Friday, February 25, 2011


Richard D. Mohr, Barbara M. Sattler (ed.), One Book, The Whole Universe: Plato's Timaeus Today. Las Vegas/Zurich/Athens: Parmenides Publishing, 2010. Pp. viii, 406. ISBN 9781930972322. $87.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Carl O'Brien, Trinity College, Dublin / National University of Ireland, Maynooth (;

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Table of Contents

Plato's Timaeus Today is a collection of conference proceedings focusing on providing a more detailed understanding both of the dialogue and its subsequent influence. The contributors are from a range of backgrounds, including not just scholars primarily noted for their work in the field of ancient philosophy, but also Anthony Leggett, the 2003 Nobel Laureate in Physics (although he is also a classicist by training). The volume also has an easy-to-navigate companion website, which supplies animated versions of some of the diagrams, as well as clips from some film portrayals of Atlantis. The Timaeus is famous for two narratives: the story of the war between Athens and Atlantis and the story of the Demiurge, in which Plato describes how a craftsman-god constructs the world by ordering precosmic chaos in geometric and mathematical proportion, and this volume treats both aspects in detail. With such a range of papers on divergent aspects of the Timaeus, a useful feature provided by the editors is a set of abstracts as part of a reader's guide to the volume.

For a variety of reasons, the Stoics can be regarded as heirs to the Demiurge myth just as much as their Platonist counterparts and this aspect is treated in Anthony Long's contribution "Cosmic Craftsmanship in Plato and Stoicism'. Long compares Platonic and Stoic theological cosmologies while contending that Greek conceptions of a supreme divinity matured along with notions of rationality. This is a very valuable study, since Long examines the pre-Platonic background, as well as providing a comparison of Platonic and Stoic demiurgy. The Stoic Demiurge is not faced with the sort of constraints imposed upon its Platonic counterpart and neither does it engage in the same sort of geometric or arithmetical activity. Charles Kahn also places the Timaeus in its intellectual context in "The Place of Cosmology in Plato's Later Dialogues", which evaluates the cosmological material of the Timaeus and Philebus as part of a broader movement of Plato's thought concerning the philosophy of thought, stretching from the Phaedrus to Laws 10.

Plato's description of the Demiurge as maker and father suggests a biological relation to creation as well as an artisanal one and the relationship between the two titles is explored in Matthias Vorwerk's chapter 'Maker or Father? The Demiurge From Plutarch to Plotinus', which examines the important role played by the Middle Platonists in developing the notion of the Demiurge, with Numenius drawing a distinction between the titles 'Maker' and 'Father'. Vorwerk provides a detailed analysis of the various interpretations which have been offered by both Middle Platonists and more recent scholars concerning Plato's usage of the two terms, before considering the implications of the absence of the phrase "Maker and Father" in the Enneads.

Interpretation of the Timaeus has been heavily influenced by Aristotelian criticisms of the dialogue and this aspect is treated in a special section entitled Aristotle's Timaeus. Thomas Johansen supplies an illuminating article "Should Aristotle Have Recognised Final Causes in Plato's Timaeus?" Johansen takes as his starting point Aristotle's claim in Metaphysics I that other philosophers might have recognised different causes, but failed to understand them properly. While this criticism does not relate to the Timaeus specifically, Johansen argues that Aristotle's statement here would have to be able to withstand the Timaeus and aims to show that Aristotle was "neither a careless nor a forgetful reader" of Plato (p. 184).1 On Johansen's reading, Aristotle attacks Plato for regarding formal causes as causes of goodness (mathematical forms), and for not being able to demonstrate why they are good (p. 195-196). Alan Code also examines Aristotelian use of the Timaeus in "Aristotle on Plato on Weight". Aristotle (in On the Heavens) takes Plato's definition of weight to be in terms of number, based on the remarks expressed at Tim.56aff, rather than the more detailed discussion at 62c3-63e8, again raising the suggestion that Aristotle has not been the most careful reader of the dialogue (p. 203) . Code argues that Aristotle's attribution of such a definition to Plato is incorrect. Code also examines the definition of weight in terms of directionality (a balance sinks in the direction of the heavier item) in the later Timaeus passage.

The activity of Reason, represented by the Demiurge organising geometric shapes within the Receptacle, and the space in which this process happens, has been of major importance for our understanding of space. It had, for example, a profound effect on Jacques Derrida, which is examined by Zina Giannopoulou's contribution. The related topic of the Timaeus' influence upon architecture is treated by Anthony Vidler ("The Atlantis Effect: The Lost Origins of Architecture"). His contribution takes up the theme of the utopian perception of Atlantis in the discourse of architectural theory, illustrated by the Renaissance architect Filarete's imaginary city of Sforzinda, as described in his Libro architettonico. In Filarete's Libro Atlantis provides the model of the ideal city, while the Demiurge becomes the model to which the architect should aspire. Also mentioned are the more sinister uses to which the Atlantis motif has been put, such as Nazi identification of Atlantis with Germany and occupied France. The situation regarding more contemporary architecture is discussed by Ann Bergren in "Plato's Timaeus and the Aesthetics of 'Animate Form'". Bergren is both a classicist and an architect and examines two conceptions of beauty in the Timaeus: the Platonic one of "animate form" and the pre-cosmic Receptacle, which, Bergren argues, points to "Homeric beauty" (p. 344). Bergren explores the works of architects influenced by such conceptions of beauty, such as Greg Lynn, a pioneer in the use of calculus-based software as an aid to architectural design. Bergren examines Lynn's Embryological House, as well as Imaginary Forces, an office renovation, including a series of diagrams illustrating how this process works. Bergren also examines the work of Elena Manferdini, who uses a similar process to design both clothing and buildings, and shows how in the case of fabric, the constant movement of these geometric shapes on the body mimics the continuous activity in the Receptacle. One tends to think of the Greek contribution to design as comprising the architectural orders, but Bergren reveals it to be far more extensive.

