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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Anne-Valérie Pont, Orner la cité: enjeux culturels et politiques du paysage urbain dans l'Asie gréco-romaine. Scripta antiqua 24. Pessac: Ausonius, 2010. Pp. 727. ISBN 9782356130235. €25.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Anne-Marie Favreau-Linder, Université de Clermont-Ferrand (

Version at BMCR home site

Publication de sa thèse de doctorat, le livre d'Anne-Valérie Pont offre une somme remarquable sur la politique urbaine des cités d'Asie mineure occidentale sous l'Empire romain, plus particulièrement pour la période du Ier au IIIe siècles. Cette étude du paysage urbain des cités grecques est menée à travers l'exploration du concept antique de kosmos, l'ornement conféré par les monuments publics à une cité, concept que l'on rencontre dans les éloges des cités composés par les sophistes contemporains. Cette approche résolument "grecque", qui passe par un dépouillement complet des sources épigraphiques et littéraires de la période, entend apporter un angle de vue différent de celui adopté par les études purement architecturales, lesquelles insistent généralement sur la romanisation des cités grecques. La prise en compte des sources de financement de ces monuments permet de nuancer la thèse d'une influence dominante des autorités romaines sur la politique urbaine, puisqu'elle révèle au contraire que, dans la majorité des cas, la construction et son financement relèvent de l'initiative des citoyens. Cette étude s'inscrit également dans les recherches menées sur l'évergétisme civique et conduit là aussi à réviser les jugements trop tranchés sur ce phénomène, qui exagèrent le poids des individus alors que le processus de décision demeure aux mains des institutions civiques.

La première partie de l'ouvrage ("Les beautés des monuments publics", p. 21-220) offre le bilan du recensement des sources épigraphiques, et passe en revue les différents espaces du paysage urbain : temples, agora, théâtres, gymnases et édifices balnéaires, mais aussi infrastructures d'alimentation en eau, rues et portiques, portes et ports. Cet inventaire exhaustif et fort précieux est présenté de manière synthétique et claire au moyen de tableaux synoptiques qui réunissent la documentation sur un monument et une période en comparant les données par cités et en distinguant commanditaire et nature de l'intervention réalisée.

On appréciera la prudence de l'auteur dans ses remarques sur les ambiguïtés de la terminologie des inscriptions (cf. le terme naos p. 34-37), ou de l'identité de la divinité honorée dans les temples (cf p. 46-52). A.-V. Pont prend partie à plusieurs reprises dans des débats érudits sur ces monuments et le dialogue qu'elle instaure, suivant la méthode de Louis Robert, entre inscriptions et sources littéraires s'avère particulièrement fructueux pour nuancer les conclusions de ses prédécesseurs : ainsi, on ne peut que partager le correctif apporté à l'analyse d'un déclin politique des bouleuteria proposé par J.-Ch. Balty,1 qui serait le corollaire obligé de l'affectation de ce lieu à des activités culturelles.

D'une manière générale, l'étude d'A.-V. Pont souligne la vivacité de l'hellénisme des cités d'Asie mineure qui s'exprime, tant dans les inscriptions que dans les discours des rhéteurs, à travers la fierté qu'elles manifestent à l'égard de leur ornement, loin de tout passéisme et de toute nostalgie. Ainsi, l'historienne souligne le peu de cas que font les cités des monuments publics anciens : on préfère souvent construire à neuf et l'antiquité des édifices n'est pas la qualité première vantée dans l'éloge de la cité. Le paysage urbain intègre les innovations architecturales romaines, mais la perception qu'en ont les populations et le langage adopté pour le décrire sont à l'évidence grecs. C'est un apport essentiel de l'étude d'A.-V. Pont qui permet de réviser l'interprétation traditionnelle de cette architecture romaine comme une preuve indubitable de la romanisation imposée à ces cités.

On appréciera aussi les lexiques du vocabulaire architectural que l'auteur a insérés dans le premier chapitre de la deuxième partie, et qui montrent également la précision et la sobriété de ces inscriptions. L'ornement urbain s'inscrit avant tout dans un horizon local, celui de la cité ou éventuellement de la province, et n'amène que fort rarement une célébration de l'Empire ou de l'empereur.

La seconde partie ("L'ornement de la cité comme participation à l'idéal civique", p. 223-347) analyse plus précisément les modalités d'expression de cette fierté civique dans les inscriptions et les enjeux qu'elle revêt dans les relations tant internes à la cité, que dans les rapports de rivalité ou de coopération avec les cités voisines. Le kosmos apparaît comme un concept grec qui concourt au consensus civique en favorisant un sentiment de fierté collective partagé lors des fêtes auxquelles donnent lieu les inaugurations et qui décrit, de manière récurrente, l'évergétisme des notables. Cependant, comme le révèle l'examen du style des inscriptions, cet évergétisme ne revêt pas la forme d'une rhétorique ampoulée, mais obéit aux règles d'une communication marquée par la retenue, où les bienfaiteurs publics ne s'étendent guère, par exemple, sur la richesse de leurs dons. Pareille modération témoigne d'une conscience des tensions que pouvait susciter la surenchère entre notables dans les libéralités, ou l'affichage trop insolent d'une supériorité économique et sociale. Elle révèle également que l'évergétisme des notables bâtisseurs s'inscrit dans un idéal civique, dont A.-V. Pont reconstitue les valeurs, à travers l'étude serrée du vocabulaire de l'honneur et des vertus de ces bienfaiteurs.

L'orgueil civique et la recherche d'un embellissement toujours plus grand de la cité favorisent les rivalités avec les autres cités, dont témoignent notamment les discours de Dion de Pruse et Ælius Aristide. Toutefois, l'historienne nuance cette corrélation souvent trop systématique, en insistant à l'inverse sur les exemples de coopération entre cités, à l'occasion d'un tremblement de terre, pour la reconstruction de l'ornement urbain de l'une d'entre elles, mais aussi lors de l'obtention d'une nouvelle néocorie, puisque le temple du culte provincial est toujours financé par le koinon, c'est-à-dire, par l'ensemble des cités qui le constituent.

La troisième partie ("Enjeux politiques de la construction et de la restauration des monuments publics", p. 351-488) entend déterminer le rôle exact joué par les différentes instances politiques que sont la cité, les représentants de l'autorité romaine dans la province et l'empereur. Elle prend parti, de manière plus polémique, dans le vaste débat sur la romanisation des provinces orientales. Les conclusions qu'A.-V. Pont tire de sa documentation sur les cités d'Asie mineure occidentale réfutent ou nuancent à la fois les thèses sur la perte de toute autonomie politique des cités soumises à l'ingérence des gouverneurs romains et celles sur l'application d'une politique impériale dans la construction publique.

Sa réfutation s'appuie notamment sur le constat du nombre très faible d'inscriptions relatives à des monuments qui indiquent clairement un rôle du gouverneur ou de l'empereur dans le financement ou l'initiative de la construction. L'historienne relève même des stratégies civiques visant à éviter l'intrusion des autorités romaines dans les affaires internes : ainsi, les évergésies sur fonds privés sont paradoxalement une assurance pour la cité d'échapper au contrôle du gouverneur (p. 378) ; par ailleurs, les autorités civiques désignent elles-mêmes des notables chargés du contrôle du chantier, quand l'entreprise engage des fonds civiques (p. 436).2 Ces conclusions sont bien entendues nuancées par leur auteur pour les siècles ultérieurs (IVe et Ve siècles) où le rôle du gouverneur devient prépondérant.

L'étude des modalités d'intervention de l'empereur dans la politique édilitaire des cités d'Asie aboutit à une révision des thèses de E. Winter et H. Halfmann.3 À l'exception des quelques exemples de relations particulières entre un empereur et une cité, ou des circonstances exceptionnelles que constitue le cas de la restauration d'une cité après un tremblement de terre, l'empereur apparaît très rarement comme le commanditaire d'un monument. L'historienne opère à ce sujet une mise en garde méthodologique sur la lecture et l'interprétation des documents (p. 461). On peut toutefois s'interroger sur la valeur exemplaire ou singulière des témoignages sur l'octroi par Hadrien d'une seconde néocorie à Smyrne4 qui attestent indubitablement de la participation impériale, sollicitée par le sophiste Polémon, au financement de certaines constructions prestigieuses dans la cité. À l'égard du rôle des sophistes, l'ambivalence de leur position est peut-être plus grande que ne l'indique l'historienne. Préserver l'autonomie des cités grecques est sans conteste le but premier des discours sur la concorde civique prononcés par ces rhéteurs, cependant ils servaient par là-même aussi les intérêts de l'Empire et inscrivaient leur discours dans la concordia imperii.5 Il faut également insister sur l'écart entre cet idéal civique et impérial de concorde et la réussite mitigée des discours des sophistes. Tant Dion de Pruse que Polémon furent mis en cause par leur cité pour leur gestion des sommes qui leur avaient été allouées.6

Le livre d'A.-V. Pont est une contribution majeure au champ des études sur l'Asie mineure et une démonstration convaincante de la vitalité des cités grecques sous le Haut-Empire. Il offre une vision claire et précise du vaste corpus des inscriptions afférentes à la construction publique grâce aux nombreux tableaux synthétisant les résultats de l'enquête épigraphique. L'étude minutieuse de la terminologie des inscriptions permet de résoudre certaines énigmes architecturales,7 de préciser les responsabilités officielles, de distinguer les rituels civiques des cités grecques de la procédure romaine, et de mettre en lumière le contexte idéologique dans lequel s'inscrit l'ornement de la cité. L'historienne étend son investigation aux sources littéraires de la Seconde Sophistique, mettant à profit aussi bien les discours des sophistes et les ekphraseis de Lucien que les représentations de la cité dans les romans grecs. Un riche appareil de notes auxquels s'ajoutent une bibliographie et un ensemble de planches et de cartes vient couronner cette étude fort complète dont la minutie se lit jusque dans le détail de la table des matières. En faisant dialoguer inscriptions et textes littéraires, A.-V. Pont parvient à faire entendre la voix de ces Grecs d'Asie mineure, souvent étouffée par une vision moderne quelque peu aveuglée par la grandeur romaine.


