Sunday, July 31, 2011


Corinne Bonnet, Véronique Krings, Catherine Valenti (ed.), Connaître l'Antiquité: individus, réseaux, stratégies du XVIIIe au XXIe siècle. Histoire. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2010. Pp. 272. ISBN 9782753511934. €18.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Christopher Stray, Swansea University (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

This interesting collection on scholarly networks is itself a product of the scholarly network ERASME, devoted to the reception of antiquity, which was founded in 1998 at the University of Toulouse. The volume represents the fruit of an ERASME seminar series devoted to the theme of networks as a feature of intellectual production. In their introduction, the editors point out the multiplicity of meanings and roles of networks, and stress the contributors' concern with case studies, where the interaction of individual and institutional, particular and general factors can be revealed. In the opening chapter, Bastin traces the uses of the term 'network' in the social sciences, from the mercurial German Georg Simmel and the staider American Albion Small in the late nineteenth century, through the sociometry of J. L. Moreno, to the work of the Manchester anthropologist John Barnes in the 1950s. He concludes that the notion is multivalent; developed by some to analyse complex urban environments, and by others to resist analytic reduction to individuals or social structures.

The first four chapters deal with examples of networks as a basis for scholarly production. Cavalier's subject is the talented and egotistic Jean-Baptiste Villoison, who spent some time in 'the Athens of the North': not Edinburgh, as Anglophone monoglots might think, but Weimar, and more specifically the court of Saxe-Weimar (where Goethe and Herder also stayed). Villoison corresponded with the dowager duchess, Anna Amalia; his letters report on his scholarly activities, most notably the rediscovery and publishing of the tenth-century codex of Homer in Venice (Venetus A), but also throw light on the social and intellectual links between France and the German states in the period before the French revolution. The chapter is supplemented by eight colour plates showing Villoison, his contemporaries and his handwriting. Agut-Labordère investigates the history of Egyptian demotic. Overshadowed by higher-status literature, it has tended to lack a continuous history of study, continually bursting into life then dying down (hence the chapter's title, "Comme un phénix..."). Here again nationalism and cross-border contacts are in evidence, from the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt to the links between the German Hermann Brugsch and the Frenchman Edouard Revillout in the tense period after Germany's defeat of France at Sedan in 1871. In the following century, an international scholarly community emerged as France, Germany and Britain backed away from their competition for colonial power in North Africa. Foro's topic is the links between the scholars who wrote articles on classical antiquity for the Enciclopedia Italiana in the 1920s and 1930s. Formally established in 1925, by 1938 the project had generated 37 volumes. The moving spirit was the philosopher Giovanni Gentile, but the co-ordination of classical entries was delegated to Gaetano de Sanctis. Some of the contributors were his students, most notably Arnaldo Momigliano; others were his friends; and a Catholic sub-group is also identified; the geographical foci were Florence/Pisa and Rome. De Sanctis resisted fascism and lost his chair of ancient history at Rome, but the Enciclopedia somehow transcended politics to become a national treasure (and now has a piazza named after it). With Schettino's chapter we move to the study of Roman expansion in the Mediterranean, a topic which offers a glimpse both of competing national perspectives in the last 200 years, and also of the varieties of scholarly linkages and organisations. Individual scholars are not forgotten, and the work of Niebuhr, Fustel de Coulanges, Mommsen, Rostovtzeff, Gabba and Nicolet among others is described and located in relation to precursors and competitors.

The next four chapters deal with networks as scenes of collaboration and competition. Altit-Morvillez examines the reception of the catalogue of Roman oculists' stamps published by Émile Espérandieu, a French officer in Tunisia who used his various postings to collect specimens of the genre. The correspondence of Salomon Reinach and others shows how a variety of journal reviews, positive or savagely dismissive, led to a debate in which Espérandieu was able to respond to his critics in the same journals (something rarely possible today). Fenet looks at collaboration between the École française d'Athènes and the French archaeological delegation in Afghanistan in the early 1920s, after France was given exclusive excavation rights there. At a time when the École was competing with the German and British schools to secure its own permits, the Afghan outpost was seen as a chance to extend both French influence and the study of Hellenism. In Chapoutot's chapter we move to Germany during the Second World War, to focus on the volume Rom und Karthago (1943), edited by Joseph Vogt. This followed Das Neue Bild der Antike (1942), masterminded by Helmut Berve. Both belonged to a Nazi wartime project designed to disseminate a National Socialist view of antiquity, and their contributors constituted a cultural Einsatzgruppe. Rodes examines the networks of authorship and influence in the construction of textbook accounts of antiquity in 20th-century France. Drawing on the work of Christophe Charle, and on the EMMANUELLE database assembled by Alain Choppin and his colleagues at the Institut national de recherche pédagogique, she traces the patterns of teacher-pupil filiation in the assembly of both low-status school textbooks and such grand resources as Daremberg and Saglio's Dictionnaire des antiquités grecques et romaines (10 vols, 1873-1919).1

