Wednesday, June 30, 2010


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Ingela Nilsson (ed.), Plotting with Eros: Essays on the Poetics of Love and the Erotics of Reading. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, University of Copenhagen, 2009. Pp. 292. ISBN 9788763507905. $66.00.
Reviewed by Tomás Hejduk, University of Pardubice

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

This collection, edited by Ingela Nilsson, deals with ancient Greek conceptions of the erotic and the evolution of those conceptions in the course of many centuries. Individual essays focus on the interconnection of the erotic with narrative from the very beginning in ancient Greek texts, through Roman writers, to pagan and Christian literature from both the eastern and western traditions, down to the time of Goethe.

In the tradition of experiencing the erotic in narrative and vice versa, (as, e.g. in Roland Barthes, Julia Kristeva or Anne Carson), Nilsson and all the contributors to the volume emphasize the "interrelatedness of the erotic and the literary" and might agree with Kellman's thesis: "That all literature ... is inherently erotic is the burden of a pervasive trope that maintains that the experience of literature ... is analogous to, or even a species of, lovemaking." (10) All writing (philosophical, Christian, historical, poetic, epic etc.), is understood by the authors of the volume as an aspect of the erotic: the text does not reflect some erotic plot, but is an integral part of it. The book can be recommended to people interested in literature as such. Each study is valuable in the cadre of the text which it deals with (Philosophy, Religious Studies, Classics, Byzantine Studies and Literature). And, of course, everyone who admits that love and narrative are essential parts of the life of human beings will have profit and pleasure from reading this book.

The understanding of literature as lovemaking is central to Iordanoglou and Person's study dealing with Socrates' (Diotima's) speech in the Symposium and focusing on the role of Eros as mediator. According to the authors, this must be explained as a "temporal" manifestation of the erotic. Thanks to the passage of time, Eros has a double nature. This temporal oscillation is behind Eros' ability to connect human beings with divine qualities of good and beauty. The authors then suppose a fundamental connection between philosopher and Eros and speak about an "erotic philosophy". (To the extent that they speak not only of Diotima's concept of philosophy, but of Plato's as well, thorough argumentation is lacking.) The basic question of such a philosophy is how to overcome the elusiveness of insights and contacts with good and beauty.

Öhrman shows how Catullus' relationship with Lesbia is reflected in his explanation of the Laodamia myth. The paradox of the myth can be seen in the fact that Laodamia, in love with Protesilaus, is not really erotic-- not in terms of her ascent on the ladder of love (Symposium). Catullus as erastes is the moralist who blames his beloved for such non-eroticism because she cannot develop their relationship any further. According to Öhrman, Catullus' retelling of the myth is intriguing because it includes "an alternative scenario of what could have been" (48). Two potential, alternative endings are offered in the Laodamia myth. If we really wanted to preserve the "erotic ambiguity", then we should read the story as perpetually ambiguous rather than having two potential endings.

Öhrman's theme of eroticism between the poet, his beloved, his reader and the heroes in his story, is further developed by Skoie, who adds a scholar's angle to this polygon -- should not we speak about an erotic polygon rather than about an erotic triangle?. She understands the scholar's commentaries as new narratives competing with the original story. Skoie analyses commentaries from the Renaissance, when the narrativising (emplotting) of Sulpicia's poems is first encountered, to the reading of Trankle (1990), where, on the contrary, it can be seen how difficult it is to avoid narrativity. In any case, Skoie's essay shows that the "scientific reading" as well is rooted in a narrative urge and she thus accomplishes her aim: "to break down the assumed barriers between passionate poets and painstaking scholars" (80).

Iordanoglou's and Höschele's essays focus on the epigrams of the Anthologia Palatina. Eros is depicted as in need of pharmakon, "a drug and a cure," from the Muses (96). This integration of the poetic, the erotic and the remedial is characterized mainly by the ambiguity of all its parts: the fullness of life is intertwined with death. Höschele studies erotic narratives in epigrams, i.e. the disclosure of "texts of maximal closure." (She also endorses the interrelatedness of epigrams and describes Meleager's technique of textual concatenation when creating his anthology, 100-1.) In Meleager's poems on Heliodora, Höschele looks for a fragmented love story of the poet and his beloved, i.e. "how the Heliodora poems work as a cycle and how they are embedded in Meleager's Garland" (103). These more concrete questions and explanations should throw light on rather more general questions about the openness of epigrams, their cohesion, etc. For instance, the idea of "Heliodora's sweet name being mixed into the wine" refers to the way "her" epigrams are to be mixed into the rest of the anthology. (107-8)

Whitmarsh shows the dynamism of Greek novels which is created by two contradictory principles: an impulse toward an end, such as a marriage (closure narratives), and a desire for endless wandering (the multifariousness of novelist discourse, for example on the level of intertextuality). In this context, Whitmarsh uses Freud's terms: when reading a story we desire both to reach the end (Thanatos) and at the same time, not to reach it at all (Eros). Nevertheless, the plot can be seen from the viewpoint of another alternative embodied by the goddesses Tuche and Aphrodite who represent endless episodicity and closurality, respectively. The domination of one side in every situation described does not lead to life without tension; even if Thanatos dominates over Eros, Tuche still remains and if Eros is dominant, he is still accompanied by Aphrodite. In other words, there are two basic forces operating in a novel: firstly, a non-closural force working as a syntagmatic mode of reading, i.e. events are not perceived in their position in the masterplot, but as aggregated in a seemingly random order. Secondly a closural force, paradigmatic in operations, i.e. allowing the reader to make sense of each event by locating it in a larger plot.

The eleventh-century Persian epic poem Vámiq and 'Adhrá builds its plot on the Greek novel Metiochus and Parthenope. Hägg and Utas read these texts, both preserved only in fragments, simultaneously and "take a look at the differences and similarities in the descriptions of love in the two texts" (174). Can anything of the Greek Eros be found in the Muslim context? Even Greek novels do not have much in common with the archaic or classic Eros and like the Islamic version, their symposium shares with Plato only the title and some motifs or stories. The new context is different and decisive: "Love remains a central power in those poems, but nothing is left any more to distinguish them from the Muslim mainstream. So on our way East this is where we have to wave farewell to our Greek Eros as a personified god of love."

Westberg analyzes the work, development and transformation of Eros in Procopius' Declamations from the viewpoint of its literary technique, motifs and strategies. He concludes, "Procopius' ambition is not to set out erotic philosophy in a systematic manner, but to explore the various single manifestations of Eros and the erotic power". (211) According to Westberg, Procopius' descriptions (of spring, flowers etc.) are not realistic but literary - and mainly in these terms his work is erotic as well. Given that the erotic mythology in general and erotic metamorphoses in particular play a central role in Procopius' writings, Westberg wants to stress the otherwise marginalized or useless otherness of primordial Eros in comparison with "our greeting-card Cupid" (Thornton).

Bourbouhakis argues that a very significant part of Niketas Choniates' historical or political narrative is "pleasure". The author studies novelistic elements in the History of Niketas and accentuates the role of the work's literary form because without the understanding of that, the contents of Niketas' narrative cannot be properly understood. In this sense he claims that "it is not the contents alone of these erotically charged stories I wished to emphasize, but their formal character..." (214). Again, Eros is shown as fundamentally linked with reading and writing, and Bourbouhakis stresses "the narrative value of all things erotic" (233).

Nilsson also explores the importance of narrativity and erotics in other texts than novels. She "examines to what degree the functions of eros were taken over by new texts" (239) and concludes that regardless of how metaphorical or allegorical (Christian) writings are, "the discourse itself still has an inescapable erotic significance" (244). In other words: "erotic experience is close to sanctity", and "all eroticism has a sacramental character" (247). Nilsson tries to think in terms of a long erotic and narrative tradition which begins in Antiquity and can be traced in Byzantine and other Greek cultural contexts: "eros constitutes a link between Platonic dialogues, ancient and Byzantine novels, and different kinds of hagiographical writings, and it is both metaphorically and explicitly expressed throughout this long narrative tradition." (260)

Cullhed focuses on the tradition of courtly love which he traces from Dante and Petrarch to Goethe. He singles out two aspects of male literary desire present at the beginning of the courtly love tradition: a love triangle (jealousy, rivalry) and love as a discipline to be learnt and mastered.

The choice of contributors, their erudition and coherence is one of the main benefits of the book. A trans-disciplinary study of this type was missing on the market. The use of the same terms in very different contexts: e.g. "love" in the context of Greek or Islamic novels and in connection with the tremendous and majestic, non-prettified, non-infantilized Eros of archaic or classic Greece might be perceived as problematic.1 Similarly problematic are the "obvious" theses which probably cannot be avoided in such a wide and trans-disciplinary cadre: e.g. the thesis that Eros in archaic or classic Greece means sexual violence, promiscuity etc., and that this Eros' manifestations "formed the basis of his reputation in Antiquity" (216). It is self-evident that later Christian authors had problems with such sexually violent Eros, but the question why they do not accept the Eros who is defined as a desire for the good and the beautifulis in fact much more interesting. Moreover, the connection of archaic or classic Greek Eros with sexual lust is not common at all, which is supported by the fact that Eros does not appear in sexual scenes depicted in vase paintings until the late classical period.2

Table of contents:

1. Ingela Nilsson, "Introduction, The Poetics of Love and the Erotics of Reading"
2. Dimitrios Iordanoglou and Mats Persson, "In the Midst of Demons, Eros and Temporality in Plato's Symposium"
3. Magdalena Öhrman, "The Potential of Passion, The Laodamia Myth in Catullus 68b"
4. Mathilde Skoie, "Reading Sulpicia, (Em)plotting Love"
5. Dimitrios Iordanoglou, "Is This Not a Love Song? The Dioscorides Epigram on the Fire of Troy (Anth. Pal. 5.138)"
6. Regina Höschele, "Meleager and Heliodora, A Love Story in Bits and Pieces?"
7. Tim Whitmarsh, "Desire and the End of the Greek Novel"
8. Tomas Hägg and Bo Utas, "Eros Goes East, Parthenope the Virgin Meets Vámiq the Ardent Lover"
9. David Westberg, "The Rite of Spring, Erotic Celebration in the Dialexeis and Ethopoiiai of Procopius of Gaza"
10. Emmanuel C. Bourbouhakis, "Exchanging the Devices of Ares for the Delights of the Erotes, Erotic Misadventures and the History of Niketas Choniates"
11. Ingela Nilsson, "Desire and God Have Always Been Around, in Life and Romance Alike"
12. Anders Cullhed, "Celebrating Angels, Ladies, and Girls, Aspects of Male Literary Desire from Dante to Goethe"


1.   Rosenmeyer, T.G.: Eros-erotes, Phoenix 5, 1951, pp. 11-22.
2.   Ludwig, P. W.: Eros and Polis, Desire and Community in Greek Political Theory, Cambridge University Press 2002, pp. 11 ff.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010


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Paul Collins, Assyrian Palace Sculptures. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008. Pp. 144. ISBN 9780292721692. $45.00.
Reviewed by Erika D. Johnson, University of Birmingham

Table of Contents and Introduction

In discussions of Assyrian art the term sculpture is used to describe sculptures in the round as well as bas-reliefs, and both are treated in this book. These reliefs are often accompanied by a cuneiform text, which can serve as a caption for the actions depicted but can also be part of a continuous text describing the other actions of the king throughout his reign. Other times, the cuneiform text can serve as a label; this type of text is often surrounded by a rectangular box, distinguishing it from other, narrative texts. The most recent publication covering the broad topic of the Assyrian sculptures in the British Museum was R. D. Barnett and A. Lorenzini's Assyrian Sculpture in the British Museum of 35 years ago, no longer available in print. Paul Collins's Assyrian Palace Sculptures differs from the previous publication in its greater attention to detail and by its use of colour photographs. Whilst J. Reade has published an overview of the Assyrian sculptures in the British Museum (Assyrian Sculpture, 1998 (second edition)) his book is intentionally aimed at a less specialised audience and gives much weight to the wider context of Mesopotamia and its culture. An aspect that is particularly important about the book under review is that the reliefs are given primacy so the text explains the message that the expert photographs portray. Here, Collins's intimate knowledge of the reliefs, with which as a curator in the British Museum he works daily, comes across throughout the book. The reliefs in the book have been chosen not only for their aesthetic quality, but for their cultural significance as well. A balance between scenes of warfare and ones that show the Assyrians as more than just harsh conquerors is perfectly met.