1.   J-Ch. Balty, Curia ordinis. Recherches d'architecture et d'urbanisme antiques sur les curies provinciales du monde romain , Bruxelles, 1991. On peut verser au dossier des témoignages sur la complémentarité des deux activités oratoires, l'exorde du discours sur la concorde aux villes d'Ælius Aristide (or. 23, 4 Lenz-Behr), où ce dernier indique clairement que la déclamation est une préparation à l'éloquence politique. On trouverait d'ailleurs dans le corpus de ses déclamations des échos très clairs à ce thème essentiel de la concorde civique.
2.   A.-V. Pont nuance ici les conclusions tirées par F. Jacques, Le privilège de liberté, Politique impériale et autonomie municipale dans les cités de l'Occident romain, coll. EFR 76, Rome, 1984, pour l'Occident romain.
3.  E. Winter, Staatlische Baupolitik und Baufürsorge in den römischen Provinzen des kaiserzeitlichen KleinAsien, Asia Minor Studien 20, Bonn, 1996. H. Halfmann, Ephèse et Pergame. Urbanisme et commanditaires en Asie Mineure romaine, Bordeaux, 2004 (trad. française), 2001 (1ère édition).
4.   IK 24.1-Smyrna, 697. Philostrate, Vit. Sophist., I, 25, 531.
5.   Cette continuité ou analogie entre la cité et l'Empire serait à explorer de manière plus approfondie dans le concept même de kosmos, ornement civique mais aussi ordonnancement du monde, où le rôle joué par les empereurs est primordial, cf. M. H. Quet, "À l'imitation de Zeus. Antonin le pieux, garant de l'ordre mondial et de la concorde sociale, d'après le témoignage d'Aelius Aristide, in M. Molin, Images et représentations du pouvoir et de l'ordre social dans l'Antiquité, Paris, 2001, p. 199-209, cité en bibliographie, p. 664.
6.  Pline, Ep. Tra. 10, 82 ; Philostrate, Vit. Sophist., I, 25, 533.
7.   Par exemple, l'identité de l'aleipterion (p. 146 ), qui a fait également l'objet d'un article de l'auteur dans la REA, 2008, 110, p. 151-174.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011


Christopher Stray (ed.), Classical Dictionaries: Past, Present and Future. London: Duckworth, 2010. Pp. viii, 229. ISBN 9780715639160. $80.00.

Reviewed by Tom Keeline, Harvard University (

Version at BMCR home site

[Table of Contents is listed at the end of the review.]

When once pressed at a party about what he really did for a living, D.R. Shackleton Bailey is said to have acerbically replied, "I just look things up all day." This remark, however ironic, carries more than a grain of truth: classicists do in fact devote vast portions of their lives to looking things up, especially in dictionaries of Greek and Latin. It is thus salutary to reflect on the nature of the tools we all spend so much time using. Classical Dictionaries, an edited collection of papers delivered at an Oxford conference in June 2009, does just that, considering the stories of both familiar and lesser known lexica. The book is subtitled "Past, present and future," but it is mostly devoted to the history of scholarship, and in that field it scores an unqualified success: it is excellent both in treating dictionaries past and in evaluating the present lexical offerings as products of that past. When it comes to discussing the future of dictionaries, the book is occasionally on less sure footing, but nevertheless opens up important fields for discussion and debate.

First, readers should be clear on what this book is not. There is very little discussion of lexicographic theory or of the thorny philosophical issues underpinning any attempt at compiling a lexicon. While two of the chapters are written by practicing lexicographers, the other seven are not, and the target audience is not writers of classical dictionaries but curious users of such works. Coverage of different dictionaries is uneven, with several chapters reacting to LSJ, but only one treating the OLD. The most noticeable omission is the TLL, which receives no chapter of its own, although its learned pages are sighted from afar in several of the contributions. Readers will also search in vain for names like Stephanus and Forcellini; indeed, the whole collection is decidedly Anglo-centric. However, the book does not purport to be systematic, and within its chosen remit it offers up a variety of interesting and informative essays.

After a paragraph of preface and a brief introduction, the book plunges into the past with Eleanor Dickey's discussion of Byzantine lexica. She describes the format and content of a series of entries in different Byzantine dictionaries, comparing them with the information in LSJ. Dickey is a reliable guide through treacherous terrain, and the chapter provides a clear and understandable survey of what the Byzantine lexica had and have to offer. It concludes with the provocative thought that ancient lexica invariably omit the most common words and focus on the rare and unusual, while modern dictionaries do the opposite—the more unusual the word, the larger the dictionary we must consult. She asks whether the modern system is actually useful, inasmuch as it is precisely the rare words that we look up in the dictionary.

Joshua Katz's second chapter treats etymological dictionaries of Greek and Latin. Setting out to investigate the value of having multiple competing etymological dictionaries, the essay quickly turns into an extended musing on the value of historical linguistics and etymology more generally. While sometimes overly discursive—one suspects that neither the audience of this book nor the attendees at the conference needed evangelization on the origins and value of comparative historical linguistics, complete with Sir William Jones address to the Asiatick Society on "the Sanscrit"—the chapter makes an important theoretical point and several useful practical observations. Theoretically, Katz rightly sees etymology as part of intellectual history, and thus recognizes that it can be (for example) just as useful to be aware of a folk etymology that ancient speakers believed in as to know the "true" origin of a word. More practically, he concludes with a candid appraisal of the virtues and vices of the current etymological dictionaries of Greek and Latin.1

In Graham Whitaker's third chapter on lexica that cover a single author, we meet with one of the outstanding strengths of this book, thorough archival research. Whitaker covers a huge amount of ground succinctly and with interest, focusing largely on description and eschewing any generalized typology. He consistently tells fascinating stories that illuminate the background of the lexica he treats: to single out just one of many examples, he studies the slips that J. Enoch Powell used to compile his Lexicon to Herodotus, thus letting us into the lexicographer's workshop and allowing us to see him ply his trade.

The fourth chapter, David Butterfield on the history of that sine qua non of schoolboy versification, the Gradus ad Parnassum, couples bibliographical industry with a keen eye for revealing detail. For readers unfamiliar with the genre, a Gradus is a dictionary that helps in verse-making, giving the prosody of a word and some verses plucked from classical authors demonstrating its scansion and use, often complete with synonyms, epithets, and other helpful hints for the budding versifier. Butterfield traces the development of such works throughout Europe across three centuries, well illustrating both their progress and their tralatitious nature. The chapter concludes with a detailed appendix that lists the major editions of the Gradus from 1652 to 1967.2

The book's central chapter, by Christopher Stray, provides sensitive and nuanced insight into the world of 19th-century English classical scholarship. In another example of first-class history of scholarship and archival research, Stray discusses the history of LS(J), interweaving the process of its composition and revision with the lives and personalities of the people involved. The piece's most valuable contribution is an understanding of the constraints governing the origin and revision of the lexicon. These constraints were intimately bound up in the press's desire to market a product and make a profit: as an example, to save money and simplify revision, the type was sometimes left standing or electrotyped for subsequent editions. This did indeed facilitate revision—but at the cost of allowing for only minor changes. Such a fundamentally conservative process has left a lot of venerable absurdities in its wake, and it goes a long way toward explaining LSJ's current state.

The faults of LSJ are too well known to need rehearsing here,3 and John A.L. Lee's sixth chapter rightly claims it needs serious and substantive revision. The first part of the chapter is a perceptive analysis of the entry ἀγαπητός through successive editions of the lexicon, explaining how it got to be the (problematic and misleading) way it is today. He catalogs LSJ's failings in some detail; I might simply say that it is uninformed by modern lexicographic method and that its formatting is a disaster. In any event, all would agree that the next stage of revision must enter the electronic world, and Lee devotes the last part of his chapter to sketching out a vision of what such a digital lexicon might look like. Unfortunately his prescriptions are both unrealistic and not universally helpful. Although he doesn't phrase it this way, in essence he proposes that the lexicon should contain the same information as a TLL entry with the addition of translations of all passages, and this may be a logical, if lofty, goal. He further suggests, however, that the lexicon contain every single extant instance of each word, all appropriately categorized—an undertaking far beyond the ambit of even the TLL. The full collection and classification of the Greek evidence, even with electronic tools, would take forever, and one cannot imagine finding sufficient money, manpower, and time for such an enterprise in today's world. Perhaps more importantly, it ultimately would not prove especially enlightening: once a word's meaning is securely established, we are primarily interested in later instances only insofar as they deviate from or innovate on that meaning. This review is not the place to put forward a program for revisions to LSJ, but I might suggest that the key issues are those of lexicographic philosophy and principles. Formatting is of secondary importance; so long as the data is all appropriately encoded, its actual display should be infinitely fungible.

In John Henderson's chapter 7 we return to the history of a dictionary, this time that of the OLD. Henderson discusses the project's genesis and usefully explains the origin of certain fateful decisions, like the notorious chronological limit,4 telling the story through the correspondence of the main players, sequences of early specimen entries with comments, plans, etc. Of particular interest is the close relationship between the OED and the OLD in everything from shared lexicographic principles to shared lexicographic workspace to shared lexicographers. Two personalities dominate the OLD's early years, those of Alexander Souter and James M. Wyllie, who taken in tandem were responsible for many of the basic decisions on the layout and arrangement of the dictionary. Both had remarkable rises and falls, which Henderson chronicles in detail.5 After two decades of difficult gestation, Peter Glare took the helm in the mid-1950s and smoothly guided the publication of fascicles to a triumphant and (mirabile dictu!) on-schedule finish in 1982. This all makes for fascinating reading and greatly fleshes out the skeletal "Publisher's Note" found in the OLD itself.