The final section focuses on links between individual and institutional networks. Gutron's subject is the work of the École française à Rome (1873) in Tunisia after the establishment of a French protectorate in 1881. Here conflict between French scholars took place in a colonial environment where Tunisians gradually took over museum posts; the cultural politics were however complicated by disagreement between Tunisian factions. Rey investigates the foundation and nature of the École, long dominated (like its Athenian counterpart) by 'les archicubes', the graduates of the École normale supérieure. For many who followed this route to Rome, the experience of comradeship remained an important part of their identity. With Péré-Noguès's chapter we return to France, to the work of the protohistorian Joseph Déchelette (1862-1904). His correspondence with scholars in Europe (mostly Germany) and the US is analysed, and twenty letters printed as examples. Finally, Reimond describes scholarly networks among archaeologists in Spain 1900-36, following the trauma of the Spanish-American War (which mutatis mutandis could be seen as Spain's Sedan). The 'generation of 1898' aimed at the renewal of Spain, and this influenced work in the two major centres of networks, Madrid and Barcelona—one the centre of the nation, the other of an anti-nation within it. The chapter is supplemented by an organisational chart and by group photographs from 1933.

The networks discussed in this volume fall chronologically between two other groups of networks: those of antiquity, such as those of the Roman Republic discussed by Münzer and Gelzer,2 and those responsible for this volume: that is, between 'factio' and 'équipe'. If ERASME has an intellectual filiation, it is perhaps with Pierre Nora's Lieux de Mémoire project (7 vols, 1984-92, abridged English translation, 3 vols, 1996-8), via Christian Jacob's similarly massive Lieux de Savoir programme (4 vols, of which two have been published, 2007-11). Nora's volumes were devoted to France, Jacob's covered world history; the centre of gravity of the present volume is France, but some chapters deal with Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece and Tunisia. In part this reflects a history of intellectual and political colonialism – the French-founded archaeological service in Tunisia, the archaeological schools in Rome and Athens. In part it springs from the history of the links between French and other European scholars, as with the residence of J.-B. Villoison in Saxe- Weimar. In part, too, it is due to the specialist interests of the organisers of ERASME, which include the history of the Near East as well as of Greece. The book clearly belongs to the expanding field of classical reception, but some specific aspects of its location deserve to be noticed. Women play a central role in ERASME, which is located in a provincial university in a country dominated by a metropolitan centre from which influence and personnel move outwards.3 Within the overall field of classical reception, the volume focuses on the social and cultural bases of scholarship, rather than on the reception of literary texts in performance, an area which has received much more attention in Anglo-American reception studies.

The concept of network offers an organising device for the volume, but one which is too multivalent to provide a tight focus. The several case studies do not refer to Bastin, and it is unclear if their authors knew of his contribution. The networks identified in different chapters are based on family and teacher-pupil relationships and organisational membership as well as the groups of scholars linked by correspondence and shared interests. If the varieties of scholarly sociability are to be pursued, it would be good to see an investigation of individual and collaborative work which explored the differences between networks and other kinds of social group, including classes. The foci of sociability also deserve to be the foci of investigation. For example, the role of books and journals is touched on in several chapters (Foro, Schettino, Altit-Morvillez, Chapoutot, Rodes, Reimond), but the discussions remain separate, despite the general remarks made in the editorial introduction. Again, the part played by presses, journals and societies in the work of amateur networks and then of professional scholarly groups is a topic which deserves separate treatment. The importance of institutions is evident, and more might have been made of the weight of the tightlyintegrated system whereby in the nineteenth century graduates of the École normale dominated entry at the Athens and Rome schools; a system only challenged in Athens by Théophile Homolle in the 1890s. The role of nation-states, again, emerges in the 'dossiers' (case studies) set in France, Germany, Spain and Italy, and while the two Fascist projects discussed by Foro and Chapoutot clearly stand out as a pair, a wider comparison of centralisation and peripherality, control and autonomy would be well worth pursuing (and Toulouse a good place in which to pursue it).

The quality of the chapters in this volume varies, and the collection is itself something of a network, full of parallels and contrasts which would be easier to think about were a fuller index provided than the present index nominum. Yet the chapters all offer interesting case studies, and the book as a whole both provides glimpses of a wide range of episodes in the history of scholarship, and constitutes an interesting moment in that history. For this near-monoglot reviewer, it has opened a window on a body of work which I suspect is less well known than it should be outside France. In the universalised network of the Net, there are still barriers to scholarly sociability. But whereas the publishers of some volumes reviewed here have rightly been chastised for their shameful over-pricing, I am glad to be able in this case to signal the opposite: this book is a bargain.


1.   The Dictionnaire is the subject of 14 contributions to Anabases 4 (2006), 157-258. This journal, incidentally, is another product of the équipe ERASME.
2.   F. Münzer, Römische Adelsparteien und Adelsfamilien, Stuttgart, 1920; M. Gelzer, Die Nobilität der römischen Republik; Die Nobilität der Kaiserzeit, Stuttgart, 1912.
3.   Chapoutot, 156. Threequarters of the contributors to this volume are female; by contrast, two thirds of the contributors to the first volume of Jacob's Paris-based Lieux de Savoir were male, as were 14 of the 17 in Nora's initial volume. The differences are partly, but not wholly, to be explained in generational terms.

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