Saturday, February 27, 2010


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Casey Dué (ed.), Recapturing a Homeric Legacy: Images and Insights from the Venetus A Manuscript of the Iliad. Hellenic Studies; 35. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies, Harvard University, 2009. Pp. xvi, 168. ISBN 9780674032026. $69.95.
Reviewed by Maria Broggiato, Università di Roma La Sapienza

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

This volume is a collection of studies dealing with one of the most famous Greek manuscripts of the Middle Ages, the Venetus A, a prized possession of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice (Marcianus Graecus Z. 454 [= 822]). This Byzantine luxury codex dates back to the tenth century AD and contains the oldest complete text of the Iliad, with a unique set of marginal notes that preserve, among other things, the work on the poem of the most prominent Alexandrian scholars of the Hellenistic age. The manuscript occupies an important place in the history of modern Homeric studies; in the fifteenth century it was part of the personal library of cardinal Basileios Bessarion, who donated his books to the city of Venice. Bessarion's gift was to constitute the core of the Marciana Library, where our manuscript lay effectively forgotten until the end of the eighteenth century, when a French scholar, Jean Baptiste Gaspard d'Ansse de Villoison, rediscovered it and published its contents (1788). Villoison's edition created new interest in Homer and in the history of the text of the epics, and led to the publication in 1795 of F. A. Wolf's Prolegomena ad Homerum, a work that marks the beginning of modern Homeric scholarship.

Dué's book is issued by the Center for Hellenic Studies, and it is closely linked to the Center's Homer Multitext Project (Center for Hellenic Studies); the Project is in the process of publishing on its website the digital photographs of Venetus A, together with those of two other manuscripts of the Iliad in the Marciana (Marc. Gr. Z 453 = 821, better known as Venetus B, and Marc. Gr. Z 458 = 841, U4 in Allen's edition).1 The importance of digitisation projects of this kind can hardly be overstated, as they make widely available material that only few scholars could previously use; all those interested will be able to browse and download the photographs, published on the site under a Creative Commons non-commercial license.

Our volume is an elegantly presented and accessible introduction to the new digital images of Venetus A. It is clearly aimed at a wider readership, as all contributions share a non-technical approach to their respective topics; at times, this is achieved at the cost of some overlap in the contents between the different chapters. English translations of Greek passages are always provided and no previous knowledge of the Homeric epics and their history is taken for granted. The book is also therefore a useful tool for students as well as for classicists who do not have a specialized knowledge in the complex field of ancient Homeric scholarship and its transmission. The importance and uniqueness of the texts Venetus A contains should not make us forget that this manuscript is an artifact that deserves study in its own right; accordingly, the contributions in the present volume consider not only Homer's text and its notes (or scholia), but also the manuscript's material characteristics, including its illustrations.

The book opens with a foreword by Marino Zorzi, former director of the Biblioteca Marciana, and a short preface by Susy Marcon, the curator of the manuscripts division. The first three chapters, by Christopher Blackwell, Casey Dué and Mary Ebbott, give some preliminary information on the manuscript and the texts it contains, with sections dealing with its history, an outline of its contents, an overview of history of the text of the Iliad and of its transmission from the papyrus rolls used in the ancient world up to the digital images now published on the Center's website. The new possibilities offered by the digital medium are rightly underlined-- for example, the digital images allow the reader to zoom in to the scholia, which would be extremely difficult to read in a traditional reproduction.

In the fourth chapter, Myriam Hecquet provides a thorough description of the material characteristics of the book, with details on the ruling of the pages, the composition and foliation of the codex, and the writing of the Iliad text and of the main set of scholia. As the manuscript bears no subscription, we do not know the name of the scribe who realized it, when and where he worked, and who his sponsor was; Hecquet's analysis is meant to lay the foundations for further work that might help us answer these questions.

The next contribution, by Graeme Bird, deals with one of the most interesting features of the codex, the presence, on almost every page, of critical signs; they appear at the left-hand margin of the Iliad text and convey significant information on the work of Alexandrian scholars (in particular Aristarchus) on the text and interpretation of Homer. The author sets forth a convenient list of these signs, with a description of their meaning and pictures from the manuscript; he then proceeds to illustrate their use, discussing four selected pages that together present examples of all the listed signs. The judicious use of pictures and the approachable style of the discussion make this contribution an ideal introduction to this most esoteric subject in classical studies.2

Apart from twenty-four enlarged initials that marked the beginning of each book of the Iliad, the manuscript originally was not illustrated. In her section Ioli Kalavrezou considers the illustrations added at a later date in the margins of the introductory texts to the Iliad; they picture the events that happened before the war around Troy, from the quarrel about the golden apple to the outbreak of the war. The folios with these illustrations are not at present in the correct order (they were re-bound out of order when the manuscript was later restored); K. convincingly reconstructs their original sequence and identifies their subjects, assigning them to the twelfth century. The renewed interest in the epics among Byzantine scholars of this period would explain why the owner of the manuscript decided to enhance an already precious codex with new illustrations.

The visual formatting and the lettering of the notes surrounding the Iliad text in the manuscript again comes to the forefront in Gregory Nagy's analysis of passages from the scholia, with the intent of reconstructing the ancient system of reading Homer out loud.3 Here 'ancient' refers to pre-Byzantine conventions in the reading of texts, used approximately between the fourth century BC and the fourth AD. In this context, the discussion of the Alexandrians' observations, found in the scholia, on accentuation and quantity in Homeric diction is particularly thought-provoking; on a closer analysis, this apparently dull and unexciting material contains traces of ancient reading practices that can help us to reconstruct an even older practice, the actual performance of Homeric poetry in an earlier period.

In my opinion the main feature of interest of the book lies in its double focus both on Homer's text and on its physical support, the manuscript itself, with an emphasis on the mutually beneficial relationship between literary scholarship on one side and paleography and codicology on the other. The editor and the contributors succeed in dealing with their difficult material in an engaging and comprehensible style. Needless to say, not all Homeric scholars will share the Homer Multitext Project's presuppositions on the history of our text of the epics, especially in its early stages; however, the book and the website will be a very important tool for all those interested in Homer's text and its history.

The volume has a striking set of beautiful color images of the manuscript (both full pages and details); they do not merely give an idea of its appearance, but are essential to the discussion in most contributions. Also noteworthy is the use of a stylized modern uncial Greek font to reproduce some of the manuscript's lettering. The book is handsomely produced and very reasonably priced; it is also virtually free of misprints.4 It will be of great interest to most classicists and will hopefully spur new research into our manuscript and the ancient tradition of scholarship it preserves.


Foreword, by Marino Zorzi
Introduction: Homeri Ilias, in pergameno, pulchra, by Susy Marcon
1. Homer and History in the Venetus A, by Christopher W. Blackwell and Casey Dué
2. Epea Pteroenta: How We Came to Have Our Iliad, by Casey Dué
3. Text and Technologies: the Iliad and the Venetus A, by Mary Ebbott
4. An Initial Codicological and Palaeographical Investigation of the Venetus A Manuscript of the Iliad, by Myriam Hecquet
5. Critical Signs--Drawing Attention to "Special" Lines of Homer's Iliad in the Manuscript Venetus A, by Graeme Bird
6. The Twelfth-Century Byzantine Illustrations in the Venetus A, by Ioli Kalavrezou
7. Traces of an Ancient System of Reading Homeric Verse in the Venetus A, by Gregory Nagy


1.   The Project's directors are Casey Dué, the book's editor, and Mary Ebbott, one of the contributors. Another contributor, Christopher Blackwell, is one of the information architects. The CHS began making plans for the reproduction in 2000, under the directorship of Gregory Nagy; the manuscript was photographed in the spring of 2007.
2.   For more detailed information on these signs and their meaning I would have mentioned A. Gudeman's still invaluable article in Pauly-Wissowa (s.v. Kritische Zeichen, RE XI, 2, Stuttgart 1922, cols. 1916-27).
3.   The author here builds on his previous work on the topic (see for example G. Nagy, 'Reading Greek Poetry Aloud: Evidence from the Bacchylides Papyri', QUCC n.s. 64 (2000), 7-28).
4.   Some minor quibbles: the reference to Villoison's 1788 edition seems to have dropped out of the bibliography at the end of the volume; for the readers' benefit, it would have been useful to include in the book the academic affiliations of the contributors.

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David. J. Mattingly (ed.), The Archaeology of Fazzan. Volume 2. Site Gazetteer, Pottery and Other Survey Finds. Society for Libyan Studies Monograph 7. London: The Society for Libyan Studies and Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahariya Department of Antiquities, 2007. Pp. xxix, 522, figs. 760, tables 37. ISBN 9781900971054. £50.00.
Reviewed by David L. Stone, Florida State University

[The author of the review has collaborated closely with the editor of the volume under review on the Leptiminus Archaeological Project.]

This is the second volume resulting from a multidisciplinary investigation in the territory of the Garamantes, the powerful kingdom of southern Libya whose existence is roughly contemporary with that of ancient Greece and Rome. Surveys and excavations of Garamantian sites were initially conducted by a number of scholars including Charles Daniels, who worked in the 1960s and 1970s. The Fazzan Project, led by David Mattingly from 1997 to 2001, was designed to augment the research of Daniels, and after his premature death was also charged with bringing his research to publication. The major goal of the Fazzan Project was to understand the role of the Garamantes within the history and exploitation of the Sahara over the long term. Volume 2 publishes all the sites recorded by both Daniels and the Fazzan Project in the main settlement area (Wadi al-Ajal) and outlying districts occupied by the Garamantes. It also presents radiocarbon dating evidence, the pottery typology, lithics, metalworking and other industrial activities, and coins, beads, leather, paper, glass, and other small finds.

The Fazzan region is situated at a major crossroads in the central Sahara approximately 1000 km from the Mediterranean coast. The earliest occupation documented in Volume 2 consists of small bands of hunter-gatherers exploiting quartzite deposits to make Acheulean handaxes from c. 400,000 BP. There is substantial evidence for the Middle Paleolithic until c. 70,000 BP when an arid phase set in, resulting in the drying up of a large lake in the 3-10 km-wide by 150 km-long Wadi al-Ajal. At that time the Fazzan was abandoned and re-occupation did not take place until c. 10,000 BP, when mobile hunter-gatherers returned. Growing aridity led to the initiation of pastoralism and agriculture perhaps as early as 8,000 BP. During the last 5,000 years, rainfall has been negligible, and therefore agricultural production increasingly depended on the ability to acquire water from underground sources. This was most notably achieved by the use of foggaras, subterranean tunnels which tap aquifers and lead water to cultivated plots. A minimum of 617 of these foggaras are known in the Fazzan. They provided for the basis for substantial human occupation, with population numbers possibly in the tens of thousands at their peak in the first three centuries CE (Daniels estimated 120,000 Garamantian tombs could be found along the Wadi al-Ajal). The majority of the population lived in towns and villages, though they were stereotyped as transhumant pastoralists by Greek and Roman authors. Garamantian civilization declined from c. 400 CE. The Fazzan existed outside Islamic control until the 11th or 12th century, but new trans-Saharan trade routes developed through Morocco and Algeria, and the influence of the Garamantes on the development of the desert diminished.

A gazetteer of sites recorded by Daniels and the Fazzan Project constitutes about three-fifths of Volume 2. There are approximately 1000 sites, including hundreds of cemeteries, foggaras, lithic scatters, settlements of varying sizes, forts, inscriptions carved on cliff faces and other rock drawings. The research of Daniels focused on the Garamantes and the Fazzan Project aimed to cover all periods, but (as the authors admit) the gazetteer contains more information about later periods and about regions that have been most intensively explored. It is not, therefore, a comprehensive record of the Fazzan, though it is as good as or better than that for any Saharan region.