Atlantis has been frequently portrayed in film and the development of the genre is traced by Jon Solomon in "Timaeus in Tinseltown: Atlantis in Film". He finds an antecedent in Francis Bacon's New Atlantis (1627), which ascribed utopian institutions to Atlantis and attempted to locate it on the map, both features replicated in numerous film treatments of Atlantis. Jules Verne's 1869 novel 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea helped to carve out a place for Atlantis within the science fiction genre. Given this background, it is no surprise that Atlantis was often portrayed in film as either a technologically-advanced dystopia or endowed with utopian elements. Solomon's examination of the sword-and-sandal genre is enlivened by film stills.

Framing the volume are contributions from two physicists. While Leggett in "Resonances in Modern Physics and Cosmology" points out that the views Plato expresses in the Timaeus differ from those of modern science, he notes that some of the questions he posits are still being addressed by modern cosmology, such as whether the universe exists in time or why the universe actually exists; a problem which Plato solved through positing the Demiurge. While this is not the sort of theory that modern cosmology would advance, it is an area which it has difficulties explaining. Sean Carroll similarly points out that despite all the advances which science has made since Plato, two important questions have not been satisfactorily resolved: the issue of whether the universe had a beginning and whether it was generated by an external agent or is self-sufficient (p. 373). Carroll examines the Big Bang model by way of answering the first of these questions before looking at the future of our expanding universe and outlining the model of the baby universe, 'a tiny patch of space with a very high energy density, and just the right conditions to pinch off from its parent spacetime and go its own way' (p. 379), a theory which though hypothetical, would avoid the positing of a true beginning for the universe. The article is clearly written and understandable, even for a non-physicist, and serves to update Plato's discourse by offering potential modern solutions to ancient questions.

Also treated are other important aspects of the Timaeus, such as its relationship to Plato's political philosophy, the manner in which it responded to pre-Socratic philosophy and the way in which it, in turn, set the agenda for the Neoplatonists, as well as issues concerning the dialogue's use of narrative. This volume underlines the seminal importance which the Timaeus has had in modern western society, placing it in its original context in the Greek intellectual tradition, as well as outlining its reception in later periods, enhanced by the additional material supplied on the companion website. Although it contains specialised articles of greatest immediate relevance to philosophers, it will be of use for those who are contemplating a broad curriculum or classical tradition courses. It also provides an articulate set of arguments in favour of the perennial influence of the Classics. It might be useful to keep a copy on hand for those who query the relevance of a classical education…or simply direct them to the website.


1.   As suggested by Harold Cherniss, Aristotle's Criticism of Plato and of the Academy, I (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1944), p. 454.

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Fernando Quesada Sanz, Armas de la antigua Iberia: de Tartesos a Numancia. Madrid: La Esfera de los Libros, 2010. Pp. 298. ISBN 9788497349505. €42.50.

Reviewed by Roger Wright, University of Liverpool (

Version at BMCR home site

There is an attractive tradition in Spain of producing coffee table books written by academic specialists, but the large book under review is exceptional even so. Non-specialists probably have little idea of the surprising amount which is now known about the weapons and armour used by the inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula before the Romans arrived; Quesada Sanz's volume, with its abundance of excellent photographs and superb illustrations by Carlos Fernández del Castillo, is the one to turn to. It is hard to review it adequately without reproducing some of those illustrations, for as well as being attractive in themselves they complement and explain the text in an exemplary fashion. The illustrations include drawings and photographs of discovered weaponry, reproductions of what the items would have looked like new, many photographs of contemporary images (usually on pottery) of warriors using the armour, as well as imaginative drawings of human beings wielding the arms in original context, and indeed photographs of the many modern humans who enjoy themselves dressing up in prehistoric military dress and reenacting locally significant historic battles. Archaeologists in the Peninsula have discovered a great deal about the prehistoric groups of the Peninsula in the last thirty years, and the remarkably large bibliography (pages 272-98) includes site reports from many local journals (as well as 47 publications by Quesada himself, plus five in joint authorship).

The first section of the book (pages 21-60), "En el tiempo y en el espacio", sets the historical and geographical scene. The meat of the volume comes in the second part (pages 63-167), which contains thirteen chapters each dedicated to a particular weapon or defensive apparatus; these include swords and daggers of various shapes, spears and lances, slings, shields, helmets and body armour such as greaves. There were at least twenty different separately identifiable groups in the Peninsula before the second Punic War (which was when the Romans arrived in numbers), and the archaeologists have found an equivalent variety of weaponry. At the time of writing, Quesada knew of 6,376 separate discoveries made in the Peninsula (which includes the Balearics for these purposes, the only area where slings, arrows and other projectiles seem to have been widely used); these come from 505 separate sites, including various Celtiberian and Iberian centres but also Tartessian and "vacceo, vetón y lusitano" in particular (p.244; there is relatively little here from the Phoenicians, however). 77% of the items come from graves. The vibrant scholarly and investigative scene which surrounds such excavations shows how progress in study of the prehistoric past is now due, almost by definition, to discoveries and analyses made by archaeologists rather than historians, given that new Latin or other texts, or radical reinterpretations of texts, concerning the period before the Roman arrival are unlikely to appear with any frequency, but new physical material appears every week. Even so, Quesada is aware of any relevant historical references to the armour in, e.g., Livy, Strabo, Diodorus, etc., and also in Greek texts (Xenophon mentions the presence in Greece of mercenaries from the Peninsula in the fourth century B.C., for example). Historians and archaeologists have a habit of not collaborating amicably in the Peninsula, but increasingly it is in the historians' interest to do so.