The final two chapters take us to the world of contemporary lexicography, examining two dictionaries currently in preparation. For reasons of space I cannot discuss in detail Richard Ashdowne's ninth chapter on the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources, which usefully describes the background, scope, history, methods, and future of the lexicon from the perspective of one of its current editors. I will note in passing that the section on present editorial practice contains an excellent description of a lexicographer's daily work.

Chapter 8, by Patrick James, treats the Cambridge Greek Lexicon, a dictionary targeted at intermediate learners. The chapter provides case studies of three words, showing how the CGL's treatment differs from that of LSJ. The criticisms of LSJ are by and large just, and the great virtue of the CGL is its simplicity: it appears well organized and straightforward to use. It offers both definitions and translations, which are typographically delineated and easy to understand. The lexicon is based on a fresh examination of a corpus of canonical Greek authors,6 and it will be disseminated both digitally (in integration with the Perseus project) and in print. My only reservation concerns one puzzling decision that the project has made: in its articles the CGL does not provide references to passages and only rarely gives quotations, preferring English paraphrase. If this dictionary were an abridgement of an existing lexicon and designed for print, perhaps such a decision would be understandable. As it is, however, the lexicographers have done the work of examining the passages afresh and drawing up their articles based on that examination; it seems perverse to discard this useful information. Providing references to passages allows lexicographers to justify their work; it also allows users to check it or arrange the material differently—to say nothing of the fact that illustrative quotations clearly give a deeper sense of the meaning of a word. James defends the decision primarily on the grounds of concision and clarity, but in an online world these considerations must be viewed differently. The lexicon already notes in which authors a given meaning occurs; it would be trivial to make the author's name a clickable link that would expand into the specific passages underlying the definition. In this way learners could have the best of both worlds: a clear and simple presentation that can unfold into more detailed information if they so desire. Furthermore, with some tagging of the electronic data the press could easily decide to issue the dictionary in multiple print versions with no additional effort: the most basic (and cheapest) version containing no citations or quotations, an intermediate version containing references deemed important, and a full version containing all available information.

The book concludes with a general index, including Greek and Latin words discussed, which is not complete but is generally useful and occasionally humorous.7 The book is attractively produced and contains numerous well chosen pictures. Typographical errors are relatively few and almost never such as to cause difficulties.8


Christopher Stray: Introduction 1-4
Joshua T. Katz: Nonne lexica etymologica multiplicanda sunt? 5-24
Graham Whitaker: Ploughing a lone furrow? The single-author lexicon 49-70
David Butterfield: Gradus ad Parnassum 71-93
Christopher Stray: Liddell and Scott: myths and markets 94-118
John A.L. Lee: Releasing Liddell-Scott-Jones from its past 119-138
John Henderson: A1-ZYTHUM: DOMIMINA NUSTIO ILLUMEA, or out with the OLD 139-176
Patrick James: Learners' lexica: the approach of the Cambridge Greek Lexicon 177-194
Richard Ashdowne: Ut Latine minus vulgariter magis loquamur: the making of the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources 195-222
Index 223-229


1.   In brief: the German ones (Frisk, Walde-Hofmann) are in some sense more thorough, but the French (Chantraine, Ernout-Meillet) are better on a word's changes through time (les histoires des mots); the very recent Dutch offerings (Beekes, de Vaan; both written in English) do not always supersede the earlier works and are influenced by the controversial "Leiden school" of Indo-European linguistics.
2.   A minor addition: Butterfield dates the first vernacular-Latin Gradus to 1890 (Ainger and Wintle); at least by Koch's 1879 revision of Sintenis a basic German-Latin appendix is to be found.
3.   The interested reader can start with the introduction to John Chadwick's Lexicographica Graeca (Oxford 1996) as well as id., "The Case for Replacing Liddell and Scott," BICS 39 (1994) 1-11.
4.   This limit (the end of the 2nd century) was present in some of the earliest letters about the dictionary, but already much lamented in committee meetings by the early 1950s. For one of its most scathing indictments, see F.R.D. Goodyear, "The Oxford Latin Dictionary," Proceedings of the African Classical Associations 17 (1983) 124-36 = K.M. Coleman, J. Diggle, J.B. Hall, and H.D. Jocelyn (eds.), F.R.D. Goodyear. Papers on Latin Literature (London 1992) 281-7.
5.   One might have expected more on how Wyllie came a cropper; his spectacular meltdown is only alluded to.
6.   "The major authors now studied in schools and universities from Homer to Xenophon … and Aristotle's major works, Theophrastus' Characters, the better preserved plays of Menander, the major Hellenistic poets (Callimachus, Apollonius of Rhodes, and Theocritus), Polybius, Plutarch's Lives, and the New Testament gospel books and Acts of the Apostles" (191 n. 6).
7.   The Greek index of Words Discussed, for example, lacks the case studies of θωρήσσω and θεραπεύω from James's chapter. For humor see e.g. "Callimachus, J.T. Katz no."
8.   The most serious at p. 116 n. 67 1899-2008 for 1899-1905 (?). There are occasional slips in Greek and Latin: p. 13 ἀσχοί for ἀσκοί, p. 34 κώμος for κῶμος, p. 74 parsum for sparsum, p. 108 μη for μή, p. 111 λοιπὸν for λοιπόν, p. 142 ἀσφαλές for ἀσφαλὲς, p. 183 somnum for somnus, along with assorted other trivialities.

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Marilyn B. Skinner, Clodia Metelli: The Tribune's Sister. Women in Antiquity. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp. xvii, 195. ISBN 9780195375015. $27.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Ellie Glendinning, University of Nottingham (

Version at BMCR home site


Clodia Metelli is one of the most enigmatic female figures from ancient Rome. She was connected to some of the most influential men of the late Republic, and achieved a reputation as a formidable character in this turbulent part of Rome's history that has survived to the present day to excite the imaginations of both classical scholars and popular writers. Skinner's book represents the first full-length biography of Clodia in the English language.1 Alongside an evaluation of the evidence available on Clodia, Skinner also offers an analysis of the key male figures and major political events surrounding her life.

The introduction sets the scene with some initial consideration of women in the late Republic, Clodia's family and the two key contributors to her damaged reputation, Cicero and Catullus. Skinner justifies why she (rightly) focuses not solely on Clodia, but also considers the expectations of Roman society at this time, her family and relationships with the leading men of the day. As she makes clear, the primary focus of this book "will be on standard political history, although we will approach it from a new perspective: how Clodia herself might have experienced it" (p.5). Of course as the 'might' suggests, to a certain extent Skinner's observations will be conjecture; this is one of the major limitations of trying to construct a biography for any ancient figure, particularly a woman. Nevertheless, her comments and evaluation throughout are perceptive and she attempts as far as possible to remain grounded in what we know about Clodia and the society in which she lived.

Chapter 1, 'Cicero as a Biographical Source', begins with the famous orator because, as Skinner points out, he is the only contemporary source that gives us any details about Clodia. Dismissing Plutarch's remarks about her, Skinner draws attention to the fact that the picture painted of her by Cicero is twofold: we have the debauched, ridiculed figure of his Pro Caelio alongside the more controlled, influential Clodia of his letters. Skinner gives some background information on Cicero and then discusses his association with the rich widow Caerellia, who features in letters from 46 to 44 BC. Here Cicero can treat a woman not part of his family as someone he can do business with in a perfectly amicable fashion: the point of all this is to show that Cicero's feelings towards Clodia were not due to her sex, nor even her wealth and position, but because he hated her brother, Publius Clodius. However, as Skinner goes on to demonstrate in chapter 2, this is not the only reason why Clodia might have been vilified by Cicero.

Chapter 2, 'The Gens Claudia', sets out to show the obligations imposed on highborn women by their families, giving examples of both female and male members of the Claudian gens to examine how they were portrayed by ancient writers. Beginning with the Pro Caelio itself, Skinner explores how Clodia was upbraided by Cicero via the mouthpiece of her own ancestors. Other accounts of her ancestors, such as the famous decemvir, Appius Claudius Caecus and Quinta Claudia, from writers such as Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, indicate that the Claudians were portrayed either as bravely upholding traditional laws and standards of conduct against the mob or as callous advocates in the class war against the plebs. Such ambivalent attitudes towards the gens, Skinner argues, although left to us in sources postdating Clodia's lifetime, would certainly also have been entrenched in the minds of Clodia's contemporaries and therefore might account for some of the bad feeling towards Clodia herself. The discussion here might have benefited from linking this to the idea of Cicero's hatred of Clodius/Clodia (expressed in chapter 1).

Chapter 3, 'Women and Wealth', considers the financial and legal position of elite married women. Considering patria potestas and cum manu vs. sine manu marriage, with the latter being much more common in the late Republic, Skinner reasons that in Clodia's day women were more self-sufficient in economic matters once they were made legally independent on the death of their fathers. She also considers such topics as elite women known for their extravagant displays of wealth, including Aemilia, wife of Scipio Africanus, and the issues surrounding the Lex Oppia and Lex Voconia, which limited such displays and a woman's right to be a sole heir to large estates. Cicero himself also makes reference to the use of money by two women in his speeches, Caecilia in the Pro Roscio Amerino and Sassia in the Pro Cluentio. Skinner maintains that women who used their wealth for the good of the family, particularly their male relatives, were looked upon favourably, whereas those who did not consider the interests of their male kin were judged more harshly. Cicero judged Clodia to be in this latter group.

Chapter 4, 'The Claudii Pulchri', discusses Clodia's immediate family, beginning with what evidence is available about her grandparents and parents. Her father, consul in 79, died in 76 and was not in Rome for much of Clodia's youth; her mother cannot be identified with any certainty, although it is very likely that she died when Clodia was young; it is also possible that Clodia was an older half-sister to her siblings. The two most frequently mentioned in the sources are Appius Claudius Pulcher, the eldest of the brothers, and of course Clodius, her youngest brother. After discussing Appius' career and known character, Skinner focuses on Clodia's dealings with Clodius, primarily in the period 60 to 56 BC. What emerges from this analysis is that Clodia often acted more astutely than her sibling, "attempting to turn his self-destructive resentment into more productive channels" (p.73).