The gazetteer is divided into regions and begins with a helpful introduction to the codes used to designate these. Photographs, high-quality plans, and detailed records characterize the presentation of sites. The inclusion of many color photographs in a 'finds volume' was an unexpected delight, though this reviewer was disappointed by the small scale at which some of the illustrations were printed.

Extracting information from the descriptions of sites is straightforward; however, one is struck by the potential for the analysis of the information in the gazetteer beyond what has already been carried out. This observation would be valid for the other finds reports that follow the gazetteer and comprise the remaining two-fifths of the volume. All employ traditional formats and offer detailed and careful studies of material, but do not make use of GIS for spatial and chronological assessments. Analyses along these lines were undertaken in The Archaeology of Fazzan. Volume 1. Synthesis, but not to the fullest extent possible. Thus, Volume 2 contains a treasure trove of data suitable for exploitation in more detail. The authors will no doubt do more in their continuing work on the Fazzan, but the potential for other researchers to carry out their own studies is enormous. Additional questions that might be pursued include: relationships between settlements and environmental resources; settlement density analyses; distributional studies of site types, tomb types, ceramics, and lithics. For every period and category of material there are further questions to ask of the data included here.

For anyone who wishes to learn about the Fazzan in detail, a piece of practical advice can be offered. One's understanding will be greatly enhanced with both The Archaeology of Fazzan. Volume 1. Synthesis and Volume 2 open on the table at the same time.1 For instance, Volume 1 discusses Garamantian settlements, positing a shift in power over time from the early hill-fort at Zinkekra to the larger and longer-occupied oasis at Jarma. The conclusion depends on 11 AMS Radiocarbon dates from Zinkekra and 51 from Jarma; a detailed presentation of the evidence for these dates appears in Volume 2, indicating that the main cultural phase at the former lasted c. 1000-400 BCE while the latter has been occupied from c. 400 BCE until the present day. In the broader picture gained from both volumes, the adoption of settled urban centers at an early date here has significant implications for the Garamantes' abilities to control the central Sahara through a combination of raiding and trading. Similar observations could be made about parallels between other sections of both volumes; cross-referencing is frequent and explicit, and they complement each other very well.

The landscape of the Sahara is a fragile one, and is being transformed by petroleum extraction, tourism, and modern development in addition to environmental change. There is no doubt that Volume 2 of the Fazzan Project stands as an important achievement documenting and therefore preserving a record of its history. Indeed, the first two volumes of the Fazzan Project greatly improve our knowledge of the central Sahara and deserve a place in every research library. Volume 3 (in press) will publish in detail for the first time the excavations conducted by Daniels, and Volume 4 will consist of the Fazzan Project's excavations of the Garamantian capital, Jarma. We can hope, and reasonably expect, that they will be of similarly high quality and offer similarly stimulating opportunities for researchers.


1.   Volume 1, which appeared in 2003, did not receive a review in the BMCR, but readers may consult the following for discussions of its contents:

K. Sadr, Journal of African History 45.3 (2004): 492-493
M. Liverani, Libyan Studies 35, (2004): 191-200
M. Cremaschi, Libyan Studies 35, (2004): 201-204
R. B. Hitchner, Journal of Roman Archaeology 18, (2005): 717
S. Roskams, Antiquity 80 n.308, (2006): 467.
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Monika Trümper, Die 'Agora des Italiens' in Delos: Baugeschichte, Architektur, Ausstattung und Funktion einer späthellenistischen Porticus-Anlage (2 vols). Internationale Archäologie Bd. 104. Rahden/Westf: Verlag Marie Leidorf GmbH, 2008. Pp. xv, 531; 222 p. of plates. ISBN 9783896463760. €129.80.
Reviewed by Élodie Cairon

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

L'Agora des Italiens de Délos, depuis sa découverte, est l'objet de discussions et de controverses devenues internationales. Ainsi le sous-titre du livre de M. Trümper, Baugeschichte, Architektur, Ausstattung und Funktion einer spüthellenistischen Porticus-Anlage est programmatique : en offrant une nouvelle synthèse historique, architecturale, ornementale de l'édifice, l'auteur souhaite proposer une étude méthodologiquement destinée à redéfinir la fonction de l'édifice et ainsi, sa dénomination.

Lors de la grande répartition des chantiers de la Grèce à la fin du XIXe siècle, l'École française d'Athènes acquit Délos. C'est sur ces chantiers, héritage des grandes fouilles de la fin du XIXe et du début du XXe siècle, que travaille encore aujourd'hui l'École française.

Th. Homolle, un des directeurs de l'École française, entreprit en 1877 les fouilles de Délos. Dans un compte rendu des fouilles daté de 1880, il écrit : "Entre le temple et le Lac se trouvait l'Agora. Ce nom a été donné depuis longtemps déjà à la grande place R [ruines de l'Agora des Italiens], située au sud du Lac".

La forme et la disposition de l'Agora des Italiens reproduit la description donnée par Vitruve de l'Agora. Cependant Th. Homolle, déjà, dans son rapport de 1880 éprouva le besoin de justifier le nom d'Agora par une preuve. La preuve, comme il l'écrivit, était fournie par la quantité d'amphores brisées et par la vingtaine d'amphores entières qu'il trouva plantées en terre et alignées comme dans un cellier ou dans un magasin et par les comptes des hiéropes dans lesquels on lit souvent la mention de sommes payées par les administrateurs des finances de la ville, aux trésoriers sacrés, pour le loyer de l'Agora. Selon Th. Homolle, on avait là la preuve que l'Agora était une propriété du dieu.

Or, et c'est un trait tout à fait remarquable et notable de l'Agora des Italiens, l'édifice, est, comme on le sait désormais, purement civil. Ainsi, les premiers fouilleurs se sont trompés sur la destination de l'édifice. Le nom donné à l'édifice, quant à lui, est resté.

En suivant M. Trümper, une présentation synthétique de l'édifice peut être proposée: L'édifice mesure 8148 m2. Le centre est constitué d'une cour entourée de quatre portiques enfermant 3440 m2 de terrain sans pavement. Autour des colonnades, on a une série de sept exèdres ; 29 niches ; des Thermes avec deux salles circulaires, des sudatorium ; à l'Ouest, un groupe de trois salles ; des latrines, à l'Ouest et à l'Est. L'accès à l'édifice se fait par des Propylées à l'Ouest et par deux entrées étroites sur le cöté, à l'Ouest et à l'Est. Deux rangées de boutiques s'alignent le long du portique Est et du portique Sud tandis qu'une rangée de boutiques à l'angle Nord-Ouest n'ouvre pas sur l'intérieur de l'Agora mais donne sur l'extérieur.

La date de construction (examinée pages 351 à 359) n'a pas été déterminée avec certitude mais il est possible d'avancer que l'édifice, qui a connu plusieurs phases de construction, a été construit autour de 120 av. J.-C. Les boutiques pourraient avoir été ajoutées peu de temps après l'achèvement du bütiment central, les salles des Thermes et les niches quelque temps avant 88 av. J.-C. Même si l'on ne sait pas à quel point les troupes de Mithridate détruisirent Délos en 88 av. J.-C., on a la preuve de travaux de restauration (niches, statues, portiques, inscriptions restaurées). Il faut également envisager que l'Agora ait pu être dévastée à nouveau par des mercenaires aux ordres d'Athénodöros en 69 av. J.-C. Après cet événement, l'absence d'inscriptions ou d'activités tend à avancer que l'édifice a été abandonné finalement dans cette période de déclin général du port de commerce.

C'est en 1939 qu'est parue la première synthèse sur l'édifice. Elle est due à É. Lapalus. Elle a été publiée dans une des séries de l'École française, "Exploration archéologique de Délos" sous le titre, "L'Agora des Italiens".

É. Lapalus consacre 291 pages à la description de l'édifice et l'interprète ensuite en six pages. Il rapproche l'Agora des Italiens de l'Établissement des Poseidoniastes, à Délos, et du Piazzale degli Corporazioni, à Ostie. Mais il remarque le caractère spécial de l'Agora des Italiens car les parties réservées au négoce sont extérieures, et comme indépendantes du bâtiment principal. En conclusion, il écrit que par ses dispositions d'ensemble comme par son utilisation l'Agora des Italiens apparaît comme un édifice intermédiaire entre les leschés et les Thermes romains.

Les principales interprétations de la fonction de l'édifice qui ont suivi cette première synthèse ont paru dans des articles ou des chapitres d'ouvrages qu'il faut ici résumer brièvement : des archéologues français ont proposé d'y voir un édifice aux fonctions multiples, un lieu de réunion et de commerce, luxueux, pour les Romains et les Italiens de Délos. M. Cocco et F. Coarelli ont identifié l'édifice comme un marché aux esclaves, extrêmement protégé et hermétiquement isolé. N. K. Rauh a reconnu une installation pour tous types de loisirs associant une palestre, une arène pour les gladiateurs et des Thermes.

Si l'Agora des Italiens se prête à tant d'interprétations, le lecteur l'aura deviné, c'est qu'il est unique en son genre. M. Trümper, ainsi, relève un défi. La description matérielle de son livre est, à ce sujet, parlant.

Le livre est constitué de deux volumes. Le deuxième volume réunit 162 dessins et 222 planches de photos et un supplément, le plan de masse. Les photographies, pour la plus grande part, ont été prises par l'auteur elle-même. Elles sont majoritairement en noir et blanc, contrastées et d'une qualité exemplaire. Il faut ici saluer le travail de l'éditeur.

Le premier volume "Text", XV-531 pages, utilise deux tailles de police qui, comme l'auteur l'explique p. XV, permettent de visualiser ce qui relève d'une part d'informations et de résultats d'importance, d'autre part d'explications et d'analyses détaillées. Le texte est complété par 2370 appels de notes de bas de pages.Le texte est suivi par son résumé en anglais, p. 407-410.

Les annexes (p. 412-463) sont constituées de onze tables : tables 1 et 2, niches et exèdres (mesures, etc) ; tables 3 à 8, tepidarium circulaires hellénistiques (de Aï Khanoum à Vulci) et répertoire des formes des bains grecs dans des contextes divers ; table 9, inventaire des trouvailles dans les boutiques et les niches ; table 10, répertoire des inscriptions de l'Agora des Italiens (classées selon leur numéro dans "Inscriptions de Délos") ; Table 11 : dédicaces pour des Romains et des Italiens par des Romains et des Italiens. Les tables sont suivies du texte original des inscriptions de l'Agora des Italiens. A la page 476, commence la bibliographie constituée de 780 références. Les pages 501 à 519 présentent le contenu des dessins et planches du deuxième volume. Enfin, suit l'index à quatre entrées (lieux et monuments à chercher, pour Délos, en français ; noms antiques ; inscriptions citées dans le texte ; auteurs antiques).

L'introduction, et on pourrait y voir un paradoxe, est brève. Or, précisément, ces douze pages fournissent l'explicitation du livre, rédigé dans la connaissance d'un matériel découvert qui n'a pas encore été analysé ni publié voire d'études spécifiques à la réalité délienne manquantes sur certains sujets. Ainsi, l'état actuel des choses a décidé M. Trümper au choix d'une méthode précise, indépendamment de ce qui, comme elle le dit, pourrait être entrepris pour combler les lacunes.

