Wednesday, December 30, 2009


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Stephen Bertman, Lois Parker (ed.), The Healing Power of Ancient Literature. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009. Pp. xii, 127. ISBN 9781443809887. £34.99.
Reviewed by Yun Lee Too

The Healing Power of Ancient Literature edited by Stephen Bertman and Lois Parker is a small book that crucially hinges on an anachronism, the reading of ancient literatures -- for they are several -- through the lens of classics and the sciences or arts dealing with the healing of the soul, a more contemporary concern. It is accordingly edited by a classics professor emeritus, Stephen Bertman, and by Lois Parker, the emerita director of Counseling Services at the University of Nevada, Reno. The book attempts a daring feat, namely to show that literature has a healing power, and I argue that it fails in an equally spectacular manner.

The book begins with a one page prologue, entitled 'Medicine for the Soul', where we are told quite definitively that 'literature, especially ancient literature, possesses a profound power to heal our souls, a power that is especially needed today when the rapidity of change and the force of world events combine to make peace of mind an ever more distant and seemingly unreachable goal.' (p. vii). Lois Parker briefly weighs in next by outlining the scope of the book, which reaches from Egypt to Mesopotamia, Israel, Greece, Rome and China. All of antiquity is somehow read as being equivalent -- I assume because it is ancient -- and as standing as a counterpoint to our ravaged and ravaging present.

The first chapter, 'The Wisdom Tradition of Egypt', by John L. Foster considers long chunks of Egyptian poetry to demonstrate their wisdom. He suggests that the authors and their writings are very much like us: 'they are so much like us' and 'Not so much different from eulogies of today' (p. 11). Foster does not reveal any further on what basis these comparisons lie but he insists later on in the chapter, 'I have chosen to emphasize the common threads uniting our culture with the ancient Egyptians -- especially by hearing their actual words and their voices speaking' (p. 21). But I ask if these 'voices' are not rather fictional voices and therefore functioning as masks for the author whose intentions might otherwise be quite distinct from his characters?

Foster's slapdash approach is not distinct from that displayed by the other contributors to this volume. John Maier's 'A Mesopotamian Hero for a Melancholy Age' deals with Gilgamesh. Maier's interest is melancholy even though he notes that 'melancholia' means 'black bile' in Greek and is therefore not a Mesopotamian concept (p. 27). The Epic of Gilgamesh is not a medical text, as Maier notes, but it is made to deal with healing. Later he notes in a contradiction that it is not a poem that deals with illness and healing, and he draws a loose analogy between medicine and psychotherapy (p. 43).

With Rami Shapiro's 'The Wisdom of Torah: Healing the Alienated Soul' the attention is on Jewish literature, specifically the Torah. The drawing of parallels with more modern literature persists as Shapiro suggests that the Bible is a 'self-help book'. This should be a warning bell because it suggests that Shapiro, like the other authors, is not able to discuss the literature he is dealing with on its own terms: modernity is a necessary analogy and anachronism. In his discussion of Job Shapiro alludes to sitting zazen in the Buddhist tradition to make sense of the dialogue between God and Job (p. 58). He concludes that healing in the Jewish scriptures consists in accepting reality, reaching to one another in friendship and navigating the chaos (p. 65).

Lois Parker provides the fourth chapter in the book with 'Epic Woman in the Iliad and the Absence of Healing'. She begins promisingly by offering that 'healing' means psychological healing and psyche means soul but then disappoints a reader looking for a demonstration of such an event by resorting simply to a chronological narrative of the Iliad which concludes with the burial of Hektor. Parker then resorts to catharsis in Aristotle to explain what happens at the end of the epic (p. 79), explaining that the poem "touches something deep within us" (p. 80). Stephen Bertman follows his co-editor in privileging narration in place of insightful analysis in his reading of the Odyssey. He does not offer much at all to support his claim that literature has a healing power and ends his unimpressive piece by resorting to Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again and to the supposed threats of psychotropic drugs, electronica and failing libraries as analogies between our world and Odysseus' condition.

David Hicks writes 'Stoic Healing', focusing his discussion on Marcus Aurelius for chapter six. He begins with some potentially interesting thoughts in suggesting that mankind needs personal and social healing (p. 94) but then quickly becomes obsessed with the question of 'obedience'. What follows are two pages devoted to a discussion of Judeo-Christianity. So what does this have to do with Marcus Aurelius? Hicks thinks that the Stoics are among several groups of religious thinkers concerned with 'correction, healing, salvation or rebirth' (p. 98). What follows is an analysis of the disciplines of assent, desire and action but there is nothing, I observe, on healing.

Bertman returns for the last chapter 'The Healing Power of the Tao'. The world of Lao-Tzu is very different from ours, we are told, with nature taking an ascendant position (p. 114) and so Bertman has to resort to citing the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount to begin to articulate his notion of cure.

For someone looking for guidance on what the past had to say about healing the soul, this book is useful and even inspiring but as a classicist I have a less favourable point of view. I have given the impression that I am not favourably impressed by this book and indeed, I am not. There is no helpful discussion of what the soul is, that is of what is being healed, and there is no consideration of what healing actually is. Furthermore, is healing something that the cultures treated wanted, or was the attitude one of 'grin and bear it' in light of more pressing issues? Literature, as discussed by the majority of authors, is also not an accurate gauge of what society actually thought about the healing of the soul. All of antiquity is treated on a par despite the fact that these are very different antiquities with very different ways of thinking and this may explain the often jarring and embarrassing analogies drawn between our world and the worlds being discussed.

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E. A. Thompson, The Visigoths in the Time of Ulfila. Second Edition (first edition published 1966). London: Duckworth, 2008. Pp. xxiii, 186. ISBN 9780715637005. £12.99 (pb).
Reviewed by B. N. Wolfe, Wolfson College, Oxford

[Table of contents is given at the end of the review.]

The work under review is a reprint of a 1966 publication by OUP, which although itself a reprint of articles in disparate journals, quickly attained classic status in the field.1 E. A. Thompson2 presents a social account of the transdanubian Goths in the 4th century, working primarily from textual sources. Duckworth's new edition adds a foreword by Michael Kulikowski and an appendix containing one of the principal primary texts used by Thompson, the Passion of St Saba, in John Matthews' 1991 translation (from The Goths in the Fourth Century).

The foreword is a short but helpful guide to recent trends in Gothic studies, describing not only how approaches have changed, but how the changes were anticipated in Thompson's work. Kulikowski notes that the study is in no way diminished by the fact that the 'Visigoths' of the title are now understood not to have existed as a group as early as the time of Ulfila; Thompson predates and does without the modern scholar's pre-occupation with highly specified ethnonyms. A bibliographical note rounds out the new front matter.

The Gothic groups that later formed the Visigoths were not only among the most significant barbarian actors in 4th century, but also the best documented. Thompson makes good use of this documentation, combined with the results of early archaeological investigation, to show changes in Visigothic society that had already occurred before the mass migration across the limes in AD 376. He relies on the Passion of St Saba to reconstruct a Gothic tribal world in which common villagers are untroubled by Christians in their midst, while a relatively distant nobility remains fanatically pagan. The distance between noble and villager is a function of living on the Empire's borders: Out of a primitive world in which distinctions in poverty are minor, Roman trade (and Danegeld) in weapons, armour, luxury goods, and cash created disruptive social stratification. In turn, this disruption created conditions suited to the growth of Christianity, attractive as always to the impoverished and disenfranchised.

Further impetus for conversion came about through the collapse of the tribal system itself, begun by the need to confederate against the Romans, but culminating in the flight across the Danube. Thompson argues that religion was for the Goths a fundamentally tribal affair, and that the feasts and devotions of the tribal deities (or the tribal hypostases of more widely worshiped gods) were the principal criteria for and markers of tribal membership. Since tribes are not mentioned in the sources after the Goths moved into Roman Empire proper, Thompson posits that the trauma of flight, detainment by the Romans, and starvation had smashed the old order, leaving the Goths religiously underserved. Christianity, unaffected by the tribal collapse, was well placed to benefit. Thompson thus argues that, although the Goths who crossed the frontier were largely pagan, Christianization came quickly thereafter.

One of the important differences between Thompson and more recent scholarship is his willingness to approach the Goths as constituents of a Germanic world: He reports without comment the Gothic traditions related by the ancient historian Jordanes (himself a Goth) of their Scandinavian origins, and is happy to look for comparative evidence in Tacitus or Ibn Fadlan. Despite its current disfavour, there is nothing illegitimate about such comparison when disparities of time and geography are taken into account: Thompson certainly does not view the ancient Germanic peoples as socially, culturally, or otherwise monolithic.

The final section of the republished work, and the largest addition to the original publication, is the so-called 'Passion of St Saba'. Although this translation as noted above has been published elsewhere, it is very helpful to include it with the text that brought it to the forefront of scholarship on the 4th century Goths. The Passion is a life of St Saba the Goth in epistolary form. Saba was a poor man, caught up in the persecutions of Christians by the Gothic leaders which Thompson connects to their defeats by the Romans. The persecution directives come from a central authority in Gothia, and his co-villagers make efforts to save him, which he, eager for a martyr's crown, resists, ultimately successfully, when he is put to death by drowning.

The Visigoths in the Time of Ulfila is a work likely to be well-known to scholars of the Goths already. The new edition will be purchased by those who have long used the work in libraries but could not own it. Its clear writing and lucid argumentation make it suitable for undergraduate use, and its seminal status and voluminous citations make it invaluable to any graduate in a relevant field. It is to be recommended to those directly interested in the Goths, but also teachers and students who wish to consider life on the other side of a Roman limes.


Introduction, xii

1.0 Political History to AD 395, 1
1.1 The Settlement in Dacia, 3
1.2 Constantine and Constantius II, 9
1.3 Valens and Theodosius I, 17

2.0 Material Culture and Social Organization, 25
2.1 Material Culture, 25
2.2 Trade with the Roman Empire, 34
2.3 Social Organization,43
2.4 Paganism, 55

3.0 The Passion of St Saba and Village Life, 64

4.0 The Date of the Conversion, 78

5.0 Early Visigothic Christianity, 94
5.1 The Fourth-Century Persecutions, 94
5.2 The Circumstances of the Conversion, 103
5.3 Ecclesiastical Organization, 110
5.4 Ulfila's Achievement, 115
5.5 The Bishop Maximinus, 119
5.6 The Conversion of the Barbarians, 127

6.0 After Ulfila, 133
6.1 John Chrysostom and the Goths, 133
6.2 The Psathyrians, 135
6.3 Sunnia and Fretela, 138
6.4 The Later History of Ulfila's Text, 144
6.5 Epilogue, 155

Appendix One: Was Fritigern a Christian?, 157
Appendix Two: Gaatha, 159
Appendix Three: The Bishop Godda, 161
Appendix Four: The Passion of St. Saba, 166

Index, 179


1.   Reviews of the first edition may be found by Peter Brown in History, vol. 54, pp.79f (1969) and by J. M. Wallace-Hadrill in The English Historical Review, Vol. 83, No. 326 (Jan., 1968), pp.146f.
2.   An excellent biography of Thompson by R. A. Markus may be found in Proceedings of the British Academy, 111, 679-93.

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Jürgen W. Riethmüller, Asklepios: Heiligtümer und Kulte, 2 vols. Studien zu Antiken Heiligtümern. Heidelberg: Verlag Archäologie und Geschichte, 2005. Pp. 392; 502; 24 pls., ills. ISBN 3-935289-30-8. €135.00.
Reviewed by Gil H. Renberg

[This reviewer apologizes for the lateness of his review.]

