Saturday, October 31, 2009


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Christoph Menke, Tragic Play: Irony and Theater from Sophocles to Beckett (translated by James Phillips; first published 2005). Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009. Pp. xi, 232. ISBN 9780231145565. $55.00.
Reviewed by Joshua Billings, Merton College, Oxford University

Table of Contents

In Tragic Play: Irony and Theater from Sophocles to Beckett, Christoph Menke turns his attention from Hegel's theory of tragedy (the focus of his 1996 Die Tragödie im Sittlichen) to the question of tragedy's presence in the modern world. For Menke, tragedy is defined primarily by irony, the way that actions bring about the opposite of their intended consequences. Menke begins with a reading of Oedipus the King informed by the notoriously recondite notes of Hegel's friend and former roommate, Friedrich Hölderlin. This brings to the fore the question of judgment: the crux of the play lies not in guilt for actions Oedipus has committed but in his "excess of judgment," the way he condemns himself for the unavoidable irony of his actions. Oedipus the King is the exemplary tragedy because Oedipus's excessive judgment illustrates the essential tragic fact of irony. From this understanding of tragedy as irony, Menke develops a theory of tragic form and a polemical account of the history of the genre: tragedy has not been rendered impossible by modern reason (as Hegel, Nietzsche, et al. believe) nor by Christian religion (as Benjamin, Steiner, et al. have argued), but remains an essential element of experience and a vital dramatic form. Though I have reservations about this final step of the argument (which was clearer in its German title, Die Gegenwart der Tragödie: Versuch über Urteil und Spiel), Menke's remarks on Oedipus the King and genre are bold, rigorous, and should be of interest to all those who study tragedy. His willingness to pose big questions is refreshing, and his answers, if not always convincing, are fascinating.

Menke has a longstanding interest in law, which he brings to bear impressively on Oedipus the King. Menke reads the play as a depiction of Oedipus's effort to establish and carry out a regime that would ground judgment, and the ironic failure of that effort. Following Hölderlin, he locates the decisive moment in Oedipus's proclamation of a curse on the murderer of Laios. This "juridification" (Verrechtlichung) of Oedipus's role binds him to follow the consequences of his curse into excess, extracting a penalty beyond what reasonable judgment would demand. In setting up an objective standard ("whoever does this is cursed"), Oedipus seeks to establish an order that would judge and punish fairly, but the effect is to exaggerate the injustice of his own judgment. Oedipus the King, then, not only reveals a life marked by tragic irony, but incorporates that irony into the structure of its revelation. Though this summary is inadequate to the complexity of Menke's ideas and the rigor of his argument, it should make clear its strongest point: it delineates the relation of character and plot as a play of irony.

The weakness of this reading, as commentators on Hölderlin have remarked for two hundred years, is that it hinges on the interpretation of the curse (233-51) as excessive. The particularity of the curse, according to Menke, is that Oedipus breaks off the appeal to the community's interest in the previous words, and prescribes self-condemnation to the unknown perpetrator (though there is also a grammatical/interpretive question as to who is implicated in the words). Once this has been pronounced, Menke argues, it renders the juridical structure Oedipus has tried to establish void; it makes punishment a syllogistic mechanism rather than a reasoned judgment. For those who have puzzled over what it is that Hölderlin means in locating Oedipus's "nefas" in this moment, Menke's reading is illuminating, and suggests interesting consequences for reading other tragedies of excessive judgment: Sophoclean parallels are obvious (the 'heroic temper' might be understood as the judicial temper); Euripides's Hippolytus and Bacchae come to mind, but also the shocking reversals of his escape tragedies; the Eumenides, Menke shows, might represent the reverse of Oedipus's failed juridification. Yet this edifice rests largely on proving that Oedipus's proclamation is disproportionate to his role ("zu unendlich...priesterlich" writes Hölderlin), and that it does not follow from the oracular utterance. This is a hard task, as there is no internal evidence to suggest that this is the case. One can follow Menke (and Bollack, whom he cites) and see that Oedipus's response changes in turning to curse the perpetrator, but this need not represent so radical a break as Menke argues. This weakness by no means renders the larger insight into the excess of judgment void, but it does place into question some of the details of Menke's argument. Still, Menke offers a bracing, original reading of the play, which at every moment is worth considering, whether to think with or against.

Menke follows the analysis of Oedipus the King with a theoretical consideration of character in tragedy. Against historical and psychological explanations of actions, Menke argues for a rigorous separation of dramatic from real existence: character in drama only exists in so far as it manifests itself (as Heidegger's Dasein) through the determinations of the author. In drama the relation between character and author differs fundamentally from that of narrative forms: though action is determined by a text, it is represented on stage as autonomous. This interaction of freedom and determination makes drama an inherently self-reflexive mode. For Menke, tragedy's self-reflection consists in an ironic play of the roles of author and character: tragic characters are those "who comport themselves like the author of a dramatic text and who experience as characters in a dramatic text." That is to say, tragic irony comes about when characters, in trying to make their own fate, find themselves stuck in a fate determined for them. Though all literary characters are subject to an author's determination, tragedy's characters have a special, ironic relation to this fact in that their actions seek to assert their own independence. This is hardly a radical definition, but it offers a convincing account of the relation of tragic plot and character, muthos and ethos. Menke's thinking is thoroughly Aristotelian, formalizing the concepts of hamartia and peripeteia as facets of irony. The rigor of this description, though, makes it of great potential use to considerations of tragedy in any period: irony, writes Menke, "is the condition of possibility of tragic experience."

The irony of tragic experience informs Menke's contribution to philosophical considerations of tragedy. The philosophical content of literature, though, is not to be understood as comparable to the discursive truth of philosophy; language can elaborate the truth of tragedy, but it cannot assert or test this truth in any other realm. Literature's truth, then, lies (contra Aristotle) not in the universality of its assertions, but in their particularity. The excess of judgment in Oedipus the King does not show a truth of all judgment, but an extreme case that illustrates the constant possibility that existence can turn into tragedy. In his deed, justice becomes violence, and therefore constitutes a "self-subversion of the law." This is because, Menke argues, law is based on the presupposition that criminality is avoidable -- precisely the assumption that Oedipus's case contradicts. Oedipus's experience undermines, on a philosophical (though not a practical) level, the validity of law by presenting a case in which no learning can come from suffering. Tragedy, then, exposes the "aporia of prudence...the knowledge of prudence's impossibility." This is not, Menke points out, a truth that can guide action. It is itself a knowledge from which nothing can be learned, ironic to its very core. The importance of this conclusion can hardly be overstated: Menke's refusal to see tragic experience as educative or dialectical sets him against a long tradition of thought, and his superbly argued account of tragic irony is a major contribution to the philosophy of tragedy.

In a "Theoretical Interlude," Menke steps back to consider the theory of tragedy historically. All accounts of the pleasure of tragedy must come to terms with a dichotomy of "metaphysical aversion for the tragic and aesthetic pleasure in the art of its presentation." Historically, this has been done in two ways: the "classical" model (Aristotle and the tradition of affective poetics) sees the two experiences in irreconcilable conflict, whereas the "modern" model (Hegel, Nietzsche, etc.) sees tragic aversion as dissolved in aesthetic pleasure. Menke chooses the first as the basis of what will be a postmodern theory. This is based on a brilliant interpretation of Hölderlin's notion of the Sophoclean caesura, the moment at which the tragic nature of action discloses itself to aesthetic contemplation. The distance that understands actions as tragic and that experiences them as beautifully presented is one and the same; aversion and pleasure coexist in any experience of the tragic. Tragedy, thus, "is the scene of an irresolvable conflict between beauty and the tragic, between the aesthetic and the practical." This quality makes tragedy necessarily self-reflective, "meta-art." The classical is preferable to the modern model of tragedy both because it preserves the question of practice (which romantic dialectical models dissolve into aesthetics) and because it offers an aporetic answer (unlike modernist didactic theories). Menke defines postmodern tragedy as depicting the insoluble conflict of aesthetic and practical responses as play, therefore "meta-tragedy" in two senses: tragedy about tragedy and tragedy after tragedy.

The proof of this theory, of course, will have to lie in its success as an account of the "tragedy of play." The tragedy of play would begin in the aporia of action with which ancient tragedy ends; its fundamental outlook is therefore be one of skepticism. Meta-tragedy, epitomized for Menke by Hamlet, explores the consequences of a skeptical attitude towards action. What was implicit as irony in Oedipus the King becomes explicit as theatrical play in Hamlet. Hamlet's obsessive concern with appearance and reality and his inability to take decisive action appear as facets of a comprehensive, paralyzing skepticism. The irony of Hamlet's fate is that he is caught between the roles of actor and spectator, simultaneously blind to and too aware of the ironic structure of action. Menke calls this experience "the dizziness of reflection" and argues that "Shakespeare's play sketches a genealogy of skepticism." Though Hamlet is distinguished from Oedipus the King by this mise-en-abîme structure of reflection, both are concerned with the possibility of action and end, according to Menke, in an attitude of skepticism. This provides the basis for three (too) brief readings of post-war "tragedies of play," all of which manifest the same playful relation to the aporia of practice: Samuel Beckett's Endgame, Heiner Müller's Philoktet, and Botho Strauss's Ithaka. Menke offers sensitive, intelligent accounts of these major works, the latter two of which have particular importance for classicists.

In turning to postmodernity, the limitations of Menke's approach become most clear. Though his reading of Hamlet is fascinating and important in its own right (particularly as a refutation of those who see the problem as a lack of secure knowledge), the definition of tragedy by its ironic content threatens, I fear, to weaken the contemporary force of the genre. In our world and on our stages, irony comes cheaply; we are all too aware of the impotence of action. To see any skepticism towards practical action as tragic leads to a pan-tragicism that I do not find useful for understanding either Sophocles or Botho Strauss. The analysis of Ithaka is particularly frustrating: though the play presents Odysseus's successful homecoming, this is rendered tragic because it occurs only through the self-consciously theatrical intervention of Athena and three mystical Fragmentary Women. I would not dispute that Strauss's outlook is ironic and skeptical towards action, but is the effect anything like that of Oedipus the King or Hamlet? Sophocles's and Shakespeare's irony runs deeper and cuts more sharply than Strauss's (or Müller's, certainly; Beckett is a better case). The reason, I believe, is that the classic tragedies do not take irony for granted. We are used to understanding our lives as characterized by irony. The philosophical interest of Oedipus and Hamlet is that they are not, that from the experiences peripeteia and anagnorisis they come to know irony. Menke's analysis thus leaves this reader all the more convinced that tragedy in the modern world is rare and even impossible: tragedy can only exist in a world that is not already tragic.

