Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Eleni Hatzivassiliou, Athenian Black Figure Iconography between 510 and 475 B.C. Rahden: VML Verlag Marie Leidorf, 2010. Pp. xviii, 182. ISBN 9783896469861. €57.80.

Reviewed by Tyler Jo Smith, University of Virginia (

Version at BMCR home site

The untimely death of a young scholar is difficult to grasp. Eleni Hatzivassiliou completed her D.Phil. at Oxford in 2006, and was immediately awarded a post-doctoral fellowship at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Other accolades were to follow—a three year research appointment in Brussels and an academic position in Greece—but sadly they were never realized. This memorial volume edited by her doctoral advisor, Donna Kurtz, Essays in Classical Archaeology for Eleni Hatzivassiliou 1977-2007 (BAR International Series 1796, 2008), is a testament to the many lives she touched, among them teachers and mentors, peers and colleagues. The posthumous publication under review here, derived from her doctoral thesis, ensures that her scholarly mark has been made and that her name will long be remembered among those working in this branch of classical archaeology.

The subject of the book, Athenian black-figure painting after the invention of red-figure, has not been as well treated in scholarship as it might have been. The black-figure vases of these years have too often been overlooked, ignored, or dismissed as inferior to their red-figure contemporaries. Sir John Beazley's, Development of Attic Black-Figure (1951/1986) does include a chapter on 'later black-figure', and incorporates a lengthy discussion of the Leagros Group, designating it as "the last great group of Attic black-figures vases" (80). But Beazley himself actively omitted the 'small' black-figure vases of the first quarter of the fifth century explaining that "Miss Haspels has given an admirable account of them in her Attic Black-figured Lekythoi", a magisterial work published in 1936. Beazley's neglect of lekythoi and other well-known shapes (most notably skyphoi and cups), made in abundance during the final phase of black-figure in Athens, may have done more harm than good for their artistic reputation in the long term.

Hatzivassiliou attempts to correct the record by "looking at Athenian black-figure iconography between 510 and 475 BC" (2). Bracketed by a brief introduction and conclusion, the book is divided into three main parts: Ceramic Production, Iconography, and Painters. These are followed by tables, an appendix, and a selective catalogue. Although the book lacks a clear narrative, it is an exceedingly useful reference work that covers a good deal of uncharted territory, and brings together a new corpus organized by iconographic theme, rather than by shapes or painters. While the author is primarily interested in the images, and to some extent their interpretation and meaning, a lot of attention in the book is given to other matters; thus the choice of the word 'iconography' in the title is not self-evident and even a bit misleading. Her approach to the evidence (some 838 catalogued objects) is at once old- fashioned and novel. There is admirable attention to detail, as demonstrated by the chunky footnotes.

The first part of the book devoted to ceramic production is divided into 'techniques and shapes' and 'distribution'. An explanation of the red-figure technique and its possible origins is followed by a description of various experimental techniques, among them Six's technique, coral (or intentional) red, white-ground, and bilinguals. Surprisingly, no particular background discussion is provided for the black-figure technique itself. Instead, the author views the newer techniques as alternatives to black-figure, or as additions to the repertoire of black-figure painters. The succeeding paragraphs, concerned with shapes, again present these years as ones of experiment and innovation, marked by "the introduction of new shapes and the modification of old ones" (5). Her summary of forms and techniques in the years between 510 and 475, offers a more vivid artistic backdrop for late black-figure than many would normally assume. This is a moment where old and new techniques and forms coexist. The distribution of the catalogued vases is and equally valuable starting point, in part because of the "major point of departure between black- and red-figure" (7). Hatzivassiliou quite rightly voices caution in approaching the distribution of these objects from these years, because such a small percentage of the total number produced is extant, and many excavations have been poorly documented or not published. At the same time, it is important for readers to be aware that, despite the large number of black-figure finds from Athens itself, the vases of this period travelled far and wide, from the Greek mainland to Asia Minor, Cyprus, Sicily, Italy, France, Spain, and elsewhere. Missing from her discussion (which is based on her selective catalogue) is an in-depth portrayal of the imports to the Black Sea, which have been published extensively in excavation reports and journals. The author's emphasis on Mediterranean-wide distribution is an important corrective to the assumption that most Athenian painted pottery was deposited in Etruscan tombs. For black-figure this is simply not the case: "shape, size and function were crucial trade factors" (9), arguably far more important than the iconography itself. Furthermore, the author notes certain distribution patterns by shape and painter: e.g. oinochoai by the Gela Painter and the Edinburgh Painter are mostly found in Etruria and northern Italy; lekythoi by these same two painters are known from Sicily, mainland Greece, south Italy, and Campania; loutrophoroi by the Theseus Painter come from Attica, as do his skyphoi and lekythoi.

The second and largest part of the book is concerned with iconography. The material is divided by deities, heroes, epic cycles, cult and life. The gods and goddesses are presented in order of quantity from Dionysos and Athena to other Olympians and lesser deities. Similarly, the heroes follow the expected order of Herakles, Theseus, and the rest. What seems particularly new here are the sections on the Trojan Cycle, packaged according to text (Kypria, Iliad, Aithiopis, Little Iliad and Ilioupersis, Odyssey, Nostoi), a choice made for "reasons of clarity" as opposed to the assumption that the painters "followed specific literary accounts" (27). Moving beyond mythology, the section on 'cult and life' is one of the best and most helpful in the book. The author assigns the vases to six categories that highlight the preoccupations of everyday men and women, both in the city and in the countryside, among them warfare, athletics, entertainment, agriculture, and religion. Within these sections, overt attempts are made to bring red-figure vases into the conversation, and to determine their similarities or differences with the assembled corpus of examples. There is also some interesting overlap, demonstrating the difficulty of imposing modern divisions: thus, warfare mixes with religion (extispicy and libation); hunting and symposion iconography are combined; dancing may be sympotic or religious; banausoi make an appearance in both agriculture and cult. The final iconographic category to receive attention is women. Again, the overlap with the previous sections of the book is unavoidable, because women were visible in scenes of cult, funerals, weddings, symposia, komos, departure, and agriculture. However, the author elaborates on some of the more gender-specific examples, such as fountain-house or gynaikon scenes. Perhaps more variety, and less repetition, is apparent in red-figure, but we are reminded that many of the late black- figure scenes focus on women exclusively. Based on the sample provided, however, it is difficult to compare the percentages of black-figure themes with those of red-figure.

The third and final part acquaints us with eight vase-painters: the Gela, Edinburgh, Theseus, Athena, Sappho, Diosphos, Emporion, and Beldham painters. These artists have been chosen not because they are the most prolific, but because their quality is among the highest and they generate the most interesting iconography. For each painter we are given a brief history of their identity and output, a descriptive summary of their favorite scenes and subjects and, where relevant, their use of inscriptions. By revisiting iconography according to painter, there is some inevitable repetition from the previous parts of the book and little, if any, cross-referencing. The inclusion of inscriptions, however, does offer an important dimension and one often avoided in iconographic studies. We are told that that 'mock inscriptions' are "frequent" in the case of the Athena Painter (71) and Diosphos Painter (79), while the Sappho Painter's generous use of legible inscriptions may "be taken as an indication of the painter's literacy" (75) (but how can we know if a painter was literate?). A final section in this chapter is devoted to 'painters and conventions', an important reminder that in the study of Athenian vase-painting it remains difficult to bypass the narrative styles and artistic conventions that define an individual hand or workshop. This is one of the most important points in the book. If anything, the comparison only serves to distance the two techniques even further and indicates that within each one, even if articulated by the same artist, there are inherent rules, limitations, and expectations.

In the end, readers are left with many important questions, and some dangling threads that might be taken up by other scholars in the future. What is the place of landscape in Greek vase-painting? Why is the killing of an animal for sacrifice never shown in late black-figure? Are the open-air banquets depicting Herakles representative of parasitein, a custom associated with his cult in Athens? Why are the Olympian deities so rarely portrayed in the works of the Gela Painter? What cultural shifts or historical circumstances might shed light on any or all of these issues? How do vases increase our knowledge of lost texts? Stimulating questions such as these are raised throughout the book, but remain outside the author's scope. Nonetheless, readers come away with a sense that the late black-figure vases presented here do merit such detailed treatment and should continue to find their place in the history of Greek art and archaeology. Despite the difficulty of studying and collecting these black-figure vases, they do indeed deserve our attention just as much as their red-figure contemporaries.

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Juan Carlos Iglesias-Zoido, El legado de Tucídides en la cultura occidental: discursos e historia. Humanitas supplementum, 10. Coimbra: Centro de Estudos Clássicos e Humanísticos da Universidade de Coimbra, 2011. Pp. 300. ISBN 9789898281753. €30.00.

Reviewed by Immacolata Eramo, Università degli Studi di Bari (

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Juan Carlos Iglesias-Zoido's book represents a useful work for scholars of Thucydides' Fortleben.1 It is the latest contribution made by Iglesias-Zoido in fifteen years of studies on speeches included in historical works, and in particular protreptic speeches. The book distinguishes itself from other works on the topic because of the attention the author devotes to the speeches as a specific aspect of the History. It is well known that the speeches have a prominent place in Thucydides' work as can be seen in the much studied methodological chapter (I,22.1), where Thucydides takes his place in Greek tradition - a tradition which is already rooted in Homeric epic - according to which logoi and praxeis together represent the essence of prachthenta.2 The speeches in Thucydides' work have been the subject of vehement and sometimes heated debate on a series of topics, in particular their relationship to the narration, and the problem of their veracity. Iglesias-Zoido seems to have a good knowledge of these matters and this debate, but instead prefers to concentrate on the role which the speeches in Thucydides' History had on Thucydides' reception.

The volume is divided into two parts: the first is an introduction to the work; the second (which is, in turn, divided into two sections) chronologically analyses all the materials regarding the heritage of Thucydidean speeches, dividing the material into time, culture, contexts and readers. The work is completed by a conclusion, a rich and well- informed bibliography, an appendix with a synopsis of Thucydidean addresses (deliberative speeches, harangues, speeches of different types), an index nominum, an index locorum (Greek and Latin authors), an index rerum.

Thucydides' speeches were, already in ancient times, a "chrestomathy of political and military eloquence": this is the main focus of the Introduction (pp. 7-31). Iglesias-Zoido sets out the structure of his work, as well as the scope and the method he adopts. He then briefly reviews previous studies which are the essential point of reference for anyone wishing to study the reception of the Thucydidean text over the centuries, beginning with the entry by Otto Luschnat in Pauly-Wissowa (Supplb. XII, 1970, in particular coll. 1266-1323), without forgetting the section by Marianne Pade in Catalogus Translationum et Commentariorum, up to the last part (After Thucydides) of Brill's Companion to Thucydides by Antonios Rengakos and Antonis Tsakmakis and Modernidades Tucidideanas by Francisco Murari Pires, a work still in progress. Finally, Iglesias-Zoido provides an annotated overview of studies which are specifically devoted to single aspects of the reception of the History.

