Thursday, June 3, 2010


Version at BMCR home site
Alessandra Manieri (ed.), Agoni poetico musicali nella Grecia antica. 1. Beozia. Testi e commenti, 25; Certamina musica graeca, 1. Pisa/Roma: Fabrizio Serra editore, 2009. Pp. 476. ISBN 9788862272216. €160.00 (pb).
Reviewed by W. J. Slater, McMaster University

Table of Contents

The inscriptions of Boeotia are not at all easy to master. Since the appearance of the invaluable IG VII, at least the same volume of inscriptions has been added, which becomes of central significance because many of the additions change the prosopography and with it the dating of e.g. federal archons. The various attempts to update the corpus in whole or part have been with very few notable exceptions, in particular A. Schachter's online Inscriptions of Thespiae (P. Roesch, Les Inscriptions de Thespies I-VIII, ed. G. Argoud, A. Schachter, G. Vottero), unsuccessful. Yet the festival inscriptions of Boeotia are among the most detailed that survive from antiquity, and their number is constantly increasing. We now have a new apologia from Delion near Tanagra (too late for this book), a new festival account from Lebadeia (also too late), a new festival of Romaia from Thebes (with magisterial comment by D. Knoepfler CRAI 2004 included here), new documents announced from Orchomenos; a conference is planned for Lebadeia this fall, which will probably add to the addenda, and the first volume of the last conference has just belatedly appeared as I write. The extensive columns of the Bulletin Épigraphique by D. Knoepfler keep one as up to date as these things can be, as do his entries in the Annuaire of the College de France, now on line; but the area has become inevitably one for experts and specialists in inaccessible material, like so much else in epigraphy. It is against this unpromising background that one must see Manieri's attempt to make available to classical scholars a complete list of the musical and dramatic festival inscriptions of Boeotia (excluding Euboea), with translation and commentary and analysis. It is the first volume in a proposed series. She includes the literary testimonia also, as well as inscriptions referring to agonothetes and theoroi. Obviously utility was a first consideration; Manieri is not an epigrapher or a specialist. Had she been, she would probably not have attempted this task; indeed even the hardened epigrapher, confronted by the lapidarium in Thebes, would shrink from any thought of a collection. If the specialists cannot or will not publish their corpora, then one must accept that ordinary scholars are greatly aided by having collections like this. This reviewer, for example, seized the chance to check the victor lists against the indispensable lists of the performers compiled by Stefanis in 1988, and was able with no great effort to add several more. But even here one must observe that there is no index of performers, which would obviously have been of great assistance.

First then a survey of the contents. Manieri starts with a general overview [pp.17-58] of musical competition in Greece and Boeotia. Especially at the end, there are useful tables: Tav. III suggests an organization of the festivals into successive months. Tav. IV details the victorious performers who occur in different festivals with their specialities, e.g. an epic poet and encomiast is also a writer of satyrplays; (but she has missed Chaniotis' study of this aspect in Ktema 15 (1990) 89-99), and Tav. V their family relationships. Tav. VI gives an illuminating comparison between the prize categories, remarkably similar throughout Boeotia. Her judgements on this material are usually sensible and cautious, e.g. [p.54] she resists the notion of defining too narrowly the use of the chorus in drama; yet here she is wrong to follow Gentili in citing the Chalkis decree for the technitae in this regard, when the text is doubtful and deals with a different kind of festival. Her discussion of the meaning of the competition called epinikion [p.56] argues that this "overall" victor has not always won another competition at the same or conjoined festival, though J.-Y. Strasser's discussion in Historia 55 (2006) 298-327 at 299 -- unknown to her -- approves the earlier solution of A. Schachter for the Charitesia-Homoloia exception. The more general introduction is inevitably superficial, given the outpouring of recent work on music and performance, most of which -- especially in English -- is missing here. More alarming is the bias towards specific Italian views. For example, it really will not do to retail the repetitious and wrongheaded articles of Domenico Musti [p.25 n.1] -- to which even more can now be added -- on the Nikephoria of Pergamon, and ignore totally the superior explanation advanced by C.P. Jones. It is fortunate perhaps that this does not affect one's appreciation of the usefulness of the rest. There is no overall summary at the end.

The bulk of the book is a study in alphabetical order of the musical (i.e. thymelic-dramatic) festivals of Akraiphia [or Acrefia; the italianate versions of these names is preferred throughout] -- Ptoia, Soteria; of Lebadeia -- Basileia, Trophoneia; of Orchomenos -- Agrionia, Charitesia/Homoloia; Oropos -- Amphiareia, games for Halia; Tanagra -- Sarapieia (but see below); Thebes -- Agrionia, Romaia, Dionysia & Herakleia; Thespiae -- Mouseia, by far the longest list, and Erotideia. Within these cities, the inscriptions are ordered by literary and then by epigraphical numbers, e.g. Theb. 3 or Thesp. 19, so that cross referencing is simplified. Many of these festivals had additions to their names like Kaisareia, Romaia and Kommodeia; some of them had more important hippic and gymnic components; some were very short lived, others disappeared and were revived; others were very long lived. The festivals are annual, trieteric and penteteric, but changed status from one to the other; some were organized and systematized by the Boeotian koinon, others by Sulla, -- Manieri had argued adventurously for a major Sullan reorganization of Boeotian festivals in an earlier article -- and two openly by the Dionysiac technitae, at least partially. This much we know, but extrapolated, even this knowledge suggests variety and constant change, mostly gradual but sometimes sudden, especially after the disaster to Boeotia due to Mithridates. Our evidence will be inadequate, even with Thespiae, to write the history of any festival; yet some of the victory lists and financial documents are invaluable in their detail for festival history.