James Phillips' translation is readable and clear, though without the verve of Menke's German. My only quibble is with the translation and referencing practice. Generally, translations of tragedians come from the perfectly serviceable Loeb series, yet Aeschylus is given alternately in the now-superseded (though perhaps not at the time of submission) Loeb of Smyth, and Campbell's extremely archaic 1906 translation. This makes for an odd alternation of prose and verse that bears no relation to the original meters. Modern works fare little better: German primary texts are not referred to scholarly, original-language editions, and the translations employed can be obscure. Some secondary texts that have been translated are referenced in their original editions, rather than available translations. Finally, French is left in the original throughout the footnotes, while all German is translated. A little more attention to detail could have made the book a great deal more useful to scholars. Nevertheless, Menke's insights deserve careful attention from classicists.

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Response: López Barja de Quiroga on Gagliardi on López Barja de Quiroga, Historia de la manumisión en Roma: de los orígenes a los Severos. Response to BMCR 2009.09.34
Response by Pedro López Barja de Quiroga, Università degli Studi di Milano

Lorenzo Gagliardi ha escrito una reseña a mi Historia de la manumisión en Roma, en la que demuestra no haber entendido el libro ni en su idea central ni en sus detalles. Mi respuesta no pretende ahora volver a argumentar aquellas cuestiones de las que él discrepa sino defenderme de su acusación, completamente infundada, de haber tratado de modo superficial las fuentes y la bibliografía. Teniendo en cuenta que hace veinte años que comencé a ocuparme de la manumisión romana, creo que mi deseo de ser sintético, indicando sólo lo que podía ser controvertido o novedoso, ha podido llevar a algún lector apresurado (como Gagliardi) a conclusiones erróneas. Sobre la manumissio vindicta, Gagliardi me acusa de repetir una idea ya avanzada por Ph. Meylan ("negli stessi identici termini"), aunque sin citarlo. Es evidente que Gagliardi no ha entendido lo que digo: "Esta reconstrucción hipotética, que aquí presentamos, en la que el dueño declara que el esclavo es de su propiedad y luego lo manumite, se aparta de la idea, generalmente admitida, según la cual el dueño permanece callado durante todo el proceso". Esto es lo que yo digo (p.25).Y lo que dijo Meylan es lo siguiente: "l'effet d'affranchissement y est le résultat de l'attitude passive du maître devant la vindicatio in libertatem du lictor" (p.483). En la propuesta de Meylan (y de otros autores), el dueño permanece callado ante la reivindicación del lictor. En la que yo propongo, es el dueño el que declara solemnemente su voluntad de manumitir. Decididamente, o bien Gagliardi no entiende el castellano o no entiende el francés.

Respecto de la manumisión mediante precio, Gagliardi me acusa de no haber hecho un análisis cuidadoso, cuando lo cierto es que este análisis se encontraba ya en un artículo mío bastante antiguo (1993). Gagliardi dice: "L(ópez Barja) afferma che anche quando la manomissione non era un atto gratuito restava comunque un atto libero, tant'è vero che, "cuando el esclavo paga por su libertad directamente a su dueño, éste es enteramente libre de manumitirlo o no". Osservo in primo luogo che, in questa sua ultima affermazione, L. considera solo il caso in cui il pagamento provenisse dallo schiavo, omettendo di trattare il caso in cui il pagamento venisse da un terzo. In realtà, i due casi sono inscindibili (e infatti non vengono considerati come diversi tra loro dalle fonti), in quanto il problema giuridico -- quello se il dominus che abbia accettato un prezzo sia obbligato o meno a manomettere lo schiavo -- si pone, dal punto di vista dogmatico, egualmente per entrambi. Ebbene, sul punto, le fonti (severiane o post-severiane), non citate da L(ópez Barja), sono molto numerose e di rado concordanti tra loro, ma va segnalato che in due passi dei Digesta e in tre del Codex si afferma che, se il pagamento è avvenuto (o dallo schiavo stesso, o da un terzo), la libertà dello schiavo deve trovare luogo".

La cuestión referida a la manumisión como beneficium la estudié a fondo, incluidas todas las fuentes, en el artículo de Dialogues d'Histoire Ancienne, (19,2, 1993), que cito, y que Gagliardi no se ha tomado la molestia de consultar, aunque debería haberlo hecho (la enumeración exhaustiva de los textos estaba ya en M. Morabito, Realités de l'esclavage, p.166 n.164 y p.167 n.172). Tal vez debí repetir todo el análisis otra vez, pero consideré mejor dar el artículo por supuesto, ceñirme a lo fundamental e intentar avanzar en algunos puntos. Con todo, lo fundamental, como digo, está en la Historia de la manumisión (en pp.30, 61 y 90)? pero una vez más, el reseñador no lo ha entendido. A juicio de Buckland (Roman Law of Slavery, p.628-646), y en contra de lo que afirma Gagliardi, hay que diferenciar claramente tres situaciones: la compra directa de libertad por parte del esclavo ("payment to secure manumission" en Buckland), la enajenación ut manumittatur, y por último el seruus suis nummis emptus. Una atenta mirada a las fuentes revela que el tratamiento jurídico fue diferente en el primer caso, respecto de los otros dos. En efecto, la manumisión en los tres casos siguió siendo libre, a mi juicio, hasta Marco Aurelio, pues con éste todo cambió. Una constitución de Marco Aurelio y L. Vero le permitía exigir al seruus suis nummis emptus la liberación inmediata, que el esclavo podía incluso reclamar (Dig. 40,1,5pr. Marcian y 5,1,7 Ulp.) y otra constitución de Marco Aurelio garantizaba también la libertad al esclavo enajenado ut manumittatur (Cod. Iust. 4,57,1). En ambos casos los derechos patronales sobre el esclavo se ven muy mermados o desaparecen, porque la manumisión, al venir obligada por ley, ya no es un acto libre, ya no es un beneficium. En cambio, la compra directa de la libertad por parte del esclavo conduce a resultados distintos, porque ninguna norma obliga en este caso al dueño a manumitir al esclavo y, si lo hace, dado que es un acto libre, conserva omnia iura patronatus (Cod. Iust. 6,4,1). Los textos que menciona Gagliardi se integran perfectamente dentro de esta hipótesis, aunque él no lo sabe: de hecho, D. 40,12,38,1 alude directamente a la segunda de las constituciones de M. Aurelio: constitutionem quidem divi marci ad libertatem eorum mancipiorum pertinere, quae hac lege venierint, ut post tempus manumitterentur. En mi artículo sugerí asimismo que la constitución de Marco Aurelio podía tener su origen en la forma como Epicteto entendía la "predecisión" o proaíresis, pero esto es otro tema.

No me voy a detener mucho más, aunque las inexactitudes abundan. En modo alguno sostengo que el origen de las manumisiones informales haya que buscarlo en Sila, por ejemplo (p.71-72). Es asimismo verdad que Gagliardi malinterpreta mi interpretación del episodio de Carteya, pues explícitamente afirmo que el iussum Senatus habría sustituido en este caso al iussum parentis (p.100), pero no hay que seguir: la primera regla a la que debe atenerse quien hace una reseña es la de ser fiel al libro que está juzgando.

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Vedia Izzet, The Archaeology of Etruscan Society. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Pp. xii, 320. ISBN 9780521858779. $99.00.
Reviewed by Hilary Becker, Oberlin College


A central issue in this monograph is an exploration of the cognitive process that shaped and influenced the creation of Etruscan artifacts, architecture and landscapes at the end of the sixth century B.C., a period when significant changes in population dynamics and urbanization affected Etruria. For Izzet, the creation of objects and architecture is a linked series of events and decisions that is particularly indicative of one's cultural identity. Izzet's approach is based upon the chaîne opératoire, a method of processing cultures that was developed for prehistoric societies by authors such as P. Lemonnier, C. Karlin and M. Julien.1

Izzet applies this line of thinking to Etruscan culture by concentrating on surfaces in order to look for changes in appearance, design and/or layout. The idea is that if, for example, the layout of a house changes over time, these changes are not simply part of an inevitable, evolutionary process, but rather represent a series of decisions made in each step of the design and redesign of the house. For Izzet, breaking down the units of a house (as well as other categories of Etruscan material culture) into separate, constituent parts, is a way of discerning the Etruscan mindset: "the specifics of an object's physical form will be seen as deeply implicated in the creation and transference of that object's meaning" (21). One of the virtues of Izzet's work is that it employs a unified approach, with the result that various categories of material culture (ranging from mirrors to urban layouts) are addressed from a similar methodological perspective. There are few synthetic treatments of Etruscan archaeology and also few that utilize theoretical approaches and thus Izzet's book is an original contribution. While this book is entitled The Archaeology of Etruscan Society, it touches very little on social dynamics or class diversity.2 The title of the author's Cambridge Ph.D. thesis (Declarations of Difference: Boundaries and the Transformation of Archaic Etruscan Society, 1997) provides a better indication of the topics discussed here.

Chapter 1, which explains Izzet's theoretical viewpoint and methodology, easily demonstrates Izzet's fluency with varied fields and approaches in Etruscan archaeology and this overview will be useful reading for students and anyone new to Etruscology (10-23). Izzet outlines some of the biases and trends in Etruscan research to date, such as the preponderance of information pertaining to the funerary sphere, the need for more synthetic studies and the over-reliance on Greek and Latin sources. While Izzet is wary of using Greek and Latin sources, this caution is taken to the extreme in that textual sources are employed hardly at all, an oversight that in some ways limits the synthesis offered by her exploration of the main subjects of the book. Additionally, Izzet makes little use of Etruscan epigraphy, even going so far as to say that there was a "lack of an Etruscan language" (15), although this is clearly unfortunate phrasing as elsewhere a few inscriptions are mentioned.

Izzet begins her series of case studies with mirrors, a personal aspect of Etruscan culture, then moves, in later chapters, to other, increasingly more public aspects of material culture. Many will find useful the well-balanced discussion of the Etruscan mirror as a unique personal object. Izzet considers not only the daily use of mirrors but also their ritual significance as objects carefully selected for deposition as part of a funerary assemblage. While Izzet's focus on the special circumstance of Etruscan mirrors is a good one, it would seem that the discussion here overemphasizes the ultimate use of a grave good as a determining factor in the manufacture of the very mirrors themselves (46). In fact, based upon the recent work of Nancy de Grummond, which provides an excellent complement to Izzet's discussion here, it seems clear from the study of a group of mirrors that reveal signs of ritual cancellation (the phrase "for the tomb" (suthina) certainly demonstrates a deliberate change in purpose) that this object class was regarded differently in death (perhaps due to its reflective power) than it was in daily life.3 For this reason, and also because mirrors are the only personal object treated (as well as the only case study using art historical methodology), the inclusion of another class of personal object in this book would have also been welcome (e.g. women's chariots or industries).