The first part (La Historia de Tucídides y el papel desempeñado por los discursos, pp. 33-73) is most informative. It gives an outline of the History to an audience of general readers: basic information on the author, the subject of the work, the relationship between Thucydides' historical method and that of previous historians, first of all Herodotus. Iglesias-Zoido naturally devotes most of his attention to the speeches, starting from the statements at I,22.1. In this chapter, Iglesias-Zoido participates in the debate between Thucydidean scholars, arguing that the speeches of the History are intended to be useful by serving a pragmatic purpose: in his opinion, they are an essential and intrinsic complement to the narration, the only part of the text which is interwoven in the narrative process but at the same time can be removed from it, in this respect sharing some of the characteristics of exempla.

As regards the second part: in the chapter Antigüedad Grecorromana (pp. 77-119), Iglesias-Zoido focuses on the spread of the History in Greece and Rome, highlighting the two fields in which the work took its place: on the one hand it was an unavoidable point of reference for historians – already for Xenophon, the first editor of History.3 On the other it was the prime model for authors interested in rhetoric, as the detailed attention of Dionysius of Halicarnassus testifies. Papyrus discoveries have enabled us to know more about the spread and use of the History in rhetorical schools, through excerpta and syllogai, all materials which also enriched the repertory of the progymnasmata.

In the chapter Bizancio (pp. 121-133) Iglesias-Zoido shows that the "culture of sylloge,"4 which is typical of the Byzantine period, represents a necessary starting and reference point for Thucydides' work too. A series of data show that also from the 5th to the 14th centuries the History had a double circulation: both the complete History and syllogai, which collected the parts considered to be the most interesting, useful or easiest were in circulation; it seems that the syllogaiwere more frequently circulated; among these parts, there were the speeches. The evidence which Iglesias-Zoido adduces is illuminating: on one hand the manuscript tradition testifies the spread of the complete work – a manuscript transliterated in the 9th century from which two families derive – on the other the excerpta Constantiniana represent and encourage a spreading of Thucydidean excerpts in florilegia. As regards the speeches, Iglesias-Zoido rightly finds a valuable parallel in the selection of Ambrosianus B-119-sup., which helps us to understand what people read in this period. In this manuscript, 17 protreptic speeches, from Xenophon, Flavius Josephus and Herodian, and two epistles by Constantine VII were used by the editor in order to give an up-to-date and practical example of the theories exposed in the rhetorical manual which was copied immediately before.

The next chapter (Edad Media: El Tucídides de Heredia, pp. 135-154) focuses on Juan Fernández de Heredia (1310-96), to whom we owe the first translation of the History into a modern language. In this Spanish context (the author himself is Spanish), but also in Italian and European scholarly circles, in those times Greek works are known only indirectly, through Latin translations, and generally in the form of excerpta. Accordingly, Heredia does not translate all Thucydides' work, but only the speeches. The characteristics of his work, as well as the existence of other analogous collections (for example Neapolitanus III-B-8), lead Iglesias-Zoido to the plausible conclusion that Heredia's translation was not made on a complete text, but on a previous selection, which in turn, was a translation from ancient Greek. This conclusion is supported by other evidence, for example the spread of corpuscula of speeches drawn from Sallust's Historiae or Leonardo Bruni's Orationes Homeri or Matteo de' Libri's Arringhe: according to Iglesias-Zoido, the speeches were considered to be the most fruitful and vital part of Thucydides' work, the part which deserved to be read and known above all for its value as providing exempla.

Pp. 155-189 deal with the knowledge and spread of Thucydides' work during the Renaissance. Iglesias-Zoido emphasizes that Thucydides attracted interest during this period not so much as an historical work, but rather as a text which met the needs of mimesis and rhetorical interests of Humanists. From this point of view the first Latin translation by Lorenzo Valla has great value too, above all if we consider the way that these scholars worked. Valla, in fact, used to identify with rubrics the parts of Thucydidean text which he considered as important or significant; among these the speeches were prominent. Again, the preface to the French translation by Claude de Seyssel (1512) can be considered, according to Iglesias-Zoido, a clear indication of the tastes and interests of this epoch: the speeches are considered the most representative part of the History; therefore de Seyssel hopes that his translation will be helpful both in order to spread the knowledge of oraisons et concions and for rhetorical purposes.

Iglesias-Zoido devotes pp. 199-225 to Thucydides' influence during the 17th and 18th centuries. It was during this period that Thucydidean work was read for its historical method or political interpretation. In this period, Gabriel Bonnot de Mably's De la manière d'écrire l'histoire was the last author to appreciate the educative and cognitive value of Thucydides' speeches: according to de Mably, history has a didactic role and performs it thanks to the presentation of these speeches, which make the reader an eyewitness to the acts narrated. Iglesias-Zoido provides only a brief review of the Thucydidean imitations written with a historical and political purpose; instead, he concentrates on the way in which the introduction of speeches in historical narrative was judged by thinkers of that period (first of all Hobbes). Indeed, he judges the French translation by Nicolas Perrot d'Ablancourt to be remarkable for its re-interpretation of Thucydides' speeches, in this respect d'Ablancourt's view ran contrary to the general opinion of that time. Ablancourt's own aim is delectare, and for this reason the speeches acquire in his eyes a greater worth, since they are considered a divertissement useful in making the narration more agreeable and the reading easier.

The last chapter (Edad Contemporánea, pp. 227-244) deals with the history of the reception of Thucydides' work from Positivism to the present day. Iglesias-Zoido discusses key figures in the tradition and above all considers the questions which are still open to debate: especially the problem of the historical method used by Thucydides and its relevance today, the question of the topicality of Thucydidean speeches in the modern world, and the status of the History as a political, pragmatic and military work. This section would seem a little scanty if it were not for the number and comprehensiveness of its bibliographical references. In the years from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address to Memorial Services in September 2002 and the latest presidential addresses by Barack Obama, the length of the period under review, the complexity of the events, and their differing historical and political dynamics make it hard, if not impossible, to extract the Ancient Lessons for the 21st Century. 5 He concludes that the subjects, the motifs and the topoi expressed in the speeches of the History are of great relevance to the present day.

The last part (Conclusiones, pp. 245-248) is a clear and concise summary . Iglesias-Zoido begins from a paradox: in ancient times the speeches were the most admired and imitated part of Thucydides' work, but at the same time the part which was considered hardest to understand. There is another paradox at the end of the book: the History has always been unanimously considered to be a difficult and complex work. However, in every period it has proved itself admirably suited to the needs and interests: truly a ktema es aei.

Iglesias-Zoido's work is serious, well argued and scientifically rigorous. It is also conspicuous for its clarity and easy readability, even for a reader who does not know Spanish well. The number and variety of the materials examined and also the number of studies on this subject could have made the book lack focus. It is to Iglesias-Zoido's credit that he avoids this problem. He goes well beyond a mere accumulation of material. Instead, he contextualizes the state of knowledge of Thucydides' work over the centuries. He sticks closely to his line of argument, without ever losing sight of his subject, focusing almost exclusively on the speeches. These scholarly qualities do not deprive the study of a general appeal. In fact, the book is of interest not only to the scholars of Thucydides but even more so to the general reader.

The book is available online at Classica Digitalia.


1.   See, for example, the Acts of the Congress at Bordeaux and Toulouse edited to coincide with Iglesias-Zoido's volume: Ombres de Thucydide. La réception de l'historien depuis l'Antiquité jusqu'au début du XXe siècle, textes réun. par V. Fromentin, S. Gotteland, P. Payen, Bordeaux 2010.
2.   See, e.g., Ilias XI,703.
3.   Diog. L. II,57.
4.   Iglesias-Zoido borrows this expression from P. Odorico, "Byz. Zeit." 83, 1990.
5.   Ancient Lessons for the 21st Century is the subtitle of Stephan Haid's study Why President Obama should read Thucydides (Dias-Analysis no. 34, Nov. 2008, pp. 1-11)

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Maureen Carroll, Jane Rempel (ed.), Living through the Dead: Burial and Commemoration in the Classical World. Studies in funerary archaeology, 5. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2011. Pp. xii, 209. ISBN 9781842173763. $60.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Kristina Killgrove, UNC Chapel Hill (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

This volume is the result of a conference on death and commemoration held in 2006 at the University of Sheffield. The nine papers range in period from Old Kingdom Egypt to 17th century Italy and geographically from the circum-Mediterranean to the Black Sea. Foregrounded in every contribution is the relationship between the living and the dead; this volume represents an attempt to highlight the similarities in burial practice among the diverse peoples of the classical world.

Most authors take one of three approaches in exploring the concept of commemoration in the past. Four papers delve into epigraphical and historical evidence: Polly Low on Sparta (Ch 1), Celina Gray on the Milesians at Athens (Ch 3), Maureen Carroll on Roman damnatio memoriae (Ch 4), and Martin Bommas on Egypt (Ch 8). Three papers deal with burial form and topography: Jane Rempel on the Bosporan kingdom (Ch 2), John Pearce on the Roman provinces (Ch 7), and Susan Russell on the Pamphilj forum (Ch 9). Two papers integrate skeletal remains with other archaeological evidence: Emma-Jayne Graham on the practice of os resectum (Ch 5), and Sébastien Lepetz and William Van Andringa (with contributions from a number of other scholars) on ritual at the Porta Nocera necropolis in Pompeii (Ch 6).

Using the more traditional evidence of tombstones, inscriptions, and historical records, Low, Gray, Carroll, and Bommas address the ways in which the living express their affiliation (or lack thereof) with the dead. Low juxtaposes the commemoration of the 300 dead from Thermopylae as a collective and as individuals named on the monument with the burials of Leonidas and Pausanias, who were repatriated to Sparta decades after the Persian Wars. Arguing that monuments to the Persian War dead at Sparta constitute a focus on memory rather than mourning, Low suggests that these structures would have communicated the glory of the individuals and the honor the men brought to the city as a whole, underscoring Sparta's reputation as an important military power.

