Friday, August 29, 2008


Version at BMCR home site
Alan H. Sommerstein, Judith Fletcher (ed.), Horkos. The Oath in Greek Society. Exeter: Bristol Phoenix Press, 2007. Pp. xii, 304. ISBN 978-1-904675-67-9. $95.00.
Reviewed by Danielle L. Kellogg, Brooklyn College, CUNY

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

"The importance of oaths to ancient Greek culture can hardly be overstated"(2), Alan Sommerstein states in the introduction, and this premise is behind the seventeen contributions to this volume. This book is the result of a 2004 conference entitled "The Oath in Greek Society," which was held at the University of Nottingham, and contains revised versions of most of the papers which were given there, as well as a few commissioned contributions.1 The volume is divided by thematic considerations into three unequal parts: 'Oaths and their Uses', 'Case Studies', and 'From East, to West'. The essays are followed by notes, a bibliography for the entire volume, a general index, and an index locorum. The volume is carefully produced, with a minimum of typographical errors,2 and should prove to be a great contribution to the study of oaths in antiquity.

In the Introduction, Alan H. Sommerstein defines the term "oath," noting that a true oath has three characteristics: a declaration, a specification of the powers invoked as witnesses, and a curse if the oath is violated, which may be explicit or understood (2). He then goes on to discuss the role of oaths in Greek society, making reference to the various contributors' articles as they become appropriate. He also outlines the thematic considerations which determined the three sections of the volume: in Part I, the focus is on the nature of Greek oaths and their functions in various societal arenas; in Part II, the contributors examine specific texts and occasions in which oaths and the violation of oaths are the focus; and in Part III, the shortest section of the volume, the essays explore the connections between Greek oaths and oaths of other cultures with whom the Greeks were in contact.

The first essay of Part I, by P.J. Rhodes, examines the role of oaths in the sphere of Greek politics; his main focus is on oaths within the Athenian state, but there is also some discussion of the use of oaths in Greek political leagues such as the Delian League. He then goes on to examine the different oaths which demarcated political events and the participation of Athenian citizens in the democracy, distinguishing between so-called regular oaths, which were sworn on various occasions by everyone in a given category (i.e. the ephebic oath, oaths of office, dikasts' oaths), and special oaths at specific occasions or sets of events (the oath related to the Kylonian conspiracy, the oath of the restored democracy in 403). Rhodes makes the significant, yet often overlooked, point that oaths could also be used in the context of plots against established regimes, as well as to uphold them. After examining oaths specific to Athenian political life, Rhodes extends his focus by looking at evidence from elsewhere in the Greek world and notes that in general we find oaths being used in the same sorts of contexts as we see them used in Athenian politics. Finally, he turns his attention to oaths in interstate leagues, including the Delphic Amphiktyony, the Delian League, Peloponnesian League, Second Athenian Confederacy, and the League of Corinth, and comes to the conclusion that the minimum undertaking of a league oath was not to cause harm to another member (with the Peloponnesian League and possibly the Delian League being notable exceptions), but that depending upon the terms under which the league operated the oath of allegiance to the league could involve a number of different provisions.

In "Oaths in Greek International Relations," Sarah Bolmarcich argues that the oaths contained in certain Greek treaties contained some flexibility, and that, as a result, there were circumstances under which failing to fulfill the terms of an oath was not the same thing as breaking the oath. Bolmarcich notes that "there was a difference between a violation of an oath without cause, and failure to fulfill the obligations of an oath when asked due to circumstances--violation by commission and violation by omission, as it were" (27). Some oaths had built-in "escape clauses," circumstances under which the failure to fulfill the oath obligation was acceptable, while other oaths contained clauses that indicated they would be upheld without tricks or deceit. She adduces numerous documents in support of her argument, although due to the nature of the sources they are unevenly distributed between the oaths with "escape clauses" and oaths that referenced deceit. The only example of the use of an "escape clause" given by Bolmarcich is the arguments of the Corinthians to the Spartans regarding the Peace of Nikias and Argive alliance at Thuc. 5.30, when they maintained that the gods and heroes stood in the way of the fulfillment of their oaths; however, she correctly notes several other occasions in Greek history where religious obligations prevented the fulfillment of "military or diplomatic obligation or need" (30). However, the use of clauses referencing tricks and deceit was common in regulatory decrees of the Athenian empire (although they were not exclusively used by the Athenians and their allies), and Bolmarcich is therefore able to provide several examples of interstate documents containing such clauses. She concludes that these sorts of clauses were not "sophistic" attempts to get out of one's oath obligations, but rather a necessary concession to the sovereignty of each Greek polis.

Michael Gagarin reexamines the phenomenon of the oath-challenge, or proklesis, in Athenian litigation. The oath-challenge is a common feature of Athenian forensic speeches, and numerous examples of the genre mention an example of proklesis at some point during the proceedings. Gagarin notes, however, that of all the speeches in which an example of proklesis is recalled, in only one case was the proposed oath accepted and carried out: the dispute between the sons of Mantias, preserved in Demosthenes 39 and 40. Largely on the basis of this accepted oath-challenge, scholars of Athenian law have argued that an accepted oath-challenge was an alternative means of settlement in the Athenian legal system.3 However, Gagarin notes that the proklesis in this case was particularly decisive and "highly unusual, in that when it was proposed, it was intended to be decisive by being refused, not accepted" (40). Gagarin goes on to examine the other examples of the oath-challenge in Athenian forensic oratory which are similar to the one in the dispute between Mantias' sons, and then turns his attention the roots of the oath-challenge in Greek culture, analyzing four examples of the phenomenon in Homer and the Hymn to Hermes. He argues, rightly in my opinion, that we cannot necessarily conclude from this particular case of the dispute between the sons of Mantias that all other oath-challenges in Athenian law would have been as decisive to the outcome of the case.

Remaining on the theme of the oath in the Athenian judicial system, David Mirhady explores the terms of the dikasts' oath in Athens, which contained two key elements: the jurors swore to cast their votes according to the laws, and they further swore to do so by their "most just understanding" γνώμῃ τῇ δικαιοτάτῃ. Mirhady begins by noting that the dikasts' oath does not survive in complete form from the classical period, and that the commonly accepted text is actually a reconstruction by Max Fränkel, many parts of which are based upon modest textual evidence. According to Fränkel's reconstruction, the clause concerning the dikasts' " most just understanding," refers to cases in which there are no laws; Mirhady, on the other hand, argues that in practice the γνώμῃ τῇ δικαιοτάτῃ referred to the dikasts' decisions regarding questions of fact, and that the belief that this clause referred to gaps in the laws is based upon two passages of Demosthenes (39.40 and 20.118) in which Demosthenes is himself interpreting the clause. As Mirhady states, "The clause stating that the ...γνώμῃ τῇ δικαιοτάτῃ was to be used in matters about which there were no laws seems an interpretation by Demosthenes that covers only limited situations. In reality, the laws and the γνώμῃ τῇ δικαιοτάτῃ were generally to be used simultaneously" (52). Mirhady concludes that the clause "in matters about which there are no laws," present in Fränkel's reconstruction, did not actually appear in the dikasts' oath, and that the γνώμῃ τῇ δικαιοτάτῃ therefore referred generally to the question of fact.

David Carter discusses the idea of rights in the context of promissory oaths in ancient Greece, attempting to determine whether the Greeks had the concept of a right guaranteed "not by one's simple humanity, nor by the law, but by a contract into which one has entered" (62) Carter looks for claim-rights arguments in cases where there was an alleged breach of contract, noting that while in most cases in which agreements were broken seem to have been tried under the dike blabes, there was one procedure in Athenian law, the dike emporike connected with maritime loans, under which the Athenians could bring suit for breaches of agreement. He then examines more closely two such cases, preserved in the Demosthenic corpus as speeches 35 and 56 before turning briefly to Euripides' Phoinissai and Thucydides' depiction of the Plataians' arguments to the Spartans when they decide to march against Plataia in 429 to test his interpretation. He comes to the conclusion that the Greeks did indeed make arguments based upon the ideas of claim-rights embedded in contracts, and that, in making such arguments, references to previously sworn oaths strengthened the argument for the claim-right, although it did not guarantee it. Thus, it was the agreement or contract between the parties which created the claim right, if it was recognized at all, not the oath itself; the oath served only to reinforce this right by making its violation an offense against the gods as well as man.

Edwin Carawan also considers the relationship between oath and contract in his contribution, examining which contracts required oaths and which did not, and further, what sorts of commitments the presence of such an oath affected which were not affected in contracts lacking oath clauses. He also considers the question of the circumstances under which the sanctions contained within an oath could be invoked to reinforce contractual obligations. Examining both epigraphical and textual evidence, Carawan argues that in general commercial life in the ancient Greek world was predicated simply upon the basis of agreements in which no oaths were required; the presence of oaths seems to indicate a prior relationship in which there were conflicting claims. Therefore, oaths were only used when disagreements arose and had to be settled, at which point the parties involved in the dispute took and oath to abide by the settlement.

In the final essay of Part I, Jonathan Perry examines the oaths taken by Olympic athletes in antiquity and how these oaths relate to a series of Olympic scandals--both real and alleged--from the late fifth and fourth centuries. He begins with the case of the Spartan Kyniska, who won an Olympic victory in probably the 390s BCE, examining the possible motivations of Kyniska and particularly her brother Agesilaos in entering Kyniska's horses in the competition. Scholarly theories regarding these motivations include references to Agesilaos' panhellenism,4 new opportunities available to wealthy Spartans at this time to participate in these sorts of agonistic competitions and thus display their wealth,5 and the opportunity for Agesilaos to avenge his family's dishonor at the hands of Alcibiades by the victory of another royal woman in the same event as Alcibiades' notorious victory of 416.6 Perry proposes yet another explanation, based upon a similarity of language between the biographical accounts that discuss Kyniska's victory and Pausanias' description of the Zanes at Olympia. Perry argues that Pausanias' summaries of the inscriptions on the Zanes, particularly the first and sixth of those statues, seem to echo the opinions of Agesilaos as preserved in the accounts of Xenophon and Plutarch regarding the role of money in the winning of an Olympic victory. He argues that "It would seem reasonable to conclude that the process of swearing an oath...could have a practical, as well as religious value" (84-5). Perry goes on to examine the oaths sworn at Olympia, as related by Pausanias, to the Olympic scandals of 400, 396, 392, and 388, all of which hinged upon the integrity of the Eleans charged with overseeing the sanctuary and games, and argues that in response to these scandals, Agesilaos may have had Kyniska's statue produced and erected at Olympia, designed to further shame the Eleans. He further argues that in response to this act, the Eleans discovered another act of cheating during the games of 388, leading to the erection of the first of the Zanes.

