Thursday, July 29, 2010


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Jonathan P. Roth, Roman Warfare. Cambridge Introduction to Roman Civilization. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Pp. xvii, 310. ISBN 9780521537261. �13.99 / $19.99 (pb).
Reviewed by Duncan B. Campbell, Glasgow

Table of Contents

What can we reasonably expect from a book about Roman warfare? Discussion of campaign strategies and battle tactics? Perhaps even discussion of the aims and objectives professed by (or imputed to) the belligerents, and of the repercussions for each side? That is surely the stuff of warfare. The reader of such a book could justifiably expect to come away with some knowledge of key Roman battles, some appreciation of the ebb and flow of units on the ground, some insight into the decisions made, for good or ill, by their leaders. Sadly, there is none of that in the book under review.

This is the third volume in the Cambridge Introduction to Roman Civilisation series, which aims to provide "a first point of reference for students who will then be equipped to seek more specialized scholarly and critical studies" (p. iii). The CUP website goes further, promising that this volume "includes comprehensive surveys of wars as well as changes in Roman warfare, equipment and organisation during Rome's entire history." Certainly, it is attractively and colourfully produced, as befits an introductory volume aimed at enticing the general reader, and is, by and large, clearly written (in American English). But, rather than a study of warfare, the book under review is actually a concise military history of Rome.

An Introduction covers "sources and methods", mainly by listing the principal ancient authors, though it is perhaps not overly helpful for the beginner to learn that "ancient historians sometimes distorted, and even invented, events in order to improve the impact of their story" (p. 3). Individual chapters cover the military history of chronologically-defined periods, with two thematic chapters covering the army of the Republic and of the Principate. Separate information panels, one or two per chapter, each occupying roughly the space of a page, describe particular persons or events, such as "The Siege of Veii (ca. 400 BCE)." And each chapter ends with a short list of "Links", which are usually references to passages in Latin literature, although in Chapter 11 ("The Imperial Army as Society") this section lists several inscriptions and writing tablets. There are no footnotes and no references to modern literature.

The book ends with a 12-page "Timeline" of notable events (notice that "376 Theodosius defeats the Picts" should be AD 367), an 8-page "Glossary" of Latin terms, a 7-page "Glossary of People", listing some of the characters mentioned in the book (why not all?), an 8-page "Bibliography" (including a separate section "For Younger Readers" and the URLs of five websites), and a basic Index.

My general feeling is that a book "designed for use by students who have no prior knowledge of or familiarity with Roman antiquity" (sic, p. iii) should give the reader more guidance than is offered here. For example, having read Chapter 1, "The Wars of Early Rome", we are guided to read "Livy 2.10.1-13 (Horatius at the bridge), 3.26.7-29.7 (Cincinnatus), 5.1.1-28.8 (Siege of Veii), 8.8-10 (early Roman legion)". But where is the novice reader to find Livy? And what supplementary reading would be useful at this stage? I would have preferred to see a short "Further reading" section attached to each chapter, rather than a general bibliography of the sort that can easily overwhelm and disconcert the novice. And even the adventurous soul who manages to locate Livy will surely be baffled by a later Link to "CIL I2.6.7, 8.9" (p. 72).

If not sensu stricto a book about Roman warfare, how does it stack up as a military history of Rome? In this arena, it has some tough competition from books that cover not only the expanded definition of warfare offered here ("we mean not only the fighting of wars, but also those institutions, such as the army, that made fighting possible", p. 1), but the wider historical context, too. It would be unfair to compare Roman Warfare with the timeless classics of Scullard and Parker, for Roth has written a competent, broad-brush historical narrative; but the "warfare" element has been tackled by interspersing the names of battles and only rarely giving details of actual fighting. (It is interesting that, out of sixty-eight illustrations, only one is a battle plan.)1

The text is uneven in quality, and is marred by silly errors. It is disquieting to read that, during his research, Roth has consulted Wikipedia, "which provided an enormous and readily available handbook on any number of subjects" (p. xvii). It is surely wiser to dissuade students from relying on an anonymously-authored, publicly editable source, and to encourage them to be more discerning in their use of source material.2

There is a tendency for places and personalities to pop up and disappear again; most can be traced neither in the Glossary nor in the Index (e.g. the Andriscus who is defeated by Caecilius Metellus on p. 79). Such an avalanche of names, sometimes entirely irrelevant to the developing narrative, will serve only to confuse the novice. Time and again, I wondered at the wisdom of including glimpses of unexplained events, particularly when, in the absence of references, the reader has no means of pursuing them. Confusing, also, are the numerous, similarly-named Roman generals who flit across the pages; for example, readers might easily (and wrongly) assume that the aforementioned Caecilius Metellus (properly identified as "Macedonicus") is the same man as the Caecilius Metellus who appears in the Glossary (there, correctly identified as "Numidicus", but not so in the text, p. 90). Equally, Roman polyonymy can be guaranteed to cause confusion, unless tackled by a plethora of index entries like "Caesar, see Julius"; but it is idiosyncratic in the extreme to bury Sempronius Gracchus amongst the "T"s.

Of course, it is difficult to strike the correct balance between authority, brevity, and readability. But, all in all, I found the book unsatisfying as a discussion of Roman warfare, and I would be reluctant to recommend it to students, chiefly because they cannot easily pursue themes of interest. "Detailed and informative, but entertaining and readable," is the publisher's promise. I cannot agree with the former, and only the individual reader can judge the latter.


1.   Some key battles and sieges have been omitted: e.g. Sulla at Chaeronea and Piraeus (both 86 BC). Only one of Severus' sieges of Hatra is included, and Probus' siege of Cremna surely merited a mention, with its combination of narrative and archaeology. Also, some battles of uncertain location have been arbitrarily renamed: e.g. "Battle of Nicopolis (66)" (p. 102), "First Battle of Tapae" (p. 198). The Julio-Claudian eastern policy is much more complex than the version presented here.
2.   Wikipedia is presumably responsible for the information that the Column of Marcus Aurelius dates from AD 193 (p. 193), perhaps based on a misunderstanding of ILS 5920, which does not attest the building of the Marcus Column in AD 193, only its existence by that year. If ancient history students must use Wikipedia, it is perhaps worth noting here that, for our subject, the German version is usually less error-prone than the English-language version.

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Katharine T. von Stackelberg, The Roman Garden: Space, Sense, and Society. Routledge Monographs in Classical Studies. London/New York: Routledge, 2009. Pp. ix, 182. ISBN 9780415438230. $100.00.
Reviewed by Gillian McIntosh, San Francisco State University

Katharine von Stackelberg's book on Roman gardens offers an engaging and welcome contribution to an emerging interest in cultivated ancient landscapes. Gardens have tended to be overlooked, but recent publications by Patrick Bowe, Victoria Pagán, and now Katharine von Stackelberg have shown that such spaces are in fact worth our attention, particularly for the cultural information they convey.1 While Bowe emphasized the history and visual aspects of gardens, and Pagán the literature, Stackelberg engages both the material and literary records, as well as contemporary space theory in an attempt to approach the challenging task of discovering the Roman experience of gardens.

In the first two chapters, Stackelberg explores the ways to recover experience: in chapter 1, she presents the conceptual and physical terminology of gardens. In 2, the author sets up a theoretical framework, using Hillier and Hansons' access analysis theory, as well as theories of LeFebvre, Foucault, and Soja so as to investigate the social and spatial logic of gardens. Chapters 3 and 4 are concerned with experiential perspectives; in 3, Stackelberg explores the experiences generated by and occurring in gardens. In the final full chapter, Stackelberg applies the theory from 2 and the experiences from 3 to three case studies, and looks at the receptions to the garden spaces by viewers and readers. Stackelberg synthesizes everything in a concise conclusion.

In chapter 1, Stackelberg presents the representational and physical "spatial categories" of the garden. She first examines the evolution of hortus as its own concept, and then reads it in terms of its relation to other spaces. In Latin literature, whether the hortus demarcated inherited legitimacy (heredium), or signified social prestige, whether it was for productivity or display, was idyllic and nostalgic or for isolation and degeneracy, Stackelberg shows that hortus signified multivalent space and had a complex conceptual evolution. Add to this the various relational terminology which, Stackelberg argues, falls into one of two groups: one for nouns that signify cultivation of plants, and one for the "cognitive features" embedded in garden descriptions. Architectural features and context are important. The most common architectural contexts were the villa and the urban house, but others included shops and inns, planted porticos, planted temple enclosures, and tombs. In terms of the garden's architectural features, Stackelberg identifies three degrees of "architectural structuration": macro, median, and micro. The macro entailed freestanding architectural structures. The median architecture directed the focus of viewers to the garden. At the micro level, sculpture, carvings, paintings and mosaics "set an associative mood" for the garden (27) whereby viewers realized the interplay between interior and exterior space. All levels of structuration as well as the modification of soil, water, light, air, and horticultural design should not be overlooked; the overall effect would have an impact on the viewer.

Registering the impact on an occupant is a process which Stackelberg investigates in chapter 2, but the process is difficult because of evidence (lacking or incongruent), and because there was such variety in Roman gardens. Accordingly Stackelberg turns to space theory as a conceptual framework that has spatial logic. Stackelberg starts with "territory theory" which argues that lying behind the production, utilization and experience of space are the rules of society, but which cannot alone suffice since it rests upon a firm boundary between urban and rural spaces that does not work for the Roman garden and its "dual spatiality" (50). Cognitive theory posits a "fluid perception of space" (51); it recasts space as subjective and lived experience, and is thus appropriate for analyzing gardens since gardens make "synaesthetic demands on the body" (51) while being steeped also in a temporally specific context. This aspect of a historically-situated space is key also to Foucauldian theories of space, particularly to heterotopias since they are real spaces that have also a mythic element to them, and as such, they can include Roman gardens. In addition, Stackelberg turns to Soja's concept of "thirdspace," which considers "reality as it is lived and practiced" (52). Here, space is perceived as a dialectic wherein space and society interact.

In addition, following Hillier and Hanson, Stackelberg presents spatial syntax analysis which recognizes spatial division and enables analysis of how each space and the lived experiences in them worked within the architectural context. Stackelberg's original contribution here is to apply this analysis to garden spaces. From a smattering of examples, the author shows that garden spaces have certain shared structural features, yet they vary greatly in terms of size, accessibility, composition, and decoration. These differences are tied inextricably to social status. And since social rank changed, access to all spaces was likewise mutable. Gardens and their continuous de- and re-construction mirrored the fluid relationships between space and social status.

Roman political self-fashioning and presentation required much face-time: the aspiring politician had to be greatly visible as did his house. The permeability of the domus was key in the presentation and preservation of rank. Stackelberg turns to gardens within domestic space to see if they too were permeable, and in what way they affected social exchanges between inhabitants and visitors. From a swath of examples, and astute consideration of a Vitruvian passage, Stackelberg suggests that the garden's "dual spatiality" permitted it to be both a private garden and a public space. Gardens, then, like houses, were (re)producers of social status and of gender. For instance, slaves occupied gardens, but invisibly, and for upkeep; conversely, free men were likely to occupy the garden around dining hours, visibly, and for leisure. In terms of gender, gardens were perceived generally as "a woman's space" (71).