The ingenuity of the Assyrians shines through whether they are seen using battering rams to siege a city or fording a river by floating on inflated animal skins. Close-ups of sword scabbards and embroidery illustrate the great detail the Assyrians took when carving the reliefs. Though these types of images are included, they are not included solely because they are beautiful; the cultural history and religious significance of these details is fully explained in terms of both Assyrian society and their place in the reliefs. Collins has also emphasised the connection between the cuneiform text and relief in both the text portions of the book and the photographs. Since in some royal inscriptions we find descriptions of the manufacture of the reliefs, the intimate connection between text and image becomes manifest. The reliefs also have an international aspect, depicting not only battles in the Assyrian heartland, but also sieges in places further afield such as Palestine and Elam. For example, reliefs of the battle of Lachish are extant, not mentioned in the Assyrian royal inscriptions, but described in the Old Testament.

In the reliefs the king is always the centre of attention, not only in warfare, but in all activities. This is perhaps most notable in the depictions of royal lion hunts, with those of Ashurbanipal taking aesthetic pre-eminence. These sculptures further connect the images to the text of the royal inscriptions as the king's hunting activities as well as his military programme were often described in them. The king is also shown in religious contexts and this religious iconography constantly demonstrates the piety of the king toward Assur and the gods of Assyria.

The layout and format of the book make it easy for the reader to correlate the text with the images. Collins divides his book into five chapters, each chapter dealing with the relief programme of a specific Assyrian king; there is also an extensive introduction where Collins provides the context in which these sculptures were found along with the reception of them in nineteenth-century Britain. The inclusion of magazines and drawings from the time of the installation of the sculptures is especially enlightening regarding their reception when first unveiled. In describing how these works of art came to be housed in the British Museum, Collins laments the museum policy at that time of only accepting one example of each work since, were all the reliefs together, it would be easier to get a sense of how they appeared in their original contexts in the palaces. The last section of the introduction discusses the reasons for creating these sculptures as well as how they were made. A history of Assyrian royal inscribed images is given, along with the connections between reliefs and the corpus of texts known as royal inscriptions.

Chapter One is concerned with the reliefs of Ashurnasirpal II, who was 'the first Assyrian king to use relief decoration extensively' (p. 29). The religious and historical meaning of the reliefs is explained along with how the placement of the reliefs in the palace (mainly the programme of the throne room) achieves it. Chapter Two discusses the reliefs of Tiglath-Pileser III. These reliefs were made at the end of Tiglath-Pileser III's reign to record his extensive campaigning to regain the parts of the empire that had rebelled during the 125 years between his reign and that of Ashurnasirpal II. A discussion of the quality of his reliefs and their overall programme is included in this chapter. The next chapter considers the sculptures of Sargon II; here the illustrations are much more sparse since most of the reliefs are in the Louvre. Collins, however, does not lose the thread of his narrative from king to king.

Chapter Four introduces the sculptures of Sennacherib. In discussing the themes of the sculptural programmes of Sennacherib, Collins again reminds the reader of the interconnectivity of relief and text. The reliefs were usually accompanied by text. This text was sometimes lost as a result of some of the reliefs having been shipped from Iraq without this text intact; the inscription was often a standard one, thus repeated throughout the sculptural programme and consequently not saved on all reliefs. Special attention is given to the representation of the siege of Lachish, as it is not mentioned in the royal inscriptions. The placement of reliefs within the rooms of the palace and the order in which they were meant to be seen is also discussed with great success and gives the reader the feeling of actually 'being there.'

The final reliefs treated are those of Ashurbanipal where we find a more diverse thematic approach to the palace sculptures. Two major series of this king's reliefs are centred on the theme of the lion hunt. Along with the regular scenes of conflict, an unusual image of Ashurbanipal exists in his reliefs. We find a scene of the king reclining in a garden surrounded by only female attendants with the head of the Elamite king whom he defeated hanging from one of the branches. The importance these images held in ancient times resonates in the imagination when Collins explains that the image of the king was specifically sought out and smashed when Assyria fell to the Medes in 612 BC.

As a graduate student of Assyriology researching Assyrian history, this reviewer found that the book gave much new insight into the reliefs and the story they tell. For those not able to study the reliefs in the British Museum this book comes as near as any book can to conveying their majesty and exquisite content.

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Mandy Green, Milton's Ovidian Eve. Farnham/Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009. Pp. xi, 235. ISBN 9780754666660. $99.95.
Reviewed by Miklós Péti, Károli Gáspár University, Hungary


Comparisons between Paradise Lost and Greek and Latin epic poetry form a great tradition of Milton criticism: ever since Samuel Barrow's In Paradisum Amissum prefixed to the 1674 edition of Milton's poem,1 every age has produced its special versions of "Milton and X" where X could variously stand for Homer, Vergil, or any other classical epic author. Ovid has also been present on this list from the beginning: eighteenth-century editors noted Ovidian echoes and allusions in Paradise Lost, and in more recent times several monographs and studies have been published on Milton's indebtedness to the Latin poet.2 Mandy Green's Milton's Ovidian Eve, the first book-length contribution to the subject in the new millennium, is very much in line with recent and earlier scholarship on Milton and the classics in venturing beyond mere parallels and/or contrasts between the ancients and the modern poet, and concentrating on the special appropriation of Ovid (especially the Metamorphoses) in Paradise Lost. Further, Green's dominant focus on the character of Eve ensures that her book is not just another retelling of some new version of an old tale; as the reproduction of Botticelli's evocative "Venus pudica" on the front cover subtly suggests, a close look at the function of Ovidian traces in Milton's Eve will necessarily entail the revision of "the bigger picture", in this case, Ovid's general influence on Milton.

Indeed, what is at stake in Green's book is not merely the extent of Milton's indebtedness to Ovid in the formation of Eve's character, but rather the general problem of how allusions to the classics function in Paradise Lost. In the consideration of Milton's use of the classics it is often tempting to be swayed by the poet's tendency, in some of the most memorable passages (e.g. the invocations, the mythological similes, etc), to dismiss virtually all his (ancient and modern) predecessors in the promotion of his "not less but more heroic" project of theodicy.3 As a plethora of criticism testifies, however, such explicitly combative (and doubtlessly impressive) moments in Milton's poetry represent only a fraction of the range of the poet's allusions to the classics. Indeed, the really intriguing instances of Milton's engagement with the ancients come in unexpected places: for example, in the description of Chaos, in Raphael's narrative about the War in Heaven and the Creation, or in the character of Eve. Concerning this last example, it is now a critical commonplace that Paradise Lost contains an Eviad, that is, after the Fall Eve rises to prominence as epic heroine in a manner unprecedented in classical literature (16). Green's extended argument provides evidence for this radical revision of traditional epic roles: the "Ovidian frame of reference" in descriptions of Eve both before and after the fall plays a major part in the process through which "Milton unsettles preconditioned responses and converts this familiar story into a tale of the unexpected" (18).

Green's book is closely argued: between the Introduction providing a general theoretical framework and the Afterword about Ovid's and Milton's "poetic afterlives" seven chapters are allotted to seven different Ovidian allusions connected with Eve. Starting from the "Narcissus narrative" in Book IV and ending up with the narrator's comparison of Adam and Eve to Deucalion and Pyrrha after the fall in Book XI, these chapters demonstrate how Milton's allusions to the Metamorphoses are themselves metamorphic: the originally loosely connected Ovidian tales are drawn into an intricate network as they contribute to the history of the first human pair. As Green successfully shows, this undercurrent of Ovidian motifs provides a number of significant perspectives to parallel, offset, complement, call into question, or even subvert the Miltonic narrative. It is intriguing to discover, for example, how through allusion to the Ovidian story of Daphne in the account of Adam and Eve's first encounter in Paradise "the poem gestures towards repressed alternatives" (62). Or, to cite another example, Green convincingly argues in Chapter 5 (in many ways the central chapter in the book) that Milton's allusion to Metamorphoses XIV (Pomona's wedding of the vine and the elm) presents an "emblematic picture" of the first marriage (127) with significant hints about the hierarchy of genders in the prelapsarian condition. It is impossible here to recount all of Green's arguments in their complexity, but even these random examples suffice to illustrate that the author's discussion of Ovidian motifs in Paradise Lost is constantly bound up with some of the most contentious topics in contemporary Milton criticism. Consequently, although the book is centered on Eve, the author often calls attention to parallels and contrasts with other important characters in Milton's epic, most notably the allegorical figure of Sin, but also the Son whose "soft" and "feminine" qualities clearly evoke Eve's (Ovid inspired) softness: "this correlation", Green argues, "prepares us for the bold poetic equation of their redemptive agency" (197).

As the author is well aware, this intense encounter between ancient and modern in Milton's text necessarily influences interpretations of the original Ovidian narrative: "[o]ne reads Ovid differently after Milton" (210n). Still, Milton's Ovidian Eve caters more for students of English literature or comparativists than classicists. One of the great virtues of Green's approach is that beside the direct comparison of Paradise Lost and the Metamorphoses she regularly takes into consideration sixteenth and seventeenth century translations of Ovid (e.g. Sandys' or Golding's versions), thus allowing for a more generous conception of the early modern reception of the classics. It is exactly because of this ample perspective, however, that readers might miss extended discussion of the Elizabethan epyllia, the Ovidian erotic narratives of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries; it would certainly be interesting to know whether these popular pieces (e.g. Marlowe's Hero and Leander or Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis) had any influence on Milton's reception of Ovid. Apart from this slight reservation, however, Green's book can only be praised for illuminating an important and hitherto largely neglected allusive pattern in Paradise Lost.


1.   Barrow finishes his poem applying Propertius' praise of the Aeneid to Paradise Lost: "Cedite Romani scriptores, cedite Graii / [...] Haec quicunque leget tantum cecinisse putabit / Maeonidem ranas, Virgilium culices." in John Milton, Paradise Lost 2nd rev. ed. by Alastair Fowler (Harlow: Longman, 2007), p. 52.
2.   The most well-known of these are: Davis Harding, Milton and the Renaissance Ovid (Urbana: University of Illionois Press, 1946) and Richard DuRocher, Milton and Ovid (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985).
3.   See, for example, the invocations to Books I, III, and especially to Book IX where Milton talks about his "argument / Not less but more heroic than" the Iliad, the Aeneid or the Odyssey (lines 14-19).

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J. R. C. Cousland, James R. Hume (ed.), The Play of Texts and Fragments: Essays in Honour of Martin Cropp. Mnemosyne Supplements 314. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2009. Pp. viii, 580. ISBN 9789004174733. $225.00.
Reviewed by Miryam Librán Moreno, Universidad de Extremadura

Table of Contents

Este libro está concebido como un Festschrift en honor de Martin Cropp, distinguido especialista en Eurípides y editor de Electra e Ifigenia entre los Tauros (Warminster 1988 y 2000), coeditor de los fragmentos euripideos (Cambridge Mass. 2008), y comentarista de fragmentos selectos de Eurípides (Warminster 1995, Oxford 2004). Dicho Festschrift aspira a ser obra de consulta obligada en lo tocante a Eurípides. Treinta y dos nombres muy bien conocidos conforman la nómina de contribuyentes a este libro.1 Pese a la gran variedad y número de las aportaciones, el volumen es, salvo algunas excepciones, de bastante coherencia temática. Particularmente valiosa me parece la atención dedicada a uno de los 'parientes pobres' en el estudio de la tragedia griega, el drama fragmentario.

