Thursday, November 15, 2018


Engelbert Winter, Vom eisenzeitlichen Heiligtum zum christlichen Kloster: neue Forschungen auf dem Dülük Baba Tepesi. Asia Minor Studien, 84. Bonn: Habelt-Verlag, 2017. Pp. xiii, 302; 67 p. of plates. ISBN 9783774940796. €89,00.

Reviewed by Catherine Steidl, Dartmouth College (

Version at BMCR home site

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

As Engelbert Winter argues, Dülük Baba Tepesi is perhaps one of the most important sites in southeast Turkey for the new insight it offers into the religious and cultural history of the Near East from the 1st millennium BCE through the Byzantine period. He calls it a stroke of luck that long-term continuity of cult activity took place there (p. 12). While we are fortunate that such continuity is richly attested, the chapters collected in this volume illustrate that it is no fluke. The volume succeeds in making this point clear, and the reader who approaches the chapters as a full set will see that the continuous occupation of a sacred space on the hill resulted from several constants: the choice by individuals to maintain local religious practices alongside those of an expanding imperial cult; the preservation of strong economic, religious, and cultural ties to numerous far-flung locales, including the western Aegean, Iran, and Afghanistan, which emphasized its status in the broader landscape; and, it seems, the local memory of the space's sacred character. With their latest publication, Winter and colleagues present the tail end of a 15-year program of excavation at Dülük Baba Tepesi. This rich volume provides a timely, detailed publication of the excavation results from the sanctuary site, offering a window into its history from a site for resource extraction in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB), to its development as a substantial Iron Age cult site, a local and supra-regional Roman sanctuary, and finally a Byzantine monastery. The work contained within will be of interest to readers concerned with Anatolian archaeology in the 1st millennia BCE/CE, or questions of continuity, cult practice, and long-term occupation, as well as to specialists seeking regional detail on specific materials (e.g., ceramic and bone products, architecture of the cult precinct or monastery, or local examples of hybridity and syncretism).

The book consists of 17 chapters. Winter's overview of the project's work and major finds from the seasons in question (2013-2015) serves as a helpful introduction to previous research at the site and the context for this latest work in the sanctuary. He also outlines the major contributions of the team's research program—namely, finer-grained detail about Iron Age, Roman, and Medieval activity on Dülük Baba Tepesi than was previously available, and important new insights into various threads of continuity and change in cultural and religious practice, such as the collected votive offerings from the Iron Age and Roman Imperial period, and the architectural development of the sanctuary. Because the individual contributions function more or less independently and seldom interact with one another, Winter's setting of the thematic stage ties together numerous strands of discourse and directs the reader's attention to these common threads.

Subsequent chapters are organized roughly chronologically. Because of their focus and detail, the chapters work well as standalone pieces of scholarship that will be of interest to any specialist seeking high-resolution particulars or comparanda with other materials —Byzantine glazed ceramics or African Red Slip ware in the Commagene region, ultramarine pigment, or Neolithic blades, for example. In the case of both comparatively smaller bodies of material (e.g., lithics, bone artifacts, and locks) and larger (e.g., Roman and Byzantine ceramics), detailed catalogues and figures are provided in conjunction with the texts. This attention to detail—along with its prompt publication—is one of many commendable aspects of the book. The chapters can also be read in order as a full volume, however. Few readers are likely to undertake this, but doing so provides substantial insight into the breadth of evidence available for the sanctuary, from lithics and ceramics, to architectural structure and décor, and osteological remnants of sacrifice and daily consumption. The result is a book that fulfills two roles: it offers a valuable reference for one of Commagene's major sites, which is able to speak to broader regional trends; and it illustrates what the site is already known for in intense detail—its rich and complex long-term history, simultaneously rooted in the local landscape and impressively connected to far-reaching, robust networks that brought with them ceramic imports from the Mediterranean, lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, and myriad cultural influences that contributed to evolving local practice in all aspects of life.

The chapters work well together to illustrate the tensions between local and far-reaching connection and influence. Wolfgang Messerschmidt, for example, offers a vivid picture of an active Iron Age sanctuary; the hypaethral temenos (enclosed but not fortified) reflects its southeast Anatolian/north Syrian location, while a large cache of roll and stamp seals (640 in total) was sourced from the Levant, Mesopotamia, and Iran. A late Hittite relief bearing Luwian inscriptions expands the scope of connectivity to the north, and the evidence for animal sacrifice suggests practices with West Semitic and Levantine parallels.

Silke Haps' discussion of the architectural development of the sanctuary and its walls in the Hellenistic and Roman periods provides similar context for the trajectory of the sanctuary and its continued importance for regional and supra-regional cult activity into the early 1st millennium CE. One of the clear themes that emerges from these collected chapters is the strength of the local influence maintained in the sanctuary through its physical character and the practices evidenced there, even as influence from supra-regional networks was clearly visible as well (e.g., in the prominence of Roman ceramic imports or the growth of the cult around Iuppiter Dolichenus). Haps presents evidence for the changing nature of wall construction, which is contrasted with the maintenance of techniques for stone preparation and foundation construction over the course of several phases of renovation. Her argument that the large, square temenos of the Hellenistic and Roman periods has parallels at other sacred sites in the Commagene (e.g., Köşk) is echoed by others, as well. The chapters, in fact, fall into two general groups: those presenting catalogued materials that generally reflect trends seen from other regional sites, and those detailing singular case-study finds that offer insight into the commingling of very local traditions and farther-flung contact and influence.

Into this first category fall chapters from, for example, Werner Oenbrink and Eva Strothenke, who detail aspects of the ceramic repertoires from the 5th c. BCE, Late Roman, and Medieval periods, further developing the overall narrative of Dülük Baba Tepesi's place within the landscape of southern Anatolia. Oenbrink's Attic imports reflect the northernmost discovery of their kind in southwest Anatolia, underscoring the particular importance and status of the sanctuary before the middle of the 1st millennium BCE. Strothenke's profiles of Late Roman and Medieval wares, on the other hand, emphasize the high degree of connectivity and preference for specific materials found at other nearby settlements.

Chapters in the latter category act as unusual case studies for the exploration of syncretism, continuity, and change both on the site and in the surrounding region, and the character of the site in different periods. Michael Blömer's vivid discussion of the 'god in the leaf chalice' delivers a convincing argument for a tentative identification of the relief not as Iuppiter Dolichenus himself, but as one of his attendants, the Castores Dolicheni. Similarly, Blömer and Margherita Facella present a small altar of the local god Turmasgade, an enigmatic discovery that they use to pose a series of stimulating questions around the issue of syncretism between Roman and local Near Eastern gods and the origins of Turmasgade's cult. Together, these chapters exemplify the provocative nature of the questions that remain unanswered about the sanctuary and religious practice there, but also highlight the complex interplay between local and non-local traditions that together engendered new forms of local practice.