Having established that gardens were places of social encounter, Stackelberg turns in the third chapter to the lived experience of the Roman garden. Here, the author argues that garden experiences can be "categorized as power, awe and pleasure" (73), each of which categories is addressed in turn in this chapter. In the late republic, gardens were used increasingly to evidence social power. The land crises of the 2nd century contributed to this by enabling the wealthy elite to invest in large-scale estates on which they built villas and cultivated gardens. The aesthetic appeal of such cultivation found replication in the city in the form of vast horti. Horti, then, constituted a show of power, as Stackelberg demonstrates via the horti of Pompey, Caesar, Lucullus, and Augustus.

Gardens also presented the opportunity for their owners to construct and share an image of awe. Stackelberg illustrates the relationship between gardens and awe by way of Pompey's Porticus Pompeiana as well as by Agrippa's buildings in the Campus Martius. As performative spaces, gardens could also be transformative where transgressive activities such as "murders, marriages, plots, poison, war, riots, fire, madness, and incest" could find a setting (84). Nero, of course, occupies center stage in this part of Stackelberg's discussion. 'Performance' often also conjures up Roman religion. Literary evidence points to the practice of augury in urban gardens, though more common was the practice of making offerings to the lares, penates, and sometimes to the Olympic pantheon. Statuary, shrines, sacral objects and decoration were part of a "staged representation of sanctuary," and the gardens can be seen again as a liminal space, between hortus and temenos (87). This relation between religio and garden spaces is evident also in public contexts: Pompey, Caesar, and Augustus all capitalized on this politico-religious aspect of garden spaces.

Yet there appears to have been a sort of barometer of appropriate cultivation in Rome: while some manipulation of nature and some artifice were acceptable, excessive manipulation was regarded as morally abhorrent. It was too unnatural. Per Stackelberg, pleasure, when achieved by transgressive manipulation of nature, marks a switch from healthful otium to self-indulgent luxuria. Amongst such activities was, perhaps unsurprisingly, sex. Stackelberg argues that the common inclusion of a nude Venus or a Priapus in garden spaces may have contributed to the eroticization of such spaces. By my lights this claim has little purchase; however, that the garden was perceived as an erotic space more generally is supported by plenty of references in extant literature. Other transgressive experiences represented include rape, executions, crucifixions, violence, Bacchic celebrations, conspiracies, and the use of magic. Stackelberg states, "As heterotopias of crisis and deviation, gardens were accepted as spaces of transition or subversion as long as exterior social controls were strong and active" (100).

Stackelberg's final chapter involves the application of what has preceded to three case studies. The first involves the Pompeian Houses of Octavius Quartio, and of the Menander, both with an archaeological but no literary record. Stackelberg applies access analysis to the gardens so as to offer a "better understanding of their spatial and experiential impact" (101). These houses have been studied, and yet there remains no comprehensive analysis of the gardens and what their social function and experiential potential were. This is where Stackelberg makes her contribution. She first presents the history and appearance of each house before exploring the spatial logic and social value of both. The analysis reveals that despite the fact that in both houses garden space was of high social value, the experiences in each must have been different: property size, tree size, visibility, access to water, as well as décor all demonstrate the degree of social complexity, intentionality of design, and extent of control of the viewer by the owner.

In Case Study 2, Stackelberg provides a perceptive reading of Pliny's Epistula 5.6 describing his Tuscan property. Though no material evidence of the villa remains, the letter is nonetheless valuable. Stackelberg applies Soja's thirdspace framework to the letter, turning first to Pliny's presentation of garden space, then considering how this presentation influenced a reader's perception, before exploring the issue of practice. Stackelberg shows that while it is possible to identify three distinct garden spaces in the letter, the specifics in terms of location and of relation to architectural spaces cannot be determined: via notable ellipses as well as what Stackelberg calls a "diffusion of perspective", Stackelberg argues that Pliny deliberately manipulates the reader in such a way that "rhetoric and reality converge" in the garden. Furthermore, Pliny replaces the apparent subject of his letter (the villa) with the "true subject," himself (132). Stackelberg argues that it is in the garden that this transubstantiation occurs: the garden, like the villa, is art. And Pliny is the artist. This is the garden's thirdspace of practice: "By losing the reader in the garden, by its mise-en-âbime from a letter about a garden to a garden of letters, only the figure of Pliny is left" (134).

In her final case study, Stackelberg shows that 'place' in the presentation of history can carry significant social, political and religious weight. Emplacement) is not vague but specific. With this in mind, Stackelberg examines Philo's narrative on the Alexandrian embassy to Caligula which ends in the Horti Lamiani. Having presented the Horti's topography and history, and having contextualized the history behind Philo's narrative as well as why the specific locus of these Horti was chosen, Stackelberg shows that Philo's account evidences an imperial garden that "becomes the medium for a contentious encounter between imperial persona and resistant subject" (134). Consideration of Caligula's use of the gardens and of Philo's presentation is, then, a must.

This is an engaging and stimulating book, incorporating a broad (if not occasionally overwhelming) spectrum of approaches. I would posit first that the book is not intended for a general audience, and second that any classicist studying gardens, landscapes, and even the Roman domus will find Stackelberg's contribution a must-read, even if the reader is not (yet) versed in cognitive or space theory. Stackelberg well demonstrates the multivalency, complexity, and critical social role of Roman garden spaces and the experience of them. In a sense, then, and in so doing, Stackelberg brings Roman gardens back to life.


1.   V.E. Pagán Rome and the Literature of Gardens Classical Inter/faces Series. London: Duckworth, 2006; P. Bowe Gardens of the Roman World Getty Publications, 2004.

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Sheila Dillon, The Female Portrait Statue in the Greek World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Pp. xvi, 254; figs. 80. ISBN 9780521764506. $90.00.
Reviewed by Carly Daniel-Hughes, Concordia University, Montreal


In her second monograph on Greek portraiture, The Female Portrait Statue in the Greek World Sheila Dillon focuses on the commemorative portraiture of non-royal women from the classical into the Roman period.1 Like her earlier volume Ancient Greek Portrait Sculpture: Contexts, Subjects, and Styles (Cambridge 2006), with its focus on unnamed portraits of men, this volume examines an understudied aspect of Greek portraiture in order to nuance the study of this cultural media. This focused study nonetheless arrives at conclusions that extend beyond the art historical and could be of great value to classical historians of various types. Most especially Dillon's analysis sheds light on the gendered construction of public space in the Greek world, revealing how this conception of space informed representations of women's participation in civic and religious life as result. The monograph should find a receptive audience amongst art historians, classicists, and scholars of early Christianity as well. Readers will be intrigued by Dillon's conclusion that Greek cultural practices of commemoration persisted into the Roman period, an indicator of the lasting influence of Greek civic identities.

Dillon's approach parts ways with a focus on stylistics and instead traces patterns of representation in specific, local contexts. She concludes that women's portraiture followed alternative patterns of representation from men's by making sameness and not individuation the rule. Her conclusion shapes the format of the study as well. Chapter one, "Portrait Honors for Women in Late Classical and Hellenistic Greece," begins not with an analysis of portrait heads, which has tended to dominate art historical approaches to this media, but rather with a study of inscribed statue bases from Athens, Priene, Pergamon, and Delos. In the classical period of the fourth century these bases are often the only evidence extant for women's portraiture, making them an ideal starting point for systemic analysis of women's commemoration patterns. The formulaic character of women's portrait styles also lends these inscriptions import as interpretative clues about a statue's identity (26). Dillon treats us to an examination of base types and materials used for women's portraiture. This discussion leads her to an analysis of the inscriptions themselves. Dedicatory inscriptions for women, she demonstrates, highlight their role in familial relationships, whereas men's stress their individual identity (41). Most statues of women were set up in sanctuaries, sometimes individually or as part of a larger group. Male relatives commonly commissioned such a portraiture to memorialize a woman's marriage, her cultic functions (perhaps in conjunction with a celebration of his own), or as simply as a votive (51). Beauty and grace were the defining traits of women commemorated, or so the inscriptions would have us believe, rendering these portrait statues suitable adornment for the gods' own dwelling place.

The following chapter, "Clothes and the Woman: Statue Formats and Portrait Costumes," turns to draped statue bodies. The Greek world abstained from representing women with the "nude" portrait popular for men, and a fad, as well, for elite Roman women.2 All portrait bodies of Greek women donned flowing raiment reflecting cultural expectations that women cut a modest appearance (60). Despite this cultural protocol, women's portrait bodies in the Greek material still show an impressive and diverse array of what Dillon calls statue "formats", most especially in the Hellenistic period (99). Draped in various garb, tunic, peplos, himation, a figure could hold an "open and active gesture" or a more closed, wrapped one (68). The latter format was favored in the Hellenistic context (one thinks of the Pudicitia and Small/Large Herculaneum Women types, for instance), though open postures were common in commemoration of women who were cultic functionaries. It may be that the open gesture recalled a woman's ritual functions, Dillon suggests (77). Similarly raiment, like the peplos, could signal cultic affiliations, and this divine costume also visually aligned a woman with the honored goddess herself. This representational practice was later elaborated in women's statuary in the Roman period (82). On the whole, this chapter concludes that the range of body formats in Greek women's portraiture reveals a complex representational art in which a woman's "erotic charm" and her "self-restraint" were on display (102).

Where portrait bodies could vary subtly to elaborate a statue's identity, portrait heads reveal a monotony of sameness. Chapter Three, "The Female Portrait Face," indicates most clearly the need for a separate study of women and men's Greek portrait statuary. Why, Dillon asks, did men's portrait heads depend increasingly on accented "physiognomic individuality" where women's did not? She argues that because women had limited public roles, aside from being cultic functionaries, the need for individuation was perhaps less pressing, thus even the range of hairstyles and facial expressions were largely unchanged over centuries of statuary (104 and 133). Her analysis shows subtle variations in women's head portraits: they don the head covering mantle, a "melon" coiffure with undulating curls meeting at the nape of their necks, or the high "peak" style, hair piled in a triangular point at top their heads. These favored coiffures were variously paired with soft, youthful, and non-descript countenances. This "narrow range" of styles reveals that what was most important to communicate in women's portraiture was youth and beauty, attributes that not only were an honor to a woman's family, but also Dillon intriguingly suggests, a means to negotiate cultural anxieties about the "public display of the elite female face" (133).