Jürgen W. Riethmüller's (henceforth R.) massive two-volume study of the cult of Asklepios is quite ambitious and useful, but also significantly flawed. The work in question is an expanded version of the author's 1995 dissertation, written at Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg. Providing a nearly exhaustive treatment of the structural remains from more than two dozen surviving cult sites while also incorporating a tremendous amount of literary, epigraphical, iconographic, numismatic and even papyrological sources pertaining to these and hundreds of other sites, R.'s book is the most detailed study of Asklepios since that of Ludwig and Emma Edelstein sixty years earlier.1 Even after the more recent appearance of a comparable -- and in some ways superior -- work by Milena Melfi, R.'s work remains the broadest in scope, particularly valuable for its unparalleled treatment of lesser sites.2 Its overall value, unfortunately, is greatly reduced by numerous and varied problems evident throughout the work.

This work is essentially two books in one. The first volume is a 400-page monograph that surveys the history of the cult of Asklepios and explores what is known about Asklepieia in terms of both their structural composition and cult practices. The second volume catalogs roughly 900 sanctuaries of Asklepios and other types of cult sites with which he was associated, covering both the Greek East and Latin West. Both were much needed, since there had not been a sufficiently thorough study of the origins, development and nature of the cult of Asklepios since the Edelsteins' somewhat outdated work, while no one had attempted a full list, let alone detailed catalog, of Asklepieia in more than a century.3 While Volume 1 consists primarily of eight chapters, Volume 2 features a catalog with detailed discussions and extensive references for 171 cult sites (and cult-related sites) in Greece, followed by an "Appendix-Katalog" with bibliographical and literary references for 732 sites everywhere else in the Greco-Roman world, as well as several maps and photographs of sites and artifacts.

The contents of Volume 1 are as follows:

"Einleitung" (pp. 22-31). R. introduces the reader to the subject with an overview of the history of Asklepios's cult, followed by a brief but valuable survey of the history of the relevant scholarship going back to the 17th century.

Chapt. I, "Der Mythos des Asklepios" (pp. 33-54). This chapter provides a valuable service by tracing the scholarship and debates about the god's mythic origins and offering an updated bibliography. Though featuring a discussion of the different theories about the etymology of the name "Asklepios," most of the chapter is devoted to Asklepios's family in Homeric myth (and what the earliest references might suggest about Asklepios's status during this period), the different myths concerning his birth, and the myth of his death, burial and apotheosis.

Chapt. II, "Die Heiligtümer des Asklepios. Materialsichtung, chronologischer und geographischer Überblick" (pp. 55-90): In this chapter R. provides an overview of both the geographical span of Asklepios's cult and the broad range of sources for his worship. The chapter begins with a survey of the varied sources for cult sites and secular locations such as baths and gymnasia at which Asklepios was worshiped or honored -- archaeological remains, literary sources, inscriptions, coins, sculptures, terracottas, vases, and so on. The rest of the chapter is devoted to giving a basic summary of the known cult sites of Asklepios. According to R., there are 159 known cult sites on the Greek mainland (17 of which are uncertain) and a further 192 in the Greek islands, Asia Minor and other places colonized by the Greeks (44 uncertain). These numbers do not count sanctuaries of other gods where he was also worshiped, nor the several hundred cult sites in Syria, Egypt, North Africa, and western Europe.

Chapt. III, "Der frühe Horizont" (pp. 91-228). R. explores Asklepios's origins and the initial spread of his cult, especially during the period before he became a panhellenic god. The beginning of the chapter (sects. III.1-2) argues for the cult's Thessalian origin, giving an overview of the limited literary evidence and disappointing archaeological evidence for the famous sanctuary at Trikka and discussing cult sites in the region. Noting that Phokis and northern Boiotia each had its own association with Asklepios's birth myth, R. next surveys the evidence for the god's early centers of worship in central Greece (sect. III.3). The chapter continues with a discussion of the cult's spread to the Peloponnesos (sect. III.4), arguing that Asklepios was received into Apollo's sanctuary at Corinth by the mid-6th century B.C. and thus at least a century earlier than scholars have believed, before proceeding to the earliest phase of Asklepios worship at Epidauros (sect. III.5). The chapter continues by examining the cult's initial establishment beyond mainland Greece, starting with Macedonia before moving on to the Cyclades and Doric Hexapolis (sect. III.6), and again arguing for a much earlier date than commonly accepted. R. ends the chapter by arguing, no less controversially, that the early spread of the cult of Asklepios can be linked in part to the Dark Ages colonization movement, ultimately attributing it to the adoption of Asklepios as a tribal divinity by Dorians who moved through Thessaly before continuing their migrations (sect. III.7).

Chapt. IV, "Die Blütezeit des Asklepioskultes. Epidauros und seine Filialen" (pp. 229-240): The most important phase in the cult's expansion was the 5th-3rd centuries, when Asklepios became widely recognized as a god and numerous healing sanctuaries -- rather than mere temples -- were established as offshoots not of Trikka, but of Epidauros. This chapter traces both the transformation of existing sanctuaries into the god's healing sanctuaries and the appearance of new healing sanctuaries where he previously was not worshiped (e.g., Athens, Lebena, Rome, Troizen). R. argues that this development should be viewed in the context of changes in polis religion during the period, and also comments on several known patterns associated with the cult's spread.

Chapt. V, "Das Asklepieion von Athen: Ein Paradigma" (pp. 241-278). Following a detailed discussion of the Telemachos stele, the most important contemporary document for the establishment of Asklepios' Athenian sanctuary, R. analyzes the sanctuary's topography, chronological development, and architecture, devoting attention to each structure. R. pays particular attention to the bothros and tetrastylon attached to the East Stoa, recapitulating his arguments from an earlier article concerning the bothros functioning as a heroon.4 The last part of the chapter concerns another cult site, the Amyneion, and the purported role of Sophokles in establishing the worship of Asklepios in Athens.

Chapt. VI, "Die monumentale Neugestaltung des Epidaurischen Hierons im 4. Jh. v. Chr." (pp. 279-324). Returning to Epidauros, R. provides a detailed exploration of the sanctuary as it existed following the major building program of the 4th century B.C., also covering the burst of construction in Roman times. The chapter, therefore, is primarily devoted to architectural analysis of the buildings and other structures both within the temenos and nearby, but also investigates the purpose that some of them served. Particular attention is given to the "thymele," a mysterious, circular building with a labyrinthine substructure: returning to a subject he had previously discussed,5 R. surveys the different theories concerning its purpose and concludes from iconographic evidence associating the building with Asklepios's sacred serpents that it should be identified as Asklepios's heroon and thus represented the heroic aspect of this cult (sect. VI.3). The chapter also includes discussion of the main temple's pedimental sculptures and the evidence regarding the lost cult statue by Thrasymedes (sect. VI.2).

Chapt. VII, "Die bauliche Gestalt der Epidaurischen Filialen: Der Vorbildcharakter des Mutterheiligtums" (pp. 325-359). R. discusses the architectural remains of certain Asklepieia that were "offspring" of the Epidauros sanctuary, with the goal of determining whether enough parallels exist in terms of layout and structures to consider the Epidaurian "Mutterheiligtum" a model for the others. As R. recognizes, this is a difficult proposition, since several of the sites reported to have been established as offshoots from Epidauros are unexcavated, unpublished, or too small for analysis. The chapter, therefore, focuses on the Asklepieia of Balagrai (Cyrene), Lebena and Pergamon, with the main Athenian site having been the subject of Chapt. 5. Not surprisingly for so limited a survey, R. concludes that there are insufficient parallels among the "Filialen" and "Mutterheiligtum" to establish that the latter served as a model, but he does note that even if the dimensions and architecture varied, each site had an incubation hall and fountain in addition to a temple and altar.

Chapt. VIII, "Asklepieia: Typologie und Kultpraxis" (pp. 360-392). This final chapter covers general patterns among cult sites of Asklepios, most of which have received extensive treatment by earlier scholars (e.g., the extra-urban locations of Asklepieia, the presence and role sacred springs, the types of structures used for incubation). Of greater significance are R.'s discussions of the shift, first evident in the fourth century B.C., from Asklepieia that featured a small temple and a few secondary structures to bigger sanctuaries with multiple large structures (sect. VIII.2), and of the archaeological evidence suggesting that aspects of Asklepios's hero cult survived his transition to god at Epidauros, Athens, and possibly other sites, giving his cult a "Doppelnatur" (sect. VIII.5).6

The contents of Volume 2 are as follows:

"Katalog" (pp. 9-315). Covering all of mainland Greece in 171 entries, the geographically-arranged catalog provides detailed and often valuable discussions of varying length concerning what is known about each site at which Asklepios was worshiped. In the case of those that have been discovered, R. traces the excavation history in addition to discussing the remains and topographical issues; and, for both excavated and unexcavated sites, R. assesses the pertinent non-archaeological sources. Each discussion is followed by a list of sources, usually with a full lemma for particular artifacts or groups of artifacts, as well as a comprehensive bibliography for that site, and these are complemented by roughly two hundred maps and plans.

"Appendix-Katalog" (pp. 317-360). Picking up where the catalog leaves off, the appendix-catalog covers 732 cult sites outside of mainland Greece, but each entry consists solely of a lemmatized list of ancient sources and bibliographical references. Since R.'s stated goal for his book is to analyze Asklepieia in Greece itself and only a few outside of the mainland were deemed important enough to merit analysis in Volume 1, most of these sites receive no discussion, with even such obviously relevant Asklepieia as the one at Fregellae being all but ignored in that volume. Nonetheless, the appendix-catalog is of tremendous value simply because such a vast amount of information has been included, and also because the list of sites is almost completely comprehensive.7

The most valuable parts of the monograph volume are those in which R. provides detailed descriptions of the architectural remains of sanctuaries or traces the course of their excavations. The volume's greatest weakness, on the other hand, is the author's willingness to push his evidence farther than it can reasonably go, seeking to overturn conventional thinking even when there is little or no justification for doing so. The most striking example of this is a lengthy, and ultimately unsustainable, discussion of the spread of Asklepios's cult to the Doric Hexapolis, which R. believes has already occurred by the end of the 6th cent. B.C. (sect. III.6.3). In order to prove his claim, R. opts to focus solely on Kos, implying that there also is evidence for an early appearance by Asklepios at these other sites but that he is choosing the most famous site as representative of the whole of the region. However, other than an unreliable Suda entry,8 none of the sources that R. lists in the appendix-catalog entries for these other sites can be dated even close to the Archaic period (App.-Cat. Nos. 170-189), leaving Kos as the only part of the region for which we can entertain such an early arrival. While it is generally accepted that the cult reached Kos during the mid-Classical period, R. prefers to assign this development to an earlier second wave of Doric migration in the area, relying on the questionable evidence of Pausanias's account of the founding of Epidauros Limera as a terminus ante quem for Asklepios's cult on Kos,9 and taking as authentic the apocryphal traditions regarding Hippokrates and his students inscribing cures at the temple.