Turning to Part II, "Case Studies," Bonnie MacLachlan examines the rhetorical trope of epinician poetry in which the poet (or poetic voice) swears to the truth of his assertions. MacLachlan notes that oaths in epinician poetry are odd in two specific ways: first, oaths are generally sworn in cases of uncertainty as to the truth, but epinician oaths swearing to the truth of the account are sworn in the presence of people who may have actually witnessed the events described, and who therefore did not need verification of the truth of the account. Second, oaths are usually sworn in situations of mistrust, but epinician poetry was ostensibly performed at an occasion honoring the victor, in other words, a situation in which one would not expect to find reference to a dispute. By examining various oaths in Bacchylides and Pindar, MacLachlan concludes that the oath in epinician poetry acted first as a reinforcement of the poet's praise of the victor and second as a buttress to the poet's claim of divinely revealed knowledge and wisdom in the composition and performance of his poetry.

Judith Fletcher explores the role of oaths in the Oresteia, noting that although the concept of justice in the Oresteia has received a great deal of attention, there has not been much attention paid to the oaths which provide the structure for this justice. Fletcher traces the evolution of oaths throughout the trilogy, arguing that until Athena tenders the dikasts' oath at the culmination of the story, oaths function in the Oresteia as a way of binding members of the unhappy house of Atreus into a never-ending cycle of violence, vengeance, and retribution. However, as justice develops throughout the cycle, so do the oaths that structure it, until the establishment of the Areopagus renders both oaths and justice in forms familiar to the fifth-century Athenian audience. She connects this development with the development of the Erinyes, who also evolve from vindictive to beneficial forces, and further examines this in the context of the establishment of the patriarchal civic space of classical Athens, so that oaths also become gendered acts; Fletcher argues that while male characters enjoy particular advantages in the swearing of oaths, the oaths of the female characters, especially Clytemnestra, are usually in some way flawed or corrupt. Of particular interest is Fletcher's analysis of the anakrisis of the Eumenides, which seems to preserve traces of an oath-challenge; Orestes here refuses the oath-challenge offered by the Erinyes, thus eluding their trap. Fletcher reads this as yet another example of the female characters' inability make oaths work for them, but given the earlier contributions concerning the dikasts' oath and the oath-challenge by Mirhady and Gagarin, respectively, in the volume, this brief analysis has some interesting implications. Fletcher notes that with the culmination of the trilogy we also see the first time a female character is able to make oaths work for them; Athena successfully elicits an oath from male characters, and this is intimately connected with the establishment of civic justice and a new type of oath, which eliminates the self-destructive violence of the earlier plays and binds men to judge in accordance with the laws of the polis.

Continuing the examination of oaths in tragedy, Arlene Allan turns to Euripides' Medea and argues that Medea's claim that Jason had given her a sworn pledge of loyalty should be regarded as a fabrication. Allan notes that as a result of an increased appreciation of the role of oaths in the Medea "the form Medea's vengeance takes becomes understandable in terms of a generally held Greek belief that oath-breakers, along with their property and progeny, should be and would be wholly destroyed" (113). However, Allan argues that Euripides' use of oaths in the play is not straightforward, and that Jason's alleged promise to Medea is meant to be read as yet another in a long line of fabrications and manipulations of the truth that Medea employs throughout the action of the play. Allan demonstrates that the audience is given no reason to accept the validity of Medea's claim "except through appeal to the theatrical convention which requires that the audience willingly suspend their disbelief and take what a character says at face-value" (123). We therefore cannot conclude with any degree of certainty that Jason is an oath-breaker who deserves the loss of his children as punishment.

In "Cloudy swearing: when (if ever) is an oath not an oath?," Alan Sommerstein turns from tragedy to comedy, undertaking a statistical analysis of so-called "informal oaths," or common expressions of ordinary speech such as "by Zeus," in Clouds in order to determine whether there are "any criteria by which we can determine the degree of sanctity and significance to be attached to an informal oath."12 To this end he considers the Clouds entries in the database of all references to oaths and swearing which was constructed between 2004 and 2006 by the members of the Oath in Archaic and Classical Greece Project funded by the Leverhulme Trust. Sommerstein considers seven hypotheses concerning the expression and context of an oath might influence its sanctity and binding force: is the oath by Zeus or by another god or gods; if the oath is by Zeus, does it name him with the definite article; is the name of the god invoked accompanied by an epithet; is the oath-formula a conjunction of two or more invocations; is attention drawn to features of sanctity within the environment; has the oath been solicited by another person; and has the oath been preceded by an explicit discussion of swearing. There are, as Sommerstein notes, forty-six informal oaths in Clouds; by analyzing these oaths in the context of the seven above criteria, Sommerstein comes to the conclusion that, so far as Clouds is concerned, an oath is never not an oath. However, he notes that the picture is somewhat more complicated with reference to the rest of the Aristophanic corpus. Despite this, he is able to conclude that "even in the case of informal oaths uttered by characters in comedy, there remained, in the late fifth and early fourth centuries, a significant degree of reluctance to attach an oath-formula to a false or insincere statement, and an even stronger degree of reluctance to show such an action as being successful to the detriment of others" (137).

Simon Hornblower's contribution, "Thucydides and Plataian perjury," is offered as a response to a 2003 article in Classical Quarterly by Stephanie West, "Ὅρκου πάις ἐστὶν ἀνώνυμος: the aftermath of Plataean perjury." West argues, through reference to several contemporary tragedies (interestingly, Jason's alleged oath to Medea is one of her examples), that perjury was considered to be a serious crime in classical Greece and that the perception that the Plataians were tainted by perjury was at least part of the reason why the Athenians did not aid them in the face of the Spartan siege in the opening years of the Peloponnesian War. Hornblower argues that the accusations of Plataian perjury must be considered in light of the lingering reputation of the Thebans for perjury and the behavior of the Thebans during this episode. His article is divided into four points of analysis: first, general considerations, under which he considers accusations of oath-breaking as political point-scoring and the story of Glaukos the Spartan (a story of some importance to West) who was punished by Delphic Apollo for merely entertaining a dishonest thought (Hdt. 6.86). Second, Hornblower considers whether or not the Athenians really failed to help the Plataians, and argues that although the Athenians did not manage to save Plataia, they also did not abandon it out of hand, rendering some aid during the siege and giving the remaining Plataians citizenship after their city fell. Third, he examines in detail Thucydides' handling of the story of the supposed perjury of the Plataians, particularly with respect to the Athenian attitudes towards them. He emphasizes in this section that the Theban claim against the Plataians was in fact a counter-claim of perjury, and that of the two accusations, the accusation against the Thebans had a far longer shelf life than that against the Plataians. He also argues in this section that the use of the verb λέγεται in this section, which has been contended to indicate a sort of religious unease on Thucydides' part, can in fact be interpreted instead as confirmation of the perjury charge against the Thebans; this argument is intriguing, although I wonder how many people will be convinced by it. Finally Hornblower turns his attention to the oaths of 479 and the claim, made by Archidamos, that the Plataians had broken their oaths by not actively fighting against the Athenians, where he argues, contra Badian, who believes that the Plataians here accept their own perjury, that in fact the Plataians may have protested this interpretation by Archidamos, and that the Athenians in fact showed no unease over this alleged oath-breaking.

Julia Shear considers the oath of Demophantos in the context of Athenian identity in the aftermath of the second oligarchic coup in less than a decade. She argues that the political identity of Athens and the Athenians was altered and updated in response to the oligarchies of the Four Hundred and the Five Thousand. Shear begins by laying out the terms of the text of the decree and oath of Demophantos, which set forth the manner in which the Athenians should respond if the democracy should be overthrown in the future. It specified that anyone who overthrew the democracy or who held office after the democracy was overthrown could be killed with impunity and his property was to be confiscated and tithed. Shear examines five aspects of the document in her discussion: the emphasis on democracy as the only possible government in Athens; the manner in which the provisions of the oath retrospectively justify the death of Phrynichos; the clear picture the oath presents of the proper Athenian and his activities; the creation of an unusual oath-taking ceremony; and finally the decision regarding the location of the stele bearing the text of the oath. Shear's arguments are in the main convincing, particularly those involving the method and timing of the novel oath-taking ceremony specified in the decree and the implications of the erection of the stele bearing the oath in its site in the Agora.

The second section concludes with a contribution on the Great Oath of the Syracusans by Tarik Wareh. The megas horkos of the Syracusans was only administered on two occasions that we are aware of, both times during the fourth century BCE, and both times by "faithless political schemers" (161). Wareh argues that we must examine this ritual in terms of the available comparative evidence in order to discover "their potential variation in civic and emotional meaning according to the traditions in which they are expressed in a given place and time" (161). Wareh sees the effectiveness of the Great Oath of the Syracusans in terms of the hierophantic performance, and attempts to examine the rituals of the megas horkos in the context of cognate features of the rite as described by Plutarch in his Life of Dion with other public rituals evoking Demeter and Kore in Sicily and Greece. In this vein he considers particular examples of hierophantic performance in successful contexts, which the two examples of the Syracusan oath cannot be considered. Specifically, Wareh attempts to link the failed oaths of Kallipos and Agathokles with the stories of Telines' restoration of Geloan exiles (preserved in Herodotos 7.253.2f), Diodorus Siculus' narrative of Gelon's accounting of his political career to the assembly of the Syracusans in 11.26.5-7, and the journey of Timoleon from Corinth to Sicily, preserved in both Plutarch and Diodorus, reading aspects of each as hierophantic performance and emphasizing the connections with the cult of Demeter and Kore. While the Telines incident is suggestive, I found the comparisons with the stories of Gelon and Timoleon much less convincing. Wareh reads Gelon's unarmed appearance before the Syracusan assembly as hierophantic largely by analogy to the Telines narrative and, in my opinion, places too much weight on the fact that Diodoros next mentions Gelon's use of spoils to build temples to Demeter and Kore. Similarly, Wareh attempts to connect the story of Timoleon with Deinomenid tradition by linking the migration of Timoleon with that of Deinomenes. While Wareh is correct in noting the similarities of the traditions--namely the migration of sacred implements from one locale to another, suggesting the language of cult foundation--I find his reading of "much more latent priestly undertones" (166) in the Timoleon narrative problematic, all the more so as they are partially based upon the symbolic connotation of ears of wheat in the Eleusinian Mysteries, which Wareh himself notes is simply "our best guess based on the scanty and problematic sources" (167). At this point Wareh argues that "in every instance of someone appearing in that role [that of hierophant] is to cement civic peace and concord through the power of the goddesses" (167), and attempts to use Ephesian and Eleusinian examples to cement his point. While I found this section as a whole more convincing that the previous examples, one may wonder if the Ephesian story, in which Herakleitos drinks kukeon in order to teach the Ephesians how to maintain homonoia, can really be considered an example of a hierophantic performance, even though the connections to rituals of Demeter and Kore are clear.

