Tuesday, September 29, 2009


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Nathalie de Hann, Martijn Eickhoff, Marjan Schwegman (ed.), Archaeology and National Identity in Italy and Europe 1800-1950. Fragmenta. Journal of the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome 2 (2008). Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2008. Pp. 263. ISBN 9782503524061. €72.00.
Reviewed by Catalin Pavel, University of Bucharest

This is an innocent book on a wicked topic. It brings together thirteen papers delivered at a round table in 2007 and toils to describe, in the absence of any theoretical framework, the dangerous dance of nationalism and archaeology. Its main merit lies in the creation, by industriously putting together archival documents, of what have been called "local histories of archaeology".1

The use of theoretical models should have been a prerequisite for such an investigation. There must be some consensus among the authors as to what "ethnicity", "people", "material culture" mean;2 what is the relevance of private archives for the writing of the history of archaeology;3 what is the theoretical model for the relationship between nationalism and archaeology;4 and above all -- what is meant by "nationalism" and "national identity". All these assumptions must be explicit: when thirteen people speak about nationalism, the reader ought to know what the theoretical position is, from which a scientific advance is being attempted. Common sense is not enough here. We're actually left to wonder as to who is speaking about nationalism as a "politically activist, xenophobic variety of national patriotism" and who about the "articulate ideology on which national identity and consciousness rest".5 It seems that some (Schwegman, Hoijtink, Foro and Rey, Jansen) highlight, in the manner of Greenfeld, nationalism as a source of individual identity.6 Others (Dyson, Froehlich, de Haan, Eickhoff) focus on the governmental component, as does Kedourie,7 while others still (Blanck, Guidi, Palombi) emphasize ethnicity in E. Gellner's sense.8 Finally, Krüger and Dubbini use the word, with Calhoun, simply for "a basic way of talking, thinking and acting".9 Clearly, only by defining with some sophistication the key terms of one's oeuvre can one hope to turn portmanteau words (like nationalism) into operational concepts with epistemological value.

What is meant to hold together these articles is an introduction by the editors of only four pages ("Archaeology and National Identity in Italy and Europe 1800-1950; no conclusions are offered to wrap up the work. The introduction mentions en passant "post modern concepts" and "self-reflective ways", never to be picked up on again, and crams in a footnote the whole bibliographical framework -- six books that appear to be otherwise unknown to virtually all of the contributors.10

Marjan Schwegman, "Pompeii, and the Last Days of the Italian Risorgimento. Giuseppe Garibaldi, Alexandre Dumas and Giuseppe Fiorelli in Naples", deals with the fate of Pompeii between 1860, when Alexandre Dumas père becomes, with the help of Garibaldi, honorary director of the excavations, and Fiorelli's appointment as director by the then minister of public instruction de Sanctis (1863). Dumas had been taken with Garibaldi since the heroic deeds of the Italian in South America (about which he had written Montevideo ou une nouvelle Troie.[1850]) Garibaldi offered Dumas a yearly budget of 5000 scudi and asked him to take photos of the ruins and send them to European journals, but Dumas planned to reconstruct a typical Pompeian house and recreate an image of antiquity that could, in a symbolic way, redeem modern man. Fiorelli brings to the excavations a positivist spirit, and his wish to read the ruins as objective signs does make him an adept of Vico. The comparison of Fiorelli's famous casts of Pompeii's dead with Lombroso's criminology, for exploring "the dark and the bright sides of Italy" is more controversial.

Stephen Dyson, in "Where Caesar Never Trod. Classical Archaeology and Ideology in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century America", stresses that America's classical archaeological identity has its epicenter at Athens and not at Rome (30), despite American architecture's picking up on Roman notions of prestige (Pennsylvania Station imitating the Baths of Caracalla). Dyson sees the excellent excavations of the American School in the Agora as a symbol of democracy in the era of Mussolini's excavations (of "rapid slap-dash execution and poor quality publication" 29) and throughout the dictatorship of Metaxas (consistently misspelled "Metaxos", 28 and note 45). This should be juxtaposed with a quite different view from the Greek side, according to which the excavation permit was obtained by the School by using the leverage of American loans to Greece in a time (after the catastrophic war with Turkey) when these loans were for Greece a matter of survival; this permit led to the demolition of 366 houses against opposition from press and 5,000 habitants. On the other hand, Metaxas had encouraged Blegen's project in Pylos and the School maintained good relations with the regime.11

"The Urge to Exhibit. The Egyptian and Etruscan Museums in the Vatican at the Dawn of a Nationalist Era in Europe (1815-1840)", by Mirjam Hoijtink, searches for the nationalist sentiment underpinning the foundation -- Canova's idea -- of the first Egyptian museum of Europe, the Vatican collection, and how this was used, paradoxically, to define Italian identity. The author compares this with the self-glorification of the nation in the Musée Charles X, where the Egyptian department is decorated by paintings in which the Louvre is the genius of France, while Champollion is the first scientist to be included in a French royal painting cycle.

Three articles, making up (the best) quarter of this volume, are dedicated to the study of the German Archaeological Institute at Rome.12 Horst Blanck takes it upon himself to write about the DAI's predecessor, the Instituto di Corrispondenza Archeologica, and touches on several topics: the use of Italian, French and Latin as official languages (note the absence of German and English), its role in the realization of the CIL, together with anecdotal details, like the raising of the Prussian flag when the Capitol was under fire by the French artillery, 1847 -1849 (71). Importantly, the author emphasizes that the change of the supranational Instituto to a Prussian institution was not the result of the Franco-German war, but had already been decided in 1870 before the war (74).

Christian Jansen's article ("The German Archaeological Institute (DAI) between Transnational Scholarship and Foreign Cultural Policy") -- a nuanced history of how and to what extent German foreign cultural policy straitjacketed the scholarly endeavors of the DAI -- is the best the present volume has to offer. If the preceding article drew attention to how the donations of the French Government increased the library of the (Prussian) Instituto, Jansen contributes more about the relationship between the two archrivals. The DAI -- the Reich's first institution -- was, as it happened, founded with French reparation money after the 1871 war. When in 1885, German was decreed (alongside Latin) the official language of the DAI, Mommsen resigned because this resembled a "French centralism alien to the German character" (154). In the 1920s many scholars from enemy countries were admitted as corresponding members, so as to not leave the field to "French propaganda" (164). Finally, the extension of the DAI's scholarly scope, to include fields as varied as prehistory or Islamic art was justified in 1945 as the adoption of the French paradigm (167)!

Two other important points are made in this article. First, "the traditional view that the DAI was fighting for survival during the Nazi regime needs to be reconsidered" (n.37); the Institute was actually closely cooperating (166; cf. 177, members of the DAI "pursued their own political goals"). Second, the expansion of the DAI coincided with the geopolitical interests of the Reich or of the FRG, and was orchestrated by directors of DAI who were both politically prominent and adroit in political lobbying. The best examples are Wiegand, Schede and Boehringer; the many quotes from their letters will give a lot of food for thought to anyone studying this giant among archaeological institutions. Jansen follows the founding of new branches in Istanbul (Germany emerges from the isolation after the First World War), Madrid (made possible by fascist cooperation, although coming right after Stalingrad), the cultural offensive in Egypt after the defeat in the colonial race for Africa, and the cold war confrontation with the GDR in Syria and Iran.

Thomas Fröhlich's "Study on the Lombards and the Ostrogoths at the German Archaeological Institute of Rome, 1937-1943" reviews a "political" excavation of what the Nazis wanted to be Theodoric's hunting estate at Galatea; this was intended to prove, to use the words of a Memorandum by Second secretary of the DAI Rom and Nazi activist Siegfried Fuchs, "the crucial role that the German world has played in originating present-day Italian culture and nation" (198; cf. letter of DAI president Schede, 189). Although Fröhlich discusses, as does Jansen, the role of Kossinna's pupil and Rosenberg's pawn Hans Reinerth,13 there is no mention of the latter's conflict with G. Bersu, president of the Römisch-Germanische Kommission, forced to resign and then to exile himself in England, where, as a prisoner of war he conducted under military surveillance the magnificent excavations in the Isle of Man.14

Jürgen Krüger's article on architectural issues, "The Crown Prince and his Ambassador: Two Persons in the Service of Roman Archaeology", probes into how culture envoy Carl Bunsen's letters about the progress in the identification of the Roman fora shaped Prussian emperor Friedrich Wilhelm's ideas on urban landscape as expression of national identity, and their architectural consequences in Berlin. The name of one Roman emperor is misspelled, the transcription of a French letter of Bunsen to the architect Canina includes six mistakes in language, and Krüger's article turns out to be largely a translation of his German article in Stiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg Jahrbuch 1995/1996, which should have been acknowledged in the text.

"Archaeology Without Identity? Antiquity and French Archaeological Research Around the Mediterranean (1850-1945)", by Philippe Foro and Sara Rey is an article that makes one wonder if the struggle between nations for archaeological prestige, alluded to everywhere in this volume, has ever stopped or, as some dignified statements suggest (e.g. "French national identity does not depend solely on archaeology. France is a venerable nation and it did not require archaeological finds to define it", 106) actually continues in the book itself.

The authors pay sufficient attention to the geopolitics of archaeology (e.g. the excavations in Greece in 1900: "the French at Delos, Delphi, Argos and Thasos, the Germans at Olympia, Thebes and Samos, the Americans at Argos and Corinth, the British at Sparta and Megalopolis, the Italians in Crete and the Austrians at Samothrace", 98). The authors remind us that the École française de Rome was mostly doing "indirect archaeology" (a formula coined for "autopsies of monuments and museum collections", 100), and it is consequently in the Maghreb, not in Italy, that the French learned how to dig. Syria and Lebanon, during the French mandates, have also offered a sumptuous archaeological playground: Dura Europos, Palmyra, Baalbek and so on.

Two muddled articles on Italian archaeology with careless English translations are put forward by Guidi and Palombi. Alessandro Guidi ("Italian Prehistoric Archaeology in the International Context") deplores the fact that syntheses of Italian prehistory are offered in the between-the-war period mainly by foreign scholars (118), as if the nationality of their authors was relevant here. Opening with Mommsen's words "Prähistorie ist die Wissenschaft der Analphabeten", the article describes quarrels between factions of Italian prehistorians as well as the Schliemann/de Rossi polemics, and follows Italian prehistoric archaeology up to the celebrated First Congress of Mediterranean Prehistory and Protohistory, Florence 1950.

Domenico Palombi ("Archaeology and National Identity in the Work of Rodolfo Lanciani") is concerned here less with Lanciani the author of Forma Urbis Romae and of Storia degli Scavi di Roma, than with Lanciani's political side, e.g. -- his work with nationalistic overtones about the Second Punic War and Cannae, as well as on other Roman themes, one of which, about the Roman defensive system in the Alps, was even read in front of the troops in 1916. The article is valuable for the extensive documentation of Lanciani's discourses in the second half of the First World War against the German presence on the Campidoglio.