El volumen se subdivide en los siguientes apartados: (1) una amena semblanza a cargo de William Slater de la vida académica y la obra de M. Cropp (pp. 3-8); (2) Euripides and His Fragmentary Plays (pp. 11-91); (3) Euripides and His Extant Plays (pp. 94-217); (4) Euripides and His Context (pp. 221-305); (5) Aeschylus and Sophocles (pp. 309-368); (6) Euripides and His Influence (p. 371-457). Se añade un apéndice a la contribución de D. J. Mastronarde (p. 461-496), una exhaustiva bibliografía de la obra M. Cropp, y sendos índices de lugares y nombres. Por cuestiones de limitación de espacio me centro exclusivamente en las diez contribuciones relativas a la tragedia que estimo indispensables: no debe concluirse de ello que las omitidas sean insignificantes o ayunas de calidad. Animo calurosamente a los lectores a consultar el índice de contenidos citado al comienzo de esta reseña para obtener una visión global de la gran envergadura de este volumen y la enjundia de su nómina de contribuyentes.

"The Persuasions of Philoctetes" de Ruth Scodel descubre la presencia de temas políticos que (literalmente) brillan por su ausencia en esa tragedia de Sófocles, recurriendo a la intertextualidad (p. 49). La autora compara el drama con las versiones de Equilo y Eurípides y concluye que Sófocles sustituye la preocupación política por cuestiones más básicas sobre el valor en sí de la participación en la vida política. Es posible que por la naturaleza del argumento del drama el público esperara alusiones a asuntos contemporáneos como Alcibíades y el golpe oligárquico, pero la negativa de Sófocles a tratarlos directamente resulta significativa: hay cuestiones más fundamentales de los que ocuparse, como la corrupción del mundo político que considera a las personas como simples medios para un fin, o la cuestión de si es posible participar en la vida política de una forma ética (pp. 60-61). El trabajo de R. Scodel es, como cabe esperar de esta estudiosa, a mi juicio muy necesario para la tarea de enjuiciar el espinoso problema de las posibles valencias políticas del drama ateniense.

"The Lost Phoenissae: an Experiment in Reconstruction from Fragments" de Donald J. Mastronarde es sin duda uno de los puntos fuertes del volumen. Propone un experimento de lo más interesante. Supongamos que Fenicias de Eurípides no se hubiera conservado: qué aspecto tendría dicha tragedia si la reconstruyéramos a través de los fragmentos, testimonios y citas transmitidos indirectamente o por papiros, con el auxilio de la iconografía y otros medios indirectos? El autor lleva a cabo dos reconstrucciones distintas: poniéndose en la situación de un editor que trabajara antes del descubrimiento de los papiros y del valor de la iconografía para la reconstrucción de los dramas fragmentarios, y en el papel de un editor posterior, cuando ya es posible servirse de ambos medios auxiliares (p. 63). Mastronarde concluye que en ambos casos se sabría bastante de esta hipotética Fenicias perdida: la reconstrucción del argumento, personajes y episodios principales estarían al alcance del estudioso. Por el otro lado, las variaciones estilísticas, el tono, la ironía, las correspondencias y los motivos resultarían indetectables (p. 76). Este capítulo es una de las piezas más originales, imaginativas y estimulantes que he leído en los últimos años, y debería ser lectura obligada para todo aquel interesado en la reconstrucción del drama fragmentario. Recomiendo vivamente el examen de los 'fragmentos' y 'testimonios' incluidos en el apéndice de este extraordinario capítulo (p. 461-496).

"New Music's Gallery of Images: The 'Dithyrambic' First Stasimon of Euripides' Electra" de Eric Csapo continúa la serie de fundamentales trabajos que este estudioso dedica a la Nueva Música. Basándose en una comparación con la técnica narrativa general de las metopas en el friso, C. propone que el primer estásimo de Electra de Eurípides presenta detalles aislados de una narrativa cíclica que el espectador debe reconocer y conectar. Las imágenes están vinculadas entre sí y con el drama a través de motivos, temática e imaginería (p. 95-6). La Nueva Música trata de crear una poesía más musical con un lenguaje más sensual y fluido (p. 96). El nuevo ditirambo, por tanto, no ofrece narrativa estructurada mediante conexiones lógicas, sino una arquitectura musical con una galería de imágenes que funcionan a través de la repetición y variación de tonalidad. La hipótesis del autor me resulta atractiva porque clarifica y revela los aspectos menos conocidos y más sutiles de la técnica compositiva de Eurípides, y por tanto ayuda a resolver problemas de estructura y relevancia dramática planteados por este tipo de estásimos habitualmente considerados como inconexos. Aun así, me surge una duda ante una cuestión práctica: sería posible que el público original aprehendiera matices tan lábiles y delicados sin el apoyo de un texto escrito que seguir y releer?2 A qué tipo de público estaría entonces dirigida la técnica de composición de este tipo de estásimos?

"Sophocles' Chryses and the Date of Iphigenia in Tauris" de C.W. Marshall es, por su revisión de los argumentos para la datación métrica de los dramas de Eurípides, otro de los capítulos indispensables de este volumen. El autor ofrece tres argumentos para datar Ifigenia entre los Tauros entre 419/3 y no 414/3 (p. 143). En primer lugar, la evidencia métrica. Tras analizar los datos, concluye que no hay razones de orden métrico para restringir la fecha de representación a los años 414/3, sino que puede ampliarse a 419/3 (p. 145). En segundo lugar, estudia la cita paratrágica de Crises de Sófocles en Aves de Aristófanes. M. concluye que Crises es posterior a Aves, y que es Crises la que cita del pasaje paratrágico de Aristófanes, no al contrario (p. 145-149). En tercer lugar, M. sostiene que Ifigenia entre los Tauros fue estrenada antes que Crises. Esta última obra mantiene un diálogo intertextual con Ifigenia entre los Tauros, a modo de secuela crítica del drama euripideo (p. 154). Su conclusión final es que Crises debe datarse después de 414 y debe ponerse en relación con otras dos obras que parecen responder a Eurípides, Electra (ca. 412) y Filoctetes (409) (p. 155). Ifigenia entre los Tauros demuestra que el escapismo de las llamadas tragedias románticas de Eurípides no es, como comúnmente se cree, una reacción a la expedición ateniense a Sicilia (p. 155). Con respecto a su segundo argumento, el autor argumenta con fuerza y elegancia en favor de su hipótesis, pero su conclusión no me resulta convincente: no sabemos si Crises era un drama satírico o no, y, además, basar parte del peso de su hipótesis en la posibilidad de que Sófocles citara directamente de una comedia, sin aducir ningún paralelo en Sófocles de dicha práctica,3 me parece arriesgado.

"Euripides' New Song: the First Stasimon of Trojan Women" de David Sansone demuestra que el primer estásimo de Troyanas pertenece a la categoría de Nueva Música pero no es un mero embolimon (p. 202), sino que incorpora e integra dos géneros, la poesía épica y su sucesor (p. 194), el género trágico. El género épico es representado por la Ilíada, que suministra el material narrativo de Troyanas y a cuyos cantos II y XXIV alude el estásimo euripideo, mientras que la tragedia aporta la revitalización no tanto de del canto coral arcaico cuanto de la vieja forma trágica de las trilogías conectadas, con la Aquileida esquilea como posible modelo (p. 202-3). El habitual ingenio y la erudición de Sansone brillan en toda la contribución, y la lectura de este capítulo, en comandita con el de E. Csapo, es una salutífera demostración de que ya no es posible describir ciertos estásimos euripideos como meros interludios líricos.

"Euripides, Electra 432-486 and Iphigenia in Tauris 827-899" de Charles Willink es una bienvenida incursión en la crítica textual que varía la tónica general de estudios con un enfoque fundamentalmente literario. W., uno de los más reconocidos críticos textuales actuales de la tragedia griega y autor del comentario de referencia de Orestes (Oxford 1986), ofrece notas críticas sobre el texto de Electra e Ifigenia entre los Tauros que ningún interesado en la crítica textual de ambos dramas puede permitirse ignorar.

"Rhesus: Myth and Iconography" de Vayos Liapis estudia las fuentes literarias en las que se basa el Reso transmitido como euripideo y descubre trazas de una versión pindárica, posiblemente de origen cíclico, en los escolios iliádicos, así como restos de una versión fundada en un oráculo presente en Virgilio. Ambas versiones, postula, son incompatibles entre sí y con la Dolonía iliádica (p. 281); el autor de Reso ha tratado de armonizarlas sin demasiada pericia (p. 281). Asimismo, ve como fuente de Reso la figura de Aquiles en la Etiópida (el poema épico más que la trilogía esquilea) (p. 286), con Reso como una especie de anti-Aquiles o nuevo Aquiles (p. 283). Examina también tres pinturas vasculares datadas entre 360 y 340 a.C. que pueden reflejar la representación de Reso o una tragedia muy semejante a ella (pp. 286-289).

"The Setting of the Prologue of Sophocles' Antigone" de John Porter examina el prólogo de Antígona a la luz de la hipótesis de la trágicamente desaparecida Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood de que dicho prólogo, al presentar a Antígona negativamente como una conspiradora nocturna, desposee a la heroína desde el principio de las simpatías de los espectadores. El autor analiza las expresiones con las que Sófocles determina el tiempo en el que transcurre la obra y concluye que el prólogo no tiene lugar ni de noche ni rayando el alba (p. 341), y que la evaluación del público original no dependería de nociones apriorísticas sobre el juicio que merecen unas mujeres que abandonan el oikos (p. 393), sino de lo que vieron y oyeron en el diálogo entre Antígona e Ismene en Ant. 21 sqq.. Si Sófocles hubiera considerado el carácter nocturno de la escena un dato dramáticamente significativo, no se habría conformado con esconderlo en pequeñas y ambiguas referencias temporales. Me parece muy acertada la insistencia del autor en el valor de las convenciones escénicas y dramáticas y en el hecho de que un drama es sobre todo una representación y no una novela que pueda ser releída; por ello no es verosímil postular que información imprescindible para la comprensión de la obra se esconda en las esquinas del drama.4

"The Role of Apollo in Oedipus Tyrannus" de David Kovacs parte del análisis clásico de E. R. Dodds sobre la teodicea de Edipo Rey ("On Misunderstanding the Oedipus Rex", Greece and Rome 13, 37-49) y busca armonizar dos respuestas aparentemente contradictorias al problema metafísico de fondo de esta tragedia: "Edipo no es una marioneta en manos de los dioses" frente a "Apolo lo induce al parricidio y el incesto" (p. 359). Todas las acciones de Edipo son libres, pero como Apolo sabe más que Edipo y divulga y censura información a voluntad, Apolo consigue con facilidad su propósito (p. 360): el dios da a Edipo la información necesaria para que abandone Corinto sabiendo que se encontrará con Layo si tal hace, y conociendo el carácter de ambos, es consciente de que el resultado natural de tal encuentro será el parricidio (p. 361). La segunda tesis de K. es que la mano de Apolo continúa visible en el transcurso del drama (p. 363): Apolo, como hizo en el pasado, ha guiado a Edipo hasta el resultado que había predicho Tiresias (p. 366). Cuáles son los motivos de la inquina de Apolo? K. propone que según la tradición esquilea Apolo odia a la raza de Layo y busca aniquilarla: por tanto, Edipo merece el resentimiento de Apolo no por sí mismo, sino por ser hijo de Layo (p. 367). Desde el punto de vista de las actitudes tradicionales griegas sobre la venganza, la posición de Apolo no sería ni inmoral ni injusta (p. 368).