The first contribution to the third and shortest section of the volume is Mary Bachvarova's "Oath and Allusion in Alcaeus fr. 129." In this fragment the poet calls the gods of Lesbos to their sanctuary in order to witness his plea for an Erinys to be set upon Pittakos, since Pittakos has forsworn his oath, forced Alcaeus into exile, and is allegedly forcing the Lesbians to suffer from internecine strife. Most previous studies of this fragment have focused upon the structural juxtaposition of the formal oath invocation with Alcaeus' curse against Pittakos. Bachvarova, in contrast, reads the fragment as a structural whole by focusing on its ritual utility, arguing that the wording "echoes the wording and gestures of the oath ceremony that the prayer recalls as it activates the curses spoken then" (179). She reads the imagery of the poem in the context of the imagery of Eastern Mediterranean oaths stretching back as far as c. 1400 BCE, and including examples of Akkadian, Hittite, Hebrew, and Aramaic oaths. The cultural similarities between various Hittite and Semitic ceremonies, curse imagery, and oaths with similar rituals found in Greek texts have been long noted. Bachvarova continues this scholarship by reading the first section of Alcaeus fr. 129, through line 20, as being similar with other Greek and Near Eastern loyalty oaths, as well as also containing elements of similarity with Mesopotamian promissory oaths and Esarhaddon's Succession Treaty. The second part of fr. 129, which contains Alcaeus' curse against Pittakos, has often been seen as something radically different in tone from the first part of the poem, a position which Bachvarova argues against by again invoking similarities with comparanda of curses and magic from the Eastern Mediterranean. She notes that the images of clothing, eating, and trampling in Alcaeus' fragment have parallels in curses and magic ritual from various cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean, including the Hittites and Assyrians. Moreover, Bachvarova contends that the reference to Pittakos as "Swollen-belly" also has cross-cultural connotations which have been previously overlooked, citing several references to dropsy in Near Eastern oath curses.

Myrto Garani argues that Lucretius evokes Empedokles' social and political imagery in "Cosmological Oaths in Empedocles and Lucretius." Garani begins by examining two fragments of Empedokles, DK31 B30 and B115, arguing that their combination by Simplicius is partly mistaken, on the basis that "in DK31 B30 the disruption of the Sphere occurs according to and oath that both Love and Strife respect, on the contrary in B115 Strife gains control due to a crime and more importantly due to the transgression of oaths" (193). After separating these two fragments, Garani turns to an examination of the mention of "broad oaths" which is contained within each fragment. Garani concludes that Empedokles gives us an illusory vision of oaths in which transgression of oaths is impossible, and that by this means he offers a model of social behavior for human society. Garani then examines Lucretius' metaphor of the foedera naturae and argues that, "after refuting the points with which he does not agree and making the necessary deviations and adaptations" (196) necessitated by the differences between Epicurean thinking and Empedoklean cosmology, Lucretius integrates Empedokles' metaphor of the oath into his own doctrine.

The final contribution to the volume is Serena Connolly's "Ὀμνύω αὐτὸν τὸν Σεβαστόν: The Greek Oath in the Roman World." She closely examines the Paphlagonian oath of loyalty to Augustus from Neapolis (formerly Phazemon) in 3 BCE and contends that this text contains a blending of Greek and Roman elements which suggests that the Paphlagonians did not formulate their text from one paradigmatic oath of loyalty, but instead drew from a number of differing types of oaths from different places expressing shared sentiments. This in turn allowed oaths of loyalty to be adapted to the particular needs of a city or group depending upon various factors including place and situation. Connolly notes that the Paphlagonian oath is carefully formulated to demand absolute loyalty, not only to Augustus himself, but also his descendants, and that this demand is reinforced by the manner in which it was sworn. Connolly argues against previous scholars who have claimed that oaths of loyalty in the eastern and western parts of the Roman empire descended from different traditions, and she uses comparanda from the western half of the empire to demonstrate similarities with the Paphlagonian oath.

Overall, the essays in this volume are thoroughly and carefully researched and contain many intriguing arguments and points concerning the role and form of oaths in the ancient Greek world. This book is an important contribution to the discussion of oaths in Greek society and should be consulted by anyone interested in the topic.

Authors and titles:

Alan H. Sommerstein, "Introduction" (1-8)

Part I: Oaths and their Uses

P.J. Rhodes, "Oaths in political life" (11-25)
Sarah Bolmarcich, "Oaths in Greek international relations" (26-38)
Michael Gagarin, "Litigants' oaths in Athenian law" (39-47)
David C. Mirhady, "The dikast's oath and the question of fact" (48-59)
David Carter, "Could a Greek oath guarantee a claim right? Oaths, contracts and the structure of obligation in classical Athens" (60-72)
Edwin M. Carawan, "Oath and contract" (73-80)
Jonathan S. Perry, "'An Olympic victory must not be bought': oath-taking, cheating and women in Greek athletics" (81-88)

Part II: Case Studies

Bonnie MacLachlan, "Epinician swearing" (91-101)
Judith Fletcher, "Horkos in the Oresteia" (102-112)
Arlene Allan, "Masters of manipulation: Euripides' (and Medea's) use of oaths in Medea" (113-124)
Alan H. Sommerstein, "Cloudy swearing: when (if ever) is an oath not an oath?" (125-137)
Simon Hornblower, "Thucydides and Plataian perjury" (138-147)
Julia L. Shear, "The oath of Demophantos and the politics of Athenian identity" (148-160)
Tarik Wareh, "Hierophantic performances: the Syracusans' Great Oath and other examples" (161-176)

Part III: From East, to West

Mary R. Bachvarova, "Oath and allusion in Alcaeus fr. 129" (179-188)
Myrto Garani, "Cosmological oaths in Empedocles and Lucretius" (189-202)
Serena Connolly, "Ὀμνύω αὐτὸν τὸν Σεβαστόν ['I swear by Augustus himself']: The Greek oath in the Roman world" (203-216)


1.   Specifically, the contributions of P.J. Rhodes and Simon Hornblower.
2.   I.e., "strtucture" for "structure" in the Table of Contents.
3.   See, for example, David Mirhady's short but influential article, "The oath-challenge in Athens," CQ 41, 78-83.
4.   See Paul Cartledge, Agesilaos and the Crisis of Sparta (Baltimore 1987) and D.R. Shipley, A Commentary on Plutarch's Life of Agesilaos (Oxford 1997).
5.   See Stephen Hodkinson, Property and Wealth in Classical Sparta (London 2000).
6.   D. Kyle, "'The only woman in all Greece': Kyniska, Agesilaus, Alcibiades and Olympia," Journal of Sport History 30, 183-204.

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Version at BMCR home site
Caroline van Eck, Classical Rhetoric and the Visual Arts in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Pp. xii, 225; ills. 54. ISBN 978-0-521-84435-2. $80.00.
Reviewed by David Cast, Bryn Mawr College

Caroline van Eck is well known and well respected for her studies in the history and theory of architecture and it is nicely appropriate that an image of Sir John Soane's wonderful, picturesque façade at Pitzhanger Manor graces the outside cover of this book. But here she cuts a wider swathe to include painting and sculpture in her examination of the role of rhetoric and the practices of classical rhetoric within what she calls the visual persuasion of the arts in Early Modern Europe. In classical philosophy there had always been a language to speak of the arts as depiction, "the visual representation of the thing" as the English humanist George Puttenham put it in 1589. But such an account of art, as Erwin Panofsky so memorably explained, measuring painting and sculpture against the concepts of cognitive truth, "i.e. correspondence to the Ideas", was unable to do them justice and allowed no room for what he described as an aesthetics of representational art as an intellectual realm, sui generis. Yet always also there was rhetoric; and if within classical epistemology this might also be called into question for its value as truth, oratory as a practice known from the writings of Aristotle and Cicero and Quintilian was always there in the Renaissance to fill the gap left by the loss of almost all classical writing about art and to suggest structures of expression, adaptable to the tasks of art, whether these were terms to define secular authority or the description and justification of the doctrines of religion.

It is this topic, the relationship between such rhetoric and the visual arts of the Renaissance, that van Eck examines in this intelligent and suggestive study. As van Eck acknowledges the subject itself, however variously defined, has been a focus of scholarly attention for many years now. But here, taking up her brief in what she calls a series of case studies to show how this worked in practice, van Eck is able to examine in a number of instances how rhetoric, or more particularly the training in rhetoric that was a standard part of the educational curriculum in the Renaissance, informed the processes of design and theory and the interpretation in the arts of Europe between about 1400 and 1800. This text is not a historical survey of the roles rhetoric played then, nor is it, to borrow the phrase van Eck herself uses, a contribution to the many debates now about the distinction between words and images, whether to argue for the textual nature of all objects of art or for what she calls the irreducibility of the visual character of the visual arts. Rather the subject here is persuasion and how works of art acted or were thought to act on viewers, whether in Italy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries or then, extending the material beyond the figurative arts and further afield culturally, to architectural practice in France and England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries where, within the context of the appropriation and transcription of the style of Italy beyond its first national boundaries, many such questions of meaning and effect were considered and commented upon.

The materials here are divided into three sections; theory; invention; interpretation. And if, so obviously and necessarily, van Eck begins with Leon Battista Alberti and the text of the De Pictura (1435/6) to speak of the figurative arts, when then she turns to the more elusive subject of the rhetorical persuasiveness of architecture it is later and less familiar names that she invokes, Daniele Barbaro, Vincenzo Scamozzi and Gherardo Spini, all of whom in varying degrees of specificity attempted to draw parallels between the selection of appropriate and affective ornaments for a building and the figures of speech chosen by an orator. At one level, architecture can be considered essentially as science and indeed, as Vitruvius so openly stated, in the operation of his business the architect must be equipped with a knowledge of many branches of study. Yet it is also an art of persuasion, establishing and defining society in ways that can be considered close enough to all the social functions of rhetoric, a form of design, as Barbaro suggested, as particular and differentiated in its effects as oratory, whether elegant or vehement or grandiose or severe. It is at this juncture that van Eck considers in some detail how such activities were realized in practice, to suggest that all art in the Renaissance worked by creating a common ground between audience and object, whether in linear perspective where a continuity exists between the space of the viewer and the space as pictured or then, within architecture, from the persuasive effects of beauty or power, whether in the iconicity of the gesture of the piazza before St. Peter's, mimicking the arms of the mother Church, or in the gracefulness of design and ornament which, as Alberti put it, can influence even the enemy, preventing the destruction of the building itself.