The third and final section (pages 171-268) "Guerreros, batallas y sociedad" considers in detail, with several examples, the role of warfare in the societies of the Peninsula. This section includes, for example, a detailed account of the siege of Numancia in 130 B.C. (pages 227-38), with photographs of the site in its present state (which is an interesting place to visit, even though the Romans built on top of the ancient town). But the actual weapons steal the show, and make this book an important scholarly production as well as a great pleasure to look at.

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James A. Arieti, Roger M. Barrus (ed.), Plato's Protagoras: Translation, Commentary, and Appendices. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Pp. x, 144. ISBN 9781442201330. $70.00.

Reviewed by Thomas Miller, Princeton University (

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Plato's Protagoras is both a literary gem and a work of considerable importance for students of philosophy and intellectual history. This new edition by James Arieti and Roger Barrus offers an introduction (31 pages), a full translation of the dialogue, a glossary of key terms, a brief bibliography, and an index, which includes, under the names of ancient authors, all passages cited in the introduction and notes. There are also four appendices: a diagram showing a possible reconstruction of the layout of the house of Callias, where the dialogue is set; an essay discussing techniques of translation; a full text and discussion of the Simonides fragment analyzed by Socrates; and a list of some deceptive argumentative tactics drawn from Aristotle's Sophistical Refutations.

In the introduction, Arieti and Barrus argue that the Protagoras is essentially a prose comedy in the style of Aristophanes (8-13). The dramatic and comic elements in the dialogue are obviously very important, and Plato certainly makes frequent use of specific Aristophanic ideas and motifs. But not all readers will be convinced of the strict formal parallels that Arieti and Barrus wish to draw. For instance, Socrates' conversation with Protagoras does not seem to me to resemble a comic agon, except perhaps in an extremely general way, which would of course also apply to many other Platonic dialogues. Nor does the interruption of the conversation by the comments of Callias and others at 335c-338e remind one much of a comic parabasis, in which the chorus usually speaks directly to the audience in the voice of the poet.

The authors' interpretation of the Protagoras as primarily a comedy leads them to give little or no attention to issues that interest historians of philosophy, e.g. the question of the unity of the virtues or the denial of akrasia from hedonist premises. (Some studies of a philosophical nature are included in the bibliography but are not referenced in the introduction or notes.) Arieti and Barrus instead view the dialogue as principally "a dream-world vision of the nonsense that can and will arise when logos is used with a love not of wisdom but of victory" (31). It is thus an example of "applied philosophy" provided through the medium of "comic entertainment," perhaps "written to be diversion from the rigors of study at the Academy" (Ibid.). To my mind, this gives at best an incomplete picture of why the Protagoras is worth reading. While many scholars take too narrow a view as to what is of properly "philosophical" interest in Plato, Arieti and Barrus go too far in the other direction by neglecting the dialogue's playful exploration of key theses in Socratic ethics.

The introduction also treats the intellectual background of the work and provides biographical information about its cast of characters. The authors make some sweeping and insufficiently supported claims about intellectual history – for instance, that victory in the Persian Wars was "the aphrodisiac that made the Greek world fall in love, so to speak, with the possibilities of reason and inspired an enthusiastic self-conscious application of logic to numerous areas of human life, with the goal of practical, worldly success" (2). There are also pompous moments: "People who like their philosophy spoon-fed are better off not reading the dialogues of Plato" (6).

On to the dialogue itself. Arieti and Barrus claim to offer an extremely faithful translation, holding "the text itself as sacrosanct" (ix). Let me say here that I am personally very sympathetic to the practice of translating Plato literally. A good translation (I believe) uses consistent, literal renderings not only for overtly philosophical terms, but also for any words that might be part of a literary motif, even retaining oaths and formulae of assent when they can give a clue to a character's tone. But it would be silly to deny that this method involves compromises and interpretative decisions, and these decisions can be made more or less successfully. I found those of Arieti and Barrus to be, on the whole, unsuccessful.

Consider, for instance, the crucial moment at 319a, where Socrates says that Protagoras seems to be claiming to teach a πολιτικὴ τέχνη. C. C. W. Taylor (in the Oxford World Classics edition) renders this phrase as "the art of running a city," while Stanley Lombardo and Karen Bell (in the Hackett Complete Works) give us "the art of citizenship." What Socrates means is an open and important question, and if two such different interpretations are possible (how to govern citizens vs. how to be a citizen) a more literal rendering is in order. Arieti and Barrus accordingly offer "the technical skill of polis-craft," explaining in a footnote that to use the words "politics" or "state" would amount to "minimizing the difference between the ancients and ourselves" (52). Instead of a strange neologism, I would have preferred a straight-forward rendering ("the political art") with a footnote that actually canvassed different possibilities of what this could mean, perhaps drawing a contrast with the modern idea of "political science" or giving references to Plato's other uses of the phrase (e.g. Gorgias 521d).

Probably the most unorthodox translation choice is to render σοφιστής as "reasoner," mainly in order to avoid the negative connotations of the English word "sophist," for which Arieti and Barrus claim Plato is himself largely responsible (134). This justification seems to me to attach too little weight to pre-Platonic critiques of sophistry; the early speech Against the Sophists by Isocrates, for instance, is not mentioned in the introduction or notes. Moreover, given that Arieti and Barrus themselves interpret the dialogue as an all-out Platonic satire of various famous sophists, their insistence on not prejudicing the reader's judgment through the use of the standard term seems somewhat odd.