R.'s treatment of epigraphical evidence is equally problematic. As part of his argument against the consensus that Asklepios's establishment at Kos post-dates the synoikismos of 366/5 B.C., R. cites inscriptions from Astypalaia (one of the poleis whose inhabitants joined to create the unified polis of Kos) that do reveal the worship of Asklepios there -- but only in the Hellenistic period (App.-Cat. No. 182). More central to R.'s argument is his reliance on an unpublished epigram as evidence that Asklepios was being worshiped at the temenos of Apollo Kyparissios well before becoming the predominant divinity there during the early Hellenistic period. This epigram was briefly mentioned by Rudolf Herzog, who noted its reference to "Paian of the grove" (Παιὰν ἐν ἄλσει) and dated it to the late-5th or early-4th cent. B.C.10 Following Susan M. Sherwin-White's brief treatment of the inscription,11 R. accepts this date without reservation, and thus is able to conclude that Asklepios -- who, like Apollo, was often referred to as "Paian" -- was worshiped at the future site of the Kos Asklepieion decades before the synoikismos. However, the epigram should instead be dated to the early Hellenistic period based on its letter forms.12 Without the epigram or the wholly unreliable literary sources, R. has no evidence to support the conclusion that Asklepios was worshiped at this sanctuary before the synoikismos, and thus his overall thesis that the god was brought to the island and region much earlier by a Doric migration cannot be sustained.13

With this theory about Kos and its neighbors rejected, R.'s dubious contention that the early spread of the cult of Asklepios beyond Thessaly and Greece can be attributed in large part to Dorian migrations of the Dark Ages suffers a serious blow (sect. III.7). However, even if Asklepios could be detected on Kos as early as the 6th cent. B.C., R.'s reasons for reaching similar conclusions regarding other regions would still be questionable, since he repeatedly depends on unacceptably early dates for the worship of Asklepios at representative sites. Thus, in seeking to argue for an earlier spread of the cult of Asklepios, R. has to push back the dates of several individual Asklepieia, frequently with little or no real evidence. The best known of these is the one in Corinth, a site originally belonging to Apollo (sect. III.4.1; p. I:220). Even though there is no evidence for Asklepios's presence there before the late-5th century B.C., R. concludes that he was installed at least a century earlier, perhaps even in the 7th or 8th century B.C.14 Similar is R.'s claim that Asklepios's existence in Messene as far back as the 6th or 7th century B.C. is proven by the presence of a small shrine from this period near the later temple, at which evidence of a heroic healing cult, including anatomical votives, were found (sect. III.4.6; p. 220 claims an 8th-century date is possible). 15 Not only is there no compelling reason to conclude that the first shrine's votives represent evidence for Asklepios's pre-liberation worship at Messene, but a short distance away another hero shrine was taken over by one or more gods by the end of the Classical period -- just as Asklepios most likely took over long after the unknown hero had begun healing people.

Similarly questionable conclusions are found in R.'s discussions of Gortys and Antisara. At Gortys the two extant Asklepios sanctuaries were built atop earlier cult sites, but in neither case can it be concluded that the preceding sanctuary was associated with him: the "upper" temple, located atop the acropolis and dated to the mid-Classical period, was built near a buried trove of votive objects with a military theme that date to the Archaic period, leading R. to conclude, improbably, that at Gortys Asklepios was a military god as well as a healer (pp. I:220, II:196);16 the later "lower" temple, on the other hand, is thought by R. to have been preceded by an Archaic temple of Asklepios because underneath it archaeologists discovered part of a cella wall dated to the 8th or early-7th century B.C., even though this older structure cannot be linked to Asklepios (pp. I:220, II:199). Similarly, for the small Thracian settlement of Antisara R. concludes that a sanctuary that belonged to Asklepios in the 4th century B.C. must have been his originally, even though no sources link the 6th-century temple to the god (pp. I:204-205, 220-221). R.'s exceptionally early dates for Asklepieia are not limited to these sites, since he makes similar claims regarding others (pp. I:220-221). Overall, R.'s attempt to place the spread of Asklepios's cult much earlier than currently accepted does not stand up to scrutiny.

With the exception of this dating issue, R.'s approach to sanctuaries' physical remains is generally sound and reliable -- and, indeed, often quite illuminating. However, problems with arguments based on literary and epigraphical sources extend beyond the discussion of Kos. The most noteworthy instance of this is in R.'s treatment of the purported role of Sophokles, whom the Etymologicum Magnum identified with the hero Dexion, in introducing the cult of Asklepios to Athens (sect. V.3). Scholars who have been willing to accept one or both contentions have done so because they accepted this and other later literary sources, Alfred Körte's dubious emendation of Sophokles's fragmentary Hellenistic vitaand an uncertain restoration of the inscription on the Telemachos Monument, and linked these to epigraphical evidence associating Asklepios and the hero Amynos with Dexion. Echoing this scholarly tradition in his own discussion, R. emphasizes that that there should be little doubt of the playwright's involvement in establishing Asklepios's Athenian cult. However, this belief in the link among Sophokles, Dexion, Asklepios and Amynos was thoroughly refuted in an article by Andrew Connolly that appeared after R. completed his dissertation.17 Rather than dealing with Connolly's cogent philological and historical objections, R. buries his reference to the article in a footnote in which he briefly summarizes and then dismisses it as a "hyperkritische Standpunkt" (p. I:277n.198).

The most pervasive problem in this book, however, is that R.'s approach to references fails to take into account how the book will be used, making a work that was intended to be the standard reference on Asklepios's cult sites difficult to consult. In an attempt to try to provide a full range of references for every site, artifact, phenomenon or issue, R. has included hundreds -- if not thousands -- of unnecessary citations that that have the potential to lead readers to waste considerable time pursuing them. The first volume alone has 2300 footnotes, and many of these have a dozen or more individual citations, with the longest footnote featuring more than a hundred citations, far too many of which are irrelevant or far too outdated to be of any use.18 In the second volume, most of the roughly 900 entries likewise contain unnecessary references that were included more to achieve a sense of thoroughness than to benefit the user.19 Obsolete citations, however, are not as troubling as those that are completely irrelevant. For example, in his entry on the poorly documented cult site at Antium (Cat. No. 575), R. cites two unrelated works on underwater archaeology and the building techniques employed in the construction of the city's harbor.20 This, however, is not a fluke, as demonstrated by the catalog entry for Gytheion citing an equally irrelevant article about archaeological work at the harbor.21

These examples are indicative of a pattern throughout the work: not limiting himself to providing references to Asklepios's cult sites, R. also often tries to provide general references to the topography and archaeological remains of places where those cult sites were located, even when the works he cites contain no discussion of Asklepios. Unfortunately, the reader usually has no way of knowing that a cited work is irrelevant without taking the time to check it. But what makes the decision to do so even more regrettable is that there are numerous major and minor errors to be found among these citations, and one wonders how many of these errors might have been caught if R. had channeled his considerable energy into checking references for accuracy instead of piling on more.22 A related problem is that insufficient effort was made to include books and articles that became available after the dissertation's completion: even though in his introduction R. indicates that he has pursued bibliographical references through 2002 there are many omissions, several quite significant, from the years 1995-2002.23 Collectively, these flaws diminish the work's value as a research tool, by making it both difficult to use and at times unreliable.

In sum, this is a book that contains a vast amount of research and makes a significant contribution to the study of Asklepios, and therefore will need to be consulted by all who study this god's worship. It is strongest in its careful and thorough treatment of archaeological remains, and is invaluable simply because it is the first work to survey every known cult site at which the god was worshiped. However, caution is warranted when considering some of the arguments, particularly in the monograph volume, and if basing one's own arguments on these one would do well to look under the hood and kick the tires a little. This is especially true of R.'s speculative contention that the cult of Asklepios can be detected at multiple sites much earlier than has previously been accepted and even that it spread with Dorian migrations. For this and other reasons, therefore, one cannot be unreservedly positive about this book: while an admirable achievement in numerous respects, there are many flaws detracting from its usefulness and reliability.