In the final section here van Eck considers how far rhetoric provided strategies of interpretation or what she is prepared to call a hermeneutics, noting here the traditional etymological association of the Greek root for this term with Hermes, the messenger of meaning. For Aristotle, such an activity, such hermeneia, was semiology, rhetoric serving to teach the mind how to express itself and find the fitting formulations for every thought or mental image. And here van Eck, searching for one instance of interpretation fostered within rhetoric, turns to the interesting account of a discussion between Bartolommeo Maranta and his friend Scipione Ammirato of Titian's Annunciation in San Domenico Maggiore in Naples, written in the 1560s, which is full of references to the meaning of gestures and to the effect such gestural attitudes could carry. And then she identifies some of the terms of criticism used to describe the effects of art, that of vivacity for example, or then the parallel so often seen between art and the theater, the pictorial plane, as she puts it, becoming a stage on which the key moments in a story could be represented, as if frozen in time. The final section here, when she turns to architecture, considers the expression of meaning by typology or by the optical effects of buildings or the character and style of designs, especially as described in France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by Charles Perrault and Germain Boffrand. She ends with a coda to question how far this whole tradition could survive the onslaughts against rhetoric by Kant and the definition of a different domain, that of the aesthetic, where the Enlightenment subject was allowed, in new and exciting ways, to enjoy a freer play of the cognitive and emotional faculties, set in the disinterested contemplation of art. This possibility, van Eck notes, is a very recent Western invention and rhetoric, when we look around, can be seen to be as widely found as is the making of images. For using art to get in touch with fellow humans, so van Eck concludes almost triumphantly, is a universal phenomenon.

There is much here to think about here and the very act of bringing this material together in so compact a form serves in itself to enrich the sense we might have of the possibilities and qualities of this tradition of discourse, whether we are thinking of critics, or of the audience, of then of those, the humble artists, who set the subjects of their works into form. But to this reviewer one of the most interesting passages in this study is where van Eck suggests a new way to think about the architecture of Christopher Wren and John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor. They themselves offered little by way of explanation for their art and if later architects, from Soane to Robert Adam and then Denys Lasdun and Robert Venturi recognized immediate meaning in the expressive force of their designs, historians, as van Eck notes, have always found it difficult to deal with this particular moment of English architecture. But here she brings up an obvious if previously unconnected source, that of Longinus, a text indeed known in England in a number of XVIIth century editions, long before Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux and then Edmond Burke made the notion of the sublime so much a part of aesthetics.1 The language of Longinus is shot through with what van Eck calls intensely visual terms; and if we want to find a corresponding philosophical language to set beside the forms in Hawksmoor's churches -- and here van Eck takes note of the work of her student Sophie Ploeg -- it could come from such a passage as that where Longinus speaks of Homer, of his forcing prepositions into an abnormal union not usually compounded, the impending disaster of the parts, "things that ruin the whole by introducing, as it were, gaps and crevices into masses which are built together, walled in by their mutual relationships". This description, van Eck suggests, immediately recalls the abrupt transitions of St. Alphege, Greenwich, the articulation of Christ Church, the disproportional keystones at St. George in the East, the conflicting facades of St. Anne's, Limehouse. This is not to say, she quickly notes, that Hawksmoor, or even Vanbrugh, had read Longinus but merely to suggest that such a text, introduced first in England in 1652 in a translation by John Hall -- there had been some earlier editions in Greek and Latin -- served to open up in the culture new ways to think about architectural design and its perception and how, in a way perhaps unique in those years to England, this architecture, in all its somber imposing grandeur, played out its impact on its beholders. Here also she turns to Soane, at the end of the classical tradition, who in his lectures delivered at the Royal Academy from 1809 onwards, offered a deeply articulated account of how buildings affect the spectator, basing what he said on the annotations he made to so many of the classical writers on rhetoric. Here, beyond these formal lectures, so usefully republished in 1996 by David Watkin,2 for such notions as disposition or the unity of the visual arts van Eck was also able to turn to passages in Soane's manuscripts, still there in his house at 12 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London.

The description of the forms of art that van Eck offers here in invoking the practice of classical rhetoric is immediately interesting, quite apart from the possibility of how we might think it serves to define what we can see in all the varied visual forms of the Renaissance. And if, to speak of Vanbrugh and Hawksmoor, I myself have offered a description of the context for their work that referred more to the psychology of associationism or the interest in England in those years in the very idea of Englishness, the invocation here of this other rhetorical tradition merely adds one more possible layer to the meaning or meanings we might give to all they did in their particular forms of design. But like all art history, this is essentially language about language, and if in this guise it serves to cover well two of the parts of this tradition that van Eck identified -- namely theory and interpretation -- we may always wonder how far it works as a source of the forms of visual art, however so defined, whether those of Vanbrugh and Hawksmoor or Masaccio or Palladio or of any of the many other artists she takes here as her subjects. Art, as Clement Greenberg once remarked in a characteristically snappy sentence, can get along very well enough without art criticism. To which we might add that perhaps art also gets along very well without philosophy or the traditions of rhetoric, even if on some occasions we can indeed imagine the artists themselves knowing something of these subjects. All this accounting, in a sense, comes after the fact of the art, serving the audience, be these philosophers or mere passers by or even historians of art who, by the conventions of their professional practice, revel in suggesting such connections and possibilities and the order they bring upon the immediate experiences of the art. And that, we might say, is enough.


1.   It is interesting, in this context, to read the remarks on the significance of Longinus in the eighteenth century in R. Wittkower, "Classical Theory and Eighteenth Century Sensibility" (1966), as reprinted in R. Wittkower, Palladio and English Palladianism, London, 1974, p. 193-204, and especially p. 201.
2.   Sir John Soane: Enlightenment Thought and the Royal Academy Lectures (Cambridge, 1996).

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Andrea Blasina (ed.), Il Prometeo del Duca. La prima traduzione Italiana del Prometeo di Eschilo (Vat. Urb. Lat. 789). Classics in the Libraries, 1. Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert Editore, 2006. Pp. 113. ISBN 90-256-1219-9. €30.00.
Reviewed by Carmel McCallum-Barry, University College, Cork

This volume contains the text of a translation into Italian of the Prometheus Vinctus of Aeschylus (henceforth P. V.), together with a praise poem [Canzone in Lode del Duca di Urbino]; both are the work of Marcantonio Cinuzzi, who presented them to the Duke of Urbino, Francesco Maria II della Rovere, in February 1578. Blasina's (B.) extensive introduction sets Cinuzzi's work in context, the text with a commentary follows. This review will focus primarily on the introduction where the critical issues are discussed at length, and referred to briefly ad loc. in the Commentary. The work provides an important addition to our knowledge of the earliest vernacular translations of Greek tragedy and some valuable insights into the less well documented literary interests of the Cinquecento. B. divides his material into nine sections which I follow here, although there is a good deal of overlap in the subject matter.

1. "The man". Cinuzzi (1503/8-1592) was an official of the Republic of Siena (p.5) and a member of the Accademia degli Intronati of Siena, whose interest in ancient authors and in theatre is reflected in Cinuzzi's work. The Prometeo as well as a translation of Claudian De Raptu Proserpinae can be dated before 1542, but after Cinuzzi's conversion to Protestantism about this time he ceased work on ancient themes, and his later output consisted of religious poems and satires against the Catholic hierarchy. In 1578, as he was being pressed hard by the religious judiciary of the Counter Reformation the old man tried to obtain the protection of the Duke of Urbino by dedicating to him this translation, which he had made as a young man.1 We do not know whether or not the Duke tried to help him, but later that same year Cinuzzi was arrested and apparently remained in prison in Rome until his death (p. 10).

In this section B. also discusses the claims that Cinuzzi makes for his translation in the dedicatory letter, since he diverges in significant ways from the accepted text of Aeschylus. He omits the character of Io and replaces her with her father Inachus, but pre-empts critical comparison with Aeschylus editions known to be in the ducal library at the time by asserting boldly that any text with different interlocutors than his is wrong.2 He also adds three choruses of his own composition, but tells the duke that he has scrupulously marked these in the margin ('del traduttore'). Cinuzzi passes over the fact that he omits large portions of the original in doing this (p.17) and that lines 842-932 of his text are an Italian version of Ovid Met. I 597-747 (the story of Io changed into a heifer by Juno and watched over by Argos). Throughout the volume B. constantly re-examines these problems of translator and text, by identifying those lines which accurately translate Aeschylus and those which do not. He does not attempt to address the question of the aims of the translation and some judgements on Cinuzzi's practice in the context of Renaissance translation would have been welcome.

2. "The manuscript". When Francesco Maria died in 1631 the duchy of Urbino devolved to the Papacy and the library was transferred to Rome. Our text is next mentioned in the eighteenth century (as interest in Aeschylus was increasing) when Quadrio noted the Prometeo among the Codices Urbinati of the Vatican Library.3 B. meticulously describes the manuscript (Vat. Urb. Lat. 789); his examination finds that all parts of it are in the same hand, including the Canzone, the labelling, the corrections and marginal notations. B.'s conclusion is that this manuscript contains the dedicatory version, the only complete one known, although there are two copies of the letter and Canzone in Siena (p. 12).

3. "The first Italian translation of Aeschylus". B. establishes the translation date using Cinuzzi's own testimony in the dedication where he refers to it as the work of his youth, which has so far 'lain neglected'.4 This piece of information points to a date prior to 1540, i.e. the translation was completed before the author's adherence to the Protestant reform, since after his conversion he produced only works of religious interest. The dating is crucial because it demonstrates the singular nature of this work, made at a time when the dramatic poets were seldom translated and when they were, preference was given to the plays of Euripides, together with Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus.

Aeschylus had been made accessible by the Aldine editio princeps of 1518, but was not popular; the first Latin translations did not appear until the 1550s and not a single play by Aeschylus appears in Bolgar's list of vernacular translations before 1600,5 so Cinuzzi's work stands as the first vernacular translation of P. V. known. After being mentioned by Quadrio (note 3 above), the translation seems to have been forgotten until an Italian edition of Aeschylus' plays and fragments in 1987.6

4."Reworking or Translation". B. expends a lot of time on this issue in both introduction and commentary, trying to be fair to his subject and to Aeschylus, however he has to acknowledge that Cinuzzi's claims for his translation are false. B. gives a sample to show that the author can translate accurately (p. 19, 967-988 = P. V. 758-777) but does not explain the interferences in the text that are due to the demands of contemporary political conditions and stage conventions.

In the case of Cinuzzi's replacement of Io by her father Inachus, B. suggests that her character was not suited to the Aristotelian leanings of the Cinquecento, but far more convincing, I feel, is the reason that the presentation of a young woman as a heifer was aesthetically a tricky thing to do on stage (possible performance is mentioned in the dedication). The intended audience of the princely courts also accounts for Cinuzzi's handling of the chorus, whose role often seems artificial and irrelevant to dramatic tastes beyond antiquity. The freedom of a Greek chorus to comment on the behaviour of gods and humans great and small could have little appeal in a society where the equivalence of divine and human ruler was a frequent rhetorical cliché, so the choruses that Cinuzzi inserts7 often contain a revisionist view of the Aeschylean chorus content, or new material [e.g. equating the proper service to the gods with the service of the courtier to the prince...] more politically correct for his own time (p. 18).