En suma, este Festschrift cumple el objetivo propuesto, que es el de convertirse en referencia necesaria para todo aquel interesado en Eurípides y en la tragedia clásica; sus integrantes son una parte fundamental del "who's who" de estudiosos euripideos.5 Éste es, por vocación y resultado, un volumen destinado a ser manejado con provecho por filólogos clásicos de todos los países: ante esta premisa, la nómina de contribuyentes da la impresión de estar demasiado escorada hacia el mundo anglófono: son todos los que están, pero no están todos los que son.


1.   Muchos de ellos ya habían sido colaboradores del honorando en el volumen coeditado por Martin Cropp, David Sansone y el lamentado Kevin Lee, Euripides and Tragic Theatre in the Late Fifth Century (ICS 24-25, 1999-2000).
2.   Cf. O. Taplin, The Stagecraft of Aeschylus. The Dramatic Use of Exits and Entrances in Greek Tragedy, Oxford 1977, 15-18.
3.   M. sí aduce ejemplos de lo que, siguiendo a E. Sharffenberger, llama paracomedia en Eurípides (p. 148-149).
4.   O. Taplin, The Stagecraft of Aeschylus. The Dramatic Use of Exits and Entrances in Greek Tragedy, Oxford 1977, 18.
5.   Como afirma el blurb de la página web de Brill: "an international 'who's who' of Euripidean studies and Athenian drama", (read complete article)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Version at BMCR home site
Renato Raffaelli, Alba Tontini (ed.), Lecturae Plautinae Sarsinates. XI. Mercator (Sarsina 29 settembre 2007). Ludus Philologiae. Lecturae Plautinae Sarsinates 11. Urbino: QuattroVenti, 2008. Pp. 116. ISBN 9788839208439. €16.00 (pb).
Reviewed by John Henderson, King's College, Cambridge

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

Nil desperandum, no need to hide: Mercator is a happening script. Formerly stuck in the shadow of Casina, Rudens, even Trinummus, this intricate and well-turned play is now updated and revalued by Antony Augoustakis,1 and soon to get the rigorous editio Plautina Sarsinatis series treatment from Boris Dunsch, plus there is an edition with commentary for Cambridge in preparation.2 After a scene-setting and curtsey-to-sponsor 'Presentazione' from the series editors, the first three pieces substantially revalue important aspects of Mercator; the other two draw us on into the humanist reception of Plautus in Italy.

1. Where Matt Leigh's chapter on Mercator3 parses the play for ideological mileage with adulteration through import culture, Dunsch stresses the dramatic baggage of maritime trade as harbouring play within the figure of the merchant, between the father's father, his son the father and the father's son. Here the middle man, the senex amator pater, had already halfways escaped from his own repressive farming background (just a glimpse of first night at the Panathenaea proms every fourth year, 65-8), and he is reproduced, through lip-deep denial, in the adventures of his son abroad scoring in the skin-trade as in his payback of father's investment of cargo: in an unwitting extension of shared venture-risk, the pair of buccaneers compete with each other in the same coin through their re-doubled proxies, trading bids to land the catch as they pass in the night, homing on a safe haven to store the dreamboat contraband, but losing control of the laundering, as they run bang into the brick wall of their own domus -- built on the sanctions of marriage, dowry, propriety, same as the grim old work-ethic farm. The difference is that the exemplum of, and betrothal by, grandad imposed on father was enough that he missed the love-boat and can't now clamber on board when he's past it (ask momma, no don't ask momma), whereas his son was read the 'grampa' riot-act at second-hand but after faithfully flogging along father's trade route collected a tasty-naughty bonus, plonked in his lap for a night on Rhodes and his for a cut of pa's unwitting float. The comic difference, that is, which Dunsch traces through to the deal we are cut at the death: the closing invitation to bless the new wave of Roman play-boys launched out across the empire to wheel and deal in oceans of fun and fluff 'for' us. Dunsch carefully lines up Cato with the commercial calculus dished out in the linguistic fencing, in the showpiece metaphorics of dreamwork marked up for cashing out and in the auctioneering hype of gazumping imperatives that see and raise 'first buckle down and make your fortune' against 'once you've made it, leave spills and thrills in your wake'. Filthy lucre, sexy money, Mercator drives hard bargains through repetition-compulsion until it's time to cut and, maybe, run. When the deal goes down.

2. Mazzoli pitches into the distended prologue where the boy's version of the preliminaries proudly, in lingering, loving detail, skews the play's. This self-aware role-player worms libido into fibula, warping amor into amorgumentum, till his querulous denunciation of love's downsides churns out a chanting cascade of comically associative slogans that anticipate the business of the whole script, nailing seductive 'charm' in with the rest of the black marks that extrude the lover from regulation normality. M. tracks the proleptic shopping list through scene upon scene, as servus currens and comrade 'helper' in turn make a point of telling us, in no uncertain terms, above the hubbub and bustle. Until the flourish delivers when this pal weighs in as a six-pack-in-one of Succour, spelling curtains for a corresponding half-dozen Plagues and welding the show tight and the script fast (845-7 vs 848-9). Rhetoric packages a winning team of comic-over-elegiac brags from freeloading espousal of the societal support system of fides that twists in the caricature to smuggle whingeing in as above board and fair play. Together with Slater's new paper,4 M.'s scrupulous close-reading utterly blows away wrong-headed carping at the verbal hypergymnastics of Mercator's funoramic prologue and bumps up the later paraded hotspots of this taut script-writing to full valuation. It's a bargain.

3. Raffaelli uses Ovid's narratological-cum-metapoetic massaging with Alcyone's dream in Metamorphoses 11 as prelude to his on-the-money re-reading of Mercator's star item, father Demipho's metatheatrically heralded psychedelic-cum-metapoetic dreamscape on his first appearance (miris modis di ludos faciunt hominibus ..., 225-270). R. leaves in his wake all attempts to beat the dreamer at his own game by completing his stumped item-by-item decoding for him, equation-style, as he alerts us instead to beware our inevitable inveigling into extrapolation from our expertise in comic dynamics. Look at us join in and conjure up dummies for each role, too, as we project ahead how we'd like the drama to pan out, or get lost, and dread either or both these eventualities, like dreamers and audiences do. Trapped along with R., we shall simultaneously register the match of self-blindness shot through this mock-reader on stage's incapacity to conceive of the twists that have his double trade places with his ordained function of helper and switch to play snitch, betrayer, exposer and obstructer instead. R. details both how one wife can (not) stand-in for another and how a plot makes the characters assign roles as if they were in charge rather than making it up, cock-eyed, on the hop. Yay, they might as well be dreaming -- dreamatically. Robust differentiation from the initially akin (goodie not goaty) father's dream in Rudens and sharp scotching of oneiric arguments for branding Dreamipho's dreamwork as Diphilan, Philemonic, or Elemental-Plautine conclude this pitch for the stage as public workshop on fantasising: R. transposes to theatre the Freudian displacement argued by Daniela Averna,5 but could also profitably slip in the subliminal festal histrionics revealed by Stavros Frangoulidis;6 and Cathy Connors has nailed the simulation of the similar that multiplies the pet generic catachresis of simian for mimics 'apeing' their betters into undetected surrogates, imaginary doubles, and other social animals caged in the comic zoo.7 These are offers you can't refuse.

4. For the second barrel of the twin editors' essays, Tontini reawakens the shockwaves that hit the early 1430s Italian cultural scene by analysing how Frulovisi's Mercator-based 'Emporia', unearthed in St. John's College Cambridge and eventually published by the medieval historian Charles Previté-Orton),8 fastens for its plot on the then fresh-discovered dozen Plautus scripts (Bacchides and everything from initial M- through Truculentus), though still securing its 'modernizing' Latin prose by doubling up phrasing with Terence. Frulovisi's teacher Guarino had the dynamite MS to copy and ponder through most of 1433, and 'Emporia' was in a run of three plays dashed out and put on between fall 1432 and autumn 1433. Roles and structure are taken over, but the plot deserts Mercator for a scene from Asinaria and pervasive inspiration from Bacchides, with contemporary anticlerical touches and other topical references thrown in, to carve out a first-blush shot at re-tuning pop classicism. De Frulovisi kept producing plays for another year in Ferrara but soon parked himself with Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, polishing up a pirated hagiography for the Duke's late brother, the Vita Henrici Quinti, and penning his final pair of still unperformed comedies (1437-8).

5. To round off a triad from Urbino, Danese checks out a favourite of the Lecturae series, the prolific C16th Florentine dialect playwright Cecchi,9 whose 'La Stiava' (= serua) proves just how well-turned a script Mercator really is, by creatively adapting, or butchering, it along just about all the fault-lines that scholarly deprecation has alleged as Plautine botchery, and then some. (An 'Appendice', 114-16, compares and contrasts the two scripts by tabulation scene on scene.) First published as Italian prose in 1550, then re-issued as hendecasyllables in 1585, the play jumps in with lead boots, revealing to the loverboy right away in Act I scene 2 that it's his father who has the hots for the Pretty Woman; she will never appear, and (you guessed it, from the diddle of the title) will turn out to be no stiava at all, but rather the long lost daughter of father's double next door and so available for marriage to the lead lad (who already tied the knot on board ship). The prologue is shrunk, the dream elided into a flicker of metaphor (dove, but no goats, no monkey); the leering goes crude ('mi vorresti | ficcare una carota. :: Sì, i vorrei | ficcar la fava ..') with allusions to Ariosto including one to a Poggio pleasantry (the Faustian dream on how to keep a wife faithful by not pulling your finger out), but this sure is no Casina and the wholly new Act V finds a whole new imaginary place to hide the bride-to-be for the finale, when 'Adelfia' will at last get to land ashore in one piece, to general merriment and a wedding to get ready. What a swizz.

Table of Contents:

7-10: C. Questa and R. Raffaelli, 'Presentazione'
11-41: B. Dunsch, 'Il commerciante in scena: temi e motivi mercantili nel Mercator plautino e nell'Emporos filemoniano'
43-58: G. Mazzoli, 'I vitia dell'amore e i suoi sodales nel Mercator plautino'
59-81: R. Raffaelli, 'Sogni letterari e sogni teatrali'
83-99: A. Tontini, 'L'Emporia di Tito Livio Frulovisi'
101-16: R. M. Danese, 'La Stiava di Giovanni Maria Cecchi come rielaborazione drammaturgica del Mercator'


1.   Antonios C. Augoustakis (2009) Plautus Mercator. Bryn Mawr Latin Commentaries. Bryn Mawr, PA.
2.   Declaration of intent in his essay, 'Vater sein dagegen sehr. Komik und Spott in der römischen Komödie im Spiegel des Vater-Sohn-Konflikts', in Gymnasium am Kaiserdom (Hrsg.), Chronik Schuljahr 2002/2003, Speyer 2003: 7-32.
3.   (2004) Comedy and the Rise of Rome, Oxford: 137-48.
4.   Niall W. Slater, 'Opening Negotiations: The Work of the Prologue to Plautus's Mercator' in Nina Copellino (ed.) Change and Exchange in Plautus's Mercator, a special issue of New England Classical Journal (37.1, February 2010), 5-14.
5.   (1987) 'La scena del sogno nel Mercator plautino', Pan 8: 5-17.
6.   (1997) 'Dream and theatre: Dionysiac vs. Apollonian elements in Plautus, Mercator', in Handlung und Nebenhandlung: Theater, Metatheater und Gattungs- bewüsstsein in der römischen Komödie (Drama: Beiträge zum antiken Drama und seiner Rezeption, Beiheft 6), Stuttgart: 133-143.
7.   (2004) 'Monkey business: imitation, authenticity, and identity from Pithekoussai to Plautus', Classical Antiquity 23:179-207, at 194-7.
8.   (1932) Opera hactenus inedita Titi Livii de Frulovisiis de Ferraria, Cambridge.
9.   Other treatments of Cecchi are listed at 101 n. 3. Nb The series carries no indices, and bibliography is documented ad loc. at first citation.