Chapter 5, 'The Metelli', considers the expected general behaviour between spouses in this period, in order to assess how Clodia might have interacted with her husband up until his death in 59. Clodia married Quintus Metellus Celer (her cousin) in c.82. Skinner charts his political career and his falling out with Cicero in 62 over Cicero's treatment of his brother Nepos (the two later reconciled). Clodia (here still 'Claudia') emerges in Cicero's letters as someone he looks to as an intermediary between himself and Nepos. However, by 60, as Skinner points out, Cicero already displays his hatred for Clodia as he sees her as siding with Clodius against her husband. By 45, on the other hand, he wants to buy some land from Clodia. In this later correspondence, Cicero also provides us with information about Clodia's daughter Metella and her relationship with Dolabella; later evidence also suggests an association with the poet Ticida. As Skinner notes, though, nothing is known about the relationship between mother and daughter.

Chapter 6, 'Palatine Medea', focuses on Cicero's portrayal of Clodia in the Pro Caelio. Well aware of Cicero's prejudices and the issues surrounding the genre of this source material for what it can tell us about Clodia, Skinner nevertheless analyses the speech and attempts "to read between the lines and see whether, used with very great caution, it might after all harbour some realistic details about Clodia's life" (p.97). After discussing the evidence for Marcus Caelius Rufus' life and career, she moves on to how Cicero depicts Clodia. He had to show her as a lustful figure and sexually involved with Caelius to discredit any evidence she may have offered, and to portray her as being involved in the trial for highly personal reasons, and without the backing of her family. However, as Skinner points out, the fact that Clodia did not hesitate to appear in court suggests that the affair had either been kept secret or never happened, and that her family did support her behind the scenes. Ending with Cicero's desire to purchase her land in 45 as expressed in his letters, Skinner postulates that the two had now reconciled – although it could just be that business was business irrespective of previous dealings between the two. From this period on we see Clodia as a wealthy widow who travels and is in charge of her own affairs. One final reference to her in a letter from April 44 seems to connect her to Cleopatra's stay in Rome that year; Skinner's idea that the Egyptian queen stayed with Clodia is an interesting one, although can only remain speculation, as she herself admits.

Chapter 7, 'Lesbia', explores Clodia/Lesbia in the poetry of Catullus. After some discussion of female authors and poets, Skinner demonstrates how Cicero had portrayed Clodia in the Pro Caelio as a poetess associated with mime acts and the theatre, all in an attempt to discredit her by association with disreputable pastimes for an elite female. She then moves on to review the evidence for Catullus' life and career. While not coming down firmly on either side of the debate surrounding the identification of Lesbia with Clodia Metelli, Skinner offers some persuasive arguments that poem 79 can only be this Clodia and not one of her sisters, and that the Caelius Rufus from the trial features in 69, 71 and 77. What is more interesting, however, is Skinner's discussion of the Lesbia poems in terms of their relationship with how Cicero presented her in his speech and that consequently (surmising that the speech came before the poems), it is likely that Catullus relied on her public profile from the trial in order to produce an effective picture of a shrewish noblewoman acting as a debauched whore. As Skinner puts it, "whether Catullus actually loved the flesh-and-blood Clodia Metelli is beside the point" (and will probably remain unanswered); "it is for what he made of Cicero's Clodia that we remember him" (p.149).

The book is well-presented and well-written, with an image in each chapter, easily accessible sections and sub-sections within the chapters. Non-classicists less familiar with the ancient world and its writers will welcome the list of abbreviations and various maps of Rome at the start, and all readers will benefit from the genealogies of Clodia's rather complex family. References to most of the ancient material occur helpfully within the text itself, while footnotes provide further clarification on some points and references to modern scholarship. The bibliography is thorough, and the index locorum will assist with following up ancient references. I noticed only a few minor typographical errors.

To those who have studied Clodia in some detail before, there is little new here in the way of source material or evidence about her. However, Skinner effectively brings together what is available and her discussion of the Pro Caelio and Catullus' poetry in the final two chapters in particular provides a detailed and useful starting point for anyone wishing to study Clodia. As an early volume in the Women in antiquity series, it has set the tone for future biographies of other key women.2 Furthermore, for anyone studying women in general in the late Republic, this book offers useful information about topics such as marriage and the expectations of elite females in this period. It also offers someone studying the period in general an overview of some of the key players, including Cicero and Clodius. Finally, with the study of any female figure from ancient Rome, we are at the mercy of male perspectives and often only witness snapshots of these figures when they feature in bigger political and historical events. As Skinner comments in her conclusion ('A Woman in a Man's World'), "Clodia Metelli as the historical record presents her was a product of the rivalries and aspirations of the men surrounding her. She is still what those men made of her" (p.150).


1.   See also F. Mainzer Clodia: Politik und Liebe auf dem Palatin (Klinkhardt & Biermann, 1931); G. Agnelotti Clodia: La nemica di Cicerone (Atheneum, 1991). The other major recent book on Clodia is J. D. Hejduk's Clodia: A Sourcebook (University of Oklahoma Press, 2008) (acknowledged by Skinner): BMCR 2008.09.41.
2.   It is the second of only two volumes produced so far: the first is D. W. Roller's Cleopatra: A Biography (Oxford University Press, 2010): BMCR 2010.09.40.

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Henriette van der Blom, Cicero's Role Models. The Political Strategy of a Newcomer. Oxford Classic Monographs. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Pp. xi, 388. ISBN 9780199582938. $150.00.

Reviewed by Sarah Culpepper Stroup, University of Washington, Seattle (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

Van der Blom's well-written and engaging book is a welcome addition to the growing resurgence in Ciceronian studies and, most particularly, those studies that choose to investigate the intersections of Cicero's political and literary motivations. The book is divided into an Introduction and four Parts, comprising a total of eleven chapters of varying lengths. Each of these chapters builds more or less sequentially upon the previous (within the Parts, at least) and investigates the ways in which Cicero's personal and political status both influenced his use of exempla and role models, and guided his efforts to create himself as an exemplum, and indeed role model, for the future.

A brief Introduction to the text lays out the issue at hand: Cicero, as a novus homo, faced unusual challenges in his creation of social and political auctoritas. The observation is not in and of itself either a remarkable or novel one; indeed, Cicero's various challenges in "creating himself" have been the topic of several recent studies (cf. esp. Dugan 2005). Van der Blom's particular contribution, a closer analysis of Cicero's use of historical exempla and "role models" (that is, summi uiri types to whom Cicero held no convincing claim), will add profitably to the ongoing discussion.

Chapters 1 and 2, which are appended to the Introduction and presented as a pair of sorts, examine the complex and important role of mos and maiores with respect to both historical exempla in Roman culture (Chapter 1) and, building off this, to historical exempla in Cicero's writings (Chapter 2). Van der Blom's observation of the sociopolitical complexity of these terms is spot on; and these relatively brief, but certainly engaging, chapters do much to problematize terms that are too casually thrown about in discussions of "what really mattered" to the Romans of the late Republic (or, worse yet, to Cicero himself). Van der Blom's decision not to tarry on an analysis of these terms (and their relation to historical exempla in Cicero) is a good one. And yet, these somewhat "introductory" chapters would have benefited from both an analysis of the frequency and use of the terms in this period (especially outside Cicero) and a questioning of their overarching importance in the first place. These are very good discussions, but rather too much is taken for granted, and greater philological rigor would have strengthened the author's case.

Part I, "Cicero the Homo Novus, comprises Chapters 3 and 4. Chapter 3 provides a brief overview of Cicero's background and education. The overview is helpful and does much to contextualize van der Blom's subsequent discussions. The relative brevity of the chapter (five and a half pages), however, and the lack of significantly novel material here (not that any is needed) might have recommended rather that it serve as either an introduction to Part I as a whole, or to Chapter 4 in particular. Chapter 4 moves into the meat of van der Blom's investigation, offering a thoughtful examination of the semantic register—and social signification—of the terms nobilis and homo novus as they functioned in the late Republic. The discussion here is a lively and good one, offering first a review of recent scholarship and then an analysis of Cicero's own use of the terms, and it gets to the crux of the matter: that it is very difficult indeed to discover what exactly Cicero, or anyone else in this period, meant by these terms (especially homo novus), as clearly important as they were to those engaged in the political sphere in general—and to Cicero, in particular.

Part II, "Cicero's Use of Historical Exempla," comprising Chapters 5 and 6, is prefaced by the brief introduction lacking in Part I. Chapter 5 endeavors to provide definitions of historical and personal exempla, while Chapter 6 narrows the focus to the nature and functions of historical exempla in Cicero's works. The latter chapter is especially helpful, addressing problems of credibility, stock uses of exempla in Cicero's works, and the (rightly emphasized) importance of considering literary genre—speeches, letters, and treatises—in our analysis of Cicero's use of exempla in his construction of personal and political authority. Although a slightly more rigorous delineation of the categories of "personal" and "historical" exempla would have been useful (at times the two categories seem nearly indistinguishable), the discussions of these chapters do much to advance van der Blom's overall thesis.

Part III, "Cicero's Role Models," comprising Chapters 7 and 8, delves into Cicero's use of claims other than those of ancestry (as a homo novus, van der Blom argues, he had no official claims to the august past traditionally required for the production and maintenance of auctoritas) and, returning to the subject of Part II, Cicero's use of personal exempla. Chapter 7 revisits Cicero's use of personal exempla in his claims to an ancestry to which had no direct access, and very profitably addresses his choice of interlocutor in his treatises (an aspect of the treatises that deserves more attention than it has yet received ). Chapter 8 builds on Chapter 7, and returns to—or develops—the material presented in Chapter 3. The discussion here is lively and engaging, and moves from Cicero's background as a homo novus to his florescence as one of the most powerful voices, and forces, of the late Republic. This chapter is a good and meaty one, if perhaps the two "preliminary conclusions" (pages 234 and 263) distract a bit from the flow of argument; the final conclusion (pages 271-286) is, if undoubtedly useful, perhaps a bit long.