5."The Source". It is often assumed that translators would always use a printed edition once it had appeared, but B. does not make this mistake. Working with West's recension of the manuscripts, he finds that Cinuzzi's translation indicates the use of other manuscript(s) that diverge from the Aldine edition. Most of the variations appear in manuscripts belonging to family λ and B. believes that his author has used L (Laur. 32.2) in conjunction with the Aldine text.8

The last three briefer sections are:

6."Matters of staging". In Aeschylus a winged bird conveys the god Oceanos on and off the stage which Cinuzzi replaces with a dolphin, presumably easier to deal with, rather than 'more realistic' (as B. argues, p. 24). The daughters of Oceanos in P. V. also have unusual transportation in winged chariots;9 Cinuzzi's solution here is to omit all mention of their being airborne.

7."Ideology". One would expect a rewriting like this to conform with cultural imperatives of the princely courts, and changes intend to soften the Aeschylean picture of Zeus, king of the gods, as a tyrant. A new chorus 'del Traduttore' 'adjusts Aeschylus' view (371-385), and another presents the notion of obedience and service to the king of the gods as part of a sacred destiny (1022 ff. 'L'uno e servo et suggettó L'altro commanda...').

8."Language and Style". B. compares this translation with Cinuzzi's other work before his conversion, especially the translation of Claudian; similarities of phrases and diction reinforce the identification of the Prometeo as a work of his youth.

9."Metre". For the choral odes Cinuzzi uses a scheme based on septenarii and hendecasyllables, in varying patterns for each strophe, the pattern made more complex by use of rhyme. B. tells us that this system becomes conventional in tragic production of the late 16th and the 17th century, implying perhaps that the author's choice was an innovative one; B. does not elaborate on the subject. For the spoken sections of the Greek text, both of dialogue and monologue, Cinuzzi uses trimeters to render the iambic lines of the original.


The text is printed with marginal notations to show recto and verso of the manuscript; footnotes work as a critical apparatus in which the editor signals alterations made to the manuscript by the same hand. On the whole Cinuzzi made very few changes to his original before presenting it to the duke.


B. begins with the dedicatory letter, revisiting the material covered in the introduction on the fidelity of the translation. Cinuzzi's translation is 1274 lines of Italian as compared with 1093 of the Griffith's Cambridge text.10 This is not a great increase compared with other Renaissance translations and, although much has been omitted, when Cinuzzi remains close to his text he displays a gift for neat expression which is very close to the Greek. For most of the Commentary the editor lists groups of lines and matches them, where possible, with the corresponding lines of Aeschylus, noting places where Cinuzzi reworks the original or inserts his own material. B. gives special attention to the crux at 724-727 (=P. V. 522-5), where the translation shows that Cinuzzi used a manuscript with a variant reading from the Aldine edition.11 Lines 842-932 'translate' Ovid Met. I.597-747 and B. takes this section line by line to show how the Italian verses correspond to the Latin ones; as we might expect, Cinuzzi rewrites Ovid as well as Aeschylus (p. 88). B. does not comment on why his author fails to acknowledge the lines from Ovid, which is puzzling; given the familiarity of Cinuzzi's contemporaries with the Metamorphoses we would expect the editor to comment on possible reasons for the omission.

Throughout the commentary B. notes the gradual slippage of meanings towards the justification and exaltation of monarchical power, whether divine or human. The third chorus 'del Traduttore' (1015-49) shows this dynamic at work; while using the same themes as the 3rd stasimon of P. V., Cinuzzi develops them differently. Where Aeschylus' chorus sings of unions between gods and men as dangerous, the Italian lyrics concentrate on the distance between the two groups as one between ruler and ruled, providing 'interesting evidence on the ethic of service to the prince' (p. 90).

The final episode reinforces these points as the chorus, not Prometheus concludes the play advising obedience to the king of the gods. This means the omission of Prometheus' description of the approaching cataclysm (staging problems again) and, more significantly, the omission of his and the play's final words, ἐσορᾳ̂ς μ' ὡς ἕκδικα πάσχω, 'you see how I suffer unjustly' (1093).

B.'s work is extremely valuable as it establishes Cinuzzi as the first translator of the play in the Renaissance; it also shows the way for further work on the relationship between translation and performance in the early modern period. B.'s strength lies in textual matters; he does not engage in topics for theoretical debate such as 'literal' versus 'literary' translation. The volume is well presented, the text itself a model of clarity, but the organisation of material in the introduction can be confusing as the same issues are discussed under more than one heading.

Correction: p. 94 on 1201-1212 (P. V.1020-25, Prometheus' future destiny); B. identifies these events as part of the third play of the Prometheus trilogy Prometheus Pyrophoros citing Griffith (n. 10, p. 267) as authority. Griffith in fact assigns them to the second play, Prometheus Luomenos.


1.   P. 33 Dedicatory letter ll. 1-3.
2.   P. 33 Dedicatory letter ll. 7-10, Blasina on the ducal library, p. 29, n. 29.
3.   F. S. Quadrio, Della Storia e della ragione d'ogni poesia Bologna 1739-44 III.103.
4.   Dedicatory letter l.3. 'è stato sepolto appresso di me.'
5.   R. R. Bolgar, The Classical Heritage and its Beneficiaries Cambridge 1973, pp. 506-541.
6.   G. Morani, M. Morani, Eschilo: Tragedie e frammenti Torino 1987. The information is given in the following section because Morani and Morani call Cinuzzi's translation a reworking ('rimaneggiamento').
7.   B. delays exact reference to these choruses until the commentary, but they are 365-388, 527-592, 1015-1049.
8.   M. L. West Aeschyli tragoediae Stuttgart 1990. B.'s discussion of mss. p. 20-23. Since B. relies heavily on West's text it should perhaps be mentioned that West is in agreement with Griffith that P. V. is not the work of Aeschylus. See M. Griffith, The Authenticity of the Prometheus Bound Cambridge 1977. Of course this is not strictly relevant to B.'s edition as there was no questioning of Aeschylus' authorship until the 20th century.
9.   P. V. 135, 272, 277-83.
10.   M. Griffith, Aeschylus Prometheus Bound Cambridge 1983.
11.   'Che forsétenendo io questo': Cinuzzi probably used L, which has συγκαλυπτέος for P. V. 523 whereas the editio princeps prints συγκαλυπτέον.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008


Version at BMCR home site
Roman Roth, Johannes Keller (ed.), Roman by Integration: Dimensions of Group Identity in Material Culture and Text. Journal of Roman Archaeology. Supplementary Series, 66. Portsmouth, RI: Journal of Roman Archaeology, 2007. Pp. 103, figs. 10. ISBN 978-1-887829-66-3. $37.50.
Reviewed by Danijel Dzino, University of Adelaide

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

The issues of Romanization and the different ways it has been negotiated throughout the ancient world, have defined the work and achievements of the last generation of Roman historians. The different approaches stemming from anthropology, cultural studies and post-colonial criticism, the notions of "hybridity", "creolisation", and the theory of globalisation have destroyed once and forever the earlier views (stemming as far as Mommsen and Haverfield) of Romanization as a top down "civilising" model and have opened numerous new avenues for exploration and re-assessment.1

This volume had its origin in a conference, Issues of identity in the Roman world, held in Cambridge in January 2003. All together, it is collection of seven fine scholarly papers dealing with the issues of group identity, integration into and resistance to Roman identity in material culture and text. The main emphasis on material culture is in the contributions of Herring, Roth, and Millett, the papers of Keller, Pfeilschifter and Flaig rely more on textual evidence, whilst Gardner implements both. The only problem this collection has is a slight lack of cohesiveness; it is difficult to see the relationship of Gardner's paper to the rest, as it deals with imperial Britain while all the others discuss identity issues in Republican Italy.

In the perhaps too brief introduction, Roth reviews the models of Romanization offered in recent time by Millett, Woolf and Mattingly.2 He states that the intention of the editors and contributors of this volume is to seek and explore ways in which the structure of empire contributed to the integration of groups outside, and sometimes far away from the centre (p. 9).

In his essay on the Greeks and the indigenous population of southeastern Italy, Herring presents an interesting exploration of identities before Roman political arrival in this part of Italy. His argument is that the Greek and indigenous communities started to feel uneasy with each other somewhere in the fourth century BC, after a long period of mainly peaceful acculturation. In that situation the indigenous population began to construct identities through militarily based ideology, and those identifying themselves as Greeks started to perceive their culture as being threatened by "barbarisation". Thus, both sides restructured their identities and sense of cultural belonging in opposition to the "other". This restructuring of identities, according to Herring, enabled these communities to maintain a strong sense of their cultural identities for a long time after the Roman conquest, and negotiate their construction of Romanness in specific ways.

The papers by Pfeilschifter and Keller explore the relationship between Rome and her Italian allies, relying mostly on primary written sources. They both attempt to carry further the argument of Mouritsen that there was no significant political integration of Italian allies in the Republic, and that they in fact had no interest in being assimilated into Republican power structures.3 Pfeilschifter explores the position of the allies in the Republican army. He argues that there was no wide-scale integration of the allies in the Roman army; they remained as separate cohorts and had no major contact with the Roman units of the army. Thus, according to Pfeilschifter, the army cannot be seen as an instrument of integration. The only exception to this might have been the elite corps of four cohorts of the extraordinarii, where stronger integration might occur (pp. 34-35). The author makes the argument that the competition between the Romans and the allies was healthy and productive for Roman successes, even though the allies were aware of their unequal status. This paper might raise some other questions in a comparative perspective, such as the role of the imperial army in the integration of ethnic auxiliary units in the later period.

Keller's paper deals with the elite interests of Romans and their allies in post-Hannibalic Italy. Differing interests of Romans and their allies enabled them, for a long time, to co-exist in equilibrium. The Roman elite were interested in glory, triumphs and the empire, while the Italian elite were interested in trade and regional domination. This equilibrium was shaken in the second century BC when the Roman elite were not able to expand the empire further, so they were compelled to empower the popular assemblies and the equites in order to retain their dominating position. The urban plebs in Rome felt no affection for the allies and the interests of the equites conflicted with the economic interests of the allies. Thus, the allies started to feel frustration and disappointment with their changed position, which ultimately led to the conflict between Rome and her allies. Keller's argument is elite-focused and a bit schematic--it sees "Romans" and "allies" as unified categories with unified interests, offering a single narrative of the events and disregards the complexity of Republican politics in this period. This paper also shows how Republican politics in Italy in some situations worked through informal channels of patronage, outside the formal Roman constitution.

