in all matters of philosophy. What she does contest is that Plato defended an "austere dualism" that prescribed a systematic and relentless suppression of bodily needs and desires as the essential philosophical comportment. Instead, she proposes that the dialogues be read under the heuristic device of what she calls, after Alison Jaggar, 'normative dualism' which, while ranking the care of the soul over and above that of the body, does so without loathing or neglecting the body and the physical world. Zoller develops her argument on two fronts: first, through a nuanced reading of dialogues including those, like the Phaedo, that have traditionally been read through the interpretative lens of austere dualism; and second, through careful consideration of a number of other dialogues, such as the Phaedrus, which reveal a more playful aspect to Socrates' personality, attuned to, and tolerant of, the needs and pleasures of the body. Zoller argues that a careful reading of the arguments at work in the dialogues as well as a thorough consideration of their context and intended audience provide strong evidence in favor of her suggested approach, which integrates the body in the philosopher's quest for knowledge. In fact, according to Zoller, the body has an important pedagogical role to play in philosophical practice as it provides the basis for a set of experiences, physical and erotic, that facilitate, rather than impede, the understanding of true reality.

Chapter 1 sets out the key concepts and arguments of the project and explains the stakes involved. Zoller argues that austere dualism's disdain of the body and the physical world has had unwelcome consequences in a range of areas, from the systematic abuse of nature to the denigration of women and non-Western, non-white peoples, who have been oppressed on the grounds that they are "closer" to nature, and thus, more "primitive" than men / whites. This unfortunate attitude is not, according to Zoller, supported from the dialogues, but instead obfuscates the tenor of the Platonic conception of the body. Plato's dialogues, argues Zoller, offer resources for a more respectful, more positive approach to the natural environment, as well as to women, reproduction, and non-white peoples.

In Chapter 2, Zoller focuses on the Phaedo with the aim of showing that austere dualism fails to offer convincing answers to two key epistemological issues, namely how we can obtain true knowledge (a) when sense perception is so unreliable, and (b) when the would-be philosopher is constantly distracted by the needs of the body. Traditionally, the dialogue has been read as an extended argument for the separation of the soul from the body, which, according to the austere dualist, the philosopher longs for throughout life. Zoller's re-reading of the dialogue aims to undermine this linchpin of austere dualism by highlighting three key aspects of Plato's argument: (a) the necessary role sense perception plays in the theory of recollection; (b) the prohibition against suicide; and (c) the exemplary role of Socrates who, though embodied, has not become a "body-lover" or someone who prioritizes non-essential, non-philosophical pursuits at the expense of rational enquiry. Crucially, Zoller offers reasons why Plato has Socrates propose extreme-sounding somatophobic views in the dialogue; the Phaedo, according to Zoller, has a dual pedagogical purpose: to reform the attitudes of the many – who are prone to valuing the body and its needs over and above the soul – and to establish a shared starting-point with the Pythagorean associates of Socrates, who themselves held somatophobic views. Despite this shared premise, Zoller argues, the Pythagoreans are in need of further philosophical guidance from Socrates, and are therefore more likely to lend an ear to his arguments if they see him as "one of their own". Plato, then, makes specific authorial choices in the Phaedo to promote his strategic and pedagogical aims, and these need to be kept firmly in mind when considering the arguments in the dialogue.

In Chapter 3 Zoller turns her attention to a very different pair of dialogues, the Phaedrus and the Symposium, which, in making erôs their primary focus, have long been seen as an antidote to the Phaedo's fascination with death. Understood as desexualized love by proponents of austere dualism, erôs plays a central but ambiguous role in Plato's account of philosophical practice. On the one hand, philosophy itself is designated as a form of 'erotic pursuit' (59); on the other, Plato warns against succumbing to sexual desire, thus appearing to reinforce austere dualism. A careful reading of the dialogues however, argues Zoller, does not bear out the claims of austere dualists. Not only did the exemplary philosopher Socrates engage in sexual activity in the context of marriage – as evidenced by the fact that he had young children at the time of his death – moreover erôs as sexualized, not fully idealized, love, plays an important role in philosophical practice. Key to understanding the ambiguous nature of erôs is, according to Zoller, that we properly construe Socrates' erotic rejection of Phaedrus and Alcibiades. Although both men actively pursue Socrates' favors, and, importantly, even though Socrates himself is not immune to their charms, it would be unworthy of a philosopher to rush headlong into an association that does not fulfil the requirements of the rational enquirer. Should these requirements be met, however, the sexual consummation of the erotic bond is not ruled out. In fact, the erotic pursuit provides a privileged pathway towards knowledge of the Forms as it can cause the pursuer to experience a transformation of the erotic object from physical (the tangible beauty of a particular boy) to non-physical (psychic beauty), and, finally, to fully intelligible (the Form of Beauty). Zoller shows in this way that the intelligible world becomes more readily accessible to humans through the agency of erotic love, thus buttressing her restatement of the role of the body as essential to philosophy.