Gray concentrates on the tombstones of Milesians in the Athenian Kerameikos and questions why this specific group of people is so visible in the epigraphic record. Through an integration of historical and legal texts with iconography and inscriptions from the Kerameikos, Gray argues that two major changes in social policy in the 3rd– 2nd centuries BC may have contributed to the disproportionate visibility of Milesians: the possibility that Milesians and Athenians could intermarry, and the inclusion of young Milesian men in the ephebate. Funerary stelai in the Kerameikos reflect these shifts in social policy, depicting spouses of mixed ethnic background and Milesian youths in the pose of ephebes.

In the Roman world, Carroll looks at lesser-known examples of damnatio memoriae and finds instances where a person's name or likeness was removed from a funerary monument. Rather than being political acts, these instances of destruction reflect social events like divorce, legal conflicts, and disinheritance. Carroll concludes that these instances of damnatio memoriae wiped out the memory and erased the identity of the person who was formerly destined for the tomb. Since burial monuments could not be defaced after death, however, the person who was removed from a tombstone could have been commemorated elsewhere by other family or friends; it is not necessary to conclude, as Carroll does, that a person's desire to be remembered was irrevocably dashed when he was removed from a tombstone.

In a synthetic approach to Egyptian funerary practice, Bommas details the changes that occurred in each major period but also highlights the thread of commonality: a desire to have a relationship with the dead, first through private sacrifice, then through increasingly public, ostentatious performances. Running through Egyptian burial practice is the idea of Ma'at, which Bommas uses to refer to the reciprocal relationship between Egyptians and their ancestors. Ritual actions of giving and sacrifice let the living interact with the dead, who in return served as their protectors.

These four contributions effectively marshal the epigraphical and historical data about commemoration in Greece, Rome, and Egypt, but two stand out for drawing the reader into the daily lives of past people. In discussing Milesians in Athens, Gray navigates the dialectic between ethnic representation on tombstones and legal acceptance of foreign ethnicity. Gray ends by questioning whether we should see the Milesians as individuals or as a part of a larger community (p. 62). Further exploration along these lines would be quite welcome, as the dead have their own identities but are always buried by their community.1 By focusing on examples of damnatio memoriae among the non-elite of the Roman world, Carroll shows that many people were concerned with their memory living on after death. The concept of memory in the Roman world is an important one to explore, and its study can contribute to and be informed by the large body of anthropological work on memory and identity in death.2 More interesting, though, would be a discussion of the practice of damnatio memoriae as the material manifestation of social exclusion, a topic covered within burial in Greece but not in the Roman world.3

An analysis of burial form and the placement of burials within the landscape forms the evidence for commemoration in the papers by Rempel, Pearce, and Russell. Rempel writes about the Bosporan kingdom, which had quite a heterogeneous population that contributed to differences in burial style: a man buried with a local-style marker that included Scythian iconography and Greek text is an example of choice in burial style rather than ethnic imperative. In spite of the hybrid nature of burials in the Bosporan kingdom, Rempel points out that they nevertheless communicate with one another and that a dialogue of status and wealth can be seen as lower-status individuals attempt to imitate the burial styles of higher-status people. Within the Roman provinces, Pearce purports to investigate spatial relationships in burials in Britain. The area immediately outside the walls of an urban center is generally assumed to be a privileged space of burial display, but Pearce argues that minor city centers and civitas peripheries in Britain may also have held burials that conveyed social or political power. While this conclusion is interesting, the lack of viewshed analysis or other GIS- based study of burial relationships and the lack of spatial illustrations make Pearce's topographical argument difficult to follow.

In the lone early-modern paper in this volume, Russell lays out the case for the Pamphilj 'forum', suggesting that Pope Innocent X began a building programme that underscored his role in the Papacy and evoked his claimed descent from Rome's second king, Numa Pompilius. By associating a series of buildings, including the Palazzo Pamphilj, the church of Sant' Agnese, and a funerary monument, with themes of the Papacy and of the Regal Period of Roman history, Innocent X created for his family and his legacy effective propaganda similar to that broadcast by the Imperial Fora.

The papers by Rempel and Russell are well argued and offer interesting conclusions about places and times that are not within the traditional purview of classics scholars. In particular, Rempel's discussion of "local Bosporan vocabularies" (p. 42) of display is intriguing in light of the clearly heterogeneous population. This area of the world is not as well known in classical times as the circum-Mediterranean, and recent anthropological attention in the region4 may be useful in further investigations of ethnicity and status in the Bosporan kingdom.

The two final papers both incorporate the physical remains of the deceased into arguments about ritual and commemoration. In the Porta Nocera necropolis at Pompeii, a huge variety of evidence reveals burial and funerary rites: tombstones, inscriptions, artifacts, human skeletal remains, animal bones, and carbonized plant remains. Lepetz and Van Andringa, with contributions by H. Duday, D. Joly, C. Malagoli, V. Matterne, and M. Tuffreau-Libre, synthesize their findings at the funerary monument of Publius Vesonius Phileros. The wealth of information allows them to reconstruct in great detail the sequence of events and activities at the burial site.5 Although the funerary precinct was modest, the authors found that it saw intensive activity and was reorganized and modified through time.

A different approach to Roman funeral ritual comes from Graham, who writes about os resectum, a lesser- known rite of retaining a piece of bone from the deceased in order to purify the household and ensure proper burial. Information about the rite comes from primary historical evidence and secondary archaeological evidence, in the form of small pots from San Cesareo, whose contents of slivers of burned bone have unfortunately been lost. Most interestingly, Graham and her colleagues have identified an example of os resectum from Britain; unfortunately, however, the full publication of those skeletal remains is still in preparation. Nevertheless, this is an important paper that reconsiders the manipulation of the body of the deceased within the context of Roman rites of passage; the death of a person results in separation from the community, while the practice of os resectum eases the transition to death and incorporates the dead into the community of ancestors. Bioarchaeologists who work with Roman cremations would do well to look for further evidence of this rite in the form of differently burned remains.

These latter two papers stand out in the volume as innovative contributions to the topic of burial and commemoration in the classical world. Graham, Lepetz, Van Andringa, and their collaborators synthesize new lines of evidence that both support and go beyond the historical record. The interdisciplinary and synthetic nature of the excavation of the grave enclosure of Publius Vesonius Phileros and the identification of bioarchaeological correlates of os resectum have the potential to contribute new and important information to our understanding of classical funeral ritual.

Taken as a whole, the volume feels uneven, held together only by the theme of burial. The order of the chapters lacks clear organization, and the editors missed the opportunity to include an introductory or concluding chapter synthesizing the commonalities and differences seen over time and through geographic space. As individual contributions, however, most of the papers in this volume are intriguing new takes on the representation of the dead and the role of the living in the long process of burial and commemoration.


1.   M. Parker Pearson's The Archaeology of Death and Burial (1999), Texas A and M University Press, is a seminal work in discussions of identity, burial, and commemoration in the past, but surprisingly few contributions to the present volume cite his work or similar treatments.
2.   This body of work is exemplified by edited volumes such as M.S. Chesson, ed. (2001). Social Memory, Identity, and Death: Anthropological Perspectives on Mortuary Rituals. Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association, No. 10.
3.   Drawing on a large body of anthropological literature, I. Morris discusses who is buried where in "Exclusion and Retrieval," chapter 6 of Burial and Ancient Society (1987), Cambridge University Press.
4.   See the recent studies of diet and migration at Apollonia Pontica by A. Keenleyside, H.P. Schwarcz, and K. Panayotova using stable isotope analysis of human skeletal remains (J Archaeol Sci 38(10): 2658-2666, 2011 and J Archaeol Sci 33(9): 1205-1215, 2006).
5.   This kind of in-depth reconstruction of Roman burial processes is further explicated by H. Duday (2009) in The Archaeology of the Dead: Lectures in Archaeothanatology (Oxbow Books), which has started changing archaeologists' approach to excavating and analyzing Imperial cemeteries.

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Maria Luisa Catoni, Bere vino puro: immagini del simposio. Campi del sapere/Culture. Milano: Giangiacomo Feltrinelli editore, 2010. Pp. xviii, 505. ISBN 9788807104534. €39.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Marek Wecowski, University of Warsaw (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

[The reviewer sincerely apologizes for the lateness of this review.]

In 1991, in the pioneering period of modern "sympotic" scholarship, William J. Slater wrote that "[n]o one can now hope to write a comprehensive study of the ancient symposium".1 Twenty years later, this learned and highly informative book by Maria Luisa Catoni at the same time belies and confirms this contention.

Strictly speaking, the goal of the book is to juxtapose the iconography of archaic vase painting with the sympotic poetry, i.e. to confront systematically the two primary classes of evidence for the symposion, which have often been treated separately. The images and their accompanying inscriptions, it is posited, not only went hand in hand with and inspired various forms of sympotic entertainment, but also invited the symposiasts to express themselves during a symposion in an alternative manner, contrasting with the one sanctioned and prompted by sympotic poetry (cf. e.g. p. xvii). In fact, however, when studying the utterings, songs, loves, high jinks, and values that determine the interactions between the symposiasts, Catoni presents her reader with a true encyclopaedia of sympotic studies, tackling almost every debatable scholarly issue relevant to the history of the symposion and to its iconography. This does not spoil the coherence of the main thematic lines of the book, but it raises, as we shall see, some general questions regarding its conceptual framework.

In chapter one ("Come si fa un simposio"), Catoni sets out the indispensable starting-point of her enquiry in a very thoughtful reconstruction of the material setting and of the actual course of the symposion. She describes its usual circumstances, the diverse classes of its participants, its various entertainments (poetry, toasts, jokes, and other forms of performances), and its principal rules. In all this, referring to literary sources that span several centuries, the author moves between the ideal and the realities of the symposion. Ultimately, she presents her decision to put to the archaic vase painting questions of the kind that literary scholars have long been asking sympotic poetry, regarding conditions, circumstances, and goals of its production and its performance. From the very beginning, Catoni suggests a fundamental difference between the two "halves" of our sympotic material. Whereas those who compose and execute poetry at symposia were members of the sympotic group, those who produced and decorated sympotic ware in her view must have been outsiders. This contention will have far-reaching consequences for the entire argument of the book.

In chapter two ("Vasi e parole"), the author thoroughly interprets all conceivable functions of sympotic vases during a symposion. This is perhaps the most stimulating part of Catoni's work. Particularly interesting is her brilliant treatment of the different functions of the sympotic inscriptions (both graffiti and dipinti) we encounter on sympotic wares (the author deals, among other things, with the famous "Cup of Nestor" from Pithekoussai, generally recognized nowadays as the oldest unambiguous testimony of the symposion – CEG I 454 = SEG XIV 604). Already in this chapter, however, a general problem with Catoni's approach seems to emerge. When giving a well-balanced response to the well-known thesis of the primacy of metal vases over clay pottery,2 she devotes much attention to the social standing of the producers of archaic ceramics, but much less to the social profile of the "consumers" of the vases, taking for granted a rather vague notion of the symposion as an "aristocratic banquet" and of archaic Greek aristocracy (see below).