The theme of local anomaly is carried into the Medieval period by Nadja Plöllath and Joris Peters' insightful discussion of faunal remains, especially fish bones, in the Byzantine monastery. They consider the effect of personal preference on the adherence of the local monks to proscribed dietary restrictions. Extensive connectivity, on the other hand, is clearly demonstrated by work from Constanze Höpken and Frank Mucha, who argue for the presence of ultramarine blue pigment in two vessels found at the Byzantine monastery of Mar Salomon, illustrating the import of lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and the likely production of high quality manuscripts.

Given the size and quality of the body of material coming from the 2013-2015 seasons, the temptation to offer equally rich interpretation is strong. The individual authors, however, strike a measured balance between straightforward reporting and compelling extrapolation. Readers new to the site will gain a clear sense of the state of its current understanding, but also appreciate the chance to engage critically with the ongoing incorporation of new materials into understandings of the site.

The volume lacks a concluding discussion. Stronger linking of the themes noted here would have been a welcome addition to round out the compilation. At times, this reviewer would have also wanted the maps and plans, which are added separately at the end, to include more detailed captions or contextual information. Phased plans of the sanctuary (Plans 2-4), for example, are not labeled by period, and so one is required to flip between the chapter at the start of the book and the images at the back to properly understand the architectural development. Captions would also have been helpful for a number of images only presented as numbered objects (e.g., bone artifacts, pieces of marble, locks and keys, etc.). The tables (in color and black and white) offer a number of very helpful line drawings, however, and the merits of the large selection of accompanying images and plans far outweigh the small inconveniences described here.

Readers following the excavations at Dülük Baba Tepesi, or interested in cultural interaction, continuity, and the interplay between global and local tradition and influence, will find an extremely useful presentation of final excavation at the sanctuary in this volume. The authors' clarity and thoroughness, as well as thoughtful discussion will appeal equally to readers interested in the aforementioned overarching themes, and specialists concerned with individual types of material. The tentative (although nonetheless, at times, provocative) interpretations offered here leave little to quibble with, and will no doubt be further illuminated by planned work in the monastery, as well as at the ancient settlement on nearby Keber Tepe.

Table of Contents

Engelbert Winter, Das Heiligtum auf dem Düluk Baba Tepesi bei Doliche. Die Grabungen der Jahre 2013-2015
Dirk Leder, The Lithic Finds from Dülük Baba Tepesi and their Place in the PPNB of the Western Euphrates Region
Wolfgang Messerschmidt, Das Heiligtum auf dem Dülük Baba Tepesi in der vorhellenistischen Eisenziet – Versuch einer kulturgeschichtlichen Einordnung
Werner Oenbrink, Neufunde attischer Keramik vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Silke Haps, Überlegungen zu den Mauerzügen des (hellenistisch-)römischen Heiligtums auf dem Dülük Baba Tepesi bei Doliche. Ergebnisse der Kampagnen 2013-2015
Michael Blömer, Der Gott im Blätterkelch. Ein neues Relief vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Margherita Facella, A New Altar for the God Turmasgade from Dülük Baba Tepesi
Werner Oenbrink, Gorgo Medusa? – Beidseitig reliefierte Fragmente aus dem Heiligtum des Iuppiter Dolichenus auf dem Dülük Baba Tepesi
Jan Pieter Löbbing, Kaiserzeitlicher Marmor vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Torben Schreiber, Ein Feldherr, Bonus Eventus und eine Ziege. Drei Gemmen vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Daria Olbrycht, Beinartefakte vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Constanze Höpken, Schlüssel und Schlösser vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Eva Strothenke, Die African Red Slip-Ware und Late Roman C-Ware vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Nadja Plöllath and Joris Peters, Fish and Fasting – Insight into the Diet of Late Antique-Byzantine Dülük Baba Tepesi

Constanze Höpken, Ultramarinblau-Pigment aus dem Kloster des Mar Salomon auf dem Dülük Baba Tepesi
Frank Mucha, Analysen der Blaupigmente vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
Eva Strothenke, Ausgewählte Funde glasierter Keramik vom Dülük Baba Tepesi
(read complete article)


Floris van den Eijnde, Josine Blok, Rolf Strootman (ed.), Feasting and Polis Institutions. Mnemosyne, supplements, 414. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2018. Pp. xiii, 384. ISBN 9789004356726. €121,00.

Reviewed by Jessica M. Romney, Dickinson College (

Version at BMCR home site

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

This volume, the result of a three-day conference held at Utrecht University (2014), examines the relationship between the sacrificial feast, the symposium, and the political institutions associated with them. The volume's title and theme link feasting to polis-institutions, but the chronological spread from the Early Iron Age to the Imperial period necessitates that 'polis' be understood broadly. The volume is arranged roughly chronologically, allowing the reader to get a sense of the larger developments over time alongside the specific developments on which each contribution focuses. The geographical spread is narrower than one might hope; over half of the papers concern feasting patterns in Athens and Attica, or rely almost entirely on Athenian evidence for feasting institutions across the Greek world. The papers that specifically step out of Attica include Vlachou's contribution on Amykles, Whitley and Madgwick on the Cretan andreion, and Mari on the Macedonian influences on Hellenistic feasting. All in all, however, this volume will be a welcome contribution to the Greek room in the Food Studies house, particularly due to the spread of evidence for Greek feasting practices and for the focus on the ways that feasts contributed simultaneously to ideas of citizen equality and to hierarchies of power (the "dialectic of hierarchy and equality" is a common theme). The introduction will be particularly helpful for those new to the field.

That introduction establishes the feast as a "condensed social fact" (p. 6) and "the very institutional framework that keeps the polis in place" (p. 2). The volume is addressed to answering the question of how the framework of the feast supported the structures of the polis, particularly in regards to the question, 'who paid for what?' The introduction is grounded in work on the anthropology of feasting, particularly that by M. Dietler and B. Hayden on political commensality. Van den Eijnde devotes the bulk of it to reviewing six main topics: feasting and communication; feasting and power relations; ritual and religion at the feast; the rise of sacred temenē and the ideal of shared patronage; conbibiality and feasting; and the decline of egalitarian feasting. While all are addressed in the volume, the break-down is haphazard: feasting topics such as the first one in the above list (feasting and communication) are very broad, while others are far narrower in the scope of the volume (for example, the rise of sacred temenē and shared patronage). For those new to the anthropology of feasting and food studies, a break-down of the large topics into sub-groups, such as an overview of the various forms of communication at feasts and what they connote, would have been helpful. A section on group membership as predicated on participation at the feast would also have been appreciated, not only due to the prevalence of this theme but also because, as several papers demonstrate, membership can be flexible and even physical presence may not be necessary for participation in the feast and the feasting group. Van den Eijnde's subsequent contribution to the volume is most concerned with the question of who paid for what as he follows the changing feasting practices in Attica and patronage roles from c. 1100-600 BCE, over which time he argues that the consumption of meat migrated from feasts thrown by local big men to the sacred temenē with a divine patron. The shift to divine patronage means that individual elites are no longer competing with one another for status through increasingly large feasts; elite status is instead displayed by contributing to the divine feast. Van den Eijnde gives one of the more thorough explorations of theory and methods in the volume, focusing particularly on the distinction between 'ritual' and 'religion.'