The fourth and final chapter, "The Not Portrait Style of Female Portraiture in the Roman Period," zeroes on women's portraiture at three sites, Aphrodisias, Perge, and Thasos. It explores the endurance of non-descript and formulaic portrait heads into the Roman period, what Dillon calls the "not portrait" type. Evidence ranging in date from the first century BCE to the third century CE allows Dillon to consider the impact of Roman artistic innovations in the Greek east, especially individuated portraits for women. The results show different patterns emerging: portraiture at Thasos and Perge persists with the traditional Hellenistic style where in Aphrodisias, the Roman format takes greater precedence (149). An intriguing analysis of the well-studied statuary at Placina Magna's gate at Perge considers the complex's portraiture as a representation of Plancia Magna's civic identity.3 Dillon shows how Greek patterns of portraiture shaped this iconographic program in which the older Hellenistic generalizing style is preferred. Here the portraits of Plancia Magna and the other women with whom she was placed (including Empress Sabina) echo the Hellenistic values of "female beauty, good breeding, dignity, and personal modesty," thereby setting this female patron in continuity with the pre-Roman history of her Greek city even as inscriptions boldly proclaim her ties with the imperial house (160-163).

On the whole, Dillon's study indicates how women's portraiture reflected existing gender ideologies of the Greek world (166). The Female Portrait Statue in the Greek World makes a compelling case, too, for studying ancient portraiture in its historical and local contexts. This well-argued conclusion places her monograph alongside the rigorous contextual and cultural analyses of Hellenistic portraiture by R.R.R. Smith, of which Dillon is aware (3).4 Like Smith, she reveals that stylistic shifts should not overwhelm our attention to the fact that Greek portrait statues communicated by means of their local settings and places in iconographic programs. Most especially, Dillon reminds us that the representational choices in woman's portrait included the subtle combination of the three key constituent parts: the inscription, the body format, and the sculpted head.


1.   Dillon points out that not only are few royal portraits extant outside of Egypt in the Hellenistic period, but also that royal portraiture did not, by and large, influence commemorative patterns in the Greek context (4).
2.   See the study by Eve D'Ambra, for instance, "Nudity and Adornment in Female Portrait Sculpture of the Second Century AD," in I Claudia II: Women in Roman Art and Society (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), 101-114. See also Christopher Hallett The Roman Nude: Heroic Portrait Statuary 200 BC-AD 300 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).
3.   Key studies of Placina Magna's portrait and this gate include Mary Taliaferro Boatwright, "Plancia Magna of Perge: Women's Roles and Status in Roman Asia Minor," in Women's History and Ancient History. Edited by Sarah B. Pomeroy (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991), 249-272. Also Jennifer Trimble, "The Aesthetics of Sameness: A Contextual Analysis of the Large and Small Woman Herculaneum Statue Types in the Roman Empire" (Diss., University of Michigan, 1999), especially 118-121.
4.   For instance, see R.R.R. Smith "Cultural Choice and Political Identity in Honorific Portrait Statues in the Greek East in the Second Century A.D." JRS 88 (1998): 59-93 and also his Hellenistic Sculpture: A Handbook (London: Thames & Hudson 1991).

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Philip P. Betancourt, Costis Davaras (ed.), Pseira X: The Excavation of Block AF. Philadelphia: INSTAP Academic Press, 2009. Pp. xxii, 240; 66 p. of plates. ISBN 9781931534567. $80.00.
Reviewed by Derek T. Irwin

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

The book under review is edited by Philip P. Betancourt and Costis Davaras, and is the tenth volume in the series of excavation reports on the Minoan harbour town of Pseira, located on the eponymous barren island in the Gulf of Mirabella off the northeastern coast of Crete. The town and cemetery of Pseira were first excavated by Richard B. Seager in 1906 and 1907 but the results of his work were never fully published. Betancourt and Davaras began surveying and excavating the site from 1984 onwards. This book reports on the excavation and study of Block AF and its artifacts between 1990 and 1997. Block AF is the most southern section of the town, east of the harbour and contains buildings extending from MM II to LM III, the fullest sequence of building phase from any one area of Pseira.

The book is organized into three parts: Part I (Chapters 1-3) provides a history of the excavation of Block AF (pp. 3-26); Part II (Chapters 4-17) describes the architecture and material culture of Block AF (pp. 29-152); Part III (Chapters 18-19) presents the interpretations and conclusions of the excavations of the site (pp. 155-170). The book also contains two large appendixes (A and B): Appendix A provides fifty pages of tables of pottery statistics (pp. 173-222); Appendix B contains tables of fabric percentages (pp. 223-227). This is followed by a list of references (pp. 229-240) and an index (pp. 237-240). The book then concludes with a series of hand sketches of artifacts, and photographs of the site and artifacts in situ.

The volume begins with a very brief preface by Betancourt in which he explains the decision to excavate that section of the town and the importance of the work conducted in Block AF.

Part I begins with an introduction by Betancourt presenting the site and its several successive phases of construction, Middle Minoan I to Late Minoan III (pp. 3-4). In the following chapters (Chapters 2-3), the authors examine the successive architectural phases 1 to 5 in detail. The aim of the excavation of Block AF is also stated at the beginning of Chapter 2, to achieve a complete understanding of the block and to analyze the artifacts and archaeological materials excavated.

Block AF was divided into sections, Block AF South and Block AF North, as well as different areas numbered AF 1 through AF 11. The excavation of area AF South was carried out over two seasons (1990 and 1991). Several rooms were exposed and the excavators used the physical evidence of the walls and their superposition and bonding to determine the sequence in which they were constructed. For example, Theran pumice found in the foundation deposit of Room AF 3A/B as along with the pottery allowed the authors to date the building to LM IA. A number of important finds were made that shed light on Minoan architecture including a pillar crypt in Room AF 3A/B. In the same room pebbles were found set in clay. The authors suggest that the building's flat roof had been given a layer of pebbles, as was the case in houses in Akrotiri on Thera. Block AF North was also excavated in 1990 and 1991, and again a number of interesting finds were made. A LM IB household shrine was discovered on the upstairs floor of the House of the Rhyta, a building most likely used for cult practices. Detailed illustrations of plans and sections of Block AF are provided where appropriate. An illustration of a stratigraphical section of one of the rooms showing layers dating from LM IB to the modern day surface is also provided (p. 19).

Part II deals with the architectural and material culture of the site and takes up the largest part of the volume. This section of the volume begins with an analysis, by McEnroe, of the materials and techniques used in the construction of buildings in Block AF. It is followed by an analysis of the pottery by Floyd and a series of chapters dedicated to other finds ranging from stone weights to food remains. Several of these chapters conclude with a brief discussion on the finds and the interpretations. Betancourt's discussion on clay weights and their use for weaving at Pseira as well as for fishing aboard ships is particularly stimulating. Likewise, Shaw and Betancourt's discussion on plaster from Block AF is very enriching. Reese's chapter (Chapter 15) on faunal remains and Rose's chapter on fish remains (Chapter 16) also provide a wealth of information on daily life at Pseira. Where appropriate, the authors provide invaluable lists or tables of finds. In Part III, Betancourt presents conclusions and interpretations of the work carried out in Block AF at Pseira. The author states that Block AF is one of the best areas to examine the architectural development of the community and begins with an analysis of the different phases of the building in the block. At each stage he uses the physical evidence found on the site to date and determine the possible uses of the buildings. In Chapter 18, he argues, for instance, that the pottery and the Theran pumice found in a votive deposit buried in the floors is proof that buildings were destroyed around the same time of the Thera eruption and rebuilt afterwards. Likewise, his argument that inverted cups and seashells found in the foundation deposits of rooms were not trash but were most likely votives and that they indicate the inhabitants' concern for the violent upheaval that had destroyed the town seems plausible. In Chapter 19, Betancourt analyzes the evidence found on the site to determine the different room functions and activities in the buildings. The author had previously stated (p. 156) that the well-preserved individual contexts of the finds offer information on Minoan agricultural production, domestic economy and household organization as well as on religious activities. Food remains and stone tools common to Minoan houses were found in several buildings and the author rightly argues that clay weights of the type used on warp-weighted looms suggest the possibility of weaving. Likewise, two pieces of clay molds for casting metal suggest that some sort of metalworking was carried out at Pseira. Finally, the presence of pillar crypts containing cult equipment as well as the discovery of a shrine in the House of the Rhyta attest to the practice of religious ceremonies at Pseira.

Perhaps a desire to avoid redundancies might explain such a short introduction to the volume (Chapter 1). However, I feel that some more information on the history of the site would have been welcome here. The aims of the excavation are stated in Chapter 2 (p. 5). Perhaps it might have been more appropriate to present the aims of the excavation in the introduction. Finally, even though MM and LM are listed in the abbreviations, the authors never explain the terms MM I through LM III. It would have been very useful for the non-expert if the author had provided dates for these periods. The volume, however, has many strengths. Pseira is one of the few sites on Crete with evidence of reoccupation immediately after the LM IB destruction. The buildings in Block AF provide much more information on the activities of the Minoans during LM IB than in earlier times and shed light on the social history of the Minoan town of Pseira. The authors systematically provide detailed descriptions of finds, and Betancourt provides expert interpretations of relationships between these finds and the buildings and other spaces. The inclusion of tables and drawings of inventoried finds makes it possible for other scholars to examine the evidence, to compare against finds at other sites and to draw their own conclusions. This work provides us with a wealth of data and is undoubtedly an essential contribution to our knowledge of Minoan culture.

Table of Contents

PART I: History of the Excavation.

P. Betancourt: Introduction, 3

P. Betancourt, M. Nikolaidou, E. Velona: Architectural Phases 1 to 3 (Early Phase), 5

P. Betancourt, E. Armpis, G. Mitrakis, M. Nikolaidou: Architectural Phases 3 (Late Phase) to 5, 17

PART II: Architecture and Material Culture.

J.C. McEnroe: Architecture in Block AF South, 29

J.C. McEnroe: Architecture in Block AF North, 33

C.R. Floyd: Pottery from Block AF, 39

H.M.C. Dierks: Ground and Chipped Stone Tools from Block AF South, 95

H.M.C. Dierks:Ground and Chipped Stone Tools from Block AF North, 99

H.M.C. Dierks, P. Betancourt: Stone Weights from Block AF, 105

P. Betancourt: Miscellaneous Objects from Block AF, 107

M.C. Shaw, P. Betancourt: Plaster from Block AF, 113

G.H. Myer, P. Betancourt: Analysis of the Plaster, 121

G. Jones, I. Smith: Plant Remains from Block AF, 125

P. Betancourt: Lithic Materials from Block AF, 127

D.S. Reese: Faunal Remains from Block AF, 131

M.J. Rose: Fish Remains from Block AF, 143

P. Betancourt: Comments on the Mud Mortar, 151

PART III: Interpretation and Conclusions

P. Betancourt: Architectural History, 155

P. Betancourt: Room Functions and Activities in the Buildings, 163


C.R. Floyd, Pottery Statistics (A), 171

C.R. Floyd: Fabric Percentages (B), 223

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Version at BMCR home site
Peter Liddel, Andrew Fear (ed.), Historiae Mundi: Studies in Universal Historiography. London: Duckworth, 2010. Pp. ix, 244. ISBN 9780715638330. $80.00.
Reviewed by Charles E. Muntz, University of Arkansas

This collection of papers derives from the conference "Universal History in Antiquity and Beyond" which was held in June 2007 at the University of Manchester. The term "universal history" is a problematic one. A true universal history should, in theory, cover all periods and cultures. In spite of the difficulty in accomplishing this, several Greek and Roman historians in the late Republican and early Imperial periods made such claims about their works. But, as Liddel and Fear note in their introduction, ancient authors themselves would claim that their histories were universal on the basis of other factors, such as the exposition of universally applicable historical schemes or a single unifying characteristic. Liddel and Fear suggest "that the new perspectives on the subject of universal historiography may be revealed by a selective approach, and by the application to the subject of a range of methodologies."

