Monday, March 23, 2009


Catherine Grandjean (ed.), Le Péloponnèse d'Epaminondas à Hadrien: Colloque de Tours, 6-7 octobre 2005. Études, 21. Pessac: Ausonius, 2008. Pp. 424. ISBN 9782910023898. €35.00.
Reviewed by R. Malcolm Errington, Philipps-Universität Marburg (

Catherine Grandjean has united in this book the 19 papers given at an international conference held at Tours in October 2005. Most of the papers are in French, but six are in English. As is usual with such publications, extensive footnotes have been added by the authors and the editors provide a useful composite bibliography and invaluable indices. The chief aim of the conference, which is addressed with varying intensity by the individual authors, was to explore the extent to which the complaints of ancient authors, above all Polybius, Strabo and Plutarch, about Greece having suffered a decline of some kind during the Hellenistic and early Imperial periods, are justified or at least supported by the archaeological and epigraphic evidence. The specific focus on the Peloponnese reflects in the first instance the interests of the participants, but also results from the certainly correct perception that Greek history in the Hellenistic and Roman periods remains largely regional, just as before. One of the most useful implicit conclusions of the book is that within the Peloponnese, local or regional variation, resulting from geographical position, traditional social structure, or the regionally changing overall political situation, remained characteristic, despite the pressures towards political unification from the Achaean League or the Roman provincial system.

The book is divided into two major sections, the first concerning the Peloponnese as a whole (8 papers), the second (11 papers) concerning specific regions. As with all such publications, this is inevitably rather a mixed bag--or, put positively, there is something for everybody!--despite the editorial efforts to provide a structure. It begins with an extremely critical essay by John Bintliff on the mainly disappointing results of survey archaeology for a larger historical picture. He emphasizes the methodological differences of the various surveys, making comparison virtually impossible, and particularly recommends his own Thespian project (which does not help the Peloponnese much). But is this really the future of field survey, when a project runs for 27 years before the final results begin to be published? Graham Shipley's investigation of the "Macedonian Peloponnese" is equally critical of the historical viability of the results of field survey. Perceived change shows strong regional variations--hardly surprisingly, coastal regions have more archaeologically perceptible contact with the rest of Greece than inland areas--and many factors other than Macedonian influence may have played a part, although Macedonian garrisons certainly affected the inter-relationship of rivalling elite groups in the cities.

Athanasios Rizakis and Yannis Touratsoglou offer a survey of the Peloponnesian economy in the Hellenistic period, emphasizing the central importance of regional production for regional consumption. Major building operations were increasingly dependent on external gift-financing and coinage was either used for payments to mercenaries or served merely regional or local purposes. Only Korinth retained some "international" importance. A numismatic aspect of the same phenomenon is addressed by Christoph Boehringer, who draws attention to the fact that a great many Peloponnesian coins--Achaian triobols--belong to the first century and were issued as Roman military currency. Jennifer Warren suggests that the unified Achaian bronze coinage was issued fora relatively short period around the time of the Third Macedonian War and speculates about a coinage decree giving the design and fixing quotas for each city. A minor point: the Sestos decree for Menas (OGIS 339) is concerned with civic pride in the city's issuing its own bronze coins for its own use (so L.Robert), not with "publicity for the city's emblem"(p.65).

Christoph Chandezon offers a useful survey of the written sources for pastoral activity in the Peloponnese and draws attention to the grants of epinomia in Laconia and eastern Arkadia, relating them to pastoral activity in the mountainous inter-city border areas (the exchatiai), where neighborhood disputes had traditionally been common. He sees no evidence for an increase in extensive transhumance in the early Imperial period, as postulated by S. Alcock. Christine Hoët-van Cauwenberghe surveys the relationship of female members of the Julio-Claudian House, especially Livia, with the Peloponnese, whereby the well-known Laconian contexts (Iulius Eurykles and the Gytheion inscriptions) are the real subject. She emphasizes correctly the dynastic aspects of the honors recorded at Gytheion, though this is hardly new, and a more general Peloponnesian context is not available. Sophia Zoumbaki surveys Latin personal names in the Peloponnese with the aim of finding aspects of "romanisation", but apart from having major dating problems with much of her material Zoumbaki merely sees lots of special cases and sensibly prefers to put two factors in the foreground: the interaction with the Roman colonies in the area and simple fashion, rather than any deep-seated conscious or unconscious adaptation of Latin ways.