Three papers examine how feasting contributes to self-definition. Alexandridou's paper on feasting in Early Iron Age Attica reviews the ceramic evidence from the "Sacred House" at the Academy and compares the assemblage to material from contemporary structures elsewhere in Attica. In contrast to previous work, which emphasizes the presence of sacred activities at the site, she argues that the ceramic assemblage points to feasting by an extended elite kinship group whose commensality was linked to EIA practices of elite self-definition; the subsequent abandonment of the site can then be traced to changes in elite status displays. Vlachou's contribution focuses on feasting at the sanctuary of Apollo Hyakinthos at Amykles (ancient Amyklai), from the late 11th to the late 8th century. Feasting is an important component of the ritual activities at the site, and Vlachou proposes that it "served as the crucial factor in maintaining the memory of the place" (p. 113) for the groups involved. Lambert's contribution returns to Attica as he focuses on the sacrifices and sacrificial calendar of the Marathonian Tetrapolis in the 4th century. Lambert includes an appendix with the text and translation of the calendar to accompany his study of how feasting, and particularly the funding of a feast, served as a site for individuals to articulate their status and relationship to the collective. In the Tetrapolis, local identity grounded itself in the sacrificial calendar, and the epigraphical evidence shows a "remarkably collectivist" (p. 168) approach to funding the sacrificial feasts, to which about a third of the adult men contributed.

Three papers examine the connections between the citizen collective and feasting institutions. Whitley and Madgwick's contribution on the Cretan andreion examines the evidence for the 5th/4th-century building in the First Acropolis of Praisos identified as the Almond Tree House/Andreion by the excavator. They argue that this building was an andreion, as evidenced by the cup deposits, high numbers of wild/feral caprines and hares, and the masculine iconography. As a space where the male spheres of commensality and ritualized bonding produce citizens, the Cretan andreion constituted citizenship through consumption of the wild. Steiner's paper turns to the more formalized Athenian parallel, the public dining of the prytaneis at the Tholos in Athens. She argues that the principle of isonomia that Ephialtes' reforms articulated was tangibly expressed in the dining practices of the Tholos, as seen in the round form of the building, the polis' role as host, and the standardization of ceramic vessels used. Enforced equality accompanied the mandatory shared meals of the prytaneis, reinforcing the new reforms and values of the Athenian democracy. Complementing this, Blok and van't Wout's paper examines the institution of sitēsis at the Prytaneion, the polis hearth of Athens. Their paper includes a new text and translation of the Prytaneion decree, and, while the focus of their paper is on the text and situating it in the early 420s, they also note the significance of sitēsis for Athens as an institution with diacritical significance among the citizen body and for effecting external relationships.

Two papers, those by Lynch and Wecowski, focus on the symposium as such, and both examine its evolution in line with the changing needs of the Classical elite. Wecowski's paper argues that the twilight of the symposium should be dated to the mid-4th century, with the decline beginning in the mid-5th (versus arguments that date it to the late Hellenistic period). He argues that the diminishing importance of musical accompaniment by the symposiasts themselves, the increasing practice of drinking to one's pleasure, and the gradual disappearance of the skolion game all point to a change in sympotic practices. Furthermore, during this period the symposium began to lose its role as the site of elite cultural expression and status performance. Lynch's paper turns to the change from 'symposium' to 'symposium-feast' as food becomes increasingly important to elite banqueting in the late Classical to Hellenistic period (c. 425-200). Starting in the late 5th century, fine ware assemblages suggest that food becomes more important to elite social activities, and by the 3rd century, food service and consumption vessels exceed the drinking equipment. The square andron is replaced by a rectangular hall, and the emphasis is now on personal relationships with the host rather than group bonding. The increased reliance on wealthy individuals to fund polis initiatives in this period helped shift the diacritical symposium to the empowering and promotional symposium-feast.

The final four papers of the volume focus on feasting in the Hellenistic period. Mari's paper examines the influence of Macedonian feasting practices on Hellenistic feasting, and she argues that the Macedonian influences go back further than Alexander. She traces five elements of Hellenistic feasting (moveable events; massive increase in scale; masses as audience; mixed contests; and strong military element) to three major Macedonian festivals: the Olympia at Dion, the Xandika, and the Daisia. The other three papers concern themselves with who shares in the sacrifice and how. Strootman's contribution examines how the Hellenistic kings become members of polis communities through feasting. He argues they did so through patronage feasts hosted by the king and by coopting civic feasts through ceremonial entry into the poleis. Paul turns to the practicalities of civic sacrificial division, where the shares of the sacrifice participate in a dialectic of equality and hierarchy. As seen in the sacrifices to Zeus Sosipolis in Magnesia on the Meander and the Athenian Lesser Panatheneia, the division of special portions among priests and/or those who participate in the pompē define a group separate from the general sacrificial assembly, whose membership is stressed through their notional participation in the sacrifice and division of meat. Finally, Carbon's paper turns to the issue of 'traveling meat': the sending of portions to honorands who are not present at the sacrifice. The granting of honorific portions of meat allowed foreigners and/or metics to participate in the polis community, while the additional grant of meat to those in absentia defined a Mediterranean-wide network through a commensality relationship that overcame the distance between host and guest.

This book will be useful to graduate students and scholars specializing in ancient food studies; the untranslated Greek will pose difficulties for undergraduates, as will the general assumption that the reader shares the same level of contextual knowledge that the authors do concerning specific points in Greek history, regions, and the theory concerning food and feasting. Adherence to the theme established in the introduction varies, as some papers focus more on food than the accompanying political institutions. There are a few typos,1 but the photos and line drawings are generally of high quality. In all, this contribution is valuable for its breadth and for its attempts to link feasting practices to the political institutions which operate beside and through them.