Cette méthode qui utilise les méthodes traditionnelles d'analyses propres à l'histoire des édifices, à l'histoire de l'art, à l'histoire, intègre des formes de questionnement et des théories assez récentes. La situation complexe de l'édifice en tant que tel (architecture, pavement, sculptures, trouvailles et inscriptions très diverses) empêche de pouvoir interpréter seulement l'ensemble et implique un type différent d'appréhension et d'analyse.

Pour l'exemple, la division consacrée aux Propylées (p. 51) s'intitule "Das Propylon : Attrappe oder reprüsentativer Haupteingang ?". L'auteur fournit dans le texte qui suit un véritable travail d'investigation fait de questionnements explicatifs, de l'énoncé des assertions de certains chercheurs ou des questions d'autres chercheurs, et, en réponse, d'hypothèses rejetées pour les unes ou envisagées pour l'autre. La description s'insère dans chaque étape de ce qu'on pourrait avoir envie d'appeler l'enquête.

L'ouvrage révèle un souhait d'exhaustivité ; la démarche intellectuelle, fondée sur la volonté d'analyse de toutes les difficultés présentées par cet édifice, permet au lecteur d'avoir, à la fin, un tableau synoptique de la question. M. Trümper veut comprendre, et comme le dit le sens étymologique du verbe, fait entrer l'édifice dans un tout, pourtant impossible à connaître mais conçu comme possible à saisir.

Inhaltsverzeichnis XIII
Hinweise zur Benutzung XV
Einleitung, p. 1
I. Baugeschichte, p. 13
1. Umgebung und Vorgängerbauten, p. 13
2. Bauliche Entwicklung der Agora des Italiens : Der graduelle Ausbau einer geschlossenen Peristylanlage, p. 24
II. Architektur und Ausstattung, p. 51
1. Hochsicherheitstrakt oder offene Platzanlage ? -- Die Zugänglichkeit der Agora des Italiens, p. 51
2. Gestaltung und Nutzung der Hoffläche, p. 61
3. Gestaltung und Funktion der doppelstöckigen Portiken, p. 104
4. Formationsprozess der Agora des Italiens: Fundorte und Aussagekraft der Funde, p. 133
5. Luxusräume an den Portiken: Statuennischen und exedrae, p. 138
6. Ehrenhof, Memorialbau und Parkanlage: Repertoire, Präesentation und Interpretation der Statuenausstattung, p. 192
7. Sanitäre Ausstattung: Luxusbadesuite und Latrinen, p. 225
8. Läden: die ökonomische Grundlage der Agora des Italiens, p. 284
III. Der sozial-gesellschaftliche Rahmen: Bauherren -- Betreiber -- Benutzer -- Besucher, p. 293
1. Italiker und Römer in Delos: Probleme der Forschung, p. 293
2. Stifter und Geehrte innerhalb der Agora des Italiens, p. 298
3. Die Ehrenpraxis der Agora des Italiens im delischen Kontext: Ehrungen für Römer und Italiker -- Ehrungen von Römern und Italikern in Delos, p. 314
4. Nutzerkreis der Agora des Italiens: nationale Enklave oder öffentliche Parkanlage für die kosmopolitische Bevölkerung des Freihafens ?, p. 340
5. Résumé: private Munifizenz -- öffentliche Nutzung, p. 348
IV. Datierung des Baus und seiner Bauphasen, p. 351
V. Benennung des Baus: von der Agora des Italiens zur Porticus Italicorum, p. 361
VI. Porticus Italicorum: Funktion und Nutzung, p. 365
1. Funktion und Character der Porticus Italicorum: eine luxuriöse Parkanlage im späthellenistischen Delos, p. 366
2. Die Porticus Italicorum im Kontext späthellenistischer und spätrepublikanischer Architektur, p. 386
Summary: The 'Agora des Italiens' in Delos. History, architecture, decoration, and function of a Late Hellenistic porticus-complex, p. 407
Anhang, p. 411
Literatur und Abkürzungsverzeichnis, p. 476
Abbildungsverzeichnis, p. 501
Tafelverzeichnis, p. 507
Indices, p. 520Tafelverzeichnis, p. 507 Indices, p. 520 (read complete article)


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Angela Longo (ed.), Syrianus et la métaphysique de l'antiquité tardive. Actes du colloque international, université de Genève, 29 septembre-1er octobre 2006. Elenchos 51. Napoli: Bibliopolis, 2009. Pp. 649. ISBN 9788870885576. €50.00. Contributors: L. Corti, N. D'Andrès, D. Del Forno, E. Maffi, A. Schmidhauser
Reviewed by Lloyd P. Gerson, University of Toronto

The present volume is the product of a colloquium held at the University of Geneva in 2006 on the philosophy of Syrianus. This very rich collection of essays includes the following: M. Frede, "Syrianus on Aristotle's Metaphysics"; J. Barnes, "'Drei sonnen sah' ich. . .' Syrianus et l'astronomie"; R.L. Cardullo, "Natura e moto del cielo in Siriano"; A. Lernould, "Les réponses du platonicien Syrianus aux critiques faites par Aristote en Métaphysique M et N contre la these de l'existence séparée des nombres"; P. Mueller-Jourdan, "L'indéterminé 'matière' chez Syrianus. Brève exégèse d'in metaph., 133, 15-29"; S. Klitenic Wear, "Syrianus' Teachings on the Soul"; C. Steel, "Syrianus' Theological Interpretation of the Parmenides. The Time of the Divine Souls"; J. Dillon, "The Architecture of the Intelligible Universe Revealed: Syrianus' Exegesis of the Second Hypothesis of the Parmenides"; L. Van Campe, "Syrianus and Proclus on the Attributes of the One in Plato's Parmenides"; J.-P. Schneider, "Les apories soulevées par Syrianus sur la thèse de l'identité de l'un et de l'être (Syrianus, in metaph. pp. 59, 16-60, 26)"; D.J. O'Meara, "Le fondement du principle de non-contradiction chez Syrianus"; P. d'Hoine, "Le commentaire de Proclus sur le Parmenide comme source du Περὶ τῶν ἰδεων λόγος de Syrianus?"; C. Helmig, "'The Truth Can Never be Refuted' -- Syrianus' View(s) on Aristotle Reconsidered": A. Longo, "The Principle of Contradiction. An Ancient Interpretation (Syrianus, AD Vth cent.) and a Modern Interpretation (J. Lukasiewicz, 1878-1956): a Comparison"; K. Ierodiakonou, "Syrianus on Scienfic Knowledge and Demonstration"; M. Bonelli, "Dialectique et philsophie première: Syrianus et Alexandre d'Aphrodise"; L. Brisson, "Syrianus et l'orphisme"; C.-P. Manolea, "The Treatment of Ancient Greek Myth in Syrianus' Philosophical Works"; C. Moreschini, "Alla scuola di Siriano: Ermia nella storia del neoplatonismo".

Syrianus (d. c. 437 C.E.) was the "head" of the Academy at Athens for the last five years of his life. He succeeded Plutarch of Athens, whose tenure in this position evidently lasted throughout most of the first quarter of the 5th century. Syrianus was the teacher of Proclus, who succeeded him after his death and also the teacher of Hierocles of Alexandria, who was, during the middle of the century, perhaps the leading Platonic philosopher there. Among his works, his commentary on four books of Aristotle's Metaphysics (2, 4, 13, 14) is extant and recently translated into English for the first time by John Dillon and Dominic O'Meara in the series edited by Richard Sorabji. Aside from what can be gleaned from the commentary, what we know of his teachings depends on the testimony of Proclus, who throughout the massive corpus of his writings frequently refers to the views of his revered master.

Among the numerous frustrating lacunae in our knowledge of Platonism from Plotinus to its effective end in the 6th century, the largest one is still the period between Iamblichus (c. 245-325 C.E.) and Proclus (412-485 C.E.). The commentaries of Plutarch of Athens on some dialogues of Plato and on Aristotle's De Anima are lost, though some fragments remain, mostly, again, from the testimony of Proclus. So, we are not likely to have much more light shed from that source. In the last decade, however, much valuable work has been done on Hierocles, especially by Hermann Schibli.1 Also, recent studies of Theon of Alexandria, his daughter Hypatia, and her pupil Synesius have helped somewhat to fill in the picture at least for Alexandria in the late 4th and early 5th centuries. But it is to detailed studies of Syrianus' extant commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics that we must now look for help in advancing our understanding of late Platonism. Taking up this task is likely to yield valuable results given that most of the major philosophers of the so-called Alexandrian school -- Ammonius, Philoponus, Olympiodorus, Simplicius, and Damascius -- are direct or indirect inheritors of the teachings of the Athenian school of Plutarch, Syrianus, and Proclus. In this regard, we should note an important point, namely, that Platonism always was primarily transmitted orally. This is so despite the fact that most of the pupils of the Athenian school were exceptionally prolific writers. So, the better we understand "the Athenians," the better will we understand what was passed on to their "Alexandrian" brothers.

Although Syrianus was by no means completely ignored by scholars in the late 19th and 20th centuries, the present volume contains the most detailed and wide ranging treatment of his philosophy to date. The principal issues on which study of Syrianus' commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics focus have been and still are: first, how did Syrianus interpret the Platonic doctrines that Aristotle's criticizes, especially in books 13 and 14; and second, to what extent did Syrianus maintain that these criticisms undercut Aristotle's Platonic bona fides? The first issue is especially relevant to our understanding of the Platonism of Proclus and the Alexandrians. The second issue arises owing to the fact that by the time that Proclus came to study with Plutarch and Syrianus, it was already a well established practice in Platonic "schools" to introduce the student to Platonism by means of an intensive study of Aristotle, including his metaphysics. Such an introduction would be odd, to say the least, if it was thought that Aristotle's criticism of Plato was either uninformed or irrelevant. In fact, Syrianus, who in his commentary expresses his regard for Aristotle in the warmest terms, took Aristotle's criticisms of Plato as resting ultimately on shared principles. It is for this reason that all of Aristotle's writings, including of course much that is not directly or indirectly critical of Plato, were so assiduously studied and commented on by self-declared disciples of Plato. When Simplicius later pronounced Aristotle to be authoritative for the sensible world just as Plato is for the intelligible world, he did this in full recognition that this authority flowed from Aristotle's applying Platonic principles to the study of nature.

It is not possible in a short review to discuss or even provide a resumé of the arguments contained in the 20 papers in this volume. A useful feature, though, for those seeking such an overview, is that each article contains a one or two page conclusion, summarizing the main points covered. Thus, anyone interested enough to get their hands on this volume can in a fairly short space of time get a pretty good idea of the lines of thought contained therein and even acquire a sense of the more contentious scholarly matters. I shall here focus on those papers I found most thought-provoking, though I found in every one material of interest, if sometimes only for the specialist.

The opening article is the last thing Michael Frede wrote before his untimely death in 2007. It is a substantial, although unfinished piece, focusing both on technical issues in the manuscript tradition of Syrianus' commentary and on the broad lines of his understanding of both a Platonic and an Aristotelian conception of a science of being. Frede provides a perspicuous, although much too short, discussion of what is for the Platonist the fundamental problem of sorting out the relations among separate Forms, their ultimate cause the Good or the One, the "thoughts" in the divine intellect and in human intellects, and their simulacra among sensibles. It is from the discussion within the Platonic school and between Platonists and Peripatetics on these issues that the so-called problem of universals arises. This problem touches virtually every philosophical issue of the time, including the status of mathematical objects, the subject of books 13 and 14 of the Metaphysics.