Two other Italian archaeologists are the subject of contributions by Rachele Dubbini ("Giulio Emanuele Rizzo, Lo studio della grecità contro la romanescheria fascista") and Nathalie de Haan, "Umberto Zanotti Bianco and the Archaeology of Magna Graecia during the Fascist Era". Rizzo is the only Italian archaeologist to have signed Croce's Contromanifesto (1925), the answer to the Manifesto of the Fascist Intellectuals. "The study of Greek art", to which a politically blasé Rizzo dedicates himself in an era of "studi romanolatrici", is, for the author, the "expression of individual freedom, [. . .] a form of intellectual antifascism" (229). One of Rizzo's former students, Paola Zancani Montuoro, was to help the hero of the next article, Zanotti Bianco to discover, excavate, and publish the most famous Greek monument discovered in the thirties, the Heraion at the Foce del Sele. In a time when Italy had to be seen as the colonizer and not the colonized, the Government was bothered by the international attention (fostered by the strange charm of the metopes) received by the discovery of these Greek archaic remains, which were also published by Zanotti Bianco and Zancani Montuoro without the mandatory words of flattery and allegiance to Mussolini. Therefore Zanotti Bianco's Società per la Magna Grecia, which was sponsoring the excavations, was dissolved: "the principal motive given was that the financial resources provided by the state were sufficient for all archaeological activities" (245).15 The final chapter (Martijn Eickhoff, "Meaningful silence? Alexander W. Byvanck and the Archaeology of Fascist Rome") focuses on the reactions of Dutch classical archaeologist A.Byvanck to the developments in Roman fascist archaeology in the 30s. As an antiquarian (his main work is "Excerpta Romana", misspelled "Exerpta" at 254) he visits Greek as well as Roman ruins in Italy and he appears to have considered the Mostra Augustea della Romanità "un-academic foolishness" (260). On the other hand, his account of the 1939 Archaeological Congress does not chronicle the political side of the event (telegrams sent to Hitler etc.), and despite knowing of only a couple of small segments of Roman roads in his country, he lectures at the Istituto di Studi Romani about the great Roman roads of the Netherlands. Twelve of the thirteen English contributions are not written by native speakers and the book was released to print with minimal editorial intervention; I counted four dozen instances of typos and other (sometimes tragicomic) abuse of language, quite evenly spread across the book so as not to privilege any author. The book has no index, no common bibliography, and longer footnotes continue as endnotes. These technical failures, combined with the poor integration of previous scholarship, and a certain theoretical naïveté make it harder for this work to find its niche in the abundant literature on archaeology and nationalism.


1.   S. Tomaskova: "Nationalism, Local Histories and the Making of Data in Archaeology", Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 2003, 485-507.
2.   S. Jones, The Archaeology of Ethnicity: Constructing Identities in the Past and Present. New York, 1997.
3.   N. Schlanger, J. Nordbladh, eds., Archives, Ancestors, Practices: Archaeology in the Light of its History 2008.
4.   S. Scham, "Mediating Nationalism and Archaeology: A Matter of Trust?" Am. Anthrop. 100.2 1998, 301-308; Ph. Kohl, "Nationalism and Archaeology: On the Constructions of Nations and the Reconstructions of the Remote Past", Annual Review of Anthropology 27, 1998, 223-246; Ph. Kohl, C. Fawcett, Nationalism, Politics, and the Practice of Archaeology. Cambridge, 1995 and its sequel Ph. Kohl et al, eds., Selective Remembrances - Archaeology in the Construction, Commemoration and Consecration of National Pasts, Chicago 2007.
5.   Liah Greenfeld, Nationalism, Five Roads to Modernity, Cambridge, 1992:3.
6.   " Nationalism [. . .] locates the source of individual identity within a people which is the basis of collective solidarity". Greenfeld, id.
7.   "Humanity is naturally divided into nations". . . "Nationalism supplies a criterion for the determination of the unit of population proper to enjoy a government exclusively its own and for the legitimate exercise of power in the state". E. Kedourie, Nationalism, London, 1960.
8.   "Nationalism is a principle: the political and national unit should be congruent". . . "[it] is a theory of political legitimacy which requires that ethnic boundaries should not cut across political ones". E. Gellner, Nations and nationalism, Cornell Univ. Press,1983:1.
9.   C. Calhoun, Nationalism, Minneapolis, 1997:11.
10.   Neither used, nor mentioned in this book: M. Galaty, Ch. Watkinson, eds., Archaeology under Dictatorship, New York, 2004 (esp. contributions by editors, Begg, Altekamp and Arnold); M. Díaz-Andreu, A World History of Nineteenth-Century Archaeology: Nationalism, Colonialism and the Past, Oxford 2007, esp. part IV; J. F. Goode, Negotiating for the Past: Archaeology, Nationalism, and Diplomacy in the Middle East, 1919-1941, Austin, 2007; J.A. Atkinson et al., eds., Nationalism and Archaeology, Glasgow, 1996; R. Ridley. The Eagle and the Spade: Archaeology in Rome during the Napoleonic Era, Cambridge, 1992.
11.   See Y. Hamilakis, The Nation and its Ruins: Antiquity, Archaeology, and National Imagination in Greece, Oxford, 2007, 110sq. and 197, and N. Sakka's article on the Agora excavations in: D. Damaskos, D. Plantzos, eds., Singular Antiquity: Archaeology and Hellenic Identity in Twentieth-Century Greece, Athens, 2008.
12.   Unfortunately no use is made of valuable contributions to the Nationalist/Nazi German archaeology such as I. Wiwjorra in: M. Diaz-Andreu, Timothy Champion, eds., Nationalism and Archaeology in Europe, Boulder and San Francisco, 1996; B. Arnold and H. Hassmann in: Kohl-Fawcett, 1995 (supra n. 4); H. Härke, ed., Archaeology, Ideology and Society: the German Experience, Frankfurt, 2002.
13.   For Reinerth, a Transylvanian-born Tübingen professor, see now B. Mees, The Science of the Swastika, CEU Press, 2008, 111-135.
14.   Add to the joint bibliography of these three articles: for pre-Nazi exploitation of prehistoric archaeology, H. Fehr, "Prehistoric Archaeology and German Ostforschung: the Case of the Excavations at Zantoch", Archaeologia Polona, 2004. 42; for Nazi exploitation of pseudoarchaeology (e.g. Himmler's 4500 megaliths in Sachsenhain), B. Arnold in: G. Fagan, Archaeological Fantasies, New York, 2006; overview from the French side, A. Schnapp, "L'autodestruction de l'archéologie allemande sous le régime nazi, Vingtième Siècle". Revue d'histoire,78.2, 2003.
15.   Just as the Greek contribution to the Italian space was downplayed by Mussolini, prehistoric and Ottoman ruins were neglected in Israel, see N. Silberman, Between Past and Present: Archaeology, Ideology, and Nationalism in the Modern Middle East, New York, 1990.

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James Gardner (trans.), Marco Girolamo Vida. Christiad. The I Tatti Renaissance Library; 39. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009. Pp. xxviii, 464. ISBN 9780674034082. $29.95.
Reviewed by Lee Fratantuono, Ohio Wesleyan University

Harvard University Press deserves gratitude and praise for the welcome and long overdue initiative of providing a series of accessible texts from the corpus of Latin literature of the Italian Renaissance. The I Tatti Renaissance Library now offers some forty volumes of prose and poetry in attractive, well-bound editions of reasonable cost. (Though I confess my preference would have been small blue volumes to match the red and green Loebs). The inclusion of Marco Girolamo Vida's six book epic Christiad in the series needs no defense, given its popularity for Italian Renaissance readers and its skillful execution.1 In general, Gardner's volume on this lengthy narrative epic succeeds in providing a convenient and reliable version of Vida's verse to join the other volumes in the fine collection of neo-Latin literature that is being assembled in this series. It is amusing, however, to appreciate this fine volume in light of the poem's coda, where a solemn injunction is placed by the poet on anyone who might dare to publish or to sell the work without the knowledge and sanction of the author.

James Hankins, general editor of the series, is responsible for the Latin text printed in this volume and the collation of the Florentine manuscript believed to be the dedication copy of the epic. Modestly, this information is buried deep in the book; Hankins deserves credit on the cover for all he did and how well he did it. Though this reviewer still finds it jarring not to have an apparatus at the bottom of a Latin text, the variant readings are at least gathered with brief notes on some ten pages before the notes to the translation. The latter annotations amount mostly to a set of comparanda taken from Pease's edition of Aeneid 4, supplemented by extensive, fine work by Richard Tarrant (likewise modestly understated). The constraints of the series do not permit anything approaching a proper commentary, though one does wish the notes might have done more than remind us of where not only Virgil but also Manilius, Lucan, Silius and Corippus lurk: the epic's proem alone, with the its strongly Lucretian flavor, begs for comment and discussion. Indeed, such commentary might have been more desirable than knowing that one can parallel agedum at line-end in Venantius Fortunatus or that one can find a parallel in Arator's Historia apostolica. Alas, if one were to delete the parallel passages from the notes, very little would remain. Further, on occasion some of the alleged parallels seem questionable. Far better on the subject of commentary is the series' splendid recent volume of Jacopo Sannazaro's poetry by Michael Putnam, where the notes strike just the right tone for a brief annotation of the text. Indeed, some of Vida's poetic attacks on Judaea remind one of Lucan's attack on Egypt for the death of Pompey (as well as the Reproaches of the Roman liturgy for Good Friday); the history of anti-Semitism in Renaissance Italy and the charge of deicide against the Jews might have been another good subject for expanded commentary, along with consideration of the characterization of Pontius Pilate, who strikes me as one of the more intriguing figures in the whole epic.2

Gardner's translation strikes me as fluid, skillful, and relatively faithful; it evinces what must have been a mammoth labor that merits praise. Few questionable renderings are to be found in these pages (e.g., III, 147 "full of portents" for plena venturi). I have the strong suspicion that all bilingual editions benefit from the almost supervisory presence of the original text on facing pages. One can tolerate, I suppose, the occasional cuts Gardner makes for the sake of avoiding the "padding" that might come from "pleonasm," precisely because the Latin is ready at hand. Still, one does wish we could just be faithful for ever and always, alleged pleonastic padding notwithstanding. Gardner indicates that he sought to avoid "formulations that felt patently archaic," which is, alas, a hallmark of this sort of poetic exercise. I am not sure we can blame all of Vida's alleged sins on the exigencies of the hexameter verse, as if meter somehow compelled Vida to be a bad poet or to say things we know he would not otherwise.

The introduction is less successful than the admirable translation, mostly in the area of comparing Vida to a wide range of other artists (usually a dangerous game when discussing any poet). Gardner argues that Vida "always has the plan of the poem before his mind," which is true enough, though it seems unnecessary on this count to contrast Vida with Virgil in the Georgics because of alleged "episodic digressions" in the latter (indeed, one could argue that such passages in Vida as the angelic activity during the passion at V, 574 ff. are certainly digressions). One does well to love one's author, I concede, though praising Vida on any account above Virgil (also Ariosto and even Tasso) seems a bit much; on character development (where Virgil is praised above Vida), there seems no reason to inject comparison of Vida to Tolstoy; the precise comparison is always more useful than the impressionistic.

Occasionally the brief introduction contradicts itself; so we read that Vida's "characters can spring to life at any moment," (vii) only to read later that Vida was rather a failure in character development (xiii-xiv). Vida is accused of a "totemic simplification" of his characters that is "far more typical of Silver Latin poets like Lucan. . .than of Vergil or Homer," (xiii) a comparison that is unfair to Lucan (a consummate artist when it comes to the development of his characters and his brilliant game with the identity of his epic's hero), besides offering little insight besides the ultimately unhelpful judgment that Lucan or Statius cannot compare to Virgil, let alone Homer.

Similarly, it seems odd to accuse Titian and Raphael of "what seem to us stereotypical conceptions of pious emotions" (even if the author is an art critic!). Vida is questionably praised for "a far greater experiential immediacy than the paintings of his contemporaries." Only James Henry could manage the sort of wide-ranging comparison between poetry and the visual arts that Gardner attempts. It is patently false to assert that a "Christian cleric by calling could not entertain...this restless awareness of the lacrimae rerum, in short, this tragic sense of life," and superfluous speculation to wonder if Vida himself could. We are told that Vida can "achieve a purity and smoothness in his diction that generally match the level of Vergil in his steadiest and most workmanlike mode," (xxiii) before we read two lines that are considered "rare," lines "in which Vida achieves that perfect marriage of sound and meaning that constitutes poetry at its most delightful and most effective." But one of the allegedly praiseworthy verses, tum picea disclusa volat glans ferrea fumo, describes a cannon blast to which Nicodemus' address to the Sanhedrin is compared. There is not so much perfect poetry here as an attempt at humorous mockery of the simile tradition. Here, certainly, Lucan lurks more than Virgil.