Also problematic is their choice of "to reduce" to translate the key verb ἡττάομαι in the argument against akrasia (352a-357e). Their footnote (97n212) seemed to me to give the impression that the verb is a Platonic coinage, rather than a common word for being defeated or proved inferior. Some other questionable translation choices that I noticed: "mortal genera" for θνητὰ γένη in the myth of Protagoras (320c8); "Mytilenian voice" instead of "Mytilenian dialect" for τῇ φωνῇ τῇ Μυτιληναίων (346d8-e1); "arithmetic" for λογισμούς (318e2) vs. "number theory" for ἀριθμητική (357a3); and "slipping some under their weapons" for ὑποδῶν τὰ μὲν ὁπλαῖς (321b1) rather than "shoeing some with hoofs." (The last example in particular does not inspire confidence, since the translators appear to have taken the participle as a form of ὑποδύω rather than ὑποδέω and the noun as dative plural of ὅπλον rather than ὁπλή.) Frustratingly, Arieti and Barrus do not indicate anywhere which Greek text they followed, and the standard OCT of Burnet is not listed among editions of the dialogue in the bibliography.

The most significant problem with the translation, however, concerns its readability. The translators often maintain Greek word order and sentence structure, and religiously place brackets around all English words that do not correspond directly to a Greek one. The following is a representative sample of the result (311d-e):

"Well," I said, "when once we've arrived at Protagoras' side, shall we, you and I, be ready to give him [our] money in your behalf, if our money is sufficient and we persuade him by this [money] – but if it isn't [sufficient], shall we spend, in addition, the [money] of our friends? And so if someone should ask us while we are thus wildly enthusiastic about this, 'Tell me, Socrates and Hippocrates, you have in mind to pay money to Protagoras – as being whom?' – what would we answer him? What other name do we hear said of Protagoras, in fact, as, for example, we hear about Pheidias [that he is called an] image-maker and about Homer [that he is called] a poet? What do we hear in the same way about Protagoras?"

Arieti and Barrus certainly recognize that the dialogue is a work of great literary charm, but I do not think that students reading Plato for the first time with their translation will be inclined to share this view. The appendix "On Translating" is more a rhapsodic meditation on the difficulties of rendering Plato into English than a real defense of the method employed.

The translation is divided into forty numbered sections, as in the 1893 commentary of Adam and Adam; Stephanus numbers are present, but unfortunately buried in the text on the page rather than in the margins. Footnotes are copious, especially in the first half of the dialogue, though of uneven quality. Most helpful, to my mind, are the frequent references to parallel discussions in other Platonic dialogues or the Aristotelian corpus. On the other hand, the five footnotes on the opening exchange (309a-b) fail to clarify the essential (but perhaps not obvious) point: Socrates' companion is criticizing him for continuing to court Alcibiades past the appropriate age. At 320c, there is no footnote at all to signal or elucidate the contrast between μῦθος and λόγος. When Socrates remarks on the pride Spartan women take in their education at 342d, Arieti and Barrus comment: "Plato is fond of jokes about educating women. For him the notion that a woman could be educated was about as sincere as the notion that a dog is philosophical (a notion Plato has Socrates assert at Republic 376b)." This seemed to me like a rather debatable claim to make in a footnote without further defense.

There are, I think, many defensible approaches to translating and presenting a Platonic dialogue, and different editions can serve different audiences. Still, despite some thoughtful aspects of this volume's design, it is hard to imagine any group that would be well served by it. Putting aside all concerns about accuracy and eccentricities of interpretation, beginners will want a more fluid and readable text, while intermediate students will appreciate greater engagement with scholarly literature. Specialists who need to pay meticulous attention to Plato's language will be able to consult the original Greek with greater profit and enjoyment.

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Anne Mahoney (ed.), Rouse's Greek Boy: A Reader. Newburyport, MA: Focus Publishing, 2010. Pp. xiii, 146. ISBN 9781585103249. $14.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Nicholas Gresens, University of Rochester (

Version at BMCR home site

There is no shortage of introductory Greek textbooks, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The diligent Greek teacher must weigh these strengths and weaknesses carefully before deciding how his students will first encounter ancient Greek. While most Greek textbooks rely to some degree on the very traditional Grammar-Translation method, Anne Mahoney's revision of W.H.D. Rouse's A Greek Boy at Home, now entitled Rouse's Greek Boy, sits at the other end of the language pedagogy spectrum. Rouse's Greek Boy is perhaps the purest example of the natural method of language instruction available for ancient Greek. Aside from Mahoney's preface to the new edition, Rouse's original preface, and brief recommendations for using the book that Mahoney has slightly edited from Rouse's original, the entire text is in Greek, including the glossary for the most part. Rouse intended his classes to be conducted almost entirely in Greek, and his reader reflects this intention. As such, it offers less than we have become accustomed to in the standard introductory Greek textbooks. At the same time, however, this book offers more than most textbooks since it could conceivably serve as both an introductory and intermediate reader.

Like the Greek textbook Athenaze (Oxford, 2003), which uses the life of the fictional Dicaeopolis as the basis for its principal narrative, Rouse's Greek Boy follows Thrasymachus, a fictional boy from Attica, as he goes through his daily routine. Unlike Athenaze, in which the narrative is told from a third person perspective, the narrative found here is narrated largely by Thrasymachus himself. This allows for frequent first and second person constructions, as Thrasymachus regularly describes what he and his family do and, in turn, asks the reader whether he understands what has been said. Thrasymachus' life does not extend much beyond his farm and his village, so the narration focuses more on daily life than on historical events or other aspects of Greek culture, although the book does contain an extended narration of the Battle of Salamis, complete with quotations from Aeschylus, a prose paraphrase of the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, and other hints at historical and mythical events and people.