1.   Emma and Ludwig Edelstein, Asclepius: A Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies (Baltimore, 1945), 2 vols.
2.   Milena Melfi, I Santuari di Asclepio in Grecia 1 (Rome, 2007), the first of two planned volumes. Like R.'s book, Melfi's surveys the material evidence from each site and grapples with some of the same broad issues regarding the cult's history and nature. Scholars investigating particular Asklepieia or aspects of the cult of Asklepios therefore will wish to consult both works. Unfortunately, this book received an undeservedly harsh review from R. (AJA Online Review), who -- among other criticisms -- faults Melfi for what is a much more defensible approach to dating certain Asklepieia than R. himself displays (see below).
3.   RE II.2 (1896), 1662-1677, s.v. "Asklepios" (R. Pietschmann).
4.   J.W. Riethmüller, "Bothros and Tetrastyle: The Heroon of Asklepios in Athens," in R. Hägg (ed.), Ancient Greek Hero Cult... (Stockholm, 1999), 123-143.
5.   J.W. Riethmüller, "Die Tholos und das Ei," Nikephoros 9 (1996), 71-109.
6.   R.'s contention that this hero cult extended to the Tiber Island sanctuary in Rome (pp. I:324, I:381), however, must be rejected: even if such a notion were plausible, R. bases his claim on an Imperial-period relief showing Asklepios and Hygieia feeding two cockatrices -- not sacred serpents -- that was linked to a guild of bakers and most likely came from their headquarters (LIMC II, "Asklepios," No. 252 = CIL VI 546, cf. 30790).
7.   This reviewer knows of only one site that should have merited inclusion, but it is admittedly an obscure one: according to the often unreliable Life of Proclus, at an as yet undiscovered site in Lydia called Adrotta there was a mysterious shrine of Asklepios at which visitors, including the Late Antique philosopher himself, were able to obtain therapeutic "oracles" (Marin., Procl. 32).
8.   Suda, s.v. "Δημοκήδης." This source claims that Demokedes of Croton, known to readers of Herodotus as the physician who treated Darius, was the son of a priest of Asklepios at Knidos, which R. lists as evidence of a priesthood there in the mid-6th century B.C. (p. II:348).
9.   According to Pausanias (3.23.6-7), Epidauros Limera was established by Epidaurians who were sailing to Kos as envoys to Asklepios when they put in at this location and decided to stay and found a city after receiving dream-visions. If true, Kos would already have had to have a public cult before 424 B.C., when Thucydides first refers to events at Epidauros Limera (Thuc. 4.56.2). While there is little reason to doubt that Epidauros Limera could have been founded by the 5th century B.C., R. places too much weight on this anecdote as evidence for dating the cult of Asklepios at Kos, especially since persuasive arguments have been made that it was an Epidaurian fiction intended to claim the Koan sanctuary as an offshoot of their own Asklepieion (see S.M. Sherwin-White, Ancient Cos (Göttingen, 1978), 336-338).
10.   Rudolf Herzog, Heilige Gesetze von Kos (Berlin, 1928), p. 33.
11.   S.M. Sherwin-White (supra, n. 9), 338.
12.   R.'s arguments identifying "Paian" as Asklepios would be highly dubious were the inscription indeed from the period to which Herzog dated it, but it is a reasonable conclusion in view of the inscription's actual date. So this inscription does indeed attest to Asklepios's presence at the sanctuary, but at a considerably later period. (I am grateful to Kent Rigsby, part of the team working on the fascicles of Inscriptiones Graecae covering Kos, for providing me a photograph of this inscription.)
13.   Sherwin-White had earlier stated that even though the evidence for the official cult of Asklepios post-dates the synoikismos this does not preclude the god's earlier presence (Sherwin-White (supra, n. 9), 334-335), but R. goes too far in repackaging such speculation as fact. There is no reason why Asklepios would not have been worshiped by some on the island of Kos in the years or decades preceding his official establishment at Apollo's sanctuary, but there certainly is no good reason to think that he was introduced to the island as early as R. believes.
14.   There is ample evidence that the sanctuary was active in the 6th century B.C., but none of the anatomical votives and vases bearing dedicatory graffiti that represent the first evidence of Asklepios's worship there can be dated earlier than c. 425 B.C.
15.   Although the votives found there do date from the 6th to 4th centuries B.C. -- with the anatomicals being relatively late -- and the building's first phase was in the 7th or 6th century, if that hero continued to be worshiped in the area he might have been relocated to one of the many small shrines in close proximity to Asklepios's temple. Moreover, R. overlooks the fact that another nearby shrine first constructed in the 7th century B.C., Shrine Ω-Ω, has produced very similar votives (though not anatomicals), and is believed to have been the site where a hero was joined or replaced by the Dioskouroi and one or two goddesses.
16.   R. bases his conclusion in part on Alexander the Great having dedicated a breastplate and spear to Asklepios at the sanctuary (Paus. 8.28.1). Since by Roman times Asklepios was widely worshiped by military personnel for his perceived ability to ensure their well being, it seems far more likely that Alexander would have been honoring Asklepios for this than for his "kriegerische Gottheit."
17.   A. Connolly, "Was Sophocles Heroised as Dexion?", JHS 118 (1998), 1-21.
18.   For example, the footnote for incubation cites twenty-eight mainly trivial and outdated studies -- the oldest from 1850, and most before 1950 -- and yet excludes some important works (p. I:382n.130).
19.   In addition to the references pertaining to particular sites in the catalog and appendix-catalog, R.'s treatment of individual objects unearthed at them suffers from this problem, since he attempts full bibliographical lemmas for each. Thus the reader is provided with superfluous information for hundreds of inscriptions, sculptures, reliefs, coins and the like, with those unearthed in the 19th century or earlier being especially prone to such treatment. For example, in his entry for the hundreds of anatomical votives found in the Tiber river near the Asklepieion R. cites not only the relevant catalog (P. Pensabene et al., Terracotte votive dal Tevere (Rome, 1980)), but also multiple publications recording the discovery of these objects over time, going back to 1844. Similarly, for inscriptions and coins obsolete editions from a century or more ago are routinely included.
20.   E. Felici, "Osservazioni sul porto neroniano di Anzio e sulla tecnica romana delle costruzioni portuali in calcestruzzo," Archeologia Subacquea 1 (1993), 71-104; E. Felici & G. Balderi, "Nuovi documenti per la 'topografia portuale' di Antium," in Atti del Convegno nazionale di archeologia subacquea, Anzio, 30-31 maggio e 1 giugno (Bari, 1997), 11-20. (Since the author prefers a citation style for journal articles that omits the title, a reader encountering "E. Felici, ASubacq 1 (1993), 71ff." would have no way of knowing the nature of this study. Though it might seem like nitpicking to criticize a scholar's citation style, R.'s inclusion of hundreds (if not thousands) of irrelevant citations in his work makes his decision not to provide at least partial titles even more regrettable, since it will lead many readers to waste time following up on false leads.)
21.   N. Scoufopoulos-Stavrolakes, "Ancient Gythion, the Port of Sparta: History and Survey of the Submerged Remnants," in A. Raban (ed.), Harbour Archaeology: Proceedings of the First International Workshop on Ancient Mediterranean Harbours, Caesarea Maritima 24-28.6.83 (BAR-IS 257; Oxford, 1985), 49-66.
22.   The main problem is not minor typos and other sorts of easily recognizable errors, but that many citations are sufficiently inaccurate to cause users difficulty. Among the types of errors found too frequently are erroneous page ranges (e.g., citing pp. 265ff. for V. Allamane-Soure, ArchDelt 39 (1984) [1990], Mel. 205-231, at pg. II:321), incorrect volume or year for journals (e.g., the inscription cited at p. II:348 as "BCH 2, 1878, 270" has to be the one at BCH 4 (1880), 270), faulty references to items in corpora or similar publications (e.g., twice citing IG V.1, 1145 as 1445, at pp. II:124n.28, II:126), and misspelling authors' names (e.g., "Lefart" and "Ross" for Lefort and Roos, at pg. I:382n.130). There are also a number of missing references: R.'s catalog entries for the cult sites in Rome, for example, omit an important literary reference (Festus, De sign. verb., 110M), three inscriptions (CIL VI 238, 656, 2799), a colossal head from the Palatine (LIMC II, "Asklepios," No. 218), a relief thought to represent the god (LIMC II, "Asklepios," No. 101), one of the two statuettes from the Villa dei Quintilii (G. Annibaldi, NSc 1935, 81, No. 5), and several works of scholarship.
23.   The most significant omission is Lynn R. LiDonnici, The Epidaurian Miracle Inscriptions: Text, Translation and Commentary (Atlanta, 1995).

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009


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Harry Sidebottom, Fire in the East (first U.S. paperback edition; originally published 2008). Warrior of Rome, Book One. New York: Overlook Press, 2009. Pp. 433. ISBN 9781590202463. $14.95 (pb).
Reviewed by Lucinda Hamilton, Bryn Mawr


This action-filled adventure story focusing on the siege of Arete, an apocryphal town on the Euphrates River at the eastern edge of the Roman Empire, is a great read. Although the book's appendix gives the accurate information on which most of the story is based, the reader needs no knowledge of the period to enjoy the fast moving, extremely dramatic plot. Sidebottom manages to apply his considerable knowledge of 3rd century warfare and Roman military terminology in a way that never intrudes but advances the plot quickly. Words like frumentarius, limes imperii, or even oneiromanteia quickly become part of one's vocabulary, and if forgotten, there is an index at the end of the book. One flaw: Bathshiba, an odd persona, perhaps introduced to the story to give "romantic interest", is never essential and seems a very clumsy introduction. (Note to author: Don't let your editor insist on romance. He would be better employed fixing at least three major grammatical mistakes which I suspect are the result of the "Cut and Paste" function of the computer.)

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B. H. McLean, An Introduction to Greek Epigraphy of the Hellenistic and Roman Periods: From Alexander the Great to the Reign of Constantine (323 BC-AD 337). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002. Pp. xx, 516. ISBN 0472112384. £52.50.
Reviewed by D. Graham J. Shipley, University of Leicester


At the invitation of the editors, I take this opportunity to comment briefly on a useful work that appears to have slipped under the radar of leading classical journals, as I discovered recently while preparing material for a taught master's course. (BMCR did not receive a copy.)

The author, a professor of theology at Toronto, has previously published Greek inscriptions from Anatolia, and here displays his high-level linguistic expertise at many points in the book. In the introduction he states his purpose as that of surveying changes in post-classical Greek epigraphy -- not the usual focus of introductory handbooks (pp. 3-4). From my initial acquaintance the book seems potentially useful for new postgraduates in ancient history and classical archaeology, as it draws together copious reference material in nearly 200 short sections. These are grouped into chapters, not all of which follow logically from one another (see outline table of contents below). I am reminded of one of my favourite compendia of know-how, the annual British reference work Whitaker's Almanack, where one finds side by side such topics as the parliamentary system, regional government, local government, the EU parliament, law and order, defence, education, health and social welfare, and so on. One never reads a whole chapter of Whitaker; one uses the index and dips in according to need, to uncover disparate snippets of vital information such as how to address letters to members of the House of Lords, the name of the secretary of the Council of University Classical Departments, or the current state of pension law.

Similarly, each user of McLean will find which sections are most useful to them. Besides its unusual chronological focus -- reflecting the surge of interest in post-classical Greece -- the book's most distinctive feature may be the inclusion, alongside epigraphic technicalities such as the double square bracket, of extensive reference material such as Greek theophoric and non-theophoric names (77-86), the spelling of Roman names and titles in Greek (112-48), changes in letter-forms (40-5), and changes in the pronunciation and spelling of Greek after Alexander (346-57). The last includes such gems as the different reasons for irregularities in respect of words ending in nu (352-3). Thus the book provides invaluable road maps for non-epigraphers faced with passages of inscribed Greek.

Besides a survey of the varieties of documents (181-299; note also 358-68 on epigrams), there is assorted but useful reference information on punctuation and abbreviations (48-63), calendars (149-80), units of currency (369-82), Roman administrative titulature (326-45), and so on. A single volume cannot be expected to give a comprehensive account of all these fields. What is distinctive is their juxtaposition with one another, and with thematic matters such as the processes by which inscriptions are produced (4-18) and epigraphy as material culture (65-73). Having made suggestions in the past about how misspellings and malformed letters may arise, I was particularly interested to see a discussion of how stonecutters may have used handwritten drafts prepared by the authors of the text (9-13).

The main text is followed by a colossal list of abbreviations and full indexes of Greek words, Greek names, and Latin terms, with finally a general index. The volume is well produced; I have yet to find a misprint. An odd feature of some of the photographs, however, is that some of them appear to have been reproduced from earlier (old?) prints in which the letters were inked in (close scrutiny of p. 113 fig. 10 or p. 253 fig. 20 will allow the reader to assess whether I am mistaken).

As an ancient historian who has used, and even sometimes practised in a modest fashion, the study of inscriptions, I can certainly not claim the title of epigrapher. I am not qualified to judge whether the more technical sections of McLean -- for example on onomastics, calendars, and institutions -- are up to date. I imagine that serious students of epigraphy will quickly move beyond this book, as their hands-on experience of inscriptions and squeezes grows. But for taught postgraduates and Ph.D. students in ancient history or classical archaeology who may be seeking to understand epigraphy and the rules of engagement with epigraphic data, alongside other evidential studies, this book provides a useful collection of reference material that would otherwise be hard to bring together. As a hardback of over 500 pages, it is unlikely to be carried into the field, or even to a Mediterranean museum, by a postgraduate. It is certainly no substitute for first-hand experience under the tutelage of those who really know about stones; and it must be complemented by more extended theoretical reflections,1 by studies of particular bodies of published material, and by thematic examinations of new approaches to epigraphic culture.2 But it may be invaluable in lighting the way for those -- surely an increasing number -- who work in a multi-disciplinary fashion.