Izzet reviews many examples of female adornment scenes, where the women are the objects of the visual attention of others as they prepare themselves for male viewers or even perhaps marriage. Men, on the other hand, are featured in scenes of sport, wrestling and warfare, all clearly public activities that stand in apposition to the more personal female scenes. Izzet believes that the contrast between men's public display and women's more private toilette reveals an imbalance between the genders. Specifically, Izzet believes that these mirrors, from the late 6th-4th c. B.C., document women who are not "liberated" and whose relatively restricted life was more in line with the lives of Greek and Roman women. The perceived de-liberation of Etruscan women is not well supported by Izzet's discussion since it does not offer much in the way of comparanda in order to support this idea of a significant change in women's social status.

This theory would have been better supported by the inclusion of comparanda from other media, but only two tomb paintings and a sarcophagus are offered.4 Here, and at other times, Izzet's focus on a single class of material means that she neglects whole categories of potentially complementary evidence. Another perspective on women's roles might also be found on the wall paintings in the Tomb of the Monkey from Chiusi (early 5th c. B.C.), where an elite woman sitting under an umbrella is thought to be either the deceased witnessing her own funerary celebrations or else a widow witnessing the funeral games of her husband, which she herself has convened. Varied evidence could only have added to our understanding of women's roles during this period, and if anything, Izzet's contribution urges us to think that the status of Etruscan women may have been more nuanced, with diverse behaviors and expectations possible in the private and public spheres.

The next chapters (chapters 3-6) also utilize the chaîne opératoire methodology, considering the changes that occur in funerary, sacral, and domestic architecture, as well as urban planning, in the late 6th century B.C. and beyond. These chapters certainly demonstrate the applicability of this line of thinking to architecture, considering not only the various choices made in the construction of a building but also the ways this built space programs its users' behaviors as they move through it; Izzet's focus on individual architectural elements serves to reify the experience of using space in a way that a presentation of architectural measurements alone could not do.

Chapter 3 deals with tomb architecture, exploring the alterations to structure and decoration over time, changes that resulted in an increasing emphasis on the exterior of the tomb (i.e. the eventual loss of the dromos, carved furniture, etc.). This discussion would have been more effective if domestic architecture had been treated first. As Izzet indicates generally (108, 111), domestic architecture lent both layouts as well as individual architectural features to the funerary sphere. Thus treating funerary architecture alone artificially simplifies our understanding. For example, Izzet considers the effect of a protruding lintel and the ways that it separates funerary from non-funerary space and yet this feature takes on less significance if it is also found on houses. Similarly, the significance of the orthogonal layout of necropoleis (115-119) is limited by not exploring contemporary developments in urban layouts (discussed 171). This chapter offers a thorough, procedural perspective of issues related to Etruscan tombs. In particular the increasing importance of the tomb's exterior over time becomes clear. This discussion is indeed valuable, prompting the reader to consider just what might be the significance of these changes.

The fourth chapter discusses the codification (with substantial variation) of Etruscan ritual space, relating the different ingredients of inaugurated ritual space that helped to make ritual sites distinct. Izzet enables her reader to easily recreate the subtle expectations of an Etruscan temple user as he or she built and then used the ritual space. One thing that might be asked is how many users actually used the temple itself? Rather, how many people instead used the temple as a backdrop for the sacrifices and votive activity--if this is true, then the framing of the space around the temple (and potentially forbidding aspects of some antefixes) would take on a greater significance.

The fifth chapter presents an overview of the archaeological data on the development of Etruscan domestic structures. While explaining reasons behind changes such as the move from curvilinear to rectilinear domestic shapes or the use of more durable materials, Izzet acknowledges technological reasons for their introduction, but at the same time considers "cultural factors"; namely, it is not enough to say that durable materials are a desirable building tool, but on a different level durable materials are appropriate because more permanent domestic structures are desired (153).

The sixth chapter, entitled "Urban form and the concept of the city" draws on the material of the architectural groups that have already been presented as we are confronted with the extent of change and development in Etruria. In this chapter and in the following chapter, the chaîne opératoire approach is used more selectively and Izzet treats urban planning as an artifact of material culture. This chapter, along with the final chapter dealing with the development of contemporary, neighboring cultures, contains excellent treatments of these topics and easily demonstrates what strides have been made in the last 50 years (thanks to the initiative of the surveys of the British School at Rome and others) in understanding the urban and rural landscapes of central Italy.

The distinctions between different classes of architecture and different zones of a city are a bit repetitive (funerary and non-funerary, domestic and non-domestic, urban and non-urban--especially as this is a frequent refrain) but these distinctions bear fruit as Izzet discusses Etruscan zoning preferences. With Marzabotto as an example, Izzet makes clear the consciousness of spatial division between urban and non-urban space; it is at Marzabotto where gateways were erected even though the site seems not to have had a corresponding wall (185).

The seventh and final chapter, which ostensibly contains the conclusions for the volume, seeks to place the Etruscans within a wider Mediterranean context, which while fitting in the wake of The Corrupting Sea, does not return to gather the brief concluding remarks presented at the close of the preceding chapters and blend them into an over-arching, synthetic conclusion that addresses and reaffirms the discussion offered throughout the volume, at least not in a traditional sense. Instead, Izzet offers a discussion of the varied connections between the Etruscans and the Greeks, pointing out how both parties were actively trading with one another and both borrowing and rejecting imported ideas. Following this discussion is a general summary of other Italic regions, namely Umbria, Samnium, and Latium. These sections assemble a wealth of information that seems a bit out of place so near to the end of the book, but it is included in order to contextualize the cultural transformations seen in Etruria by reviewing the centuries of internal development and increasing urbanization of neighboring cultures. In sum, the late sixth century B.C. is a time of stress and uncertainty for the Etruscans, something that can be detected in increased levels of contact with other areas of the Mediterranean and internal power shifts. As Izzet sees it, these strains in turn caused anxieties that resulted in the renegotiation and redefinition of boundaries, leading ultimately to the myriad decisions that influenced changes in the personal, urban and territorial spheres.

Izzet documents effectively the extent of the changes (the how and the what), but the social implications of and social explanations for these changes (the why) are probed little. One impression that emerges from a book covering so many varied topics is that the Etruscans were not just passive copiers, and that the development of their material culture was not just a natural evolution. This book makes clear the active selection the Etruscans made in creating their material culture.

One of the possible shortcomings of the book is that internal citations, though common in social sciences, are still not the mainstream citation method for classical archaeology. Some readers at the introductory and advanced levels may find that additional background information would have been useful. A variety of theoretical information is presented and while, more often than not, Izzet introduces these concepts carefully, some aspects could have been explicated more clearly. If theoretical approaches are one of the ways forward for Etruscology, these concepts should be introduced for an audience that is less familiar with them.5

Izzet's bibliography is extensive and her thorough research methodology is evident at every point in the book; each chapter includes discussion of recent scholarship and the index is thorough. Izzet's illustrations are ample and from her descriptive manner the reader can visualize the material under discussion very well. Figure 3.2 (a "chronological scheme of tomb plans from Cerveteri") could have been enlarged a bit for greater legibility, as it is an important figure for Izzet's discussion. A few spelling inconsistencies, particularly for place names, were present;6 it might also be noted that cappellaccio is not present beyond Rome and its immediate environs, and thus it is better to use the general term tufo to describe the many different kinds of volcanic stone present in central southern Etruria (193).


1.   P. Lemonnier. 1986. "The study of material culture today: toward an anthropology of technical systems." Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 5:147-86; C. Karlin and M. Julien. 1994. "Prehistoric technology: a cognitive science." In The Ancient Mind: Elements of Cognitive Archaeology, edited by C. Renfrew and E. B. Zubrow, 152-64. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
2.   Izzet only mentions in passing an Etruscan middle class and common people when dealing with funerary architecture (87-88, 92; see also 22).
3.   N. T. de Grummond. 2009. "On Mutilated Mirrors." In Votives, Places and Rituals in Etruscan Religion. Studies in Honor of Jean MacIntosh Turfa, edited by M. Gleba and H. Becker, 171-82. Leiden: E. J. Brill.
4.   The sarcophagus, that of Ramtha Visnai (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), is used to support Izzet's theory that the adorned female has been sublimated to a status symbol for the male, stating that the central scene on the front frieze shows the embrace of a couple, wherein "the woman's body is itself decorating that of her husband, hanging from his neck like a piece of jewellery...she has become part of his insignia "(72). This seems a strong reading for a classic dextrarum iunctio pose, especially since this couple is surrounded by attendants, who bear symbols reflecting the status of both members (symbols of public office for the male, and for the woman a parasol, a fan, a lyre, and boxes). Such imagery seems to show some level of parity between the spouses, and the lid, which shows the couple embracing in bed, enhances this reading.
5.   For example: "In the following analysis emphasis will be placed on the process by which ontological differences and categories were mapped onto the human material world. Whether we see this in terms of Tilley's 'metaphor', Shore's 'analogical schematisation', or Bourdieu's 'scheme transfers', it is important to acknowledge the central role of cognitive structures in the binding together of Etruscan culture" (5). Other examples exist wherein non-Classical theories or ethnographic examples are not explained clearly and a ready familiarity is presumed (e.g. 28, 214, 215).
6.   Misspellings include: "Mulro"(152) for "Murlo", "Ghacciaforte" (192), "Ghiaccaforte" (201), "Ghiacciaforte" (313), all of which should be properly spelled "Ghiaccioforte (202 and 256), "Bifferno" instead of "Biferno" (225), "Vastogiardi" for "Vastogirardi" (225), "Greek" when the text should read "Greeks," and "Jupiter Maximus" instead of "Jupiter Optimus Maximus" (229). There are also misspelled Italian words in the bibliography, e.g. Pacciarelli 1991a: with two misspelled words and a missing apostrophe.

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Friday, October 30, 2009


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Beth Alpert Nakhai (ed.), The World of Women in the Ancient and Classical Near East. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008. Pp. xviii, 215. ISBN 9781443800303. £39.99; $79.99.
Reviewed by Stephanie L. Budin, Rutgers University, Camden

[List of authors and titles below.]

"Perhaps a decade ago, curious about the extent to which papers on women in the ancient Near East had been presented at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research, I looked into the program books dating from the early 1970s to the late 1990s. What I discovered astounded me: many more papers had been devoted to pigs than to women." (p. ix).