The various narratives that constitute Thrasymachus' life are divided into roughly equal halves. With the exception of the first chapter, which provides space for the instructor to introduce the Greek alphabet and pronunciation, the first nineteen chapters contain graded readings that follow a fairly standard pattern for the introduction of new grammar. A majority of these chapters contain multiple readings so that, as Rouse says in the reproduced Preface to his 1909 edition, "The subject matter may be revised without the need of reading the same exercise over and over again ad nauseam" (ix). These multiple readings are also useful for the modern student of ancient Greek since a great deal of basic grammar knowledge is assumed from the very beginning. Although Rouse could, and did, assume that his students had a firm grasp of grammar, having been "carefully trained by means of French and Latin" (A First Greek Course, iii), and therefore needed to learn primarily Greek morphology and vocabulary, many of our students come to ancient Greek with little, if any, previous formal language training. By providing multiple passages in these early chapters, Rouse's Greek Boy offers ample opportunity for the Greek teacher to teach and practice more basic grammar principles such as case use and relative clause construction, a grammar concept which frequently gives inexperienced language learners difficulty and is found already in the second chapter.

The second half of the book is comprised of 25 readings of varying lengths and assumes that the student has a firm grasp of Greek grammar and vocabulary. This portion of the book would make for an engaging intermediate reader, with the first half providing remedial material as needed. As these readings progress, they incorporate progressively more Greek from ancient authors, most of it unadapted. As mentioned previously, towards the end of the first half of the book, Greek Boy includes 40 lines from Aeschylus' Persae, and the second half of the book incorporates one of the Carmina Popularia and various skolia recorded by Athenaeus into the narrative. The two most extensive excerpts found in Greek Boy, however, are from Menander and Dio Chrysostom. During a walk that Thrasymachus and his brother take in the hills, they run into two men having a disagreement, at which point the text includes more than 150 lines from the litigation scene from Menander's Epitrepontes. This citation is almost verbatim with some exceptions for word order, the elimination of some elision, and the substitution of a few simpler verb forms. The final story in the book recounts an encounter Thrasymachus has with a Euboean hunter and quotes the first half of Dio Chrysostom's Seventh Discourse with only a few portions removed for the sake of space. The length of the passages and the complexity of the Greek, to say nothing of the inclusion of "real" Greek, would provide the intermediate Greek student the preparation and confidence to move on to upper-level reading courses. It would have been useful had the text included citations to these passages, but with databases like Perseus and the TLG, their exclusion is a trivial matter.

It is important to note that since Rouse's Greek Boy is strictly a reader there are no discussions of grammar, no paradigm charts, no grammar exercises, or even any vocabulary lists to accompany each new chapter. Rouse's original text was intended to be used alongside his First Greek Course (Blackie and Son, 1909) and this textbook provided these materials for the student, but until the forthcoming revision of this book is available, teachers who intend to use Rouse's Greek Boy as an introductory textbook will have to either generate their own supplementary materials or rely on another grammar for these things. Nevertheless, this text could still conceivably be integrated into either the elementary or intermediate Greek class if the Greek instructor finds the prospect of generating such materials excessively onerous. Many of the passages are short enough to provide material for sight-reading, especially the verses found in the appendix, and some of the sections, such as those on numbers or the dialogues, offer novel methods to introduce and practice vocabulary. Additionally, because the focus of the principal narrative is on daily life, the vocabulary is more varied than that found in more traditional textbooks, including topic such as animals, food, weather, and even the evil eye, so that these sections might individually serve as useful introductions to this more obscure vocabulary or as welcome respite from the usual fare offered in Greek textbooks.

Regardless of how Rouse's Greek Boy is used in the classroom, it is a useful addition to the arsenal of Greek texts available to the college Greek instructor. And even if the text is not incorporated directly into the classroom, Rouse's Greek Boy offers plenty of examples of a different, and perhaps better, way to approach the teaching of ancient Greek.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011


Kathleen Wren Christian, Empire without End: Antiquities Collections in Renaissance Rome, c. 1350-1527. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 2010. Pp. ix, 440. ISBN 9780300154214. $70.00.

Reviewed by Petra Heckova, Czech Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology, Prague (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

The history of antiquities collecting in the Renaissance is a topic that has been addressed by several generations of art historians. However, some unsolved problems still remain. One of them is the origin and development of collecting in Rome during the Trecento and Quattrocento. The reviewed book represents a serious and successful attempt to fill the gap Kathleen Wren Christian, already dealt with the subject in her doctoral dissertation, and in articles.1

In her Introduction, Christian considers the main focus of the study and the questions that she will try to answer: "The spectacular shift in the status of antique images over the course of the Quattrocento – from building materials to collectable art objects – is a matter of unquestionable significance in the history of Rome and the wider history of European art." (p. 2) As she points out, adequate attention has not yet been paid the reasons how and why it happened. In her opinion, the history of antiquities collecting in Rome was not a series of isolated coincidences. Moreover, scholars have often referred back only to a few events (like Pope Sixtus´s transferral of ancient statues to the Capitoline in 1471 or the formation of the Belvedere collection).

In this book, the author examines how radically the attitudes towards the most problematic of all antique objects, the life-size figural statue, was changed during a more than one hundred-year-long process: from building material processed in lime kilns to the "Exemplum virtutis", poetic inspiration, or highly prized artefact which deserves protection, from the time of Petrarch, when antiquity was recognized as a model of moral qualities and ancient virtues, until the Sack of 1527 which marked not only the end of the old times, but also a new orientation in antiquities collecting. The book's title is inspired by the prophecy to Aeneas: "To the Romans I assign no limit of things nor of time. To them have I given empire without end" (Aeneid 1.278). Various forms of reception and possession of "Romanitas" are also the key to the authors´s interpretation of the phenomenon of antiquities collecting in the Quattrocento Rome.