They have cast a wide net for their collection of papers, and this is both a strength and a weakness. It is a strength in that we can see how the concept of universal history has been adopted across a wide stretch of time and space and how different modern conceptions are from the ancient. But it is a weakness because inevitably we are treated to a broad range of definitions of what a "universal history" is, leaving the individual papers somewhat disconnected from each other and giving the entire collection a rather scattershot effect. Some of the most important ancient universal historians (Ephorus, Posidonius, Pompeius Trogus, Nicolaus of Damascus) are omitted entirely. It is a pity that the editors did not choose to provide a more thorough overview of the ancient works and how the ancient authors themselves understood the idea of universal history to give a fuller framework in which to situate the individual papers. Ultimately, since I suspect this book will be consulted mainly for individual contributions, and not for the entire collection, I will provide an overview of the papers with some general comments.

Liddel opens the collection with "Metabole politeia as Universal History." In it he examines Polybius and what he means by writing a history to katholou. In particular, Liddel focuses on the idea of constitutional change, with which he argues the Greeks were preoccupied. Plato and Aristotle established sophisticated models for understanding types of government and constitutional transformation. Polybius develops these theories and for the first time integrates them into an historical work with his famous anacyclosis in book six. Liddel argues that Polybius makes the anacyclosis into the universal mechanism for understanding history. My concern is that outside of book six, Polybius appears to have a different understanding of history than the anacyclosis. Liddel acknowledges this, and suggests that Polybius actually has two notions of universal change: this cyclical view and a linear progression towards Rome. Given that book six is only a single book out of forty, I think this argument needs further development.

Hartog also tackles the issue of Polybius' universalism in "Polybius and the First Universal History". He acknowledges some of the traditional criteria on which Polybius has been judged "universal", such as the traits of sumploke and synopsis, before focusing on the role of Fortune. Hartog argues that Polybius, by making Fortune a central and unifying force in his histories, is actually rebutting the Poetics of Aristotle. Whereas Aristotle had argued that history was specific, while tragedy was universal, Polybius sees history as universal, and through the agency of Fortune, as the true tragedy.

Sheridan looks at "Diodorus' Reading of Polybius' Universalism". He argues that, contrary to Liddel and Hartog, Polybius actually struggled to define why his history was "universal". While Polybius emphasized geographical breadth, his vision was limited by his perception that history converged on Rome. Diodorus' vision of history, on the other hand, focused on temporal breadth. For Polybius, history became universal as events became increasingly interwoven with the growth of Roman power. Sheridan argues that Diodorus, in going back to the beginning of history itself, is trying to place Rome in context and show that Rome is merely one empire in a long line and not, as in Polybius, the end result of an historical process.

Bissa examines Diodorus as well in "Diodorus' Good Statesman and State Revenue". Moving beyond the traditional concerns of Quellenforschung, Bissa argues convincingly that the emphasis on how statesmen handle financial matters that runs throughout the Bibliotheke is due to Diodorus himself and not one of his sources. Bissa speculates that Diodorus has been influenced by late Republican politics in his viewpoint, which seems very likely.

Engels provides an introduction to the universal history of another late first-century author, Strabo. This paper is somewhat undermined by a lack of organization or a clear thesis, but Engels does make some interesting points. In particular, he sees Strabo as reacting against Polybius' pragmatic vision of history and instead writing a history that fits in with Augustan propaganda.

Strabo and the Augustan Age is the focal point for Morcillo's paper on "Rome's Universal Destiny in Strabo's Geography". Morcillo argues that Strabo portrays Rome at the center of Italy both politically and economically. For the rest of Italy, Strabo depicts a process of decay, marked by a rise of barbarism and a loss of urbanization, followed by a renewal as all of Italy becomes Roman. Even Strabo's interest in surviving examples of Italic culture before the Roman conquest becomes a way to link Rome with Italy's past. For Strabo, Italy provides diversity, Rome the unity. Given the focus on the historians of the late Republic/early Empire in these four papers, it is a pity that none of the authors attempts to make a direct comparison of Strabo and Diodorus (or the other universal historians of the period) and their views of Rome and Rome's place in history.

In "Universal History and the Early Roman Historians" Cornell suggests that the early annalists of Rome were far more interested in other cultures than the example of Livy would suggest. In particular, Cato the Elder's Origines included an enormous amount of ethnographical information, not just about Italic peoples but about other western cultures. Cornell convincingly argues that Cato arranged this material either chronologically, with large digressions as each culture is first encountered, or by culture as Appian would do later. So Cato was aware that Rome had to be understood against the background of the western Mediterranean. Cornell notes that, paradoxically, this makes Cato the author of a universal history, but only of a restricted universe.

In "Universal and Particular in Velleius Paterculus" Schultze argues that Velleius qualifies as a universal historian because of his usage of key events to connect the larger historical continuum. He focuses on the connections between Rome and Carthage, noting that Carthage's foundation becomes a key marker, linked to the later foundation of Rome, but also looking back to Hercules and ahead to the conquests of Alexander the Great. Book one of Velleius ends with the destruction of Carthage, recalling its foundation. But Carthage continues to be a focal point in book two, appearing in connection with Ti. Gracchus, and then with Marius' flight to the ruins of the city.

Yarrow's fascinating paper, "Focalised Generality: Contextualising the Genre," is a departure from the others in the collection. Instead of primarily analyzing literary texts, she argues that the focal points of universal history can be seen in other intellectual and artistic products of the late Republic. As a test case she examines the motif of the globe of the earth on Roman coinage and finds that beginning in 76 BC the globe is increasingly associated with symbols of Rome's power. But in the 50s the focal point shifts and the globe is instead associated with Pompey the Great. This can be paralleled in the speeches of Cicero from the same period, which also associate domination of the globe with Pompey. Eventually, this motif will be taken over by other leaders, culminating of course with Augustus.

In "Ennius as Universal Historian: the Case of the Annales" Elliott argues that the Latin poet Ennius in fact qualifies as a universal historian. He explains that, by adopting the model of Homer, making frequent Homeric illusions, and creating a heroic past for the Romans, Ennius is making Rome part of the Homeric tradition. Indeed, Rome becomes the center of the world in this analysis. I was not entirely convinced by this argument: positioning Rome in a heroic Greek past does not seem to be "universal" in either the sense of coverage or in providing universally applicable models, as in most of the other papers in this collection.

In "Theology versus Genre?" Van Nuffelen makes a strong argument that the traditional view that Christian historiography is universal is incorrect. He shows that Christian authors understood that history was separate from theology -- so Sulpicius, for example, is careful to distinguish the facts of the Bible from its theology. Those works that do have a good claim to universality, such as Eusebius, are universal by genre, not by theology, and the Christians understood that history was a separate genre from theology.

In "Orosius and Escaping the Dance of Doom" Fear agrees that the Christians separated sacred and secular history, but argues that an important contribution of Christians, and particularly the fifth-century historian Paulus Orosius, to historiography was the belief in progress. The ancient authors and philosophers, Fear argues, were obsessed with finding cycles in nature and history, which tended to be pessimistic. I did not find this argument entirely convincing: Fear classifies Hesiod's ages of man as one such cycle, but that is a linear decline with no possibility of renewal. However, Fear does make a good argument that the historical theme of mankind's advancement comes out of the Christian belief in advancement's being applied by Orosius to secular history.

Di Branco deals with the problem of Byzantine influence on Islamic historiography. I found this to be the most problematic paper in the collection. Di Branco fails to explain adequately the nature of Islamic history or even to define some of the Arabic terms he uses. His argument appears to be that Syriac translations of the Byzantine historian John Malalas influenced certain Arabic universal historians, but he describes the texts involved in only the most general terms and as a non-specialist I was unable to evaluate its validity.

The final two papers deal with two modern scholars of Universal History. De Laurentiis provides a good overview of Hegel's understanding of history and why mankind has developed it. For Hegel, history became universal in the modern period only when multiple states were competing across the world. Farrenkopf analyzes Spengler's understanding of antiquity and how it may predict what fate lies in store for modern western civilizations. Spengler saw two phases in a civilization: the cultural stage and then the civilized phase, when a single world power would emerge. In antiquity Athens represented the cultural stage and the Roman Empire the civilized stage. Spengler was especially interested in why Rome fell and placed more emphasis on internal factors, such as declining birthrates, social degradation, and the growing importance of money than on barbarian invasions. Applying this analysis to modern western civilizations, Spengler felt Germany was the most likely candidate for a New Rome, but also suggested the United States as a possibility.

Introduction - Tim Cornell, Andrew Fear, Peter Liddel
1. Metabole politeia as Universal History - Peter Liddel
2. Polybius and the First Universal History - François Hartog
3. Diodorus' Reading of Polybius' Universalism - Brian Sheridan
4. Diodorus' Good Statesman and State Revenue - Errietta Bissa
5. Strabo and the Development of Ancient Greek Universal Historiography - Johannes Engles
6. The Glory of Italy and Rome's Destiny in Strabo's Geographika - Marta García Morcillo
7. Universal History and the Early Roman Historians - Tim Cornell
8. Universal and Particular in Velleius Paterculus: Carthage versus Rome - Clemence Schultze
9. Focalised Universality: Contextualising the Genre - Liv Mariah Yarrow
10. Ennius as Universal Historian: the Case of the Annales - Jackie Elliot
11. Theology versus Genre? The Universalism of Christian Historiography in Late Antiquity - Peter Van Nuffelen
12. Orosius and Escaping from the Dance of Doom - Andrew Fear
13. A Rose in the Desert? Late Antique and Early Byzantine Chronicles and the Formation of Islamic Universal Historiography - Marco di Branco
14. Universal Historiography and World History according to Hegel - Allegra de Laurentiis
15. Spengler, the Modern West, and Roman Decline - John Farrenkopf
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Version at BMCR home site
Jinyu Liu, Collegia Centonariorum. The Guilds of Textile Dealers in the Roman West. Columbia Studies in the Classical Tradition, 34. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2009. Pp. xviii, 426. ISBN 9789004177741. $169.00.
Reviewed by Maurizio Buora, Società friulana di archeologia

Il tema dei collegia è stato ripetutamente trattato già in testi classici di storia antica, come le opere di Mommsen, Waltzing e De Roberto, che ne hanno indagato prevalentemente l'aspetto giuridico. Esso non è estraneo all'attenzione moderna, per cui le forme dell'organizzazione interna del mondo del lavoro e i loro rapporti con la legge, le autorità pubbliche e, in una parola, il corpo sociale appaiono di grande attualità.