The neo-Latin antecedents of Vida were not, strictly speaking, "biblical." (xii). I am not sure we can lift lines (even ones weighty as Virgil's) "bodily" (xvii) to describe centonization. Hazel Stewart Alberson's views on Dante vs. Vida that Gardner cites (xvii-xviii) do not explain what is meant by the "more nearly true perspective" (sic) of Vida (as opposed to Dante) on Virgil. Dante read Virgil carefully and what he did with Virgil in his poetry was deliberate; there is a touch of the "medieval simplistic, Renaissance sophisticated" school of thought in this all too brief mention of Dante, who deserves far closer study for his relationship to Vida.

Gardner asserts that Vida "rarely if ever avows the existence of classical culture." This is misguided; the poem's very existence is a tribute to the enduring power of classical culture, and, as with the aforementioned Lucretian flavor of the proem, the classics are everywhere in the Christiad. If Vida really is translating the Vulgate into Virgil (xvi), he has certainly managed to expand his text dramatically (cf. the section at V, 300 ff. where Satan summons demonic personifications to attack Pilate, or the accounts of angelic rebellion and the harrowing of hell).3 Apocryphal sources do figure in Vida's narrative (e.g. III, 140 ff., of Mary's parents Anna and Joachim, who are not named in Scripture).4 The whole narrative of Joseph and John before Pilate is entirely the invention of Vida, and deserves explication for its originality, especially given the solid foundation in Christian lore that Joseph had died long before Christ's passion. Lastly, I am not sure we can think Petrarch "knew Latin better than Italian" or that he "valued his Latin poetry above his efforts in the vernacular," (which raises the problematic question of what one means by "value" in a poetic context), as study of the intellectual status of Latin and Italian poetry in fourteenth century Italy makes clear.5

Gardner closes his introduction with a good survey of "Christiad" imitations, translations, and the like through the nineteenth century. The bibliography is a useful and reasonably thorough compilation. The index is well composed and ample, though the citation of, e.g., books of Virgil by book number only, however understandable, is somewhat frustrating.

Gardner raises the excellent question of why the neo-Latin poets were not very successful in their efforts. His speculation is that Vida was trying very hard to be Virgil and not so hard at being a good poet; it strikes me as likelier that in many of the epics of Renaissance Latin poetry we are seeing a fair degree of learned satire and indeed sometimes outright comedy. I cannot believe Vida (author of the De bombyce) did not enjoy at least a smile if not a laugh over comparing the souls in hell to wild Alpine tribes scattering when they saw Roman spears draw near, or at comparing Christ's train of followers to the tributaries of the Po. Gardner would seem to disagree, given that he asserts in passing that "Vida's Christ and Vida himself evidence no conspicuous sense of humor in the Christiad." Yet from the opening lines of his poem, where a Lucretian spiritus alme is invoked to preside over an epic in honor of the "twice-born king," a very healthy sense of irony, learned satire, and occasional humor seems to explain much of what is going on in the hexameters of the Christiad. Vida may have won the bishopric of Alba as a prize for his six books of poetry, but the miter and pectoral cross were won as much by a sense of humor as by reverent depiction of Christ's passion and triumph in Virgilian dress. Vida is a poet of greater interest than simply as an imitator of Virgil who met his mimetic task with talent and sustained achievement. Gardner's new volume will hopefully expose many more readers to a work that deserves to be better known and more closely studied.


1.   Would-be Anglophone students of Vida's epic before Gardner had Drake and Forbes' 1978 revision of Georgina Coyne's 1939 Cornell dissertation, though without her introduction and notes.
2.   The influence of the liturgy of the Roman Rite on (the cleric) Vida's verse deserves study and discussion, especially given the active attention the liturgy was receiving during Vida's own lifetime at the Council of Trent and the reexamination of the many sequences and other medieval poems from the various local liturgies of western Europe. Cf. the note to VI, 730-731, where the cited Ascension text would have been familiar to Vida as the first words of the festal Office.
3.   The tradition that Christ descended into hell and rescued the souls of the just who had died since the fall (beginning with Adam) is based on rather thin scriptural foundations, but was established solidly in patristic sources, both Greek and Latin (Melito of Sardis, Ambrose). Vida describes the descent in language reminiscent not only of Virgil but also of this early Christian tradition. But despite his devotion to Virgil, Vida resisted the temptation to make the harrowing of hell a major episode in his epic.
4.   Sixtus IV, who died around the time Vida was born, added Anne's feast to the general calendar of the Roman Rite; Christian devotion to Anne was Eastern in origin and began to flourish in the west only after the Crusades. The Protoevangelium of James (mid-second century) recounts the story of Anne and her husband Joachim. Devotion to Joseph was only becoming universal in the west during the fifteenth century. Vida's poem reflects the additions to the sanctoral cycle of the Roman calendar in his time.
5.   Useful here is Celenza, C. 2005, "Petrarch, Latin, and Italian Renaissance Latinity". Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 35.3:509-536.

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Gregg Gardner, Kevin L. Osterloh, Antiquity in Antiquity: Jewish and Christian Pasts in the Greco-Roman World. Texte und Studien zum antiken Judentum, 123. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008. Pp. viii, 475. ISBN 9783161494116. €109.00.
Reviewed by Sabrina Inowlocki-Meister, Université de Lausanne

This high quality volume edited by G. Gardner and K. Osterloh is the result of a colloquium entitled "Antiquity in Antiquity: Jewish and Christian Pasts in the Greco-Roman World" and organized by the editors and P. Schäfer from January 22-24, 2006 at Princeton University. The collection of articles presented here will be of interest as much to students of Greco-Roman antiquity as to those of the Near-Eastern world.

It offers leading scholars' insights into the fascinating question of the ways in which collective memory is retrieved, exploited, and transformed by Greeks, Jews, and Christians from the third century BCE to the seventh century CE. In this framework, construction of continuity or discontinuity played a crucial role in building communal identities, legitimizing religious constructs, and enhancing social status. In their introduction, the editors stress the particular approach to their past as a specific object of inquiry which marks the ancients of the Greco-Roman world: they often view their own tradition as the continuation of an earlier glorious age and thus as a lens through which to define themselves. The editors also single out the approaches used in the volume, i.e. the process of communal identity construction, the nature of collective memory as inscribed in literature and material remains, as well as their re-interpretation by members of the group and their rival elite groups. The elite group at work in this brilliant volume provides interdisciplinary approaches to the subject, offering insights from the Classics, Judaic Studies, Early Christian Studies, Syriac Studies, Archaeology, and History. In the course of this review, I will delve into detail in only some of the papers, merely summarizing others, as the length of the volume makes it difficult to review it integrally in depth.

The volume is divided into three parts. The first one deals with "Jewish and Pagan Antiquities from the Late Hellenistic to the Early Imperial Period". It is made of four articles of which the first one is H. M. Zellentin's "The End of Jewish Egypt: Artapanus and the Second Exodus" (27-73). In this extensive paper on the much-debated author Artapanus, Zellentin offers new insights into the fragments preserved in Eusebius. It carefully investigates both biblical and non-biblical sources--mainly Diodorus, or rather his source--which he has usefully arranged in a comparative table. Contesting the interpretation as an apologetic text, Zellentin argues that Artapanus' textual methodology consisted in appropriating, transferring, and "travestying" both kinds of material in order to subvert them. The next section, devoted to the historical context, is innovative and well argued but is not, in my view, persuasive. Historicizing Artapanus' narrative, Zellentin attempts to date it by identifying the historical characters 'hidden' behind the main protagonists. According to him, Chenephres would be a conflation of a native king and of Ptolemy VIII Physcon; the narrative would be a re-telling in a Greco-biblical dress of the events of 118-116 in Egypt. Yet this ingenious re-construction raises many problems, of which only a few will be given as examples here: some of the correspondences between the narrative and the historical events mentioned in the article are in fact due to the influence of the biblical source itself (e.g. The good Palmanoth as Ptolemy VI, succeeded by the bad Chenephres as Ptolemy VIII: this only reflects the succession to the favorable king in Joseph's story of a bad king in Moses'). In some cases, the narrative contradicts the hypothesis (e.g., the correspondences between the decree of Amnesty of 118 and Artapanus' narrative: Zellentin claims that Artapanus sided with those reprimanded by the decree, i.e. the Greeks, and opposed the new elite favored by the decree, i.e. the Egyptian priests, but in his narrative Artapanus gives a rather positive image of the priests: there is only one occasion in which one priest is criticized). The suggestion I find the least plausible is that Artapanus' message, addressed to Jewish military leaders, would be to flee the country. There is absolutely no evidence that the Exodus narrative or other versions had ever been read in this way. This just goes to show that narratives such as Artapanus', or Joseph and Aseneth, hardly lend themselves to this type of historicizing approach.

The second paper is H. I. Flower's "Remembering and Forgetting Temple Destruction; The Destruction of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus in 83 BC" (74-92). Focusing on the destruction of this Temple in Rome, a central symbol of Rome, she deals with an understudied subject: temple destruction in the Roman world. If the destruction of the Jewish Second Temple has raised a great deal of interest in Jewish studies and beyond, this is not the case in Roman history. Thus this paper is recommended, not only for providing a comparative viewpoint to the reception of the destruction of the Jewish Temple, but also and especially for the new insights it offers where this specific topic is concerned. After describing the temple's history, role, context and significance, Flower investigates five attempts to define the meaning of its destruction in 83 BCE. The first text is Plut., Sulla 27. 12, which records Sulla's interpretation of the omen reported by Appian about the destruction of the Temple. According to him, the portent was associated with his own victory, thus contesting the view that it was a bad omen for him. Cicero, in Pro Roscio Amerino (80 BCE), claims that just as Jupiter is not responsible for all natural disasters, so too Sulla should not be blamed for every crime under his dictatorship. Thus he seems to react against religious interpretations with regard to portents such as that espoused by Sulla himself. In In Catilinam, Cicero, in 63 BCE, asserts that one of the conspirators, Lentulus, connected his future ruling over Rome to the twentieth anniversary of the burning of the Temple, basing himself on the authority of the sibylline oracles and the haruspices. Sallust suggests specific predictions of civil war connected with memories of the destruction. The fortieth anniversary of the temple's destruction also appears to be commemorated on a silver denarius in 43 BCE. Finally, after dealing with Augustus' moving of the items and the function of the temple, Flower quotes Tacitus' Hist. 3. 71-72, in which the historian offers some kind of obituary notice for the Temple. In this passage, he conflates the fires of both 83 BCE and 69 AD, not seeking a divine message, but emphasizing the decline of the politically corrupted Rome. In her conclusions, Flower stresses the fact that temple destructions were seen as pivotal events which created debates and interpretations. In late Republican Rome, it was associated with civil war and constitutional change. Reconstruction, however, conjured up images of a new age and embodied the rebuilding of society.