Let me deal with Tanagra as an example. The section begins with a historical summary, and a survey of the festival(s), their religious background. But the description of the categories of theatre prizes [p.265] will be unclear to the uninitiated, when "commedie nuove" means "contemporary comedy" i.e. not Menander, and "attori di commedie" means "actors of contemporary comedy", i.e. not Menander. She does not unfortunately mention the interesting mathematical relationship between the prize values of the Serapieia (see below). 5 items are listed, all epigraphical: 1 is an honorary decree, 2-4 are lists for the Serapieia, and 5 is a fragmentary epigram from Delos for a victorious herald. The first item does not belong here, being an honorary decree for "poeti vaganti"; one cannot assume "che gli spettacoli [the term translated is akroasis] avessero luogo all'interno di importanti manifestazioni pubbliche" esp. since the emphasis on paideia (lines 9 and 10) and mathema (line 15) suggest gymnasium demonstrations; akroamata as J. and L. Robert said are "le plus souvent en dehors des concours" [Claros I (Paris 1989) 47]. Item 5, the victorious herald Zenobios [SEG IX 532; 1st BC? Peek; 2nd AD alii] is also Leb. 10 and Theb. 12, over-generously supplemented by Peek, but a victory at Tanagra seems certain. This would, thinks Manieri, be at the Serapieia. But of course a herald could win at gymnic contests also. Now it was long known that there was a festival called Delia in Delion operated by Tanagra, since it occurs on a hellenistic victory list from Messene [SEG XLIII 1993 162] for a pancratist, and is referred to as a major contest for Delian Apollo in IG VII 20 [corrected SEG VII XXXII 1982 424]. Zenobios will have won at this much more important competition, which we now know to have been federal and modelled on the Delia in Delos and to have had involvement of technitai [D. Knoepfler, Cours et Travaux 2006 646; C. Brélaz et al., BCH 131 (2007) 235-308], though this tells us nothing about the existence of musical competition. The festival cost twice as much as the Serapieia. Thus there should be listed another festival under Tanagra called Delia, to which item 5 should be allotted, even if it is only attested as gymnic. (But then logically other heralds and trumpeters in gymnic festivals should be included and they are not. Yet the gymnic Erotideia appear here under Thespiae with dubious justification.) That leaves the complex apologia [Tan.2] of the Serapieia with its attached full victor list, and fragments of two impoverished victor lists, which have always been taken to be from the same festival, these probably from after the Mithridatic wars; non liquet. It has been assumed on prosopographical grounds that the Tan. 2 came before the war, whereas Manieri claims that it came after and was part of the celebration for the Romans. I am unable to accept this view, both on the prosopographical grounds alleged by earlier scholars, and from the logic of the omission of competitions in the later victor lists, which only have local victors. One would also wonder that several competitions did not even have a second competitor, if the aim were to flatter the Romans. Manieri sees the Serapieia as a civic or even federal festival, and Brélaz also speaks of it being organized by the city. But it was paid for and run by a family trust with no known civic involvement, save perhaps that the trust paid out grants to otherwise unknown and in Boeotia unparalleled phratries. Nothing in the apologia suggests the involvement of Tanagra or its magistrates. The penteteric interest from the trust funds was designed to pay precisely for the 16 competitions, obviously over a longer term; it was not a one-off, and its history went further back than we can know. If it could not afford the 16 competitions, then that was because the trust funds had been affected by some crisis.

In her transcription of the complex financial details, it was to be expected that the typographical equivalencies for the Greek would cause a problem, and so in line 22 instead of mu digamma [= 46] dr. we read the nonsensical mu phi [= 4500], and the bar [= 1] after the three-stroke sigma symbol [= 3], i.e. 4 is so tiny as to be invisible to the naked eye; even with a magnifying glass it looks like a raised colon; the figures in her text therefore do not add up. Nonetheless her explanation and translation (p.271) are correct. These problems could have been obviated if the modern numerical equivalents had been inserted into the Greek text, an enormous benefit for the likely readership. Manieri does not note that the four levels of prizes are awarded in the mathematically precise proportions of 1:2:3, a subtlety that may well have caused the unique details of this apologia to have been published in stone as a sort of mathematical puzzle.

It would be possible but pointless to go through all the inscriptions in this detail. Obviously readers must be cautious, especially as new material emerges to clarify the relations of the festivals of e.g. Lebadeia, (on which D. Knoepfler has already given some important lectures). I finish with a general observation. Musical festivals in Boeotia show remarkably similar features for the most part, but there are exceptions like the Homoloia of Orchomenos, which is clearly choral in its basis, and belongs to a different structure for which we have parallels, which are however not in Boeotia but in Delphi and Euboea. Any categorization of festivals by geographical limits will inevitably create similar problems of comprehension; the hellenistic world had been globalized by the mobile technitai.

Not being fluent in Italian, I do not attempt to judge the translation. But on technical matters, there is room for criticism, e.g. handouts kata triklinon in the great inscription for Epaminondas of Akraiphia = Acr.19 are not "nella sala di pranzo" but "by individual triclinia" , which indicates incidentally a Roman mechanism, suitable for an new imperial festival. I do however feel justified in criticizing the minute print adopted by the press, especially in footnotes. I was unable to work on this book save in short bursts before eyestrain set in.

Overall then, a useful book to have on one's shelf if one is working with victor lists and festivals, or Dionysiac Artists. The specialist of epigraphy may grumble, but the rest of us will benefit. There are indices of literary and epigraphical sources, and a general index.

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