TABLE OF CONTENTS (abbreviated, other than the Introduction)

Introduction (1-23): the value of inscriptions in the study of antiquity; the interpretation of inscriptions; the scope of this introduction; the making of inscriptions; the quarrying of the stone; the manufacture of the monument; the drafting of the text; the transcription of the text; the engraving of the text; the cost of engraving; errors in the exemplar or draft; errors in the act of transcribing; errors in the act of engraving; ancient corrections and additions; the fate of inscriptions; forgeries; bibliographic references and searches; standard epigraphical series; overview of this introduction

Part 1. General matters
1 Editorial sigla (27-39)
2 Paleography, punctuation, abbreviations, and numerals (40-64):
3 Inscriptions as archaeological artifacts (65-73):
4 The onomastics and prosopography of Greek names (74-111)
5 The onomastics and prosopography of Roman names in Greek inscriptions (112-48)
6 Calendars, eras, and the dating of inscriptions (149-78)

Part 2. The nature of Greek inscriptions
7 The classification of Greek inscriptions (181-214)
8 Decrees (215-27)
9 Honorific decrees, proxeny decrees, and honorific inscriptions (228-45)
10 Dedications and ex-votos (246-59)
11 Funerary inscriptions (260-88)
12 Manumission inscriptions (289-99)

Part 3. Selected topics
13 Magistrates, other functionaries, and the government of the hellenistic city (303-25)
14 Roman administration and functionaries (326-45)
15 Orthography (346-57)
16 Epigrams (358-68)
17 Currency and its commodity value (369-82)

Appendix: electronic tools for research in Greek epigraphy (383-5)

Abbreviations of epigraphical and related classical publications (387-472)

Indexes (473-516)


1.   e.g. J. Bodel (ed.), Epigraphic Evidence: Ancient History from Inscriptions (London and New York, 2001) (focusing more on Roman than Greek); P. J. Rhodes, 'The non-literary written sources', in K. H. Kinzl (ed.), A Companion to the Classical Greek World (Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World; Oxford: Blackwell), 45-63 (ch. 3).
2.   For example, A. E. Cooley (ed.), The Afterlife of Inscriptions: Reusing, Rediscovering, Reinventing and Revitalizing Ancient Inscriptions (London, 2000); G. J. Oliver (ed.), The Epigraphy of Death: Studies in the History and Society of Greece and Rome (Liverpool, 2000).

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James D. Williams (ed.), An Introduction to Classical Rhetoric: Essential Readings. Chichester/Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. Pp. xi, 544; 8 p. of plates. ISBN 978-1-4051-5861-9. $54.95 (pb).
Reviewed by Brad L. Cook, San Diego State University


This annotated reader contains 324 pages of ancient texts, from Enheduanna to Augustine. The remaining pages were written by Williams to serve as an introduction to Greek and Roman rhetoric and to the individual authors and texts included. The text, listed on the Wiley-Blackwell website under Communication and Media Studies, is directed at "advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate students in communications as well as those in rhetoric and composition programs" (1). The introduction finds fault with available anthologies because "the amount of background information in them, so crucial to contextualizing the readings, is commonly sparse. As a result, students just beginning the study of classical rhetoric find it difficult to understand the social and historical factors that influenced periods and orators" (1). These social and historical factors, the context for these ancient texts, are manifold and fascinating in their challenging complexity. William's attempts, however, to describe these factors and contextualize the ancient texts that he has selected are so marred by factual errors, poor presentation of the ancient sources, and mishandling of modern scholarship that I advise against using this book in any classroom.1

Forty-six numbered ancient texts are printed in grayed text-boxes along with the notes found in the editions used. The translations come from a variety of sources, as old as Jowett's venerable translation of Plato and as recent as May and Wisse's 2001 translation of Cicero's De oratore. The selections themselves begin with five pages of Akkadian poetry by Enheduanna, the daughter of Sargon, and four pages of Sapphic fragments. Then appear ten pages of Sophistic selections among which are Gorgias' Palamedes and Helen, thirteen pages of selections from Isocrates' Against the Sophists and Antidosis, nine from the Demosthenic On the Treaty with Alexander and his On the Crown, the entire texts of Plato's Protagoras, Gorgias, and Phaedrus; thirty-seven pages of selections from Aristotle's Rhetoric and Poetics conclude the first half of the book. Cicero starts the second half of the text with fifty-six pages of selections from De inventione, De oratore, and Pro Milone, then appear three pages from Horace's Ars poetica, and over eleven pages from Quintilian's Institutio oratoria; twenty-one pages from various works of Libanios are followed by sixty-one pages by Augustine, thirty-one of which are from the Confessions.

In addition to William's general introduction (1-5), there is an "Introduction to Greek Rhetoric" (9-36) and an "Introduction to Roman Rhetoric and Oratory" (273-315). Each section, e.g., "Female Voices" (37-50), "The Sophists" (51-107), etc., includes a biographical and historical sketch of the authors and their age. This is an immense amount of material to cover, and Williams recognizes that fact. On the very first page of his introduction he laments that his book "must necessarily engage in a certain degree of reduction and oversimplification" (1) and, in case we forget, he repeats this at the end of the introduction (5). The motif is sounded frequently, e.g., "Any definitive understanding of the Sophists probably will always be beyond us, but some general observations are possible" (20); "People and ideas exist in a context. Sometimes when writing about history, we cannot determine what the context was, but in the case of Plato we have enough information to do so" (32); "Understanding Demosthenes ... entails at least a nodding familiarity with the complex, tumultuous events that characterized his life and the course of history that he tried to shape" (93); and, to jump to the end: "The events and social conditions of the fourth and fifth centuries were so complex and volatile that a brief chapter cannot possibly begin to provide significant insights. What follows, therefore, is a greatly simplified and abbreviated summary of a few key factors" (416). Burdened with this millennium of complex context, an introductory text of this sort must manifest constantly a mastery of the ancient data and provide an accurate and clear epitome of the history and essential issues. Williams fails to do either.

As Williams oversimplifies all this complexity, he makes troubling errors. Of Plato he says that Plato's brother Glaucon was an oligarch who supported the Thirty and died fighting for them against the democrats (32). This fact would surely have influenced Plato, if it were true. It is true that Plato's maternal uncle Charmides as well as his mother's far more famous cousin Critias were oligarchs and died as members of the Thirty. Of Demosthenes he says that On the Treaty with Alexander is "a prime example of deliberative rhetoric as practiced in the Athenian assembly" (97), but the attribution of this speech to Demosthenes has even since antiquity been universally recognized as false, and the text may have never been delivered in any assembly by anyone. Of one of those volatile complexities of the fourth and fifth centuries A.D., Williams suggests, parenthetically, that Julian's "youthful naïveté" may explain his difficulty restoring paganism, but one may wonder what is so "complex" or "volatile" about the fact that Julian was at least twenty-nine years old when he entered Constantinople to assume the throne and had already six years of political and military experience in the field. One could view these errors as minor and easily corrected in a revised or second edition, if they were isolated and were not misused to make half-trueobservations that are for this reason difficult to correct.

The inclusion of Sappho, much less of Enehduanna, in an introduction to Greek and Roman rhetoric suggests more profound problems. The claim that "We may not be unjustified in concluding that poets like Enheduanna, Archilochus, and Sappho indirectly influenced rhetoric, politics, and even entire societies" (21), is no more persuasive than what Williams tells us about Sappho's name in the Aeolic dialect: "Psappha, which is decidedly non-Greek and gives credence to reports that she was not a Greek but a Hittite" (45). If you look for such females, real and/or fictional, as Aspasia and Diotima and their rhetorical significance, real or fictional, you will find them rejected by Williams with equally unhelpful (or outrageous) reasoning (37-38). Consider in addition what Williams says of Helen when he is contextualizing Gorgias' Encomium of Helen: "her cultural status was significantly lower than that of a prostitute. Given this context, we can more readily imagine how disturbing audiences might find Gorgias' Encomium ... we might consider the reaction today to an enthusiastic defense of Adolf Hitler or James Earl Ray" (64). To leap to the end of the book, Williams describes Augustine as "a truly tortured man" (45), "a mamma's boy" (451), whose mother "clung to him in an unnatural way" (453), and a person who called for "the rejection of reason" and "rational processes" (449-450). This sort of stuff is not conducive to a valid, much less meaningful, contextualization of anything ancient, though its rhetoric might have pleased a Cleon or Clodius.

As with primary sources, such a text should introduce students to scholarship in an accurate, meaningful, and manageable manner. Williams' handling of scholarship, however, is just as problematic as his handling of ancient texts and contexts. For an example, when Augustine is introduced, we are told: "Kennedy (1980) argued that De Doctrina Christiana should be classified as an example of 'technical rhetoric' (p. 159) because it lacks any philosophical components. When located in the context of Augustine's other works, however, this assessment is difficult to support" (494-495, italics mine). Kennedy's text, however, in the 1980 version of his Classical Rhetoric and Its Christian and Secular Tradition, From Ancient to Modern Times actually states: "... Augustine's rhetoric belongs largely in what we have called the technical tradition, with some threads of the sophistic strand. Insofar as philosophical rhetoric is involved, it is represented by Christianity, not by the influence of Plato and Aristotle. ..." (159; cf. also the text of Kennedy's second edition, 1999, 182). This and other such misreadings, or mischaracterizations, of scholarship and Williams' gratuitous "corrections" could guide the neophyte reader into treating such eminent scholars as Kennedy, Gagarin (see 73), et al. cavalierly.

Williams' presentation of erroneous ancient information and poor use of modern sources occasionally produces absurdities. Of the Thirty at Athens, we read: "To suppress democracy further, the Thirty limited Athenian citizenship to 3,000, thereby disenfranchising most of the population, and ordered all non-citizens expelled from the city, conveniently confiscating their property in the process. At the time, the total population may have been about 120,000 (reduced by the war from about 180,000) (Domit<i>us, 2005). Anyone who refused to leave was immediately executed" (30, italics mine). Anyone stunned by this absurdly false image of 117,000 people being disenfranchised, instead of 27,000 (out of the 30,000 or so [male] citizens), and all but the chosen 3,000 fleeing for their lives will find some distracting solace in discovering that the ancient line of the Domitii is represented by a modern classical scholar. By following the entry in the bibliography for D. Domitius, one will be led to a website where the full name of this authority appears: Drakus Domitius. "Drakos," the modern Greek form of the ancient drakon, can be used as a last name, but since it is also used in modern Greek like "Killer" in English, its use as a first name would be very unusual. As it turns out, Drakus Domitius is not a real name but a web name for someone role-playing on But, whatever Drakus' real name, he has been used by Williams only for the number 120,000, thus the mishmash of preposterous inaccuracies and absurdly exaggerated implications in the above-quoted passage belongs solely to Williams.

Errors that could be termed typographical are pandemic, at least among ancient names, e.g., Pythogoras, Heroditus, Theremenes, Periclian, Archilocus, Athiphon, Peri Technê, On Chreutes, Rahmnus (and Rhamnus, spelled correctly, is also used as a person's name on another occasion and as if it were a last name on yet another occasion), vir bonum, Atrabazus (twice), De Civitae Dei (repeatedly thus, except on p. 526), De Trinitae, and Marcu Favius Quintilianus. Such errors could lead one to grow suspicious of everything in the book. A suggestion for students to read Lysias' Against Agathos (74) might look plausible, but will cause only frustration (I suppose that this is a strange mutation of Against Agoratos). Similarly, the recommendation in a suggested writing topic to read Lyias' Against Ctesiphon (93) will challenge the student to figure out that Williams meant Lysias but then confuse the student when it is discovered that Aeschines wrote Against Ctesiphon. Compare an unmarked reference to Symposium (457), when the text is Xenophon's rather than Plato's. Chaeroneia is redated to 336 B.C. (96), which is not a typographical error because the following paragraph says "when Philip was assassinated later that year ..." But the fall of Constantinople in "1456" could be a typographical error (273). Citations and bibliographical entries for older works are particularly misleading, e.g., Botsford 2005 or Symonds 2002, when the books in question were published in 1909 and 1893 respectively. How is a student to learn about the development of the scholarly discussion when reprinting dates are used rather than publication dates? When Greek is printed, it is error-ridden, e.g., 53, 54, 430, 533.


