Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Version at BMCR home site
Rudolf Haensch (ed.), Selbstdarstellung und Kommunikation: Die Veröffentlichung staatlicher Urkunden auf Stein und Bronze in der römischen Welt. Vestigia. Beiträge zur alten Geschichte Bd. 61. München: Verlag C. H. Beck, 2009. Pp. vi, 472. ISBN 9783406582875. €78.00.
Reviewed by Jens Bartels, Universität Zürich

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

Our marginal knowledge of Roman governance and administrative practice would be even scantier if there had not been the habit to conserve many documents issued by emperors, governors or procurators on less perishable media than mere papyrus. The unfinished edition of the late James H. Oliver (died 1981) contained nearly 230 letters of Roman Emperors, ending with Gallienus, that are preserved on stone and bronze.1 Many more have been published during the last 30 years, including highlights like the Hadrianic letters from Alexandreia Troas, Aphrodisias and Naryka.2 Besides those imperial missives, dozens of letters by governors and procurators, edicts of governors, and treaties have survived, to name the most important sorts of documents (the last famous addendum was the treaty between the dictator Caesar and the Lycians, published by S. Mitchell).3 The more mundane and the aspects of the empire's provincial administration are well known to us, mainly owing to papyri (almost exclusively from the province of Aegypt) and inscriptions.

Regarding the importance of this still-growing bulk of evidence, not to mention the age and sometimes quality of older collections, it is highly welcome that the Kommission für Alte Geschichte und Epigraphik of the German Archaeological Institute, now under the direction of Rudolf Haensch, has taken up work on a new corpus of all preserved edicts and letters issued by emperors, governors and procurators of the Roman Empire (p. 1-2).

Such a project is a challenge indeed, and as it will involve aspects crucial for understanding the whole Roman Empire, Haensch decided to invite international experts in the field to a conference held at Munich in July 2006. Contributions centered on the questions of self-representation (especially by the recipients of official documents) and communication (both of decisions and between rulers and ruled) are now accessible in the voluminous book under review here. In short: the book is not only voluminous in respect of its nearly 500 pages but also momentous regarding its contents.

The sixteen papers, which appear in seven thematic groups, may roughly be divided into seven concentrating on self-representation and nine on the issue of communication.

After an opening analysis by H. von Hesberg concerning temples, other public buildings and stelai as places of publication (mainly in Greece, for the stelai, and Asia Minor) three leading experts in their respective epochs, namely J.-L. Ferrary, W. Eck and D. Feissel, give an overview over the publication practices directed by representatives of the central government in Republic, Empire and Late Antiquity. Feissel -- who is currently preparing a corpus of his own, namely the acta of the Later Roman imperial administration -- adds an inventory of the 107 documents known to him so far.

With the papers of A. Caballos Rufino, R. Haensch and Ch. Kokkinia the perspective changes to the periphery: cities in both the western and eastern halves of the Empire and individuals receiving documents from the imperial administration as instigators of their permanent publication. The contributions of this first part convincingly show that most acta preserved on inscriptions owed their permanent display to rather local interests, which could be -- as Kokkinia in particular demonstrates -- manifold in one and the same instance.

The next part deals with more detailed questions concerning the publication of official documents and their historical background. G. Kantor analyzes the ways by which the knowledge of Roman law was spreading in the Greek East of the Roman Empire. C. Kreuzsaler shows that there is now positive evidence in the Late Antique imperial constitutions for the opinion that publication was a prerequisite for the validity of legal norms.

A. Eich examines the various ways in which inscriptional copies might depart from the original document. In his view diplomatic correctness was important, but minor stylistic changes, alterations of the emperors title or editorial abridgments were not considered as problematic. With C. Eilers and A. Jördens the focus changes from documents on inscriptions to those mentioned in literary sources or known from documentary papyri. Despite his nebulous and somewhat misleading title Eilers presents an interesting analysis of some documents cited by Flavius Josephus in his Antiquitates Iudaicae while Jördens gives an overview on the documentary consequences of the prefect of Egypt's administrative action.