So begins Beth Alpert Nakhai's introduction to her edited volume on women in the ancient Near East (hereafter ANE). The nine papers in this short book range from Egypt to Mesopotamia to England geographically, Bronze Age to Edwardian chronologically. All were originally delivered at ASOR panels of the World of Women: Gender and Archaeology between the years 2000 to 2007 (p. xi). Twelve additional papers delivered at these panels and published elsewhere are listed at the end of the introduction.

According to the introduction, the inspiration for this volume was concern over the paucity of papers on Near Eastern women offered at the annual ASOR meetings. As Nakhai states, "Between the 1970s and the late 1990s, almost every paper in which one could use the pronoun 'she' was about a goddess (most often Asherah)." (p. ix). Unfortunately, such a statement fails to present the fact that ASOR papers do not reflect ANE scholarship as a whole. To read Nakhai's introduction, the reader might assume that there has been little to no scholarship done on either women or gender in ANE studies, a fact belied by works such as Sex and Gender in Ancient Egypt, Engendering Aphrodite, Households and Holiness, Missing Persons and Mistaken Identities, Gender in Ancient Cyprus, Women in Ancient Egypt, Women of Babylon, Warrior, Dancer, Seductress, Queen, Images and Gender, Women in Ancient Persia, and Women in Hellenistic Egypt, to name only a scant handful of books, not to mention copious articles that have been published on similar topics. Likewise, Nakhai's introduction passes over the related topic concerning how much of this work has been done by female scholars, thus giving short shrift to scholars such as Phyllis Bird, Susan Ackerman, Carol Meyers, Gay Robins, Ann Macy Roth, Martha Roth, Lynn Meskell, Nancy Serwint, Diane Bolger, and Peggy Day, to name just a few. In short, Nakhai's introduction creates an overly negative impression of the state of gender studies in ANE scholarship, which is not a good way to start a book on women in the ANE.

That said, there are a number of articles that are excellent examples of ANE work on women and gender in this volume. Deborah Cassuto's article on loom weights in context is a fine introduction to how archaeologists are seeking to find common (i.e. non-royal) women in the archaeological record. By considering ethnographic parallels for sex-based divisions of labor as well as literary testimonia for women as weavers in the ancient Levant, Cassuto argues for recognition of loom weights as indicative of women's space within domestic contexts. By studying where loom weights are typically found and in what kind of assemblages (typically with cooking wares), a picture emerges of what the daily tasks of Iron Age II Israelite women were and where they performed them.

Aubrey Baadsgaard's article on ovens and cooking is highly recommended for anyone interested in ancient ovens, ancient (and modern) women's social networks, and cooking technologies. After offering an extensive and well-documented introduction to Near Eastern clay ovens, Baadsgaard gives a broad survey of the location of domestic ovens in Iron Age Israel, specifically considering in what part of the houses, courtyards, or streets they were discovered. By analyzing this spatial distribution, Baadsgaard considers how the placement of such critical cooking apparatus reflects the movement and interactions of women in the process of carrying out their daily chores. As some houses had no ovens, and some ovens were located in public spaces, Baadsgaard concludes that Iron Age Israelite women must have spent a considerable amount of time interacting with women from other houses, forming a female social network that existed side-by-side with the more prominent male community. She says, "According to ethnographic and historic studies of small-scale farming communities, carrying out domestic activities often involves cooperative labor among women. These cooperative relationships, known as 'women's networks,' are rarely noted in public discourse or in historical writings, but nevertheless provide critical social linkages among women." (p. 19).

Marica Cassis's article on finding women in Byzantine archaeology should become standard reading for anyone approaching gender archaeology. Cassis constructs a three-point framework for applying gender theory to Byzantine studies: "The first involves a reassessment of the privileging of written evidence over archaeological evidence, a problem endemic to historical archaeology. . . . The second application involves a more theoretical framework of questioning in order to attempt to define what, if anything, constitutes female space. . . Finally, in the absence of either written sources or clearly gendered and/or identifiable artifacts and spaces. . . gendered archaeology can be used to include women within particular archaeological contexts." (p. 141, excerpted). In this final point, Cassis turns her article to the case study of her own work at Çadir Höyük, specifically a fortified structure dating to the eleventh century with precursors dating back an additional five centuries. The structure was originally deemed to be either a military outpost or the remains of a monastic settlement; in short, male space. Neither hypothesis was supported by the artifact assemblages, which included cooking pots, animal remains, minor jewelry, and farm implements (p. 151). The interpretation of "farmhouse" seems likely, a space both male and female. All in all, Cassis's chapter serves as a Byzantine extension of the western Medieval work done by R. Gilchrist.

Other contributions felt like they were only tangentially related to the subject of women in the ANE, a fact highlighted by the contortions the authors seem to go through to make their topics relevant for this book. Jennie Ebeling and Michael Homan provide a fine article on the archaeology of beer brewing in the ANE, part of their continuing work (p. 62). The core of this article considers the artistic, literary, and archaeological evidence for beer-brewing from Mesopotamia to the Levant to Egypt, with a special focus on the archaeology of Israel. The authors show a strong correlation between the production of bread and beer, explain the physical implements used in ancient brewing, offer a convincing argument for the identification of fermentation stoppers, look at modern ethnographic parallels, and discuss the nutritional importance of beer in the ancient diet. However, the authors also had to relate all this to ancient women. To engender the paper, they include somewhat weaker sections on ANE beer goddesses, make an argument that beer brewing was predominantly in women's hands in ancient times, and end with a statement that control over brewing, like control over baking, empowered ancient women, as they were responsible for providing vital nutrition to their families. Considering the extent to which kitchen duty has not empowered women at any other point in history, I'm not sure if this is really a valid argument. Nevertheless, the article is a good place to begin for anyone interested in the history and archaeology of beer.

A similar kind of disjunction occurs with Gloria London's excellent article on individualistic styles in the "cottage" pottery industry. As another step in the on-going interest in finding individuals in the archaeological record, London's article uses primarily 20th-century ethnographic studies to document personalized variety in pottery fabrication, noting where elements of such personalization might occur, who can take such liberties, and what these variations mean to others (e.g. other potters can identify a pot's maker based on specific stylizations, while non-potters seldom notice these differences). Focusing on details such as, inter alia, rim-construction or combing patterns, London's ethnographic studies have contributed greatly to analyses of ancient ceramics, notably for ancient Cyprus. The only weakness of the article was the need to connect it to ANE women. London's subject matter here was modern women, especially Cypriote and Philippine. The focus was on individuality in pottery-making. At best, London could point out that at least in the modern parallels it is mainly women who make pots outside of the industrial sphere, and so it is possible that women were also heavily involved in this industry in ancient times. She says, "There is a good chance that both the makers and the users were women." (p. 157). This comes across as rather speculative in an article that is otherwise well documented and very well written.

Even the final chapter seems a tad out of place. Here Kevin McGeough and Elizabeth Galway discuss Edwardian-era children's author Edith Nesbit and how "Nesbit's The Story of the Amulet, with its detailed portrayal of the ancient world, was a safe arena for her to make somewhat controversial arguments about problems she perceived in Edwardian England." (p. 183). Of course, Nesbit's "detailed portrayal" would make most modern Assyriologists grit their teeth, not to mention the copious use of E.A. Wallis Budge's expertise on matters pertaining to ancient Egypt. But considering the 1906 publication of the book, we can hardly hold her dated perceptions against her. The authors do a fine job of placing Mrs. Nesbit in her sociopolitical context and translating her children's fantasy into political reality. Perhaps more importantly, McGeough and Galway offer a new angle on both reception studies and Orientalist studies, looking not at the western construction of the decadent "Other," but how early orientalism was manifested in children's literature. It's hard to say what, exactly, the chapter has to do with women in the ancient and classical Near East.

Other articles in the book are less successful. For example, Cynthia Finlayson opens her chapter on Mut'a marriage in the Roman Near East with the sweeping statement, "Given the lack of authoritative documentary evidence on women's daily lives, scholars must look at the physical evidence emerging from the archaeological record and utilize comparative anthropological and art historical approaches to understand the complex roles of women in the ancient and classical Near East (c. 5000 B.C.E.-330 C.E.)" (p. 99). While it is all fine and good to make use of a multiplicity of sources, Finlayson's lack of "documentary evidence" in effect dismisses such sources as the cuneiform letters and contracts from (e.g.) Nuzi and Karum Kanesh in the Bronze Age, Greek letters and contracts from Hellenistic Egypt, as well as the more indigenous Egyptian ostraca and papyri from sites such as Deir-el Medina. An inaccurate picture of the state of scholarship on women is presented. The rest of the article is less than helpful. The intention is to explore the social position of Syrian Aramean/Arab women in the first through third centuries CE via a study of mut'a marriage, a type of temporary marriage initiated and contracted by the wife. Finlayson's definition of this marriage custom is heavily predicated upon the work of W. Robertson Smith, a 19th-century scholar whose work on this topic came out in 1903. Although later references appear in her bibliography, within the text Finlayson mainly relies on this more-than-a-century-old book. Attempts to understand this custom are marred by Finlayson's bizarre terminology, especially her use of the words "matriarchy" and "patriarchy." On p. 107, for example, she refers to the "economic and political needs of both the patriarchal and matriarchal sides of a family." Frequent references in the article to early Arab matriarchal customs are thus confusing and refer back to a single work from the 1950s. Finlayson's historical comparanda are also unhelpful. In discussing the importance placed on women and their reproductive functions in the ancient world, Finlayson gives an inaccurate description of the Spartans (e.g. males were called up from age six for military duty, p. 106) and a faulty description of Biblical Levirate marriage (p. 107). All this leads up to Finlayson's analysis of two funerary portraits from Syrian Palmyra, which, she speculates, might be analyzed in light of the mut'a marriage custom, although there is, admittedly, no evidence for this.

Also problematic is E. A. R. Willett's "Infant Mortality and Women's Religion in the Biblical Periods." The article begins with a survey of scholarship on infant mortality in the ANE, considering both the material evidence (archaeological and physical anthropological) and the literary data, making use of, in particular, texts concerning child-stealing demons and magical protections against them. The article then veers, and it appears that Willett was trying to show that women were valued in Levantine communities for their religious roles in the protection of infants. She begins with a portrayal of the divine Canaanite mother Asherah, and claims that, "Biblical as well as other Levantine texts indicate that in both Canaanite and Israelite religions, the goddess Asherah served El as personal assistant." (p. 87). Unless by "personal assistant" Willett means "wife" (a rather 1950s interpretation, I suppose) there is no evidence for this assertion, a fact highlighted by the section in W.G. Dever's recent monograph on folk religion in ancient Israel,1 (which is listed in Willett's footnotes), that is dedicated to the history of the interpretation of Asherah in ANE scholarship. Willett's article ends with a consideration of Judean Pillar Figurines. This section betrays no knowledge of R. Kletter's 1996 monograph Judean Pillar-Figurines and the Archaeology of Asherah, the standard work on this topic. This oversight may be responsible for certain misunderstandings regarding these figurines, including where they were found and how they were made. In the end, Willett uses her understanding of what the figurines meant to explain how they were probably made: "The meaning of votive figurines leads us to believe that women manufactured them and used them in their homes to protect themselves and their children." (p. 94). As half of the figurines have mould-made heads, a wholly domestic production seems quite unlikely.