Part IV, again prefaced by an introduction, comprises (the very brief) Chapters 9, 10, and 11, and broaches the subject of Cicero's creation of himself as an exemplum for future generations. Everything about these chapters is good and interesting. Although they appear somewhat appended to the work as a whole, it is here that van der Blom moves into one of her most original, and to my mind important, contributions to modern Ciceronian studies. I'd have liked to have seen more time given to these final considerations (perhaps a longer Part IV could have been balanced with slightly briefer central chapters), as it seems she has more to say on this matter, and I, for one, should like to hear it.

In sum, van der Blom's book jibes well with, and contributes significantly to, current Ciceronian studies. Although I feel that the author spends rather too much time getting to the meat of the (very worthwhile) argument, and occasionally posits problems that are not productively resolved, and could have used a bit more linguistic subtlety at places in which she engages in linguistic arguments, Cicero is a notoriously difficult author to deal with, especially in expansive studies, and van der Blom has done a fine job. The project gives the impression of being not entirely developed at places, and I sense that a bit more work would only have made it a finer book. Then again, and as Cicero himself knew too well, there is a time for rewriting, and a time for publication: as it stands van der Blom's book is an engaging, interesting, and satisfying read, and one that will contribute significantly to the ongoing Ciceronian project.

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Benedict Kingsbury, Benjamin Straumann, David Lupher (ed.), Alberico Gentili. The Wars of the Romans: A Critical Edition and Translation of De armis Romanis. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Pp. xxx, 388. ISBN 9780199600519. $120.00.

Reviewed by Dana F. Sutton, University of California, Irvine (

Version at BMCR home site

Alberico Gentili, together with his father, the physician Matteo Gentili and his brother Scipio (a well-known author of Neo-Latin poetry), a trio of Protestant refugees, came to England in 1580. Although one would never know this from the single biography in print—the life in the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie— Scipio stayed in England during the early 1580's, where he became attached to the circle of Sir Philip Sidney and published several volumes of original poetry and a partial translation of Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata. This exerted great influence on the course of English literature and it can be shown that, by a series of intermediate steps, Milton's Satan was ultimately based on the Satan of Tasso's Book IV, probably as presented by Gentili. Scipio then went on to Germany, where he studied and eventually taught the law at various German Universities. Alberico went to Oxford, where he was given the position of Regius Professor of Civil Law in 1586, a position he at least nominally held until his death in 1608, although starting about 1590 he became increasingly involved in practicing the law in London. Gentili wrote tirelessly, and his specialty was international law. Since Thomas Erskine Holland's 1874 Oxford lecture first drew attention to his work, he has often been described as the most important and influential authority on the subject prior to Grotius.

Benedict Kingsbury and Benjamin Straumann have very recently given us a more general study of Gentili's contribution to international law in The Roman Foundations of the Law of Nations: Alberico Gentili and the Justice of Empire (also published by the Oxford University Press, in 2010). Now these legal historians have teamed up with the Classicist David Lupher to give us a critical edition, replete with annotations and an English translation, of Gentili's 1590 De Armis Romanis, a consideration of the legitimacy of the Roman Empire. This work evidently had its origin in a debate held before the Oxford law faculty in which the legality of the Roman Empire was attacked and then defended. The con side (only) was expanded and published by Gentili in his De iniustitia bellica Romanorum actio, printed at Oxford in 1590 with a dedication to the Earl of Essex. Now that was repeated in expanded form as Book I, placed in the mouth of an anonymous citizen of Picenum, with a Book II containing a rebuttal by a Roman, that, for some reason, was published (and again dedicated to Essex) at Hanau in 1599. In Book I, the speaker from Picenum (who has a rather alarming tendency to cherry-pick his historical sources, fastening on those that favor his side and throwing discredit on those that do not) builds a case by walking us through Roman history. He begins with Romulus, pointing out examples of Roman mendacity, faithlessness, rapacity, and similar malfeasances and violations of international law as displayed in the series of wars of aggression which progressively expanded the scope of the Empire, with a concluding look at oppressive Roman misbehavior in the provinces thus gained. In Book II the Roman does just the opposite: he strives to rehabilitate the credit of the authorities disdained by his opponent, then takes us through a similar tour of Roman history refuting the accusations of "Picenus" and showing how the Romans had always acted legally and in good faith . He concludes by enumerating the benefits that colonials had enjoyed living under Roman rule. Afterwards, Gentili makes no attempt to intervene and pick a winner. The editors of this volume (p. x) incline to think the Roman advances the stronger case. I am not so sure I agree. Rather, as a law professor, Gentili is indulging in the time-honored pedagogical device of showing how both sides of a case can be argued to best advantage.

This is a wonderful contribution. Each in his own way, the three contributors have given us a modern edition of a Renaissance text well worth reading and studying. It is well executed in every respect, and I heartily congratulate them on a job well done.

Rather than discussing the book, I would prefer to take the rather unusual step of considering a statement from the dust jacket blurb, presumably contributed by some anonymous soul working for the Oxford University Press, who wanted to supply a touch of "contemporary relevance" in the hope of boosting sales:

Writing in the wake of the first wave of European colonial expansion in the Americas, and relying on models of the controversy of Roman imperialism from Cicero to Lactantius and Augustine, Gentili developed the arguments which were to become pivotal in normative debates concerning imperialism.

It is unfortunate that every purchaser of the book will have the opportunity to read these words, since they encourage a fundamentally wrong reading of Gentili's work and misguided appraisal of his intentions, a misunderstanding for which the volume's editors can scarcely be held responsible. For Gentili is not attempting to write any sort of tract for his own times. Even though he was writing while England was engaged in war with Spain, his Roman Empire is Roman pure and simple, and is in no way used to represent the contemporary Spanish one. This is conclusively shown by the fact that, when it comes to discussing Roman acquisition of such provinces as Gaul and Britain, Gentili does not consider the legality of the situation of a civilized nation colonizing a barbarous one. In this context one thinks of the so-called Valladolid Controversy of 1550, a debate organized by Charles V in which Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda had sought to legitimize the Spanish occupation of the Americas by advancing a theory that Indians were incapable of self-government, and so were "natural slaves" as defined by Aristotle in the first Book of the Politics. Their colonization was therefore a form of just war by the normative standards of international law. Bartolomé de las Casas had argued the contrary position. In considering the legalities of Roman colonization in similar situations, it might have been a useful argumentative tactic, both pro and con, to take the arguments advanced by both Las Casas and Sepúlveda and apply them retroactively to appropriate events in Roman history, which indeed would have given this debate a more contemporary spin. But assuming that Gentili was aware of the Valladolid Controversy, he displays no interest in it and does not regard the colonization of barbarians as a situation requiring special consideration. And at the ends of their respective discourses, when the speaker from Picenum and the Roman variously discuss the oppression suffered by subjugated peoples at the hands of the Romans, and the benefits they enjoyed, barbarian or culturally backward peoples are not singled out for mention by either side. For this reason, I am afraid, Gentili's treatise has little relevance for European settlement of the New World and subsequent colonization of other less culturally developed peoples over the following centuries, and, for that reason, limited cogency for debates about the legality or morality of modern colonialism. But then again, the editors of the volume make no claim that it does.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Erich S. Gruen (ed.), Cultural Identity in the Ancient Mediterranean. Issues & Debates. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2010. Pp. vii, 535. ISBN 9780892369690. $50.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Anna Lucille Boozer, University of Reading (

Version at BMCR home site

Cultural identity is defined by the ways in which groups can be distinguished from other individuals and groups in their social relationships.1 Facets of identity can include ethnicity, gender, age, sexuality, class, power and myriad other social categories. Needless to say, these facets overlap and combine in unexpected ways that are contingent upon immediate social contexts. Because identity is a notoriously fluid concept, it can be best understood through case studies that highlight the relational capabilities of individual and group identities. Case studies and contextualizations can take many different forms. For example, in the past decade, numerous scholars have turned to the life cycle in order to address the various identity changes individuals experience from birth to adolescence, adulthood and old age.2 Holistic and contextualized studies of identity, such as these, allow for deeper explorations of individual life experiences and fluid self-perceptions.

Scholars of the ancient Mediterranean have generally explored single facets of identity, rather than the interaction between multiple markers of identity. In particular, scholars have focused upon ethnicity, due to the complicated interconnections that occurred in this region. Studies that have had particular impact include Jonathan Hall's Hellenicity3 and Andrew Wallace-Hadrill's Rome's Cultural Revolution.4 Both volumes explore ethnicity and culture as particularly important considerations for scholars of the ancient Mediterranean by examining the spread of Greek and Roman cultures across a broad geographic expanse. These prior works are worth noting when examining the present volume because they serve as resources to Gruen's contributors and enable us to place Gruen's volume within current ancient Mediterranean identity studies.

The Ancient Mediterranean can make a considerable contribution to interdisciplinary studies of identity. In particular, scholars can contribute case studies that closely link appropriate theoretical vantages to data in order to explore the longitudinal development of identities within interlinked geographical locales. Gruen's Cultural Identity in the Ancient Mediterranean clearly demonstrates the value in this approach. This volume steers clear of murky theoretical debates on identity and ethnicity, which both Hall and Wallace-Hadrill explored in their volumes. Instead, Gruen's volume focuses on case studies of identity using different methodological and disciplinary lenses. Gruen's pragmatic approach allows for greater accessibility than many recent volumes on identity, although it would have been helpful to hear more about how he defines his terms. For example, there is an unstated equivalence given between identity, culture, ethnicity, and locality in many of the contributions. Definitions and debates within the introduction could have clarified how the contributors understood the term "cultural identity." Otherwise, Gruen's introduction is fluently written and he clearly explains the value of his book divisions as well as the individual papers included within the volume.