Authors and Titles

1. Floris van den Eijnde, "Feasting and Polis Institutions: an Introduction"
2. Alexandra Alexandridou, "Feasting in Early Iron Age Attika: the Evidence from the Site of the Academy"
3. Floris van den Eijnde, "Power Play at the Dinner Table: Feasting and Patronage between Palace and Polis in Attika"
4. Vicky Vlachou, "Feasting at the Sanctuary of Apollo Hyakinthos at Amykles: the Evidence from the Early Iron Age"
5. James Whitley and Richard Madgwick, "Consuming the Wild: More Thoughts on the Andreion"
6. Stephen Lambert, "Individual and Collective in the Funding of Sacrifices in Classical Athens: the Sacrificial Calendar of the Marathonian Tetrapolis"
7. Josine Blok and Evelyn van't Wout, "Table Arrangements: Sitêsis as a Polis Institution (IG I3 131)"
8. Ann Steiner, "Measure for Measure: Fifth-Century Public Dining at the Tholos in Athens"
9. Kathleen Lynch, "The Hellenistic Symposium as Feast"
10. Marek Wecowski, "When Did the Symposium Die? On the Decline of the Greek Aristocratic Banquet"
11. Rolf Strootman, "The Return of the King: Civic Feasting and the Entanglement of City and Empire in Hellenistic Greece"
12. Manuela Mari, "The Macedonian Background of Hellenistic Panegyreis and Public Feasting"
13. Stéphanie Paul, "Sharing the Civic Sacrifice: Civic Feast, Procession, and Sacrificial Division in the Hellenistic Period"
14. Jan-Mathieu Carbon, "A Network of Hearths: Honors, Sacrificial Shares, and 'Traveling Meat'"


1.   Most egregious perhaps is temenoi in the introduction for temenē.

(read complete article)


Elena Sánchez López, Javier Martínez Jiménez, Los acueductos de Hispania: construcción y abandono. Colección Juanelo Turriano de Historia de la Ingeniería. Madrid: Fundación Juanelo Turriano, 2016. Pp. 295. ISBN 9788494269578.

Reviewed by Linda R. Gosner, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (

Version at BMCR home site


Aside from the famous aqueduct of Segovia, a remarkably well-preserved and often photographed UNESCO World Heritage Site, most of us would be hard pressed to think of other aqueducts in Roman Iberia. Los acueductos de Hispania: construcción y abandono, a new book about the history and archaeology of urban aqueducts in the Iberian Peninsula, makes details about the many lesser known Iberian aqueducts readily accessible. The book is part of a series of online, open-access books produced by the Fundación Juanelo Turriano, a Madrid-based foundation dedicated to promoting the history of science, technology, and engineering to a broad academic and lay audience. Here, Elena Sánchez López and Javier Martínez Jiménez have compiled new and old data from across the Iberian Peninsula, producing a synthesis of existing information on urban aqueducts. The book—which has a remarkably broad chronological and geographical scope—benefits from the knowledge base of both authors. Together, they cover the entire Iberian Peninsula and discuss evidence ranging from Roman conquest through the Middle Ages. Sánchez López (Universidad de Granada) has previously written on Roman aqueducts across Baetica and produced a detailed analysis of the aqueduct at Almuñécar for her doctoral dissertation and various subsequent articles. Martínez Jiménez (Cambridge University), by contrast, brings expertise on post-Roman evidence for urban water management. His 2014 dissertation was entitled Aqueducts and Water Supply in the Towns of Post-Roman Spain (400-1000). The authors have done us an enormous service, as much of the data comes from recent fieldwork, rescue archaeology projects, and other sources that are difficult to access from outside of Spain and Portugal.

The book is divided into three sections. Chapter 1 situates the topic in scholarship and gives an introduction to Roman aqueducts in general, but with a primary focus on the evidence from the Iberian Peninsula. The second chapter discusses the role that aqueducts played in urban settings, as well as the typical phases of use and abandonment that large aqueducts went through. Finally, chapter 3—the bulk of the volume—is a catalog of 66 aqueducts from across Spain and Portugal, including the island of Ibiza. The book concludes with a series of appendices that present information given in the catalog in comparative perspective. The text is available in PDF, print, and online versions. I recommend the online version, which helps the reader use the text to its full capacity as an interactive research tool. In-text links facilitate jumping between mentions of specific aqueducts in the first two synthetic chapters and their more detailed catalog entries.

Chapter 1 serves as a very brief overview of the history of scholarship on aqueducts in the Iberian Peninsula, methods of studying them, as well as the engineering behind their construction. The first part of the chapter introduces various methods from archaeology, engineering, and history, with short sections on each that are unlikely to be of great utility to specialists. However, given the broad intended audience of the book, the chapter is useful in so far as it introduces the novice to a wide range of discipline-specific methodologies that will help them better understand the terminology used and detail presented later. Included, for instance, are discussions of relative and absolute dating techniques, the mathematical formulas for calculating the speed and volume of water, and the contributions and limits of written sources to the study of aqueducts.

The second part of Chapter 1 turns to the engineering of the aqueducts themselves and their various functions. The authors present details from book 8 of Vitruvius' De Architectura and Frontinus' De Aquaeductu as well as archaeological evidence from across the Iberian Peninsula, with occasional comparisons to notable aqueducts from other Roman provinces and the city of Rome. They do a commendable job of demonstrating how the archaeological evidence from Iberia both differs from and conforms to expectations set out in the ancient texts. For instance, Vitruvius (8.6) describes only three types of channels: built channels, lead pipes, and clay pipes. More varieties are known from the material evidence, however: both stone and wood pipes have been uncovered from archaeological contexts in Iberia (the former from Cádiz and Singilia Barba in Málaga and the latter from Los Bañales in Zaragoza). The chapter concludes with a brief summary of the various uses of water beyond drinking: for public baths and entertainment, sewage and cleaning, urban industry, and symbolic purposes. This second half of Chapter 1 will be of interest to archaeologists specializing in Roman water management and construction for its meticulous detail and presentation of evidence little known outside of Iberia. For those seeing a general view of Roman aqueducts or commentary on the ancient sources, other books will still serve these purposes better.1

In Chapter 2, "Aqueducts in Context," the authors elaborate on various functional and symbolic roles that aqueducts had to play in Roman cities. They detail how the construction, maintenance and repair, and final abandonment of aqueducts was intertwined with the long-term history of urban places in Iberia. The authors' central argument is that aqueducts were not essential components of Roman cities (just as not all cities had theaters), but that understanding how and why they were built and maintained can illuminate processes of urban development. For instance, some cities—like Carmona and Clunia—had enough cisterns and wells to supply the population and never required aqueducts. Other cities started out with simpler supply systems but added aqueducts so that they could supply new neighborhoods (e.g., Córdoba), public monuments such as fountains and baths (e.g., Italica), or industrial quarters (e.g., Baelo Claudia and Olisipo). Some aqueducts, by contrast, seem to have been constructed as local acts of euergetism or when cities became municipia and maintained as a point of pride, even when other water was readily accessible. This was apparently the case with the famous aqueduct at Segovia, which was constructed in a location with plentiful natural springs and cisterns (p. 72). Since aqueducts are often taken for granted as a typical part of Roman monumentalization and urbanization in the provinces, this chapter is a welcome reminder of just how varied and individual urban histories can be.