Another difficult article is Mary Ann Eaverly's "Dark Men, Light Women," which considers the role of color ideology in the depiction of humans in ancient Egypt. Egyptian convention dictated that human males were typically colored red, while females were yellow (although there are some exceptions). This difference in skin tone, much as with Minoan Crete, is frequently interpreted to represent the different amounts of time that each sex spent out-doors: Males are literally more sun-tanned than the more domestically inclined females. By contrast, Eaverly looks for the ideological basis of this color choice, specifically questioning whether the red/yellow dichotomy is indicative of sexual complementarity and the establishment of ma'at, the Egyptian concept of the organized universe. To this end Eaverly looks at a tomb painting from the Naqada II period (3500-3200 BCE, pre-dynastic) and shows that there is little reason to engender the colors used in the mural. This, Eaverly argues, may be due to greater sexual egalitarianism in the pre-dynastic period. By Dynasty 4, however, state-formation may have induced social changes that included a sexual hierarchy that placed men, especially the king, above women. By this time, the color dimorphism between the sexes was established, and Eaverly claims that the standard colors -- red and yellow/white -- were considered to be opposites, although she provides no citation for this (p. 10). Plus, both red and yellow might both be indicative of the sun, and thus are similar (p. 11). Furthermore, Egyptian myths show greater sexual equality than those of other peoples, and women were considered to be important in the attainment of an afterlife. Thus, "Male/female color differentiation marks the difference in spheres of activity between men and women, but it also serves to emphasize that the combination of these two opposites through sexual union provides for the afterlife and maintains the stable order of the universe." (p. 11). The minimal data, lack of Egyptian color theory, and jumps in logic make it extremely difficult to follow how she came to this conclusion.

In the Final Notes of her Introduction Nakhai claims that "The articles in The World of Women in the Ancient and Classical Near East make an important contribution toward combating modern scholarship's marginalization of women in antiquity." (p. xv). Several of the articles do indeed provide much admirable information on the women of the ANE, while others highlight women's more modern contributions to society and technology. Nevertheless, I continue to be concerned about the marginalization of existing works on this topic as presented by the editor and some of the authors.

Beth Alpert Nakhai, "Introduction."

Mary Ann Eaverly, "Dark Men, Light Women: Origins of Color as Gender Indicator in Ancient Egypt."

Aubrey Baadsgaard, "A Taste of Women's Sociality: Cooking as Cooperative Labor in Iron Age Syro-Palestine."

Jennie R. Ebeling and Michael M. Homan, "Baking and Brewing Beer in the Israelite Household: A Study of Women's Cooking Technology."

Deborah Cassuto, "Bringing Home the Artifacts: A Social Interpretation of Loom Weights in Context."

Elizabeth Ann R. Willett, "Infant Mortality and Women's Religion in the Biblical Periods."

Cynthia Finlayson, "Mut'a Marriage in the Roman Near East: The Evidence from Palmyra, Syria."

Marica Cassis, "A Restless Silence: Women in the Byzantine Archaeological Record."

Gloria London, "Fe(male) Potters as the Personification of Individuals, Places, and Things as Known from Ethnoarchaeological Studies."

Kevin McGeough and Elizabeth Galway, "'Working Egyptians of the World Unite!': How Edith Nesbit Used Near Eastern Archaeology and Children's Literature to Argue for Social Change."


1.   Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel. Eerdman's Publiching Co. 2005, (pp. 196-208).

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Gloria Ferrari, Alcman and the Cosmos of Sparta. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2008. Pp. viii, 184. ISBN 9780226668673. $45.00.
Reviewed by A. J. Podlecki, University of British Columbia

[Table of Contents is listed at the end of the review.]

[Additional Note: My interest in Alkman was reawakened by an interesting paper by Katerina Ladianou at the 2009 APA meetings in Philadelphia, "Performing the Other: (Fe)male Chorus and Feminine Voice in Alcman's Partheneion 1," and I have used her helpful handout in preparing this review.]

Ferrari thinks she has solved the puzzle (or rather, puzzles, since there are several elusive features of Alkman's Louvre Partheneion, all interconnected) of this enigmatic piece, PMGF [Davies 1991]1 Alcman 1. Her interest appears to have been triggered by a strange and beautiful Attic R-F vase in the shape of an astragalos or knucklebone of 470-450 BCE by the Sotades Painter, now in the British Museum E 804 (Beazley ARV2 765.20; Beazley Addenda 286). The vase presents "an image... that comes from another time and place but ultimately appeals to the same conceit" (p. 2). A scrawny, rather comical male figure extends his right arm to a grouping of three young women who are holding hands and appear to be dancing (Ferrari says they are "engaged in a ring dance," p. 2). With his left arm he points upwards to an additional 10 females who seem to be floating or lightly skimming over the ground; their skirts billow about them as they turn or pirouette nimbly in a variety of attractive poses. That these are the Pleiades and Hyades is a theory first put forward by von Stackelberg in 1837 and their composition as a chorus was proposed by F. Hauser;2 Ferrari adds the conjecture that the shabby chorus-leader is Pythagoras who, according to Iamblikhos, "alone could hear and understand ... the universal harmony and concord of the spheres, and the stars moving through them."3

Drawing from a variegated palette of testimonies and parallels, she reconstructs Alkman's poem as a celebration of a major Spartan state festival celebrating the beginning of winter, specifically the first days of November and the start of the plowing season (in a Postscript, she moots the possibility that it is the Karneia, but admits that that festival cannot firmly be placed in the Spartan calendar, given the meagre and conflicting evidence). What the Spartan spectators were here being treated to was a re-enactment of the orderly progression of astral and other celestial phenomena as a reminder to them that it was important to maintain an equivalent harmonious order in their own polis; it was their duty as citizens to make sure that their political kosmos reflected the orderliness of the heavenly kosmos. The names sprinkled through Alkman's verses in such profusion are not real Spartan girls; they are not even fictional Spartan girls. They are heavenly bodies. Thus, Agido is Dawn, Hagesichora the Moon, Ainesimbrota Night, and the chorus represent the Hyades.4

Commentators are in general agreement that the myth being narrated in the exceedingly fragmentary opening verses had to do with an encounter between the sons of Hippokoön, an early Spartan king, and his younger brother Tyndareus, whom he had exiled. The first word to emerge clearly on the papyrus is Polydeukes, and reputable evidence external to the poem suggests that what is going on here is a battle between the Tyndarids, almost certainly aided by Herakles, and the Hippokoöntids, in which all of the latter along with their father were killed in the fighting. Their defeat is ascribed to (besides the valor of their adversaries) the action of Aisa, Fate, and Poros,5 and there follows almost immediately the moral which the poet wishes his audience to draw from the narrative, "Let no man fly to heaven or attempt to marry Aphrodite."6 In one of the strongest sections of Ferrari's book she looks for clues to Alkman's meaning in the proem of Parmenides fr. 1, On Nature. The chariot of Parmenides's young seeker-after-truth is drawn along a path (here a ὁδὸν πολύφημον rather than a πόρος) through the gates of Night and Day, which are controlled by Justice. Ferrari argues, reasonably enough, that such a fable of philosophical/moral abstractions couched in cosmic terms would have resonated with Alkman's audience. Ferrari devotes rather a lot of space to a discussion of the myth of Phaethon: "Only in the myth of Phaethon do flying to the sky and the prospect of marrying Aphrodite co-exist" (p. 55). Perhaps. But Phaethon's name does not actually occur in Alkman's text nor any detail that points unmistakably to his story and, when we find Ferrari trying to bolster her theory by citing mentions of the Pleiades and the swan singing on the streams of Okeanos in the parodos of Euripides's Phaethon, a faint scent of special pleading begins to creep in.7

Any discussion of the poem's meaning must grapple with the question what exactly is going on in the central, and longest, surviving section, especially vv. 50 ff., where the girls seem to be being compared to various breeds of horse. Here Ferrari produces what is (to me, at any rate) a totally novel interpretation: these are "expressions that compound synecdoche with metaphor" and "the epithets refer not to breeds of horses but to stereotypical notions about lands and peoples" (p. 95). Thus "Enetic" signifies "dark, black" and "the Enetic-looking horse then becomes a foil for the radiance of Hagesichora and points to the brilliance of the moon against the darkness of the sky" (ibid.). Ibenian (= Lydian)8 stands for "golden"; "a 'golden' horse aptly matches the metallic beauty of Hagesichora" (p. 96). The Kolaxaian was a Skythian breed;9 the Skythoi were red-haired and so the reference here "aptly characterizes the crimson light of Dawn" (ibid.). I would like to believe that this is what this part of the poem is all about, but doubts linger.

Of the subsidia called in by Ferrari from various sources to help support her theory, I found especially helpful and illuminating Euripides's Alkestis , 445-52. In this lovely song the old men of Pherai, grieving for their recently deceased Queen, express confidence that her memory will be kept alive by poets making her sacrifice a subject of their songs "when at Sparta the cycle of the season of the month Karneios comes circling round and the moon is aloft the whole night long" (Ferrari's translation). It is her not unreasonable guess that it was at just this kind of festival that the Partheneion was first performed.