Chapter three ("Immagini controluce") is still devoted to the "interactions between songs and pictures" (p. 219), but this time in a more specific manner. The author interestingly observes the possible effects of painted pottery on the symposiasts, stressing, among other things, two important factors determining the "consumption" of images. On the one hand, the revellers get more and more intoxicated, which naturally influences their perception of vase painting on different stages of the symposion; on the other, images themselves may assume a "diachronic" dimension, e.g. as the painted tondo of a drinking cup gradually emerges from wine. The author also gives a stimulating interpretation of some sympotic images as reflecting a phenomenon analogous to the "sympotic catenae" of archaic poetry, namely images juxtaposing, on the same vase, two opposing modalities of the aristocratic life-style (e.g. homosexual and heterosexual love in two contrasting figurative scenes). What is a bit less persuasive is Catoni's focus on the iconographic symbolism of the "right measure" of drinking, i.e. on the theme of sympotic norms and their violations. Here, she sometimes seems to go too far, as if forgetting that ritual breaches of the "right measure" belonged to the very essence of the symposion. For instance, she gives a subtle reading of the images featuring symposiasts drinking from large or inappropriate vases (e.g. oinochoai, or even amphorae), interpreting them as belonging to a normative sympotic discourse. What she does not tell us, if I am not mistaken, is that such scenes may also "allude" to the well- attested sympotic entertainment of "sport drinking" (polyposia or kothonismos). A drinking event featuring this competition was definitely not a "symposion deviating from the norm" (cf. p. 258), but a conceivable sympotic entertainment. As Catoni subtly puts it herself apropos of the function of the images of satyrs and their immoderate behaviour, such images might have induced the symposiasts to explore possible points of contact between humans and satyrs (p. 262).

Chapter four ("Veder voci"), in which the book culminates, is the most speculative and perhaps the least persuasive part of this work. Here, an attempt is made to correlate well-known political and social changes of the late sixth- and early fifth-century Athens with changing ambitions and maybe changing social status of the producers of Athenian vases in the period between ca 510 and ca 490 B.C. The main contention is that the artists conventionally known as the Pioneer Group did not belong to the "sympotic group", but behaved as if they did, decorating their vases with images and inscriptions, including names depicting their colleagues represented as revellers among the aristocratic members of Athenian high society, that testify to their ambitions and aspirations. And such ambitions could have been made possible only thanks to the profound changes that the Athenian polis underwent in the times of the Pisistratid tyranny and the ensuing reforms. Now, there are serious prosopographical problems involved (are we sure that such names as Smikros must allude to real-life individuals and Athenian artisans?) and too much here is based on a very elaborate interpretation of the anomalous and isolated "signatures" of Euthymides that mention his patronymikon (ARV2 26.1; 26.2 (twice); 28.11 (twice); 28.17). But more important is a general problem that to my mind amounts to the main shortcoming of this otherwise excellent book, namely the fact that some ideas and interpretations underlying and determining Catoni's analyses are simply taken for granted on the basis of earlier scholarship and not critically scrutinized in sufficient depth.

The fundamental point is that, in a book devoted to the symposion, the author does not try to put forward and to deploy a sufficiently specific definition of the symposion and adopts instead a very vague one 3 that makes it extremely difficult to assess historical changes of this institution over the centuries of its popularity (the author focuses in this book on a particular historical period, but on different occasions deals with earlier history of the symposion, too – cf. e.g. pp. 61-70). A concomitant problem – and a crucial issue when defining the symposion – is the definition of the "sympotic group" itself, namely of the social group (or groups) enjoying the symposion in different historical periods.

Strangely enough, this issue is never straightforwardly addressed in the book. Although Catoni repeatedly discusses the social standing of the producers of the sympotic pottery, she does not reflect on the (changing) nature and social composition of the archaic aristocracy as the "sympotic group", nor on possible ways in which the so-called kakoi could have advanced to its ranks. As a result, her analyses seem to be based on a somewhat simplistic "great divide" between the aristocrats and lower social circles (the latter featuring banausoi, or artisans from the Athenian Kerameikos). Meanwhile, in recent scholarship, questions have been raised, on the one hand, about the purely and exclusively aristocratic character of archaic symposia.4 On the other hand, some scholars have long emphasized the high rate of vertical social mobility in the archaic period, in particular that resulting in the unstability and fluidity of aristocratic circles.5 The latter approach makes it difficult to treat "aristocracy" as a homogeneous, stable, and well-defined group in opposition to other groups of archaic citizenry, and leads to the conclusion that "aristocratic" claims were open to all those who could afford the "aristocratic lifestyle" in both its material and cultural aspects. And this theory may seriously affect the problem of the "sympotic" aspirations and ambitions of the late archaic Athenian potters and vase-painters. To put it briefly, even without coming from noble Athenian families, some of them, if economically successful and competent in the sympotic lifestyle, might have effectively aspired to the aristocratic status.

The book's construction is rather complex. The narrative is dense, the thematic lines intertwined, and the main bulk of the text is completed by sometimes very lengthy endnotes, which at times unnecessarily repeat parts of the argument from the main text (cf., e.g., p. 161-162 with p. 397/n. 117). The quality of the plates is generally far from excellent because of the texture of the paper used, which does not facilitate the reading of a work devoted to the iconography of vase painting. But this, I presume, is the cost to be paid for the reasonable price that makes this book available to a larger public. Otherwise, Bere vino puro is a carefully edited book with only rare misprints.

Despite the critical general remarks above, there can be no doubt that this valuable book by Maria Luisa Catoni will become a cherished treasury of information and of stimulating interpretations for every student of the symposion, and also an indispensable tool for students of archaic Greek culture in general.


1.   In Slater ed., Dining in a Classical Context (Ann Arbor, MI, 1991), p. 1.
2.   See already M. Vickers, "Artful Crafts: the Influence of Metalwork on Athenian Painted Pottery", JHS 105 (1985), 108-128.
3.   Overall, Catoni describes the symposion without defining it precisely. A more detailed discussion of the distinctive features of the symposion is relegated to n. 73 on p. 376, where it occurs only in connection with the problem of the nature of banquets in Homer. The problem of inferring historical unity from sources that span several centuries is only touched upon, in a rather inconclusive manner, when the author discusses different methodological problems of "reading" sympotic iconography (p. 115).
4.   See e.g. D. Yatromanolakis, "Symposia, Noses, Πρόσωπα: A Kylix in the Company of Banqueters on the Ground", in D. Yatromanolakis ed., An Archaeology of Representations: Ancient Greek Vase-Painting and Contemporary Methodologies. (Athens, 2009), 414-464. To put it briefly, Yatromanolakis argues for the existence of "non- aristocratic" symposia in the archaic period. I am not persuaded by his argument, but it is worth considering, if only to be rejected based on a detailed definition of the symposion and of the "sympotic group".
5.   See esp. B. Bravo, "Areté e ricchezza nella polis dell'età arcaica secondo le testimonianze dei poeti", Index 17 (1989), 47-79 and eiusdem, "Una società legata alla terra", in S. Settis ed., I Greci. Storia cultura arte società, 2: Una storia greca, I: Formazione. (Torino, 1996), 527-560. Catoni seems to be in agreement with this scholarly approach (see briefly on p. 140 of her book), but does not apply it consistently. Symptomatically, she quotes A. Duplouy's excellent work on the "modes of social recognition [of the archaic élites]" (Le prestige des élites. Recherches sur les modes de reconnaisance sociale en Grèce entre les Xe et Ve siècles avant J.-C.. (Paris, 2006)) only a few times in relation to some secondary issues.

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Maurizio Bettini, Affari di famiglia: la parentela nella letteratura e nella cultura antica. Saggi, 724. Bologna: il Mulino, 2009. Pp. 381. ISBN 9788815133151. €28.00.

Reviewed by Carmine Pisano, Università di Napoli Federico II (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

Affari di famiglia is a collection of essays, some already published, some published for the first time here, which are a testament to Maurizio Bettini's "long allegiance" to the 'forms of kinship' theme, which "has always constituted one of the focal points of anthropological studies" (p. 7). Bettini approaches the question of kinship in ancient literature and culture "under the aegis of the discipline that bears the name of anthropology of the ancient world" (p. 9). He attributes to philology the same function carried out by 'field work' in cultural anthropology, using the analysis of ancient texts as an 'informant'. Philological and anthropological study of types of kinship, and the cultural expressions which they contribute to producing, allows the author to "reach the very heart of a society" (p. 7).

The discussion is introduced by an extensive overview of Roman kinship, and is divided into three parts.

The first part ('Kinship and society') consists of six studies mainly concentrating on Rome. A careful linguistic analysis 'On the Roman terminology for cousins' is followed by a historical-anthropological study of the prohibition of marrying one's cousin, which "from ancient Rome to Grazia Deledda" represents an insuperable taboo, if not a partial definition of European cultural identity against Others. Bettini explores the attitudes of western culture to marriage between cousins, analysing the positions of Augustine, Marco Polo and James George Frazer. While Marco Polo relegates marriage between cousins to the category of sinful and bestial behaviour typical of the Others, Augustine and Frazer both make an effort to understand the reasons behind a matrimonial custom attributed by Old Testament tradition to the biblical patriarchs. The need to explain a 'naturally' repugnant practice, shared with the very fathers of European civilisation, is the basis of Frazer's theory concerning the 'bartering of women' and Augustine's notion of religiosa cura, which is believed to have led the antiqui patres to marry women of the same bloodline so as to 're-tie' links of kinship, at a time when these bonds were in danger of becoming looser as a result of the growth of humanity and of the division of human races.

The image of the kinship as a network of relationships returns in Chapter 3, in which Bettini studies the practices of the ploratio of the parens and of the consecratio of the puer to divi parentum. The scholar recognises these mysterious divinities as the group of divinised ancestors, who have the function of revenging the parentes who have suffered domestic or sexual violence. Transgressors of the family rules, consecrati to the divi parentum, are "put into the full possession" of these gods, who regulate behaviour within the family of the living in the form of their kinship with the dead. Chapter 4, instead, is dedicated to the human parentes. The author explains the semantic evolution of the term from the Latin, in which it designates 'progenitors' or 'ancestors', to the Romance languages, in which it designates the 'relatives' in general, in the light of the Roman ritual called parentatio. This rite, celebrated on the tombs of the deceased, takes its name from the expression parens!, with which the deceased person was invoked. Bettini observes how the use of such an expression shows an internal contradiction in Roman funerary ideology. The logic of the parentatio presupposes the 'natural' order of the death (iustum funus), according to which the deceased should belong to the older generations of the ancestors/parentes; in reality, however, death does not respect the iustum funus, for which reason the title of parentes was commonly extended in the practice of the ritual to all dead invoked, including collaterals and descendants. The abusio of the term is seen in vernacular outcomes of the word parentes, which originally designated 'dead relatives' and later indicated the general set of 'relatives', both dead and alive.