The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of the abandonment of aqueducts: while about a quarter were still in use in the 5th century, this number declined steadily in the following centuries. The main exception to this pattern is the aqueduct at Reccopolis, newly constructed as a part of the Visigothic city in 578 AD. The authors bring up an interesting question that is ultimately not possible to answer given the variable quality of extant data: how does the abandonment of aqueducts in Iberia differ relative to other parts of the Roman Empire, like Gaul or Italy, which had vastly different political trajectories between 300 and 700 AD? In the case of Iberia, they argue, financing and specialized labor for aqueduct maintenance was no longer readily available (only four were in use at the time of the Umayyad conquest of Iberia in 711; p. 77). People in many cities adapted by altering the footprint of cities and increasing the use of wells and cisterns for water supply, while surviving aqueducts were privatized to serve Umayyad palaces and private estates.

Chapter 3 is a detailed catalog of 66 aqueducts organized geographically by the Roman provincial territories of Tarraconensis, Baetica, Lusitania, and Gallaecia, with further subdivisions by conventus. While certainly many more aqueducts are known than this, only aqueducts serving urban centers and for which there is material evidence are included. This means that aqueducts used in rural industries—such as agriculture and mining—are omitted, as are urban aqueducts that must have existed but have not yet been found (the authors cite Pollentia as one such example, p. 87). Each entry is presented uniformly to facilitate comparison and general usability. Most entries include the dates of construction and abandonment, as well as references to specific evidence that corroborates the dating. Next is a presentation of the technical elements of each aqueduct (e.g., slope, volume of water flow, and construction techniques and materials). The entries also include—whenever possible—a map, photos and/or drawings, a description of the path of the aqueduct, and, finally, a list of written sources (ancient and modern). The maps are especially well produced, clearly depicting the known and hypothesized routes of aqueducts, their relationship to cities, and their placement with respect to the topography of the wider landscape. Usefully, photographs of many examples are displayed in full color, often showing sections of aqueducts in the process of excavation or close-up shots taken by the authors.

The appendix provides elegant visualizations of the data in the catalog in comparative perspective, making it easier to contextualize and access this information. Bar graphs present a range of topics, including the periods of use and abandonment, relative lengths, relative capacity in volume, and relative heights of different aqueducts. The reader can see readily, for instance, that the aqueduct at Cádiz was the longest at 75 km, while the aqueduct at Toletum was the tallest at an estimated 40 m in height.

Prior to the publication of this work, Acueductos Romanos en España served as the standard text on the topic. The first edition was produced in 1972 from a series of six articles by Carlos Fernández Casado in the journal Informes de la Construcción.2 Because of its unusual origin, the book did not have a clear table of contents or even page numbers until it was reissued in 2008.3 Though encyclopedic at the time of its initial publication, its scope is limited in comparison to the book under review. The focus is on the territory of modern peninsular Spain only; Portugal and the Balearic Islands are omitted. Maps, drawings, and photographs, while of historical interest, are now outdated. Finally, because Fernández Casado was an engineer rather than an archaeologist, his primary focus is on the engineering rather than the life histories or wider contexts of aqueducts.

In light of the limitations of previous work, this new book is a welcome addition to research on Roman aqueducts in Iberia: it presents updated, detailed evidence on aqueducts in urban contexts in a readable, well-illustrated format, accompanied by a thoughtful discussion. I do lament that, although the publication venue of the book does make it widely accessible, it is inevitably more likely to be read by Spanish speakers with interests in the history of technology and engineering than by classical archaeologists, classicists, or historians.4 I hope this review will serve, at least, to make more people aware that the volume exists as a useful resource. Indeed, more open access books and catalogs that present little-known or difficult to find evidence would help facilitate comparative research across the Roman Empire. Los acueductos de Hispania: construcción y abandono should be of value to anyone who studies water management and urban infrastructure, Roman technology and engineering, as well as the history and archaeology of Hispania and of the Roman provinces in general.


1.   E.g., Hodge, A.T. 2002. Roman Aqueducts and Water Supply. 2nd ed. Bristol: Bristol Classical Press (Duckworth Archaeology); Rodgers, R.H. 2004. Frontinus. De Aquaeductu Urbis Romae. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Rowland, I.D., and T.N. Howe. 1999. Vitruvius. Ten Books on Architecture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
2.   Fernández Casado, C. 1972. Acueductos Romanos en España. Madrid: Instituto Eduardo Toroja.
3.   Fernández Casado, C. 2008. Acueductos Romanos en España. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas.
4.   This is especially true because many of the other volumes in the series deal with topics related to Spain's industrial heritage and engineering in later epochs rather than in antiquity (see Fundación Juanelo Turriano) and because this title does not seem to appear on most university library databases in the US.

(read complete article)


Milagros Quijada Sagredo, M. Carmen Encinas Reguero (ed.), Connecting Rhetoric and Attic Drama. Collana 'Le Rane', 66. Bari: Levante Editori, 2017. Pp. 313. ISBN 9788879496841. €42,00.

Reviewed by Nicolas Siron, ANHIMA Research Center (UMR 8210, Anthropologie et Histoire des Mondes Anciens) (

Version at BMCR home site

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

Connecting Rhetoric and Attic Drama est un ouvrage dirigé par deux chercheuses espagnoles publié intégralement en anglais auprès d'une maison d'édition italienne. Je me permets de rajouter une pierre à cet édifice cosmopolite en en faisant la recension en français. Il fait partie d'un projet de recherche qui a déjà connu plusieurs réalisations, avec la thèse (non publiée) de M. Carmen Encinas Reguero intitulée Tragedia y retórica en la Atenas clásica: la rhesis trágica como discurso formal en Sófocles et dirigée par Milagros Quijada Sagredo (2007), ainsi qu'un premier volume commun, Retórica y discurso en el teatro griego (2013 : BMCR 2015.04.31). La plupart des contributeurs ont participé à la première publication (huit sur onze). Si le titre du présent livre semble s'ouvrir à l'analyse des œuvres rhétoriques et s'il est dit dans l'introduction que l'objectif est de « highlight from different perspectives the proximity between theatre and rhetoric in Greece » (p. 22), il y est en fait surtout question des tragédies et comédies athéniennes abordées à partir des procédés rhétoriques qui peuvent y être employés. En tant que tel, le projet se situe dans une historiographie déjà abondante.1 Dans l'ensemble, très peu de coquilles sont à déplorer, à l'exception d'une contribution qui aurait mérité une relecture supplémentaire.2