1.   I would recommend Patricia P. Matsen, Philip Rollinson, and Marion Sousa, Readings from Classical Rhetoric (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1990), currently priced at $29.50. If you want to supplement the succinct and useful introductions in this text, you could add George A. Kennedy, A New History of Classical Rhetoric (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994) for $35 or the English version of Laurent Pernot's Rhetoric in Antiquity (Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2005) for $27.95.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009


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Marta Novello, Scelte tematiche e committenza nelle abitazioni dell'Africa Proconsolare. I mosaici figurati. Biblioteca di Eidola. Series Maior, 1. Pisa/Roma: Fabrizio Serra Editore, 2007. Pp. 311; pls. 140. ISBN 978-88-6227-013-7. €220.00 (pb).
Reviewed by Jean-Pierre Darmon, ENS/CNRS Paris

Cet imposant ouvrage de 450 pages au total prend à bras le corps une documentation considérable, car son ambition est de traiter de l'ensemble des mosaïques figurées reconnues dans le décor domestique de l'Afrique Proconsulaire sur près d'un demi millénaire, afin de rendre compte de ses choix thématiques et des motivations de ses commanditaires.

Après une préface élogieuse (p. 17-18) par Katherine M. Dunbabin, qui a précédé Marta Novello, il y a plus de 30 ans, dans une brillante synthèse à la problématique très voisine,1 l'Introduction de l'Auteur (p. 21-25) définit les circonstances de l'élaboration de son ouvrage, -- qui s'inscrit dans la suite de l'enquête d'une équipe dont elle faisait partie sous la direction de Francesca Ghedini2 --, et en précise les limites (la Tripolitaine est exclue de son corpus mais en revanche les franges aujourd'hui algériennes de la Proconsulaire y sont incluses), les ambitions heuristiques, replacées dans le contexte des récentes recherches, et enfin le plan.

Une première partie, distribuée en dix chapitres (p. 29-123), dresse l'inventaire des sujets figurés, en en explorant, chemin faisant, les implications sémantiques et la répartition dans l'espace domestique : sujets dits "marins" (p. 29-42), <[de genre]> (p. 43-52), sujets "mythologiques" (p. 53-66), à l'exclusion de la thématique dionysiaque à laquelle est consacrée un chapitre à part (p. 67-80), sujets relatifs au Temps (personnifications des Saisons, Mois, Jours de la Semaine etc.) (p. 81-89), à l'Amphithéâtre (p. 91-100), thèmes cynégétiques (p. 101-108) ou concernant le Cirque et les courses de char (p. 109-115), les jeux athlétiques (p. 117-118), enfin les sujets "culturels" (Muses, Poètes, scènes théâtrales, masques) (p. 119-123). Cet inventaire une fois fait, la seconde partie (p. 127-174), qui comporte un chapitre premier et unique, étudie la question de la répartition géographique et chronologique de ce répertoire figuré, en privilégiant toutefois l'articulation historique, qui distingue la situation au IIe siècle (p. 128-134), à l'époque sévérienne (p. 134-145), puis dans la seconde moitié du IIIe siècle (p. 145-154), au Bas-Empire (p. 154-165), enfin aux époques vandale et byzantine (p. 165-170), mais aussi en proposant pour finir une vision d'ensemble de la répartition des thèmes figurés en mosaïque pendant toutes ces périodes (p. 171-174). La troisième et dernière partie (p. 177-217), qui ne comporte, elle aussi, qu'un seul chapitre, étudie de façon globale la question du rapport utilitas/decor: elle s'efforce de rendre compte de la "distribution fonctionnelle du répertoire décoratif à l'intérieur de la maison", en y distinguant "le domaine public" (p. 178-203) du "domaine réservé" (p. 203-215), pour terminer par quelques pages synthétiques sur la congruence entre fonction des espaces et thématique de leur décor de sol (p. 215-217). En appendice, un catalogue méthodique (p. 223-266) inventorie toutes les mosaïques prises en compte dans cette étude, classées par site géographique, les sites eux-mêmes classés par ordre alphabétique, et une liste des abréviations utilisées dans le corps de l'ouvrage en fournit la bibliographie (p. 269-283). Des indices thématique (p. 287-291) et géographique (p. 293-301), la table des planches (p. 303-311), douze graphiques en couleurs répartis en 5 planches (A à E), une carte de l'Africa antique (pl. I) et plus de 550 illustrations en noir et blanc (environ 120 reproductions de dessins et plus de 420 reproductions de photographies, trop souvent, hélas, en très petit format), réparties en CXXXIV planches, terminent l'ouvrage.

La difficulté de l'entreprise n'échappera à personne, et on ne s'étonnera pas qu'un tel effort de synthèse ait donné lieu, en dépit de ses grandes qualités, à quelques maladresses. Cet ouvrage étant issu d'une thèse universitaire, on peut être surpris que l'A. n'ait pas été mieux conseillée pour résoudre certains problèmes d'organisation formelle, somme toute assez faciles à surmonter. Dans la première partie, où sont inventoriés les thèmes de la mosaïque figurée, qui sont quasiment tous mythologiques ou à références mythologiques, il était pour le moins maladroit, on en conviendra, de prévoir un chapitre III intitulé "Sujets mythologiques"! Cette première partie souffre, en outre, d'un certain manque de synthèse et d'un éparpillement des catégories au gré d'une documentation qui aurait pu être mieux organisée : ainsi pourquoi rencontre-t-on dans le chapitre III une rubrique intitulée "miti ad ambientazione marina" (p. 58) alors que le chapitre I était consacré aux sujets à caractère marin ? Pourquoi y trouve-t-on Orphée (p. 58-59) et la discussion des thèmes musicaux et philosophiques (p. 63) alors que c'est le chapitre X qui est consacré aux images évoquant explicitement la culture (muses, poètes, théâtre et masques). Et l'on voit donc que théâtre et masques, traités dans ce chapitre X, y sont artificiellement dissociés de l'imagerie dionysiaque qui, elle, fait, en principe, l'objet du chapitre IV. Quant aux scènes de l'amphithéâtre, du cirque et du stade, elles sont distribuées en trois courts chapitres distincts (VI, VIII et IX) quand elles pouvaient être regroupées en un seul, sous l'intitulé des "Jeux".

De même, la bizarrerie qui consiste à n'avoir qu'un seul chapitre dans chacune des 2e et 3e parties pouvait être aisément corrigée en adoptant, pour diviser chaque partie, les divisions mêmes de chaque chapitre unique ici présenté: cinq articulations chronologiques pour la partie 2, assorties d'une conclusion synthétique, et, pour la partie 3, deux chapitres, l'un réservé à la partie "publique" de la maison (qu'il vaudrait mieux appeler "espaces de représentation", la maison tout entière restant, quoi qu'il arrive, dans la sphère du privé) et l'autre au domaine intime, "réservé" (ici, l'expression choisie est heureuse).

Enfin, le plan d'ensemble du livre aurait sans doute gagné à être différent : il aurait été logique, après l'étude synchronique des thèmes décoratifs (1ère partie), de trouver d'abord l'étude, elle aussi synchronique, de leur répartition dans l'espace de la maison (donc en 2e partie, et non en 3e) pour arriver enfin à la déclinaison diachronique de tout ce matériel, qui aurait dû se trouver en 3e et dernière partie de ce qui est, après tout, une étude historique.

Fort heureusement, ces maladresses de forme n'empêchent pas l'ouvrage d'être excellent sur le fond. L'énorme quantité de documentation est saisie à bras le corps : répartis sur une cinquantaine de sites, plus de 200 édifices, à caractère domestique assuré ou probable (demeures et thermes privés), sont pris en compte, avec leurs mosaïques figurées inventoriées dans les moindres détails. L'Auteur ne pouvait faire état des inédits, mais presque tout ce qui pouvait être mentionné l'a été : adossée à l'entreprise des Amplissimae atque ornatissimae domus, à laquelle elle a été associée, Marta Novello a pu bénéficier de sa documentation très riche, et a tenu à jour la bibliographie autant qu'il était possible, puisque les publications de 2005 (en particulier le IXe Colloque de l'AIEMA [Association internationale pour l'étude de la mosaïque antique], tenu à Rome) et même 2006, ainsi que des communications encore sous presse (notamment présentées au Xe Colloque de l'AIEMA, tenu à Conimbriga), ont été prises en compte, ce qui est remarquable s'agissant d'une publication diffusée dès le début de 2008. De ce fait, un grand nombre de documents nouveaux viennent ici s'ajouter à ceux autrefois mis en oeuvre par Katherine Dunbabin (1978), documents aussi spectaculaires, entre autres, que les pavements de la maison d'Africa à El Jem découverte par Hédi Slim (Thysdrus 12, pl. CXII-CXIV), des thermes de Sidi Ghrib publiés par Abdelmajid Ennabli (Sidi Ghrib 1, pl. LXXI-LXXIII), de la maison des Deux chasses à Kélibia étudiée par Mongi Ennaïfer (Clipea 1, pl. XXI-XXII), de celle de Vénus à Lemta révélée par Néjib Ben Lazreg (Leptiminus 2) ou encore la mosaïque dite du "cordonnier" (il s'agit en réalité d'un tailleur) (Clipea 2, pl. XXIb), celle à l'Orphée de Rougga (Bararus 1a, pl. Xa), elles aussi signalées par Hédi Slim, sans oublier la prodigieuse mosaïque des Îles grecques de Haïdra ou encore l'ensemble, tardif, de Henchir Errich, récemment portés à la connaissance du public par Fathi Béjaoui (Ammaedara 2 -- malheureusement la photographie que donne l'A., pl. IXd, est indéchiffrable -- ; Hr Errich 1), et bien d'autres. La richesse de la documentation ainsi réunie est une des grandes qualités de cet ouvrage. On peut seulement regretter que, sans doute pour des raisons économiques bien compréhensibles, on ait pris le parti, pour l'illustration photographique, du noir et blanc exclusif et du petit format, renonçant ainsi à ce que les images donnent une idée, même imparfaite, de l'extraordinaire qualité artistique de ces peintures de pierre qui peuplaient les maisons romaines d'Afrique.

A vrai dire, l'exhaustivité n'est pas entièrement au rendez-vous. D'abord se pose le problème des thermes. Plusieurs sont pris en compte, en qualité de thermes certainement ou hypothétiquement associés à une demeure privée, domus ou villa. Mais l'incertitude, dans ce domaine, est fréquente : sans doute fallait-il écarter tous les édifices balnéaires, en réservant une étude ultérieure à la décoration thermale, ou, au contraire, les prendre en compte tous, s'agissant d'un décor de toutes façons lié à la sphère de la vie quotidienne privée, même dans le cadre communautaire des thermes dits, par abus de langage, "publics". En tout état de cause, il n'était pas légitime d'écarter de la documentation l'édifice thermal de Sidi Ali ben Nasr Allah3 (à l'iconographie, riche et originale, organisée autour d'un Neptune central en position de majesté) puisque, au cours de sa présentation à Rome en 2001, on avait insisté (Noël Duval, Mongi Ennaïfer) sur l'association très probable de ces petits thermes à une villa encore à découvrir. De même, on peut se demander s'il fallait vraiment écarter les fameux thermes de Thémétra, autrefois publiés par Louis Foucher, auxquels il est portant souvent fait allusion dans cet ouvrage, sous prétexte qu'ils avaient "une possible destination publique" ?4 La question se pose souvent à propos de ce type d'édifices.