Occasionally I felt that Ferrari was pressing the evidence beyond the breaking point. To support her view that the notion of a "harmony of the spheres" can be detected in Parmenides's Proem she points to v. 6, where the axles of the Youth's chariot are said to send forth σύριγγος ἀυτήν. She glosses the line "the musical notation of the sound of pipes"(p. 48) and takes 1.2 ὁδὸν... πολύφημον as "an allusion to the [Pythagorean] theory... that the movements of the heavenly bodies produce sounds that result in musical harmony" (p. 49). In a long discussion of Parm. 1.3 εἰδότα φῶτα (pp. 44 ff.) she asks us to believe that the audience was to understand the phrase both as "person who" and "lights which know everything" and sees here a description of the daimon's road as one which "at once 'carries the rays that witness' and 'carries the one who knows'," calling this an "exercise in creative ambiguity" (pp. 47 and 46 respectively). I am pretty sure that even though we may puzzle over such homophonic phrases, a Greek audience would -- from habit, the contexts, whatever -- have readily understood the meaning (I would go with Freeman's "a man who has knowledge"). Although ἀπέδιλος may mean "unfettered" at Alk. 1.15, it seems to me extremely unlikely that, as Ferrari contends (p.66 n.133), it means that rather than "unshod" at P.Desm. 135. Under what circumstances would the Okeanids have been "fettered"? (I have no idea what Alkman meant by the phrase ἀπ]έδιλος ἀλκά; the context gives no help. Campbell offers "without foundation," citing Pindar's ἀδαμαντοπέδιλος, "on a base of adamant" [LSJ], fr. 33d.8 Race. Page's attempt to elucidate the word by comparing the phrase in P.Desm. 135," 'not walking on the ground' (but being conveyed through the air),' " strikes me as not entirely successful.)10 Nor am I very happy with Ferrari's translation of τείρει at Alk. 1.77 as "effaces" (pp. 78, 81 and elsewhere; at 93 she offers "wears out, overcomes, effaces," of which I would go with the first two choices). (I have no strong feeling, either, that the poet intended this rather than τηρεῖ, "protects," which many editors print. In either case we cannot say that his meaning is pellucid.) She asserts that the Spartan festival at which the Partheneion was performed had as "its charge... to honor the gods and to commemorate the heroes and heroines of the past on a yearly recurring occasion" (127), That the gods were involved in this as in most, probably all, Greek festivals is unproblematic. About Sparta's past heroes and heroines I am less sure. True, there were shrines at Sparta to several of the sons of Hippokoön,11 but the impression one gets from what little is left of Alkman's narrative is, pace Ferrari, that they were not only on the losing, but also the wrong, side.

These minor disagreements should not be taken as diminishing my admiration for Ferrari's ambitious project: to present a coherent theory that will explain most if not all of the mysterious features of this marvelous, peculiar, literary artefact from archaic Sparta. Let her reconstruction stand until a more convincing one is proposed.

Ferrari helpfully provides in an Appendix a full text and translation (pp. 151 ff.), followed by a useful list of abbreviations, an extensive bibliography and an Index of Sources. The book has been beautifully produced.12


1. The Myths

-- Hippocoon and his sons

-- Path and Sign

-- Measure

-- Phaethon

2. The Chorus

-- The Travails of the Chorus

-- Pleiades, Hyades, and Sirius

-- The Moon and the Stars

3. Ritual in Performance

-- Heaven and Earth

-- The Mourning Voice


-- The Season of the Karneia

-- Kalathiskos Dancers


1.   Malcolm Davies ed., Poetarum Melicorum Graecorum Fragmenta vol. I (Oxford 1991).
2.   O. M. von Stackelberg, Gräber der Hellenen (Berlin 1837) pl. 23; F. Hauser in Furtwängler and Reichhold, Griechische Vasenmalerei (Munich: 1900-32) 3.91.
3.   On the Pythagorean Way of Life 64-65, tr. Dillon and Hershbell, cited by Ferrari p. 5 n.13.
4.   She appears to have been driven to this position by the (to me, misguided) notion of Herington that this type of occasional poetry would not have survived down the centuries unless the works had been re-performed, and that such re-performances would not have taken place unless the characters named were mythical, timeless, rather than here-and-now contemporary Spartan persons. I would posit instead a process of transmission whose exact nature cannot now be recovered, but which probably recognized that "classics" of this kind had to be preserved and transmitted by recitations at syssitia, public gatherings, etc. The date at which they were written down, to finally make their way into the Library at Alexandria and elsewhere, is anybody's guess; I would say sooner rather than later. It seems to me well-nigh certain that the girls named at 1.70 ff., Nanno, Areta, Sylakis, Kleëssithera, Ainesimbrota, Astaphis, Philylla, Damareta and Hianthemis, are real people. There are female proper names scattered through Alkman's other fragments.
5.   To be supplied with virtual certainty in v. 14; cf. fr. 5, col. iii.3 (discussed by Ferrari at length, pp. 31 ff.). I think she is being undeservedly skeptical when she writes, "no part of the cosmogony that the commentary outlines [in the fragment in question, P.Oxy. 2390] can be assigned to Alcman with any confidence" ( p. 34).
6.   D. A. Campbell's trans. (Greek Lyric, vol. II [Loeb Classical Library] Cambridge MA 1987), to whose good sense and impeccable scholarship all students of early Greek lyric are deeply indebted.
7.   The alleged parallels are: Alk. 1.60 = Eur. F. 773.66 (Pleiads) and Alk.1.100-101 = Eur. F 773.76-7 (swan).
8.   The identification is attested by scholiast B, P.Oxy. 2389, fr. 6 col. i, lines 10-11 (PMGF p. 32).
9.   Denys L Page, Alcman. The Partheneion (Oxford 1951; repr. Salem NH 1985) 90.
10.   Ibid. 34.
11.   The evidence, principally Pausanias 3.14.6-7 and 3.15.1, is discussed by Ferrari at pp. 22 and 124, and Page (n. 9 above), 26 f.
12.   I noticed no misprints except that I think that the ref. in p. 22 n. 5 should be to p. 124 rather than p. 122. I missed a reference to Theseus in the General Index.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009


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JoAnn DellaNeva (ed.), Ciceronian Controversies. English Translation by Brian Duvick. The I Tatti Renaissance Library, 26. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007. Pp. 295. ISBN 978-0-674-02520-2. $29.95.
Reviewed by Michael Fontaine, Cornell University


[The reviewer apologies for the tardiness of the review.]

In Italy and a little beyond from the late 15th until the early 17th centuries, numerous men of learning fought a vicious war of words. The point of dispute was whether a writer of Latin prose should imitate the style of many different classical authors ('Eclecticism'), or whether he should imitate the writings of Cicero alone, a position known as 'Ciceronianism'. This was anything but a polite disagreement: as time went on in the 16th century, passions on either side of the question flared up and hardened to such a point that opponents traded bracing and brutalizing invective that would quail a Housman or any of his imitasters. The Italian Ciceronian Julius Caesar Scaliger (1484-1588), for instance, repeatedly attacked the Dutch electicist Erasmus (ca. 1466-1536) as ignorant and incompetent, while Erasmus himself ultimately denounced his Ciceronian opponents in Satanic terms, declaring that the devil would rather have everyone a Ciceronian than a Christian.1

Why on earth all this spirited and vituperative odium philologicum? Looking back from today, the controversy about Ciceronianism seems so strange that its origins are hard to guess, especially as the phenomenon is probably most familiar to many Classicists from Erasmus' Ciceronianus itself, the satirical dialogue that did much to inflame things. This excellent and thought provoking new book, however, not only shows the genesis and development of the controversy before Erasmus, Scaliger, and others aggravated it. It also offers a fascinating study in how a simple misunderstanding (or misrepresentation) and straw-man argumentation can give rise to increasingly rigid orthodoxies and parody that, as we know from these later sources, can quickly spill over into nationalist and sectarian passions. The titles alone of some responses indicate the character that the debate took on after Erasmus' attack: already by 1535, for instance, we hear of one treatise by Gaudenzio Merula entitled Bellum civile inter Ciceronianos et Erasmiacos and another by Pietro Cortesi labeled Defensio pro Italia ad Erasmum Roterdamum, the latter betraying the increasingly overt nationalist terms in which the controversy was extending.

But much of that is still in the future. This book, by contrast, offers us a chance to see what some of the Ciceronians themselves had to say in defense of their views, which are not, as it turns out, nearly as illogical, vituperative, or inherently contemptible as Erasmus makes them sound. It also makes clear that what was really at stake in the controversy, or should have been at stake, was a debate about whether those attempting to write in a language that was not their own should favor imitatio or aemulatio of ancient writers, or whether they should allow their innate abilities to govern their literary and oratorical style.

The volume contains three sets of correspondence exchanged between or among the Italian humanists Poliziano and Paolo Cortesi (two letters), Gianfrancesco Pico and Pietro Bembo (three letters), and Giambattista Giraldi Cinzio, Celio Calcagnini, and Lilio Gregorio Giraldi (four letters); added to this are some later writings by Antonio Possevino that comment on the correspondence and make a minor correction to the historical record, and which effectively had the final word on the compromise solution to the controversy. Read side by side the effect is impressive; the sets of correspondence each represent not merely two sides of the Ciceronianism question, but more generally the point and value of imitatio, aemulatio, and eloquent style itself. I remark on the contents of these writings below, but first I should point out the many merits of this edition.

As is standard with the I Tatti series, the Latin text and English translation appear side by side, Loeb-style, on opposite pages. Although I did not systematically collate the Latin texts printed here with other editions, I did spot-check about two dozen difficult passages, and these confirm that the editing here is excellent; within the Latin text itself, the only mistake I noted is Marcus Ciceronis for Marci Ciceronis (p. 24 -- the original no doubt read simply M.). Unless I have missed it, only a few critical signs are left unexplained (e.g. square brackets on p. 8: whose emendation?). For everything else a short, careful list of critical divergences among editions of these works is found at the back of the book.

The translation is uniformly excellent. It is fluent, accurate, consistent, reliable, and frequently charming. (To my taste, the English contractions occasionally used are too informal for the Latin, but these are relatively rare.) In the third of the translation that I collated continuously with the Latin, I noted about thirty-five minor instances where the English surprised me; on reflection, however, the translation seems to have captured the sense just fine in virtually all of them, and quite often better than a more literal rendering would have. Only a few choices still puzzle me,2 and the only mistake I noticed is that Pico's quotation from Terence's Eunuchus 23-24 (sc. exclamat) furem non poetam fabulam dedisse '(he cried that) a thief, rather than a poet, staged the play' is mistranslated 'a thief or a poet told this tale' (p. 27). Everything else is most impressive.

The abundant supplementary notes are very helpful, although I found that they are better ignored on an initial, continuous read-through and then consulted later. These notes generally point out the history of a metaphor in classical antiquity and in prior Renaissance authors, the source of an unattributed quotation, or they draw attention to an otherwise unadvertised allusion. (Since the notes also usually point out when a quotation is inexact, it would be helpful to have noted, as meter shows, that Pico's citation [p. 114] of Virgil Georgics 2.108 is garbled.) A bibliography and general index follow the notes.