Roth discusses the use of pottery in Republican Italy, drawing upon wider research in relation to pottery and Romanization recently published in his book Styling Romanisation: pottery and society in Central Italy (Cambridge 2007). In his words, this chapter is an invitation to archaeologists to use ceramic typologies in more self-reflective fashions, because typologies, as other more explicitly interpretative system, can easily lead one to reconstruct Roman world according to anachronistic classificatory paradigms (p. 59). The focus of analysis is on the typology of black glossed Italian wares from the Republican period developed by J.-P. Morel4 and its limitations for the study of Italian unification in the late Republic. The most important conclusions are that it is questionable whether typological uniformity in fact reflects shared identity or whether it can be used to analyse hybridity. The research fits nicely into the use of globalisation theory and especially the notion of "glocalisation" (local adaptations of global objects, practices and ideas) in more recent studies.5

Millett analyses the relationship between urban topography and social identity in the Tiber valley. This paper is part of a larger project that deals with Roman cities in the Tiber valley. Millett's enquiry is focused on the town of Falerii Novi. His argument is that Falerii Novi was designed to recreate aspects of the Falerii Veteres and in that way reassert the Faliscan identity. The city was constructed after the destruction of Falerii Veteres in 241 BC and at first sight represents an example of Roman planning. However, Millett notices that the course of the walls, the monumentalisation of the wall, and some other topographical features and urbanistic contexts taken together might suggest that the Faliscan identity was reasserted through the use of these elements. It is a cleverly crafted argument developed from a single case-study; however, it will need more comparative approaches, hopefully to be developed in the future.

Flaig makes an enquiry into the links between gladiatorial games and Roman identity. His contribution looks into the formal characteristics of the games through political semantics, ritual analysis and finally the influence of Greek agones on Roman munera. Flaig's conclusions are that the gladiatorial games showed and celebrated Roman virtues, the order defended against the enemies. Thus, victorious gladiators could be integrated into Roman society through a show of virtues and discipline, and the defeated gladiator might be spared if he displayed the very same values. The decision (missio) over life and death was part of the ritual of Roman politics. Finally, Flaig argues that that the Roman games were potentially challenged with Hellenistic influences in the late Republic and the early Empire, culminating in Nero's attempts to Hellenise the games, turning the ritual's semantics upside down and blurring the separation of participants and audience. Flaig's conclusion that "had the Hellenisers succeeded the ludi would have been turned into Greek agones, and Roman imperial culture would develop in completely different way" (p. 92) is a too far reaching generalisation, but the paper offers useful research in the context of gladiatorial games in Roman cultural and political discourse.

Gardner's paper tackles the social identities of soldiers in the later Roman world, focusing in particular on Britain. He analyses violence and potential for violence as markers for soldiers' identity inside their society. The argument that the use of violence was part of the ways military identity was established and negotiated in Roman society certainly should be taken into account as part of the complex and heterogeneous picture of Roman military identity (its "discrepant identities") that emerges from the most recent research. Gardner also argues that the interaction between provincial societies and Roman army units stationed in different provinces resulted in different constructions of military Romannesses throughout the later Empire, which does correspond with the views of some other scholars in the most recent scholarship.6

The book is finely constructed from a technical view point. I did not find many typos--Ando's book is wrongly dated 2001 and 2002 instead of 2000 (p. 10.); the word "pottery" is misspelled in the title of Roth's book (p. 69), and the chapters of Flaig and Gardner are wrongly numbered (p. 83 and 93). Also Figure 2 in Gardner's paper (p. 99) could be made clearer.

In conclusion, this is a very informative volume. It is unfortunate that it needed four years after the conference to be published, taking into account the significant volume of publication on this topic in this decade, but it still remains a worthy collection of works contributing to the wider picture of further understanding of the ways Roman identity was constructed in antiquity.

The list of essays:

R. Roth, Introduction: Roman culture between homogeneity and integration, pp. 7-10.
E. Herring, Identity crises in SE Italy in the 4th c. B.C.: Greek and native perceptions of the threat to their cultural identities, pp. 11-26.
R. Pfeilschifter, The allies in the Republican army and the Romanisation of Italy, pp. 27-42.
J. Keller, Rome and her Italian allies: conflicting interests and disintegration, pp. 43-58.
R. Roth, Ceramic integration? Typologies and the perception of identities in Republican Italy, pp. 59-70.
M. Millett, Urban topography and social identity in the Tiber Valley, pp. 71-82.
E. Flaig, Roman gladiatorial games: ritual and political consensus, pp. 83-92.
A. Gardner, The social identities of soldiers: boundaries and connections in the later Roman world, pp. 93-103.


1.   In addition to the works stated in n. 2: R. Hingley, Globalizing Roman Culture: Unity, Diversity and Empire, London, New York, 2005 and J. Webster, 'Creolizing the Roman provinces', American Journal of Archaeology 105/2 (2001) 209-225.
2.   M. Millett, The Romanization of Britain: an essay in archaeological interpretation, Cambridge, 1990; G. Woolf, Becoming Roman: The Origins of Provincial Civilisation in Gaul, Cambridge, 1998; D. J. Mattingly, Britannia: an imperial possession, London 2006.
3.   H. Mouritsen, Italian unification: A study in ancient and modern historiography, London 1998.
4.   J.-P. Morel, Céramique campannienne: les formes (Rome 1981).
5.   Hingley (op. cit.) 111.
6.   E.g. S. James, "The community of the soldiers: a major identity and centre of power in the Roman empire", in P. Baker, C. Forcey, S. Jundi, and R. Witcher (eds), TRAC 98: Proceedings of the Eighth Annual Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, Leicester (Oxford 1999) 14-25.

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Robin Osborne (ed.), Debating the Athenian Cultural Revolution: Art, Literature, Philosophy, and Politics, 430-380 BC. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Pp. xv, 341. ISBN 9780521879163. $99.00.
Reviewed by Yun Lee Too

Robin Osborne's Debating the Athenian Cultural Revolution: Art, Literature, Philosophy, and Politics 430-380 BC is the second book resulting from an Arts and Humanities Research Council project based in the University of Cambridge; the first book considered how change is constructed as revolutionary and was published as Rethinking Revolutions through Classical Greece (Cambridge, 2006). As Osborne states in his preface, this volume deals with the description and analysis of changes described as revolutionary over the fifty-year period from 430 to 380 BC.

The book consists of twelve chapters by scholars from a variety of disciplines within classics mostly based in the UK. It begins with four essays (Osborne, Akrigg, Eidinow, Taylor) on politics and other cultural phenomena, then offers three on art history (Shear, Lorenz, Schultz) and five essays on various literary forms, including historiography, philosophy, and drama (Irwin, Long, Tordoff, Hall, D'Angour). It commences with Osborne's chapter, 'Tracing cultural revolution in classical Athens', which looks at the idea of revolution at the end of the fifth century. The chapter insists on the period as one of notable change and skillfully summarizes the arguments of the contributions which follow. Osborne himself concludes his introduction by summing up the book as one which opposes the Athens of the fifth century as one of community to an Athens of the fourth century in which the individual is always in question (p. 26).

In 'The nature and implications of Athens' changed social structure and economy' Ben Akrigg thinks about how the Peloponnesian War affected the society and economy of Athens. He is particularly interested in the impact of the plague on the population of Athens, with one third to half lost to the disease (p. 32). Akrigg takes issue with William Loomis' 'monocausal explanatory' model in looking at wages alone in this period and goes on to consider the increasing commercialization of the Athenian economy. In sum, he concludes that the early fourth century provided fewer people, more land and resources and fewer slaves who could emerge in the banking sector.

Esther Eidinow's 'Why the Athenians began to curse' looks at binding curses in the fifth century. She argues that Athenian men and women used curses to control risks, drawing on Mary Douglas' theory of the social construction of risk (p. 65). Loss of self-confidence and bitterness among citizens explains the increase of cursing in the late fifth century, she argues. Her chapter ends with a sampling of curse texts.

Claire Taylor writes 'A new political world' to draw attention to changes in the Athenian political world in the fifth and fourth centuries BC. She observes that political activity becomes more widespread, shifting from a city-based wealthy elite to a wider selection of Attic demes. Taylor also notes that wealthy families from the fifth century either died off or declined in the fourth and were no longer politically active as emphasis on spending for the good of the city grew. In fact, more citizens became liable for liturgies in the fourth century (p. 82). The author also considers the role of quietism as an explanation for why fewer wealthy citizens participated in political life. Politics in the fourth century now involved more non-wealthy citizens so that we see a changing sociology of the demos.

'Cultural change, space, and the politics of commemoration in Athens' by Julia Shear considers how the agora becomes the focus for the city in the fourth century whereas in fifth it had been the acropolis. She notes that the mint and courts come to be located in the agora after 390 BC and inscriptions came to be set up there rather than on the acropolis. Shear goes on to examine changes in the memorialisation of the war dead. Inscriptions for individuals such as Chabrias, Iphicrates and Timotheus were erected to celebrate their individual military victories, which were conceived as bringing freedom to the people. The agoras, thus, became a democratic space that celebrated the importance of doing one's civic duty.

Continuing the discussion of material culture is Katharina Lorenz's 'The anatomy of metalepsis: visuality turns around on late fifth-century pots'. This chapter takes from literary criticism the notion of metalepsis, which involves the crossing of narrative boundaries, and applies it to the viewing of pots. In particular, narrative and descriptive elements engage in an interplay. Metalepsis, Lorenz writes, demonstrates 'a period of heightened awareness for issues of the visual and of how to guide the recipients' for the late fifth century (p. 143).

Next is Peter Schultz's 'Style and agency in an age of transition'. This essay looks at changes in sculpture from 430 to 380 BC, arguing that while ruthmos and symmetry are important to earlier sculpture, later work demonstrates a great openness and multifaceted quality. He goes on to consider the change in view of what a sculptor was in his society as a way of investigating the social structures responsible for the transformation of styles. Schultz argues that such artists were to be seen within a hierarchy of value, one established by competition and boasting resting somewhere between 'virtuosi' and 'anonymous labourers'.

Elizabeth Irwin's 'The politics of precedence: first 'historians' on first 'thalassocrats' considers how Herodotus and Thucydides each differently write about Minos as a ruler of the sea. For Herodotus, Minos is largely disregarded in favour of Polycrates as thalassocrat, while for Thucydides, he is an important figure in the annals of naval power. She gathers that Thucydides is interested in tracing evolutionary progress while Herodotus prefers to view cultures as separate but parallel. She argues in conclusion that intertextuality between the historians reflects upon each of them, their relationship to one another, and their respective audiences.