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Version at BMCR home site
Demos G. Spatharas (ed.), Isokrates. Kata Lochitou. Archaia Grammateia 2. Athena: Smile, 2009. Pp. 137. ISBN 9789607793911.
Reviewed by Maria G. Xanthou, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

With his elegant book Demos G. Spatharas (henceforth S.) presents to the Greek-speaking public one of Isocrates' dicanic speeches, Against Lochites. The book includes a foreword, a list of abbreviations, an ample introduction, a translation, a commentary, an extensive bibliography and an index verborum.

His introduction falls into five parts. In the first part, S. traces the rhetorical devices that contribute to the stylistic profile of the speech as a dicanic one, ending with the suggestion that if the name "Lochites" is deliberately chosen, the speech comprises a rhetorical exercise. In the second part, S. discusses the problem of ὕβρις as a trait of the public conduct of the Athenian oligarchic élite. He analyses the difference between δίκην αἰκείας and γραφὴν ὕβρεως and then focuses on the social connection between ὕβρις and oligarchy, influenced by Josiah Ober. In the third part, S. examines three points upon which the argumentation of the persona loquens is built: (a) the law as a guaranty of physical integrity of civilians against manifestations of ὕβρις, (b) ὕβρις as a typical trait of enemies of democracy, and (c) ὕβρις as a corollary of πλοῦτος. In the fourth part, S. pins down the stylistic means Isocrates employs, emphasizing the avoidance of hiatus, the use of long syntactic periods, the symmetry in wording and the use of antithetical style. The symmetry is underlined by the use of γοργίεια σχήματα, such as πάρισον and ὁμοιοτέλευτον. In the final part, S. concludes that 404/3 BCE is the terminus post quem and that the speech is not fragmentary.1 As for the text, he adopts the avoidance of hiatus only where all the mss are unanimous. Of the eight instances where S.'s text diverges from Mandilaras' edition2 on three [section 14 τινα; section 16 Ὧν ἕνεκα; and section 20 τὸ ἴσον], he seems clearly correct.

S.'s translation into Modern Greek preserves the long periods of Isocrates' prose style, a feature not compatible with the style of Modern Greek prose, but he often avoids translating pedantically the Greek particles of the ancient Greek text. In some cases I would prefer a rather different rendering, e.g. in section 3 ὑπὲρ τῶν λόγῳ μόνον ἀκηκοότων, is not "against those who confine themselves only to verbal injuries" ["εναντίον όσων περιορίζονται μόνο στις λεκτικές ύβρεις"], but rather "for the protection of those who have merely suffered verbal injury".3 In section 5, I would add either τάχα or δήθεν after ότι for translating the dependent statement introduced by ὡς, thus marking the statement as untrue. In the same paragraph I would prefer translating the participle ληψόμενος expressing purpose with the phrase με σκοπό να ζητήσω thus suggesting more overtly its circumstantial relation. I have also noticed an Anglicism regarding the normal word-order in relative clauses with genitive του οποίου in Modern Greek. For example, p. 30 n. 30 του οποίου την ορολογία, should read την ορολογία του οποίου.

S.'s commentary is erudite. Its lemmata include both parallel texts of ancient authors and references to recent secondary literature. Their length and content vary. Some lemmata are short, comprising only cross-references to S.'s commentary, while others are longer, e.g. section 6 ὅταν του καταγνῶτε ἱεροσυλίαν ἢ κλοπήν extends over almost four pages. This latter is representative of S.'s mode: he initially construes the two accusatives κλοπήν and ἱεροσυλίαν; then he explores the use of both terms within the broader argumentation of the particular paragraph; finally, he discusses the definition of the term ἱεροσυλίαν as part of the generic term κλοπή and how it was treated in Athenian legislation and courts. S. adduces testimony from primary sources e.g. Xen. Hell. 1.7.22, and corroborates it with ample references to secondary literature.

The concluding parts of the book are the bibliography4 and the index verborum. There are only a few misprints.5

All in all, S. has produced a careful piece of scholarship. The Greek-speaking public will benefit from it.


1.   S.'s reasoning is documented in a long and well-informed footnote (p. 17 n. 6). He also discards the possibility proposed by S. Usher, Greek oratory: tradition and originality (Oxford: OUP, 1999), who considers the speech to be the "concluding fragment of the prosecution" (p. 12).
2.   For a full index of S.'s divergences from B. G. Mandilaras' edition, Isocrates: Opera Omnia, Bibliotheca Teubneriana, (Leipzig/München: Teubner/Saur, 2003), see p. 64, and for a full account of them see S.'s comments ad locc. in comparison to Mandilaras' edition.
3.   So Norlin: Isocrates, with an English translation, in three volumes, by George Norlin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1928).
4.   To which one should add V. Bers' recent book, Genos Dikanikon: Amateur and Professional Speech in the Courtrooms of Classical Athens (Washington, D.C.: Center for Hellenic Studies, 2008), reviewed at BMCR 2010.02.50.
5.   p. 21 Επιλέον should read Επιπλέον; the same misprint is repeated in p. 127; p. 71 Κατέφεραν should read Κατάφεραν; p. 82 Humprays should read Humphreys; p. 85 ιδαίτερα should read ιδιαίτερα; p. 85 συγκαταλέγοναι should read συγκαταλέγονται; p. 88 απαλασσόταν should read απαλλασσόταν.

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Monday, June 14, 2010


Version at BMCR home site
Gunther Martin, Divine Talk: Religious Argumentation in Demosthenes. Oxford Classical Monographs. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Pp. ix, 345. ISBN 9780199560226. $125.00.
Reviewed by Jeremy Trevett, York University, Toronto


In this book, a revised version of his Oxford DPhil thesis, Gunther Martin explores the use of religious arguments in the speeches of Demosthenes and some of his contemporaries. His aim is to examine how and why such arguments were deployed, rather than use the speeches as evidence for what the Athenians "really believed". This is the first extensive discussion of religion in the speeches of the Attic orators, and breaks interesting new ground.

The book is organized into two parts, each with its own introduction and conclusion. The first, and longer, part (chapters 1-5) deals with speeches for public trials (graphai), the second part (chapters 6-9) with deliberative speeches and speeches for private suits (dikai).

Within Part I, Martin discusses first (chapters 1-3) the three long speeches that Demosthenes delivered in person (Dem. 18, 19, 20); then (chapter 4) three speeches that he wrote for others (Dem. 22-24); and finally (chapter 5) a number of speeches by other orators (the unknown author of ps. Lysias 6 Against Andocides, Aeschines and Lycurgus). In Part II he deals with Demosthenes' deliberative speeches (chapter 6) and his quasi-deliberative speech Against Leptines (Dem. 20) (chapter 7). The last two chapters cover speeches in private suits: oaths and other ritual acts in chapter 8 and "non-probative arguments" in chapter 9.

Martin offers a series of careful and well-researched analyses of the use of religious arguments in the speeches that he discusses. But beyond this he argues for significant distinctions in practice according to genre and author, as follows. First, religious argumentation is more prominent in forensic than in deliberative speeches (epideictic oratory is barely considered). Second, within forensic oratory it is more prevalent in speeches for public trials than in those for private suits. Third, among Demosthenes' speeches for public trials, those that he delivered himself stand out for their lack of religious argumentation, whereas those that he wrote for others make substantial use of such arguments, as do speeches for public trials written by other orators.

Martin's discussion of public forensic speeches is generally convincing. He is correct to observe that Demosthenes as speaker makes little use of religious arguments, even when he addresses religious issues and where the scope for religious argumentation is clearly present. Conduct that could have been evaluated in religious terms is interpreted instead in socio-political ones. Thus in Dem. 21 Demosthenes characterizes his opponent Midias' attack on him at the City Dionysia as an antisocial rather than an impious action. Similarly in Dem. 18 his opponent Aeschines' youthful involvement in an arguably disreputable cult (of Sabazius?) is treated as a mark of his low social standing, rather than as a matter of religious offence. Insofar as Demosthenes as speaker engages in religious argumentation, he does so in self-defence, in response to such arguments on the part of his opponent. By contrast, the speeches for public trials that he wrote for others make extensive use of religious arguments. Thus, for example, the speech Against Aristocrates (Dem. 23) deals at length with the religious aspects of Athens' homicide law. The same is also true of the speeches that other orators wrote for public trials.

Martin's conclusion, that religious arguments were routinely used in public trials, but that Demosthenes as litigant chose to avoid them, is certainly consistent with the evidence, but it should be noted that the sample sizes are very small. In chapters 1-4 he bases his argument on six speeches that Demosthenes wrote for public trials -- three that he delivered in person and three that he wrote for others. Even one counter-example would substantially weaken his conclusion. For this reason the extended discussion in chapter 5 (pp. 182-202) of the authorship of a seventh speech, Against Aristogiton I (Dem. 25), takes on considerable importance. This speech contains substantial, and somewhat idiosyncratic, religious argumentation, but cannot be shown on either stylistic or other grounds not to be by Demosthenes. Martin concludes that Demosthenes indeed wrote the speech, but for someone else to deliver. It therefore belongs to the category of speeches in which extensive religious argumentation is to be expected. This may be correct, but in arguing that the speech's vehement religious argumentation is un-Demosthenic Martin is in danger of assuming what he is trying to prove.1

Turning to deliberative oratory, Martin observes that in Demosthenes' speeches to the Athenian assembly there is very little religious argumentation. The same is also true of his speech Against Leptines (Dem. 20), which, Martin argues, is quasi-deliberative in its focus on the merits of the law that Leptines had proposed rather than on the person of its proposer. Since we lack deliberative speeches by any of Demosthenes' contemporaries, it is hard to say whether or not his avoidance of religious arguments was typical of the genre. To answer this question, Martin turns to representations of Athenian political speeches in literary texts, primarily Thucydides and Aristophanes, but these prove predictably hard to evaluate. He concludes nevertheless that the lack of religious argumentation was typical of the genre: "it seems that in a large part of the debate the gods did not really matter" (p. 292).

This claim seems contestable, especially in view of Martin's earlier conclusion that Demosthenes differed from his contemporaries in avoiding religious arguments as a speaker in public trials. Can we be sure that he was not similarly exceptional -- for whatever reason -- in his deliberative speeches? On the contrary, it seems to me positively likely that he would have sought to present a consistent persona whenever he spoke as a political figure, i.e. both as a litigant in public trials and as a politician before the assembly. If we had even a single speech to the assembly by Aeschines or Lycurgus, we might well have a quite different picture of the parameters of deliberative oratory. Moreover, we do not have a random sample of deliberative speeches: all of Demosthenes' surviving speeches are concerned with foreign policy matters. Other topics for debate may have lent themselves to a greater use of religious argumentation. In addition, the absence of religious arguments in both Thucydides and Demosthenes may indicate not so much the operation of a convention of deliberative oratory -- that debate be conducted on a "rational" basis without consideration of the gods -- as the influence, direct or indirect, of Thucydides on Demosthenes, and a conscious attempt by the latter to make himself a "Thucydidean" speaker.2 In any case, Martin's use of the speeches in Thucydides as evidence for what was actually said in the Athenian assembly ("So Thucydides seems to represent Athenian practice accurately", p. 222) is insufficiently cautious: the issue needs a more thorough examination than is provided here, especially in view of its importance to the overall argument. The use of Aristophanes seems equally questionable, albeit for different reasons. In short, the evidence that Martin has collected could equally (and in my view more likely does) support a different conclusion: that the eschewal of religious arguments is a distinctive feature of Demosthenes' self-presentation as a rhetor, both in the speeches that he delivered in public trials and in his speeches to the assembly.