The third paper is S. Mason's "The Greeks and the Distant Past in Josephus' Judean War" (93-130). In the first pages, reviewing the main trends in Josephan scholarship, Mason deplores the lack of research on Josephus' relationship with his Greek literary environment. Referring to Ewen Bowie's work on the Greeks and their past and the latter's rejection of Josephus as a valid subject for the first century CE, he rightfully stresses the importance of Josephus as a Greek author having written on Greek affairs and on the Greek past. He also warns against the alleged 'hellenization' motivated by apologetic constraints generally ascribed to Josephus when dealing with the AJ. In this paper he turns to an analysis of the BJ and envisages it as representing neither pro- nor anti-war positions, but rather focuses on four thematic clusters running through the BJ: the virtue of the Judeans as a people, the presence of tragedy, the polis themes, and the cult of Jerusalem's deity. These clusters, as well as Josephus' atticizing style and his attacks against present-day Greeks, all demonstrate his awareness of Greek current trends in historiographical writing. The next section deals with book I of the BJ, attempting to answer the question why Josephus narrates a 250-year-old history while explicitly criticizing his contemporaries for focusing on the ancient past. Mason argues that Josephus tried to reclaim the power of that past for his own political ends: like other Greek historians (Polybius, Plutarch, Diodorus etc.), he saw the Romans as the best remedy against factionalism and local tyrants; the first thing done by Judas and Jonathan, according to Josephus, was precisely to conclude an alliance with the Romans. In the light of this argument, Josephus does not appear as being specifically pro-Roman but rather as a "cold realist" (cf. p 121). In the last section, looking at the famous speeches of Agrippa II in book 2 and Josephus' own in book V, Mason points to both characters' manipulations of the facts and to the arguments they share (e.g., freedom vs. slavery, the rotation of Fortune). The manipulation of the facts is explained by claiming that they are offered as a statesman's tour de force entirely conditioned by the present emergency. This leads Mason to define this attempt as a bowdlerized national history. The conclusion emphasizes the main results of Mason's careful investigation: Josephus "breathes the same air as Plutarch and Dio", culturally, linguistically, and politically; therefore, this study diminishes the idea of 'hellenization' as a category to explain Josephus' literary art: already in the BJ is Josephus' "Greek" cultural world revealed. Thus "Greek" and "hellenization" in fact designate the larger cultural world in which eastern-Mediterranean elites were engaged.

Doron Mendels' "How Was Antiquity Treated in Societies with a Hellenistic Heritage? And Why Did the Rabbis Avoid Writing History?" (131-150) has a more theoretical approach to the question of antiquity in ancient historiography. Attempting to map the perceptions of the past in societies of antiquity, Mendels develops a model for treating the past, which is spelled out in four themes. Under theme I ("the relationship of societies, groups, and individuals to their past: a schematic approach"), he identifies three types of social responses towards the past: the societies who are stuck in the past (e.g. Hellenistic Sparta vis-à-vis Lycurgan past), those who manipulate memories of the past (e.g. Hecataeus of Abdera), and those who look primarily forward (e.g. I Macc.). Theme II ("what were the modes for using the past in antiquity?") is explained as a "wholesale acceptance of the past material" (e.g. the recital of Homer in the Hellenistic period) and "manipulation of past material and intentional modification". The latter is divided into eleven sub-sections: 'frameworks' for the past; manipulative use of historical figures; manipulative use of time (past and present mixed together); projection of a present ideology or condition into the past; one past is projected onto another; pure invention of past data; translations; one inscribed tradition of the past is contaminated by the 'presence' of another; presenting the past as a linear sequence of carefully chosen key events; a synoptic approach to the past; and the fragmentation of the past in the public sphere. Theme III ("When and by whom?") asks the question of the identification of the moments and the actors of such alterations. According to Mendels, social and political innovations, including revolutions, caused societies to manipulate their past in order to re-define their identities. The actors were the powers-that-be, all those exercising power directly or indirectly in the society, up to and including, in the views of some, God himself. In theme IV ("the agents are not mere transmitters of the past, but rather significantly impact how antiquity is used in antiquity"), Mendels explains how "agents" (i.e. here, historiography), which are modes of presentation in the public sphere, destroyed much of the antique heritage: the canonization of imperialistic viewpoints, epitomization, etc. led to the disappearance of a great deal of material. In his conclusion, Mendel speaks about "destructive social currents towards the past in the Hellenistic period and beyond...societies, groups, and individuals were imbued with fragments of their past, but did not respect their histories in their totality" (150). These two sentences are revealing of that which I see as misconceptions: a) the article seems to assume a static, "canonical" view of a past that would be "original" and later on subject to change and manipulation. Yet such a view is more and more contested--and rightfully so, especially where biblical texts, for example, are concerned. b) Along the same line, I wonder if the terms, "destruction", "respect", "manipulators" and "manipulation" are really appropriate in order to describe the remodeling and creative reworking operated in ancient historiographical texts. It seems to be an anachronistic retrojection of modern historiography into the past. Moreover, the assumption that there was such a thing as wholesale acceptance of past material leaves me doubtful: the example of Clement of Alexandria, who did not significantly alter the quotations of classical sources, does not indicate that he accepted them fully; the mere change of context implied a deep alteration of their initial meaning (if there is such a thing at all).

Part Two "Jewish, Pagan, and Christian Antiquities in the Greco-Roman World" begins with P. Schäfer's paper "Rabbis and Priests, or: How to Do Away with the Glorious Past of the Sons of Aaron" (155-172). Indeed, Schäfer explains the way in which the rabbis rewrote biblical and post-biblical history, eradicating the priests from the collective memory of their people in order to turn themselves into the new heroes of Judaism. To support his argument, Schäfer provides persuasive examples such as an early rabbinical exegesis preserved in Sifre (on Nb) and Sifra (on Lv) which excludes Aaron from communication with God. The message underlying this exegesis is, according to Schäfer, that God's revelation to Moses is much more important than the service of the priests in the Temple and hence that the Torah--and thus its much needed interpretation by the rabbis--is more important than the worship in the Temple. Another example from the Mekhilta is given in which Aaron is actually added to a text to which he does not belong (Ex 7:1). Schäfer interprets this move not as simply showing the equality of Moses and Aaron but as pointing to the fact that they are indeed equal except as far as God's revelation is concerned. This in its turn would mean something like "we, the rabbis, have superseded the priests." Finally, Schäfer analyzes different passages from Pirqe Avot, including its famous chain of tradition in chapter I. He points out the conspicuous absence of the priesthood. Moreover, even when Aaron does appear in the tractate, he is presented as someone who made the Torah the center of his life, thus becoming a rabbinized Aaron. After another few examples, Schäfer concludes that in order to supersede the priests, the rabbis did not merely ignore them, but aggressively eliminated and/or recast them in the rabbis' own image. At the end of the paper, he persuasively answers different counterarguments to his thesis, e.g., the fact that in synagogue prayer, the priests have a prominent role, or that large parts of the mishnah abundantly refer to the Temple cult: in his eyes, these advertise "the ultimate victory and triumph of the rabbis: even the priestly domain has come under our tutelage" (172).

Next comes Annette Yoshiko Reed "'Jewish Christianity' as Counter-History? The Apostolic Past in Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History and the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies" (173-216). In this brilliant essay, Reed takes a comparative approach to Eusebius' Church History and the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies, analyzing how they reshape and reconstruct the memory of the apostolic past to their own ends--often in a conflicting and idealizing way. Her purpose is to show how these reconstructions served to articulate the place of Judaism in Christian self-definition in the formative age of the fourth century. Reviewing modern research on both works, she points to the fact that it has mainly focused on the issue of sources rather than on the narrative dynamics and rhetoric at play in these writings, occasionally leading to an undervaluation of their importance. After arguing the validity of looking at these works together, she turns to an analysis of apostolic and Jewish succession and the issue of the transmission of truth. She demonstrates how the Homilies and the Church History, while converging e.g. in picturing apostolic teaching as the restoration of primordial religion, differ from each other in their presentation of both apostolic succession and Judaism. Indeed, in the Homilies, the identity of Moses and Jesus as prophetic figures is stressed and Christianity is somehow equated with Judaism. In contrast, Eusebius' emphasis on the story of Jesus and the apostles is counterpoint to the history of the Jews. Interestingly, she points out that whereas Eusebius' understanding of apostolic succession depends on the lineages of Hellenistic philosophical schools (cf. Momigliano), that of the Homilies may well be indebted to the rabbinic model expressed in Pirqe Avot (cf. A. Baumgarten). Contrary to Eusebius, the Homilies strikingly depart from mainstream Christian supersessionist ideas. Reed also underscores the difference of the treatment of the apostolic mission as well as that of Peter, Paul and Clement. The examination of orthodoxy and heresy, seen through the treatment of Simon Magus likewise provides points of both convergence and contrast. As far as Jewish Christianity is concerned, Reed decodes the consequences of Eusebius' emphasis on discontinuity between Judaism and Christianity in contrast to the Homilies' stress on continuity. She closes her paper on the possibility of envisaging both writings as counter-history, perhaps in a reciprocated relationship.

Lee Levine's "Jewish Collective Memory in Late Antiquity. Issues in the Interpretation of Jewish art" (217-254) offers the insights of archaeology and iconography. It mainly poses a number of methodological questions regarding the interpretation of Jewish art (e.g. the value of the parallels with Christian art). Reviewing several biblical scenes and pictorial symbols from Jewish Palestinian synagogues in the Byzantine period (e.g. portrayals of David as Orpheus in a Gaza synagogue, the Aqedah at Beith Alpha etc.), Levine tackles the issue of art interpretation. He finds unpersuasive S. Fine's and S. Schwartz's claim that the key to the interpretation of synagogue art is liturgy, a claim made on the basis of Christian parallels and argued with the support of piyyutim. He also warns against seeing Jewish-Christian polemics everywhere, posing the well-known question of the contrast between rhetoric and reality. The case of Sepphoris is nevertheless examined in further detail, but he concludes that its art is unlikely to have been prompted by this kind of polemics. The general conclusion offers methodological warnings against, e.g., the assumption of universal meaning.

The essay by Elizabeth Kessler-Dimin ("Tradition and Transmission. Hermes Kourotrophos in Nea Paphos, Cyprus", 255-281) studies the image of the infant Dionysos in the care of Hermes from a luxurious home in Nea Paphos, the House of Aion, in the fourth century CE. Investigating the long iconographic tradition which precedes this representation of Hermes Koroutrophos with the infant Dionysos, she attempts to demonstrate the significance of pagan art in the development of Christian iconography. The example of the infant Dionysos is especially fitting to this exercise, given the similarities with later representations of Mary and the infant Jesus. In particular, she shows how the motifs of manuum velatio and kourotrophos exemplify the way in which tradition "functioned as both a means to sustain the past and to spur on the creation of new 'pasts' more amenable to contemporary concerns." (280).

Part III of the volume is entitled "Antiquities of Late Antiquity and Today". It starts with a paper by Moulie Vidas. In his carefully researched article, Vidas examines "the Bavli's Discussion of Genealogy in Qiddushin IV" (285-326). The first part of the article deals with the Talmudic attitude towards genealogical knowledge on the purification of mamzerim and in a story about Rav Yehuda's trial. It demonstrates the rabbis' break with the second-Temple period's focus on ancestry and sheds light on the genealogical condition as a legal condition thus subject to change. The critical attitude of the Bavli towards its own culture is emphasized. In the second part, the opening sugya is analyzed. Through the analysis of the Talmudic discussion of Ezra's purification of Babylonia, Vidas demonstrates the innovative character of the Talmudic approach to genealogical inquiry--switching from a predilection for homogeneity to a concern for genealogical knowledge--and interestingly points to the reversal of the hierarchies between two central aspects of Ezra's actions, i.e., the return to Zion and the prohibition on intermarriage in the Bavli. Indeed, as Vidas points out, with respect to both genealogical and ethnic matters, it decentralizes the Jewish world by allowing multiple communities.