Dopo un'introduzione che riprende le teorie correnti a proposito dei centonarii, i modelli teorici e le ipotesi comparative e un'analisi dei limiti delle fonti antiche, Jinyu Liu snoda un'articolata trattazione in otto capitoli, seguiti da una conclusione, da ampia bibliografia, da sei appendici, un 'index locorum' e un indice generale.

Liu dichiaratamente segue il modello dello studio di Lietta De Salvo sui corpora naviculariorum (p. 9) e si dichiara debitrice anche di Abramenko e di Mouritsen. L'opera si propone di comprendere e spiegare le evidenti disomogeneità della documentazione epigrafica, fortemente sbilanciata a favore dell'Italia settentrionale e della Gallia, e ci riesce percorrendo numerose strade che si intersecano tra loro.

Nel primo capitolo si sottolinea come la diffusione geografica e cronologica di questo collegium appaia ben distinta da quella dei collegia fabrum (presenti in un numero maggiore di località) e dei collegia dendrophorum (meno attestati). Qui si considerano le attestazioni in 84 centri urbani, con l'opportuna avvertenza (p. 31) che il numero delle attestazioni epigrafiche non è di per sé indicativo dell'importanza del locale collegio se non si esaminano anche il rango dei personaggi citati, il supporto e la collocazione del testo. La distribuzione dei 234 testi qui raccolti, compresi i rinvenimenti successivi alla pubblicazione delle principali raccolte epigrafiche, risulta alquanto disomogenea, con ad es. 25 (o forse 26) iscrizioni a Brixia, 15 ad Aquincum, ben 14 a Sassina (regio VI) più che a Mediolanum (10-12) e a Roma (solo 7). Interessante il raffronto tra questi dati e le indicazioni che vengono ad es. dal numero di iscrizioni ogni mille chilometri quadrati, il che parrebbe indice significativo della cultura epigrafica di un territorio (p. 35). Ovviamente è problematica la datazione della maggior parte dei testi, che risentono fortemente delle abitudini locali: alcune osservazioni paleografiche (pp. 41-42) appaiono incerte e discutibili. Il più antico sembrerebbe essere un'iscrizione di Patavium (n. 142), che cita il 242 anno dell'era patavina. Liu identifica tale anno con il 69 d. C.,1 ma la menzione del natalis divi Augusti nel testo n. 41 fa supporre che un collegio esistesse a Roma fin dall'età augustea. I testi giuridici e non le iscrizioni attestano la sopravvivenza del collegio fino alla fine del IV secolo d. C. (p. 54).

Si ipotizza anche che la diversa distribuzione dei collegia centonariorum vada rapportata alle aree di allevamento delle pecore, certo meno rilevanti nelle zone più densamente popolate (p. 82). Inoltre tra le possibili spiegazioni dell'assenza/presenza di attestazioni di un collegium centonariorum (p. 90) va considerato anche il diverso assetto della proprietà terriera e la maggiore o minore presenza di latifundia nelle diverse regioni.

I collegia centonariorum sono stati spesso studiati come parte del complesso dei tria collegia e intesi come se seguissero un unico modello. Liu sostiene invece che, per quanto esista traccia di tendenze comuni, ciascuno ebbe un suo proprio carattere e percorso.

Non mancano nel capitolo excursus di grande interesse, ad es. sul coinvolgimento del collegium dendrophorum nei culti della Magna Mater o di Attis (pp. 52-54), tema ben noto alla letteratura anche recente, o sulla eventuale produzione tessile di Pompei (pp. 87-89).

L'analisi del rapporto tra centonarii ed economia tessile romana, cui è dedicato il secondo capitolo, è per noi ostacolata dalla difficoltà di comprensione del suffisso -rius ('fabbricante'? 'addetto'? 'impresario'?) e del termine cento (connesso ai tessuti di lana? Cfr. p. 69). L'iscrizione di Flavia Solva, che conferma l'immunitas ai collegiati, attesta che il termine centonarius si applicava almeno in età severiana ad artigiani che esercitavano un preciso mestiere e per questo godevano di privilegi, forse concessi da Commodo, tali da porli potenzialmente in urto con la comunità locale (pp. 58-60). Il fatto che alcuni centonarii furono anche Augustali (p. 64) testimonia che questo mestiere fosse tutt'altro che insignificante. Punto fondamentale della trattazione è l'identificazione dei centonarii con gli artigiani e i commercianti di lane di bassa e media qualità (295).

Notevoli parti dell'indagine sono dedicate ai fabbricanti e rivenditori di tessuti, in base all'ipotesi che il termine centonarii si applicasse, in tempi e aree diversi, anche ad altri artigiani del ramo tessile, come ad es. i textores o i sagarii -- i quali sembrerebbero più attivi e maggiormente attestati ove i collegia centonarii sono meno presenti (p. 77) -- e ancora ai vestiarii, che sembrano aver avuto qualche forma di organizzazione interna solo ad Aquileia e a Volubilis. In generale le aree di distribuzione delle diverse attestazioni non sembrano sovrapporsi, bensí essere tra loro complementari (p. 79). La presenza dei collegia centonariorum nel I sec. d. C. nella pianura padana e in Gallia pare accompagnare lo sviluppo economico coevo di queste aree, che erano fonti di approvvigionamento di panni e vestiti per militari e civili in Roma e in Italia (p. 94). Lo attesta anche la diffusione, manifestatasi allora in gran quantità di alcuni tessuti i specifici quali gausapae, attribuite per lo più a Patavium (pp. 93-94 ).

Nel capitolo terzo si esaminano i rapporti tra i collegia, la legge e la publica utilitas. Verso i collegia -- potenzialmente pericolosi, ma anche potenzialmente utili (p. 101) -- lo stato romano non mostra sempre e solo un volto di controllore, ma svolge anche la funzione di validatore, come, tra l'altro, ben dimostra lo scambio epistolare tra Plinio il Giovane e Traiano circa l'opportunità dell'istituzione di un collegium fabrum a Nicomedia (Plin. Ep. 10.33.3).È ampia la disamina degli aspetti giuridici dei collegia e di alcuni istituti ad essi connessi (immunitas e privilegia, utilitas publica e munera, etc.), per cui i testi e le fonti antiche non sempre ci sono d'aiuto. Questi aspetti potevano essere diversi nei confronti di Roma o di altre città. Ad es. un papiro egiziano ci informa che l'utilitas publica dei centonarii in Egitto concerneva le forniture all'esercito delle vesti necessarie, comprese coperte, teli etc. (p. 115). Le forniture militari non furono centralizzate se non nel tardo impero, mentre in precedenza la massa e la messe di nuovi documenti ci informano sui rapporti diversificati, a questo proposito, tra l'ambito militare e il tessuto economico locale delle diverse regioni. Anche per questo la presenza precoce di collegia in Italia settentrionale e in Gallia si può spiegare con le necessità militari (p. 116). Di fatto la vestis militaris divenne nel IV secolo, almeno nelle province orientali, una pura tassa, commisurata all'ampiezza della proprietà terriera (p. 287).

Seguendo questo schema interpretativo, Liu lamenta la scarsa attenzione, in generale, della ricerca per i tessuti e le forniture militari di tessuti (pp. 118-119) e ipotizza che la publica utilitas dei collegia centonariorum potesse riguardare le forniture militari di prodotti tessili (p. 123). Ciò poté avvenire nelle regioni di frontiera (Germania, Britannia) già nel I secolo d. C. e nella zona danubiana non prima della fine del secondo secolo; la prova verrebbe da varie iscrizioni che attestano l'aumentata importanza di questo collegium in quell'area e in quel periodo.

Il quarto capitolo è dedicato alla discussione dei rapporti tra il collegio e l'attività di prevenzione o spegnimento degli incendi. Liu tende a escludere che queste rientrassero tra le funzioni principali del collegio, non solo perché la considerazione per i vigili pare fosse generalmente scarsa, ma anche perché non sappiamo se in tutte le città dell'impero esistesse effettivamente un'organizzazione antincendio (p. 128). Nondimeno in tempo di pace e in certi luoghi (es. Milano, Brescia e Como) i collegia poterono temporaneamente assumere anche questo compito (p. 298).

Il capitolo quinto nello studio della composizione dei collegia si avvale delle osservazioni effettuate sui 226 nomi di membri attestati epigraficamente, oggetto di ampia analisi nell'appendice E. Tali osservazioni non si limitano, dunque, ai soli casi di Roma e di Ostia, come avviene troppo spesso in trattazioni dedicate ai collegia. In questo capitolo si inseriscono talora argomentazioni banali (ad es. notazioni ovvie sui liberti e la loro onomastica a p. 172 e a p. 205), che rendono eccessivo l'allargamento dell'indagine. Altre sono molto più interessanti, come l'osservazione della apparente mancanza di schiavi (se non forse di proprietà del collegio stesso) tra i collegiati (172). Nella discussione sull'eventuale possibilità di parentela tra gli affiliati nei casi offerti dalle attestazioni di Roma, Sassina, Sentinum, Ostra, Mediolanum, Solva e Aquincum, l'A. osserva che in ciascuno dei collegia predomina uno e un solo gentilizio e che le gentes sono diverse nei diversi elenchi. Nel capitolo sesto, che si occupa di patroni e benefattori, è interessante l'excursus relativo all'analisi sociologica del fenomeno del patronato, con la distinzione (peraltro non chiarissima) tra patroni e patres/matres del collegium.

Il capitolo settimo tratta di feste, di religione e di pratiche di sepoltura: sono argomenti molto importanti che dimostrano come l'attività dei collegia fosse rivolta verso l'esterno e verso l'interno, per rinforzare i vincoli sociali e identitari tra i collegae.

L'ultimo capitolo analizza i fenomeni di continuità e di cambiamento nel IV e V secolo, quando tuttavia i collegia mantennero un' importante funzione. Essi riguardano in parte il coinvolgimento dei centonarii nell'ordo decurionum e i mutamenti intervenuti nel concetto di patronato, che non sappiamo quali effetti poterono avere sui collegia. È possibile che la composizione sociale dei collegia abbia subìto a quell'epoca forti mutamenti mediante la creazione di sottogruppi formati dai membri più ricchi e potenti.

Liu si attribuisce la "riscoperta" dei centonarii, ovvero di coloro che, a suo avviso, si occupavano dell'attività economica più importante dopo l'agricoltura e le costruzioni (p. 296). La storia dei collegia riflette il modo di produzione urbano, mentre in Italia meridionale e nella Gallia Belgica questa attività era legata piuttosto alle grandi fattorie.