Leaving the deliberative speeches to one side, the question remains, why did Demosthenes avoid religious argumentation in the three long speeches that he delivered in public trials, when other orators did not? In the conclusion to Part I, entitled "The Importance of the Individual", Martin correctly insists that this is a deliberate choice on Demosthenes' part, but hesitates to ascribe a motive. Perhaps, he speculates (p. 215), he lacked the religious authority that other orators had through membership of a priestly family or the holding of priesthoods, or perhaps it was part of his persona of "pragmatic politician". Martin considers, but does not endorse, the possibility that Demosthenes simply had a distaste for religious arguments.3 It remains unclear, therefore, and is surely unknowable, whether we are dealing with personal preference or artful self-portrayal. Likewise, the greater prominence of religious argumentation in speeches for public trials than in those for private suits requires explanation (see the conclusion to Part II, "The Influence of the Genre"). Martin tentatively suggests that the use of such arguments served to raise the stakes, and that it formed part of the aggression commonly shown towards opponents in such speeches. In private suits, by contrast, it was harder for litigants to convince the jurors that they had a strong collective interest in the outcome. As he concedes (p. 300), it is easier for us to discern patterns than to explain them. Nevertheless, the apparent association of religious arguments with heightened emotion and personal attack must have some bearing on our view of the place of religion in Athenian society; it would be interesting to know what Martin makes of it.

The book's general aim is to categorize and draw distinctions, but at times there is a tendency towards reductive polarization. For instance on the very first page the reader is offered a view of scholars who work on Athenian religion being divided into two sides -- those who see the gods everywhere, and those who view the Athenians as making their decisions on "rational" grounds without significant reference to the gods. This is surely too schematic, even though Martin himself avoids either of these extreme positions. I wonder also what view of mid-fourth-century Athenian politics is presupposed by a division between "a conservative political group" and "the 'more democratic' faction" (p. 121), or indeed what it means to call Demosthenes a "committed democrat" (p. 122). On both these issues a more nuanced approach is called for.

Although the argument of the book is generally clear, I fear that its style is often clumsy and unidiomatic, and it is all too apparent that English is not the author's first language. Sentences such as "Instead, he speaks only about the impossibility of excluding that there may once be a tyrant again." (p. 248) or "So vilification of the political opponent, including abuse implying religious ideas, was inappropriate for the occasion." (p. 249) are far more common than they should be, especially in a book published by a leading university press. The cumulative effect of such infelicities is wearisome, and one wishes that both the publisher and the author's advisors had done more to help produce a more readable book.

In conclusion, Martin has produced a thoroughly researched and original study of the ways in which Athenian orators argued on the basis of religion. His conclusions are thought-provoking and, even though some may find them overly schematic, deserve careful consideration.


1.   Martin's discussion of the identity of the speaker of Against Aristocrates (pp. 118-127) is vulnerable to the same criticism of circularity. The speech was written, according to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, for a certain Euthycles, but the biographical information in it fits with what we know of Demosthenes' life. Martin argues that the speech was not delivered by Demosthenes, largely on the ground that it contains extensive religious argumentation.
2.   See H. Yunis, Taming Democracy: Models of Political Rhetoric in Classical Athens (Ithaca and London 1996) 268-277; G. Mader, "Dramatizing didaxis: aspects of Demosthenes' 'Periclean' project", Classical Philology 102 (2007) 155-79.
3.   Martin rather assumes (e.g. p. 213) that the speeches that Demosthenes delivered reflect his own thoughts more than do those that he wrote for others. This may, but need not, be true.

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Stuart Lyons, Music in the Odes of Horace. Oxford: Aris and Phillips, 2010. Pp. 208. ISBN 9780856688447. $80.00.
Reviewed by Nina Mindt, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Stuart Lyons ist während der Arbeit an seiner Versübersetzung der horazischen Oden (The Fleeting Years, 1996) auf deren Musikalität aufmerksam geworden und hat in Horace's Odes and the Mystery of Do-Re-Mi (2007) die These vertreten, Horaz sei ein "songwriter" gewesen, der seine Lyrik selbst aufgeführt habe.1 Dafür hat er mit der mittelalterlichen Horazrezeption argumentiert, von der aus er eine Traditionslinie zurück zur antiken Aufführungspraxis zog. Inzwischen geht er vorsichtiger vor: "They [die mittelalterlichen Handschriften] may or may not have bearing on the performance of the Odes in the Augustan Age" (178).

Als Reaktion auf die damaligen gemischten Reaktionen ist Music in the Odes of Horace entstanden, an Antikeforscher und Musikhistoriker gerichtet, um die Skeptiker aus akademischen Kreisen und vor allem die neue Generation der Philologen zu überzeugen, verstärkt die Möglichkeit in Betracht zu ziehen, dass "the Horace of the Odes was a musician, songwriter and entertainer, and that his carmina were the songs he claimed them to be" (180). Damit will er gegen die vorherrschende Auffassung anschreiben, dass die musikalische Terminologie des Horaz einen als Topos übernommenen Reflex der frühgriechischen Lyrik darstellt. Doch ob ihm das gelingt, ist fraglich: Denn letztlich bleibt es in Sachen primäre Darbietungsart eine Grundsatzentscheidung, die keine noch so gewissenhafte Untersuchung beeinflussen kann, da wir nur im Falle des carmen saeculare einen eindeutigen Beleg für dessen Aufführung haben.

Das Buch ist zweigeteilt: Kapitel 1 und 2 befassen sich mit der Frage, wie Horaz' Oden dem antiken Publikum präsentiert wurden. Der zweite Teil (Kapitel 4 und 5) beschäftigt sich mit der musikalischen Rezeption der Oden im frühen Mittelalter anhand ausgewählter Kodizes mit Musiknotation. Ziel ist es, die musikalischen Elemente der horazischen carmina herauszustellen und für eine mündliche--und zwar grösstenteils musikalische--Darbietung als deren primäre Präsentationsform zu plädieren. Die Ergebnisse beider Teile verknüpft Lyons diesmal weniger kategorisch-fordernd miteinander als noch vor wenigen Jahren, und er tut gut daran (wenngleich die Kombination allein einen gewissen Zusammenhang suggeriert).

Die beiden Hauptfragen: "Bezeichnen carmina Gedichte oder Lieder?" und "Meinen modi Rhythmus oder Musik?" beantwortet Lyons also jeweils zugunsten der letzteren Möglichkeit. Dafür führt er im ersten Teil textexterne soziokulturelle Argumente (Kapitel 1: "Musical Performance in the Age of Horace") und textinterne Hinweise aus den Oden selbst ins Feld (Kapitel 2: "Internal Evidence of Musical Performance").

Im ersten Kapitel skizziert er sehr kurz die Rolle der Musik im frühen Griechenland und die Auswirkungen der hellenistischen Akkulturation Roms mit speziellem Blick auf musikalische Inhalte in Kallimachos und Theokrit (17-28); er vergleicht das griechische Symposium mit dem römischen convivium (28-33); er diskutiert die musikalischen Elemente in Catulls Hochzeitsgedichten c. 61 und 63 und in c. 64, die eine mündliche Aufführung nahelegten, sowie die der Eklogen Vergils (33-40), bevor er schliesslich zu Horaz gelangt (41-48). Dabei stützt er sich auf dessen eigene Aussagen (Epist. 2,2, und 1,19) sowie auf Hinweise bei Ovid (Trist. 4,15,49 f.: et tenuit nostras numerosus Horatius aures / dum ferit Ausonia carmina culta lyra) und Juvenal (Sat. 7,53-65). Lyons hält das sog. Auditorium des Maecenas, von dem er zwei farbige Photographien bietet (197), für einen der wesentlichen Vorführungsorte, an denen Horaz seine Oden darbrachte ("It seems to confirm the orality of presentation, and implies musical production without proving it." 48).

Diesen textexternen Hinweisen--die zum Teil eben doch textintern sind, insofern sie Dichtungen anderer Autoren entnommen sind und es daher ebenfalls diskutabel bleibt, ob die Aussagen dieser Dichter nicht auch nur Metaphern sind--folgt im zweiten Kapitel eine ausführlichere Untersuchung von Horaz' Oden unter folgenden Gesichtspunkten: (1) Horaz als Pindarnachfolger und die Oden auf berühmte Männer in der Tradition frühgriechischer epinicia (55-62). Im Zusammenhang mit den im vierten Buch an Augustus gerichteten Oden (c. 4,4; 4,5; 4,14 und 4,15) führt Lyons eine Suetonstelle an, die er zu einem Argument für carmen als 'Lied' macht. Da Sueton in einem Satz zweimal carmen verwendet, einmal auf das Säkularlied bezogen (saeculare carmen componendum), das zweifelsfrei musikalisch dargeboten wurde, das andere Mal im Hinblick auf die ersten drei Odenbücher (tribus carminum libris), sei anzunehmen, dass zumindest c. 4,14 (Sueton erwähnt den Sieg von Tiberius und Drusus) und wohl auch die Bücher 1 bis 3 gesungen worden seien.2 Das ist nicht zwingend, da carmen sowohl gesprochene als auch musikalische Darbietung umfasst und diese Polyvalenz durchaus innerhalb ein und desselben Satzes behalten kann.

In (2) "Hymns, Prayers and Dirges" (62-70) arbeitet Lyons den sozio-religiösen Hintergrund einiger Oden heraus und verknüpft diesen sogleich mit einem passenden Anlass für eine Erstaufführung. So könne c. 1,10, die Hymne an Merkur, von Horaz als Mercurialis auf einem Symposium dargebracht worden sein; der Lyriker habe vielleicht c. 3,18 an den Faunalia am 5. Dezember auf seinem Sabinum rezitiert oder gesungen; c. 1,21, das Lyons in engem Zusammenhang mit c. 1,31 für die Einweihung des Apollotempels am 9. Oktober 28 v. Chr. interpretiert wissen will, wirke erst, wenn man sich den Hymnus als einen gemischten Chor vorstelle, der in Anwesenheit Oktavians einem grossen Publikum präsentiert wurde etc. Das mag alles sein, doch man wird nie genau wissen, wie weit die Anlassgebundenheit einiger Oden deren primäre Aufführung widerspiegelt oder diese eben nur imaginiert. Dass Lyons bisweilen keine Unterscheidung zwischen Horaz und dessen persona unternimmt und somit in eine biographistische Interpretationsfalle zu geraten droht, zeigt sich besonders bei der Diskussion um Horaz' religiöser Einstellung(etwa "Horace himself sacrifes a pig to Diana [...]" 67). Ob man also vieles wörtlich nehmen will und somit auch Passagen wie nec turpem senectam / degere nec cithara carentem (c. 1,31,19 f.) oder Romanae fidicen lyrae (4,3,23) und verba loquor socianda chordis (4,9,4), hängt davon ab, was man als Reflex der Wirklichkeit oder als literarische Stilisierung ansieht. Diese generelle Einschränkung gilt auch für den Rest des zweiten Kapitels.

Lyons spricht vorsichtigerweise oft von der Möglichkeit ("possibility") musikalischer Aufführungen, obgleich man deutlich spürt, dass er von dieser Darbietungsart überzeugt ist. Evident wird dies im Unterkapitel zu den sympotischen Oden (3) (70-79), die besonders viele musikalische Bilder enthalten. Im Zusammenhang mit dem dramatisch ausgerichteten c. 1,27 etwa spricht er von der "natural interpretation" (74), dass es für eine live performance angelegt sei; c. 3,9 "is certainly a duet. There are two distinct voices, those of Horace and Lydia" (77); c. 1,32 enthalte mit lusimus tecum (v.2) keine metaphorische, sondern "a physical reference to the playing of a stringed instrument" (78). Gerade mit dieser Ode will Lyons die Vertreter der Gegenmeinung als voreingenommen entlarven und schliesst das Unterkapitel fast trotzig mit dem Satz: "Perhaps Horace should be allowed to speak for himself" (79).