Chapter 4 focuses on Plato's attitude towards the body in the context of social and political life. Zoller's normative dualist interpretation is here applied to a variety of themes closely linked with the care of the self (a) as health, and (b) as harmony between various conflicting parts. She also examines austere dualism's emphasis on the contemplative life over and above civic engagement. The key takeaway point from the Gorgias and the Republic, she argues, is that although the care of the soul receives Plato's foremost attention, the body is not neglected either, instead providing a wealth of source-images, metaphors, and analogies through which psychic moderation and self-control are broached. The issue of bodily needs is also an important one in Plato's social and political thought; take for example, the question of poverty which some interpreters argue Plato neglected, perhaps due to his own privileged upbringing. For Zoller, by contrast, poverty marks an important point of reference in Plato's understanding of the causes of war and much unhappiness in human affairs. Not only was Plato sensitive to the ills brought on by poverty, he was also attuned to the need for a moderate celebration of such healthy desires as food, drink and sex in the framework of a well-functioning community of rational beings.

In Chapter 5, Zoller makes some suggestions as to how the later dialogues, Timaeus, Philebus and the Laws could be read under the rubric of normative dualism. The book is concluded with a brief Epilogue where Zoller summarizes her main findings.

Written in a clear and accessible manner, Plato and the Body makes a convincing case for normative dualism as a consistent interpretive schema for the relation that obtains between body and soul in Plato. Zoller's interpretation has the merit of reconciling seemingly incongruous dialogues: on the one hand, the Phaedo, with its overarching themes of death and the separate soul, and on the other, the Phaedrus and the Symposium that celebrate erôs and earthly (as well as psychic) beauty. A close textual analysis that takes into account the original Greek complements the discussion of the arguments. I do have a worry about the comprehensiveness of Zoller's interpretive model: Zoller seems to me too keen to iron out the ambiguities present in the Platonic text concerning the body and what is associated with it – nature, pleasure, sense perception, and the physical realm. Take, for example, the issue of bodily pleasures in the Republic. An acceptable and even welcome element in certain political contexts (such as, for instance, in the first city as long as moderation and self-control predominate), the pursuit of pleasure that derives from the desiring part of the soul is viewed by Plato as a potentially disruptive political element that needs to be reined in by an external agency, i.e. the rational part of the soul, practically effectuated by the Guardians. The destabilizing nature of desire means that its psychic and political function is double-edged – a forever suspect and troublesome part of a conflictual structure that is itself always at risk of tipping over into civil discord. In metaphysical terms, a similar ambiguity has been expressed in the issue of chôrismos or ontological separation between the Forms and the physical beings that instantiate them. Zoller appears to think that these problems derive from an infelicitous choice of interpretation (austere dualism); it is possible, however, that the basic tenets of Platonic metaphysics involve aporiai that are not strictly resolvable within the system. Plato himself appears to have thought that the theory of Forms invites such aporiai, at least if we go by a certain interpretation of the Parmenides which sees the dialogue as a turning-point in Plato's metaphysical and epistemological thinking. Notwithstanding this, this book is an ambitious and worthwhile project to reshape the landscape of Plato studies regarding the body, and, as such, deserves to be read widely.

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Pamela Mensch, James Miller, Diogenes Laertius. Lives of the Eminent Philosophers. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. xx, 676. ISBN 9780190862176. $45.00.

Reviewed by Sean McConnell, University of Otago (

Version at BMCR home site


For many of us, access to Diogenes Laertius' Lives of the Eminent Philosophers has been predominantly through the 1925 translation by R. D. Hicks in the Loeb Classical Library. Even for specialists, the Greek text is difficult, with problems in the manuscripts and many sequences that make little sense. Hicks largely used the 1850 text in the Didot series, while making amendments as he saw fit. Owing to the sterling work of Tiziano Dorandi, we now possess a superior Greek text of Diogenes Laertius' Lives (Cambridge, 2013). In the present volume, Dorandi's text is translated into English for the first time.

The English translation by Pamela Mensch is lively, fresh, engaging, and eminently readable. Given the number of vagaries, jokes, technicalities, and such that proliferate in the Greek, this is a most impressive achievement. The copious notes, helpfully placed beneath the translation on each page, are superb at giving required information on names, dates, places, technical terms, and so forth in a crisp and accurate manner. The translation will serve as an excellent resource for scholars referring to Diogenes Laertius for the very important material he preserves concerning the history of Greek philosophy, and its high literary merits make it enjoyable for those who want simply to be entertained reading Diogenes' quirky and idiosyncratic account of the lives of the Greek philosophers.