Prefaced to all this, moreover, and of great assistance in contextualizing everything is an expert and informative 33-page introduction by DellaNeva and Duvick (apparently a joint effort -- on p. 219 they say that everything in the volume is a collaboration). Those of us approaching the controversy from a Classical rather than a Renaissance background will be especially grateful for all of this. The essay helpfully sets a dizzying array of figures and their writings in historical context and indicates their relative importance. The introduction is marked by a learned and assured command of details, and, more than just summarizing the salient points of each set of texts, it also reveals (as do the notes) many points of innuendo, allusion, and the like that go unsaid in the texts themselves, such as the important distinction for the aspiring Renaissance stylist between being known as a philosopher or a rhetorician. We are also informed of the timeliness of the controversy, which follows soon after the rediscovery in complete form of Cicero's and Quintilian's treatises on imitation. The authors also stress that the Ciceronian movement, which properly began in Venice, became important for humanists in Rome. These writers were tasked with drafting ecclestiastical documents in Latin, and for them a correct and eloquent style was of paramount concern: that is, since these Roman writers saw themselves (or promoted themselves) as the true heirs and continuators of Roman antiquity, Ciceronianism vs. eclecticism was not merely an academic but a practical matter.

All in all, then, this book is an impressive achievement and an outstanding value. And beyond the concerns it explores for those interested in Latinitas, the questions the book raises as a whole about pedagogy and composition are much more relevant to the modern academic than a cursory glance would suggest.

For one, the Ciceronian controversy in fact pulls in two different directions that none of the writers who participate in it separate out as nicely as they could. Since influence from scholastic Latin and from Italian and other vernaculars had long been changing the shape of the language, on one hand there is a sincere and generally laudable desire among authors of the Renaissance to avoid the use of post-classical words (e.g. manutenere) or usages of words (e.g. causari 'to cause'; both of these examples are adduced by Calcagnini, pp. 150/151). In this respect, then, the Ciceronianist debate resembles that of the Hellenistic authors of antiquity, who prized Attic as the prestige dialect over others and sought to cultivate it exclusively: Ciceronians in this sense were, that is, essentially striving to write Latin of a Classical style that was self-consistent and that resisted freakish or anachronistic combinations, a Latin that, if left unchecked, would drift toward the jumbled artificiality of Homeric Greek or the Alexandrian Greeks' weird syncretisms of language. Those who teach Latin prose composition and who frown on student compositions that would be at home in Apuleius' Metamorphoses will recognize this as a familiar goal.

This challenge to use Latin words properly could be solved, some Renaissance thinkers reasoned, by limiting their own vocabulary to Cicero's own, and no more, and so they began doing in practice (cf. p. xix). Now, for many reasons it should strike everyone as a slightly ludicrous to limit one's spoken and written vocabulary to words attested only in the extant writings of a single man, and a pagan at that, who had lived a millennium and a half previous. Unsurprisingly, then, this is the aspect of Ciceronianism that Erasmus so effectively skewers in his Ciceronianus when he points out that the meticulous Ciceronian cannot say Iesus Christus, verbum Dei, Trinitas, and so on. And it is certainly the aspect of Ciceronianism that tends to get emphasized today, usually from Erasmus' perspective.

On the other hand, as we see clearly in this volume, most Ciceronians were striving not for vocabulary but for eloquence. They sought to master the art of Latin rhetoric: its metaphors, rhythms, figures of speech, clauses, and other such ornaments. Although it may seem an easy position to parody, the Ciceronians' argument here makes a good deal of counter-intuitive sense: as the Ciceronians in this volume put it, if we can agree that imitation is necessary for cultivating eloquence, and if we agree (as the ancients do) that Cicero is undoubtedly the best and most eloquent of all Latin writers, then we should imitate Cicero. Not to do so would be deliberately ignoring the best possible model. Since these neo-Latin writers were painfully aware that they were cultivating -- indeed reviving, like Hebrew in the late 19th century -- a language that was not in common use by anyone any longer, their various defenses of this argument are well worth reading. And in a more general sense, their suggestion that literary imitatio is a laudable stage of training is hard to discredit. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the various arguments that the eclecticists offer against it in this book are mostly of the straw-man type. All of the Ciceronians in this book, including Bembo, whom Erasmus would later parody as the devout Ciceronian 'Nosoponus', agree that one can still take plenty of other good things from other authors, and none of them states that one should imitate Cicero slavishly. For the most part, it is only their opponents who keep trying to make them say that.

In fact it is Bembo's letter (#4) that stands out in the collection as by far the most interesting. (The other standout pieces in the collection are the pieces by Cortesi [2] and Calcagnini [8]; less interesting are numbers 6, 7, 9, and 10, all of them fairly slight stuff, with the last bits of mostly purely academic interest). The importance of Bembo's letter emerges when one reads the whole collection twice over, first in order and then in reverse order. Bembo's letter is tinged with Socratic irony; it argues clearly, it displays a mastery of Socratic argumentation, and, as Bembo maintains only to be ignored by later writers, it was not meant as a prescription for others. Bembo explains that he was merely offering a fairly lighthearted justification for his own plan of literary imitation. (With some wit, he states that, having searched his soul, he found no innate Platonic ideal for style within it.) And so he decided to imitate Cicero, a practice that, he says, has actually worked: intense study of Cicero's style has made him a better author than had his earlier attempts to imitate the style of many different authors eclectically. At great length he explains...well, 'eloquently' is the only correct word here -- that as a practical matter, Ciceronianism actually works. (Bembo's arguments certainly get the better of Pico's attempted rebuttal [#5] of them, which read mostly like caricature.)

As for the timeliness of the controversy for today's academy, to which I alluded earlier: Bembo's remarks defending his decision to cultivate strict imitation of Cicero's style are worth quoting here (p. 72/3-74/5):

I brooded over these writings with that much more effort because a great many were already producing in that language many works that were so depraved and perverse -- correct and proper compositional method having nearly disappeared -- that it seemed that very soon, unless someone offered it support, it would collapse and lie for a long time without honor, without splendor, without any devotion and respect.

As a matter of style, nobody practices literary imitation anymore. It shows in our scholarship. Even if we don't imitate the Latin diction, then, it's worth closing with a question of a serious pedagogical nature: Would those of us who write papers professionally, and who undertake to teach others to do so, do well to choose stylistic models of composition and argumentation of our own?

Anyone interested in these general or specific questions will enjoy working through this volume, as would anyone -- student or instructor -- doing a Latin prose composition course, studying epistolography, or who is interested in ancient rhetoric or the reception of the rhetorical works of Cicero and Quintilian. The fundamental secondary work on the Ciceronianist movement remains R. Sabbadini's not-very-accessible Storia del Ciceronianismo (Turin, 1885), but the subject is surely due for an updated treatment. When it is written, its author will find this new volume an indispensible companion. For these reasons and more, this book compels attention and deserves a wide readership.


1.   Nec dubium est quin haec organa moveat Satanas, qui mallet omnes esse Ciceronianos quam Christianos (Erasmus Ep. 3127 to Melanchthon, 6 June 1536). This reference and others in this essay are found in Betty I. Knott's excellent introduction to her translation of Erasmus' Ciceronianus (Collected Works of Erasmus, vol. 28, 6 [1986]), p. 334 (for a critical text of the Ciceronianus, see ASD 1-2 599-710), which is warmly recommended as a valuable overview of the later stages of the Ciceronian controversy, and especially on its nationalist character. Scaliger's two invectives Oratio pro Marco Tullio contra Desiderium Erasmum Roterodamum (1531) and Adversus Desiderii Erasmi Roterdami Dialogum Ciceronianum Oratio Secunda (1537) are both available in Jules-César Scaliger, Orationes Duae contra Erasmum, ed. and trans. Michel Magnien (Geneva, 1999). Some context for Scaliger's two orations is provided by I. Scott's Controversies over the Imitation of Cicero (New York, 1910).
2.   In order, these include: ad quodpiam muneris obeundum 'to achieve any reward;' perhaps better 'to performing any task' (pp. 2/3). On pp. 30/31 the surprising subjunctive loquamur is translated as though indicative. On pp. 151/152 the renderings "spit upon" and "spit on" for conspurcant 'defile' seem to go a little far. On pp. 272n6/273 two subjunctives and a future tense verb are all translated as present indicative, which changes the nuance slightly but doesn't affect the meaning greatly. Two remaining quibbles are both minor ambiguities of interpretation (and I may be wrong about them myself): on p. 44, line 4 una is presumably the adverb 'together' rather than an adjective with ratione, and in the phrase misericordiae vela intendit (p. 165) I would have thought misericordiae dative not genitive (cf. e.g. Pliny Ep. 6.33.10, dedimus vela indignationi). A period is also missing at the end of the salutation in the translation of letter 6 (p. 127).

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Lynette Mitchell, Lene Rubinstein (ed.), Greek History and Epigraphy. Essays in Honour of P. J. Rhodes. Swansea: The Classical Press of Wales, 2009. Pp. xxviii, 301. ISBN 9781905125234. $110.00. Contributors: J.K. Davies, Boris Dreyer, Valerij Gouschin, Mogens Herman Hansen, Simon Hornblower, Andronike Makres, A.P.Matthaiou, Lynette Mitchell, Robin Osborne, Lene Rubinstein, Adele C. Scafuro, James P. Sickinger, Christopher Tuplin, David Whitehead, Ian Worthington
Reviewed by Araceli Striano, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

Este libro es una recopilación de trabajos presentados por distintos historiadores definidos por el prof. John Davies como "soft epigraphists" y "hard epigraphists", es decir, quienes se definen como historiadores que utilizan, (re)interpretan y se basan en textos epigráficos y quienes son epigrafistas, expertos en la lectura, edición y cronología de inscripciones. La totalidad de los trabajos se presentó en la isla de Rodas para celebrar el 65 cumpleaños del profesor P.J. Rhodes en abril de 2005. El prof. Rhodes es autor de 19 libros centrados en el estudio de las instituciones políticas de las ciudades de la antigua Grecia y de las fuentes de información que aluden a ellas, como son las inscripciones y los textos de autores como Aristóteles, Tucídides y el Viejo Oligarca. Sus principales obras científicas, al igual que sus artículos publicados desde 1970 hasta la actualidad, aparecen enumerados en un apéndice al final del libro (pp.275-282).

Las editoras abren el libro con una lista de los ponentes, su actividad profesional y su campo de investigación; luego siguen los agradecimientos a personas y organismos que han posibilitado el encuentro en Rodas así como su posterior publicación, una lista de abreviaturas, y una breve y clara introducción. A continuación vienen las diferentes aportaciones y, al final, las publicaciones de P.J. Rhodes, los índices de autores y obras (pp.283-286), de inscripciones (pp.286-288) y el índice general (pp.289-301).