Chapter 2 ("Antiquity as Example. Rome in the Time of Petrarch and Cola di Rienzo") deals with significant changes which led to the reassesment of the value of Rome´s antique remains. Christian focuses her attention on the literary reasons which gradually led to the change of aesthetic judgment and culminated in the time of Petrarch and Cola di Rienzo. During the Trecento "Exempla virtutis" began to appear more frequently in the literature, and thanks to its spreading in the visual arts, antique objects gradually acquired an aura of social utility. However, this process was very slow. First, it was necessary to overcome an antagonism toward figural statues and fears of idolatry, which were deeply rooted in mediaeval society.

Chapter 3 ("The Poetics of the Collection. Cardinal Prospero Colonna´s Garden of Maecenas") discusses the role of the first poetic sodalities, revival of pagan poetry, and the first literary experiments in the genre of statue poetry. The author focuses on the contemporary theme of the eternity of poetry in comparison with the fragility of sculpture inspired by antiquity (Horace). According to Christian, it was another turning point in Roman Renaissance collecting: "A group of pagan sculptures was totemicized and aestheticized in a novel way thanks, in part, to its ability to be juxtaposed with and compared to a poetic text." (p. 58) Literary experiments in the genre of panegyric poetry is evident first in the palace of Cardinal Prospero Collonna on the slopes of Quirinal hill known as the Loggia dei Colonnesi, which housed his antiquities collection, including the famous statue of the Three Graces.

Chapter 4 ("Fictive Genealogies and Ancestral Collections in Fifteenth-Century Rome") examines different forms of antiquarianism that developed in the social milieu of Roman native nobility by the mid-Quattrocento. In a series of examples the author demonstrates how the new Roman nobles (like Porcari or Santacroce) used an ancient genealogy as a medium for legitimacy of their social status. The key was the ownership of the proper ancient artefact whose iconography completed and affirmed the family´s fictive genealogy and ancient ancestry.

Chapter 5 ("The Virtues of the Papal Collector. Paul II and Sixtus IV") considers how popes in the second half of the Quattrocento redefined their approaches with regard to the city´s ancient monuments. A wealthy cardinal of Venetian origin, Pietro Barbo (later Paul II) amassed a treasury of precious objects of ancient and Byzantine origin in his new monumental palazzo near San Marco (Palazzo Venezia). Sixtus IV (formerly Cardinal Francesco della Rovere) took a different position, distancing himself from his predecessor. His most outstanding act was the transferral of ancient bronze statues from the Lateran to the Capitoline hill, and their donation to the People of Rome in 1471. As Christian points out, these two different approaches to antiquities collecting and self representation have been contrasted by humanist writers as early as the Renaissance.

In chapter 6 ("Pomponio Leto and the Academic Garden") the author examines how fascination with the comparison between the statues and poems, and experiments in the genre of statue poetry brought the academicians and their patrons into a closer engagement and deeper contact with the remains of ancient sculpture. Pomponio Leto, the owner of perhaps the most sizeable Roman collection of ancient inscriptions, was a key figure in Quattrocento antiquarianism. According to Christian, through the influence of Leto´s Academy, Roman elites decorated their gardens and courtyards as ideal settings for the performances of poetry, with antique figural statues.

Chapter 7 ("The Era of Collecting, 1480 – 1527") considers some significant changes in this important period for Renaissance collecting. Around 1500 the new approaches to antiquities collecting emerged. As the author points out, these transformations reflected the shifts in Roman society, as the antique objects were gradually sold to more powerful and wealthy patrons. The author briefly discusses early Cinquecento collecting: the logistics of the collection (display and methods of acquiring sculpture), the role of artists as procurers of ancient artefacts, and the importance of antique sculpture in artistic training. In my opinion, Christian develops her most interesting observations on the iconography of antiquities collections and the credibility of the preserved iconographic sources, especially van Heemskerck´s drawings (pp. 157-159).

According to the author, in the epilogue, "The Sack of Rome and the Hanging Garden of Cardinal Andrea della Valle", the Sack of Rome in May 1527 meant the end of one era of antiquities collecting. Later, it became the domain of the popes and a select number of cardinals who were able to collect and build on a monumental scale. Many collections were sold or destroyed, but others began to emerge. Della Valle´s statue court was among the first important projects of displays of antiquities in the years following 1527 . The main theme of antiquities collecting became the rescue of ancient marbles from decay. As the author concludes, "Yet the Sack of Rome – as a reminder of the sort of destruction and ignorant acts that collections purported to guard against – had added new poignancy to this rhetoric." (p. 220)

An extensive Catalogue represents the second part of the book. It offers an overview of the most important sculpture collections formed in Rome between the mid-Quattrocento and the Sack of Rome in 1527. The list of nearly forty collections includes, among others, Belvedere, del Bufalo, Caffarelli, Colonna, Frangipani, Grimani, Porcari, de' Rossi, Santacroce, and della Valle. Although the author makes no attempt to reference all quotations, the archaeological bibliography and the iconographical and written sources are chosen carefully, with the goal of encouraging the reader to further study.

Kathleen Wren Christian´s bookis an important and challenging work which largely fills the gap inrecent research. The consistency of interpretation and the author´s elegant style enhance its readibility, and encourages the reader to pursue more detailed study and ask further questions. This makes the book an excellent introductory study to the problems of antiquities collecting, especially because of the huge number of quality reproductions and high-quality printing on coated heavyweight paper.


1.   Kathleen Wren Christian dealt with this subject in her dissertation and in several articles. "The Birth of Antiquities Collections in Rome, 1450-1530", Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 2003. Kathleen Wren Christian: "The De' Rossi Collection of Ancient Sculptures, Leo X, and Raphael", Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 65 (2002), pp. 132-200.

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Fulvia Lo Schiavo, Antonella Romualdi (ed.), I complessi archeologici di Trestina e di Fabbrecce nel Museo Archeologico di Firenze. Monumenti antichi (Serie miscellanea, 12) 66. Roma: Giogio Bretschneider editore, 2009. Pp. 204; l66 p. of plates. ISBN 9788876892141. (pb).

