Friday, December 3, 2010


Version at BMCR home site

Paul B. Harvey, Jr., Catherine Conybeare ( (ed.), Maxima debetur magistro reverentia: Essays on Rome and the Roman Tradition in Honor of Russell T. Scott. Biblioteca di Athenaeum 54. Como: New Press edizioni, 2009. Pp. 244. ISBN 17213274. €30.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Marianne Sághy, Central European University, Budapest

Festschriften are notoriously difficult to review, and this slim volume of heavy-weight scholarship on a dazzling variety of Roman topics is no exception. Reflecting its dedicatee's broad scholarly interests, these essays, above all, manage to convey in the best Roman tradition the true meaning of inspirational teaching and lifelong friendship. The reader actually feels an acute wish s/he had been a disciple of Bryn Mawr's very own distinguished Professor of Latin and Classical Studies, Russell T. Scott. Twelve essays written by his former students and present colleagues testify to Scott's exemplary intellectual dedication to Rome which he transmitted to them all. The publication of this volume in the prestigious Biblioteca di Athenaeum series directed by Emilio Gabba is a tribute to Scott's international scholarly standing and his spiritual ties with Italy.

Catherine Conybeare's affectionate portrait of the honorand is followed by a useful Introduction by Paul B. Harvey, Jr., who unveils three main themes that lend unity to the volume: epigraphy, topography, and the impact of Roman tradition. R. T. Scott's bibliography, compiled by Richard Hamilton, functions also as a telling "job description" of a Classicist: a person with an insatiable interdisciplinary curiosity, equally at home in textual scholarship and material culture. Texts, contexts, theories and artifacts are well represented in this collection, and if questions related to Scott's two great projects—the excavation of the Roman colony of Cosa and the Area Sacra of the Roman Forum——are not addressed, this lack is amply compensated by the great subtlety of the archaeological papers.

Suzanne Faris's comparative settlement study at the head of the volume reveals the varieties of Romanization and the very different social and cultural experiences it entailed in two Numidian communities from the second to the third century C. E. Guela'a Bu Atfane and Henchir el-Hammam, although geographically neighbors, culturally grew apart in the period under examination. Developed by estate procurators, Henchir remained a vicus, while Guela, originally a tribal market center, gradually became an autonomous Roman provincial civitas. The ethnic (Punic? Lybian?) and cultural (Roman) identity of the inhabitants are examined with the help of epigraphic evidence recording the name-giving habits of the residents, whose catalogue is appended to the study. Bernard Frischer deconstructs the "hellish bath" scene in Petronius' Satyricon with the help of a complex literary and archaeological analysis to show that Trimalchio's bath is an image of a tomb, located at a rather unpleasant part of the Underworld. Julia Haig Gaisser follows up the fortunes of the representation of Apuleius, orator, Platonic thinker and magician from the second to the nineteenth century. The first self-made 'celebrity' of Antiquity, who was honored with a string of statues from homey Madaura to the capital city Constantinople, Apuleius carefully constructed his own image. Defining himself as the "handsome thinker", Apuleius made a philosophical statement about the connection between body and soul, physical grace and integrity of character that he sought to impress in the minds of his readers. Posterity, however, either misunderstood or downright ignored his philosophical claim and either confounded Apuleius with his asinine hero, Lucius, or represented him in the likeness of a classical head with beautiful, but empty features in an amazing variety of media, from wall paintings to contorniate medaillons and from cameo engravings to herms. Gaisser demonstrates that these transformations were completely alien to Apuleius' original conception of physiognomy.