Las aportaciones son de excelentes historiadores de la Grecia antigua, conocedores de las fuentes literarias griegas y, además, con un dominio evidente de las fuentes epigráficas. Todas las contribuciones ofrecen una explicación, análisis, y conclusión extraídos de documentos epigráficos, salvo la firmada por S. Hornblower. El estudio de este último, "Thucydides and the Athenian boule", un fino y sutil análisis del texto de Tucídides en el que justifica con acierto la sorprendente omisión del Consejo de los Quinientos en pasajes en los que el papel desempeñado por este órgano tuvo que ser necesariamente importante.

Los estudios restantes son a su vez reflejo del buen saber de sus autores, de la variedad de los temas abordados y de la metodología empleada, conducentes a relacionar la información que nos proporcionan los textos epigráficos con la de los literarios, y entrecruzarlas para obtener un conocimiento más exacto de la realidad histórica. En algunos de ellos, como el llevado a cabo por Mitchell, "The rules of the game: three studies in friendship, equality and politics", se intenta matizar, definir con precisión el significado de los diferentes términos (philiá philotes / philoi) que definen el concepto amplio de "amistad" dentro del contexto de la vida política de las polis de Grecia a lo largo de los siglos V, IV y de la época helenística. No siempre somos conscientes de la diferente utilización que se hace de las palabras que designan "amistad" e "igualdad" y de su evolución a lo largo de los años. Otro tanto cabe decir de los términos contemplados en el estudio titulado "Andragathia and arete" de Whitehead, en donde éste en consideración las inscripciones áticas más frecuentes, los decretos honoríficos, e intenta matizar el significado de ambos términos, tan íntimamente unidos: andragathia se relaciona más bien con valores físicos, de esfuerzo deportivo o guerrero, y estaría muy cerca de andreia (ausente de estos documentos).

En otras aportaciones, se analiza con resultados especialmente alentadores lo que los estudiosos denominan "epigraphic habit", es decir, las costumbres y usos epigráficos de las las distintas regiones de Grecia, de cuyas diferencias los estudiosos extraen información de gran interés. Así sucede en "Nothing to do with democracy: 'Formulae of Disclosure' and the Athenian epigraphic habit", a cargo de Sickinger. Contra lo que se podría pensar a priori, la fórmula conocida de los documentos públicos atenienses, según la cual el documento se publica para que todo el mundo pueda leerlo y sea accesible a cualquiera, no parece tener nada que ver con prácticas intrínsecas a la democracia. La gran mayoría de los documentos que la presentan son decretos honoríficos que premian la actuación de atletas vencedores o de determinados ciudadanos. Estos documentos ponen en evidencia valores como el honor, la competición, la reciprocidad, etc., que se remontan a un período arcaico, en todo caso anterior a la democracia, y que nada tienen que ver con ella.

De hábitos epigráficos también nos habla "The politics of an epigraphic habit: the case of Thasos" de Osborne, en donde se abordan las particularidades de los decretos de la isla de Tasos. El autor llama la atención sobre el hecho de que los primeros decretos de la isla hablen de las normas que deben mantener los que viven en ella y los que la visitan. Estas normas tienen que ver con el comportamiento de quienes elaboran y tratan el vino de la isla para salvaguardar su calidad, con determinadas prohibiciones en relación al culto de las divinidades, así como con reglas de urbanidad que deben mantener tanto los ciudadanos de Tasos como los xenoi. Curiosamente, las leyes no se centran en las obligaciones de los magistrados, como ocurre en Atenas. Los documentos son el reflejo en última instancia del especial interés de sus habitantes en abrirse al exterior, en ser un lugar atractivo para los viajeros, en tener un comercio exterior con un vino muy apreciado en Grecia.

Incluimos en este apartado el estudio de Matthaiou, "Attic public inscriptions of the fifth century BC in Ionic script", quien aporta un conjunto de treinta documentos públicos atenienses de la segunda mitad del s. V a.C. hasta los años en torno a 420 a.C., escritos en parte o totalmente en caracteres jonios. De este conjunto puede deducirse con verosimilitud que la implantación de la escritura jonia se llevó a cabo progresivamente en Atenas. Empezó en los demos y entre la población rural, y poco a poco fue asentándose en la ciudad a lo largo de la segunda mitad del siglo V a.C., es decir, bastante antes de lo que usualmente se admite. Este cambio estaría íntimamente unido, según Matthaiou, al que se estaba produciendo en la pronunciación de algunos sonidos del dialecto ático, "especially in the vowels and the double consonants". La nueva pronunciación acercaría el dialecto ático al jonio y justificaría la adopción de la escritura jonia. En la nota 37, Matthaiou sugiere que los cambios de población en la región del Ática como consecuencia de la guerra del Peloponeso, en concreto la llegada de extranjeros y de la población rural a la ciudad, pueden explicar estos cambios en el dialecto y en su escritura. La hipótesis resulta sugerente, aunque quizá merecería un estudio específico.

En otros aportaciones del libro se estudian documentos epigráficos bien conocidos. "A note on Agyrrhios' Grain-Tax Law of 374/3 BC", de Hansen, presenta una profunda discusión de un documento de dificultad innegable procedente de Atenas. El autor defiende la idea de que la ley regula el transporte del grano y las disposiciones reguladoras almacenamiento una vez completada la recaudación de la dodecate (doceava parte) en cada una de las islas.

Otro tanto cabe decir en el caso de "The Gadatas letter" de Tuplin, defensor de la autenticidad de la famosa carta de Darío dirigida a Gadatas, un documento que pertenece al s.II d.C., pero que se basa posiblemente en un original del s.VI a.C. Los argumentos que Tuplin esgrime están sustentados en el análisis del contenido de la carta, en su forma lingüística, así como en la historia del documento.

Worthington, en "IG ii2 236 and Philip's common peace of 337", estudia otro documento epigráfico famoso, la inscripción que habitualmente se considera como una copia ateniense de la paz de Filipo en 337 a.C. Se trata, según la communis opinio, del documento más antiguo que conservamos sobre esa paz. Sin embargo, Worthington sugiere que el contexto histórico podría ser distinto: en concreto, el tratado entre Filipo y Atenas al finalizar la guerra de 340-338 entre ambos.

Makres incluye en el volumen la publicación de una inscripción inédita en "Unpublished ephebic list in the Benakion museum of Kalamata", un documento procedente de Mesenia y que data del s.II a.C. La inscripción es un catálogo de los nombres de los jóvenes de una determinada edad, los tri(e)t(e)irenes, es decir, los que han sido entrenados como eirenes durante tres años. Se comenta el nombre propio del magistrado epónimo, el sacerdote de Apolo Maleatas, así como el del gimnasiarco y el término que designa la edad de los jóvenes. Además, la autora defiende la idea de que la inscripción procede de la localidad mesenia de Asine, en la que se documenta el culto de Apolo Maleatas.

El resto de las contribuciones aborda el estudio de distintos aspectos administrativos, como es el caso de "The crowning of Amphiaraos" de Scafuro, cuya aportación se cierne a las diferentes ocasiones de coronación de dioses, héroes y mortales, y de su evolución a través de los tiempos, así como del significado preciso de la ceremonia de imposición de una corona a un mortal, particularmente en el caso del ateniense Fanodemo, deseoso de favorecer el santuario del dios Anfiarao de la ciudad de Oropo en la segunda mitad del siglo IV a.C.

La exención de impuestos es abordada por Rubinstein en "Ateleia grants and their enforcement in the classical and early Hellenistic periods", en donde se análiza la concesión de la ateleia a ciudadanos particulares, a determinados grupos sociales pertenecientes a una comunidad, o bien a la totalidad de ciudadanos de otras ciudades.

Resulta realmente atractivo el enfoque de Gouschin en torno a la aplicación del ostracismo en Atenas, en "Athenian ostracism and ostraka: some historical and statistical observations". Gouschin ofrece un estudio sistemático que intenta discernir a qué políticos y qué regiones del Ática afectó en mayor medida esta drástica medida, cuándo se tiene constancia de que empezó a aplicarse, por qué se tardó en utilizar (20 años después de su aprobación) y qué posibles consecuencias se derivaron de ella. Quizá la más llamativa podría ser, en opinión del autor, la aparición de la apragmosyne, es decir, la ausencia de implicación de los ciudadanos en la gestión política de la ciudad.

Hay que mencionar asimismo la contribución de Dreyer, "City elite and the administration of the Attalid kingdom after the peace of Apameia--evidence, research and methodological thoughts", en la que el autor aborda la situación social de las élites de las ciudades de Asia Menor bajo la hegemonía romana. Dreyer se centra en el caso concreto de la ciudad jonia de Metrópolis para dejar patente cómo se adaptan estas clases sociales a la nueva situación y consiguen mantener su poder local.

Por último, Davies nos proporciona una ventana abierta al futuro en "Writing Greek history: an agenda for the next generation". El autor hace referencia al camino que queda por recorrer y deberán hacer las generaciones futuras de historiadores y helenistas. De entre los retos que se mencionan destacamos los siguientes: la necesaria reedición de algunos de los volúmenes de Inscriptiones Graecae, empezando por los números V (Laconia, Mesenia y Arcadia), VII (Mégara y Beocia) y XIV (Italia, Sicilia y regiones occidentales), la publicación del nuevo material epigráfico de algunas regiones como la Argólide o Macedonia, ediciones nuevamente comentadas de las Helénicas de Jenofonte, de Estrabón o de los discursos de Demóstenes, o la elaboración de diccionarios topográficos de las distintas regiones de Grecia (exceptuando la ciudad de Atenas y la región del Ática). Davies alude a proyectos en marcha de gran interés, cuyos resultados serán bien recibidos por la comunidad científica, como el emprendido por un grupo de investigadores de distintos países para llevar a cabo la reedición de los decretos y leyes atenienses del siglo IV a.C., posteriores a 403 a.C. (IG II2 publicado por Kirchner en 1913 y 1940).

De la lectura del libro quedan claras dos ideas principales. Por una parte, hay que seguir analizando los textos y profundizando en su estudio y no dar por inamovibles las interpretaciones de quienes los han abordado con anterioridad. El replanteamiento de problemas conocidos puede ofrecer nuevos puntos de vista y originar nuevas discusiones con resultados muy productivos. Resulta evidente, por otra parte, que los estudios de historia de Grecia antigua no pueden prescindir de la epigrafía y del análisis de los textos de las inscripciones griegas. Los historiadores no pueden ceñirse en exclusiva a los textos literarios, mientras que los epigrafistas no pueden conformarse con la simple lectura de los documentos.

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