On peut aussi relever quelques omissions regrettables parmi les récentes découvertes liées à l'iconographie domestique, comme c'est le cas pour la publication par Hédi Slim, du grand oecus corinthien de la maison d'Orphée à Rougga (Bararus 1) qui comporte notamment, entre bien d'autres thèmes mythologiques -- dont un superbe Hélios trônant --, une rarissime figuration de la Chute de Phaéton,5 indirectement et insuffisamment mentionnée ici (p. 225).

D'autres critiques mineures peuvent être faites ici ou là. Au hasard : à propos de la maison des Nymphes de Nabeul (Neapolis 1), pourquoi contester que le grand triclinium ait été organisé selon un dispositif en T+U, alors que la bordure interne de la branche intermédiaire du U était partiellement conservée, ce qui m'avait permis de préciser avec certitude la largeur exacte et la forme de ce tapis ?6 Toujours pour le même ensemble, pourquoi faire encore état, p. 57 et 245, d'une lecture iconographique erronée que j'ai moi-même corrigée depuis plus de vingt ans dans un retractatio publique ?7

S'intéressant, dans le chapitre VIII de la 1ère partie, à la thématique du cirque et des chevaux vainqueurs, et s'efforçant avec raison de mettre en évidence ses valeurs sémantiques, comment se fait-il que l'Auteur ne se préoccupe pas plus de l'étude des noms de chevaux donnés par de nombreuses inscriptions en mosaïque et passe sous silence l'ouvrage, fondamental sur ce sujet, de Marta Darder ?8 Toujours dans le domaine équestre : il n'est pas du tout sûr que la maison aux Chevaux de Carthage (ici Karthago 11) soit une demeure privée et l'hypothèse qu'il puisse s'agir d'une schola de la faction des Bleus est très forte ; il fallait sans doute le signaler au moment où l'on choisissait néanmoins de qualifier cet édifice de "demeure" (p. 239) et de l'intégrer au corpus.

L'abondance de la matière est telle, qu'il est inévitable d'avoir à discuter tel ou tel point. Pour l'essentiel, on sera infiniment reconnaissant à l'Auteur d'avoir rassemblé cette considérable documentation et d'avoir posé à son sujet les bonnes questions : elle s'est confrontée à l'examen systématique de la valeur sémantique de ces ornementations foisonnantes et s'est efforcée de mettre en relation l'usage des décors figurés avec leurs fonctions restituables, si faire se peut, dans l'espace de la domus. On sera particulièrement intéressé par les tentatives d'évaluation statistique et de représentation graphique données sous forme de "camemberts" aux planches C à E, où l'Auteur réussit à synthétiser visuellement les principaux résultats de son enquête (sans trop s'illusionner elle-même, je pense, sur la pertinence des pourcentages, puisqu'il ne s'agit pas de documents en très grands nombres ni assurément univoques). Parce que son information est très solide et très abondante, parce que la masse des données qu'elle fournit est aisément consultable grâce à la clarté de la présentation et aux différents indices, parce qu'elle a su aller au fond des choses, chercher à interpréter et à comprendre et donc dépasser le niveau seulement descriptif, dont d'autres se contentent trop souvent, l' Auteur nous donne ici un grand livre, désormais indispensable à tout chercheur concerné par les images antiques, et nous permet ainsi de faire un grand pas en avant dans l'étude du décor domestique romain. Qu'elle en soit remerciée.


1.   Katherine M.D. Dunbabin, The Mosaics of Roman North Africa. Studies in Iconography and Patronage, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1978.
2.   Silvia Bullo, Francesca Ghedini et alii, Amplissimae atque ornatissimae domus (Aug. Civ., II, 20, 26). L'edilizia residenziale nelle città della Tunisia romana, Rome, 2003 ("Antenor Quaderni", 2).
3.   Mongi Ennaïfer, Néjib Ben Lazreg, "Les mosaïques des thermes de Nasr Allah (Tunisie)", in La mosaïque gréco-romaine IX, Rome, EFR, 2005, p. 519-531. L'A. connaît cette publication et c'est donc en connaissance de cause qu'elle a écarté cet édifice thermal de son corpus, alors qu'elle mentionne le site à plusieurs reprises au cours de son étude.
4.   Cf. p. 36, n. 88.
5.   Hédi Slim, "La Chute de Phaéton sur une mosaïque de Bararus-Rougga en Tunisie", CRAI, 2003, p. 1103-1133, avec une excellente illustration en couleurs.
6.   Cf. mon NYMPHARUM DOMUS, mos. 14, cf. p. 63 et pl. XXVII, 1. La présence, bien visible sur quelques centimètres, de la bordure intérieure du segment nord (bande blanche encadrée de deux filets noirs) permet de conférer à ce dernier une profondeur de 1,20 m et prouve qu'il s'agit bien d'un tapis en U destiné à recevoir les lits de banquet.
7.   "Philoctète à Nabeul. Une retractatio", BSNAF, 1989, p. 232-238. L'Auteur connaît pourtant, et cite cet article, qui aurait dû l'amener à ne plus faire état de mon ancienne interprétation de la mosaïque n. 29 de la maison des Nymphes (pièce n. 17). Ce n'est pas parce qu'une erreur a été écrite une fois qu'il faut la répéter indéfiniment, surtout après qu'elle a été reconnue et corrigée par son propre auteur.
8.   Marta Darder Lissón, De nominibus equorum circensium. Pars Occidentis, Barcelone, Reial Acadèmia de Bones Lletres, 1996.

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Tiziano Dorandi, Laertiana: Capitoli sulla tradizione manoscritta e sulla storia del testo delle Vite dei filosofi di Diogene Laerzio. Beiträge zur Altertumskunde Bd. 264. Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2009. Pp. xiii, 276. ISBN 9783110209143. $140.00.
Reviewed by Ivana Costa, Universidad de Buenos Aires

Investigador especializado en la historia de la transmisión de la obra de Diógenes Laercio, Tiziano Dorandi ha reunido en este valioso conjunto de ensayos, Laertiana, los resultados de su trabajo exhaustivo sobre los manuscritos de las Vidas de los filósofos, un trabajo que lleva ya varios lustros, y se orienta tanto al ámbito paleográfico y codicológico (en este terreno tiene Dorandi hoy la autoridad más completa sobre el tema) como al ámbito filológico y en parte al filosófico, pues sus conclusiones involucran a la historia de la transmisión y crítica del texto de Diógenes Laercio, fuente indispensable para nuestro conocimiento de vastos tramos de la historia de la filosofía antigua.

La decisión de editar todos estos sustanciosos estudios (varios fueron ya publicados y son ahora actualizados) en un solo volumen no es de mera practicidad sino que tiene motivos estratégicos: ellos constituyen el background científico pertinente y necesario para complementar la lectura de la edición de Diógenes Laercio en dos volúmenes que Dorandi está preparando, y cuya publicación, al menos la de la primera parte, que abarca los cinco primeros libros de las Vidas de los filósofos, ha de ser inminente. Laertiana es un volumen arquitectónico, que parte de los cimientos del edificio laerciano, esto es: la catalogación de todos los manuscritos existentes a la fecha, para poder avanzar hacia una historia de la construcción del edificio de las Vidas... que tenemos a nuestra vista.

El primer capítulo de Laertiana, "Dai codici alle edizioni delle Vite dei filosofi", consiste en un catálogo de todos los manuscritos que contienen el conjunto de las Vidas de los filósofos o extractos de la misma, así como las ediciones de la obra desde la editio princeps Proebeniana (1533) hasta la de Marcovich (1999). Dorandi provee una lista completa de los manuscritos, dado que --señala-- los intentos previos fueron parciales;, incluso la lista de códices que provee la edición de Marcovich, leemos aquí, "no es exhaustiva". Dorandi clasifica así, inicialmente, todos los manuscritos laercianos sin detenerse en la relación entre los stemma de cada uno ni en las cuestiones relativas a la historia del texto. El orden de catalogación es geográfico: se enumeran las bibliotecas y los manuscritos que cada una conserva, sin distinguir entre codices integri, colecciones de excerpta y los testimonios que sólo contienen la Vita Platonis, pero con una descripción técnica, otra del contenido y de las indicaciones del copista, más una actualizada bibliografía. En el caso de los manuscritos que contienen excerpta, aparece la indicación de los respectivos fragmentos de las Vidas... . A esta lista sigue un apéndice con los manuscritos atribuidos a Diógenes Laercio, incluidos en la lista de Sinkewicz (que era, hasta la publicación de este volumen, la más completa disponible) y Pinakes,1 los cuales, sin embargo, según concluyen los estudios de Dorandi, deben ser eliminados (p. 32).

El segundo capítulo, "Ricerche sulla più antica tradizione delle Vite dei filosofi", el más extenso de todo el volumen, dividido a su vez en seis secciones, traza una historia de la tradición manuscrita antigua a través de los estudios parciales efectuados sobre los principales manuscritos íntegros y sobre la tradición de los excerpta Vaticana. Dorandi discute --para rechazarla-- la existencia de una tradición ítalo-griega de las Vidas... y propone una reconstrucción del subarquetipo ω, códice perdido al que se remiten los codices integri antiquiores, y de χ, el modelo tardoantiguo del cual derivó la tradición medieval (se regresará a esto en el cuarto capítulo).

En la primera parte, se analiza el trabajo de D. Knoepfler sobre la tradición manuscrita,2 cuyas conclusiones, especialmente en lo que hace a la superioridad del códice B entre los codices integri vetustiores (BPF), Dorandi confirma en base a estudios más amplios. Así, se subrayan algunas características conocidas del copista de B: "persona de escasa cultura literaria, había tenido dificultades para descifrar su modelo y se había limitado a reproducirlo mecánicamente sin tener en cuenta el sentido del texto que copiaba". Se sabe ahora que el copista anónimo fue corregido a su vez por el copista de B2, más agudo que su predecesor y cuyas numerosas correcciones, sin embargo, según Dorandi, no dejan suponer la existencia de otro manuscrito en el cual este segundo copista se habría basado (p. 58 y 60).

Las más precisas conclusiones de Dorandi sobre las características distintivas de B y P se encuentran, sin embargo, al final del capítulo cuatro. Allí leemos que estos dos son los codices integri más importantes, y que es más confiable B (antes de las correcciones de B2) porque conserva una transmisión más pura, y esto, precisamente, porque aquel copista miope y de escasa cultura, a quien "no le interesaba para nada el contenido del texto que transcribía" copió de manera "mecánica e impersonal" (p. 198), mientras que P, aun siendo más antiguo, está "lleno de correcciones, de dos manos a la vez, que entendían lo que estaban transmitiendo y retocaban aquí y allá" (pp. 198-199).

El estudio de B y de su relación con P y F, los otros dos códices que pertenecen a la misma familia (P es probablemente de la misma época que B, o incluso más antiguo que éste --tal la conclusión de este libro, novedosa respecto de otras opiniones precedentes--, mientras que F es posterior), permiten a Dorandi observar dos aspectos interesantes. El primero es que en el arquetipo de la tradición más antigua de las Vidas... los libros no estaban numerados. Vicio del copista? "O el propio Diógenes no había establecido (aún) la sucesión definitiva de los diez libros ni les había puesto títulos?" Dorandi opta por la segunda opción (p. 61). El segundo aspecto de interés es que de los titulitos que se anteponen a cada biografía singular en las ediciones de las Vidas... no hay huellas en los códices BPF, por lo que se puede concluir que faltaban también en ω (anterior al siglo X, según el stemma de Knoepfler) y "con toda probabilidad también en χ" (siglo VI). "No estamos frente a un vicio", concluye Dorandi: la ausencia de los títulos fue "voluntad de Diógenes" (p. 62).