The first part of the book closes with two chapters of a methodological nature, in which Bettini confronts the problems posed by the transformation of ancient 'texts' into 'sources' used in the studies of social history and the question of the existence of similar beliefs among populations distant in time and space. The scholar analyses the case of the biological theory according to which the bones come from the father and the flesh from the mother: this is a widely spread belief, from Tibet to the Caucasus, from Egypt to Greece and Rome. Traditional research explains the presence of this belief in the furthest corners of the earth with the 'diffusion' of a specific notion coming from a specific place. On the basis of studies by Alexander Goldenweiser and Françoise Héritier-Augé, Bettini suggests that the belief originated independently in the various different cultural settings through the use of "limited cognitive elements" (p. 148). The anthropological theory of 'limited possibilities' (i.e. of possibilities limited by "contraintes" of situational context and cultural habits) explains how different cultures have been able to respond to the same question ("How is a foetus generated?") in a similar way, through the 'paternal bone/maternal flesh' model.

The second part ('Kinship and literature') explores the ample presence of kinship themes within Latin literature. "Counting grades of consanguinity is a pleasure", states Ovid (Heroides 8, 47), but still more important is keeping them distinct. Or at least this is what the stories of Oedipus and Phaedra teach. In his Oedipus, Seneca presents incest through Iris' divinatory sign, thus establishing the association rainbow/incest upon the cultural logic of 'confounding', of 'knotting'or 'intertwining': incest confounds and intertwines the parental roles just as the rainbow confounds and intertwines the colours. The isotopy of 'intertwining' does not only unite rainbow and incest but also incest and enigma: the two leading themes of the myth of Oedipus. Parting from Aristotle's definition of the ainígmatos idéa (Poetica 1458a), Bettini demonstrates that incest, like enigma, links adúnata, i.e. things that, at least in appearance, cannot be linked. Incest and enigma are equivalent in that they confound opposites, joining things which the anthropological code keeps distinct. In the case of Oedipus, the elements that are confounded are the roles of mother and son. It is more difficult to understand where incestuous confounding lies in the case of Hippolytus and Phaedra, between whom there is no direct blood relationship. The words of reproof and admonishment that the nurse uses to berate Phaedra in Seneca's play ("you started to mix the bed of the father with that of the son and to welcome into your impious womb a confounded child?") reveal the existence of a 'primitive biology' in Roman culture, which viewed the female womb as "a sort of receptacle, terrain for cultivation, in which the male seed germinates and develops" (p. 233). Mixing the bed of Theseus with that of Hippolytus, Phaedra would end up mixing their respective seeds in her womb and would facilitate a 'monstrously' fecund homosexual relationship between father and son: "in loving Hippolytus," Bettini concludes, "Phaedra would so much be committing incest herself, as making it occur between others" (p. 237).

Roman culture is particularly sensitive to the dangers of altering the traditional kinship structure. This is the basis of the rule that prohibited women from drinking wine. Wine-drinking was felt to be a contributing factor in adultery, and, as such, likely to affect the entire kinship group to which the woman belonged. But wine-drinking also meant abandoning the province of Ceres, the goddess of woman's seed, and entering into that of Liber, the god of man's seed (Augustine, De civitate dei 7, 16). The province of Liber was viewed as a definitively 'male' domain, from which women were excluded without appeal: in Rome it was the male kin, up to and including the sixth grade, who, through the ius osculi (the 'rite of the kiss' on the mouth), took on the role of controlling whether women "smelled of wine".

Another problem of 'fusion' lies at the centre of Chapter 11. But this time it does not deal with the possible fusion of two kinship roles, but rather the modalities of fusion of two distinct bloodlines: Trojans and Latins. At the end of the Aeneid Juno asks Jupiter to allow the Latins, when the Trojans and Latins marry each other, to keep their own names, their own language and their own customs rather than inheriting those of the Trojans. The request of the goddess must have appeared decidedly surprising to contemporary readers, who believed that children inherited the status, bloodline and identity of their fathers. Should Juno's wish be granted, the Trojan patres would find themselves in the position of matres, destined not to transmit their own characteristic identity to their descendents. Bettini shows how Jupiter granted his wife's request, but at the same time found a compromise to save the paternal role of the Trojans. Aeneas has not one, but two, lines of descendents: a pure Trojan bloodline, from which, through Ascanius/Iulus, both the Romans and the Iulii descend; and a mixed bloodline to which the Latins belong. The genealogical stratagem adopted by Virgil allows for 'reserving' an authentic Trojan descent to Romans and Iulii, whose identity is built on their differentiation from their Latin 'cousins'. Thus, the ideological and celebratory intent of the poem becomes evident, as Bettini argues: if the Romans are of the bloodline of Iulus, it means that for them there cannot be "a better descended princely family than the Iulii" (p. 300).

The third part throws 'A glance at Greece' and contains two essays. In the first, Bettini analyses the term hētheîos "from the point of view of linguistic pragmatism". The scholar demonstrates that hētheîos is not a generic term of endearment ('dear'), but rather points to a real and concrete term of kinship, which shows a sort of oblique relationship (from low to high) between two poles of communication. The appellative hētheîos is used by someone who greets a relative considered 'more important' or 'more authoritative'. At the same time, hētheîos provides information about the kinship role of the speaker and the type of relationship which exists between the two people involved in the linguistic interaction. The second essay is dedicated to a passage of Sophocles' Antigone, in which the heroine declares the reasons that led her to bury the body of her brother Polynices "against the will of the citizens". Antigone explains that what she has done for her brother she would have done neither for her husband nor for her children: in fact, she could have found another husband; she could have given birth to new children; however, there is no way, now that her parents are dead, that she would have been able to have a new brother. The words of the Sophoclean heroine offer Bettini the opportunity for a long excursus into the universe of the "kinship dilemmas", arguing that "the reasons given for the resolution of the dilemma" can "reveal hidden aspects of the social structure which has generated them" (p. 327). The scholar recognises that behind Antigone's reasoning there is the cultural model of 'replaceability', for which certain kinship roles are considered more important than others in that they are 'irreplaceable'. Antigone thinks of kinship as "a chessboard in which some pawns may be replaced and others not" (p. 338).

The book is furnished with a comprehensive and up-to-date bibliography and with an accurate index of names, which allow readers to find their way around the documentary material and the research pathways very easily. If the study of forms of kinship is one of the preferred methods of "reaching the very heart of a society", we may conclude that Bettini reaches his target with a certainty of method and brilliant results.

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Monday, November 28, 2011


Iris Sulimani, Diodorus' Mythistory and the Pagan Mission: Historiography and Culture-heroes in the First Pentad of the Bibliotheke. Mnemosyne supplements. Monographs on Greek and Latin language and literature, 331. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2011. Pp. xv, 409. ISBN 9789004194069. $192.00.

Reviewed by Aude Cohen-Skalli, Université de Nice - Sophia Antipolis (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

Si d'innombrables études isolées ont pris en examen les livres mythologiques de la Bibliothèque Historique, la monographie d'Iris Sulimani, version remaniée d'une thèse soutenue en 2004 à l'Université hébraïque de Jérusalem, offre à présent une analyse portant sur l'ensemble de la première pentade. Elle laisse de côté le livre VI qui venait toutefois conclure le spatium mythicum traité dans la première hexade :1 un tel choix, peut- être lié au caractère fragmentaire de ce dernier livre, s'oppose toutefois à l'unité historiographique établie par l'historien. Au sein des deux tendances qui sous-tendent la critique diodoréenne, l'une montrant la dépendance de Diodore envers ses sources, l'autre mettant en valeur l'apport original de l'historien – une dialectique que les recherches les plus récentes sur l'historien inviteront à dépasser ? –, Sulimani se situe très nettement dans la seconde branche : comme l'auteur l'affirme elle-même (p. XIII), et comme il ressort de l'ouvrage, Sulimani lit résolument Diodore comme une source pleinement ancrée dans l'époque hellénistique, le confrontant à chaque fois avec les sources grecques et latines contemporaines. Pour les sources latines, en particulier, qui étaient jusqu'ici très rarement prises en compte, l'approche de Sulimani est donc novatrice. Par conséquent, Sulimani fait un usage récurrent de la bibliographie portant sur cette période spécifique de l'hellénisme, qu'elle emploie au moins autant que la bibliographie diodoréenne : elle consulte ainsi certaines études historiques rarement citées d'ordinaire dans les recherches sur Diodore.

La monographie est très nettement divisée en deux parties, qui constituent deux points de vue différents adoptés sur un seul sujet, un même corpus, celui des six « culture-heroes » choisis par Sulimani comme objet d'analyse tout au long de sa monographie (Osiris, Sésostris, Sémiramis, Myrina, Dionysos et Héraclès). Ces six figures civilisatrices sont envisagées comme des figures « missionnaires » (p. 15-17). La première partie a trait à la méthode de Diodore : elle regroupe trois chapitres sur les caractéristiques de son historiographie (p. 19-162). Sulimani y examine de quelle façon sont traités ces six personnages mythiques au sein de l'histoire universelle. La seconde partie, intitulée « Myth and History in Diodorus' first five books » (p. 163-347), passe à l'examen systématique les différentes étapes de leurs voyages : dans une évaluation répétée, sans cesse renouvelée, de ce qui, au sein de ces six journeys, serait bien réaliste (aux yeux de Diodore) ou à l'inverse le fruit de son invention (interrogation qu'elle pose avant d'y répondre négativement), Sulimani tâche en quelque sorte d'interroger le degré d'historicité que revêtent le cadre de ces voyages et l'action de ces figures. De façon générale, la monographie effectue constamment le lien (sur le plan de la structure et des motifs d'écriture) entre livres mythologiques et historiques, en particulier ceux qui ont trait à l'époque hellénistique : en somme, Sulimani envisage les livres I-V dans tout ce qu'ils peuvent avoir de programmatique.2

Le premier chapitre (p. 21-55) fournit un certain nombre d'outils pour le lecteur voulant s'informer sur les caractéristiques du genre dans lequel s'inscrit la Bibliothèque, la κοινὴ ἱστορία : Sulimani nous rappelle que si Diodore, certes, n'a pas inventé l'histoire universelle, il fournit toutefois une lecture personnelle du genre. Une analyse des critères établis dans le prooemium et de leur application dans l'œuvre permet à Sulimani de conclure à l'originalité de la démarche de l'historien, qu'elle compare aux autres auteurs de κοιναὶ ἱστορίαι – modèles de Diodore, ou d'autres sources (tels Salluste, Virgile). L'analyse de l'architecture spatio-temporelle de la Bibliothèque, fournissant au lecteur des repères utiles, repose en grande partie sur des considérations d'ordre stylistique ou structurel (notamment les renvois internes qui parcourent la Bibliothèque). La tendance stoïcisante qui la sous-tend n'est qu'évoquée par Sulimani (p. 24-25) : elle est en réalité en arrière-plan de toute l'œuvre, comme l'a brillamment montré G. Wirth.3 Et, thème central de la monographie de Sulimani, le bienfait, l'εὐεργεσία, ne peut lui-même être étranger au stoïcisme.