È di grande interesse la silloge delle iscrizioni che, a qualunque titolo, menzionano il collegium o i collegiati. Alcune, come è ovvio, sono del tutto dubbie (tra queste nn. 24, 31, 35, 47, 66, 96 e 102, 105). L'appendice C è aggiunta proprio per spiegare eventuali dubbi e motivare l'interpretazione proposta.

Molto apprezzabile l'imponente bibliografia, ricca di quasi 850 titoli.

Sfugge l'ordine dei nomi riportati nell'appendice E, che non segue né un criterio geografico né uno alfabetico.

"What this book strives to provide is an exercise that pushed the available sources to their fuller, if not their fullest, potential" (p. 295) proclama orgogliosamente Liu. Concordiamo pienamente, considerando l'opera un vero progresso per gli studi in questo campo. Inoltre essa contiene numerosi spunti dedicati a moltissimi aspetti della vita politica, economica e sociale dell'impero romano, come ad es. la discussione (p. 46) delle attestazioni molto tarde di flamines (uno divi Augusti da Corfinium addirittura dell'anno 180). La comprensione dell'antico si giova anche del riferimento a prassi medievali e persino moderne (ad es. in Canada, a p. 64, ma anche degli strazzaroli a Bologna e dei rigattieri a Firenze, p. 70); a p. 127 compare anche un paragone con l'antica Cina.

Purtroppo è mancato un attento controllo del testo in fase di stampa, cosicché numerosi e molto fastidiosi sono gli errori, di cui riteniamo opportuno dare un elenco qui di seguito.

Per i nomi di persona si intende Hoffiler e non Hoffiller (p. xv); S. Balduin è B. Saria, B. Maurizio è lo scrivente M. Buora (p. xvi); va corretto Lörincz (p. xviii); Kleijwegt va maiuscolo (p. 80); a p. 305 Bass M. V. è Monika Verzar Bass; p. 322 il curatore del volume sulla collezione epigrafica dei Musei Capitolini è Silvio non A. Panciera.

Il volume contiene migliaia di espressioni latine, ma alcune sono trascritte erroneamente, ad es.: unguntarius per unguentarius (p. 36), Caesasar per Caesar (p. 40), d(dendrophorum) per d(endrophorum) (51), Briannia per Britannia (p. 61), negotiarores per negotiatores (p. 73), Detorna per Dertona (p. 78), Nomenum al posto di Nomentum, Aemelia al posto di Aemilia (p. 95), illcita al posto di illicita (p. 102), equ(uo) al posto di equ(o) (139). Sabinanus è stampato al posto di Sabinianus (p. 157); a p. 165 C. Pettius Philtatus (correttamente a p. 222) diventa Philatus, mentre a p. 409 si trasforma in C. Pettus Philtates. Troviamo ancora Titianna per Titiana (p. 165), Secerd(os) per Sacerdos (p. 185), Commd[ianus per Commod[ianus (p. 187), O(ptimo) M(axio) per O(ptimo) M(aximo) (p. 193), decurianalia per decurionalia (p. 220), Marteneses per Martenses (p. 253), nviculariorum per naviculariorum (p. 325), Panonnia per Pannonia (p. 203); p. 206 quastor(io) per quaestor(io), ibid. cret[riae per cret[ariae, p. 272 Aesseria per Aesernia, p. 332 equ(uiti) per equ(iti), p. 334 currant[e per curant[e, p. 340 Taracco per Tarraco (ancora a p. 393); p. 345 p(ecunniae) al posto di p(ecuniae), p. 358 anno[m(ae] al posto di anno[n(ae)], p. 364 Baleno al posto di Beleno, p. 365 Victo al posto di Victor, p. 380 p(refectus), p. 381 dedrofo(rorum). Tra gli altri lapsus a p. 388 Maritinae, p. 388 Sequsiavorum, p. 388 Traverorum, p. 392 nauvicularii, p. 393 Asissium per Assisium, p. 400 c(uraverut) per c(uraverunt).

Il termine stesso centonarii, ripetuto infinite volte, è spesso sconciato nelle forme più svariate (v. pp. 124, 125, 156, 159, 161, 165, 183, 250, 334, 368, 381, 400).

A p. 156 negotiatores (nominativo plurale) non concorda con Cisalpinorum et Transalpinorum (genitivi plurali).

Non sono risparmiati i nomi propri: a p. 399 compare un Baeb[ibius?] al posto di un più comprensibile Baeb[ius] (ma a p. 379 nel medesimo testo lo scioglimento è Baeb[idio?], quindi con altro gentilizio; Iulia Euthenia (p. 378) diventa a p. 399 Iul(ia) Eughenia; a p. 400 do(mo) D[alm]a(ta) di p. 381 diventa Dalmat(ia) con accezione ben diversa. Si nota ancora a p. 403 G(allieniannae); p. 409 Onesigens al posto di Onesigenes.Spesso le parole in inglese moderno sono riportate in corsivo e mescolate allo scioglimento del testo antico.

Quanto ai nomi di città, Oescius data in Pannonia a p. 203 è forse Oescus della Mesia; Dyrrachium è in Epiro non in Macedonia (p. 388), mentre Philippolis apparteneva alla Tracia; a p. 389 Emona va posta in Italia.

Le storpiature non risparmiano le lingue moderne: a p. 308 altinata per altinate, p. 318 iluci per "i ludi", p. 330 region per regione, ma ciò vale anche per altre lingue, compresa quella inglese, p. 30 ditribution, a p. 45 sencond, p. 89 purchse, p. 89 custormes, p. 102 estalish (p. 249 estalishment), p. 151 sacrficial, p. 192 maintemance, p. 193, assingned, p. 239 asepcts (= aspects), p. 306 mannoscritta, p. 307 romishchen, p. 336 cite, p. 331 dicsusses, p. 372 Taffel.


1.   Sono ben tre le città del Veneto -- precisamente Patavium, Feltria e Vicentia -- in cui le epigrafi menzionano un'era locale. In base a un documento di quest'ultima città, A. R. Ghiotto ('Un numero di Vicetia in un'iscrizione della chiesa di S. Martino a Schio?', Aquileia nostra, 76, 2005, 178-187) pone per Vicenza la data di inizio all'89 a.C. Secondo G. Cresci Marrone ('Gli insediamenti indigeni della Venetia verso la romanità', Antichità altoadriatiche 68, 2009, 207-220, in particolare p. 210) questa data potrebbe valere anche per Patavium, anziché il 173 a. C. proposto da vari autori e anche dalla Liu. Se questo fosse vero, la data dell'iscrizione menzionante il collegium centonariorum di Patavium andrebbe posticipata di 84 anni.

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Craig A. Williams, Roman Homosexuality. Second Edition (first published 1999). Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. ISBN 9780195388749. $29.95 (pb).
Reviewed by Beert Verstraete, Acadia University


When the first edition of Roman Homosexuality appeared eleven years ago, it was rightly hailed as the first comprehensive scholarly study, in any language, of its subject, and for its pioneering scholarship was compared to Sir Kenneth Dover's Greek Homosexuality. Williams himself says in his Afterword to the second edition that with this title he intended "to pay tribute to Dover's pathbreaking Greek Homosexuality of twenty years earlier." (253) Dover restricted himself to the one-and-a-half centuries of the classical period of Greek culture in his use of literary sources, thereby bracketing the great repository of invaluable evidence post-classical Greek authors had to offer. It could be claimed that Williams, thanks to his deployment of a much longer chronological time-frame—approximately 200 BCE to 200 CE—had a significant edge over Dover. Now, eleven years later, although a number of more specialized studies making important contributions to the study of the Roman construction of (homo)sexuality have appeared since 1999, Williams's work still stands alone in a class by itself.

New to the second edition, in addition to its engagement throughout with post-1999 scholarship, are a Foreword by Martha Nussbaum, the author's Afterword to the second edition, and a new Appendix (no. 4), "Pompeiian Graffiti in Context." I am somewhat puzzled by the fact that the title of the second edition is not followed by the subtitle of the first, or at least some suitable variation thereof, "Ideologies of Masculinity in Classical Antiquity," since this registers the crucial central thesis of both editions, namely that, in Roman culture as in Greco-Roman antiquity as a whole, what we still often call "homosexuality" and "heterosexuality" were constructed, i. e., experienced, conceptualized, and regulated, on the basis of gender-role appropriateness, not what would be in our parlance" sexual orientation," and that therefore Williams applies, as he puts it in his introduction, "the concepts of homosexuality and heterosexuality heuristically, temporarily and strategically reifying them in order to expose their historical specificity and their inadequacy as categories of analysis in a description of Roman ideological traditions." (4)

I must single out the new Appendix, "Pompeiian Graffiti in Context," as an especially invaluable addition which indeed by itself justifies the new edition. Here Williams offers a representative selection of sexually colored graffiti and makes earlier textual and interpretative scholarship (which he does not hesitate to correct or amplify on when needed) conveniently accessible to the non-specialized reader, all the while supplying his own vigorous translations. His interpretative approach is "fundamentally semiological, aiming less to understand what happened on a street or in a house in Pompeii two thousand years ago than to determine what kinds of messages are being communicated, using which vocabulary and informed by which conceptual systems." Despite the non-elite class provenance of these sub-literary, almost exclusively male-authored texts, they almost all reveal a masculinist conceptualization and vocabulary of sexuality that is basically identical to what we find in some of our literary sources, e.g. in parts of Catullus and Martial, and in the Priapea.

Williams mainly uses his "Afterword to the Second Edition," to elucidate further his "Methods, Aims, and Approach" (254) as well as to respond to the critiques of the first edition, especially those that questioned his synchronic (as opposed to a diachronic) approach and his use of the so-called "Penetrative Paradigm." (258). In it he underlines for the first time his indebtedness to the "interpretative anthropology as theorized and practiced by [Clifford] Geertz," (254), one of the twentieth century's most influential cultural anthropologists, and relates approvingly Geertz's adoption of the distinction between "experience-near" and "experience-distinct" concepts—a most useful distinction, I would suggest, also for pedagogical purposes; thus, his "book argues that "homosexuality," "heterosexuality," and "bisexuality" are experience-near concepts in modern Western cultures, but not in the ancient culture we call Roman." (255)

Williams vigorously defends against some critics, including myself, his basically synchronic approach: : "in the transition from republic to principate ... there is no sign of transformation in the descriptive and evaluative terms and conceptual categories relating to gender and sexuality ..." (257-258: see also note 15 on p. 412). This, in my judgment, undervalues the impact of Hellenization on Roman culture which started large-scale in the 2nd century BCE; without this, among others, the impressive body of Roman erotic (including homoerotic) poetry as we know it from Catullus to Martial—snippets of which find their way even into the graffiti—could not have been created. Even the satirical poetry of that stalwart of 2nd BCE Romanitas, Lucilius, the polemically driven sexual explicitness of which is more than once cited by Williams, shows the Hellenizing impact in its rich use of Greek vocabulary and Greek metrical forms. However, I grant this impact should be not be overestimated, let alone misperceived, as though Hellenic norms and practices transformed, as the prejudice of some Romans, too, would have it, the supposedly traditional puritanical mores of the Romans into a wholesale sexual permissiveness.