It must be said that, as a physical object, the hardcover is a very impressive book indeed. It is beautifully produced – glossy paper, high quality printing, with a treasure trove of stuff far beyond a translation of an ancient author. There are 556 full-colour images, gathered from antiquity to the present day. These include paintings, sculptures, coins, illuminated manuscripts, photography, all linked to what we are reading in Diogenes. There are particularly fascinating examples of artistic representations of Greek philosophers in the Indian, Arabic, and Japanese traditions. This all adds a wonderful extra visual dimension to the already kaleidoscopic text of Diogenes Laertius. It is, however, as a result an especially hefty tome – this is a book to be read on a solid surface.

In addition to the splendid English translation, the book contains sixteen papers that act as a sort of Companion to Diogenes Laertius, orientating the reader with some of the most important scholarly issues pertaining to the Lives. They cover the influence of Diogenes Laertius on the arts and philology during the Renaissance, his style and literary art, political and ethical elements in the Lives, the manuscript tradition, his treatment of the history of philosophy, and his influence on Nietzsche and German classical scholarship in the nineteenth century.

In 'Diogenes Laertius: From Inspiration to Annoyance (and Back)', Anthony Grafton examines the history of the critical reception of Diogenes Laertius, and in particular the development of philological methodology in response to the challenges posed by his text. In 'Raphael's Eminent Philosophers: The School of Athens and the Classic Work Almost No One Read', Ingrid D. Rowland considers Diogenes' influence in high artistic circles.

In 'Diogenes' Epigrams', Kathryn Gutzwiller offers a literary evaluation of Diogenes' striking quotation of his own epigrams throughout the Lives, and succeeds in showing them to be much more sophisticated than they appear at first. In another literary essay, 'Corporeal Humor in Diogenes Laertius', James Romm explores Diogenes' use of irony and humour. In particular, he highlights how Diogenes often returns to the theme of the fragility of the human body to poke fun at the philosophers, especially when addressing their deaths and erotic lives (often somewhat at odds with their lofty thought).

In 'Philosophers and Politics in Diogenes Laertius', Malcolm Schofield explores what Diogenes has to say on political activities of philosophers, and, in 'Diogenes Laertius and Philosophical Lives in Antiquity', Giuseppe Cambiano discusses Diogenes' interest in the fit, or lack thereof, between philosophers' lives and the ethical doctrines they profess.

Tiziano Dorandi offers three papers: the first, '"A la Recherche du Texte Perdu": The Manuscript Tradition of Diogenes Laertius' Lives of the Eminent Philosophers', outlines the messy and complicated history of textual transmission, which has bequeathed us an unreliable and corrupt text; the second, 'Diogenes Laertius in Byzantium', examines the earliest references to Diogenes Laertius; the third, 'Diogenes Laertius in Latin', focuses on his growing popularity and his exposure to a wider audience in the fifteenth century when the first Latin translation appeared.

Six papers address Diogenes' treatment of specific figures and philosophical movements, and in particular his working methods, his ordering principles, and his handling of the doxographic tradition: André Laks, 'Diogenes Laertius and the Pre-Socratics'; John Dillon, 'Plato's Doctrines in Diogenes Laertius'; R. Bracht Branham, 'Cynicism: Ancient and Modern'; A. A. Long, 'Zeno of Citium: Cynic Founder of the Stoic Tradition'; and James Allen, 'Skeptics in Diogenes Laertius' and 'Epicurus in Diogenes Laertius'. These papers all give a good indication of the value of Diogenes Laertius for our modern understanding of the history of ancient Greek philosophy and the doctrines of the various movements, and they also provide helpful examples for readers as to how best to handle critically the problematic evidence contained in Diogenes' Lives.

In 'Diogenes Laertius and Nietzsche', Glenn W. Most recalls heated debates surrounding the Lives in the nineteenth century, a particularly febrile period in German classical scholarship. There emerges a compelling account of the importance of Diogenes in the development of the influential method of Quellenforschung. Finally, Jay R. Elliott has produced an extremely comprehensive guide to further reading, and there is a helpful glossary and index.

This book offers a wealth of material on Diogenes Laertius: a translation, notes, a companion, a bibliography, all in one volume. It is a truly first-class resource, and everyone involved, including Oxford University Press, should be heartily congratulated for a brilliant achievement. That a book of this kind can be made affordable should be a salutary lesson for other academic publishers. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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