Reviewed by Christopher Smith, Director of the British School at Rome (

Version at BMCR home site

This fascinating volume is largely for connoisseurs of Etruscan bronze and associated finds, but the outcomes are interesting at a broader level for discussions over concepts of trade, commerce and artisanship within Italy and the Mediterranean more generally.

Both sets of finds discussed in this volume belong to sites in the Val di Chiana, north of the Tiber, and were deposited in the Museo Archeologico of Florence early in the 20th century. They are characterised by extraordinary pieces of bronze craftsmanship, and the focus here is precisely on methods of manufacture, date and, critically, provenance.

Each object is meticulously described, and illustrated, both in line drawings and photographs, and with full lists of comparison pieces. The volume is, as one would expect, beautifully produced. The chapters by Macnamara and Shefton are in English; the remainder in Italian. The dates of the Trestina finds are predominantly from the 7th century, but there is a much earlier fibula serpeggiante; the Fabbrecce finds are dated to the mid 7th century into the 6th century. The volume concludes with some detailed accounts of the metallurgy of one object, the Trestina tripod, and a brief section on late 19th century methods of bronze restoration.

The two sets of finds are treated separately. The finds at Trestina were discovered in 1878 in agricultural work, and were rescued from dispersal on the antiquarian market. They include a tripod and cauldron, bronze oinochoai and some ceramic ware. The nature of the deposit is complex; it might be funerary, or perhaps another type of deposit.

The object which, since its restoration and recent display, is most famous is the massive tripod, with bovine feet, the heads of ibexes half way up the legs, of bulls at the top and in the middle centre three stags' heads complete with horns. The tripod as reconstructed stands 1.4m high. The struts are of iron; the heads of hollow-cast bronze, with ivory eye circles, and cast on to the iron. It supported a cauldron with griffon protomai.

There are parallels for individual parts of this assemblage in Italy, but this is a piece which carries memories of much earlier times and far distant places; the bulls' feet are found in 9th century Urartu. Within this volume, the major study of the piece is by Ellen Macnamara, who has long been engaged with this piece and the whole deposit, and it is a highly thoughtful and careful consideration of the possibilities. Her conclusion is that we should not discount that this remarkable synthesis of different pieces belonged to Greek traditions of craftsmanship (earlier accounts, in particular those of Michel Gras, had looked also to Sardinia).1 The size of the whole piece is perhaps the most striking thing; if the reconstruction is correct it puts one somewhat in mind of the overblown exaggeration of a piece like the Vix crater, and one should perhaps seek some context within the aristocratic competition of this part of central Etruria.

By contrast, the oinochoai which had been thought to be Rhodian are here subjected to a detailed restudy by Brian Shefton, who suggests that we may have dismissed too hastily the possibility of local manufacture. His account, which is hugely erudite and detailed, makes several important contributions: first, there are some problems with the earlier list of pieces which Shefton published;2 second, there are some issues with almost all earlier descriptions, so this becomes now both the most careful presentation, and an extended addendum to Shefton's own account; third, instead of a single point of origin, there are several, with some pieces having possible Laconian origins, but others appearing to be Oenotrian, and in fact the direction of influence appears to be from Italy (perhaps via Etruria) to Greece, rather than the other way round.

The Fabbrecce material is notable first for the way in which the Italian state was beginning to exercise its authority in the control of archaeological sites in the early 20th century, and second because of the outstanding nature of the funerary deposit, with a chariot, bronzes and proto-Corinthian ware of the highest standard. There are fewer issues of attribution in this case, but the interesting imagery of centaurs and mixed humans and animals on various fittings certainly justify the full publication here of an important find, and one which, as the editors say, has been somewhat neglected.

Taken as a whole, the volume intriguingly raises a range of questions about this part of the Upper Tiber Valley. What were the trading routes and the nature of the physical and social resources in this wealthy area? And the volume challenges us to think about how do we come now to write an account of the transmission of artistic ideas and individual objects? This volume shows how comprehensively the older idea that Etruria was a consumer of eastern ideas via the medium of Greek traders has failed the test of our greater knowledge. Here we have in the upper Tiber Valley sites where southern Italian bronzes, Greek ceramics, Etruscan imitations of those ceramics and indigenous Etruscan forms mingled freely and were exchanged up and down the peninsula and across the eastern Mediterranean in one direction, and in the case of the oinochoai across to Spain (and Gras' observations about Sardinia seem to me still to need consideration). This is a world of great intellectual and artistic complexity, the description of which remains a challenge.

Moving forward from the immensely valuable accounts of individual finds and deposits to the broader picture of how the upper Tiber Valley may be contextualised within its wider setting, these two sites are instrumental in forcing us to reconsider issues of orientalization. Recent work has raised important questions about what we mean by this highly loaded and difficult term, and whilst the question is not directly posed here, the two sites offer contrasting viewpoints. Purcell recently encouraged us to leave aside this problematic term, but one of his main reasons was that orientalization encourages an assumption of eastern priority which cannot always be proven.3 Fabbrecce and Trestina offer a similar challenge – why should we describe a phenomenon in terms of the east when in fact the influence may have moved from the west to the east? At Fabbrecce we see a particular connection with Vetulonia, which may be the more relevant to the movement of the pieces than discussion of the eastern origin of some objects – in other words for Fabbrecce they may have been relatively local. Even in the case of the Trestina tripod, if the craftsmanship is Greek, the context is profoundly local; it is this specific combination of factors, this very precise and otherwise unexampled combination of features, which marks out the find. The virtuosity of archaic habits of creativity, even within the matrices of particular forms, and the rootedness of those forms within local contexts and highly diverse trading patterns are perhaps more useful ways of approaching such objects than the attempt to find parallel and similar artefacts. We are confronted by highly personalised adaptations of a variegated palette of forms. This volume is in itself an important scientific contribution to the proper recording and study of two highly specific sites; but it is also another provocation to reconsider Etruria as a laboratory of intellectual exchange in which east and west are more or less meaningless terms, but deep and recent past, human, animal and monster, originality and adaptation, tradition and imagination are highly pertinent.