In "The Spoils of the Jerusalem Temple at Rome and Constantinople. Jewish Counter-Geography in a Christianizing Empire" (327-372), Ra'anan Boustan investigates the transformation of the theme of the Jerusalem spoils and their preservation of Jewish literature between 70 and 750. These traditions are mapped against broader developments in the Jewish response to the changing nature of Roman imperial discourse and practice. This enables him to locate a major shift in the deployment of this tradition in the context of the emerging Christian interest in sacred relics in the fifth and sixth centuries. The term "counter-geography" used in the title refers to Boustan's captivating thesis that in this period Jewish tales of discovery of sacred objects constitute a direct counterpart to the Christian process of travel to and Christianization of the Holy Land. The article contributes to the recent, cutting-edge scholarship which seeks to analyze Jewish resistance to and accommodation of the imperial power. In the article, Boustan notes the absence of the motif of the Temple's spoils in Greco-Roman literature, whereas it appears quite often in early rabbinic texts. Stressing how contentious and powerful visual access to the vessels was in early rabbinic literature, he concludes that this motif was established by the rabbis as a major continuity theme. In the Byzantine period, the theme becomes part of an eschatological discourse which itself is part of a larger discourse on sacred relics, both Jewish and Christian. Analyzing both Jewish and non-Jewish sources (Procopius, the Story of the Ten Martyrs, and 'Otot ha-Mashiah), he shows how Christianization shaped the ways in which Jews, in their messianic discourse, reimagined their salvation history against the shifting geography of empire.

Yannis Papadoyannakis' paper "A Debate about the Rebuilding of the Temple in Sixth-Century Byzantium" (373-382) focuses on a sixth-century work which has escaped notice of almost all scholars: Pseudo-Kaisarios' Erotapokriseis. This text addresses the question of the rebuilding of the Temple. Papadoyannakis investigates how the author countered the challenge of his Christian claims of dominance over the Jews. Obviously, prophecy was put at the service of demonstrating that the destruction had been foretold and proved the illegitimacy of the law; yet, like John Chrysostom (on whom he relied heavily), Pseudo-Kaisarios also attempted to show that the Temple would not be rebuilt, and it was with relief that he saw the Jews re-conquered and re-mastered.

In "Helena's Bridle and the Chariot of Ethiopia" (383-393), in a nice continuity with the paper by Boustan, Glen Bowersock explores the fascinating trajectory of two symbolic items of late antique Ethiopian identity: Helena's bridle, allegedly made by the queen out of the nails of the crucifixion, as well as the chariot of Ethiopia, in which supposedly the ark of the covenant magically flew in the days of Salomon from Jerusalem to Aksum. Both are used in an apocalyptic context related to Ps 68 in both Ethiopian sources (the Kebra Nagast) and in Syriac sources. The question raised, then, is why this tradition was accepted in late seventh-century Christian Edessa. The answer lies in monophysitism, as Ethiopian kings were making claims to the kingship of monophysite Greeks in the mid-fifth century. In this context, the ark was Aksum's answer to the True Cross in Constantinople, and the negus was presented as a new Constantine. Thus some Syriac texts preserved an earlier tradition of monophysite support for the negus as a post-Chalcedonian Constantine: "in 692 or 693 a western Syrian could still dream of an Ethiopian king of the Greeks in Jerusalem at the end of the world" (392).

Finally, A. Becker's "The Ancient Near East in the Late Antique Near East. Syriac Christian Appropriation of the Biblical East" (394-415) deals with the "assyrianization" of Syriac culture from the sixth century onwards. By "assyrianization", the author designates "the process whereby Syriac-speaking Christians in Mesopotamia employed the Assyria they found in the Bible as well as in Greek sources translated into Syriac as a model for understanding themselves and their place in the world" (398). Becker's paper begins with one eastern Syriac text, the History of Karkha d-Beth Slokh and the Martyrs therein, in which Jonah, for instance, plays an important role in linking antiquity and the recent Christian history of the city of Karkha d-Beth Slokh. Other figures and facts are investigated such as the reception of the figure of Daniel, Nimrod, and 2 Baruch. Further in the paper, he examines how the ancient past is employed to address contemporary issues. He suggests that the catalyst for the focus on Assyria found in certain Syriac texts may have been their historical exegesis or the political dynamic of the Christian community of the Sassanian and later Arab empires. The paper concludes with an interesting discussion on the relationship between religion and ethnicity in the specific context of late antique Syriac identity.

(read complete article)


Version at BMCR home site
Andrea M. Gáldy, Cosimo I de' Medici as Collector: Antiquities and Archaeology in Sixteenth-century Florence. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009. Pp. xxvi, 571. ISBN 9781443801720. £54.99.
Reviewed by Natalia Agapiou, École pratique des hautes études

[Author and table of contents are listed at the end of the review.]

The book under review is the 2002 doctoral dissertation of classical archaeologist Andrea Gáldy, from the School of Art History and Archaeology of the University of Manchester; its original title was 'Con bellissimo ordine': Antiquities in the Collection of Cosimo I de' Medici and Renaissance Archaeology.

The book is divided into two sections; the first section (Part I and Part II) serves as an introduction to the second section, an extensive Appendix of Archival Material and the Catalogue raisonné of Cosimo I's Medici collection of antiquities.

Part I consists of 3 chapters. Chapter One presents Cosimo, son of Giovanni delle Bande Nere and Maria Salviati (granddaughter of Lorenzo il Magnifico), who succeeded Alessandro de' Medici after his assassination in early 1537. Cosimo was a ruler whose political future seemed uncertain and who nevertheless managed not only to consolidate his power and enlarge his dominion, but also to ensure the future of the Medici dynasty for the next two centuries. After the main biographical data -- among which it is worth singling out the foundation in 1540 of the 'Accademia degli Umidi', which Cosimo used as an instrument of propaganda, and his relationship with the Papacy, especially with Pius V Ghislieri who created him Grand Duke in 1569 -- we are offered an overview of the first ducal residences: first, the Palazzo Medici at the then Via Larga, which after Margherita d'Austria's (Alessandro's wife) departure was almost emptied of its precious content, and, second, the Palazzo della Signoria, that now took the name of Palazzo Ducale, which contained the Duke's Guardaroba, the first storage room of his collection, and the Salone dei Cinquecento, whose ceiling was decorated with his Apotheosis devised by Vasari. We also get a first glimpse of the Palazzo Pitti bought by Cosimo I's wife, the duchess Eleonora di Toledo, in 1549.

Chapter Two focuses on Cosimo as a collector: first, it lists, rather succinctly, the problematic -- as most of them are not objective or are characterized by "poor quality of information" (p. 33) -- contemporary sources. Among them it is worth mentioning the 'relazione' of Vincenzo Fedeli, ambassador of Venice in Florence, who in 1560-61 gives us what seems an accurate testimony of Cosimo I's cultural politics. Next comes a survey of Cosimo's collection and its initial places of safekeeping, such as the "idiosyncratic" Sala delle Carte Geografiche of the Palazzo Ducale, and three rooms in the Palazzo Pitti, among which the so called "Sala delle figure" that was to become the famous Sala delle Nicchie. The chapter ends with a subchapter on the origins and fate of the Medici collection since the days of Cosimo Pater Patriae, and on its development and categories of objects.

Chapter Three is dedicated to the main two display rooms of the collection: the Scrittoio della Calliope and the Sala delle Nicchie. First is examined the Scrittoio della Calliope, Cosimo's study room in the Palazzo Ducale, strangely enough abandoned a few years after its completion. This subchapter also contains a brief history of the scrittoio or studiolo as architectural element and a presentation of the studioli of the previous and subsequent Medici; such as the one used by Cosimo's reclusive son, Francesco, decorated with invenzioni by Vincenzo Borghini. Gáldy next focuses on the group of objects exhibited in this room that she calls the Tuscan Museum, mainly "anticaglie di bronzo e di terra" (p. 79) created by ancient and contemporary Tuscans (its nucleus being a set of Etruscan bronzetti from Arezzo), whose role was to propagate the idea of the superiority of the Tuscans over the rest of the Italian peoples. The second part of the chapter deals with the Sala delle Nicchie in Palazzo Pitti, this one differentiated by its marked interest in Roman antiquities, as it was the place of exhibition of the marble statues that ended here thanks to Pius V's desire to purge Rome of profane art. Here again we are offered the history of this type of Sala, defined as an androne, starting with François I's galerie in Fontainebleau and the galaria in Palazzo Capodiferro-Spada in Rome.

Part II consists of one chapter only, Chapter Four, which attempts to give an answer to how ancient art was perceived during the Renaissance. Here we get a flashback into the first encounters with antiquities during the late Middle Ages, and a survey of evolving attitudes towards the various ancient styles. Giovanbattista Adriani's 1567 letter to Vasari in which he attempts to delineate the different styles (Egyptian, Greek, Roman) is one of the most interesting texts quoted here. Particular attention is then given to Etruscan art and to Cosimo I's Chimera, the most celebrated piece of his collection, which brings us to the foundation of Florence and to the fictive ancestry of the Tuscans who, according to the infamous Annio da Viterbo, were descendants of Noah/Janus. We are next offered a series of subchapters on the various Florentine antique monuments and the stories woven around them, and Part II closes with an analysis of the influence of the Council of Trent on the course of non-Christian art (" there was nothing that could be interpreted as a battle cry against remains", Gáldy observes) and with a survey of the less well-known development of Christian archaeology.

In the Conclusion, Gáldy states: " it has been the intention to show in this study that the anticaglie owned by Cosimo played a more varied role than has so far been ascribed to them". She here explains her thesis that the intellectuals who revolved around Cosimo, "despite sometimes being duped or setting out to dupe others" (p. 196), did nevertheless have a genuine interest in the antiquities of Florence and Tuscany and a shared desire to get a better picture of ancient Etruria.

The Appendix of Archival Material and the Catalogue spans 259 pages and thus form the largest part of the volume. The archival material, part of which is published for the first time, is divided into four sections following the development of the collection: 1539-1559 (up to the installation of the Scrittoio della Calliope in the Palazzo Ducale); 1560-August 1569 (up to the creation of Cosimo I Grand Duke of Tuscany); September 1569-1574 (up the death of Cosimo I); and a last, short one 1577-1597. The Catalogue raisonné examines 102 antiquities of the collection. The book is completed with an extensive bibliography in the main European languages and with 81 illustrations.

Part I, certainly the part dealing with the most problematic material, is the weakest part of the volume. The author does not manage to mould into an efficient narrative the otherwise impressive documentation she undoubtedly masters. There are many topics Gáldy refers to in a fragmentary way -- often repetitively -- that would have made for a more agreeable reading had they been turned into brief pieces of narration: e.g. Cosimo I's choice to identify himself with Augustus or the Etruscan ruler Porsenna, the mythology developed around him, or his relationship with pope Pius V and his trip to Rome which played such an instrumental role to the enrichment of his collection. Is she here a victim of the temptation to "copy and paste", as many Ph.D. students are today? This lack of continuity is felt even more when one strives to follow from chapter to chapter the wanderings of the collection through the various palazzi; the reader would have been helped if more plans of the places of display were included, especially modern renderings. Also, it would have been better if a chronological order had been followed in most cases; for instance if the origins of the Medici collection were presented at the beginning and not at the end of Chapter Two. But what is missing, above all, is a concise presentation into the body of the text itself of the material listed in the Appendix, to inform the reader who starts from page 1 of what is going to follow: which are the main sources for the collection and which the most important textual testimonies and why -- what one gets instead is mere hints about inventories "a capi" (p. 49, 81) and a great number of very interesting excerpts without enough information of their real value in each context.

Part II makes an easier and more enjoyable read, especially the stories of Florentine monuments. In this part, Gáldy's thesis -- i.e. that there was indeed a genuine interest in antiquities among the contemporaries of Cosimo I -- is well supported by evidence. It would have been interesting here to have some information on the extent of use of forgeries and on how they were perceived.