Un second chapitre (p. 57-108) parcourt la série des sources qui ont été utilisées par Diodore dans les chapitres décrivant les six culture-heroes bienfaiteurs de l'humanité. Pour aborder une question aussi complexe que celle des sources, Sulimani distingue systématiquement et schématiquement deux niveaux, grâce à l'étude de « motifs » : si un motif n'apparaît qu'à une seule reprise dans la Bibliothèque (ou dans des passages que l'on suppose provenir d'une même source), il serait propre à la source utilisée par Diodore dans un passage donné ; s'il parcourt à l'inverse l'ensemble de l'œuvre (voir les tableaux fournis par Sulimani sur le « wording » dans toute la Bibliothèque, cf. p. 65-67), il témoignerait de « Diodorus' independent work ». En réalité, une analyse de cet ordre est difficilement tenable, si elle se restreint à l'étude de motifs : certes, Sulimani insiste à raison sur certains « motifs » typiquement hellénistiques (qui rapprochent en effet la description de nos six figures de certaines figures de l'époque hellénistique), mais l'attribution d'un bloc de certains chapitres à certaines sources pose parfois d'importantes difficultés. Ces sources (tels Hécatée, Ctésias, Denys Skytobrachion), sont elles-mêmes fragmentaires et leurs éditeurs, récemment, ont pu s'interroger sur l'insertion de tel ou tel passage de Diodore dans les reliquiae de leurs éditions : ainsi, au sujet de Sémiramis, parmi les paragraphes cités par Sulimani dans sa démonstration (p. 61-62), D. Lenfant n'édite pas, par exemple, Diod. II, 10, 5 et 12, 1 dans les fragments de Ctésias, et refuse expressément de faire remonter Diod. II, 16, 4 à l'historien de Cnide.4 Il conviendrait ainsi de recourir aux éditions récentes et de valeur, et de mentionner en outre la numérotation des fragments pris en considération.

Le troisième chapitre (p. 109-162) porte sur la méthode de travail de l'historien et fournit des éléments utiles à la lecture de tous les livres de la Bibliothèque : Sulimani y étudie la façon dont le matériel se suit dans l'ordre du récit. Pour cela, elle revient en particulier sur les renvois internes, sur la façon dont sont exposées les variantes, sur les exigences de συμμετρία propres à l'historien, sur la manière dont sont ménagées les transitions, sur les préfaces et les conclusions des différents livres (avec une attention particulière portée au livre I). En somme, Sulimani s'arrête sur tous ces passages charnières, d'ordre historiographique, qui constituent des pauses dans la διήγησις. Elle s'y demande à chaque fois si Diodore a bel et bien suivi le « programme » qui est le sien.

La deuxième partie de la monographie, qui pose cette fois des questions « de contenu », interroge l'exactitude des données historiques qui sont livrées dans le récit de ces six voyages. Le chapitre 4 (p. 165-227) examine leurs aspects géographiques, à travers l'étude d'un certain nombre de sites et de parcours effectués par ces bienfaiteurs. Sulimani montre que les sites évoqués n'ont pas été « imaginés » par Diodore mais sont bien « réels » – aurait-il pu toutefois les inventer ? Le présupposé fait peut-être difficulté –, mais constituent aussi des échos à nombre d'épisodes de l'histoire hellénistique : ainsi, les sites décrits dans ces journeys sont « authentiques » (Hécatompylos, par exemple correspond à Capsa, p. 171-175), mais en outre, le voyage de Sémiramis, par exemple, imiterait celui d'Alexandre. En réalité, on peut se demander si la perspective n'est pas ici renversée, et si, comme cela a déjà été proposé, ce ne serait pas Sémiramis qui aurait servi de modèle à Alexandre en Inde, Alexandre voulant s'en faire l'émule.5 Sulimani montre en tout cas que Diodore fournissait ainsi, dans la première pentade, une introduction géographique à son œuvre. Il ne fait donc aucun doute que Diodore doit être classé parmi les historiens « who wrote geography as well » (p. 226), mais les rapprochements entre ses descriptions et les considérations cartographiques qui viennent clore le chapitre surprennent quelque peu : « the journeys of Diodorus' heroes could be regarded as a guide for tourists if not as a written map per se » (p. 227).

Le chapitre 5 (p. 229-306) revient sur le thème qui rapproche les six figures du corpus, ce que Sulimani nomme la « pagan mission », que l'on pourrait considérer, en somme, leur dimension évergète. Ils aident l'humanité de plusieurs manières, en lui prodiguant différents types de biens ou lui délivrant certains messages : ainsi, ils aident au développement de l'agriculture, fondent des cités, instaurent de nouveaux cultes, établissent des régimes politiques. Ici aussi, Sulimani rappelle (à la suite de Sartori)6 que Diodore a modelé l'action de ses personnages sur celle de figures de l'époque hellénistique. En particulier, pour un rapprochement entre les figures de Dionysos et d'Alexandre, il faudrait ajouter l'étude capitale de P. Goukowksy, qui y a consacré le second tome de son Essai sur les origines du mythe d'Alexandre (Nancy, 1978).

Le dernier chapitre du livre (p. 307-333) adopte un autre point de vue, celui du lien instauré entre les protagonistes et les bénéficiaires de ces bienfaits : Diodore décrit rarement cet aspect, comme le souligne Sulimani, mais certaines informations données au cours de la Bibliothèque peuvent éclairer la nature de ce rapport. Sulimani interroge l'opposition que les « missionnaires » ont pu rencontrer dans leurs actions, et la modération dont ils font preuve après reddition de leurs adversaires : celle-ci, une fois encore, fait écho à la politique contemporaine, la clementia Caesaris, et, de façon générale, l'idée de la clémence du comportement du dirigeant renvoie à la politique d'Alexandre le Grand et de Jules César, qui sont les deux figures principales sur lesquelles sont modelées celles des six missionnaires choisies dans son corpus. Le volume s'achève sur une conclusion (p. 335-347) qui revient sur tous ces échos avec l'époque hellénistique.

L'analyse de la phraséologie tient une place de taille dans l'étude, mais elle ne saurait si souvent avoir valeur de preuve pour démontrer les renvois entre deux passages : le style de Diodore est de toute façon très formulaire, et on ne peut donc être surpris que Diodore se répète ici et là. Ces renvois pourraient être alimentés par des arguments de fond, et la formule ἐπανῆλθε μετὰ τῆς δυνάμεως εἰς Βάκτρα τῆς Ἀσίας (appliquée à Sémiramis en II, 16, 1) ne peut à elle seule suffire à établir la comparaison avec Alexandre, en XVII, 52, 7, ἐπανῆλθε μετὰ τῆς δυνάμεως εἰς τὴν Συρίαν (p. 169). De façon générale, on regrette que trop d'attention soit portée à la forme, à la structure, à la méthode employée par Diodore pour décrire ces six voyages mythiques : une analyse de forme, qui frise la surinterprétation, devient inévitablement répétitive ou schématique, si elle ne se nourrit pas, en amont, d'une analyse de fond sur les influences de Diodore dans cette description de figures évergètes (certes empreintes des caractéristiques de quelques grandes figures de l'hellénisme), sur la philosophie éclectique qui est en arrière-plan, sur l'importance de la notion d'évergétisme à cette époque en particulier : en quoi, par exemple, la tendance de Diodore est-elle ici manifestement stoïcisante ? En quoi et comment l'historien emprunte-t-il à différentes doctrines qui se répandent précisément à cette époque de l'hellénisme ? Le bienfait porté aux autres hommes, sujet essentiel de cette monographie et thème effectivement central dans l'ensemble de la Bibliothèque, est aussi l'une des expressions possibles de la φιλανθρωπία stoïcienne, qui se décline et trouve ses variantes dans l'ἐπιείκεια, la φρόνησις et l'εὐσέβεια, comme l'a montré G. Wirth (p. 16-27). Pour cela, plusieurs sources hellénistiques pouvaient certes fournir à Diodore matière à son propos, des sources assez proches par leurs pensées, Hécatée, Mégasthène, Denys Skytobrachion, ou, en particulier, Évhémère de Messène : dans la description des culture-heroes qui furent divinisés, Diodore met en place un « dispositif typiquement évhémériste »,7 qui informe finalement l'ensemble des six premiers livres de la Bibliothèque.


1.   L. Porciani, « Eforo e i proemi di Diodoro. Per una ridefinizione del modello storiografico », in Eforo di Cuma nella storia della storiografia greca, sous presse.
2.   Diodore a lui-même expliqué en quoi le spatium mythicum constitue un prélude à l'histoire (I, 4, 6).
3.   Cf. G. Wirth, Diodor und das Ende des Hellenismus, Vienne, 1993.
4.   D. Lenfant (éd.), Ctésias de Cnide, Paris, 2004.
5.   B. Eck (éd.), Bibliothèque Historique. Livre II, Paris, 2003, XV-XVII.
6.   M. Sartori, « Storia, "utopia" e mito nei primi libri della Bibliotheca Historica di Diodoro Siculo », Athenaeum 72, 1984, 492-536.
7.   Ph. Borgeaud, « Préface », in J. Auberger, A. Bianquis, Ph. Borgeaud (éd.), Diodore de Sicile. Mythologie des Grecs, Paris, 2004, IX-XXVII.