Cultural Identity in the Ancient Mediterranean includes twenty-four essays divided into eight parts, in addition to Gruen's introduction (see book contents below).5 The majority of the contributors write in accessible prose, enabling the reader to move through the volume more easily than is often the case with edited works. Like Gruen, many of the contributors eschew theoretical debates, although their case studies are theoretically informed, as evinced by the references. This approach is both practical and refreshing. The contributions cover an impressive array of cultures, encompassing Greek, Persian, Jewish, Phoenician, Egyptian, Roman, Gallic, and culturally mixed societies. The disciplinary range is equally impressive and includes archaeologists, art historians, classicists, and ancient historians. Given this expansive breadth, it is not possible to discuss each article or section systematically within this review. I have singled out two sections to discuss at greater length because the theoretical implications of these sections reach particularly far.

Part Three, "Representations of the 'Barbarian'" draws upon documentary and visual sources to argue for more nuanced approaches to the "barbarian" in Roman art and literature. In particular, each of the contributors places their evidence within its historic and geographic context in order to understand the contemporary significance of barbarian representations. Ferris examines images of suffering barbarians within their immediate geographic and temporal contexts in order to explore Roman political ends. In so doing, he explores both the trope of Gauls in Roman art as well as the political significance of Germans portrayed in the Column of Marcus Aurelius in Rome. Ferris shows that some images of Gauls were anthropological and sympathetic, while others served as dehumanized signifiers of political violence. He argues that the disparity between these evocations of the barbarian was dependent upon the particular moment in Roman history and the geographic placement of the monument. Bartman's contribution also argues for more rigorous examinations of the barbarian in Roman art. Her aim is to identify particular features within Roman portraits that conveyed ethnicity. Bartman's expertise in Roman hairstyles reveals that individuals asserted their ethnic backgrounds through subtle, but unmistakable, deviations from standard Roman hairstyles. She convincingly argues that the portraits she examines are images of self-definition and that this variety of self-representation is indicative of inclusivity within the Empire. Together, the contributions in this section find that the theme of the barbarian in Roman art and literature provides a barometer of individual and group identity across the Roman Empire.

The contributors to part seven, which addresses "Composite Identities," explore the complicated palimpsests that occur when social groups interact with one another across a long time span and through a variety of encounters. For example, Wallace-Hadrill's contribution explores the range of influences that shaped Pompeii's early history. He argues that we should allow these divergent cultural influences to remain complicated in our discussions, rather than subsuming them under umbrella terms such as "cultural fusion." This multi-strand approach allows for more explanatory understandings of multi-cultural locales than descriptive models (e.g. Romanization) would permit and clearly indicates the value of complicated cultural history explanations. Butcher's contribution closely examines sacred space in Roman Syria, finding that sanctuaries reflected the multiple identities and interests present in local communities rather than an integrated vision. Importantly, Butcher reminds us that contemporary visitors to these sanctuaries may not have experienced them as the seamless totalities that we imply today in our reconstructions. Rather, the episodic and multi-cultural modifications made to sacred spaces may have had a cacophonous effect on the ancient viewer. A particular value of the contributions in this section is that they enable the reader to explore the fluidity of identity through concrete examples from a range of disciplines. This thoughtful editing by Gruen typifies most of the sections within this volume and enhances the value of each of the individual contributions.

The volume is produced by the Getty Research Institute and displays a high standard of presentation, illustration, and proof-reading. The accessible prose, lucid contextualizations, and broad geographic and temporal boundaries will ensure that this text will be a valuable aid to scholars of both the ancient Mediterranean and other regions. Moreover, the contributions could be used for undergraduate and graduate teaching as well as research on related topics. In summation, this volume is a welcome addition to studies of identity, particularly (but not exclusively) within the ancient Mediterranean.

Table of Contents:
1. Introduction / Erich Gruen

Part One. Myth and Identity
2. Ways of Becoming Arcadian: Arcadian Foundation Myths in the Mediterranean / Tanja S. Scheer
3. Pictorial Foundation Myths in Roman Asia Minor / Pascale Linant de Bellefonds
4. Myths, Images, and the Typology of Identities in Early Greek Art / Tonio Hölscher

Part Two. Perceptions and Constructions of Persia
5. Herodotus and Persia / Erich S. Gruen
6. Embracing Ambiguity in the World of Athens and Persia / Margaret Cool Root
7. "Manners Makyth Man": Diacritical Drinking in Achaemenid Anatolia / Margaret C. Miller
8. Keeping Up with the Persians: Between Cultural Identity and Persianization in the Achaemenid Period / Maria Brosius
9. The Limits of Persianization: Some Reflections on Cultural Links in the Persian Empire / Christopher Tuplin

Part Three. Representations of the "Barbarian"
10. The Pity of War: Representations of Gauls and Germans in Roman Art / I.M. Ferris
11. Borealism: Caesar, Seneca, Tacitus, and the Roman Discourse about the Germanic North / Christopher B. Krebs
12. Ethnicity in Roman Portraiture / Elizabeth Bartman
13. Saving the Barbarian / Greg Woolf

Part Four. Jewish Identity in Text and Image
14. Surviving by the Book: The Language of the Greek Bible and Jewish identity / Tessa Rajak
15. Jewish Identity at the Limus: The Earliest Reception of the Dura Europos Synagogue Paintings / Steven Fine
16. Keeping the Dead in Their Place: Mortuary Practices and Jewish Cultural Identity in Roman North Africa / Karen B. Stern.

Part Five. Egyptian Culture and Roman Identity
17. "Egyptian" Priests in Roman Italy / Molly Swetnam-Burland
18. Aegyptiaca in Rome: Adventus and Romanitas / Penelope J. E. Davies

Part Six. Constructions of Identity in the Phoenician Diaspora
19. On Gods and Earth: The Tophet and the Construction of a New Identity in Punic Carthage / Corinne Bonnet
20. The Cultures of the Tophet: Identification and Identity in the Phoenician diaspora / Josephine Crawley Quinn

Part Seven. Composite Identities
21. Pompeian Identities: Between Oscan, Samnite, Greek, Roman, and Punic / Andrew Wallace-Hadrill
22. Sharing New Worlds: Mixed Identities around the Adriatic (Sixth to Fourth Centuries B.C.E.) / Maria Cecilia D'Ercole
23. Contesting Sacred Space in Lebanese Temples / Kevin Butcher

Part Eight. Contested Identities
24. The Self as Other: Performing Humor in Ancient Greek Art / Ada Cohen
25. Attitudes toward Provincial Intellectuals in the Roman Empire / Benjamin Isaac.


1.   Jenkins, R. Social Identity. London: Routledge, 1996, 4.
2.   The contributions to this special issue of World Archaeology are particularly valuable: Gilchrist, R., ed. 2000. World Archaeology: Lifecycles. Vol. 31.
3.   Hall, J. 2002. Hellenicity: Between Ethnicity and Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; Reviewed in BMCR: 2004.04.26.
4.   Wallace-Hadrill, A. 2008. Rome's Cultural Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Reviewed in BMCR: 2009.07.50.
5.   This volume is based on a series of seminars, colloquia and conferences given by Gruen while he served as Villa Professor at the Getty Villa in the 2007-2008 academic year.

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Heinz Heinen (ed.), Antike Sklaverei: Rückblick und Ausblick. Neue Beiträge zur Forschungsgeschichte und zur Erschließung der archäologischen Zeugnisse. Redaktion: Andrea Binsfeld. Forschungen zur antiken Sklaverei Bd. 38. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2010. Pp. x, 247; xxxi pp. of plates. ISBN 9783515094139. €42.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Jonathan S. Perry, University of South Florida—Sarasota-Manatee (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

Gauging Moses Finley's influence on the study of ancient slavery—and the "climate of opinion" in which he began to exercise that influence—Arnaldo Momigliano observed, "We were both present at the International Historical Congress in Stockholm of 1960 where the conflict erupted. We learned more about modern Europe than about ancient Greece or Rome."1 The aftershocks of that famous eruption have continued to reverberate over a half-century but, happily, have diminished in scale over time. This was so much the case by 1998 that Brent Shaw could describe the "ideological battle lines" drawn in Stockholm, "unfortunately deeply imbued with personal animus," as belonging "to the history of a bygone generation."2

While memories of precisely what happened at Stockholm have dimmed over time, the rift between German and Anglo-American scholars has persisted, and an attempt to bridge that divide was made at a sort of summit meeting (appropriate for a Cold-War-era conflict?) in Edinburgh in September 2007. Organized by Ulrike Roth, the conference included prominent members of and those influenced by the Mainz Akademie Projekt titled "Forschungen zur antiken Sklaverei," established by Joseph Vogt in 1950. This book is one of the products of what must have been a highly stimulating meeting. It is composed of seven papers in German and three in English, with introductory remarks by Heinz Heinen, biographical information concerning the participants, and several pages of plates.

The themes of "retrospect" and "prospect" were ideal for a meeting of this sort, and most of the speakers paid tribute to the achievements of Vogt and his successors while also looking forward to new opportunities for current students of slavery in the classical world. Although he does not deal in depth with the Mainz Project, Keith Bradley's contribution ("Römische Sklaverei: Ein Blick zurück und eine Vorschau," pp. 15-38) illustrates the usefulness of this Janus-like vision.3 Attributing his own interest in Roman slavery—and his signature use of "die komparative Methode"—to his exposure to "das goldene Zeitalter" of scholarship on antebellum American slavery in the 1960s and 1970s, Bradley argues that this line of approach should continue to be pursued in respect to three new avenues of inquiry. This hopefulness is, however, couched in a cogent warning: regardless of his salient contributions to ancient historians' views of slavery, even Finley's legacy is "sadly negligible" among historians at large, and we too risk remaining in "a backwater" unless we can engage with modern historians of slavery on their own terms.