An exceptionally clear discussion of this vexed matter is provided by Lernould who shows that Syrianus' basic strategy in replying to Aristotle's criticisms of the mathematization of the Forms is to show that Form Numbers are not the (combinable) numbers of mathematics. The combinable units of number are the matter and the cardinal number itself is the form, whereas the Form Numbers are, like other Forms, their paradigms. This strategy enables Syrianus to maintain that Aristotle's criticisms are for the most part a misunderstanding and that in fact an Aristotelian hylomorphic account of number fits nicely within a larger Platonic framework.

One of the central issues for late Platonists in their interpretation of Plato was how to understand the second part of the Parmenides. Proclus, in his commentary on that dialogue, provides an extensive survey of the widely divergent interpretations that appeared virtually from the middle of the 4th century B.C.E. onward. He calls the interpretation of Syrianus the "most theological of all," meaning, principally, that it maintains that the first hypothesis of the second part of the dialogue concerns the "One above being" which is the Platonic first principle and that the second hypothesis concerns the "One-that-is," namely, all the fundamental intelligible properties of being, which are themselves divine principles or different classes of gods. The third hypothesis is about human souls and the fourth about forms in matter. The fifth hypothesis concerns matter itself. This is a theological interpretation because it was assumed that any discussion of first principles would perforce be a theological discussion. In his interpretation of the second hypothesis, Syrianus departs from Plotinus and those who followed him in holding that the "One-that-is" or "One-Many" refers to Intellect which is the systematic representation of Plato's Demiurge. Steel's article focuses on the problem that Syrianus faced in reconciling his interpretation with the fact that the One-that-is seems to possess temporal attributes, whereas the divine "henads" or principles of the classes of properties deduced within the One-that-is do not. The answer, which for later Platonists like Damascius had an air of arbitrariness about it, is that time is attributed in the second hypothesis to divine souls as opposed to the human souls, discussed in the third hypothesis (represented by modern scholars like Cornford, for example, as hypothesis 2A, but universally regarded as a separate hypothesis by the Platonists of antiquity). Whatever the merits of the theological interpretation of the Parmenides, its elaboration by Proclus and some of the Alexandrians in defense of ancient Greek philosophy against what was by then the overwhelming threat of Christian theology was considerable. That is, it enabled Proclus and others to argue that Platonism was not just a philosophy of life but a theological doctrine incomparably more sophisticated and venerable than Christianity. Some of the details of the Syrianic interpretation are further worked out in the papers by Dillon and Van Campe in this volume.

In a brief but important discussion, Schneider deals with Syrianus' commentary on Aristotle's discussion in book 4 of the Metaphysics (1003b22-5) on the sameness of being and unity. As Schneider shows, this seemingly technical matter is for Platonists precisely where Aristotle went astray. Again relying on the second part of Parmenides (but not especially on a theological interpretation of it), Platonists insisted that being and unity are really distinct, as Plato argued in the second hypothesis. This means that they are not, as Aristotle says, one nature only conceptually distinct from each other. The portentous consequence of this is that one being--whether as analyzed in the second hypothesis or as found in Aristotle's Unmoved Mover or in Plato's Demiurge--cannot be the first principle of all. This is basically because whatever is composite is in need of an explanation for its being ultimately by that which is absolutely simple. Hence, the need to postulate the Platonic One above being. Aristotle's mistake, for the Platonist, was in failing to see the real distinctiveness of being and unity and so of taking what is in fact the second principle of all to be the first. Syrianus argues for this claim in posing six aporiai for Aristotle's position. As Schneider suggests, what is in effect the subordination of the Unmoved Mover to the One is at least one element of the basis for the legitimate use of Aristotle as an introduction to the study of Plato.

O'Meara explores Syrianus' treatment of the ontological foundation of the fundamental principle of scientific demonstration, namely, the law of non-contradiction. This law is famously and extensively treated by Aristotle in book 4 of the Metaphysics. As O'Meara shows, Syrianus' commentary on this passage defends the claim that human wisdom is an image of the activity of the divine intellect whose principal property in this regard is its substantial identity with all that is intelligible. In effect, the law of non-contradiction is here being taken as equivalent to the law of self-identity. The identity of the One beyond being is not at issue here, since knowledge is of being; the One itself is unknowable. The identity of intellection and intelligible in the divine Intellect is reflected in the soul in its achievement of wisdom. What Syrianus says is that the divine Intellect is virtually all that is intelligible in nature and in the soul and therefore gives both the substance of science and the principles of demonstration. The upshot of this for the Platonist (and at least here Aristotle does not at all stand apart) is that the so-called laws of thought are ontological principles even if they can be translated into a purely formal framework. Hence, to speak of degrees of identity can make sense ontologically even if not formally.

Christoph Helmig addresses Syrianus' position on the question of the harmony of Aristotle's philosophy and Platonism. Helmig argues for the view that Syrianus' commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics is a counter example to the general harmonizing tendency among Neoplatonists. In particular, he maintains that the thesis of harmony that I defended in my book Aristotle and Other Platonists (2005) needs to be qualified and that in fact the degree to which different Neoplatonists assumed harmony varied. This is certainly not the place to respond to Helmig's nuanced argument. Perhaps the most useful way to frame our disagreement is to indicate that Helmig's claim that Syrianus differed from Aristotle on the nature of the first principle of all is certainly correct. I do not believe that I ever denied this. Nevertheless, the fact that Aristotle unequivocally maintained that there must be a unique and absolutely simple and divine first principle of all--apart from an account of what its nature must be--is what I continue to hold is part of the "baseline" of harmony that the Neoplatonists saw. The thesis of harmony was for no Platonist a thesis about identity; rather, it was a thesis about agreement with regard to first principles and a claim that Aristotle's errors could be "corrected" allowing for his philosophy to be set within the framework of Plato's more capacious (and ultimately truer) account. Helmig is correct, though, in maintaining that Syrianus and after him Proclus (we may add here Philoponus) were more critical of Aristotle's Platonism than were their predecessors.

Maddalena Bonelli takes an approach to Syrianus which is the opposite of that of Helmig. She concentrates on the portentous passage in book 4 of the Metaphysics (1003a21-5) in which Aristotle describes the science of being qua being and its commensurately universal properties, a science which is distinct from any of the special sciences. She compares Syrianus' commentary on this passage with that of Alexander of Aphrodisias and argues that Syrianus is consciously interpreting Aristotle in a way that assumes the ultimate harmony of Plato and Aristotle. In particular, he sees the demonstrative science of being qua being as set within the framework of the Platonic science of dialectic which in Republic requires that knowledge of intelligible being is possible only by connecting Forms with the Good, which is "beyond being". Since this Good is unknowable in itself, the property of goodness that the science of being qua being studies will be the goodness of the second principle, not the first. And most intriguingly, according to Bonelli this reading of Aristotle is in line with Alexander's. In this regard it does not seem to me so difficult to understand the harmony between a view of a science of being qua being as first philosophy and a view according to which this entirely legitimate science depends ultimately on an unknowable first principle of all.

One of the more notorious properties of what has come to be called Neoplatonism is its tendency to see Platonism as a theological doctrine, itself in harmony with traditional Greek theological thought. As we have already seen, Syrianus attempts to systematize the theologizing of Platonism by his interpretation of the second part of Plato's Parmenides. Luc Brisson, in a detailed and careful study shows how Syrianus, perhaps depending on Iamblichus, tries to connect Platonism with Pythagoreanism and through the latter ultimately with Orphism and the so-called Chaldean Oracles. Syrianus wrote a separate work on this topic, only fragments of which remain. What Brisson amply shows is that at least from the time of Iamblichus, theological discourse is inseparable from philosophical discourse for Platonists. It seems to me that Brisson also implicitly reveals that there is perhaps not so great a distance between the Stoic "demythologizing" of traditional gods as aspects of nature and the Platonic "remythologizing" of nature as the traditional pantheon.

In addition to the above, the following topics are treated in this volume: scientific demonstration in astronomy (Barnes and Cardullo); Aristotelian matter in relation to the receptacle of Timaeus and the unlimited in Philebus (Mueller-Jourdan); the world-soul (Wear); the sources of Syrianus' exegesis of Plato's Parmenides (d'Hoine); Syrianus' understanding of the law of non-contradiction in relation to modern versions (Longo); the nature of scientific demonstration and knowledge (Ierodiakonou); Syrianus' treatment of skepticism (Bonazzi); myth in philosophical writing (Manolea); the thought of Hermias, another pupil of Syrianus and early head of the Alexandrian school (Moreschini).

To sum up, this is a book from which both the specialist and the non-specialist have much to learn. Along with the two volume English translation of Syrianus' commentary by Dillon and O'Meara, it will serve to open wide yet another door on the last phase of ancient Greek philosophy.


1.   See Hermann S. Schibli, Hierocles of Alexandria (Oxford, 2002).

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Thursday, February 25, 2010


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Adrienne Mayor, The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy. Princeton/Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010. Pp. xxii, 448; 8 p. of plates. ISBN 9780691126838. $29.95.
Reviewed by Arthur Keaveney, University of Kent


Mithridates VI Eupator (120-63 B.C.) was a famous king of Pontus--a region on the Black Sea--who in the last century of the republic long defied the power of Rome. In a series of three wars, fought between the 80s and the 60s B.C., he engaged with such great soldiers of the day as Sulla, Lucullus and Pompey. In modern times this resourceful and energetic monarch was the subject of a classic study by Théodore Reinach which appeared first in French (1890) and subsequently in German (1895) and later of important works by B. McGing (1986) and J. Ballesteros Pastor (1996). Now Adrienne Mayor has given us this detailed biography here under review. Although for the most part grounded on the ancient sources and modern scholarly literature, this work differs from its predecessors in its bold epic sweep. This is a highly coloured portrait and a very readable account of a complex individual with whom Mayor plainly has considerable empathy. The book therefore should find a wide audience and serve as an attractive introduction to its subject. The title Poison King would seem to suggest that perhaps Mayor, who is a noted authority in the field of ancient poisons, was first drawn to Mithridates because he, too, was a very great expert in such matters. However, Mayor goes far beyond such specialised interests and presents us with a richly detailed narrative of the king and his doings in which she constantly strives to put before us Mithridates' view of events.

There are, of course, gaps in our knowledge of Mithridates due to the state of our sources and Mayor attempts to fill them by imaginative reconstructions. Not so much a case of how things really were as how they might have been. This is not a course which will commend itself to all. For instance, however splendid the evocation of the landscape in pp.73-95 we may legitimately enquire if Mithridates' 'exile' from court was as Mayor describes it. Again we may wonder if there is any profit in describing what Sulla's fingers may have looked like (p.212). Moreover, I think we may attribute to that empathy we noted earlier the rather wistful attempt (pp.362-365) to suggest what might have happened at the end of the Third Mithridatic War if the King, instead of committing suicide, simply rode off into the sunset. Indeed I would add that I found far more fascinating than this speculation the few pages (pp.373-376) Mayor devotes to considering if Mithridates had a personality disorder.