Part II, entitled Regional Approaches, begins with Nadine Deshours' survey of the function of religion to help provide a civic identity at the new city community of Messene. In particular, the strong presence of Asklepios in his specifically Messenian manifestation, apparently not (primarily) as a god of healing, in the second century BC, when major investments in the building program were made, suggests that particular efforts were being made to assert a specifically Messenian civic identity, just at the time when the city was incorporated into the Achaian League. The importance of the Asklepieion continued into the Roman period, when it became the Messenian location for the ruler cult. Religion was thus at Messene no empty shell, but an important structural aspect of civic identity. Nino Luraghi discusses the epigraphical material related to Saithaidas Caelianus and Pausanias's attitude to the self-representation of local elites in the second century AD, while Pierre Fröhlich draws attention to the unparalleled number of intramural family tombs in Hellenistic Messene, which he relates to the lack of a real old heroic tradition in Messene. The major families of the ruling oligarchs chose to monumentalize their familial qualities through such self-representation within the urban environment that they controlled, and indeed emphasized their own innate superiority by the aristocratic understatement of inscribing only individual names and not the long accounts of personal achievements that we know from the democratically organized cities in the Hellenistic period. Fröhlich also offers several reconstituted, inevitably rather speculative, stemmata of Messenian families, including that of the sculptor Damophon. Léopold Migeotte examines the organization of the "eight-obol eisphora", the levy on property raised for Rome around 70 B.C. He notes that the inscriptions that inform us about this also reveal the sophisticated complexity of the social and fiscal structure of Messene at this time and illustrate in particular the central importance of the council and its secretary; the levy as a proportion of capital (1.33%) can be paralleled at Athens. He also includes a useful detailed table of the accounts of the levy.

Three papers concern Elis. Sophie Minon relates the decline of the local dialect to the increasing exposure to outside influence, beginning with the Macedonians under Philip II and ending with the incorporation of Elis into the Achaean League at the beginning of the second century BC, after which the dialect was no longer written. James Roy's survey of settlement and economic change in the late Hellenistic and early Roman periods suffers, as he willingly admits, from lack of good evidence. The Olympic Games had their ups and downs, but in general continued to be popular and well-attended throughout, but otherwise Elis seems to have remained merely a reasonably prosperous agricultural area. Frank Wojan discusses Pausanias's reference (6.24.10) to a dilapidated temple at Elis, which also served the ruler cult. He sees, however, no deeper meaning in this report--neither a criticism of the ruler cult nor of the Eleans--other than a simple statement of what Pausanias saw. This seems likely to be correct.

Three papers on Laconia follow. Jean-Christophe Couvenhes offers an important critical and largely convincing account of the evidence for the alleged "mercenary market" at Tainaron in the last third of the fourth century B.C. Couvenhes argues that Tainaron was no more than a strategically situated Spartan naval base, also used as a military assembly point, where under Alexander for specific reasons Harpalos and Leosthenes left already hired groups of mercenaries for short periods. The evidence, which Couvenhes cites and translates, will not bear the standard interpretation as a major hiring market. One may perhaps add that the very remoteness of Tainaron, which was only easily accessible by sea, will have added to its attractiveness for the Spartans as a rallying point for such rough characters: the waiting mercenaries, at a loose end, had no major settlement in the area where they could rampage. Laure Thromas shows how widespread the Athena cult was in Laconia and emphasizes the suitability of the warlike Athena Chalkioikos for militaristic Sparta. Jean-Sebastien Balzat explores the relationship of the family of Eurykles to the koinon of the Eleutherolaconians, and with Bowersock relates the name of the Eleutherolaconians to a grant by a grateful Octavian for support in the Actium campaign; Eurykles' especially close relationship with the koinon is illustrated by the expression of kedemonia.

This useful volume ends with a short paper drawing attention to a neglected rock sanctuary of Artemis near Phlious and a summary of the papers by Jean Andreau.

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