Regarding the pieces of the collection that are chosen for inclusion into the Catalogue, there is, we think, a methodological problem. On p. 48, Gáldy informs us: "I have attempted to match up the single pieces in the various documents by giving them a serial number in the Appendix". Indeed, on p. 201, we read that these serial numbers consist of a sequence of three letters followed by a four-digit number: " the first letter refers to the age of the object, the letter a means ancient, the letter d means it could be modern/all'antica, e means it is definitely all'antica, but appears in the Catalogue". Finally, on p. 359 we are told "Originally, it was my intention to consider only ancient or all'antica pieces from the two collection rooms for the Catalogue but there are a few exceptions to the rule the reason for which becomes clear in the relevant Catalogue entry". Still, the criteria according to which this catalogue is made are not clear; there is certainly some explanation but it is not spelled out. What becomes somehow clear is that the catalogue also contains modern objects that, for instance, are "taken for an antiquity" (p. 374) or "kept in Cosimo's days with the anticaglie" (p. 375) or "displayed with his other Etruscan/Tuscan pieces" (p. 384).

It is in the Catalogue though that archaeologist Gáldy excels. Her entries are very readable, enriched with vivid details, and they exhibit a profound knowledge not only of the history of each item once it entered the collection, but also of the routes followed before it ended in Cosimo's hands. Here, she makes an efficient use of sources both primary and modern, and her expertise in the matter is everywhere evident. One readily appreciates, for example, her charts 80 and 81 of the Illustrations section, which classify the objects according to material, provenance and category (though, an analysis of these charts in the Introduction of the Catalogue would have been welcome).

As for the physical aspect of the publication, the book at first glance seems a very appealing format with its width slightly larger than in the usual in-octavos. Yet, unfortunately, once one starts reading, the volume falls apart -- in my case, all pages up to 163 ended up loose. Given that right now the book seems to be "temporarily out of stock", we hope that Cambridge Scholars Publishing plans a better binding in order to do justice both to the author and to prospective buyers.

In conclusion, the author has invested a considerable amount of time in transcribing and studying the archival material, in identifying the various pieces of the collection under study and in trying to make sense of a collection with quite a complicated history. The documentation is sound and the bibliography exhaustive. Gáldy's most important contribution to the scholarship on this topic is above all the catalogue raisonné she proposes for Cosimo I's collection and the archival material she brings to light, which informs us on the origins of some of the most important museums in the world: the Uffizi and the Palazzo Pitti.

Table of Contents

Part I

Chapter One: The Prince

1.1 Family and Career 3

1.2 The Palazzi: Organisation and decoration 8

Chapter Two: Cosimo I as Collector

2.1. Contemporary Sources 29

2.2. Cosimo I's Collection of Antiquities 34

Chapter Three: Two Special Display Rooms

3.1. The Scrittoio della Calliope 61

Inspired by the Muses 61

The Tuscan Museum 78

3.2. The Sala delle Nicchie 84

The Lure of Rome 85

A Florentine Belvedere 90

Part II

Chapter Four: The Collection and Contemporary Archaeology

4.1. Art and Antiquities: Reaction and Interaction 111

Rediscovering Ancient Art 112

Greek, Roman, Etruscan Defining Styles 121

4.2. Ancient Florence in the Eyes if Renaissance Florentines 133

The Foundation of Florence 133

Archaeological Evidence Known in the Sixteenth Century 137

4.3. Impact of the Counter-Reformation 150

The Council of Trent 151

Development of Christian Archaeology 162

Conclusion 193

Appendix of Archival material 199

Catalogue 359

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Jean-Michel Poinsotte (ed.), Commodien Instructions. Collections des universités de France. Série latine 392. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2009. Pp. lxxvi, 557. ISBN 9782251014524. €89.00 (pb).
Reviewed by Roald Dijkstra, Université Radboud de Nimègue

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

Dans le sillage de l'intérêt grandissant qu'on porte à l'Antiquité tardive, plusieurs poètes chrétiens de cette période ont reçu plus d'attention qu'auparavant. Mais il y a toujours des poètes qui restent un peu sur la touche. L'un d'entre eux, Commodien, a fait maintenant l'objet d'un un rattrapage de grande envergure, vu la parution d'une nouvelle édition de ses poèmes. Ce poète est très intéressant, tant par son oeuvre un peu étrange que par sa personnalité mystérieuse. Jean-Michel Poinsotte, qui s'occupé du poète depuis plusieurs années, a produit, dans la série latine des Belles Lettres, un nouveau volume des Instructions de Commodien. Ce volume mérite l'attention pour son approche adéquate et son ampleur impressionnante. C'est un livre de grande valeur pour la recherche des idées primitives des chrétiens.

Aucune oeuvre poétique chrétienne du monde antique ne nous est transmise avant celles de Commodien. Ce poète a écrit deux ouvrages : les Instructiones et le Carmen apologeticum, quelquefois indiqué sous le titre Carmen de duobus populis. Alors que le Poème apologétique est un poème unique, les Instructions se composent de quatre-vingts pièces, de dimensions variables, réparties en deux livres. Le premier livre est adressé aux païens, en particulier aux païens judaïsants. On peut signaler une répartition en trois parties : sur les dieux païens (4-22), sur les ennemis du christianisme (23-40) et sur la fin des temps (41-45). Le deuxième livre s'adresse aux chrétiens : Poinsotte l'appelle à juste titre "un manuel du savoir-vivre chrétien". Les poèmes reflètent une théologie chrétienne qui doit beaucoup au judaïsme. La datation des poèmes est aussi difficile que celle du poète : il y a eu des datations du troisième au cinquième siècle, mais l'opinion générale le date maintenant au siècle dit de la crise, c'est-à-dire le troisième. Commodien reste un personnage énigmatique, dont le floruit doit se trouver dans les années 250-260 environ. Pourtant, une datation exacte semble impossible pour le moment et Poinsotte souligne que souvent dans l'Antiquité on écrivait une oeuvre sur une longue période. Cette pratique ne complique pas seulement la datation absolue, mais aussi la datation relative des deux oeuvres de Commodien. Poinsotte montre de façon convaincante que Commodien a rédigé son oeuvre lui-même (pp. xxxii-xxxiv).

L'introduction est vaste, surtout la partie qui porte sur le texte de l'oeuvre et ses curiosités. Néanmoins, pour avoir une image complète de la figure de Commodien et en particulier de la dispute complexe sur son origine, il faut lire l'article de Poinsotte déjà paru sur ce sujet. 2 Etant donné que Commodien est le premier poète chrétien, il est dommage que Poinsotte n'aborde pas le sujet de l'origine de la poésie chrétienne. Pourquoi Commodien a-t-il choisi d'écrire en vers, malgré l'absence d'exemples chrétiens comparables ? Quelle était l'influence de la poésie qualitative qu'on trouve déjà dans le Nouveau Testament et dans certains hymnes chrétiens du IIe siècle? Nous avons aussi quelques considérations sur les arguments de Poinsotte. Quoiqu' il ait bien argumenté son opinion, il reste difficile à croire que Commodien ait volontairement produit des hexamètres plutôt inhabituels. Poinsotte exprime son point de vue d'une façon incisive (p. xii) : "Il aurait été tout à fait capable de composer des hexamètres parfaitement corrects. Mais c'eût été transiger trop ostensiblement avec des valeurs "séculières" qu'il dénonçait." Mais pourquoi Commodien a-t-il essayé d'écrire en hexamètres ? Si les hexamètres étaient vraiment trop contaminés par la poésie païenne, il aurait pu écrire dans un mètre vraiment accentuel syllabique ou en prose par exemple. De plus, il cite assez souvent des auteurs païens (voir Poinsotte, pp. xxxvii-xli), ce qui démontre qu'il a de l'estime pour ses précurseurs séculiers. À côté de cela, il y a quelques passages où Poinsotte semble raisonner trop vite, p. ex. quand il dit que Commodien "apparaît souvent comme un homme plein d'expérience, sans doute âgé" (p. xv)--ne peut-il pas avoir utilisé les expériences d'autres personnes pour ses écrits?--ou quand il affirme que Commodien était "intransigeant et hostile à tout compromis spirituel" (p. 20).

Le style est un des aspects les plus discutés de l'oeuvre de Commodien. Il a écrit en hexamètres sans se soucier beaucoup des règles de la métrique classique. Son emploi des mots est souvent étrange et gênant. Sa morphologie, sa syntaxe, son style et sa phonétique présentent un caractère exceptionnel. Le plus grand mérite de l'édition de Poinsotte semble être l'utilisation soigneuse du texte de Commodien. Ainsi que l'éditeur l'explique dans son introduction, il ne nous reste qu'un manuscrit, C, qui date du IXe siècle. Il y a trois textes de base sur une copie aujourd'hui perdue du manuscrit : A, B et l'editio princeps de Rigault. La première édition fondée sur le manuscrit médiéval est celle de Dombart de 1887. Poinsotte s'est attaché au C, tout en reconnaissant la valeur de A, B, et de Dombart. Les éditions modernes de Martin (1960, CCSL 128) et Salvatore (1965 le livre un et 1968 le livre deux) ont aussi pris en considération. Poinsotte a choisi de s'appuyer sur le manuscrit C, plus que sur les éditions, sans qu'il les ignore d'ailleurs.1 Ça implique que les nombreuses variantes de l'orthographe des Instructions ont souvent été maintenues dans l'édition de Poinsotte. Cette approche nous donne un texte qui ressemble au texte original, tel que Commodien l'a probablement écrit, plus que les éditions récentes, particulièrement celles qui précèdent l'édition de Martin, qui ont été "corrigées" d'après l'usage classique. Mais il faut se garder des lapsus des copistes médiévaux bien sûr, comme Poinsotte lui-même l'admet : "Il nous a semblé (...) que le risque était moins grand d'attribuer à C. des dictiones qui n'étaient pas les siennes que de faire de ce poète marginal un écrivain aussi classique que possible." (p. lvii). Le résultat est un texte réaliste, si aliénant qu'il soit quelquefois. Heureusement, l'éditeur a prévu les problèmes que l'orthographe inhabituelle pourrait poser aux lecteurs habitués plutôt à l'orthographe classique, et il a marqué des variantes troublantes dans l'appareil critique (voir p.ex. p. 2, 9: "perdoctos (= -tus)"). De plus, les variantes orthographiques les plus habituelles qu'on trouve dans l'oeuvre de Commodien, sont signalées dans l'introduction.