Leaving aside now the problems posed by imaginative reconstruction it should be noted that there are a few instances of error or, at least, of questionable statements. Herodotus does not say the Persians learned from the Greeks to accept homosexuality, rather they learned of pederasty from them (p.89). Sulla and his army were not in Rome in the 90s B.C. when Marius met Mithridates (p.132). Marius was not a consul in 88 B.C. (p.165). I doubt if the Asiatic Vespers can be seen as a gesture of solidarity with the Social War rebels (p.174). Sulla did not destroy Athens (p.203). It is at least questionable whether the siege of Cyzicus began in 73 B.C. (p.270). In both the original (1992) and the revised version (forthcoming) of my biography of Lucullus I have argued in detail for 74 B.C. The writer was Sidonius not Sidonis Apollonaris (p.262).

But such reservations as I might have should not be seen as taking from what Mayor has undoubtedly achieved. She herself (p.11) says, 'Mithridates' incredible saga is a rollicking good story' and she has narrated it with verve, panache and scholarly skill.

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Cédric Brélaz, Pierre Ducrey (ed.), Sécurité collective et ordre public dans les sociétés anciennes. Entretiens sur l'antiquité classique, 54. Genève: Fondation Hardt, 2008. Pp. x, 340. ISBN 9782600007542. Fr. suisses 70.00.
Reviewed by Francesca Reduzzi, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II

Nell'Introduction, P. Ducrey sottolinea l'importanza di riunire sette studiosi apprezzati intorno a temi di loro specifica competenza per creare uno degli Entretiens sur l'antiquité classique per i quali la Fondation Hardt è giustamente famosa. In particolare il tema della sicurezza e dell'ordine pubblico è stato prescelto anche grazie all'interesse attuale che esso riveste.

Il primo saggio è di H. van Wees, Stasis, Destroyer of men. Mass, Elite, Political Violence and Security in Archaic Greece (pp. 1-39). L'autore descrive la società greca arcaica ed i violenti conflitti politici ed economici che coinvolgevano non solo le élites ma larghi strati delle comunità, mettendo in rilievo come tali conflitti non erano molto dissimili dalle staseis della Grecia classica. Nelle loro opere i poeti mostrano come le lotte intestine, più che gli attacchi dei nemici, abbiano effetti distruttivi sulle città, in una visione comune anche agli storici. Van Wees analizza le varie forme di violenza delle élites, in particolare il colpo di stato, spesso realizzato con poco spargimento di sangue, ma a volte attraverso la violenza armata. Le rivalità tra le élites per gli onori e il peso politico creava grande insicurezza nella città arcaica; il principale tentativo di contenere questa violenza fu costituito dalle riforme di Clistene che, secondo lo studioso, diedero grande protezione ai poveri contro gli abusi. L'ostracismo, poi, offrì un mezzo perfetto per convogliare in canali non violenti sia le rivalità nelle élites sia lo scontento popolare. Discussione alle pp. 40-48.

W. Riess, Private Violence and State Control. The Prosecution of Homicide and its Symbolic Meanings in Fourth-Century BC Athens (pp. 49-92). Lo studioso si chiede dapprima come riuscì lo stato ateniese a contenere la violenza non essendo dotato di una regolare forza di polizia; e, quindi, quanta autotutela sia accettabile in uno stato che ufficialmente proclama il razionale governo della legge. Nella persecuzione dell'omicidio la tensione tra autotutela privata e controllo statale rimane evidente anche in età classica. La normale procedura con la quale la famiglia della vittima cominciava a perseguire l'omicidio era la dike phonou, ma l'autotutela aveva un ruolo di primo piano nella seconda tra le procedure più importanti, l'apagoge. Riess analizza la flessibilità procedurale del diritto ateniese da una prospettiva simbolica. Per lo studioso, infatti, la scelta della procedura invia messaggi simbolici alle varie corti sottolineando differenti concetti di diritto e coinvolgendo la comunità politica a vari livelli: scegliendo una dike phonou, per esempio, sembra che si volesse enfatizzare la legalità dell'iniziativa; scegliendo un'apagoge, invece, si enfatizzava il fatto che il crimine aveva delle amplissime dimensioni politiche. Dopo un esame minuzioso di tutti i casi di omicidio e della relativa procedura di repressione attestati dalle fonti, Riess perviene alla conclusione che il diritto ateniese in questa materia era fondamentalmente orientato su base privata, con la dike phonou che era la procedura primaria. Riguardo alla tensione tra autotutela e controllo statale il diritto ateniese era un ibrido: da una parte, effettivamente, il controllo statale non poteva far nulla senza iniziativa privata e autotutela; dall'altra, Draconte aveva intrapreso passi decisivi per ridurre la faida di sangue, almeno nei casi di omicidio involontario. Alla fine una Appendix (pp. 93-94), nella quale sono elencati gli omicidi attestati ad Atene tra il 422 e il 350 a.C. e la forma della loro repressione, e la Discussione (pp. 95-101).

A. Chaniotis, Policing the Hellenistic Countryside. Realities and Ideologies (pp.103-145). In molti decreti del mondo ellenistico ricorrono espressioni formulari che esprimono una delle necessità fondamentali delle comunità greche di questo periodo: la tutela della chora. Anche quando tali iscrizioni non sono specificamente rivolte ad esigenze protezionistiche del territorio, ma ineriscono alla materia fiscale o finanziaria, la preoccupazione relativa alla phylake tes choras risulta essere un dato costante. Chaniotis in sei paragrafi ricostruisce l'ideologia sottostante alla salvaguardia degli interessi territoriali delle comunità interessate, vagliando le singole realtà esaminate attraverso il puntuale richiamo epigrafico. Lo studioso introduce l'argomento presentando un decreto ateniese del 325 a.C. (IG. II2 1629); sono poi illustrate sei differenti prospettive sulla sicurezza dei luoghi e sui pericoli cui la popolazione può essere esposta. Si occupa, quindi, dettagliatamente della varietà di pericoli per il territorio: invasioni nemiche; attacchi di briganti perpetrati ai danni di viaggiatori, commercianti, pellegrini e pastori; incursioni di gruppi di etnia barbara; comportamenti illeciti di soggetti che sfruttano indebitamente le risorse della chora; assalti di pirati o di altre comunità; conflitti civili; rivolte di guarnigioni nei forti e occupazione dei forti stessi da parte di esuli. La fuga di schiavi invece sembra rappresentare un pericolo solo in situazioni eccezionali; tuttavia, specifiche norme regolavano la loro permanenza nei santuari come supplici e la loro cattura. Sono poi analizzate le misure di difesa impiegate, quali la costruzione di postazioni fortificate vigilate da guarnigioni, o l'istituzione di truppe regolarmente addette alla sorveglianza, ma anche inviate da sovrani stranieri, o, infine, presidii di milizie cittadine, composte in genere da efebi. Nelle città di consistenti dimensioni le iscrizioni testimoniano la presenza di ufficiali preposti esclusivamente alla salvaguardia del territorio. Le funzioni di controllo degli (h)orophylakes sono trattate da Chaniotis in un apposito paragrafo (il 5, erroneamente indicato come 4), in cui è evidenziata la variabilità delle loro prerogative in base al contesto geografico considerato. In chiusura sono esaminate epigrafi aventi ad oggetto le dedicazioni religiose compiute dalle guardie territoriali in cave e santuari: tra le attività di questi corpi esse sono quelle meglio attestate dalle fonti. Discussione alle pp. 146-153.

C. Brélaz, L'adieu aux armes: La défense de la cité grecque dans l'empire romain pacifié (pp. 155-196). In questo contributo, dal titolo suggestivo, lo studioso illustra come le città greche durante il principato romano abbiano accettato di abdicare ai loro diritti di fare guerra e come la smilitarizzazione abbia pesato nella storia della mentalità. Brélaz ritiene interessante studiare le ragioni per le quali si mantennero uno spirito militare e le manifestazioni relative in zone pacificate quali le comunità greche nell'età imperiale romana. Esordisce con un discutibile paragone tra le città oggetto, appunto, del suo studio, e la Svizzera, uno stato dove pur non essendoci guerre da più di 100 anni continuano a mantenersi vivi simboli ed istituzioni militari.1 Compie quindi un'ampia panoramica dei problemi di smilitarizzazione delle città greche, della pax Romana dal punto di vista dei Greci, della conservazione della cultura militare, dell'immagine del soldato e sull'ephebia come istituzione tradizionale tipicamente militare; del ruolo delle mura; del problema della "guerra fantasma", cioè la competizione tra le città greche per ottenere onori e privilegi. Mette in rilievo come i conflitti interni sfociarono spesso in rivolte, assimilate dagli autori contemporanei ad atti di guerra, e come lo spirito militare delle città risorgesse in caso di saccheggio da parte di briganti o incursioni di barbari. In base a tutto questo, nelle "Conclusions" sottolinea l'attualità della tradizione militare e del tema della guerra nella vita pubblica di queste comunità, benché fossero state private del loro apparato militare, attraverso la conservazione di simboli militari. Queste città cercavano in vari modi di gestire la materia militare: attraverso l'idealizzazione del passato militare, nelle forme di espressione artistica, nell'esaltazione dei valori militari nella vita politica interna ed esterna e con l'esaltazione di ogni dimostrazione di forza. La tradizione militare, per quanto profondamente attenuata, sopravvive durante il principato e la guerra rimane una potenzialità, ragion per cui Brélaz può individuare caratteri di continuità dell'identità civica greca dall'epoca ellenistica fino a quella imperiale. Discussione alle pp. 197-204.

A. W. Lintott, How High a Priority did Public Order and Public Security have under the Republic (pp. 205-220). Nella prima parte dell'indagine evidenzia come durante la repubblica i Romani probabilmente consideravano la sicurezza sociale come il risultato di un conflitto piuttosto che della repressione. Tuttavia nel lungo periodo appare chiaro che la pace sociale poteva essere minata dai disordini prodotti mediante l'uso della violenza privata anche se finalizzata alla sicurezza e all'ordine pubblico. Lintott ritiene che la violenza "non produttiva" sia stata progressivamente eliminata dall'ordinamento romano. Le norme delle XII Tavole in materia di procedura civile ed esecuzione e quelle relative agli illeciti privatistici utilizzavano il principio di "giustizia popolare" nell'interesse dell'ordine giuridico; con la formalizzazione della in ius vocatio e l'introduzione del vadimonium queste procedure furono modificate. Fondamentale per cogliere la relazione tra diritto e violenza è la tutela interdittale della possessio: nella valutazione pretoria la vis diventa il parametro per discriminare la legittimità del possesso attuale e della pretesa restitutoria dello spoliatus; solo in ipotesi particolari il pretore poteva concedere eccezioni. A partire dall'età dei Gracchi la legislazione repubblicana comincia a reprimere in maniera sistematica la vis. Nella seconda parte del contributo lo studioso si sofferma sul ruolo dei tribuni della plebe nella storia della violenza politica. Dopo aver ricordato l'origine di questa magistratura, ed aver sottolineato l'importanza politica dell'intercessio tribunicia, Lintott esprime la convinzione che le prerogative dei tribuni potessero essere impiegate anche in chiave riconciliativa, allo scopo di evitare i disordini, come chiarito in alcuni episodi riferiti dalle fonti (Gell. N.A. 4. 14. 1-6; Liv. 42. 32. 7; Livii Per. 48; 55). Con la lex Sempronia de capite civium furono aperte le porte al sistema delle quaestiones perpetuae le quali, oltre che oggetto di continua contesa tra senato e ceto equestre, costituirono anche una valvola di sicurezza per il risentimento e l'agitazione popolare: il corretto funzionamento di questi tribunali costituì per i Romani un'alternativa allo scontro violento. Discussione alle pp. 221-226.