Building on previous investigations of the tangled historiography of ancient slavery,4 Niall McKeown ("Inventing Slaveries: Switching the Argument", pp. 39-59) demonstrates that philosophical differences, compounded by vague suspicions and unexamined prejudices against fabricated "straw-" and "bogeymen", have prevented understanding in the past. The most disturbing conclusion here is that these differences may survive today, well beyond the "bygone" era of the Vogt-Finley dispute. Anglophone scholars, given their training, politics, and, especially, historical contexts, may have unearthed forms of resistance—and a corresponding "anxiety" among slaveowners constantly fearing slave revolt—mainly because they "wanted to see such anxieties." As one of Bradley's new directions for scholarship is an analysis of "slave psychology" and the masters' mental states, McKeown's diagnosis is certainly timely.

There follow two papers focusing squarely on the Vogt-Finley conflict, and these convincingly demonstrate that much (though perhaps not all) of the feud was based on misapprehension, misunderstanding, and misdirection concerning the intentions and implementation of the Mainz project. Herself a leading figure and close associate at Mainz throughout its several phases, Elisabeth Herrmann-Otto ("Das Projekt 'Forschungen zur antiken Sklaverei' an der Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur, Mainz," pp. 61-75) mounts a vigorous defense of Vogt's approach and methods, placing him in the ideological context of the 1950s. She underscores the diversity of approaches undertaken by Vogt's Mitarbeiter from the beginning of the project and argues that, whatever his political beliefs and "humanitarian" attitudes, Vogt deliberately incorporated, and often favorably, the work of Warsaw Pact and Soviet scholars. A glance through the several bibliographies, compiled in 1971, 1983, and 2003,5 and containing titles in Hungarian, Polish, Czech, Russian, et al., confirms the legitimacy of Herrmann-Otto's contention. However, it is also fair to say that the tendency to collect evidence, even in contemporary initiatives such as the multi-volume Handwörterbuch der antiken Sklaverei, does not reflect the most up-to-date "interdisciplinary" and "globalizing" trends in the field.

Offering a thorough recasting of the famous dispute that separated the Mainz project from trends in the Anglo-American world, Johannes Deissler ("Cold Case? Die Finley-Vogt-Kontroverse aus deutscher Sicht," pp. 77-93) dates the conflict not to 1960, but rather to Finley's caustic 1975 TLS review of the English version of Vogt's Sklaverei und Humanität. Finley, in his view, misconstrued the "humane" aspects that Vogt supposedly found in ancient slave systems, insisting that "a mitigated evil remains an evil" and that slavery could in no way be described as "humane." The problem was largely one of translation, as "humane" and "humanitarian" were difficult terms to swallow when slaves are, as a precondition to enslavement, dehumanized and their personhood annihilated.

While Deissler may be correct in the essentials concerning "misunderstandings," it is easy to see from reading Wiedemann's translation of Ancient Slavery and the Ideal of Man, the source of these "Mißverständnisse." On the one hand, Vogt noted that "a slave's life must have been tolerable" (5), but then later in that chapter maintained, "it would not be right to say that either the practice or the idea of slavery current at Athens was humane" (9). Vogt could lament the "touch of tragedy" in doomed slave revolts, attempting "to achieve the impossible" (91), but he could also comment on the tenderness of relationships between slaves and masters as proof of the ability of "real humanity" to prevail "over the callousness of oppression" (104-5 and 120). It is important to observe that, while Vogt's contention that "Slavery and its attendant loss of humanity were part of the sacrifice which had to be paid for this achievement" (25)—the very sentence that probably sent Finley over the edge?—may have been part of the 1950s Zeitgeist, it was also a significant departure from a much older tradition regarding ancient slavery. In his 1847 Histoire de l'esclavage dans l'antiquité, Henri Wallon had insisted that the root cause of the decay in all states, ancient or modern, was the institution of slavery—and thus the only solution to this decay was to abolish slavery, root and branch (e.g. Tome I, pp. 336 and 455).

Deissler is on firmer ground when he, like Herrmann-Otto, draws attention to the unfairness of Finley's allegation that Vogt deliberately took an anti-Marxist line and chose to ignore the scholarly output from communist countries. In what may be the strongest and most penetrating paper in the collection, Heinen draws on a wide range of material—most of it available only in Russian—to sketch out the phases of scholarship on slavery in the USSR ("Aufstieg und Niedergang der sowjetischen Sklavereiforschung. Eine Studie zur Verbindung von Politik und Wissenschaft," pp. 95-138). The main theme of this investigation is that, despite the brutality of the Stalinist regime that enforced a "Katechismus," "Orthodoxie," and "Dogma" (109-11), there still remained "immer neue Freiräume zu gewinnen und die Fesseln des Dogmas zu lockern" for the energetic, perspicacious, and internationally-engaged scholar (111). It is also significant to note that destalinization itself may have led to the remarkable renaissance of publications on the topic in the 1960s and 1970s. Still, Heinen may overreach when he concludes that a "Seven Year Plan" to study ancient slavery resulted directly from the contretemps at Stockholm (123).

Although Elena Štaerman's career has been studied in more detail by Yavetz and McKeown,6 Heinen's essay incorporates the subtle reflections of Štaerman's daughter, which were included in an obituary when the scholar died in 1991. While she followed the official and obligatory Marxist line, which she may herself have believed, she also sought to widen that line into "die Freiheitsräume der marxistischen Theorie." Although offered as a "Postscriptum" (132-6), Heinen's analysis of the remarkable work of Marija E. Sergeenko (1891-1987) is the most enlightening portion of the article, illustrating that, while her themes of lower-class urban and rural laborers in Rome may have been dictated by Marxist-Leninist principles, she "did not allow herself to be bowed under" by the oppressive system.7

The method Heinen employs here—careful reading of material in unfamiliar languages, assessing the impact of political ideologies, and engaging with modern historians—could be applied even more widely, perhaps to Bulgaria, where a conference in honor of the 2050th anniversary of the Spartacus uprising was held in Blagoevgrad in 1977,8 or to Poland, where Jerzy Kolendo and Eva Biežunska-Małowist published articles that were known in the West as well as the East.9

The second half of the book, comprising five papers, addresses the second of the new directions Bradley advocates, namely the discernment and interpretation of images of slaves in ancient art. Bradley suggests that this is a theme as yet "noch in den Kinderschuhen" (29). All five papers face the critical and perhaps insurmountable difficulty of determining whether a person depicted in art represents someone actually enslaved. Michele George ("Archaeology and Roman Slavery: Problems and Potential," pp. 141-60) here, as in several other pieces, makes the strongest possible case for using artistic evidence, but she concedes that, as in other fields of investigation, one must settle for "probability" over "certainty" (145). Andrea Binsfeld's prospects for a Bilddatenbank zur antiken Sklaverei are optimistic—given the evidence, probably overly optimistic—since it is composed of images coupled with texts, wherever these are available (177).

The most compelling contribution of this group of papers is Henner von Hesberg's bleak assessment of the odds of finding slaves in images of war-captives ("Die Wiedergabe von Kriegsgefangenen und Sklaven in der römischen Bildkunst," pp. 179-91). Arguing that the images of captives are designed to glorify the Roman state and its commanders, and that they have little to do with the reality of the newly-enslaved captives' lives, he draws attention to an important and curious lack of visual information, i.e. images of the sale of slaves. Here, as so often, we must supplement meager sources with our imaginations and, with Louis MacNeice, "lastly…think of the slaves."


1.   A. Momigliano, "Moses Finley and Slavery: A Personal Note," in M. I. Finley (ed.), Classical Slavery, London, 1987, p. 4.
2.   B. D. Shaw, "'A Wolf by the Ears': M. I. Finley's Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology in Historical Context," in Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology, expanded edition, Princeton, 1998, p. 52.
3.   An English-language version of the paper is available as "Roman Slavery: Retrospect and Prospect," Canadian Journal of History/ Annales canadiennes d'histoire 43 (2008): 478-500.
4.   N. McKeown, The Invention of Ancient Slavery, London, 2007, esp. Chapter 2.
5.   The most recent of these is H. Bellen and H. Heinen (eds.), Bibliographie zur antiken Sklaverei, Stuttgart, 2003.
6.   Z. Yavetz, Slaves and Slavery in Ancient Rome, New Brunswick, 1988, pp. 135-9; McKeown (2007), Chapter 3.
7.   As part of her investigation of working life among the laboring classes, Sergeenko also published an article on the Roman collegia in 1972. For analysis, see my book The Roman Collegia (Leiden, 2006), p. 204f.
8.   The papers were published as C. M. Danov and A. Fol, Spartacus: Symposium Rebus Spartaci Gestis Dedicatum 2050 A. (Blagoevgrad, 20-24.IX.1977), Sofia, 1981.
9.   In her recent contribution on "Slavery in the Hellenistic World" for the first volume of The Cambridge World History of Slavery (Cambridge, 2011), Dorothy J. Thompson finds Biežunska-Małowist's 1974 book "the most useful discussion of slavery in Ptolemaic Egypt" (p. 213).

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Monday, July 25, 2011


Greg Woolf, Tales of the Barbarians: Ethnography and Empire in the Roman West. Blackwell Bristol Lectures on Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition. Chichester/Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. Pp. viii, 167. ISBN 9781405160735. $89.95.