In 'The form of Plato's Republic' Alex Long begins by summarizing the dialogue, focusing in particular upon the figure of Socrates. He turns to the question of the importance of dialogue with others and shows that dialogue furthers intellectual inquiry. Thinking is nothing other than internal dialogue. But for Long it is important to engage with dialogue in a single text, like the Republic, to understand how a work gains from being a dialogue. This holds true for both philosopher and historicist.

'Aristophanes' Assembly Women and Plato, Republic book 5' by Robert Tordoff has a self-descriptive title. Tordoff looks at the relationship between the comic poet and the philosopher, arguing that Plato was actually indebted to comedy but that the philosopher had issues with rival intellectual discourses such as drama and comedy, and especially with Aristophanes' intellectualizing comedy. Plato recognizes the comedian as a serious thinker in his conclusion.

Edith Hall writes a very important contribution for this volume, 'Greek tragedy 430-380BC'. She is the only author to confront directly the theme of the book for the period under scrutiny in this project for her specific discipline and observes the difficulties of dating specific plays at the outset of her piece. Hall observes that music for the theatre indeed changed by 380 with the inclusion of astrophic songs. Satyr plays were no longer placed at the end of a group of three tragedies but at the opening of competitions. Comedy became dependent upon tragedy and theatrical burlesque was produced. But Hall asks whether these and other changes constitute a 'revolution' (p. 284) since after all the form and content of tragedy 'had altered only in small degrees' (p. 287).

'The sound of mousike: reflections on aural change in ancient Greece' by Armand D'Angour looks at the development of music, which results in the so-called 'New Music', in the period under question. He notes a shift in emphasis from the audience to the singers and a freer presentation of the dithyramb. Music became a more specialized and professional concern (p. 300) as innovations became more instrumentally complex, melodic and rhythmic.

I come back to Edith Hall's paper which observes change in the field of drama but remarks that the change is not so significant and to Robin Osborne's introductory comment that in cultural history 'cultural products do not remain unchanged over long periods of time' (p. 2). Does change, in certain fields more pronounced and distinct than in others, and considered in such discrete fields as politics, art, history, philosophy, drama and music, together constitute a significant social transformation? And is this change, if it is granted, intentional or not, unified or not? And is the revolution a singular or a multiple event--so is it the Athenian cultural revolution or Athenian cultural revolutions? Change is inevitable no matter the period of time we choose to examine but does 430-380 BC show greater changes that together might constitute a revolution? Together and individually, the contributors seem to affirm something of a transformation in their individual essays, but I think I am left debating the existence of an Athenian cultural revolution, as the title of the volume proposes. Altogether, I find this is a worthwhile and interesting book for the questions that it raises.

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Peter Garnsey, Thinking about Property: From Antiquity to the Age of Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Pp. 267. ISBN 978-0-521-70023-8. $29.99.
Reviewed by Alex Gottesman, Union College

"There is nothing which so generally strikes the imagination, and engages the affections of mankind, as the right of property." Today this sentiment of Sir William Blackstone's might seem quaint. However, when his influential Commentaries on the Laws of England were first published in 1756, property was the focus of heated debate, and had been particularly so for at least the previous century. The vexed questions were: What was the original form of property? When and why did private property arise? Based on what principles can unequal property relations be reconciled with the ideals of equality and liberty? The debate, which drew in such thinkers as Grotius, Locke, Hume and Hegel, was heated because property was a privileged site for thinking about the space for individual will, reason and action, and for defining the limits of the state and of personal responsibility. Students of political thought and legal theory have dissected the arguments quite closely.1 But, for the most part, they have not considered very closely the classical and medieval strands of thought behind early modern thinking about property. This is the goal of Garnsey's new book. He wants to "explore the ancient 'foundational' texts concerning ideas of property and their reception up to the early nineteenth century" (1). The word "foundational" is in quotes because it is in fact Garnsey's ultimate concern to argue that the ancient texts, in particular Roman legal texts as they were interpreted by medieval canon lawyers, should be considered foundational for the development of modern notions of property rights.

Based on the 2005 Carlyle Lectures at Oxford, the book is organized in four units consisting of two chapters each. The first two chapters begin with the conventional originators of western property theory, Plato and Aristotle. They trace the reception of Plato's ideas about property in the Republic starting with Aristotle. According to Garnsey, Aristotle' presentation of his teacher's ideas in Book Two of his Politics amounts to a willful "misreading." Aristotle was clearly aware that Plato's Republic did not banish private property completely; it only forbade the ruling class from holding it. And yet Aristotle criticizes Plato as if he had proposed to banish private property from his state altogether. Garnsey finds in this move the seed of the idea (mistaken, in his view) that Plato was a critic of private property. Then he considers the idea's fortunes, from the Neo-Platonists of late antiquity to the Platonist/Aristotelian controversies of the fifteenth century. He shows how in the hands of subsequent writers like Bessarion (1403-1472) and Gemistus Plethon (d. 1452) Plato's idea about the separation between rule and property became a double-edged weapon. They allowed them to wield the authority of Plato against the ruling elite, but they also exposed them to charges of immorality because Plato was also associated with the call for the abolition of the family. In the case of Plethon, his endorsement of Plato's ideas was the excuse Gennadius needed to burn his commentaries on the Laws.

The next two chapters turn to the politics of another textual issue, the specter of a "revolutionary" Jesus that emerges from certain passages of the New Testament, in particular Acts 4:32-5:11 and Matthew 19:16-30, which seem to criticize private property. Chapter 3 considers how writers from Origen (c. 185-c. 251) to Peter Olivi (1248-1298) engaged in a discourse that combined textual with political criticism, interpreting these texts in various ways to either attack or defend the Church hierarchy. The focus here is on how each writer used these texts and others to imagine the ecclesia primitiva, or the original organization of the Church. Chapter 4 considers the interplay between this tradition of thought and the politics of monasticism from the Pelagians to the Franciscans. Some sought to follow Christ as closely as possible in the vita apostolica. They interpreted the texts in question as a call to believers to surrender everything they own and to lead a life of voluntary poverty. The existence of these individuals created tensions within the Church, which various writers, from Clement of Alexandria to Pope John XXII, sought to alleviate by means of textual and legal arguments. Garnsey calls particular attention to the legal terms that enter the debate in the thirteenth century. We begin to see legal distinctions being marshaled in order to break the textual impasse. For example, Pope Nicholas III argued that the Church was the owner, while the Franciscans had only the right of use (simplex usus facti) of whatever they consumed. Thus the Franciscans would not run afoul of their founder's ban on private property, and the Church would be shielded from the criticism implicit in Franciscan practice.

Chapters 5 and 6 survey ideas of the "state of nature" as they relate to property. Garnsey finds precursors of early modern state-of-nature theories, like those of Locke and Rousseau, in classical and Christian writers, namely Hesiod, Cicero, Seneca, Ambrose, Lactantius, and Gratian. Locke and Rousseau used the device of the state of nature as a heuristic tool in order to lay bare the essence of humanity prior to the invention of civil society. In their respective accounts of the original state, property figured as either the root of current inequality (Rousseau), or as the source of everything that is worthwhile in human life (Locke). Garnsey finds in these theorists' constructs echoes of Stoic thought about primitive humanity and of Roman jurists' preoccupation with the theory of original acquisition, which considers how things stop being "wild" and get acquired for the first time. He argues that these ideas had been fused together by early Church Fathers, such as Ambrose and Lactantius. These bequeathed to later thinkers the idea that property was originally held in common and that economic inequality is the result of the Fall. However, their inheritors did not take from them the idea that property should be equalized or that poverty needs to be alleviated. They managed to avoid that implication without jettisoning the idea of original equality by introducing the elements of consent (Grotius) or of labor (Locke).

The final two chapters turn to the question of property conceived as a "subjective right." Chapter 7 follows the lead of Brian Tierney, who argues in The Idea of Natural Rights (Emory, 1997) for the importance of the twelfth-century jurist Gratian in the development of rights theory. Garnsey underscores the contributions of Roman jurists to Gratian's work. He also follows Tierney in attacking the positions of French legal philosopher Michel Villey, who claimed that the Romans did not have a notion of subjective property rights (finding instead the first hint of subjective rights in Ockham's theory of nominalism). Indeed, the extant Roman juridical sources do not supply a clear definition of ownership. Thus, when the drafters of the Napoleonic Code sought a definition of ownership in the Roman sources they drew on a passage that had little to do with ownership. It dealt instead with the law of mandate. That Code's drafters wanted to find in the Justinian Code a definition of property that stressed the absolute control of the individual owner. Garnsey points out that the post-Justinian glossators were also uninterested in defining dominium as an individual right. Bartolus (1314-1357) appears to have been the first jurist to provide the modern definition of ownership as the right of free disposition of one's property, except as the law may prohibit. Most national law-codes have adopted this definition for their own. Garnsey acknowledges that the Romans did not define property in this way explicitly, but he argues that this is because they did not see the need, not because they would have found that definition foreign. Extant texts, he suggests, allow us to reconstruct the Roman notion of property as a subjective right that gave the individual owner freedom of control.

Finally, chapter 8 contrasts attitudes towards the notion of property as a natural or human right in Christian theology and in two documents of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen and the American Declaration of Independence. The former explicitly enshrined property as a "natural right," while in the latter Jefferson famously omitted to include the right to property alongside life, liberty, and the "pursuit of happiness." Garnsey draws an interesting contrast here. He points out that to make the right to property natural is in some ways to bring it into conflict with the right to life. What happens when a poor man is on the verge of starvation? Does his right to life override the rich man's right to exclude him from his field? Church thinkers from Basil of Caesarea to Aquinas argued that in extremis the right to property was suspended. Canon lawyers agreed but suggested that the right to property was natural, but in a secondary, "suppositious" way; thus leaving the door open to the prospect of original equality without criticizing existing property relations. Property theorists of the seventeenth century, such as Grotius and Pufendorf, and Locke, were not especially concerned with this implication. For them the rights to property, life, and liberty had different meanings which hinged on their particular political projects. The problem of a clash between different individual, subjective rights equally based on nature simply does not arise.

As should be clear from this (partial) survey of its contents, this is a wide-ranging, learned and ambitious book that is intended to appeal to a wide audience. It should interest historians of ideas, students of political thought, scholars of religion, and anyone interested in the intellectual roots of rights theory. In thought about property, Garnsey stakes out fruitful common ground for classical, Christian, and early modern legal and political texts. This is a hallmark of the history of ideas as practiced by the "Cambridge School" (the book appears in Quentin Skinner's Ideas in Context series). It is also the greatest strength in Garnsey's approach. However, this strength in Garnsey's approach is also a weakness because the texts lose some of their resonances with their contemporary concerns and contexts. With the exception of the Franciscan poverty dispute, there is only passing mention of the economic and political conflicts that circumscribed each writer's project. Greater attention to historical developments would help the general reader better appreciate the many theoretical players in Garnsey's story and their interactions with each other.2 Still, the story Garnsey tells is fascinating. He shows how thinkers working within the same traditions put the same ideas and authoritative texts to very different, and in some cases diametrically opposed, uses.