R. MacMullen, The problem of the fanaticism (pp. 227-260). In questo suggestivo studio, MacMullen descrive il fanatismo, sconosciuto alle religioni politeistiche, come una devozione a una fede religiosa per la quale si è disposti anche a morire e le sue caratteristiche: il sentimento monoteistico per un solo dio; l'irrazionalità delle azioni; la difficoltà di controllo e il fatto che costituiva effettivamente un problema politico interno durante l'impero. Dopo aver illustrato il fenomeno attraverso le pagine di Flavio Giuseppe, in relazione alle tre rivolte ebraiche, descrive l'ostilità fra Ebrei e non Ebrei, e si sofferma sulle violenze contro la comunità cristiana e la persecuzione dei Cristiani da parte dei non Cristiani, che presentano caratteristiche analoghe a quelle degli Ebrei, soprattutto perché "they endured the most exquisite agonies with a smile" (p. 237). Il punto fondamentale, per lo studioso, è che il fanatismo è "a thing not of calculations but of feelings" (p. 235). Anche nel tardo impero i contrasti dovuti al fanatismo non furono sopiti: si diffusero quelli originati dalle diverse correnti religiose (Donatisti, Cecilianisti, Meliziani, ecc.): un dialogo tra i differenti gruppi basato sulla ragione era quasi impossibile. Il fanatismo era basato essenzialmente sulle emozioni, e non può essere spiegato se non entrando "in the affective zones of their (scil. of the fanatics) mind, not the cognitive".2 Discussione alle pp. 252-260.

Y. Rivière, L'Italie, les îles et le continent. Recherches sur l'exil et l'administration du territoire impérial (Ier-IIIe siècles) (pp. 261-310). In questo bel saggio, lo studioso sceglie di affrontare il tema da un punto di vista cronologico, partendo da un approfondimento delle caratteristiche dell'esilio a partire dal principato di Augusto; egli nota come a seconda dei periodi storici emergano preferenze per determinati gruppi di isole (tirreniche sotto il primo dei principes, da Tiberio in poi le Cicladi), e differenze anche nelle conseguenze patrimoniali per l'esiliato: sotto Augusto quest'ultimo poteva conservare il patrimonio ed avere anche un certo numero di accompagnatori; in seguito viene a trovarsi in condizioni molto più misere. In epoca alto imperiale i condannati sono esiliati anche nelle isole del Mediterraneo occidentale, che essendo molto più grandi offrivano in genere condizioni di vita migliori; nel tardo impero invece in quelle dell'Adriatico. Scopo dell'esilio era principalmente l'allontanamento da Roma del condannato ed il suo isolamento: costituisce di certo una manifestazione della potenza dell'imperatore, che poteva far mutare la condizione dell'esiliato con un atto di indulgentia. Dopo le riforme di Augusto e Tiberio l'istituto vive per tre secoli: vi sono la relegatio in insulam, che lasciava la cittadinanza al relegatus, persiste l'aqua et igni interdictio (tipica dell'età repubblicana) e nell'epoca dei Severi viene introdotta la deportatio, che implicava la perdita della cittadinanza; le condizioni del relegatus sono ampiamente illustrate dai Digesta giustinianei, che danno altresì notizie sul ruolo subordinato al princeps del governatore della provincia nella gestione della condanna. Negli archivi imperiali, tuttavia, non vi sono notizie sui relegati, ma solo sui deportati, perché le sentenze ad essi relative dovevano essere vistate dal principe. Queste notizie sull'esilio testimoniano per Rivière soprattutto lo sforzo di razionalizzazione dei Romani.

Épilogue di C. Brélaz et P. Ducrey (311-316): gli studiosi fanno un bilancio dell'incontro di studio, notando come gli autori abbiano cercato di chiarire fino a che punto i problemi della sicurezza e dell'ordine pubblico siano stati presenti nelle varie epoche e come, di volta in volta, siano stati affrontati, con attenzione alle forme espressive utilizzate dalle fonti ed ai mezzi attuati per contrastare le minacce, e come le questioni dell'ordine pubblico abbiano costituito una preoccupazione costante dei regimi dell'antichità. Chiudono il volume un Index Locorum (pp. 317-334), che è però anche un indice dei nomi antichi, e l'Index auctorum recentiorum (pp. 335-340).

Questo volume costituisce un'opera di forte interesse, seppure soprattutto per gli specialisti. Anche se, infatti, presenta le fonti quasi sempre in traduzione, questo non è sufficiente a permetterne la lettura ad un pubblico non specializzato. Un elemento da sottolineare è il ricco dibattito che segue ogni saggio, che contribuisce a chiarire aspetti particolari delle singole relazioni, ed a volte contiene importanti approfondimenti dei vari temi discussi. Nel complesso il libro presenta una visione molto sfaccettata e direi quasi esaustiva di come il problema dell'ordine pubblico, della violenza in chiave antigiuridica e degli oppositori del regime sia stato posto nell'antichità greca e romana e come di volta in volta, a seconda dei mezzi a disposizione e delle diverse situazioni politiche, l'ordinamento abbia cercato di creare dei rimedi.


1.   Il paragone non mi sembra particolarmente calzante (per tacere delle epoche e, quindi, dei contesti così enormemente diversi), per l'evidente differenza della condizione politica: la Svizzera è uno stato sovrano, le città greche erano sottoposte a Roma.
2.   Il ruolo delle emozioni anche nel campo del diritto è oggetto di dibattito non solo negli Stati Uniti a partire dagli anni 90 del XX secolo: importante su questo tema il lavoro di Martha C. Nussbaum, Upheavals of Thought. The Intelligence of Emotions, Cambridge University Press, 2001; trad. it. L'intelligenza delle emozioni, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2004.

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Vinciane Pirenne-Delforge, Retour à la source. Pausanias et la religion grecque. Kernos Suppléments 20. Liège: Centre International d'Étude de la Religion Grecque Antique, 2008. Pp. 411. ISBN 9782960071733. €40.00 (pb).
Reviewed by Sarah Iles Johnston, The Ohio State University

Retour à la source takes its title to heart: Pirenne-Delforge presents a close reading of passages from Pausanias that are important for understanding his usefulness as a source of knowledge concerning ancient religion. Throughout, Pirenne-Delforge pays special attention to how Pausanias uses particular words--muthologemata, thusia, telete, etcetera--and builds on these studies to suggest broader conclusions, e.g., that for Pausanias, muthologemata were truths about the gods that had been 'parasitized' by falsehoods (page 71). The overall result is a book that both presents new interpretations of some problematic passages and also offers (for the first time, as far as I know) a reading of how Pausanias operated as what we would nowadays call a historian of religion, whatever else he may have been as well. As such a person herself, and methodologically informed by the most up-to-date work on ancient religion (as well as by work on Pausanias by scholars such as Jas Elsner and Ewan Bowie), Pirenne-Delforge can strike a new path that has global implications for further studies not only of Pausanias but also of religion during the Second Sophistic more generally, for two complementary reasons. First, by providing overviews of how Pausanias understood ideas central to our own study of religion (such as thusia), she improves our evidential use of his text. Second, by presenting Pausanias not only as a sungrapheus and a pious man (a standard authorial role during the Second Sophistic), but also as something approaching a scholar of religion, she usefully complicates such questions as whether he experienced an Arcadian 'conversion' (more on that below), and thereby challenges assumptions about how we might divide Pausanias the man from Pausanias the author.

Below I will focus on a few discussions that I found particularly interesting; therefore, an initial list of some of the book's highlights may be helpful:

Introduction: a description of her methodology and the reasons for its reliance on close readings of the text.

Chapitre I--Écrire une sungraphè: discussions of how Pausanias presented himself as a sungrapheus, and his dedication to sungraphe as work designed simultaneously to preserve information and to arouse the interest of his readers; Pausanias' care in distinguishing stories that he believes from those he does not.

Chapitre II--Les logoi: passé, mémoire et histoire: examination of such words as archaios and palaios (which are frequently called into use to discuss what we now call 'history'), genealogein, logos, phêmê and muthologêmata ('muthos' is almost never used by Pausanias); Pausanias' presentation of the past as fragmented; the tension between local stories and panhellenic epic; Pausanias' criteria for judging the credibility of a story and his use of direct and indirect speech to imply varying degrees of credibility; his differing treatment of divine stories and heroic stories; the purposes to which he puts genealogies.

Chapitre III--Les theôrèmata: le présent de la visite: arguments against Elsner's understanding of Pausanias as a pilgrim and Pirenne-Delforge's insistence on distinguishing theoria from pilgrimage; Pausanias' determination to conserve local knowledge; an initial discussion of vocabulary used to discuss ritual (particularly the verb dran--his view of rituals as 'something done' is thereby close to our own); Pausanias' differing motivations for being silent about certain things that he learns; his presentation of what it means to be Greek within a Roman empire.

Chapitre IV--La practique sacrificielle: analysis of Greek words for sacrifice; critique of the (scholarly) division between 'Olympian' and 'chthonian' sacrifice and consideration of alternative approaches; analysis of how Pausanias defined 'normal' sacrifice and judged individual cases against that paradigm.

Chapitre V--Le monde des dieux et des héros: the structure of the divine realm and the differences within it between gods and heroes; the role of epicleses and representations in the formation of concepts of the gods; the interface between religion and art in Pausanias; the issue of axiologia.

Chapitre VI--Cultes à mystères et autres secrets: the meaning of the word telete in Pausanias; the importance of understanding mysteries as local, civic cults; the issue of whether the Oracle of Trophonius can be understood as a mystery (as suggested in recent treatments by Pierre Bonnechère1); Pausanias' 'Arcadian experience' and his possible 'conversion' in its course.

Conclusion générale: the centrality of piety to Greek identity; the poikilos nature of Greek religious identity; the underlying tension in Pausanias' treatment of Greek religion between the local and the panhellenic.

One of the metaphors to which Pirenne-Delforge returns frequently throughout these chapters is that of cognitive 'frames' or 'grids' (grilles, cadres, trames, tissus), which she suggests that Pausanias constructed for himself and against which he implicitly judged each ritual or myth that he encountered. Through the study of numerous passages she concludes, for example, that Pausanias structured the past both 'horizontally' by means of great events and 'vertically' by genealogies (page 48); that he judged stories to be acceptable or unacceptable within a frame that balanced credibility against moral and religious worth (which leads him, rather remarkably, to accepting most of Lykaon's story, page 71) or then again against chronological accuracy or strength of tradition; and that he built an impressive grid for evaluating human behavior between the poles of Dike and Hubris (page 89).

The metaphor of the frame comes in for especially heavy use in her discussion of Pausanias' treatments of sacrifice in Chapter V. Concluding that, at least for him, the most 'Greek' sort of sacrifice comprised the offering of animal thighs to a god, she then evaluates his reaction to sacrificial procedures that were unique to particular cults. In the course of this, she engages with ideas that have been central to the study of ancient religion. The alleged distinction between 'Olympian' and 'chthonian' sacrifices, which has been under attack for about two decades now, is examined at length. Pirenne-Delforge concludes that it is of more use in understanding literary passages, with their stylized portrayals of sacrifice, than real acts. More importantly, she strengthens the inclination of recent scholars to reject any dichotomizing approach to sacrifice: although she approves of Gunnel Ekroth's2 proposal to adapt the anthropological model of 'high intensity' and 'low intensity' rituals, she convincingly argues that even sacrifices that are portrayed as having begun as 'high intensity' events (i.e., as responses to a specific disaster) and as thereby incorporating unusual features, come to be understood, over time, as 'normal' for the particular cult in which they are practiced.