Es folgt ein Abschnitt zu (4) "Horatius vates" (79-83), in dem Lyons wie in den vorangegangenen vorgeht. Dennoch wird er trotz der Wiederholung der Argumentation die Skeptiker nicht überzeugen. Auf Aussagen wie "Here, as elsewhere in the odes, Horace refers to the actual tools of music: the lyre, the barbitos, the cithara and the plectrum, the modes, the melody, the rhythm and the song" (81) kann man entgegnen, dass damit noch nichts über die reale Aufführungssituation gesagt sei; "[t]he second person plural used by Horace in auditis ('you hear') implies that there is a live audience" (ebd.) wird die Antwort provozieren, dass dies eine Stelle wie viele innerhalb der lateinischen Dichtung sei, an denen eine dialogische Situation lediglich imaginiert wird.

Die folgenden Unterkapitel (5) "Numerosus Horatius" (83-87) und (6) "Carmina and Modi" (6) (87-90) bereiten das Resümée des ersten Teils (90-92) vor. Lyons spricht sich im Hinblick auf den Grossteil der Oden nicht nur für eine mündliche, sondern für eine musikalische Darbietung aus, die durchaus verschiedene Formen gehabt haben könne (für Chor, Frauenstimme oder für den Dichter selbst, 91).

Das die beiden Hauptteile verbindende kurze "Intermezzo" (93-99) versammelt einige Zeugnisse zu mündlicher Aufführung von Dichtung im Allgemeinen während der Kaiserzeit und im frühen christlichen Europa, wo sich die Überlieferungsspuren von Horaz verlieren.

Der zweite Hauptteil bietet eine sorgsam aufgearbeitete Untersuchung musikalisch annotierter Horaz-Handschriften aus dem frühen Mittelalter, die mit zahlreichen Umschriften in moderne Notenform und Abbildungen gut präsentiert werden. Die Handschrift H425 aus Montpellier (M425) in aquitanischen Neumen behandelt Lyons besonders ausführlich. Wie schon 2007 [BMCR 2008.07.19] vollzieht er gewissenhaft nach, wie Guido von Arezzo (11. Jh.) eine Melodie, die sich in M425 zu der horazischen Ode an Phyllis (c. 4,11, Est mihi nonum) findet, auf den Johannes-Hymnus Ut queant laxis anwendet und so die Solmisation, eine auf vier Linien im Terzabstand basierende Musiknotation, erfindet, die er später in der Epistola Guidonis Michaeli monacho de ignoto cantu directa erläutert. Lyons kommt zu dem Ergebnis, dass Guido und der Kantor, der M 425 schrieb, wohl unabhängig voneinander auf die in Guidos Brief erwähnte notissima symphonia zurückgriffen, die mündlich tradiert worden und, aufgrund der Orientierung der Melodie an der horazischen Ode, auf einen paganen Ursprung zurückzuführen sei. In Rückbezug auf den ersten Teil resümiert Lyons bedachtsam: "M 425 does not inform the debate on Horace's own musicianship" (131).

Im fünften Kapitel stellt Lyons zwei weitere musikalischen Notationen in mittelalterlichen Horazhandschriften vor, auch in diesem Fall mit reichlich Anschauungsmaterial (insgesamt enthält das Buch 62 Abbildungen, 12 davon in Farbe). Die Interpretation der Pariser Handschrift PA7979 (138-151), die neun Horaz-Oden mit Neumen enthält, deutet auf einen Schulgebrauch hin, gerade für die Oden aus dem dritten Buch (3,9; 3,12; 3,13), während die anderen sechs auch für andere Zwecke geeignet scheinen. Besonders die populäre Ode 1,33 Albi, ne doleas (diese und c. 4,11 gibt Lyons im Appendix in englischer Versübersetzung) weise darauf hin, dass sie zur unterhaltenden Aufführung genutzt wurde und dass sich die Melodien der Handschrift PA7979 aus verschiedenen Ursprüngen speisen. Eine deutlich stärkere Ausrichtung hin zu musikalischer Darbietung ausserhalb des schulischen Rahmens verrät die musikalische Notation des Petersburger Manuskripts PET4 in zentralfranzösischen Neumen (153-175). Das Arrangement legt nahe, so Lyons, dass hier auf eine breite Materialbasis mit verschiedenen Ursprüngen zurückgegriffen werden konnte, die über das Netz des Benediktinerordens hinaus auch durch mündliche säkulare Tradition gespeist worden sei. "The music reflected and recorded a tradition of performance art" (175). Man könne von einer Art Gesangsbuch in klösterlichen Rahmen ausgehen.

In der Zusammenfassung (176-180) schliesst Lyons den Kreis: Der zweite Teil habe gezeigt, dass die horazischen carmina im Frühmittelalter als Lieder aufgefasst wurden, was noch nichts über die antike Darbietungsform aussage.--Hier kann man uneingeschränkt zustimmen.--Im ersten Teil habe er jedoch gezeigt, dass "Horace's objective in the Odes was to produce a unique type of performance art, a Latin re-interpretation of Greek lyric song" (180). Freilich ist es richtig, dass weder Vergil noch Varius noch Tibull sich als Musiker darstellen (179), doch die textinternen Hinweise in Horaz' Oden kann man, muss man aber nicht im Sinne Lyons auslegen. Rossi, der nach einer rhythmischen Analyse der carmina gewichtige Argumente anführt, dass sie mit Ausnahme des carmen saeculare nicht gesungen, sondern rezitiert wurden ("metrique verbale"), dessen Beitrag Lyons aber nicht anführt,3 schreibt im Hinblick auf die Präsenz musikalisch-instrumentalischen Vokabulars: "La sua è musica, per così dire, letteraria. Quanto più greci sono il suo lessico e la sua cultura musicale, tanto più sospetto dovrebbe apparire il loro eventuale valore referenziale nei confronti di una realtà romana."4

In diesem Fall bleibt es jedem Leser selbst überlassen, ob er der Auffassung Lyons oder den Skeptikern folgen mag.

Stellenverzeichnis, Bibliographie, ein kurzer Sachindex, ein Index zu den neumierten Handschriften und deren Ort sowie ein Personenindex runden das aufwendig gestaltete und gut geschriebene Buch ab, das im ersten Teil zwar keine neuen philologischen Erkenntnisse zu den Horazoden bietet, sondern lediglich bekannte Indizien für Mündlichkeit und Musikalität zusammenstellt, das im zweiten Teil den Literaturwissenschaftler aber gekonnt über die musikalische Horazrezeption zu unterrichten versteht.


1.   Lyons 2007, 22 f.: "Horace is not just a poet but a songwriter" und "was regularly involved in some form of theatrical performance".
2.   "It follows that the tres carminum libri ('three books of songs') may also have been the songs they claim to be" (62).
3.   Rossi, L. E., "Orazio, un lirico greco senza musica", in: Seminari Romani di Cultura Greca I, 1 (1998), 163-181. Des Weiteren hätte L. auch v. Albrecht, M., "Musik und Dichtung bei Horaz", in: Bimillenario della morte di Q. Orazio Flacco, Atti dei convegni I, Venosa 1993, 75-100, und Martin, R., "Horace in Real Time: Odes 1.27 and its Congeners", in: Paschalis, M. (Hg.), Horace and Greek Lyrik Poetry (Rethymnon Classical Studies 1), Kreta 2002, 103-118, berücksichtigen können.
4.   Rossi (s. Anm. 3), 170.

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Lucie Thévenet, Le personnage: du mythe au théâtre: la question de l'identité dans la tragédie grecque. Vérité des mythes. Paris: Les belles lettres, 2009. Pp. 364. ISBN 9782251324562. €35.00 (pb).
Reviewed by Katie Billotte, Royal Holloway College, University of London

Praise is distributed more often than it is deserved. I assure you that this is not one of those instances. Lucie Thévenet's Le personnage: du mythe au théâtre: La question de l'identité dans la tragédie grecque is a refreshingly insightful and well-written book that provides an important and thought-provoking addition to the study of ancient theatre. Each page, from chapter heading to footnote, is an absolute delight to read. The reader of this book is assured fresh, new insights delivered in a concise and clear style as Thévenet's prose manages to deliver complex arguments in a way that is never tedious. Le personnage: du mythe au théâtre moves from strength to strength and is a must read for anyone interested in ancient drama.

As promised by the title, this book wrestles with the inherent tension found in the transfer of mythic characters onto the tragic stage. Thévenet's answer as to how identity might be constructed for these characters is as simple as it is brilliant: Examine those passages in which characters declare their own identities. This thesis is defended through a careful and persuasive reading of the text which demonstrates everything that sound philology should be. Thévenet draws her sources from across the tragic corpus, yet never allows the breadth of her argument to prevent a close and thorough reading of each text. The result of this is a comprehensive theory which, unlike many such theories, does not seem to fall short of its claim to comprehensiveness.

The main body of the book is framed by an introduction and conclusion. Both of these sections are concise and informative and could stand alone as explanations of the book's thesis. Though the reader would certainly deny her- or himself much profit by not reading the entire book, those teaching courses in tragedy or myth might find the independence of these sections helpful as either or both would make excellent secondary reading material for undergraduate and graduate courses.

Aside from the introductory and concluding chapters, the book is divided into two parts. The first is entitled "L'Identité en scènes, entre connaissance et reconnaissance" and contains three chapters: "Historia", "Autopsia" and "Métabasis". Named for the three ways of knowing endorsed by ancient thought, each chapter explores instances in which a tragic character learns something about her or his or another character's identity through each manner of knowing. "Historia" contains many interesting discussions on the importance of geographic origin and genealogy. This includes Thévenet's perceptive discussion of the ways in which clothing is used as an indicator of geographic and ethnic origin. The next chapter, entitled "Autopsia", has the difficult task of examining the many famed 'recognition scenes'. Not only do these scenes make up a great deal of the existent tragic corpus, they also have been repeatedly studied by generations of critics. This makes saying anything particularly original about them difficult. Thévenet, however, manages to offer new insight to familiar work. In particular, her analysis of recognition in Oedipus at Colonus offers a fantastic new perspective on the play. The final chapter of the first part, entitled "Métabasis", concentrates primarily on the characters of Orestes, Oedipus, and Helen. The portions dealing with Orestes are especially thought-provoking, in no small part because it is possible to draw on multiple texts for analysis.

The second part of the book is called "La reconnaissance de soi" and deals primarily with the issue of self-identification in tragedy. The self-identification of tragic characters is a relatively under-researched area; consequently, this section offers a ground-breaking and important contribution to current scholarship. ThéThévenet bases this section of the book around the premise that in order to understand the tragic mechanism for self-recognition, it is necessary to examine those moments of crisis which render self-identification impossible. She holds that in the rupture between the affirmation and the negation of self-identification, it becomes possible to examine the relationship between the character on the stage and the mythic personage. Considering the complexity of the argument presented in this section, it is to Thévenet's great credit that her prose never becomes pedantic or convoluted. This is, at least in part, because the book maintains in the second half the strong structure that characterizes the first.