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Ettore Cingano (ed.), Tra panellenismo e tradizioni locali: generi poetici e storiografia. Hellenica, 34. Alessandria: Edizioni dell'Orso, 2010. Pp. x, 596. ISBN 9788862742061. €70.00 (pb).

Reviewed by John Van Sickle, Brooklyn College and Graduate School, CUNY (

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Table of Contents

In a brief preface to the twenty articles, the editor describes long collaboration with Paola Angeli Bernardini, Antonio Aloni, and younger colleagues on the fragmentary evidence for interplay between panhellenic and local traditions, focusing on the archaic and classical periods, not without some reach to Hellenistic and later material.

"Storie cretesi, ovvero altre storie: tra Idomeneus e i suoi parenti": Alberto Camerotto (carrying on from Fritz Graf) defines myth as an open web, adaptable in place and time. He traces the relative strength and weakness of Idomeneus as one of Helen's suitors, and his reported safe return, complicated in later traditions, with its parallels in the five false Cretan tales in the Odyssey, testimony to the traditions of Crete as a window to further worlds and a resultant font of stories.

"Diomede, la poesia epica e le tradizioni argive": Carlo Brillante argues that the Homeric catalogue of ships shows the influence of local traditions favoring Argos over Mycenae, assigning even Tiryns to Diomedes. He uses the specific local bias as a warning against the concept of a linear progress of ever expanding panhellenism, faulted for a certain rigidity.

"Differenze di età e altre peculiarità narrative in Omero e nel ciclo epico": Cingano reviews the epic cycle as a whole (eleven poems, including Homer's), reducing the entire heroic age to four or five generations, from Oedipus and his father to Achilles and his son, documenting the paradoxical case of the latter pair and their interface with another son-father duo, Telephus and Euripylus, as well as the controversial rapport between Patroclus and Achilles.

"La saga degli Alfeidi e l'epos messenico": Alpheus the river, his progeny and their links with Messene are treated by Damiana Baldassarra, tracing the river's origin back to Ouranos and Gaia through Tethys and Ocean; Alph's undersea flow to the spring Arethusa in Sicily a mytheme that joins the Peloponnese to Sicily with ideological point. The variant that Arethusa to escape the river fled from Arcadia to Syracuse Baldassarra attributes to Ovid, forgetting that Virgil used it with an original chronotope (ecl. 10, with mythic variants reported by Servius), placing her at home in Arcadia at a time before her flight, thus prior in mythic time to her location in Sicily by Theocritus (id. 1).

In "Esiodo a simposio. La performance delle Opere e Giorni," Aloni conducts a detailed critique of recent scholarship and close reading of the Works and Days . He concludes that "Hesiod" as much as "Homer" is a generic label not a personal name and demonstrates that the text bears signs of local agrarian interests in Ascra opposed to encroachment (synoikism) by neighboring Thespis and of sympotic performance for this select group: hints of local tradition that he finds confirmed by Pausanias' surprise at how Hesiod was represented at Ascra (9.29.1-4), not with a laurel staff as in the panhellenic Theogony, but with a sympotic lyre, and only as the poet of the Works and Days , inscribed on lead without a proem.

"L'ehoia di Egina e le Asopidi nel Catalogo delle donne esiodeo": Marta Cardin treats yet another set of riverine myths, Asopus, the name of four streams, figured as the great-grandfather of Alcinoos and Arete, but also great-great grandfather of Achilles, through, Peleus, Aeakus, Aegina, a daughter of the river. Availing herself of research by Cingano and others, she argues that the descendants of Asopus closed the fourth book of the Catalogue of Women, giving prominence to Peleus' marriage with Thetis, from which stemmed the discord recorded in the fifth book, Helen's Suitors, prefiguring Zeus' plan to extirpate the race of heroes.

"L'Ode 11 di Bacchilide: il mito delle Pretidi nella lirica corale, nella poesia epica e nella mitografia": Bruno Currie reviews the widespread Peloponnesian myth concerning the daughters of Proetus, their bovine fantasy famously contrasted with Pasiphaë's taurine fancy by Virgil (Proetides, ecl. 6.48-51), detailing hints of pressure from the local contexts of performance.

Orcomeno, Ascra e l'epopea regionale 'minore': Andrea Debiasi navigates speculative shoals with regard to Hesiod's remains, contested in epigrams, one assigned to Chersias, also the likely author of a local epos, the Miniade, shown to have included Meleager, Theseus, Pirithoos, Heracles, perhaps Orpheus too: the putative tale is compared with another epos reconstituted from exiguous remains and elusive traces in Pausanias, an Atthis by Hegesinus, itself compared with the ghost of a Corinthiaca by Eumelus.

"La geografia mitica delle imprese di Alcmeone dalla poesia epica alla tragedia": Oretta Olivieri recounts the vicissitudes of Alcmeon, who murdered his mother, Eryphyle, who had betrayed his father, Amphiareus, retold in an Alcmeonid, which includes references to Argos, Thebes, Delphi, Aetolia, Psophyde in Arcadia, Acarnana, and Corinth. Olivieri also notes the debated scene where Pindar wrote of meeting, on the way to Delphi, Alcmeon, who touched the poet with his ancestral prophetic arts (Pyth. 8.56-60).

"PSI 1386 e le fonti sul giudizio di Paride": Claudio Meliadò suggests a working hypothesis that the papyrus describes a scene in the Cypria, after the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, when Zeus orders the quarreling goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite to submit to judgment by the Trojan cowherd Paris, a motif itself directly reported and still debated.

"Su alcuni frammenti papiracei in esametri relativi a Eracle e Perseo": Giuseppe Ucciardelli writes that published collections of anonymous papyrus scraps of dactylic hexameter poetry omit not insignificant fragments worth study. He focuses on P. Berol. 9870 and 9871, to which he relates P. Ryl. 32 by comparing the manner of writing and sniffing out a motif of founding heroes slaying monsters, which served ideological agenda in the Hellenistic world (not to mention the ideologies of Indo-European kings killing snakes, although Calvert Watkins' How to Kill a Dragon is absent from the copious bibliography).

"Eracle: una biografia eroica tra epos arcaico, poesia lirica e tradizioni locali": Paola Angeli Bernardini in a masterful synthesis describes the unique importance of Heracles as the quintessential emblem of Greek manhood—tireless traveller, explorer, defender against evils, founder, both international and regional (panhellenic and epichoric)— not taken as a mythic forebear by aristocracy but appropriated rather for particular regions and cities. Her core study focuses on the hero's city of birth, Thebes, his first exploits, and perhaps greatest celebrant, Pindar, although she casts her net widely and systematically, reviewing Homeric and Hesiodic epos, minor epos, mythography and lyric, to come to Bacchylides and Pindar and to an increasing shift from the panhellenic paradigm to lore of the particular polis, confirmed by the recent find of a shrine to Heracles at Thebes. She closes by underlining the 5th C. emphasis on the hero's flawed humanity, ripe for tragic revision.

"Oracoli esametrici a Corinto arcaica tra epos e tradizione orale": Maurizio Giangiulio locates the oracles concerning the Corinthian tyrant Cypselus as contemporary ideology, their political message conveyed by their close intertextual bonds with the Iliad (13.136-40; 15.592-631) portraying the tyrant as terrible, yet dealing justice with power benevolent and divine.

"Tra storia ed epos: il donario degli Apolloniati a Olimpia (Paus. 5.22.2-4)": Claudia Antonetti evokes a group of sculptures (bronzes, cf. Riace) representing Thetis and Dawn entreating Zeus on behalf of their battling sons, Achilles and Memnon, flanked by pairs of Greek and Trojan heroes: the whole dedicated at Olympia by the city of Apollonia (Epirus, now Albania) and commemorating a victory over a now lost site, but asserting alliance with Corinth as well as territorial control.

"II racconto mitico fra tradizione iconografica e tradizione poetica: il pensiero dei moderni e il modello simonideo": Sara Brunori furnishes welcome illustrations from vase painting to argue that painters shaped their own variants of crucial moments from epos, often combining in one frame scenes separate in narrative time and space; she describes, e.g., the judgment of Paris, the duel of Achilles with Penthesilea, and one vase showing Menelaus reclaiming Helen while Neoptolemus kills both Priam and his grandson, Astyanax. Luigi Bravi examines the slim association of Simonides with the cognitive scheme ut pictura poesis, although the Latin does not figure in his discussion.

"Forbante auriga e compagno di Teseo": Paola Dolcetti selects from the range of heroes called Phorbas (17 in Roscher) one reported as the charioteer and comrade of Theseus, providing a review of the often tenuous evidence for a mytheme that she seeks to link with political phases in Athens, attracted to Theseus especially in the age of Cimon.

"Il. Parv. fr. 21 Bernabé e la Gorgo di Simia di Rodi": Marco Perale makes dextrous use of stemmata codicum to disentangle confused references by Tzetzes to the suppositious destiny of Andromache and Aeneas, booty of Neoptolemus, going on with careful navigation through scholarly shallows to tease out the Gorgo of Simias, assigning to it a link between myths of flight by the Pleiades and Aeneas, the latter figured as great- grandson (via Anchises and Dardanus) of the Pleiad Electra.

"II mito di Telefo nell'epos ellenistico: l'Epyllium Telephi, fr. ep. adesp. 3 Powell": Alessandra Pellin studies the Telephus epyllion (P. Oxy. 214). She identifies the female voice as Antioche, wife of Telephus, pleading on behalf of her son, Euripylus, who will die at Troy; and she employs strenuous metrical and stylistic analysis yet does not assign authorship.

II 'punto di vista' di Zeus. Narratore onnisciente e narrazione oggettiva nell'epica e nella storiografia": Marco Dorati remarks how Lucian compares the shifting viewpoints of the historian to those of Zeus observing divers battles in divers lands. Dorati directs his analysis to focalization, persona, and object, which he develops with reference to the narratological theory of Genette. He turns then to omniscience and objectivity in historians, glancing at what and how Calypso and Odysseus know and tell, closing with a brief survey of history writing, which (unlike poetry) presupposes inquiry and research, moving from constant presence as ethnographer and storyteller (Herodotus) to potential and largely absent witness (Thucydides [e.g., dialogue at Melos]), to varied blends in Xenophon and Ctesias.

"Epica, identità ed erudizione: il caso dell'Asia Minore in età imperiale": Carlo Franco documents the role of epos as shared memory for the Greek cities in Asia Minor as they defined their place in the empire of Rome through public oratory, inscriptions, coins, and festivals.

An index of passages cited concludes. The results, reporting a wide range of scholarship and assembling dispersed texts for astute analysis, will be a useful tool for specialists. I was surprised to find how often I referred to one or another of these pieces in the course of classroom discussion this term.