Essentiellement dédiée au résumé des articles, l'introduction de Milagros Quijada Sagredo offre auparavant une courte réflexion sur les liens entre rhétorique et théâtre grec, en signalant l'importance de la nouvelle attitude envers le langage qui se met en place au début du Ve siècle avec l'élaboration de la démocratie athénienne. À noter que le mot « rhetoric » n'est jamais défini, alors que l'historiographie du terme est riche.3 Les usages qui en sont faits dans le cours de l'ouvrage oscillent entre les méthodes avancées par les philosophes et auteurs de traités de rhétoriques (Encinas Reguero, Quijada Sagredo, De Martino) et les stratégies concrètes utilisées par les orateurs dans les discours judiciaires conservés (Karamanou, do Céu Fialho).

Ruth Scodel s'intéresse aux échecs de la persuasion dans l'Antigone de Sophocle. Elle s'inspire du concept de « Theory of Mind » (capacité à percevoir l'état d'esprit des autres personnes) pour analyser comment les personnages tragiques tentent de trouver des arguments efficaces selon leurs interlocuteurs. Si, selon les philosophes (Platon, Aristote), le bon orateur est censé y parvenir, celui-ci s'adresse à un public nombreux et ne peut s'adapter à chacun de ses destinataires, au contraire de Créon et d'Hémon, qui échouent néanmoins à se convaincre réciproquement du fait des émotions qui les aveuglent. Si la démarche psychologisante est parfois gênante, l'idée directrice de l'article est intéressante et l'étude attentive des passages permet de la mener de manière convaincante, à tel point qu'on espérerait la voir appliquée à d'autres situations tragiques, comme l'Alceste ou l'Hippolyte d'Euripide.

Dans une étude fouillée et approfondie, M. Carmen Encinas Reguero traite quant à elle de l'utilisation des exemples (paradeigmata) dans les tragédies en général. Elle réexamine d'abord la définition des exemples dans les traités rhétoriques d'Anaximène de Lampsaque et d'Aristote : ils font partie des moyens de persuasion provenant du discours (entechnoi pisteis), même si leur place dans l'organisation générale varie considérablement d'une œuvre à l'autre et même à l'intérieur de l'œuvre d'Aristote. La bibliographie à ce propos est riche et bien assimilée. Dans les tragédies, les exemples peuvent être mythologiques (surtout chez Euripide), fictifs (surtout chez Eschyle) ou tirés de la nature (surtout chez Sophocle). Le panorama d'occurrences, traitées par auteur dans les trois cas, permet de montrer comment les comparaisons appuient l'idée ou l'argument d'un personnage en trouvant un parallèle qui les renforce. À noter tout de même que certains exemples analysés, en particulier dans les parties lyriques, ne relèvent pas d'une situation de persuasion à proprement parler (voir par exemple 60–62).

Milagros Quijada Sagredo compare la structure des tragédies au fonctionnement concret des tribunaux athéniens, à partir des Perses d'Eschyle. Dans cette représentation, longs discours et questions-réponses feraient écho aux plaidoiries des plaignants et à l'interrogatoire des témoins (voir la description qu'elle fait de son article en introduction (15), mais il s'agit en réalité du questionnement de l'adversaire : 79–80), pour établir le fait incroyable qu'est la défaite de l'armée de Xerxès. Penser la pièce comme focalisée non pas sur la défaite mais sur les moyens de la prouver est intéressant et l'étude littéraire approfondie des longues tirades et des dialogues stichomythiques successifs est convaincante.

Maria do Céu Fialho examine les évolutions de l'intrigue de l'Iphigénie à Aulis suivant les changements d'opinion des personnages. L'analyse porte de manière assez générale sur la manière dont les différents personnages tentent de se persuader les uns les autres, voire de justifier leurs propres choix, pour dégager les éléments qui contribuent à prendre une décision (obligation du serment de Tyndare, pression de l'armée, arguments logiques, peur de la populace, supplication…). L'auteure en profite pour critiquer l'idée répandue selon laquelle la tragédie serait, dans le contexte de la guerre du Péloponnèse, un appel à la réunion des Grecs. Sur l'indécision des personnages dans la pièce, on aurait attendu la prise en compte des remarques de John Gibert, Change of Mind in Greek Tragedy, (Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1995).

Les deux études suivantes concernent le procédé de l'ekphrasis. José Antonio Fernández Delgado et Francisca Pordomingo démontrent que la première partie du premier stasimon de l'Électre d'Euripide utilise, comme la suite qui dépeint le bouclier d'Achille, la technique de l'ekphrasis. Le dramaturge est donc perçu comme un disciple de la sophistique rhétorique plutôt que comme un modèle pour des œuvres postérieures. L'argumentation est solide et claire, mais il convient de noter qu'élargir ainsi le sens d'ekphrasis pourrait conduire à l'appliquer à de nombreux stasima tragiques. Francesco De Martino emprunte pour l'appliquer aux comédies la catégorie des prosopa définie par Aelius Théon : description, avec effet comique, de personnages inventés (Dicaiopolis se décrit lui-même en détail dans les Acharniens), mythologiques (le glouton Héraclès et le lâche Dionysos) ou historiques (Périclès dans les Acharniens) et même de poètes (Euripide qui s'auto-décrit dans les Thesmophories) voire d'Aristophane lui-même (Guêpes, Cavaliers…) et de son public, enfin d'animaux. On regrettera que la plupart des extraits ne soient pas traduits.

Les deux présentations qui suivent se concentrent chacune sur une pièce fragmentaire. Ioanna Karamanou s'appuie sur l'édition qu'elle vient de réaliser de l'Alexandre d'Euripide (2017 : BMCR 2018.09.56) et en particulier les fragments se rapportant à la scène qui voit Alexandre être accusé par des bergers et se défendre devant Priam. Les développements témoignent d'une vraie connaissance des sources judiciaires et la thématique de l'ouvrage amène à une focalisation intéressante sur la nature judiciaire du débat, mais on pourra se reporter plus simplement à son édition commentée, plus complète. Maria de Fátima Silva part de la vantardise de Bellérophon dépeinte dans les comédies d'Aristophane pour analyser les fragments conservés de la pièce éponyme d'Euripide (en particulier les longues tirades du héros, fr. 285-286 Kn.). Le rapport à la rhétorique demeure très faible, le sujet des passages conservés concernant plutôt la justice au sens large du terme.