The second section is divided into two chapters, "Soi-même en héros" and "Le spectacle de soi". The first half of "Soi-même en héros" examines instances in which a character does not recognize his or her identity as a result of divine interference. It should come as no surprise that this section focuses heavily on the character of Agave in Euripides' Bacchae. Any reading of the Bacchae is in danger of being redundant as the play has proven perennially popular with scholars and students alike; Thévenet's, however, offers fresh insight into the character of Agave. The same is true for the discussions of Ajax, Medea, and Hippolytus which are found in the second half of the chapter. The final chapter is entitled, "Le Spectacle de soi". The chapter subsection under the heading, "Le héros corporel" is perhaps one of the best meditations on the corporality of tragic suffering in modern scholarship. The relationship between the body and suffering has been traditionally ignored by scholars and readers of tragedy, with the notable exception of Terry Eagleton's 2003 book Sweet Violence: The Idea of the Tragic. As a result, many have embraced models of tragedy which mitigate or ignore the corporal nature of all suffering, including that of the tragic variety. Thévenet does not fall into this dangerous error and as a consequence can offer the reader a fascinating piece of analysis.

In sum, Le personnage: du mythe au théâtre: La question de l'identité dans la tragédie grecque is the perfect blend of fresh, innovative scholarship combined with the serious attention to texts and language that makes for sound literary criticism. It will no doubt serve as a wonderful source both for professional scholars and students of Classics.

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Friday, June 11, 2010


Version at BMCR home site
Jonathan Sachs, Romantic Antiquity: Rome in the British Imagination, 1789-1832. Classical Presences. Oxford University Press: 2010. Pp. x, 304. ISBN 9780195376128. $85.00.
Reviewed by Nora Goldschmidt, Magdalen College, Oxford

Table of Contents

We have tended to assume that Rome largely disappears from the Romantic imagination. While the early and middle eighteenth century -- the so-called 'Augustan age' of English literature -- revered Rome and its writers, for Romantic Britain it was Greek rather than Roman antiquity that seems to have taken centre stage. Grecian urns (or vases), Greek myths, Greek places and Greek political structures captivated the Romantic imagination.1 In Shelley's words, 'we are all Greeks' (preface to Hellas). In his new book for the Oxford 'Classical Presences' series, Jonathan Sachs seeks to redress this balance in our perceptions of classical antiquity in the Romantic period. Particularly when it comes to the politically engaged writing of the period, it was not so much Greece, Sachs argues, that shaped the thought of writers in this historically fraught period. Literature in particular, Sachs' focus, uses republican Rome as a space to re-interrogate political modernity.

The book is divided into three parts, each comprising two chapters. Part I deals with political writing and the Jacobin novel, Part II with poetry, and Part III with drama. Part I, 'Political Writing and the Novel', examines the controversy surrounding what is generally seen as the single most important event in the period to shape British political thinking: the French Revolution and its aftermath. In Chapter 1, 'Rome and the Revolution Controversy', Sachs examines the presence of Roman republican tropes in 'the Revolution Controversy' -- the British debate over the French Revolution from 1789-17352 -- by looking at the work of two of its most important figures, Edmund Burke (who effectively began the Revolution Controversy by supporting the monarchy in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)) and William Godwin, author of Political Justice (1793). Both authors, Sachs argues, looked to Roman exempla for models which could be applied to the present, a habit of thought that Sachs sees as rooted in the eighteenth century.3 In Reflections on the Revolution in France, Burke, Sachs shows, compares the French Revolution with the Roman example of the Catilinarian conspiracy, partly in order to appeal to his aristocratic readers, while positioning his opponents with the scorn that is traditionally heaped on the exemplum malum of Catiline (and in the process aligning Burke himself with Cicero). Godwin, by contrast, uses Roman exempla 'in a manner that attempts to open up future possibilities' (p.75): whereas in ancient Rome the virtues of selfless benevolence exemplified by figures like G. Mucius Scaevola were confined to one elite group, Godwin believed that in the modern eighteenth century, with the benefits of knowledge and a liberal education, these could be extended to all (p.72).4 This discussion could have been interestingly informed by recent work in Classics on Roman exemplarity:5 some of the things Sachs argues that Burke and Godwin were doing with exempla had already been done in ancient Rome. Cicero, for instance, already self-consciously created Catiline as a new exemplar within traditional discourse in order to establish precisely the power-play that Burke then appropriates.6 Similarly, Godwin has an interesting precedent in Cato, who seems in his Origines to have used exempla without names in order to make the mos maiorum that they embodied the property of all the Roman people, not just of the elite families with which they are associated, and thus, like Godwin, empowers the common people.7 Chapter 2, 'From Roman to roman: The Jacobin Novel and the Roman Legacy in the 1790s', moves to the Jacobin novel (novels written around 1790-1805 by British radicals who supported the French Revolution) and argues, in part, that these novelists responded to the common accusation that the novel contained moral dangers for its readers by treating the genre as an agent of social change.

Part II, ' Poetry', much of which has appeared in article form, develops Sachs's idea of what he terms ' republican poetics' (p.41). Chapter 3 deals with Byron, a defender of Pope and scorner of Keats, for whom the image of Rome was one of decline; Sachs here offers a nice reading of the ruins of Rome in Byron's presumed semi-autobiographical poem, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. Chapter 4 moves on to Shelley, perhaps the most politically engaged poet of the period. In an interesting contribution to the study of Shelley' s relationship to antiquity, Sachs argues that although Shelley did indeed continually turn to an often-idealised Greece, as many have argued, nevertheless Rome had an important place in his thought. In particular, Sachs avers, Shelley used Rome as an imaginative space to evaluate modern European history, which the negative aspects he found in the Roman Empire could better help him to see. By 1819, with the perceived failure of the French Revolution, the fall of Napoleon and the restoration of despotic governments throughout Europe after the battle of Waterloo, as well as the crackdown on radical movements in England, Rome seems to have offered Shelley a model of failed revolution, a falling-off from the Greek example when 'the impulse toward liberty gives way to tyranny, despotism, and institution-building' ' (p.172). As Sachs argues, however, there is a distinction between republic and empire in Shelley's thinking about Rome, and the same corrupt institutions also unwittingly contain and preserve the seeds of the past that might have been.

The final part, Part III, draws on recent developments in the study of British Romanticism to deal with drama. This, for me, is the most successful part of the book. There is always a particular frisson between drama and politics, whether in an ancient or modern setting.8 In terms of Classical Reception Studies, Sachs' work in this part of the book provides a genuinely interesting Roman counterpart to the kind of things that are being done in the field on the performance and adaptation of Greek plays. Chapter 5, ' Rome-antic Shakespeare: Coriolanus on the Stage and Page, 1789-1820', despite the pun in the title, is riveting. Sachs compares different presentations of Coriolanus on the stage within the contemporary political context, which included active movements to reform parliament and expand the voting franchise during a period of food shortages caused by prolonged war. Sachs singles out reprisals of the role of Coriolanus by two of the period's most famous actors, John Philip Kemble (who played Coriolanus many times between 1789 and 1817) and Keats' favourite Shakespeare actor, Edmund Kean, who played the role in 1820 in what looks like a deliberate challenge to Kemble's much-praised productions. While Kemble used the play to recommend the rightness of patrician rule -- emphasising Coriolanus' aristocratic character in a production whose scenery deliberately reflected the marble splendour of the Roman empire -- Kean, by contrast, returned the scenery to the mud huts of early Rome and deliberately contrasted his Coriolanus with Kemble's aristocratic interpretation of the figure. As William Hazlitt observed (a contemporary reader who, as Sachs well points out, consistently read Coriolanus in terms of the politics of the period), Kean, in sharp contrast to Kemble, is ' not of the patrician order; he is one of the people, and what might be termed 'a radical performer' (p. 216).

Chapter 6, 'What is the people?: Rome on the Romantic Stage after Kemble' is a fascinating account of what Sachs terms 'the Roman revival' in the theatre of the period. Effectively, people were composing and performing new Roman fabulae praetextae. One of the most popular of these (again played by the actor Robert Kean) was Brutus by John Howard Payne, first performed in 1818. The play was popular in the period: Kean performed it more than fifty times, and it became a stable part of the repertoire of the Theatre Royal. Sachs' main interest in this play is how the story of Brutus allowed audiences an ideal opportunity to reflect on the key issue of regicide after the French Revolution without making potentially dangerous direct references to recent events. Again, Sachs might have illuminated this part with a Roman parallel: he does not mention it, but Accius' late second-century BC play Brutus, whether on stage or on paper, might well have played a similar role in Rome. Cicero reports that in productions of earlier Roman drama in the late republic, specific lines were given contemporary political relevance by the actors or the audience. This or its like is not necessarily just a late-republican phenomenon. In Augustan Rome, at least, Accius was still read if not performed.9 In the end, it may well be that Romantic writers found themselves again repeating precedents in the politicization of the stories they used which their Roman predecessors had in fact already set.

To conclude, Sachs deals with really intriguing material in interesting ways on the British reception of Rome in the period. Educated in the English departments of Cambridge and Chicago and now Professor of English at Concordia University, Montreal, he has a range within English literature that is detailed and wide and an enviably thorough knowledge of the period. Yet he situates his audience and critical hinterland almost exclusively within the disciplines of English and Romantic Studies. The book's terminology and assumed knowledge appear to be largely aimed at readers in these disciplines. For instance, we are told in simple terms the famous story of Scaevola (p. 67), and directed to the relevant page number in the Loeb translation of Livy (p. 67, n.34, Sachs' custom with all Latin quotations), which is not a bad thing in itself, but, by contrast, readers are given no help with, for instance, the meaning of terms like the 'Jacobin novel' or the 'Revolution Controversy'. Similarly, the book's contribution to, and place within, the study of British Romantic literature and culture is made abundantly clear. But in many places the argument, too, could have benefited from more engagement with works of Classical scholars on ancient Rome, or contributed more deliberately to the study of literature and drama on Greek and Roman themes within Classical Reception Studies. Given the series in which Romantic Antiquity is published, it would be interesting to know more about what kinds of contributions Sachs or his editors want the book to make to the burgeoning discipline of Classical Reception Studies, which this series has a potentially crucial role in helping to shape.10


1.   E.g., D. Ferris, Silent Urns: Romanticism, Hellenism, Modernity (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press 2000), and J. Wallace, Shelley and Greece: Rethinking Romantic Hellenism (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997).
2.   As defined by Marilyn Butler in Burke, Paine, Godwin and the Revolution Controversy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), p.1.
3.   Though looking to Roman exemplarity was also an important habit of thought in the Renaissance: see, e.g., T. Hampton, Writing from History: The Rhetoric of Example in Renaissance Literature (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990) and J. Lyons, Exemplum: The Rhetoric of Example in Early Modern France and Italy (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1989).
4.   Godwin interestingly used the pseudonym 'Mucius' in a series of letters to the Political Herald and Review in 1785-6 (discussed by Sachs on pp. 66 ff.).
5.   E.g., F. Bücher, Verargumentierte Geschichte. Exempla Romana im politischen Diskurs der späten römischen Republik, Hermes Einzelschriften 96 (Stuttgart, 2006); J. Chaplin, Livy's Exemplary History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); U. Walter, Memoria und res publica. Zur Geschichtskultur im republikanischen Rom (Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Antike, 2004).
6.   Bücher (cited above), pp. 310-15.
7.   Cf. W. Blösel in B. Linke, and M. Stemmler, eds., Mos maiorum. Untersuchungen zu den Formen der Identitätsstiftung und Stabilisierung in der römischen Republik, (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2000).
8.   In general, see, e.g., Z. Hübner, Theater and Politics (Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1992) and G. Szanto, Theatre and Propaganda (Texas: University of Texas Press, 1978).
9.   It is possible that audiences may have seen his play (mis-)read behind the figure of Brutus in the famous parade of heroes in Virgil's underworld (Aen. 6.817-23), among the other references to early republican literature in that passage.
10.   The book is well-produced, with welcome illustrations contributing evidence to the stagings of Coriolanus that Sachs discusses in Chapter 5. I did not spot any errors.

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