The volume under review includes not only analyses of official documents, but also publications and emendations of documentary inscriptions. T. Hauken and H. Malay present a new edict of the emperor Hadrian that tries to regulate the problem of transport facilities and lodging requisitioned by traveling soldiers. G. Souris and R. Haensch present a new reading of an imperial letter from the region of Kibyra (RECAM III 112 = SEG 48, 1583), identifying it as a letter to an imperial procurator concerning the mistreatment of the paroikoi of an imperial estate by one tabularius and probably six leaseholders. H. Müller combines four known fragments with 23 new ones found around the temple for Trajan and Zeus Philinos on the acropolis of Pergamon to reconstruct a new letter of Hadrian. In an appendix he presents a similar mix of fragments from a second copy of the dossier concerning the Traianeia Deiphileia found at the same spot.

Finally, H. Flower deals with the effects of memory sanctions on publicly displayed official documents.

To sum up the book is a treasure chest for everyone interested in the administration of the Roman Empire and the official documents that emanated from its working.

Table of Contents:

Rudolf Haensch (Munich), Einführung (1-15)

Henner von Hesberg (Rome), Archäologische Charakteristika der Inschriftenträger staatlicher Urkunden -- einige Beispiele (19-56)

Jean-Louis Ferrary (Paris), La gravure de documents publics de la Rome républicaine et ses motivations (59-74)

Werner Eck (Cologne), Öffentlichkeit, Politik und Administration. Epigraphische Dokumente von Kaisern, Senat und Amtsträgern in Rom (75-96)

Denis Feissel (Paris), Les actes de l'État impérial dans l'épigraphie tardive (324-610): prolégomènes à un inventaire (97-128)

Antonio Caballos Rufino (Sevilla), Publicación de documentos públicos en las ciudades del Occidente romano: el ejemplo de la Bética (131-172)

Rudolf Haensch (Munich), Die Städte des griechischen Ostens (173-187)

Christina Kokkinia (Athens), The Role of Individuals in Inscribing Roman State Documents: Governor's Letters and Edicts (191-206)

Claudia Kreuzsaler (Munich/Vienna), Aeneis tabulis scripta proponatur lex. Zum Publikationserfordernis für Rechtsnormen am Beispiel der spätantiken Kaiserkonstitutionen (209-248)

Georgy Kantor (Oxford), Knowledge of Law in Roman Asia Minor (249-265)

Armin Eich (Passau), Diplomatische Genauigkeit oder inhaltliche Richtigkeit? Das Verhältnis von Original und Abschrift (267-299)

Claude Eilers (Hamilton, ON), Inscribed Documents, Un-inscribed Documents, and the Place of the City in the Imperium Romanum (301-312)

Andrea Jördens (Heidelberg),Verwaltungsroutine jenseits der Inschriften (313-324)

Tor Hauken (Bergen) / Hasan Malay (Izmir), A New Edict of Hadrian from the Province of Asia Setting Regulations for Requisitioned Transport (327-348)

George Souris (Thessaloniki) / Rudolf Haensch (Munich), RECAM III 112 (SEG 48, 583): Abuse of Power by Members of the Roman Administration and the Imperial Reaction (349-365)

Helmut Müller (Munich), Hadrian an die Pergamener. Eine Fallstudie. Mit einem Anhang: Pergamon, Trajan und die Traianeia Deiphileia (367-406)

Harriet I. Flower (Princeton, NJ), Memory Sanctions and the Disgrace of Emperors in Official Documents and Laws (409-421)

Abkürzungsverzeichnis (423)

Adressen der Autoren (425-426)

Indices (427-472)


1.   J. H. Oliver, Greek Constitutions of Early Roman Emperors from Inscriptions and Papyri, Philadelphia 1989.
2.   G. Petzl / E. Schwertheim, Hadrian und die dionysischen Künstler, Bonn 2006.
3.   P. Schöyen I 25.

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