Constructing an identity was a major preoccupation not only for individuals but also for entire communities in the ancient world. Historians in the imperial period labored hard to define the personality (and the myth) of the most glorious human community ever: Rome. While a plethora of recent works deal with the city as the image of the emperor and with the creation of the urban image of Augustan Rome, few take the trouble to clarify the different concepts of the Urbs in antiquity. For Tacitus—in Alain Gowing's account -- the physiognomy of Rome is not a question of buildings, but a matter of events. Mother city of the Empire, Rome was a microcosm that reflected the political, social and intellectual state of her inhabitants. As a consequence, Tiberius' relationship to Rome will comply with his life experience—to live in the shadow of Augustus. Paul B. Harvey Jr. unmasks the Celer inscription in CIL 6. 14647 (34085). Long associated with Nero's architect of the Domus Aurea mentioned by Tacitus, Harvey suggests that it may well be a product of seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish artists, who held drinking parties in what they thought was a temple of Bacchus and later turned out to be the mausoleum of Santa Costanza. Dale Kinney's paper reveals that the term interpretatio christiana, popularized by Erwin Panofsky both as a mental process in which a Christian signified substitutes a non-Christian one and as a major vehicle through which the classical heritage was carried on in the post-classical era, is a misnomer in art history. Pagan statues and ancient gems, for example, were amply reused in medieval art, without being christianized. The Augustus cameo in the Lothar Cross was not a reinterpretation of a "pagan" work of art, but a direct representation of the Christian conception of history. Kinney suggests that post-Panofskyan art history should rather have recourse to the notions of cultural osmosis or pseudomorphosis that have gained ground in recent historical research. Silvio Panciera unravels several mysteries connected with two identical inscriptions of the utricularii (muleteers transporting wine overland) found in Cáscina near Pisa and in Lattes near Montpellier. According to his new interpretation, the text records a dedication to Mars and to the Genius of the colony of Nemausus by the transporters.

David Potter's article is the first attempt at analyzing the sources for the life of Fausta, the consort of Constantine. Fausta's life and death may conform to contemporary patterns, but, fascinatingly, Potter is also able to probe into the secrets of the imperial heart. There is no contemporary record that the emperor executed his wife, and the fact that he never remarried, but lived in a self-imposed public celibacy, supports Potter's argument that the marriage of Constantine and Fausta was a love union.

Water has always been an important issue for Rome and Lorenzo and Stefania Quilici follow up the meandering history of the inundations and regulations of the lower course of the River Tiber from antiquity to the nineteenth-century. Michelle Renee Salzman deals with a man-made disaster: the Gothic sack of Rome in 410. Breaking with the optimistic accounts of Augustine, Orosius and Peter Heather, Salzman presents the pessimistic perception of the event by Jerome for whom the sack becomes a portent foreboding the end time. Jerome's apocalyptic reading was conditioned by his ascetic program, but also by personal rancour. The appropriation of biblical prophecy offered the possibility of a harsh social, political and, above all, moral critique of Rome: the city that expelled him deserved to fall. Reading the signs of times was a favorite pastime of Romans, but never as intensely as in the anxious weeks before and after the Ides of March 44, when Cicero wrote his De divinatione. While previous commentators variously focused on Cicero's description, or disbelief, of Roman practices of divination, Celia E. Schultz argues that by questioning the validity of key governmental traditions, Cicero questions the authority of the government itself. Mario Torelli analyzes a cycle of portrait-statues found in the Sabine village of Amiternum (Foruli) representing the gens Mucius Scaevola. Although the illustrious lineage suffered a strong decline during the civil wars and by the 2nd century C. E. had sunk to the rank of the equestrians, the local domi nobiles paraded a sophisticated culture and erected elegant statues commemorating their ancestors, the chief pride of the family, not only in order to construct a claim to prominence and prestige, but also to attest the survival of the sense of history in a small village lost in the Appennine mountains.

As a fitting tribute to the achievement of Russell T. Scott, this collection of essays brilliantly shows how men, words, and art constructed Rome and Romanitas.


C. Conybeare, Biographical Sketch
P. Harvey, Introduction
R. Hamilton, Bibliography of R. T. Scott
List of Illustrations
List of Contributors
S. Faris, A Tale of Two Towns: Guela'a Bu Atfane and Henchir El-Hammam
B. Frischer, A textual-critical, archaeological and literary study of the Bath episode in Petronius, Sat. 73. 2-5.
J. H. Gaisser, Picturing Apuleius: Images from Antiquity to the nineteenth century
A. M. Gowing, Urbs Roma: Tacitus on Tiberius and the city
P. B. Harvey Jr., CIL 6. 14647 (34085) and the architect of the Domus Aurea
D. Kinney, Interpretatio christiana
S. Panciera, I molti misteri degli Utricularii Lattarenses a Cáscina ed a Lattes
D. Potter, Constantine and Fausta
L. Quilici and S. Quilici Gigli, Il Tevere nel corso inferiore : dalle divagazioni alle regimazioni
M. R. Salzman, Apocalypse then? Jerome and the Fall of Rome in 410 C. E.
C. E. Schultz, Argument and Anecdote in Cicero's de divinatione
M. Torelli, Il ciclo di ritratti dei Mucii Scaevolae da Foruli (Amiternum): un paradigma indiziario di prosopografia tra repubblica ed impero

Bibliographies, maps, black-and-white photographs and illustrations complete the collection of essays.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.