Her analysis of Pausanias' use of enagizein, kathagizein and related words leads her to conclude that application of the term enagizein has more to do with who the recipient of the offering is (that is, whether it is a member of the deceased or rather a god) than with the actions actually performed during the ritual. In the course of this, she urges us to begin paying more attention to the 'vertical' aspect of sacrifice (the relationship established between humans and the recipients of sacrifice) and less to the 'horizontal' aspect (the relationship amongst human participants in the ritual), and to remember that, whatever else it may have been, sacrifice was understood in antiquity as an act of communication between the two parties. I agree with this; historians of ancient religions have too long been under the spell of Durkheim, as transmitted by Jane Harrison and her heirs, and need to catch up with the progress made by historians of religion in other fields. I also profited from her readings of specific sacrificial procedures--particularly interesting is her discussion of the striking ritual in Hermione during which four old women, armed with sickles, slaughtered cows within a temple of Demeter--a good example, in her interpretation, of a 'high intensity' ritual that was normalized over time.

Pirenne-Delforge does, occasionally, slip into circular arguing during this rather complex analysis--she suggests that 'higher intensity' sacrifices are more often made to entities whom we are accustomed to call 'chthonic' because chthonic entities are linked to high intensity situations such as famine, sterility, health and relationship with the dead (page 199). She sometimes offers interpretations with which I disagree: the appearance of enagizein at Pausanias 8.34.1 in connection with the cult of the Eumenides/Maniai contradicts her conclusion that the verb is used of sacrifices only to the dead, never to divinities. Her suggestion that Pausanias slipped into using the word here, nonetheless, because he had just mentioned the mnema to Orestes' finger is not convincing. Overall, however, this is the strongest, and methodologically the most provocative, chapter of the book and certainly is necessary reading for any scholar working on sacrifice.

The chapter on mysteries builds on three central observations. First, that 'telete' is the word most often used by Pausanias to refer to what we call mystery cults. Second, that 'telete,' for Pausanias, inescapably means a ritual or festival whose central elements are kept secret--and yet also, always, a ritual or festival underwritten by local authorities (and, thus, we endanger our understanding of teletai if we allow ourselves to understand them as part of a 'personal' religion along the lines that Christianity offered). And third, that Pausanias' experiences with teletai throughout his travels were strongly influenced by his dedication to the Eleusinian mysteries--he tended to 'Atticize' teletai that he encountered elsewhere, sometimes reading Demeter and Kore into the roles of local deities, even when he was careful to retain the local names and report on the local iconography.

Two further points are of particular interest. Pirenne-Delforge engages with Pierre Bonnechère's recent treatments of the Oracle of Trophonius, in the course of which Bonnechère, building on ancient evidence, argued that the experience one had at the Oracle was a type of mystery (orgia is used of the Oracle by e.g., Philo of Alexander, Embassy to Gaius 78, and Tertullian credits Trophonius with initiationes at Apol. 21.29). The issue is of some importance, since Pausanias provides the longest and most detailed account of the Oracle and modern treatments, therefore, tend to rely closely on him. Pirenne-Delforge argues against Bonnechère's interpretation, emphasizing that Pausanias himself never uses the word telete of the Oracle, and that, if she is correct in understanding Pausanias' own use of the word (as I sketched it just above), then his lengthy account contradicts any claim of secrecy that the Oracle could have made. While I empathize here with her determination to use careful attention to terminology to avoid over-interpretation, I would myself have gone further with a point that she notes in passing--that mysteries referred to by Pausanias with the word teletai and consultation of the Oracle of Trophonus shared a focus on the individual gaining experience (pathein) through contact with a god, rather than gaining knowledge alone in the strict sense (mathein) (page 330). The use of telete, musteria and their cognates in magical texts of the first few centuries C.E. suggest that this sort of experience had begun to be sought after in a variety of religious environments, not only in mysteries in the strictest sense. It would be rewarding to push this idea further.

And finally, Pirenne-Delforge suggests that Pausanias' 'conversion' in the midst of his journey through Arcadia is to be traced specifically to his face-to-face encounters with the region's rich tradition of Demeter cults. It is in Arcadia that he glimpses, more clearly than elsewhere, the enigmatic truths lurking behind the odd cosmo-theogonic stories associated with cults--Rhea's transformation of Poseidon into a foal to escape his father's ravenous greed, Poseidon and Demeter's equine metamorphoses during which a divine daughter was conceived, etcetera. Unlike his frequent model, Herodotus, who had refused to tell such stories at all, Pausanias repeats them in spite of not always understanding them; such was his confidence in their importance and their relevance for local cults. Nor does he take the easy way out, as did many other authors of his own or earlier times, by allegorizing.

The culmination of these Arcadian encounters, Pirenne-Delforge suggests, was reached during Pausanias' visit to the sanctuary of Despoina in Lykosoura; it was here, if anywhere, that a 'conversion' took place (page 346). She finishes the chapter with a reprise of her reasons for rejecting Elsner's division between the secular and the religious in reading Pausanias: everything that Pausanias encountered--however 'mysterious' and 'spiritual' it may seem to modern readers--was woven firmly into the fabric of civic cult. If the word 'conversion' often appears between scare-quotes through Pirenne-Delforge's book, it is because she wishes to remind us that we still deal here, in Pausanias' report and in Pausanias' own encounters, with very different kinds of religious experiences than those that were beginning to trickle into the Greek and Roman world from the east.

I will end with a pitch. The series in which this book appears, Kernos supplements, has since 1992 steadily published excellent monographs on ancient religion; at last count there were twenty-two entries. These are, unhappily, relatively unknown to American scholars for whatever reasons. The present review should prove how important this series is not only for those of us working on religion itself but for a wider span of classicists as well. I encourage the readers of BMCR to visit the Kernos website and familiarize themselves with the other titles.


1.   Most notably, Trophonios de Lébadée. Cultes et mythes d'une cité béotienne au miroir de la mentalité antique. Religions in the Graeco-Roman World 150. (Leiden 2003) and 'Trophonius of Lebadea: Mystery Aspects of an Oracular Cult in Boeotia,' in Michael B. Cosmopoulos, ed., Greek Mysteries: The Archaeology and Ritual of Ancient Greek Secret Cults (London 2003) 169-92.
2.   The Sacrificial Rituals of Greek Hero Cults. Kernos suppl. 12 (Liège 2002).

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Dan Solcan, La piété chez Platon: une lecture conjuguée de l'Euthyphron et de l'apologie de Socrate. Ouverture philosophique. Paris: L'Harmattan, 2009. Pp. 262. ISBN 9782296094697. €24.00 (pb).
Reviewed by Aikaterini Lefka, University of Liege, Belgium

The author presents in his introduction the aim of this book: to give a synthetic image of Socrates' piety, as Plato conceived it, by an attentive analysis of two Platonic texts, the Euthyphro and the Apology of Socrates.

The book is divided in four parts: 1. The Introduction (pp. 9-20); 2. The Euthyphro -- The Philosophical Debate on Piety (pp. 23-90); 3. The Apology of Socrates -- The Philosophical Modus Vivendi as an Illustration of the Pious Life (pp. 93-232); 4. Final Considerations (pp. 235-258).

In the first part, the author gives all the necessary information to help every reader to understand the particularities of the subject. He summarizes the way Greeks conceived piety in general: respect, not only towards gods but also towards other highly esteemed persons or institutions, such as parents or homeland. Another crucial point is the cautious way one has to read the Platonic work, which is never a direct exposition of the philosopher's ideas, but the dramatic presentation of many points of view.

The second and the third parts contain the author's detailed commentaries on the two dialogues.. According to Solcan, in the Euthyphro we witness the confrontation of three different positions on piety: the traditional one (represented by the accusers of Socrates and the parenthood of Euthyphro) and two original conceptions, of which only the Socratic one is really coherent and acceptable. The fact is that, in spite of his self-confidence (ironically supported by Socrates), in matters of piety, Euthyphro doesn't finally seem capable of giving a satisfactory definition of this subject. Therefore, Euthyphro's contribution in the dialogue is as a dramatic contrast to the philosopher's original ideas on piety. I find this point of view quite plausible.

The Euthyphro doesn't adopt any single theoretical definition of piety, but there are some elements of the subject that may be indirectly understood, like the attribution of true knowledge about what is pious to the gods themselves and the relativity of all human understanding of it, as well as the stress on pious action, which should reveal a theoretical understanding.

The Socratic position is more clearly presented in the Apology, where the philosopher shows the way he put piety to practice all his life. According to Solcan, Plato, in his free reconstruction of the apology of Socrates tries not only to refute the accusations, one of which is impiety, but also to reverse the situation by proving that the philosophical work of Socrates and indeed his whole life is an example of true piety in practice, a "divine mission" contributing essentially to the whole city's well-being.

D. Solcan offers an extended commentary on this text also, in order to examine critically all the questions it raises. For Plato Socrates is "the only truly pious person", "the only true teacher" and the most excellent Athenian.

In fact, according to the "Final Considerations", Socrates' conception of piety, as presented in the two dialogues, is a radically innovative one. The philosopher does not abandon the traditional divinities, but refuses to accept the validity of the lex talionis, suggested by the current mythology. Socrates' moral theology accords perfect wisdom and goodness to the divine beings, as well as benevolence towards humans. The ritual exchanges between gods and humans, founded traditionally on the belief that there should be a certain equivalence of give-and-take (do ut des), become for Socrates an act of confidence, accepting the better knowledge of the gods about what is the best for us to receive from them. Socratic piety is not only based on rational and irrational theoretical principles, but is essentially turned towards action. The life of a philosopher who dedicates himself to becoming better (as gods themselves wish us to become) and tries to help the others to ameliorate themselves morally also is the highest expression of piety, as it helps gods themselves to accomplish their task concerning human beings. Justice and goodness provide the common supreme law for the divine and the human spheres.

Solcan notes that the Euthyphro and the Apology present the Platonic version of Socratic piety at a period when Plato was still very close to the ideas of his master, whereas later dialogues show that he redefined his position on piety. But to demonstrate that Plato's ideas on piety undergo an essential change over the course of his career would require one to take under consideration all the relevant passages, and this is not attempted here. This makes the title of the book too general compared to what it truly offers, which is more clear in the subtitle. Solcan has written two very interesting, complete and solidly founded commentaries on the Platonic texts.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Version at BMCR home site
Mark Smith, Traversing Eternity: Texts for the Afterlife from Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Pp. xviii, 725. ISBN 9780198154648. $250.00.
Reviewed by T. G. Wilfong, The University of Michigan


Egyptian funerary texts of the Graeco-Roman period are less well known than their Pharaonic predecessors. This relative obscurity is partly due to their "lateness" in Egyptological terms, but also because of their diversity and complexity. Modern scholars have tended to group the earlier funerary texts into large corpora (e.g., Pyramid Texts, Coffin Texts, etc.), but the later texts defy such broad categorization. Many later compositions were used in a variety of configurations, and the boundaries between individual "books" could be fluid. The complexity of these later funerary texts has made their study as a whole difficult, but the volume under review here will significantly change this situation. In Traversing Eternity, Mark Smith provides an authoritative overview of the funerary literature of Graeco-Roman Egypt, with translations of some sixty texts, extensive introductory material for each and a general introduction for the corpus as a whole. For the first time, the majority of this diverse body of texts is gathered together in a single volume that is an essential resource for anyone interested in Egyptian funerary beliefs and practices of the later periods.