La sexta parte de este segundo capítulo trata sobre la elaboración de la vulgata, situada por Dorandi en un periodo anterior al aceptado hasta ahora. G. Donzelli había establecido que la clase α, el prototipo del que deriva la vulgata, proviene de un anónimo corrector "irrespetuoso de la tradición" pero a su vez dotado de una cierta "rigidez escolástica que ama la disciplina formal, la analogía de la regla, pero ignora la libertad del uso lingüístico", quien se ubicaría en los primeros años del siglo XIII, quizás a fines del siglo XII.3 Esta hipótesis es llevada más atrás en el tiempo por Dorandi, quien concluye que el prototipo de la vulgata (α) se remonta a la mitad del siglo XII, y "nace de la fusión de la tradición del modelo perdido de F (γ) y de P, un manuscrito (hoy perdido) que dio lugar a un texto 'vulgato' (α), ampliamente manipulado, interpolado y corregido respecto de la tradición de ω y de φ (= χ), pero él también descendiente, de forma indirecta, de ω" (p. 109), que ha de ubicarse en el siglo IX, según el stemma confeccionado por Dorandi (p. 200).

El tercer capítulo, "Lettori bizantini delle Vite dei filosofi ovvero del buon uso della tradizione 'indiretta'", procura una historia del texto en época bizantina "a través del estudio de los autores que lo leyeron y utilizaron, de la Antigüedad hasta la caída de Constantinopla y más allá". Particularmente curiosa, además de su relevancia erudita, resulta la lista de los textos poéticos recogidos y los escritos por Diógenes Laercio, reunidos en la obra llamada Pammetros, a la que Diógenes alude en I, 39. M. Gigante llegó a considerar al Pammetros como el primero de dos volúmenes de poesía laerciana, compuesta no sólo por epigramas sino también por cantos, en métrica diversa, cuyo contenido refería inicialmente a la muerte de los filósofos, luego a los "pensadores clásicos", y finalmente a sus vidas y sus doctrinas.4 Precisamente en este paso dado desde la muerte hacia las vidas y las doctrinas, en las cuales "expandió Diógenes el horizonte poético hacia la historia", en este paso que se percibe al fusionarse el Pammetros dentro de las Vidas..., o sea, en su transformación de poeta a prosista, en ello radica "la originalidad de Diógenes Laercio".

Volviendo al uso que hicieron los bizantinos de Diógenes, Dorandi elabora la mencionada lista (pp. 154-158) de los pasajes de las Vidas... que contienen algunos de estos textos en verso y la pone en comparación con las citas u omisiones de estos mismos versos tal como aparecen (gracias a la labor del monje binzantino Constantino Cefalas, a comienzos del siglo X) en la Antologia Palatina y la posterior Antologia Planudea. El análisis permite a Dorandi descartar que Constantino Cefalas hubiera contado con una familia de manuscritos laercianos diversa de la que conocemos: el modelo de Cefalas debe haber sido, "verosímilmente χ" (siglo VI).

El brevísimo y rotundo capítulo cuatro, "Verso uno stemma codicum dei più antichi testimoni", ofrece en poco más de cuatro páginas los resultados principales de los estudios de Dorandi sobre los manuscritos, los cuales me limito a transcribir. La conclusión fundamental es que la tradición de las Vidas... es exclusivamente bizantina: no existe una rama occidental (ítalo-griega) autónoma (repesentada por los codices integri BPF) e independiente de la rama oriental que forman las dos colecciones de extractos del Vat. gr. 96 (φ/ φh). El estudio de BPF y φ confirma la hipótesis de que todos derivan, aunque por intermediarios diversos (ω para BPF y al menos χ para φ), de un único ejemplar, χ, conservado en Constantinopla (p. 195), del cual también derivan "las ramas más antiguas de la tradición 'indirecta': los extractos del libro 3 de las Vidas..., los epigramas 'laercianos' de la antología de Constantino Cefalas y los artículos filosóficos del Suda" (p. 195).

Por otra parte, el estudio de los errores presentes en los testimonios más antiguos permite a Dorandi extraer algunas conclusiones sobre las características de χ, único ejemplar, escrito seguramente en mayúsculas, por medio del cual la obra de Diógenes Laercio atravesó la tardoantigüedad. Se trataba de un ejemplar "en malas condiciones, con lagunas, infectado de errores de lengua y estilo, con interpolaciones; factores éstos acentuados por el hecho de que Diógenes no tuvo tiempo de revisar toda su obra y que ésta se 'publicó' póstumamente y sin grandes cuidados, a partir de cartas que dejó el autor" (p. 196). Es posible remontarse más atrás de χ? Dorandi responde: (a) es plausible que éste hubiera nacido de la fusión de dos ejemplares, uno que contenía hasta el libro 7 y otro, del libro 7 en adelante; (b) los estudios codicológicos permiten arriesgar que, en una primera fase de su transmisión, las Vidas... circulaban en rollos de papiro (al menos diez) y no en un códice; lo que coincide con la datación de Diógenes Laercio en la primera mitad del siglo III (pp. 197-198).

Antes de ofrecer el propio stemma de los testimonios más antiguos de la tradición laerciana (p. 200), se insiste en que las ediciones del texto de Diógenes deben confeccionarse en base a BPFφ y a los aportes de la tradición indirecta. Para que la curiosidad del investigador no se convierta en temeridad insensata, se agrega lo siguiente: en la medida en que φ (siglo XII) y la tradición indirecta --vía que nos podría conducir al arquetipo más antiguo, χ (siglo VI)-- son limitados, "debemos conformarnos con reconstruir solamente" el subarquetipo ω (siglo IX); aunque "ya ω y χ tenían numerosas corrupciones y lagunas" (p. 198).

En el capítulo quinto, "Le Vite dei filosofi tra Medioevo e Rinascimento latino", Dorandi se dedica a la transmisión latina de las Vidas..., siguiendo la huella de la perdida versio latina antiqua o versio Aristippi, reconstruida a partir del testimonio posterior que dan el Compendium moralium notabilium, de Jeremías de Montagnone, y del De vita et moribus philosophorum, obra erróneamente atribuida a Walter Burley, que circuló profusamente en el siglo XV entre coleccionistas de florilegios. Sobre el propio Aristipo, Dorandi concluye, siguiendo la huella de Gigante y Rose, que debe haber nacido a principios del siglo XII (p. 204). Pocos autores medievales parecen haber empleado esta obra, a excepción de los dos mencionados, Jeremías y el Pseudo Burley.5 El estudio filológico de este último (pp. 207-209) permite demostrar aquí una dependencia directa de Diógenes Laercio.

Sobre el perdido trabajo de Aristipo, Dorandi precisa que debió constar solamente de los dos primeros libros de las Vidas... (por la ausencia, sobre todo en el Pseudo Burley, de datos de Platón y los platónicos) así como, plausiblemente, de una traducción entera o parcial de la Vida de Aristóteles laerciana, que dio lugar a una vasta difusión, en el medioevo, de frases célebres aristotélicas (p. 216). El modelo griego de la versio latina de Aristipo, sostiene Dorandi --aunque sin certeza--, pudo haber sido el manuscrito B; aunque se reconoce que la importancia de ésta para la constitución del texto laerciano "es muy magra".

Mucho más relevante resulta la versio Ambrosiana, es decir la traducción completa de las Vidas... al latín, realizada por Ambrosio Traversari (1386-1439) en Florencia. Mediante esta edición, impresa en Roma en 1472, todo el Occidente latino tuvo un primer acceso a la obra de Diógenes Laercio, ya que la editio princeps griega recién vio la luz en Basilea en el año 1533 (p. 228). Dorandi traza un equilibrado balance entre las numerosas objeciones de Knoepfler a la versio Ambrosiana y los estudios de Gigante sobre cuál pudo haber sido la fuente griega para la traducción de Traversari (estudios que no considera Knoepfler). Dorandi coincide con Sottili acerca del enorme valor de la versio Ambrosiana para los Humanistas del Quattrocento,6 y para públicos cada vez más vastos, aunque alejados del griego, a quienes Traversari acercó las doctrinas de los estoicos, epicúreos, cirenaicos y escépticos pirronianos (p.227).

En el sexto capítulo, "Apéndice", Dorandi incluye una descripción sumaria (y un análisis razonado del contenido) de la Nachlass inédita confeccionada por Peter Von der Mühll (1885-1970) para su propio postergado proyecto de realizar una edición completa de las Vidas... que, según Dorandi, el filólogo alemán nunca abandonó. Von der Mühll fue autor de una valiosa edición de la Vida de Epicuro de Diógenes, que vio la luz en 1922, a cuya recepción entre los principales estudiosos de Epicuro y de Diógenes se le presta aquí debida atención. Dorandi también pasa revista a los artículos que Von der Mühll publicó entre 1920 y 1966 dedicados al testimonio laerciano sobre Epicuro (la composición de la décima Máxima Capital), sobre Arcesilao, Antagoras de Rodas, el estoico Herilio de Calcedonia, Demócrito, Antístenes y Diógenes el cínico; y finalmente a la dama a quien Diógenes Laercio dedicó todas las Vidas de los filósofos.

Como se sabe por una referencia inequívoca que aparece promediando el libro 3 (Philoplátoni dè soi dikaíos hypárchousei..., en 3,47) la obra de Diógenes estuvo inspirada por el interés de una mujer desconocida, que algunos estudiosos del siglo XIX conjeturaron podía haber sido la romana Arria. Lo cierto es que Von der Mühll volvió a las huellas de esa lejana inspiración femenina para concluir, que, como dice Dorandi: "la dedicatoria que ahora leemos es el fruto de la inserción en el texto de una nota marginal (del propio Diógenes) cuando estaba copiando nuevamente ese libro a partir de su propio 'manuscrito' " (p. 239). Dorandi comprende con claridad la consecuencia más interesante de este hallazgo: Diógenes no tuvo tiempo y dejó inconclusa la corrección de las Vidas... o de varios de sus libros. La otra consecuencia, por demás obvia, es que para la dedicatoria a la dama Diógenes sí quiso tener tiempo, lo cual, si bien resulta insignificante para el estudio de la Nachlass de Von der Mühll y para una apropiada y científica edición de las Vidas de los filósofos como la que lleva a cabo Dorandi, no obstante, echa un manto de frescura sobre el insondable pero preciso sentido de la urgencia que a veces tienen algunas geniales obras de la filosofía antigua.


2.   D. Knoepfler, La Vie de Ménédème d'Érétrie de Diogène Alerce, Basel, 1991.
3.   G. Donzelli, "I codici PQWCoHIEYJb nella tradizione di Diogene Laerzio", SIFC n.s. 32 (1960) 156-99.
4.   M. Gigante, "Diogene Laerzio: Da poeta a prosatore", Sileno 10 (1984) 245-8.
5.   Existe una edición crítica del Pseudo Burley, de Francisco Crosas López (Frankfurt, 2002), quien se basa en tres manuscritos españoles y considera las conclusiones de O.J. Stigall, a las que Dorandi reconoce no haber accedido (p.201 n.1).
6.   A. Sottili. "Il Laerzio latino e greco e altri autografi di Ambrogio Traversari", Studi G. Billanovich (Roma, 1984) II 669-745.

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