I would also note the explosive growth in the slave population of Rome and Italy of the second and first centuries BCE which eventually led to the creation of a large new class of liberti. These developments were probably an even more acute factor for far-reaching and deep-going changes in the sexual culture of Rome and Italy, even though— and here I certainly agree with Williams—much of the traditional ideology of sexuality remained untouched. Closely linked to this factor is the increasingly complex stratification of Roman society during this period on the basis of wealth and status.

Williams devotes a section of several pages in his Afterward to the "Penetrative Paradigm," (254-258), and the major points he makes there are also most germane to the following two sections, "Acts and Desires," (262-263), and "Gender and Sexuality, Masculinity and Femininity," (263-267). As he says, he prefers to formulate this paradigm more precisely as the distinction between (male-normative) "insertive" and (female-normative) "receptive roles." (258) Williams recognizes "that paradigm has sometimes been argued for in somewhat too fervent term or too rigidly applied," not excepting himself, and that "what some [critics] have succeeded in doing is to demonstrate that this was not the only paradigm available to those who wrote and read ancient texts." (258); however, "attempts to challenge or supplant the penetrative paradigm have generally failed to achieve their goal." (258)

I would like to make two comments here. First of all, I do not understand why the "penetrative paradigm" has been foisted on Michel Foucault to the degree it has, to the point that Williams and others term it as "Foucauldian" or "Foucaultian" (258). Even a cursory reading of Foucault's brilliant second volume, The Use of Pleasure of his History of Sexuality, with its subdivision of major topics including, "The Moral Problematization of Pleasure," "Dietetics," "Economics," "Erotics," and "True Love," (the last two devoted primarily to Greek pederasty) shows that there the male- normative "penetrative paradigm," or Williams's more nuanced rephrasing of it, is hardly proffered as a dominant one for the classical Greek male's sexuality, but takes its much lesser place alongside such fundamental paradigms (or norms) as enkrateia and rightful chrêsis, and, in the love of adolescent boys, should be subsumed under what Foucault calls "moral aesthetics."

Secondly, while not altogether discarding the "penetrative paradigm," I would certainly challenge its absolute pre-eminence also in Roman sexual culture. In the large majority of the surviving discourses of Roman (homo)sexuality, whether in poetry and prose, even in some graffiti and in many of the material representations of love-making, the ultimate paradigm for sexual intimacy is what I would call the "unitive" one. It is in the spirit, one might say, of the Homeric philotêti migêmenai. With few exceptions (cf. e.g. in Propertius 2.15 and Ovid, Amores 1.5), the most common discourse in prose and poetry is the representation of the lover's desire for physical closeness and emotional harmony with his loved one, along with all the obstacles he faces, without going into the more intimate physical specifics. It is the literature of erotic desire and longing, not of accomplished or to-be-accomplished sexual acts. Williams indeed recognizes the importance of "the distinction between sexual acts and sexual acts," admitting that it is "perhaps not been sufficiently emphasized" in Roman Homosexuality. (262)

The desire for closeness with the beloved boy also informs the homoerotic poetry of Catullus, Horace, Tibullus, and Martial, as well as Petronius' Satyricon. These, too, are almost completely the literature of desire and longing, as in the lover's kissing his beloved or his longing to do so (Catullus 47, 99 and Martial 3.65, 10.42) or in his ardent desire always to be with his loved one (Tibullus 1.4), or in the lover's fruitless pursuit of his beloved in his dreams (Horace, Odes 4.1). Martial 4.42 is unique in Roman homoerotic poetry for its elaborate detailing of the physical charms of the ideal boy desired by both the poet and his friend. The sumptuous, even celebratory depiction of male-male copulation on the famous Warren Cup (discussed by Williams on pp. 101-102) takes the viewer much farther. Incongruously perhaps, it is in the well-known attack on romantic amor in Lucretius 4.1037-1287 that the passionate love-making of a man and a woman towards achieving a perfectly interfused physical union—doomed to fail, of course, from Lucretius' moral-satirical perspective—finds its most powerful expression (4.1076-1120) in Roman literature. Only in literary and sub-literary texts and in material representations which are blatantly dominated by satirical or scatological motives or by phallic (self-) aggrandizement, or by both, can one speak of anything like an ubiquitous penetrative paradigm with its connotations of aggression and subjugation.

It should be clear, therefore, that I regard the "penetrative paradigm" as a too restrictive framing of the gender-appropriate sexual roles supposedly conceptualized and valorized by Roman men. Indeed, Williams's comprehensive and perceptive typology of the notorious cinaedus, the supreme anti-masculine scare-figure in Roman literature and material representations—who in no way, as Williams well argues in more than one place, must be equated with the so-called "pathic" or "passive homosexual" (a very misleading term, anyway: see, e.g., 200)—has no need for this model for its explication.

In her Foreword, Martha Nussbaum expresses her expectation "that in a larger enquiry this book's emphasis on power relations would be enlarged and complicated by reflection on how Romans thought it was right to treat other people, what they thought about friendship and virtue, and how sex interwove with all these other concerns." (xiv) Such reflection is probably forthcoming in the monograph on friendship Williams says he is working on. (254) Despite my critiques, which I offer in the spirit of nuancing rather than as flat-out criticisms, I must emphasize that I join Nussbaum in her warm praise of the author's "meticulous " and "ambitious" (xiv) scholarship. The second edition confirms once more that Williams's book is indeed pioneering in its monumental scope and that no future scholar can afford not to be instructed by it.

Like the first, the second edition is attractively produced and I have not come upon any significant typos. However, "Clauss-Slaby's database for Pompeii" mentioned in note 8 on p. 426 should have been further identified, perhaps in the Index. The cover illustration elicited a smile from me. It shows Peter Paul Rubens's magnificent painting of Ganymede's abduction by Zeus' eagle (see the Preview). However, Rubens's Ganymede is a strapping, fair-haired young man, more post-adolescent than adolescent, who, I think, does not represent—unlike the cover illustration of a 2nd century bust of Hadrian's Antinous in the first edition— Greco-Roman antiquity's ideal of the pais kalos or puer delicatus but could be the brother of the two voluptuous, blondish young women in Rubens's painting, "The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus by Castor and Pollux."

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Corinne Bonnet, Vinciane Pirenne-Delforge, Danny Praet (ed.), Les religions orientales dans le monde grec et romain: cent ans après Cumont (1906-2006). Bilan historique et historiographique; Colloque de Rome, 16-18 Novembre 2006. Etudes de Philologie, d'Archéologie et d'Histoire Ancienne de l'IHBR 45. Brussel/Rome: Belgisch Historisch Instituut te Rome, 2009. Pp. 464 (pb). ISBN 9789074461719. €65.00.
Reviewed by Alberto Gavini, Dipartimento di Storia, Università degli Studi di Sassari


Questi atti sono l'esito di un importante convegno svoltosi a Roma nel novembre del 2006 fra l'Academia Belgica e i Musei Capitolini, e rappresentano il coronamento di un progetto che in pochi anni ha riunito periodicamente un cospicuo numero di specialisti intorno al tema dei culti orientali, dando alle stampe in un tempo relativamente breve gli atti di tutti gli incontri. Bisogna quindi dare atto agli organizzatori, ed in particolare a Corinne Bonnet, di aver contribuito in maniera notevole a dare nuova linfa a questi studi.

Il volume consta di ventiquattro articoli divisi in cinque sezioni, introdotti da un contributo dei curatori del volume che presenta brevemente le linee guida sulle quali si è sviluppato il colloquio, con particolare attenzione al concetto stesso di "culti orientali". I curatori infatti si fanno portavoce di un disagio di molti studiosi nei confronti della definizione di tale categoria, eredità cumontiana ritenuta spesso inadatta a definire le realtà in oggetto ma ormai entrata nell'uso comune; sottolineano a tale proposito come la rilettura odierna di questi fenomeni religiosi abbia permesso di evidenziare, molto più di quanto non si sia fatto in passato, le similitudini rituali fra i vari culti dell'antichità, abbattendo spesso le frontiere fra le religioni orientali e quelle ufficiali e portando alla dissoluzione del concetto di "religioni orientali". Due indici, uno dei nomi moderni e uno tematico (quest'ultimo in particolare molto utile), corredano gli atti e ne facilitano la consultazione.

La prima sezione ("Mise en perspective") è introdotta da un contributo di Corinne Bonnet ("Entre ciel et terre, en relisant Franz Cumont", pp. 17-22) che prende spunto dalla riedizione del classico di Franz Cumont Les religions orientales dans le paganisme romain che venne presentata proprio in occasione del convegno. L'autrice (che è senza ombra di dubbio la maggiore studiosa dell'opera cumontiana) riesce a penetrare in profondità nelle tematiche religiose che furono care allo studioso belga, facendo emergere l'importanza che ancora oggi, a distanza di cento anni dalla prima edizione, l'opera mantiene.

William Van Andringa e Françoise Van Haeperen ("Le Romain et l'étranger: formes d'intégration des cultes étrangers dans les cités de l'Empire romain", pp. 23-42) esordiscono annunciando la scomparsa della categoria dei "culti orientali", rimarcando la necessità di approfondire il modo in cui tali manifestazioni religiose interagirono con le forme di culto già esistenti nel mondo romano. Viene a questo punto dato molto rilievo al ruolo dell'archeologia e dell'epigrafia per la comprensione dei fenomeni religiosi dell'antichità. Così la disposizione topografica degli isei e dei mitrei delle città che sono portate ad esempio attesterebbe che, almeno dalla seconda metà del I sec. d.C., le divinità che lì venivano venerate non dovevano essere percepite dai cittadini come straniere. Ed ancora le testimonianze epigrafiche che documentano l'uso di formulari tipici delle dediche alle divinità romane e la presenza di sacerdoti pubblici alle cerimonie (o comunque la loro approvazione di tali riti) rappresenterebbero quindi un ulteriore dato a favore della completa integrazione di tali culti nella società romana.1

Marie-Françoise Baslez, Sergio Ribichini e Christoph Auffarth ("Appréhender les religions en contact", pp. 43-62) affrontano il tema del contatto fra le religioni. Nella prima parte dell'articolo, a cura di Marie-Françoise Baslez, si mette in rilievo il fatto che il concetto di "sincretismo" non è più attuale e si privilegiano al suo posto i termini "contatto" e "coabitazione", più neutri. Risulta quindi necessario rileggere le fonti archeologiche e ancor di più quelle epigrafiche, con l'intento di produrre studi prosopografici atti a mettere in risalto i rapporti personali fra i devoti. Dopo aver ricordato il ruolo giocato dai porti e delle associazioni religiose si passa alla seconda parte, nella quale Sergio Ribichini presenta il tema del confronto fra le religioni affrontato nel corso dei colloqui precedenti da vari studiosi; viene così sottolineata ancora una volta l'importanza dell'integrazione fra tutti i campi della ricerca per una corretta interpretazione dei fenomeni religiosi dell'antichità. Nell'ultima parte Christoph Auffarth si dedica ai concetti di conversio, da riferire non semplicemente alla sfera religiosa bensì ad un più ampio ambito sociale, e di religio migrans, relativo alle trasformazioni religiose nell'impero romano dovute da una parte a coloro che, lasciando le proprie terre di origine, portavano con sé costumi e culti dei padri (religio migrantium) e dall'altra alle forme di culto che venivano trapiantate (religio translata).