Les deux derniers articles dépassent le cadre du Ve siècle. Georgia Xanthaki-Karamanou analyse les agônes de certaines tragédies du IVe siècle (de Chérémon et Carcinos le Jeune) pour identifier des évolutions dans l'écriture des tragédies post-classiques, enrichies selon elle par l'apport de la rhétorique. Lorna Hardwick part de théories actuelles sur la performance et le théâtre pour repenser l'interaction entre raison et émotions dans les tragédies athéniennes. Sa contribution, qui ne se veut pas un essai sur la réception des pièces (242), étudie certaines tirades d'héroïnes tragiques cherchant à convaincre leurs interlocuteurs (Médée, Hécube, Andromaque) pour éclairer la manière dont ces passages peuvent influencer nos sociétés contemporaines et les débats qui les animent.

La bibliographie montre que les auteurs ont lu certains spécialistes du droit (quelques travaux de Gagarin, Kennedy, MacDowell, Mirhady, Thür ou Todd), mais témoigne surtout d'une tendance à l'autocitation (47 références au total). Elle est suivie d'un bon index de 24 pages réalisé par M. Carmen Encinas Reguero.

Au final, l'ensemble paraît déséquilibré : si le domaine tragique est bien maîtrisé, les connaissances manquent parfois du point de vue de la dimension rhétorique et judiciaire. L'article d'Encinas Reguero aurait bénéficié de la lecture de l'ouvrage L'utilisation de l'histoire par les orateurs attiques de Michel Nouhaud (1982), qui lui aurait permis de renforcer ses propositions et de s'ouvrir aux exemples développés pour souligner par contraste les différences avec la situation des protagonistes (à peine effleurés). En ce qui concerne la contribution de Quijada Sagredo, les tirades du messager ou des autres personnages ne peuvent être comparés à des témoins judiciaires (ce qui oblige l'auteure à sur-traduire παρών en « witnessed », 93) : dans les discours judiciaires, les dépositions ne sont qu'une confirmation des paroles de l'orateur et n'apportent aucune information supplémentaire, au contraire du récit riche en détails du messager ou de Darius. C'est plutôt du côté des stichomythies qu'il aurait fallu se tourner, en reprenant la question de l'interrogatoire des témoins, lequel n'existe plus à l'époque d'Aristote mais pouvait avoir lieu au Ve siècle. Enfin, le fragment 3 de Chérémon est très justement rapproché par Xanthaki-Karamanou du Contre Nééra d'Apollodore, mais il aurait été judicieux de le mettre en parallèle avec les déclarations récurrentes des plaignants visant à montrer qu'ils ne sont pas responsables du procès en cours (rapprochement valable aussi pour le fragment reprenant les Phéniciennes d'Euripide : voir 236-237). Dans la même pièce, Agamemnon est comparable à un arbitre privé, tout comme Jocaste dans les Phéniciennes, qui n'a que peu à voir avec un juge (232). Dans la Médée de Carcinos, le passage très intéressant dans lequel Jason demande à sa femme de faire venir ses enfants pour prouver qu'elle ne les a pas tués fait écho à certaines situations où des plaignants ont produit des individus supposément morts.4 Passées ces difficultés, les études des pièces sont pour la plupart bien menées et pourront être utiles aux chercheurs travaillant sur le théâtre antique.

Authors and titles

Ruth Scodel, « Mind-Reading, Rhetoric, and Antigone » (23–41)
M. Carmen Encinas Reguero, « The Paradeigma: Rhetorical Theory and Dramatic Practice in Classical Athens » (43–76)
Milagros Quijada Sagredo, « Approaching Tragic Structure to Judicial Procedure: Aeschylus's Persians » (77–101)
Maria do Céu Fialho, « Rhetoric and Crisis in Euripides, Iphigeneia at Aulis » (103–116)
José Antonio Fernández Delgado et Francisca Pordomingo, « Ekphrasis, Hesiodic Hypotext and Foretelling in the First Stasimon of Euripides' Electra » (117–136)
Francesco De Martino, « Ekphrasis and Comedy: The prosopa » (137–159)
Ioanna Karamanou, « Fragments of Euripidean Rhetoric: The Trial-Debate in Euripides' Alexandros » (161–176)
Maria de Fátima Silva, « The "Boastful" Bellerophon: The Rhetoric in an Euripides' lost Play » (177–212)
Georgia Xanthaki-Karamanou, « Dramatic Debates in Post-Classical Tragedy: Additional Remarks » (213–240)
Lorna Hardwick, « Transformation through Performance: Theatre Conventions, Reason, Emotion and Conscience » (241–264)


1.   Voir par exemple Victor Bers, « Tragedy and Rhetoric », dans Ian Worthington (éd.), Persuasion: Greek Rhetoric in Action, London/New York, 1994, pp. 176–195 ; Edward M. Harris, Delfim F. Leão et P. J. Rhodes, Law and Drama in Ancient Greece, London, 2010.
2.   On notera : « persuasive » (58), « suggests » plutôt que « suggest » (100), « ellaboration » (107), « agains » (108), « Agamenon » (109), « closelly » (111), χοροὺς plutôt que χορούς (135), « the private and public of sphere of action » (176), « Achiles » (214), « betwen » (232), « c'est fair voir » (266).
3.   Voir dernièrement Steven Johnstone, A History of Trust in Ancient Greece, Chicago/London, 2011, chap. 8, après l'article de Victor Bers déjà cité (n. 1).
4.   Voir en particulier Isocrate, Contre Callimachos (XVIII), 52–54.

(read complete article)


Mor Segev, Aristotle on Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. Pp. vii, 192. ISBN 9781108415255. £75.00.

Reviewed by Etienne Helmer, University of Puerto Rico (

Version at BMCR home site


La défiance des philosophes envers les religions de leur temps est chose courante, et Aristote n'échappe pas à la règle. Sa représentation de dieu comme premier moteur immobile au livre Lambda de la Métaphysique n'a rien de commun avec le Zeus du panthéon grec, et pourrait passer pour une forme d'impiété. D'ailleurs, Aristote ne fut-il pas traîné en justice comme Socrate pour ce motif ?1 Pourtant, il ne recommande pas de se distancier de la religion traditionnelle, et l'intègre même dans sa cité idéale. Comment comprendre un tel paradoxe ?