1.   E.g., R. Schlatter, Private Property: The History of an Idea. Rutgers, 1951; C. B. MacPherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism. Oxford, 1962; J. G. A. Pocock, "The Mobility of Property and the Rise of Eighteenth-century Sociology," in A. Parel and T. Flanagan, eds. Theories of Property. Calgary, 1979, pp. 141-166; J. Tully, A Discourse on Property: Locke and his Adversaries. Cambridge, 1980; A. Ryan, Property and Political Theory. Blackwell, 1984; J. Waldron, The Right to Private Property. Oxford, 1988; T. A. Horne, Property Rights and Poverty: Political Argument in Britain, 1605-1834. Chapel Hill and London, 1990.
2.   Schlatter's Private Property: the History of an Idea touches upon many of the same texts and traditions but contextualizes them at greater length within European political and economic history. For example, Schlatter considers the influence that sixteenth and seventeenth century radical movements, such as those of the Levellers in England and the Anabaptists in Germany, exerted on contemporary thought about property. More recently, see L. Brace, The Politics of Property: Labour, Freedom and Belonging. New York and London, 2004.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008


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Eva Rystedt, Berit Wells (ed.), Pictorial Pursuits. Figurative Painting on Mycenaean and Geometric Pottery. Papers from two seminars at the Swedish Institute at Athens in 1999 and 2001. Acta Instituti Atheniensis Regni Sueciae, series 4, 53. Stockholm: Svenska Institutet i Athen, 2006. Pp. 313. ISBN 91-7916-053-0. $177.50 (pb).
Reviewed by Sarah P. Morris, UCLA

Twenty-five years have elapsed since the heroic collaboration between Vassos Karageorghis and Emily Vermeule brought together the diverse pictorial record of Mycenaean vase painting into one volume.1 Since that time, new examples have multiplied as new sites have appeared, while new approaches have sent us back to these fascinating and imaginative scenes, produced at Bronze Age centers, and indeed largely after the demise of palatial life. It was in the spirit of celebrating such new discoveries and their implications that the Swedish Institute in Athens convened a symposium on Mycenaean pictorial vases in 1999, from which 13 papers are published in Part I of the volume under review, along with a comprehensive bibliography. Even familiar pieces are amply or newly illustrated, and an index contributes greatly to the volume.

By design rather than accident, the proceedings of an additional, later seminar on pictorial vase painting, this time on the Early Iron Age, came to be published in the same volume. In fact, the first gathering generated the second, as participants eager to pursue the pictorial from Mycenaean to Geometric pottery agreed to reconvene after two years, and widened their circle of participants to specialists in later eras. Thus a second crop of thirteen papers is collected in Part II of the volume. This deliberate exercise in intellectual continuity attracted more than one author to contribute to both events. Readers can now enjoy some 300 pages of Greek pictorial art on ceramics, from 1200-700 BC. For those of us firmly wedded to the notion of cultural continuities between Bronze and Iron Ages in Greece, this joint publication serves as its own apologia for considering images across the centuries, not only within a single volume, but more widely towards understanding this crucial era of transition in Greek art and history.2 Moreover, by the second session, scholars responded to the desire for greater attention to "supra-pictorial questions" expressed by the editors/conveners, well summarized in Eva Rystedt's introduction.

Perhaps one of the most valuable features of this publication is that it celebrates new documents of Aegean and Geometric pictorial painting as they have emerged in context, over the last two decades, in both salvage excavations and systematic projects. Indeed, as the first symposium was aimed to appreciate new discoveries, it is not surprising to find the latest from Lokris (Kynous), Aigina (Kolonna), and Anatolia (Troy, Miletus), as well as new contextual material (including fresh joins) from the Argolid (Mycenae, Tiryns and Midea) and Cyprus, in Part I of this volume. It also offers novel approaches, among which those based on gender (Louise Steel), design element analysis (Christine Morris), and trade mechanisms (Nicolle Hirschfeld) deserve special attention from readers, as well as crucial reflections on function from Lisa French, Diana Wardle and Kim Shelton. Individual artists, first isolated decades ago by scholars focused on the LH IIIB period, are more difficult to define in LHIIIC, but Güntner demonstrates how. The most distinctive hand of the period remains the artist who painted both the Warrior Krater from Mycenae and the carved stone stele from the Shaft Graves, plastered and painted for reuse at a later chamber tomb.

In Parts I and II, several authors address the knotty subject of continuity directly, with reference to pioneers in this pursuit, such as Jack Benson. In one of his last published papers, the late Nicolas Coldstream sought to close the "long, pictureless hiatus" through innovative images from Cyprus and Crete, the former probably inspired by the Near East, and the latter by Late Minoan larnax art (echoed by Maria Iakovou, who sees 12th century precedents for Iron Age Cyprus). Indeed, the Near East is given a formative role in the development of iconography, as in Stefan Hiller's provocative paper on the origins of Minoan pictorial traditions in the art of Amarna. Bull and chariot, those mainstays of Mycenaean vase painting, would derive from Egyptian art, although vital links for Hiller's theory are still missing from Knossos. The same author sees connections on Aigina between Mycenaean and archaic (Proto-attic) vase painting, and in a third paper within the same volume, resumes his study of early Greek mourning customs under Egyptian influence. It is Hiller who raises the important question of whether such foreign traditions could have affected the Greek imagination twice, in separate phases of contact, or were revived or re-discovered, within Greece.

If "horse, bird and man" once served as elements linking early Greek pictorial art to its Mycenaean predecessors, researchers in the twenty-first century can enjoy proper transport across this divide on land and sea, thanks to continuities in the representation of chariots and ships (set forth by Joost Crouwel and Michael Wedde, respectively). A crop of new prothesis scenes (from Elis and Crete), along with a possible mourner on the new lion krater from Troy, help close the gap between Bronze Age and Iron Age practices as well as images. Most striking are new sea battles, well known from recent finds at Kynous in Lokris, but amplified by a magnificent panorama of two ships manned by differently equipped figures, at war with each other, from Bademgedigi-tepe (near Metropolis) in western Asia Minor.3 In a world without palaces, an active imagination peopled narratives with heroic fighting on land and sea, just as it probably did in poetry (see below).

In Part II of the volume, among those contributions devoted to Geometric vase painting, the papers by Sue Langdon and Mark Stansbury-O'Donnell stand out for their originality and theoretical enrichment. In particular, both scholars seek to identify the terms of social discourse behind novel imagery in the Geometric period, by moving beyond mythological paradigms to the social conditions that shaped representation in an era of emerging statehood. In a similar vein, Eva Rystedt focuses on differences rather than continuities in subject matter, and on symbolic rather than narrative forms of representation, to explore the discursive nature of Greek Geometric art.

Regional styles benefit from close attention in both parts of this volume, with local Mycenaean workshops in Central Greece and Asia Minor producing some of the most innovative post-palatial imagery. Argive pottery of the Geometric period is examined by Evangelia Pappi, who uncovers some of the same social dynamics detected in work from Attic and Crete. Even Ithaka, while modest in figural narrative, emerges as a locale rich in distant connections both west and east, and active in ritual symbolism, thanks to Cathy Morgan's insightful assessment of six vases from Aetos and Pithekoussai. Perhaps most provocative of all is the final paper in the volume, where Photini Zaphiropoulou puts two Late Geometric amphorae from Paros into vivid historical context. Not only does she identify a heroic biography across three scenes on a single vase, from battle to funeral, but she links its details to a later poem of Archilochus, and even suggests that the elusive Lelantine War on Euboia ended the lives of Parian warriors brought home for a grand, mass cremation funeral. Again, the virtues of context reward hard work in salvage archaeology that revealed these exciting discoveries to modern eyes, and exposed them to modern viewers.

To summarize twenty-six such diverse papers in 1,500 words is inherently an injustice to their breadth and depth. And to find fault with any, or cite omissions, seems churlish, but everyone will miss something (is the stunning master of animals on an LH IIIA:2 conical rhyton from Rhodes, too early for this volume?4). This reader expected fuller references to the cultural and poetic continuum implied behind this "longue durée" of narrative art, the epic and heroic longings that characterized the Aegean since the 12th century as an arena of creative anachronism. While references to Homer (largely technical terms) are sprinkled throughout the text, the topic of epic memory and poetry rarely raises its own head. Instead, this volume formalizes the important shift in recent scholarship towards the social and historical dimensions of continuity, brought out by several papers in Part II. For example, Wedde inaugurates the concept of "partial system survival" to explain why shipbuilding skills endured, while palatial architecture and fresco painting did not, and others focus on how social institutions (marriage, leadership) were transformed over the once-dark ages. As Maria Iakovou puts it poignantly in analyzing the "retrospective narrative" she identifies in Cypriote pottery of the eleventh and tenth centuries:

"It was memories, myths, stories from this other world [i. e. the Aegean world of the previous century] that these particular vase painters wished to record--a world left behind." [p. 200].

In art as in history, it is this "world left behind" that stimulated a critical experience, what some have called an "archaeology of nostalgia," that re-created in image and in verse a lost world of palaces and kings, while it supported the development of a vastly different model of community-centered life, the Greek polis. It is the great reward of this collection of essays that it allows the reader and viewer to appreciate in rich visual detail, as well as in thoughtful discussion, just how this evolution transpired.


1.   Emily Vermeule and Vassos Karageorghis, Mycenaean Pictorial Vase Painting. Cambridge 1982.
2.   By time of publication, this volume joined other testimonia to the importance of the centuries between 1200 and 700 BC, notably O. Dickinson, The Aegean from Bronze Age to Iron Age: Continuity and Change between the twelfth and eighth centuries BC (Routledge 2006) and Ancient Greece: From the Mycenaean Palaces to the Age of Homer. Eds. S. Deger-Jalkotzy and I. Lemos. Edinburgh Leventis Studies 3 (2006). See also the workshops on LHIIIC convened by the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
3.   P. Mountjoy, "Mycenaean connections with the Near East in LH IIIC: ships and sea peoples," in EMPORIA. Aegeans in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean. Proceedings of the 10th International Aegean Conference. Athens, Italian School of Archaeology, 14-18 April 2005. AEGAEUM 25. Eds. R. Laffineur and E. Greco (Liège and Austin 2005) 423-427.
4.   From the Pylona cemetery, first presented by E. Karantzali, "A New Mycenaean Pictorial Rhyton from Rhodes," in. Eastern Mediterranean. Cyprus - Dodecanese - Crete, 16th - 6th c. BC. Eds. N. Stambolidis and A. Karetsou (Heraklion 1998) 87-104.

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