The documents translated in this volume come from the Ptolemaic Period (332-30 BCE) and the first two centuries of the Roman Period (30 BCE-c. 200 CE), a time when Egypt was under foreign rule and the Greek language dominated written documents in Egypt, but also a time when indigenous language and religion were still active and vital forces. The conjunction of cultures can be seen in the funerary artifacts of the time, in which Egyptian and Greek elements combined to create a new and distinctive synthesis. The later funerary practices were, however, firmly rooted in earlier Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife, seen in the survivals of older funerary texts and the development of the new compositions in indigenous language that form the subject of this volume. Thus the Ptolemaic period saw the most extensive copies of the standard ancient Egyptian funerary book known to modern audiences as the "Book of the Dead", but it was also the period in which the "Book of the Dead" ultimately disappeared. To take its place, an expansive body of funerary literature developed, some of which derived from the "Book of the Dead", but much of which drew on other Egyptian sources to create new compositions for the afterlife. It is this material that is translated in Traversing Eternity, and it reveals the development and vitality of indigenous funerary beliefs and practices in Graeco-Roman Egypt.

The funerary texts of Graeco-Roman Egypt are far from unknown to scholars, but remain relatively under-studied. Individual copies of late funerary compositions were published in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, some parallel text editions of specific compositions appeared, and there were a few overviews of the material. It was not until the pioneering work of Jean-Claude Goyon in the 1960s and 1970s that the study of these texts entered a new phase; Goyon's 1972 anthology of later funerary texts in French translation was a foundation on which current work rests.1 Although Goyon concentrated on only three compositions, his work demonstrated the importance of the wider body of Graeco-Roman period funerary texts from Egypt. Since then, much work has been done on the further identification and publication of additional texts and the organization of the corpus as a whole. The present volume builds on this earlier work but represents a dramatic advance in its comprehensiveness and the rationality of its approach to this complex body of material.

Traversing Eternity begins with an extensive "General Introduction" (pp. 1-57), the generic title of which belies its original contents. In this introduction, the author situates the later funerary texts within the wider history of Egyptian funerary literature and the range of funerary practices and material culture of burials in the later periods. It is particularly interesting to read of the relationships between the later funerary texts and contemporary non-funerary literature: for instance, how Demotic texts like the well-known Setna II story and the wisdom literature relate to the vision of the afterlife seen in the funerary texts (pp. 26-29). The author also looks briefly at the language and physical aspects of the funerary texts with a discussion of the plan of the book as a whole and as a general introduction to the texts themselves.

The texts translated in this volume are divided into two main groups. The first group (texts 1-10 on pp. 61-206) contains compositions not originally intended as personal funerary texts, but as rituals adapted for the benefit of deceased individuals. Many of these come from longer ritual books, such as the well-known Papyrus Bremner-Rhind (the source of texts 2 and 3), and most relate in some way to the death of the god Osiris and its aftermath. By far the most striking and original of these adapted texts are the two versions of laments for the dead Osiris by the sisters Isis and Nephthys (texts 2 and 4). These lamentations were to be performed by singers disguised as the goddesses, as specified in some detail in one composition (text 2). The goddesses lament the death of Osiris, but encourage him to rise from the dead. The texts' adaptation for individuals presumes that the deceased with benefit from this parallel with the dead Osiris, and this divine paralleling is the rationale behind the adaptation of most of the texts in this section.

The second group of texts includes compositions specifically intended for the benefit of deceased individuals (texts 11-60 on pp. 209-668). Although not every surviving manuscript in this category is translated, the author gives representative examples of all funerary compositions. Highlights include an embalming ritual (text 11), perhaps the most extensive description of the practice of mummification (and its mythological justification) in Egyptian, followed by a group of extensive ritual papyri of varied content (texts 12-15). Longer and shorter versions of the important "Liturgy of Opening the Mouth for Breathing" (texts 16-19) attest to the emphasis in providing the deceased with the ability to breathe in the afterlife. Long and short versions of the "Book of Traversing Eternity" (texts 21-22) guarantee the ability of the deceased to travel through the world of the living and to attend religious festivals. The "Book of Traversing Eternity" is amalgamated with the section of the "Book of the Dead" concerning judgment in an important Demotic papyrus (text 23), while a Hieratic papyrus presents the "Book of Glorifying the Spirit" for the benefit of the deceased (text 24). Texts 25-33 are representative examples of a category of compositions generally known as the "Books of Breathing", but more accurately (as in the present volume) as "Letters for Breathing". These texts guarantee that the deceased will be able to breathe in the afterlife, but also provide a number of other important benefits, such as offerings, identification with the gods and the preservation of the name of the deceased. Related to the "Letters for Breathing" are the examples of the "Book of Entering the God's Domain and Promenading in the Hall of the Two Truths" (texts 34-35). A number of shorter, untitled compositions (texts 35-51) reflect concerns similar to those of to the longer texts, but in more concise terms. Divine hymns (text 52) and divine decrees (texts 53-54) provide various afterlife guarantees, while the different versions of the "Book of Transformations" (texts 55-57) allow the deceased mobility through the power to transform themselves into a variety of birds, animals and other beings. (The author's introductions to these texts, incidentally, provide very useful discussion of the beliefs and theology behind these transformations.) Text 58 is a partial translation of a ritual papyrus devoted to divine rituals and offerings, and the section concludes with two very brief texts (59-60) concerning offerings in the afterlife.

The afterlife represented in these texts is recognizable from that envisioned in earlier periods of Egyptian history: the deceased passed through ordeals into a hall of judgment for a final reckoning. For those who successfully passed judgment, the later funerary texts emphasize the afterlife as a place of abundant offerings, and a place of ongoing interaction with the gods. The deceased have transformative powers (as in texts 55-57) and at least have the potential to travel and interact with the living, as seen in the elaborate round of holy places and festivals in the Book of Traversing Eternity (text 21). Readers unused to Egyptian funerary texts in general might find the emphasis on post-mortem sexuality to be a surprise. Earlier texts certainly address the afterlife fertility and procreative powers of the deceased, especially the royal dead. But these Graeco-Roman period texts go beyond what one finds in earlier periods--the afterlife is not only a place of procreative sex, but also a place in which the dead experience sexual pleasure. These later texts feature many striking and unusual images of the afterlife, perhaps none so arresting as the description of the goddess Hathor surrounded by antelopes, gazelles and other wild animals who speak to the deceased (text 45).

Contrary to earlier practice, later funerary texts sometimes include brief biographical sketches that recount the lives and deaths of the beneficiaries of the papyri. Thus we read of one man's happy professional and personal life of nearly sixty years (text 14), a woman's death shortly after being widowed and her subsequent embalming process (text 15), and another man's life as a priest and magician and his mysterious death (text 57). Comparison of these short biographical sketches with the longer formal biographical texts of the period inscribed on stone stelae might be an instructive exercise. Shorter manuscript colophons giving dates of death or manuscript copying, also unusual in earlier periods, can be found in, for example, texts 13 and 23.

The book concludes with a glossary and bibliography. The glossary (pp. 669-702) lists divine names, places, titles, festivals, sacred objects and items of divine regalia, provides brief explanations and cites occurrences in the volume. While the glossary is a helpful guide to the sometimes obscure individuals, places and things that appear in these texts, a book of this extent really does need a full index. Short of reading the whole book, there is no way to find discussion of individual Egyptian words or the occurrences of items too mundane to appear in the glossary. The extensive bibliography (pp. 703-725) cites references specific to the book, of course, but is also a useful guide to the widely dispersed editions of relevant papyri and secondary. The volume includes 14 illustrations of documents translated and relevant funerary artifacts, and two maps, all of which form a useful supplement to the text.

One significant contribution of this book is the simple yet bold decision to integrate Demotic texts into the wider corpus of Egyptian language funerary literature of the Graeco-Roman period. The majority of this material was written in Hieratic script, the more formal cursive derived from hieroglyphs, and composed in a form of the language known to Egyptologists as Middle Egyptian. The Middle Egyptian of the later funerary texts, though, was a highly archaizing form of the literary language of earlier periods, far removed from the everyday indigenous language in Graeco-Roman Egypt, which was written in the highly cursive Demotic script. The majority of texts to survive in Demotic are non-literary in nature, the documents of daily life, but Demotic was also used for formal inscriptions, a lively and diverse body of literary texts, and a substantial body of religious works, including the funerary texts that appear in the present volume. Traditionally, scholars have treated Demotic funerary texts separately, so it is particularly useful to see them considered as part of the larger body of funerary literature.

The appropriateness of presenting Demotic and Hieratic funerary texts together can be seen in some of the papyri themselves, which include texts in both scripts (see, for example, texts 14-15, which preserve parallel Demotic and Hieratic versions of the same text, and text 58, which contains different texts in the different scripts). There are even a few texts in which Demotic script is used to write Middle Egyptian (texts 20, 54, 57, 58 and 60) and one text that includes brief passages in a cryptographic form of Demotic yet to be deciphered (text 57, with an example of its cryptography in fig. 4). Other manuscripts include separate texts in both cursive Hieratic and formal hieroglyphs (for example, text 56) and hieroglyphs and Demotic (as in text 60), with hieroglyphs sometimes used as captions for illustrations (as in text 51). Greek is only ever used in these texts to write personal names (as in text 41) and then only rarely. These various combinations of script and language have a significance that is perhaps only partly understood and the author's discussion in the individual text introductions will form a useful starting point for future study. Regardless of the original script or phase of the language, the translations of all texts in the present volume are clear and elegant, with vivid touches where appropriate. The author's introductory notes about his principles for translation (pp. 53-55) are useful reading, in part because past translations of these later texts have tended to treat the grammar rather loosely.

The volume includes both published and unpublished texts. Some of the documents are entirely unpublished, or published only in summary or description. Among these, it is especially good to see the author's translation of an unpublished Hieratic and Demotic funerary ritual (Text 58). The majority of texts in the volume have been published before, but often in older or incomplete editions, and the author has devoted much effort to improving readings. A certain amount of the material in this book, of course, already appeared in French translation in Goyon's 1972 anthology mentioned above. The author provides new translations of Demotic texts he has previously edited himself, sometimes improving on his earlier work; note in particular the new translation of Papyrus Louvre E 3452 (text 57), which formed the subject of the author's 1979 doctoral dissertation. The author also draws on newer editions by scholars currently working on late funerary texts, like François Rene Herbin, Mark Coenen, Joachim Friedrich Quack and Martin Andreas Stadler. None of these texts are particularly easy to read and many are very obscure, so the earlier editions and translations of the texts were often major feats, but the author of the present volume is sometimes perhaps unduly critical or dismissive of the efforts of earlier scholars on these difficult texts. In particular, the translations of Jean-Claude Goyon receive rather rough treatment in the footnotes, where corrections are stated in terms that may seem ungenerous given the pioneering nature of Goyon's work. But one can also sympathize with the author's apparent frustrations, given the amount of work that must have gone into making Traversing Eternity such a unique and important contribution to scholarship.

This handsome and well-produced volume provides the most comprehensive survey of Egyptian funerary texts of the Graeco-Roman period available. The translations of the texts alone would have made it indispensable, but the author's detailed introductions to the corpus as a whole and to the individual documents make it an essential reference for anyone interested in Egyptian funerary practice and belief in the later periods.


1.   Jean-Claude Goyon, Rituels funéraires de l'ancienne Égypte, Littératures anciennes du Proche Orient, 4 (Paris: Les Éditions du CERF, 1972).

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