Reviewed by M. Shane Bjornlie, Claremont McKenna College (

Version at BMCR home site


Any political and cultural narrative of the Roman Empire would be incomplete without an understanding of the people referred to as "barbarians" in classical texts. Greg Woolf's recent monograph on ethnography clearly recognizes this. Tales of the barbarians examines how authors of the Roman Empire wrote about foreign peoples of the West, but it approaches this topic with keen sensitivity to how ethnography as a writing practice also relates to cultural plurality and identity in empire. That Greek and Latin sources imposed caricatures on foreigners is already familiar ground in modern scholarship. However, the process by which these sources rendered portrayals of barbarians has never been so exactingly sketched. Woolf draws from a rich comparative sampling of authors (roughly Polybius to Ammianus Marcellinus) to reconstruct ancient ethnography as a particularly dynamic form of writing and the result is genuinely illuminating. Woolf finds that ethnographic writing constantly renegotiated the relationship of the past to the present in a manner decidedly more complicated than traditional Quellenforschung would suggest. As a result, this book should be preliminary to debates about the historicity of barbarian culture and its impact on the Roman Empire. Although Woolf examines the ethnographic habit found primarily in earlier imperial authors, the book also offers instructive qualifications to the study of barbarians in Late Antiquity, where the topic of ethnography enters conversations about barbarians somewhat less frequently. Woolf's book serves as an important reminder that the picture of barbarians received in literature is dependent on conventions and traditions generated in a Greek and Roman cultural setting, rather than on cultural settings beyond the frontier.

The introduction briefly delimits some of the basic concepts and methodology used in the book: the analysis is informed by post-colonial theory and by the work of anthropologists and historians of modern empires interested in how writing about foreigners transformed not only the subjects but the concept of empire. For Greek and Latin authors of the Roman Empire, writing about barbarians offered a variety of ways to characterize empire. Narratives about Roman expansion into western Europe and Africa are particularly revealing in this respect because, as Woolf claims, these authors regarded the West as terra nullius, as not having prior civilization. This attitude facilitated "the creation of new histories in the Roman West" (pp. 3-5).

Chapter One traces the descriptive contours of ancient ethnography. An important feature of ethnographic descriptions, Woolf notes, was the correspondence between two themes: emphasis on the remoteness or incomprehensibility of new regions, and the use of details that attached them to discourses familiar to the reader (snippets of Greco-Roman myth, tangents from famous historic episodes, observations of noted writers). This juxtaposition of the foreign with the familiar formed one of the dominant conventions of ethnographic writing.

Woolf also introduces the concept of the "middle ground" as a period of initial contact between Greco-Roman and foreign culture in which information exchange facilitated the creation of new histories. Woolf notes, "Telling stories on the middle ground was a process of gift exchange, one that created relationships of value to both sides" (p. 28). Locals inserted themselves into the Greco-Roman cultural matrix by translating fragments of prestigious, classical narratives to their own past (e.g. claiming the Trojan diaspora as an origo); for newcomers, middle-ground dialogue often confirmed their own cultural authorities (e.g. the veracity of Homer proven on far shores). These mutual attempts to find cultural common ground provided the genesis for new traditions that would eventually join the stock of later ethnographic writing. Story-telling on the middle-ground (itself a process of blending local tradition with received literary narratives) created new narratives used in the literary production of history. Woolf also emphasizes (importantly) that this process was contingent upon how authors viewed themselves as participants in the cultural experience of empire. For example, ethnographic descriptions that suggest either strangeness or propinquity often corresponded to conditions of conflict or cooperation between parties. Understood in these terms, ethnography was not a simple process of compilation that assimilated prior knowledge about people to new information; ethnographic descriptions were selectively fashioned tableaux drawn from complexly interactive sources of knowledge.

Chapter Two examines the stock of paradigms that Greek and Latin authors used to explain the difference of barbarians from "civilized" peoples. Genealogy, geography and astrology all provided constructive frameworks. For example, genealogies allowed ethnographers to map relations between groups of people across different parts of the Mediterranean world (e.g. Trojan diasporas). Similarly, geography allowed authors to map not only environmental causes (e.g. climate) but also cultural causes (e.g. proximity to other more or less civilized peoples) to account for the particularities of a group. Woolf suggests that these paradigms (particularly the genealogical) often originated in middle-ground exchanges that subsequently entered the ethnographic discourse. Additionally, Woolf draws attention to the incompatibility of certain paradigms. For example, incompatible genealogical and environmental explanations are often found in different texts discussing the same people. Ancient ethnographers rarely attempted to create a theory offering a comprehensive rationale for the multiplicity of conflicting paradigms. Instead, authors chose selectively from the range of available material in ways that suited their immediate needs. It would seem that "scientific" objectivity was never at issue.

Chapter Three shifts from the conventions for describing and explaining the barbarian to a consideration of the impact of Roman Empire on ethnographic writing. Woolf argues that the world view of ancient ethnographers was informed by empire in a much less direct fashion than previously assumed. Woolf finds very little evidence that ethnographic writing changed as a consequence of the Empire's expansion or the acquisition of new information from the frontier (pp. 61-62). Where empire did have an impact was in the increased availability of texts. The expansion of Rome's political power in the Greek east stimulated Hellenistic intellectual tastes among Roman elite, which in turn influenced the accumulation of texts and the growth of literary communities. Woolf argues that ethnographic research was primarily based in libraries, not in the field or through exploration. Although the claim of autopsy does figure prominently in ethnographic writing, it is itself an ethnographic convention, while the theoria of previous commentators was more widely relied upon.

Less convincingly, Woolf suggests a disconnect existed between ethnographic writing and the experiences of elite Romans who visited the provinces, assembled libraries and became patrons of intellectual communities. It seems apparent enough that ethnographic writing rarely reflects the kind of information that an administrator or military officer might bring home from the provinces and that ethnographic treatises offered little of utility for the practical matters of governing a province (pp. 85-88). Nevertheless, dismissing the likelihood that a middle-ground exchange also occurred between patron and scholar in elite cultural settings perhaps assumes too much about the Roman capacity to compartmentalize social experiences. Woolf's earlier observation (pp. 72-79) that the re-distributive flow of people and ideas encouraged authors to envision empire as universal suggests productive interaction between literary and social contexts. As Woolf notes, although much of the practice of writing ethnography occurred in dialogue between author and accumulated texts, the daily evidence and experience of empire nonetheless provided a framework for imagining a unity for geographical and chronological pluralities.

The fourth and final chapter investigates the longevity of ethnographic conventions and narratives. Woolf demonstrates the sharp dissonance between the claims of later (2nd-4th century AD) ethnographers and contemporary realities in the provinces. Despite the long acculturation of regions such as Gaul and Britain to Roman rule, authors like Tacitus and Ammianus Marcellinus still portrayed the western provinces as barbarian, underscoring the entrenched traditionalism of ethnographic writing. As Woolf vividly captures it, the "Gauls would always remain belligerent flies caught in rhetorical amber" (p. 114). But even in this later period, as Woolf notes, ethnographic writing maintained a steady, if troubled, contact with the middle ground. The relative stability of the frontiers allowed information concerning even more remote regions to filter into the established ethnographic discourse. Contemporary middle-ground information, however, could threaten established ethnographic concepts and made managing a panoptic whole difficult for authors. When writers encountered middle-ground accounts that were confusing or irreconcilable, they reverted to received ethnographic tropes, the results of which could be something of a chimaera of literary and contemporary knowledge. Woolf explains the inertia of archaic tropes with reference to a common feature of ancient Mediterranean culture which typically viewed itself in apposition (either positively or negatively) to a concept of the "uncivilized." In other words, the barbarian was necessary intellectual equipment for defining society, even when there were no true barbarians.

Short and written in a lively style, this book will offer much to an academic audience already invested in the debates concerning empire and identity, ethnography and ethnogenesis and Mediterranean literary culture. The contributions made to those wider fields of study are landmark. Woolf has provided a first step toward a comprehensive understanding of the place of the barbarian in Roman culture. Tracing a methodical path through the complicated genesis and transmission of ethnographic knowledge over more than five hundred years, the book manages an otherwise unwieldy range of material with commendable care. The sources are explained at appropriate length and their selection is colorful and distinctly interesting. As a result, this book illustrates quite clearly how Romans located themselves on a cultural axis using eastern Greek and western barbarian antipodes. Particularly instructive is the contribution of the middle ground. The model Woolf proposes for interaction between middle-ground and literary traditions deepens the understanding of the generation of ethnographic histories.

With all that there is to commend this book, few will agree with everything that Woolf has said. This is a positive acknowledgement of the importance of the broader implications of Woolf's study and a measure of the new field of questions that the book has raised. One anticipates, for example, that Woolf's use of the middle ground, as productive as it is in the book, may require further exploration. Although well-supported in modern anthropology, the imprint of the middle ground in ancient literature still seems rather tenuous (though certainly tenable). The difficulty of substantiating who contributed what to newly emergent traditions or even differentiating between traditions formed on the middle ground and those invented in the literary imagination is particularly pronounced for scholars working with ancient texts.

As a final comment, this reviewer was mildly surprised that Woolf does not explain his use of the term "barbarian", particularly given the book's relevance to the formation of identity in the Roman Empire. It is not always clear in what sense the term "barbarian" actually applies to many of the peoples of the western provinces discussed in the book. This is, in part, a problem located in the book's citations, which never include the Latin or Greek from quoted primary sources. In more than a few quoted passages, the authors (Livy, Pliny, Tacitus, Ammianus Marcellinus) actually preferred the terms gens or populus as opposed to barbari. The same applies for cognates used by some authors writing in Greek (Polybius, Diodorus). Although such terms are translated accurately the in quoted texts, Woolf's discussion about these texts often returns to the term "barbarian." This is an important matter: these terms potentially carry very different connotations with respect to the way Romans understood the capacity of other peoples to assimilate to "civilization" and it is not the case that the terms were always interchangeable. Some explanation of the semantic range of terminology used to describe "barbarians" seems necessary.1

With respect to editorial care, typographical errors are various, although not intrusive. The index, however, is rather scanty and less than helpful. By contrast, Woolf has rendered the topic in crisp and elegant prose. This reviewer suspects that, like good ancient ethnography, Woolf's contribution will very soon take on a life of its own.


1.   A parallel case may be found in Alan Cameron's recent study of late-antique "pagans", which begins with a concise survey of the historical use of the term paganus, an exercise that yielded some fairly surprising results with respect to a term largely taken for granted: Alan Cameron. The Last Pagans of Rome. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2011) 14-25.

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