Il contributo di Laurent Bricault e Francesca Prescendi ("Une théologie en images?", pp. 63-79) è dedicato al ruolo delle immagini di culto nell'ambito delle religioni orientali. Risulta molto corretta ad esempio la riflessione sulla complementarietà che nei monumenti hanno le immagini e i testi scritti, che insieme comunicano due aspetti di un messaggio. Si ribadisce poi anche in questo caso l'inadeguatezza del termine "sincretismo" per l'analisi delle iconografie di divinità come Giove Dolicheno, preferendo la perifrasi "coesistenza di immagini polisemiche". In conclusione gli autori sostengono che anche le rappresentazioni del mito di Mitra avevano la medesima funzione delle statue e delle pitture che adornavano i templi delle altre divinità, anche se rispetto a queste ultime erano spesso molto più esplicite grazie ad una forte impronta narrativa.

Attilio Mastrocinque ("Culti orientali e magia: alcune riflessioni", pp. 81-87) lancia alcune provocazioni agli studiosi della magia antica, proponendo un approccio alla materia più fedele alla realtà sociale dei Greci e dei Romani; liberarsi del bagaglio culturale cristiano è secondo l'autore la condizione principale per affrontare tale studio nel modo più corretto.

Le seconda sezione ("Les religions orientales: débat autour d'un concept") si apre con un articolo di Guy Stroumsa ("Ex Oriente Numen. From orientalism to oriental religions", pp. 91-103) che tenta di risalire alle origini del concetto cumontiano di "religioni orientali", ripercorrendo brevemente la storia degli studi che avevano preceduto il lavoro di Franz Cumont. Da questa analisi emerge il tentativo che fu dello studioso belga di ricreare un legame fra le culture religiose del Mediterraneo antico ed inoltre l'importanza che ha sempre avuto per gli storici delle religioni il Vicino Oriente antico.

Anche il contributo di Walter Burkert ("'Orient' since Franz Cumont: Enrichment and Dearth of a Concept", pp. 105-117) ha al centro la figura di Franz Cumont. In una profonda e lucida analisi critica della sua opera l'autore coglie molti aspetti che paiono discutibili nella definizione delle aree geografiche e di conseguenza anche nel concetto di "Oriente". Viene messo in luce anche che nella visione cumontiana la crescita e la diffusione delle religioni orientali rappresentavano un momento di progresso e non di decadenza, a differenza di quanto comunemente si riteneva.

L'articolo di Jaime Alvar ("Promenade por un campo de ruinas. Religiones orientales y cultos mistéricos: el poder de los conceptos y el valor de la taxonomía", pp. 119-134) va controcorrente rispetto alla gran parte delle posizioni attuali degli studiosi, poiché manifesta la volontà di salvaguardare, almeno in parte, l'idea di Cumont, raggruppando alcune delle divinità dette orientali sulla base di caratteristiche comuni. Non si potrà infatti negare che le religioni di Mitra, di Iside e Serapide, di Cibele e Attis e anche di Cristo avessero alcuni elementi di contatto che le distinguevano dal canonico pantheon romano e dalla maggioranza dei culti dell'impero: le cerimonie iniziatiche, il silenzio da rispettare, la salvezza da raggiungere.

Intorno al termine "sincretismo" si sviluppa il contributo di Paolo Xella ("Syncrétisme comme catégorie conceptuelle: une notion utile?", pp. 135-150), il quale ripercorre in maniera chiara e sintetica il recente dibattito sull'opportunità dell'uso di questa parola che ha ricevuto nel tempo connotazioni ora positive e ora negative; la ragionevole conclusione alla quale giunge è che, pur non arrivando a dire che la discussione sui concetti sia superflua, è necessario non perdere di vista il terreno della ricerca storica concreta.

La terza sezione ("À la croisée des pratiques, des discours et des images: spécificités, parentés"), dopo l'illustrazione da parte di Ted Kaizer della situazione religiosa di Dura Europos ("Patterns of worship in Dura-Europos. A case study of religious life in the Classical Levant outside the main cult centres", pp. 153-172), presenta due articoli di ambito isiaco: il primo di John Scheid ("Le statut du culte d'Isis à Rome sous le Haut-Empire", pp. 173-186), nel quale egli sostiene con una solida argomentazione che il culto di Iside sarebbe diventato ufficiale solo all'inizio dell'età flavia e che il tempio presso il quale Vespasiano e Tito dormirono la notte che precedette la celebrazione del loro trionfo sarebbe stato all'epoca in uno stato molto avanzato di costruzione; il secondo di Richard Veymiers ("Sérapis sur le gemmes et bijoux antiques. Un portarait du dieu en images", pp. 187-214), che dà prova di essere attualmente uno dei maggiori esperti di gemme di Serapide.

Seguono i contributi mitraici di Marleen Martens ("The mithraeum in Tienen (Belgium). The remains of a feast in honour of Mithras", pp. 215-232), che dimostra come l'archeologia possa ancora contribuire a una più ampia conoscenza dei fenomeni religiosi dell'antichità, a mettere in discussione teorie ritenute solide e a porre nuovi quesiti, e di Valérie Huet ("Reliefs mithriaques et reliefs romains traditionnels: essai de confrontation", pp. 233-256), che colloca le rappresentazioni mitraiche all'interno del sistema iconografico della religione romana.

Chiudono la sezione gli articoli di Jean-Marie Pailler ("Sabazios. La construction d'une figure divine dans le monde gréco-romain", pp. 257-291) e di Giuseppe Garbati ("L'immagine di Bes in Sardegna: appunti su un "indicatore morfologico"", pp. 293-308). Nel primo una storia degli studi su Sabazio è seguita dall'analisi di alcuni reperti iconografici legati al culto del dio; dalla ricerca emergono la verticalità come ascensione dalla terra al cielo e l'ordine interno che vige in tali raffigurazioni. Libero da preconcetti e da definizioni ritenute fuorvianti lo studioso propone un'interpretazione che risulta aderente alla documentazione archeologica conservata. Nel secondo contributo Giuseppe Garbati si dedica alle statue del dio Bes rinvenute in Sardegna ad Aquae Ypsitanae-Forum Traiani, Maracalagonis e Bitia; l'autore sembra propendere sostanzialmente per la loro datazione ad epoca romana, sottolineando però la continuità con l'ambito punico. Egli infatti punta la propria attenzione sulla capacità dell'immagine di Bes di oscillare fra tradizione e innovazione e di fungere quasi da cerniera tra Eshmun, Esculapio ed Iside, anche se in quest'ultimo caso sembra manifestare qualche dubbio.2

La quarta sezione ("Transferts, ancrages et identités") si apre con il contributo di Yulia Ustinova ("Orientalization: Once, Twice, or More? Iranian Elements in the Religion of the Greek Cities of the Northern Black Sea Litoral", pp. 311-324) che presenta la situazione delle città greche della costa settentrionale del Mar Nero, evidenziando una spaccatura culturale fra la parte occidentale, fino al I sec. d.C. più legata alla tradizione greca, e quella orientale, maggiormente sensibile agli influssi provenienti dall'area iranica.

All'articolo di Elena Muniz Grijalvo ("The Cult of the Egyptian Gods in Roman Athens", pp. 325-341), che illustra il buon successo che ebbero i culti isiaci ad Atene, seguono tre contributi che si soffermano in particolare sulle fonti letterarie: Porfirio, del quale si occupa Pier Franco Beatrice ("The Oriental Religions and Porphyry's Universal Way for Soul's Deliverance", pp. 343-368); lo Pseudo-Melitone, presentato da Jane L. Lightfoot ("Pseudo-Meliton and the cults of the Roman Near East", pp. 387-399); Firmico Materno, che Aude Busine ("De Porphyre à Franz Cumont: la construction des religions orientales de Firmicus Maternus", pp. 413-426) identifica correttamente come punto di partenza per la "costruzione" dell'opera di Cumont che questi atti hanno degnamente celebrato.

Completano il panorama offerto dalla sezione le figure carismatiche di Apollonio di Tiana e degli stiliti che sono al centro delle analisi di Danny Praet ("Le néopythagorisme, les Baals syriens et les divinités planétaires. Les théories de Franz Cumont et le cas de la Vie d'Apollonius de Tyane", pp. 369-385) e di Chiara Cremonesi ("La Siria "selvaggia": la performance ascetica degli stiliti tra psicologia della "razza" e "pillar religion"", pp. 401-412).

L'ultima sezione ("En guise de conclusion") è dedicata unicamente ad una dissertazione di Robert Turcan ("Une aporie de la tradition littéraire sur le Lion mithriaque", pp. 429-448), il quale risolve in maniera molto convincente un problema prodotto dall'errata interpretazione di un testo di Porfirio (debitore di una fonte probabilmente di età adrianea) pertinente al culto di Mitra con l'ausilio della documentazione iconografica; lo studioso francese individua nel leontocefalo l'iniziato al grado di leo avvolto da ogni sorta di forma animale di cui si parla nel De Abstinentia (IV, 16, 3). Tale risultato porta l'autore ad affermare la necessità di non dissociare mai l'archeologia dalla filologia e di attribuire sempre uguale peso ad ogni tipo di documentazione.

La ricchezza e la qualità dei contributi qui illustrati dimostrano quanto sia vivo l'interesse intorno a questi temi; nel complesso questi atti rappresentano un importante tassello per la ricostruzione storica dei fenomeni religiosi dell'antichità, nonostante sembrino un po' eccessive le energie spese a togliere éo a mettere le virgolette o le caporali alle religioni orientali.

1. Sebbene la maggior parte delle affermazioni degli autori siano molto interessanti, appare eccessivo ritenere che l'uso del latino nelle iscrizioni sia un elemento utile a determinare la definitiva bocciatura del concetto di "culti orientali".
2. In considerazione della presenza ad Aquae Ypsitanae-Forum Traiani del culto di Esculapio e delle Ninfe è probabile che le statue rinvenute nel sito fossero pertinenti a un tempio nel quale si veneravano divinità terapeutiche, e non ad un iseo. Sul rapporto fra il dio Bes e la gens isiaca si veda M. Malaise, Pour une terminologie et une analyse des cultes isiaque, Mémoires de la Classe des Lettres de l'Académie royale de Belgique, 35, Bruxelles 2005, pp. 79-80. (read complete article)