La critique du commentaire sur un des poèmes des Instructions peut nous donner une idée de l'approche de Poinsotte. Nous prenons l'Instruction 1,41, intitulée De antichristi tempore. C'est le premier poème d'une série sur la fin des temps, comme le signale Poinsotte, qui s'efforce constamment de préciser la place de tel ou tel poème dans l'oeuvre. D'abord, il est étonnant que Poinsotte maintienne le mot antichristi dans le titre, bien que l'acrostiche ait été antechristi. Ainsi que Poinsotte le mentionne dans son introduction (p. lviii), il est très probable que les acrostiches soient plus fiables que les titres. Quatorze fois, le titre d'un poème a une autre orthographe que l'acrostiche. Néanmoins, Poinsotte a choisi de ne pas corriger le titre de l'instruction 1,41. Le poème commence par une citation d'Isaïe 14,16-7, empruntée clairement au texte de l' Ad Quirinum de Cyprien. Ensuite, Commodien décrit la fin du monde où l'antéchrist, en la personne de Néron de inferno leuatus, et Elie viennent sur terre. Ensuite il décrit la manière dont Jésus revient et dont les Juifs sont trompés dans leurs espérances. Quant à la datation, nous avons déjà mentionné l'opinion de Poinsotte, à savoir qu'une datation exaxte estpresque impossible. Néanmoins, il fait un essai de datation relative pour le Poème apologétique et les Instructions (pp. xix-xx) d'après Instructio 1,41. Il est question d'un antéchrist au singulier ici. Mais dans le Poème apologétique deux antéchrists sont évoqués. Poinsotte suppose que "c'est un Antéchrist double qui a été maladroitement réduit à l'unité" (p. xx). Il tente de démontrer dans les notes (pp. 302-4) qu'on peut voir l'existence de deux antéchrists dans le poème. Ses arguments semblent un peu trop recherchés. Pourquoi Commodien ne pourrait-il pas changer d'avis entre la parution des Instructions et le Poème apologétique? Et comment se fait-il que Commodien ait pu se tromper sur un aspect aussi délicat de la théologie chrétienne, sur lequel il met souvent l'accent ? Il semble donc qu'une telle conclusion ne soit pas soutenable. L'ampleur de cet analyse montre toutefois la profondeur du commentaire (p. ex. pour 1,41 : 22 notes, i.e. douze pages, sur vingt vers), dont le seul désavantage est que le livre est moins maniable que ce que le lecteur moyen souhaiterait. Mais la conséquence positive est que l'édition de Poinsotte est beaucoup plus qu'une traduction : c'est un vrai commentaire du texte. Il y a des références partout dans les notes. Les autres poèmes de Commodien sont parfois mentionnés : p. ex. le contenu de 1,41 est comparé à celui du Poème apologétique, ce qui révèle plusieurs divergences, les quatre premiers vers faisant penser au début du premier livre des Instructions etc. Mais il y a aussi des références aux autres auteurs, p. ex. l'opinion d'Augustin et de Victorin de Poetovio sur l'antéchrist et la figure de Néron chez Lactance, Sulpice Sévère, Tertullien, Ambroise, Jean Chrysostome et d'autres auteurs chrétiens. Il en est de même pour la littérature moderne, que Poinsotte semble connaître très bien. Le travail de l'éditeur visant à restituer le texte que Commodien aurait pu écrire, se révèle clairement dès le début du vers neuf de l'instruction 1,41 : Poinsotte écrit Res qua *suffine redit, ce qui est la lecture du manuscrit C, en indiquant dans l'appareil critique qu'il faut le lire comme Rex quam sub fine. Cette reproduction "classique" a été choisie comme texte d'édition par Martin, par Salvatore (qui a quas au lieu de quam) et par d'autres éditeurs modernes. Le choix de Poinsotte est élucidé dans l'annotation correspondante. Par de telles interventions, le lecteur moderne peut s'imaginer lire le texte plus ou moins comme on le faisait au IIIe siècle, ce qui est un grand acquis de l'édition de Poinsotte. Les conjectures de l'auteur (dans Instructio 1,41 au vers vingt, argumenté aux pp. 309-11), qui ne sont pas très nombreuses toutefois, sont également bien étayées dans les notes.

Cela dit, il faut souligner que cette édition nouvelle est un livre érudit. Commodien offre un regard exceptionnel sur la pensée du christianisme ancien, dans lequel l'influence de la religion juive était plus forte que dans les siècles suivants. De plus, il est le premier poète chrétien dont nous pouvons lire une oeuvre considérable. Quoique les anciennes éditions de Commodien soient plus modernes que quelques-unes des éditions de ses successeurs (comme Juvencus, le premier poète dit "classique" chrétien, seulement disponible dans l'édition de Huemer de 1891, CSEL 24), la nouvelle édition est justifiée à la fois par l'approche textuelle et l'ampleur du commentaire. Par conséquent, le livre de Poinsotte contribue beaucoup à l'étude du christianisme des premiers siècles, pour lequel les poèmes de Commodien sont une source d'une importance à ne pas sous-estimer. Plusieurs index à la fin facilitent une recherche efficace dans le livre. Le texte, tout comme le commentaire, est le couronnement du travail que Poinsotte a consacré à l'un des poètes chrétiens les plus obscurs de l'Antiquité.

Table des matières :

Introduction ix-lx
I--Un auteur et une oeuvre atypiques ix-xxii
II--Le recueil des Instructions xxii-xxxiv
III--La forme des poèmes xxxiv-l
IV--La recherche d'un texte plausible l-lx
Bibliographie lxi-lxxi
Conspectus siglorum lxxiii-lxxvi
Commodien--Instructions 1-90
Début des Instructions de Commodien en acrostiches 91-97
Notes 99-481
Index biblique 485-498
Index des auteurs classiques 499-518
Index des auteurs chrétiens 519-550
Index des passages du Poème apologétique 551-557


1.   Il est louable d'apprendre dans l'introduction que Poinsotte a consulté l'auteur de la dernière édition, Salvatore, avant de publier son livre.
2.   Poinsotte, J.-M. (1996). "Commodien dit de Gaza." Revue des études latines 74: 270-281.

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Friday, September 25, 2009


Version at BMCR home site
Eckard Lefèvre, Eckart Schäfer (ed.), Michael Marullus: ein Grieche als Renaissancedichter in Italien. NeoLatina, 15. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 2008. Pp. 288. ISBN 9783823364351. €98.00.
Reviewed by Werner J. C. M. Gelderblom, Radboud University Nijmegen

Table of Contents

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

In the field of Neo-Latin studies, the NeoLatina series published by the Gunter Narr Verlag is already well-known. In nine years, sixteen volumes have been published. Many of these are proceedings of the annual conference on a Neo-Latin author organized in Freiburg. The book under review is also the result of a Freiburg conference, this time on the quattrocento poet Marullus (ca. 1454-1500), who was the son of a couple from the Constantinopolitan nobility who found shelter in south-Italy after the fall of Constantinople. Marullus' most important and famous contributions to literature are the Hymni naturales, four books of hymns to pagan deities, but he also wrote four books of epigrams, some Neniae, and an unfinished mirror for princes. The volume under review examines almost all poetic works of Marullus in six sections of varying length.

In general, the contributions to this volume consist of critical interpretations of individual poems, which reconsider the romantic notion of this poet as a soldier who wrote his poetry in-between battles, a notion created among others by Carol Kidwell's biography (Kidwell 1989), in which Marullus' poetry is uncritically used to reconstruct his life (Enenkel's critical discussion of Kidwell's biography and Marullus' life (Enenkel 2008) came too late to be considered in the volume under review). Furthermore, the volume offers new insights into many matters of Marullus research. This being said, one flaw of the book cannot escape the attentive reader. The title promises to discuss Marullus as a Greek in Italy, but exactly this feature is almost neglected. Apart from a few, sketchy remarks about the possible effect of Marullus' Byzantine background on his laudatory and funeral poetry and his language, the influence of Byzantine literature is not discussed in this volume. Especially for the hymns, a discussion of this aspect is still a desideratum (here, I mention only George Gemistos Plethon's Nómoi, which contain several hymns to pagan gods). In the remainder of this review I will discuss the individual contributions to this volume, which enhance our understanding of Marullus in many ways, but have kept, perhaps too much, to the beaten track.

The two contributions in the first section, 'geschichtliches Selbstverständnis', focus on Marullus' self-representation in his epigrams. Bihrer's discussion of De exilio suo (Epigr. 3.37) cannot escape comparison with the more extensive treatment of the same poem by Karl Enenkel that appeared almost simultaneously and, as I said, could not be taken into consideration by Bihrer (Enenkel 2008). Both authors call biographical readings of this exile poem in question and show that Marullus creates a well-fashioned image of himself, especially by means of allusions to Virgil's Aeneid. Enenkel's treatment is more profound, but Bihrer's emphasis on the genre characteristics and the aesthetics of the poem are an important addition to Enenkel's conclusion, which sees a stronger connection between the poem and the plans for a crusade in the 1490s than Bihrer's.

In the same first section, Wiegand discusses Marullus' panegyric epigrams on Emperor Maximilian I. Wiegand's main point is that Kidwell's assumption of the existence of close relations between the emperor and the poet is based on a faulty reading of the epigrams. Wiegand shows convincingly that, in general, the poems fit in with the topical praises of Maximilian found in German vernacular poetry (although, hoping that the French king would start a crusade, Marullus is less hostile to that king), and in Byzantine panegyric traditions. It is a pity that the Byzantine influence is only observed (p. 41), but not examined by the author; especially considering the theme expressed in the title of the volume (Grieche ... in Italien).

The papers in the second section of the book try to identify and discuss the sources for the epigrams. Thurn's contribution rightly and importantly stresses that Marullus' poetry was not only imitative of classical authors, but also a response to contemporary Italian and Latin poetry and ideas. He shows some interesting examples of Marullus' dependency on Italian writers such as Petrarca (Thurn could have profited from the results of Corsinovi's 1975 publication here) and Lorenzo de' Medici. His conclusion that the four books of epigrams and its dominae echo Ficino's four degrees of being is too sparsely argued to be convincing, but the general notion of Neo-Platonic influences on the love epigrams seems undeniable.

Auhagen in his discussion of Epigr. 1.2 argues that this first love poem in Marullus' collection immediately formulates the poet's stance as a chaste writer. Of special interest is his treatment of the word passercule in this epigram. Marullus distances himself from Politianus' famous sexual interpretation of Catullus' passer, about which Marullus debated with Pontanus, by using the word emphatically as a pet name for Neaera. Auhagen overlooked Antonio Piras' publication that points out the same strategy in Marullus' poetic debate with Politianus on Catullus (Piras 2004).

Simons' close reading of another epigram by Marullus, a fictitious epitaph for a nun named Pholoe who became a prostitute (Epigr. 1.42), shows the influence of not only Tibullus on Marullus' poetry (also discussed in the contribution by Freyburger and Polizzi), but also of ideas on women in quattrocento Italy: Simons convincingly argues that, in this poem, Pholoe develops from a simple prostitute into a quattrocento cortigiana onesta, but also from Tibullan Pholoe and Marathus into Tibullus himself.

Notter's discussion of the use of Martialis' epigrams in Marullus' own shows that the latter considered Martialis too obscene a writer for his taste, and that he made scant use of this epigrammatist in his own non-erotic poems. Notter does indicate some passages in Marullus' epigrams that allude to Martialis, but fails to explain for what reasons Marullus did so. Part of the answer may be found in Marullus' interaction, completely neglected by Notter, with contemporary poets. For example, when Marullus refers to Martialis' preface to his first book in Epigr. 1.62.9 'Tu licet huc Marsumque feras doctumque Catullum' (p. 87), he was probably responding to Beccadelli Hermaphroditus 1.18, in which this notoriously obscene Neo-Latin poet imitates the same passage in Martialis to justify his own obscenity in poetry.

The third section of the book, dedicated to the Hymni naturales, begins with a long article by one of the two editors of the volume, Lefèvre. This discussion of Marullus' hymn to Bacchus (Hymn. nat. 1.6) makes extensive use of the available commentaries on the hymns (overall, the hymns have received far more attention in the academic world than Marullus' other works), but still manages to give a new interpretation of this poem. Especially his comparison with the Venus hymn by Lucretius and the conclusion drawn from this comparison that the poem is some sort of sphragis (which explains the last position in the first book) are very convincing and important. Moreover, this contribution is also an introduction to some problems in research on the hymns, mainly their Neo-Platonic characteristics, possible Lucretian influences, and their heretic/Christian scope.