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Michel Foucault, The Government of Self and Others: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1982-1983. Edited by Frédéric Gros; translated by Graham Burchell. New York: Picador, 2011. Pp. xx, 402. ISBN 9780312572921. $20.00.

Reviewed by Christopher Forlini, Free University Berlin (

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In January through March of 1983, Michel Foucault delivered a series of lectures at the Collège de France dedicated to parrhesia, which he translates as "truth-telling" (dire-vrai), "free-spokenness" (franc- parler), and "free speech" (p. 42f.). He begins by describing parrhesia as a focal point of experience: it joins together forms of a possible knowledge, normative frameworks of behavior for subjects and potential modes of being for these subjects (pp. 1-42). In these lectures Foucault examines how truth-telling and the obligation to do so in practices of government show how and what kind of subject the individual is in relation to himself and to others.

The lectures continue the theme of the care of self (epimeleia heautou) explored in The Hermeneutics of the Subject and The History of Sexuality. Foucault's concern is how one can motivate someone to the care of self since appropriate care of self is impossible without the guidance of another person. The guide helps an individual establish a relationship to himself by telling him the truth about himself. Although political, ethical and spiritual aspects inextricably overlap in parrhesia, Foucault concentrates on the activity of truth-telling in politics and the individual who does so. He analyzes examples of democratic parrhesia, e.g. Pericles speaking before the Athenian Assembly, and autocratic parrhesia, e.g. the counselor or philosopher advising the sovereign.

Parrhesia is not just any form of free speech or the mere act of speaking truth but occurs only under specific conditions. In examining Plutarch's Life of Dion 5.8-10, Foucault distinguishes five characteristics (pp. 47- 69):

The tyrant [Dionysius] also accepted Dion's parrhesia, and he was almost the only one who spoke frankly and without fear, as when he reproached Dionysius for his comment about Gelon. Dionysius was mocking Gelon's government, and when he said that Gelon, true to his name, became the laughing stock (gelōs) of Sicily, the others present pretended to laugh, but Dion was disgusted and said: 'You rule the city because men trusted you on account of Gelon; but no one hereafter will be trusted on your account.' Gelon really seems to have made a city under absolute rule a very good thing, but Dionysius a very shameful one.1

First, parrhesia is not factual truth but a sincerely expressed personal conviction and as such opposed to flattery. Second, although it has characteristics in common with demonstration, pedagogy, eristic and rhetoric, it is fundamentally different. Dion does not demonstrate or teach anything; the way he tells Dionysius the truth runs counter to the methods of pedagogy as it is abrupt and one-sided. Both parrhesia and eristic are agonistic. In eristic, however, a discourse prevails by means of argument; Dion does not debate Dionysius but hurls the truth in his face. In contrast to rhetoric, the art of persuasion, parrhesia is a commitment to truth and attempts to convey this as plainly and directly as possible. Third, parrhesia involves an existential commitment. In the act of enunciation, the parrhesiast binds himself to his personal conviction and thereby exposes himself to an unknown risk. (The risk can range from offending an interlocutor to being killed by an unjust tyrant or angry mob.) Fourth, on account of this risk, parrhesia is a courageous act of speaking truth. The parrhesiast's authority is based on his courage and willingness to undergo existential risk, not on his social or institutional status. Finally, parrhesia represents a "dramatics of discourse," in which the act of enunciation affects the speaker's being and identity. He is the "speaker of truth" as he feels an obligation to do so. He is also the critical instance who reproaches, corrects and guides (p. 68).

Foucault's discussion of political parrhesia centers on two major readings: Euripides' Ion and Plato's 7th Letter. He begins with the Ion, which recounts Ion's legendary establishment of Athenian democracy (pp. 75-171). Here democratic parrhesia is implicitly contrasted with isēgoria, the formal right to speak guaranteed to all citizens by a constitution (politeia). Parrhesia belongs to the actual exercise of political power (dynasteia) and is the free speech which operates agonistically between citizens as equals. Yet it introduces an inequality as it will ultimately show who can best exercise political power over others: whoever possesses the qualities of a good citizen in addition to parrhesia will be able to persuade his fellow citizens and influence public affairs. Instead of undermining democracy, the parrhesiast's defense of what he believes to be the common interest will guarantee democracy's existence and proper functioning.

In the Ion, parrhesia is a right and privilege which Ion, tacitly characterized as the responsible and courageous citizen, can aspire to, provided he has Athenian citizenship. In a series of encounters, Ion's Athenian ancestry is revealed; he can now return to Athens and legitimately engage in the game of parrhesia: by honestly saying what he believes to be best for the city, he can be among the influential citizens and exercise power.

Foucault also finds here the rudiments of two other forms of parrhesia, which he briefly mentions: first, the denunciation of an injustice suffered by someone weaker (Creusa) at the hands of someone stronger (Apollo) and second, Creusa's confession of misdeeds to a confidant, which will later become the examination of conscience with a (spiritual) advisor.

Turning next to Athenian political reality before, during and after the Peloponnesian War, Foucault shows more clearly the (fragile) bond between democracy, parrhesia, and isēgoria (pp. 173ff.). Parrhesia presupposes the constitutional equality of isēgoria and both are firmly rooted in democracy. Good parrhesia, at work in a properly functioning democracy, is represented by Pericles; the moral and personal qualities that make him a good citizen and are seen in what he says and how he lives ensure that his voice is heard in the Athenian Assembly and respected. However, the formal equality of isēgoria can easily disrupt this balance; democracy ceases to function when isēgoria blots out parrhesia. The citizen body falls prey to demagogues and is no longer concerned with truth. In Isocrates and Plato parrhesia becomes the license for anyone, even the worst, to speak and, flattering the crowd, gain political influence.

In the transition from the 5th to 4th century B.C., parrhesia undergoes four transformations (pp. 187-197). First, it is no longer confined to democracy but can also occur in autocratic systems. Second, its value has become ambiguous as parrhesia allows both the best and worst to speak and therefore participate in political power; in Isocrates and Plato bad parrhesia led to dysfunctional government. Third, parrhesia develops a psychagogic dimension: in an autocratic system, the parrhesiast's goal is to direct the conduct of the sovereign, who in turn governs others. Fourth, exercising parrhesia becomes primarily the task of the philosopher and not the orator or citizen.

Foucault analyzes Plato's 7th Letter in light of these transformations (pp. 214ff.). Its underlying theme is the "reality" of philosophy, i.e. what it must do in order to test its parrhesiastic nature. In the letter Plato explains his reasons for going to Sicily: philosophy cannot confine itself solely to stating truth in discourse (logos) but must put itself to the test of action (ergon). Philosophy's reality can be found in Plato's engagement in Syracusan politics and confrontation with political power.

In emphasizing ergon over logos, Foucault also finds philosophy's reality in a constant activity of the soul. Philosophy is not the rote memorization of knowledge-content (mathēmata) written down; a person can attain true knowledge only through a continuous "cohabitation" (synousia) with and application of five elements in the cognitive process: name (onoma), definition (logos), image (eidōlon), right opinion and discursive reason (epistēmē), and the thing itself in its own being (nous) (pp. 247-257). Here Plato famously rejects writing as a means of philosophizing because it does not allow the soul to actively work with and through (tribē) its own cognitive abilities to arrive at knowledge.

Knowledge as a constant activity of the soul and philosophy's reality as ergon and not logos enable Foucault to see through the blandness of Plato's political advice and discover what he was really concerned with: the nature and role of the philosopher-king (pp. 259-297). He rejects the philosopher-king's transcendental foundation, i.e. his right and obligation to govern founded on philosophical knowledge. Instead he sees his essence in a specific relationship he has to himself: the philosopher-king acts parrhesiastically when he practices politics and philosophy. In short, he exhibits truth through the way he lives and acts, i.e. his ēthos, and not through what he writes and knows.

Foucault's major contribution is the rediscovery of a notion important in ancient thought yet largely ignored by modern scholarship. His recasting of traditional questions of politics and philosophy in terms of truth-telling, governing the behavior of others as well as oneself, and the subject leads to new readings of oft-interpreted texts. His examination of Plato's 7th Letter is a productive starting point both for a re-reading of several of his major works and for a general reassessment of Platonic philosophy and the transcendental foundation so often evoked in discussions on the ideal city in the Republic.

There are, however, two glaring weaknesses in Foucault's argument, the first of which is the radical difference he sees between rhetoric and parrhesia, rhetoric being indifferent to truth and the orator lacking the harmony between logos and bios constitutive of parrhesia. At best this holds only for Plato's portrayal of Sophistic rhetoric. In contrast, Cicero and Isocrates are concerned with truth and not subjective opinion, albeit a truth which must satisfy the demands of practical action. The orator's ēthos also plays a role in rhetoric's conception of truth; for Foucault the parrhesiast's ēthos guarantees that what he says is understood as really being the truth and not mere opinion. Yet in Aristotle (Rhet. I 2, 1356a1-13), the orator's ēthos is the most effective means of proof at his disposal and the Roman vir bonus dicendi peritus develops this idea to the fullest. Finally, it is doubtful that as a form of intentional speech, parrhesia can achieve its desired effect without rhetoric's techniques of persuasion.

The second weakness is the (anachronistic) marginalization of the transcendental foundation in Plato. For Foucault the pressing question in ancient philosophy was how to identify the parrhesiast and not how the parrhesiast could be certain that what he says is really true; this is reflected in his definition of parrhesia as primarily non- epistemological truth. However, epistemological truth is crucial for the philosopher-king's political legitimacy: only because he has true insight into the nature of things is he fit to direct public affairs. Socrates, for example, refuses to arrest Leon of Salamis because it is unjust; yet how he could discern that this action is unjust unless he had knowledge of the nature of justice is a question Foucault does not answer.

The overall presentation of the book is excellent. Although the lectures were never intended for publication and not edited by Foucault himself, Frédéric Gros has composed a text transcribed as literally as possible from cassette recordings students made. His editing does not sacrifice their classroom format yet adds certain features for easier reading. Each lecture is preceded by a brief summary indicating the topics discussed and followed by endnotes that clarify obscure references. He also situates the lectures within Foucault's œuvre and elucidates essential background information. Graham Burchell's English translation of the original Gallimard-Seuil edition is accurate and very readable. In addition, he translates both Foucault's own translations of primary sources and the French translations Foucault uses, enabling the reader to see how he understands the original texts.

The Government of Self and Others is a fascinating analysis of a notion which is at the center of the philosophical and political enterprise and is highly recommended for specialist and non-specialist scholars alike.


1.  Translation is mine.

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