Dans un ouvrage clair et convaincant consacré à la religion chez Aristote, Mor Segev défend la thèse suivante : Aristote critique certes les religions traditionnelles, dont le contenu est divulgué par les mythes, la poésie et l'opinion commune, mais il estime que leur fonction est indispensable sur le plan sociopolitique. La religion oriente en effet les âmes des hommes les meilleurs vers les principes dont la compréhension forme le contenu du bonheur. Le faux, en somme, peut aussi servir le bien et le vrai – Aristote a retenu la leçon de Platon.

L'ouvrage comporte cinq chapitres. Les quatre premiers présentent le paradoxe et sa solution, et le dernier examine les prolongements de la position aristotélicienne dans les pensées médiévales juives et chrétiennes, en prenant pour exemples Maïmonide et Albert le Grand.

Le chapitre I expose l'objet des critiques d'Aristote envers les religions : elles visent principalement l'anthropomorphisme qui imprègne la plupart d'entre elles, ainsi que l'idée que les dieux ont une conduite intentionnelle et répondent au culte de leurs fidèles, comme c'est le cas dans un schéma providentiel. Pour Aristote au contraire, dieu est identifiable à la faculté théorétique se pensant elle-même, et il est la cause première de tout mouvement, aussi bien dans notre âme que dans le reste de l'univers. L'interprétation détaillée d'un passage controversé du De philosophia (p. 29-47), qui répond à l'allégorie platonicienne de la caverne, en remet en question les lectures courantes : pour Mor Segev, Aristote n'y soutient ni un argument téléologique pour prouver l'existence de dieu, ni un projet d'éducation philosophique, mais énonce une critique des Formes platoniciennes comme séparées et indument déduites d'un argument téléologique sans fondement.

Les chapitres II à IV expliquent le détail du paradoxe aristotélicien sur la religion traditionnelle, ainsi que la fonction qu'elle peut jouer malgré la fausseté de son contenu. Le paradoxe est d'autant plus fort que, contrairement à Platon, Aristote ne propose pas de transformer ce contenu au moment d'étudier le rôle politique de la religion dans sa cité idéale. A quoi peut- elle donc servir dans ces conditions ?

Dans le chapitre II, l'auteur souligne que son utilité ne tient pas au contrôle social qu'elle permet d'exercer, car la cité d'Aristote est faite d'hommes vertueux. Selon Mor Segev, la fonction primordiale de la religion traditionnelle pour Aristote est de permettre d'atteindre la connaissance de la philosophie première, dont dieu est l'objet central. Le rôle des prêtres – Mor Segev ne dit pas si Aristote estime qu'ils en ont ou pourraient en avoir conscience – est de susciter auprès des fidèles l'émerveillement envers les dieux, émerveillement pouvant alors donner lieu, dans le meilleur des cas, à une enquête philosophique sur les premiers principes. L'anthropomorphisme divin peut ainsi favoriser la connaissance philosophique de dieu. Si cet argument lui-même ne figure pas tel quel dans le corpus aristotélicien, un argument similaire se trouve chez Strabon (Geographica 1.2.8), dont Mor Segev montre, avec toute la prudence requise, qu'il est raisonnable de l'appliquer aussi à Aristote, dans la mesure où, à l'évidence, Strabon puise sans le dire les éléments de sa réflexion chez le Stagirite.

Si donc la religion traditionnelle n'enseigne pas, du moins facilite-t-elle l'enseignement en suscitant un état émotionnel qui lui est propice. Comment concilier toutefois l'argument d'Aristote avec sa téléologie ? Comment le faux peut-il avoir une fonction naturelle ? Pour Mor Segev, il en va de la religion comme de l'argent, qui sont pour Aristote des instruments conventionnels : dépourvus de valeur en eux-mêmes, ils trouvent leur usage naturel quand ils sont employés en vue d'un but naturel, à savoir respectivement l'acquisition limitée des richesses, et le bonheur de la cité et des individus.

Dans le chapitre III, Mor Segev examine l'élément précis qui, dans les religions traditionnelles, permettrait aux fidèles les meilleurs d'entreprendre une enquête philosophique sur les premiers principes. Le dénominateur commun entre les hommes et les dieux, que les descriptions anthropomorphiques des dieux incitent à découvrir, est la possession et l'exercice de l'intellect, dont la fonction est de se penser soi-même comme pensant. Si la religion traditionnelle tend plutôt à distinguer les mortels des immortels, elle peut donc toutefois mettre sur la voie de la connaissance philosophique de ce qu'ils ont en commun, et qui fonde notre capacité de comprendre l'activité divine.

Le court chapitre IV a pour objet le regard qu'Aristote porte sur les mythes et leur usage. A l'exception de ceux dont le contenu est incontestablement obscur, tous sont utiles malgré leur fausseté intrinsèque, qui porte toujours des traces de vérité : ils peuvent contribuer à une forme de stabilité sociale et d'habituation morale, mettre sur la voie d'une instruction philosophique concernant des points théoriques particuliers (comme les théories du mouvement par exemple), soutenir les lois d'une cité, ou encore rendre compte d'un état passé du monde.

Mor Segev consacre le dernier chapitre de son ouvrage à l'influence que la théorie aristotélicienne a exercée sur deux penseurs médiévaux, Maïmonide et Albert le Grand. Maïmonide suit de près Aristote, en estimant que le culte, avec son contenu anthropomorphique, est préparatoire à la connaissance philosophique de dieu. Albert le Grand estime lui aussi que la poésie et les mythes et religieux peuvent servir à persuader les fidèles et orienter leur conduite. Mais à la différence de Maïmonide et d'Aristote, il situe leur finalité propre non dans une connaissance philosophique de dieu ou des premiers principes, mais dans une contemplation théologique directe de la vérité.

Outre quelques répétitions dans l'annonce des idées directrices et dans les conclusions de chaque chapitre, on peut peut- être reprocher à Mor Segev de ne pas situer plus précisément Aristote par rapport à Platon sur cette question, au début du livre par exemple, ainsi que par rapport à certains de ses disciples, comme Dicéarque qui accordait à la vie pratique la supériorité éthique sur la vie contemplative : quel rôle pouvait bien jouer pour lui la religion ? Ces remarques n'entament toutefois pas la valeur et la rigueur de l'ouvrage, qui se distingue par la portée anthropologique que Mor Segev, sans le dire en ces termes, perçoit dans la réflexion d'Aristote en matière religieuse. Ce dernier ne se contente pas en effet de critiquer la religion traditionnelle tout en se résignant à sa nécessité sociale ou politique : il montre en quoi la religion offre une réponse au désir naturel de savoir propre à l'homme, et figure à ses yeux l'institution politique ou sociale du vrai.


1.   Richard Bodéus, « L'impiété d'Aristote », Kernos [En ligne], 15 | 2002, mis en ligne le 21 avril 2011.

(read complete article)