Manuwald's discussion of the last poem in the second book of hymns, the hymn to Mercurius, closely connects to Lefèvre's article, since Manuwald argues that this poem has a sphragis function as well. The hymn typically starts with two stanzas on the 'hymnal narrator' instead of Mercurius and afterwards praises Mercurius mainly for his aid to the 'hymnal narrator'. Manuwald shows that by these means, Marullus created an 'autobiography' at the end of the second book, an untypical feature for hymns, but typical in other genres (odes and elegies). This intermingling of genres is a Marullan innovation. A second point made by Manuwald is that the image of Mercurius in the hymn is based on his appearance in classical hymns (mainly Horace's), but also on the fatherly god that occurs in the works of the so-called Hermes Trigemistus, which gained much popularity in Marullus' time thanks to Ficino's translation.

Czapla's contribution focuses on the different uses that Marullus makes of the figure of Amor in his hymns and epigrams. She distinguishes four: as mythic scamp, tormentor of the poet, Neo-Platonic creative power, and allegory for human love. The third receives most attention. In her analysis of Hymn. nat. 1.3 and Epigr. 3.36, Czapla shows that Ficino's Neo-Platonic concept of amor divinus and amor vulgaris has greatly influenced Marullus' image of Amor in these two poems. She refrains from participating in the lively discussion about the Christian background of this hymn and reads Marullus' poetry as if it was written in a pagan world.

The last contribution to start from Marullus' hymns is Benz's treatment of the relationship between Marullus' poetry and contemporary figurative art. Its line of reasoning is not very clear. Benz seems to argue that because figurative art and Marullus' poetry are both influenced by Ficino's Neo-Platonic theories, and because Marullus often makes use of expressive language, influence of popular culture and figurative art on Marullus' poetry is very probable. Her comparison between Botticelli's Venus and Mars and Marullus' description of Mars in his hymn to Venus (Hymn. nat. 2.7) is to my opinion not convincing, since there are no striking similarities between the two images. Benz does not discuss the relation between Marullus' epigrams and art, which may well be more interesting, since this genre has always been more closely connected to figurative art.

The two following sections of the book both consist of single articles. The first is dedicated to Marullus' Institutiones principales. In contrast to the other contributions, which mainly provide us with interpretations of individual poems, Burkard's lengthy article presents prolegomena for, and some samples of a commentary on Marullus' mirror for princes, in which he mainly shows where he disagrees with his predecessor Schönberger 1997. The author, who according to the website of his research institute is preparing an edition with commentary of Marullus' Institutiones principales,1 commences with a proposal for a new stemma. This new stemma is not based on a fresh collation of the manuscripts, but on the critical apparatus made by Perosa (whose 1951 edition of Marullus' work is still the standard). Surprisingly, some queries in Kristeller's Iter Italicum revealed that Burkard should have taken into account at least three more manuscripts (Vat. Lat. 2163; Vat. Lat. 5225; Bologna, Archivio Isolani F71.178). It is to be hoped that Burkard will include these manuscripts in his new edition as well, since the textual constitution of this unfinished work is far from certain. Burkard's discussion of Marullus' language is very useful, not only for researchers of this work, but for all critics of Marullus' work and Neo-Latin poetry. The samples of the commentary will not be discussed here, but seem generally sound.2 The last four pages of the contribution present an interpretation of Marullus' work as a pedagogical treatise by an unusual Spartan-Platonic principle.

In the following section of the book, Baier discusses Marullus as a philologist, using Marullus' work on Lucretius as a point of departure. Allegedly, a copy of De rerum natura was found with the dead body of Marullus; the text in this copy had been emended by him. Departing from earlier reconstructions of these Lucretian emendations by Marullus, Baier shows that Marullus did not intend to make a scholarly contribution to the text of Lucretius, but that his additions to the text were merely poetic exercises in style. Yet these yielded some conjectures that remain valid until the present day. Baier also shows that Lucretius never became a favorite of Marullus, although his poems allude to Lucretius' work every now and then.

The last section of this volume is devoted to Marullus' reception in the renaissance and in the 20th century. This important section, consisting of four contributions, gives proof of the mixed feelings about this author after his death: his poetry was elegant, but the contents seemed to be heretical. Unfortunately, none of the contributions comments upon Marullus' reception in Neo-Latin poetry, although his poetry was of great influence on e.g. Johannes Secundus' Basia.

Walter focuses on Erasmus' few remarks about Marullus, in which he famously rebukes the poet for his paganism. It is shown that Erasmus' unfavorable comment is partly inspired by the Ciceronianism debate with 16th-century Italian authors, who defended quattrocento Latin poetry. It is annoying that in this well-argued paper, Walter includes too many footnotes that provide additional biographical details about all persons he mentions (including well-known humanists such as Pontanus and persons unimportant for his main point).

In the first non-German article, Hirstein (Strasbourg) informs us about the Paris edition (1509) of Marullus' poetry. The editor, Beatus Rhenanus, comments in his accompanying letters on the supposed paganism of Marullus. Although he explains the hymns to pagan deities as allegorical, Rhenanus presents Marullus as if he were a pagan classical author and advises his readers to read him as such (i.e. to gather all good things from it, and neglect the bad parts). Hirstein's suggestion that the publication of Marullus' poetry may have been inspired by Rhenanus' Maximilian sympathies, which may even be reflected in editorial decisions in the 1509 edition, is noteworthy.

The second French contribution shows how two poems by Lygdamus (then considered to be Tibullus) were imitated and emulated in an epigram (3.44) by Marullus, and how that epigram inspired two vernacular writers to compose new (passages in their) poems, Ariosto in Italy and Du Bellay in France. The latter imitates Ariosto as well as Marullus and so, according to the authors, opens the way to the new French literary aesthetics. This last point can be doubted, since "window references" of this sort occur already in classical poetry, and are very common in renaissance poetry.

In his second paper in this volume, Lefèvre comments on two amusing handlings of one poem (Epigr. 1.4) by two renaissance critics. Scaliger's negative comments on and rewriting of the epigram are qualified as hairsplitting by Lefèvre. The author's discussion of Balde's use of the poem in his Expeditio Polemico-Poëtica convincingly explains how Balde exploits the poem in a comical and satiric way.

Appropriately, this volume ends with Lupi's contribution (in Italian) about Benedetto Croce's rediscovery of Marullus in the 1930s. It is shown that Croce's ideas about aesthetics and his reaction to Mussolini's politics affected the image he presents of Marullus and his poetry, which is still very influential. Croce's psychological approach as well as his philological scrutiny is elucidated in this tribute to the man who rediscovered Marullus.

The book is as beautifully produced as books in the NeoLatina series customarily are, with very few misprints.3 To the profit of the academic user, it contains an index of references to Marullus' poetry (it would have been useful to include references to other writers as well) and an index of names and topics. However, the editors could have strived for more coherence in the volume as a whole. It is an inconsistency that most contributions contain an edition and translation of the poem under discussion, but two do not (Simons' and Manuwald's), and, although some contributors refer to each other, more internal references could have been useful.4 Apart from these quibbles (and the neglect of Marullus' Byzantine background), this volume is an important addition to research on Marullus that every library with a Neo-Latin section should acquire. Scholars of quattrocento Latin poetry will also want it for their personal libraries.5

Vorwort (p. 9)


Andreas Bihrer: Aeneas flieht aus Konstantinopel - Exil, Heimatliebe und Türkenkrieg in Michael Marullus' Elegie De exilio suo (Epigr. 3,37) (pp. 11-31)

Hermann Wiegand: Politische Panegyrik in den Epigrammata des Michael Marullus: das Beispiel Kaiser Maximilians I. (pp. 33-44)


Nikolaus Thurn: Antikenrezeption und zeitgenössische Poesie: Marulls Epigramme 1,21; 2,4; 3,20 (pp. 45-55)

Ulrike Auhagen: Marullus -- ein ,Catullus pudicus' (Epigr. 1,2) (pp. 57-66)

Roswitha Simons: Das Epitaphium Pholoes (Epigr. 1,42): Zur Tibull-Rezeption bei Michael Marullus (pp. 67-82)

Catherine Notter: Marullos Epigramme und Martial (pp. 83-98)


Eckard Lefèvre: Marullus' Hymnus auf Bacchus -- eine humanistische Verinnerlichung antiker Topik (pp. 99-122)

Gesine Manuwald: Hymnus und Sphragis -- Michael Marullus' Hymnus an Mercurius (Hymn. Nat. 2, 8) (pp. 123-140)

Beate Czapla: Mythischer Frechdachs, Quälgeist, neuplatonische Schöpfungsmacht und rationalistische Allegorie: Amor-Variationen in der Lyrik des Michele Marullo (pp. 141-168)

Lore Benz: Marullus und die Kunst (pp. 169-178)


Thorsten Burkard: Marullus' Institutiones principales - ein poetischer Fürstenspiegel des ausgehenden 15. Jahrhunderts (pp. 179-216)


Thomas Baier: Marullus und Lukrez (pp. 217-227)


Peter Walter: Marullus und Erasmus (pp. 229-240)

James Hirstein: La réception de la poésie de Michele Marullo chez Beatus Rhenanus à l'époque de l'édition de 1509 (pp. 241-252)

Gerard Freyburger - Gilles Polizzi: "Non sum ego": Tibulle (Lygdamus), l'Arioste et Du Bellay - intertextes croisés autour de l' épigramme III, 44 de Marulle (pp. 253-264)

Eckard Lefèvre: Kritik und Spiel -- Julius Caesar Scaliger (Poet. 6,4) und Jakob Bälde (Exp. 4-7) über Michael Marullus' Falco (pp. 265-276)

Simona Lupi: Gli studi di Benedetto Croce su Michele Marullo Tarcaniota (pp. 277-286)

Register (pp. 287-288)


1.   See Forschungszentrum: Diskursivierung von Wissen in der Frühen Neuzeit.
2.   The commentary samples are printed in two different type sizes to separate the major from the minor observations. It goes without saying that every commentary evokes quibbles. Burkard's is no exception to this rule. E.g., on p. 199, Ovidius' fallere noctem (Her. 1.9) may be a better parallel for Marullus' fallere noctem (v. 111) than Propertius' fallebam ... somnum (1.3.41).

p. 25 n. 67: the full stop is missing.
p. 64 'ist 1, 2 ist': the second 'ist' must be deleted.
p. 107: A superfluous extra space in the fifth stanza of Horace's poem must be erased.
p. 118: naturae instead of natura
p. 124: (in the URL) .dr instead of .dev
p. 148: caelstis instead of caelestis
p. 149: Marulle 195 instead of Marulle 1995
p. 151: Note number 35 is left out.

The section titles in Lupi's article and Lefèvre's second contribution deviate in size from the those in the rest of the volume.

In the index, references to pages after page 277 are incorrect (probably due to a last minute cut to save paper).
4.   E.g., when Lefèvre discusses the sphragis qualities of Hymn. nat. 1.6, a reference to Manuwald would have been in order.
5.   I would like to thank dr. Bé Breij for correcting my English.


Corsinovi, G. 1975, 'Affinità e suggestioni petrarchesche negli Epigrammata di Michele Marullo', in: Studi di Filologia e Letteratura 2-3, 155-173.

Enenkel, K. 2008, 'XIV. Todessehnsucht am Schwarzen Meer: Michael Marules' lyrische Autobiographik im "Exilgedicht" ("De exilio suo"; 1489/90;1497) und anderen Gedichten', in: id., Die Erfindung des menschen. Die Autobiographik des frühneuzeitlichen Humanismus von Petrarca bis Lipsius, Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 368-428.

Kidwell, C. 1989, Marullus. Soldier Poet of the Renaissance, London: Duckworth.

Piras, A. 2004, 'La querelle entre Marulle et Politien sur trois passages catulliens' R.É.L. 32, 32-35.

Schönberger 1997: Michael Marullus, Institutiones Principales - Prinzenerziehung. Lateinischer Text, Einleitung, erste Übersetzung von Otto Schönberger, Würzburg: Verlag Könighausen & Neumann.

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