1.   M. Gras, 'Sardische Bronzen in Etrurien,' in RT. Thimme (ed) Kunst und Kultur Sardiniens vom Neolithikum bis zum Ende der Nuraghenzeit (Karlsruhe, 1980) 126-33; id. Trafics Tyrrhéniens Archaïques (Rome, 1985).
2.   See B. B. Shefton Die Rhodischen Bronzekannen (Mainz am Rhein, 1979) for an earlier statement, updated substantially here.
3.   N. Purcell, 'Orientalizing: Five Historical Questions,' in Corinna Riva, Nicholas C. Vella (eds) Debating Orientalization: Multidisciplinary Approaches to Change in the Ancient Mediterranean (London, 2006), 21-30.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Alfredo Guarino, Caere - 5. Le terrecotte architettoniche a stampo da Vigna Parrocchiale: Scavi 1983-1989. Mediterranea. Supplementi 4. Pisa/Roma: Fabrizio Serra editore, 2010. Pp. 185; 4 p. of plates. ISBN 9788862272902. €345.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Vincent Jolivet, Centre national de la recherche scientifique -- UMR8546, Paris (

Version at BMCR home site

C'est un lieu commun, dans le pré carré de l'étruscologie, de déplorer la rareté des fouilles d'habitat des anciennes métropole d'Étrurie. Une tentative importante pour pallier cette lacune revient au Centro di studio per l' archeologia etrusco-italica du C.N.R. (aujourd'hui Istituto per l'Archeologia Etrusco-Italica), alors placé sous la houlette de Mauro Cristofani, qui mena entre 1983 et 1989, dans le cadre du "Progetto Caere", une série de campagnes de fouille au lieu-dit Vigna Parrocchiale à Cerveteri. Depuis sa disparition, en 1997, ses collaborateurs et ses successeurs ont assuré la reprise des travaux sur le terrain, entre 2003 et 2005, ainsi que la poursuite de la publication des fouilles, dont cet ouvrage représente le cinquième volume.1 Si le site s'est révélé compliqué à l'extrême, compte tenu de l'absence presque totale de stratigraphie, et si les vestiges mis au jour se rapportent, ici encore, surtout à des édifices publics, cette fouille a apporté, en quelques années seulement, une moisson de données nouvelles dont le traitement, combiné avec celui des fouilles anciennes, requérait un plan de publication rigoureux, évoqué en préface (p. 5) par Francesco Roncalli.

Issu d'une tesi di laurea soutenue en 1998, cet ouvrage regroupe les fragments de terres cuites fabriquées au moule découverts au cours des fouilles dirigées par M. Cristofani, soit 1100 fragments dont l'auteur a choisi de cataloguer les 560 les mieux conservés (p. 12 ; mais voir infra), ici divisés en deux lots (catalogue et appendice) selon qu'ils se rattachent, ou non, à des typologies connues (p. 17). D'emblée, on est donc un peu déçu de ne pas y trouver aussi les terres cuites architectoniques - du reste peu nombreuses - en ronde-bosse, en haut-relief, ou décorées selon la technique white on red (p. 12), ni celles issues des fouilles anciennes ou de prospections plus récentes (p. 11), qui auraient renforcé l'intérêt du corpus en tant qu'"insieme statistico valido" (p. 12).

Une brève introduction (p. 11-13) rappelle l'histoire des fouilles de ce secteur, entreprises en 1840 pour remettre au jour le théâtre romain, et reprises par Raniero Mengarelli en 1911 et 1912. L'absence de tout plan complique malheureusement considérablement la contextualisation, et la simple compréhension, des informations présentées par l'auteur : le lecteur devra donc se reporter, notamment, au dossier planimétrique figurant dans Caere 3 et 4.

Le catalogue constitue la partie principale de l'ouvrage (p. 15-154). L'auteur a classé les fragments selon leur chronologie, du troisième tiers du VIe siècle au Ier siècle, en les répartissant entre huit principaux éléments (lastra, tegola di gronda, antefissa, tegola terminale, cortina pendula, cornice traforata, sima, pinax) ; chacun des 44 types ainsi définis fait l'objet d'une bonne présentation synthétique. Les dessins, tous portés à une échelle commode de 1:2 ou 1:4, sont de qualité – il est seulement dommage que la polychromie n'y ait pas été indiquée directement, mais selon une échelle conventionnelle de gris. On peut en outre regretter que le numéro de catalogue ne figure pas sur les figures ou sur les planches : lorsque l'image se trouve dans le texte, comme dans la première partie du catalogue, le problème ne se pose pas ; lorsque les objets se succèdent dans le même ordre dans le catalogue et sur les planches hors texte, comme pour l'appendice, il n'est pas trop difficile de rapprocher la fiche de l'illustration;2 mais dans le cas des quatre planches en couleurs ici présentées, conformément à une mode sans doute tardivement inspirée par le succès des éditions FMR, sur un lugubre fond noir, il faut parcourir tout l'ouvrage pour retrouver la fiche de l'objet.3

Le catalogue comporte 634 entrées, auxquelles il faut toutefois ajouter 32 fragments auxquels ont été affectés des numéros déjà attribués,4 soit un total de 666 objets (moins un, puisque le n. 225 manque) – erreurs d'autant plus surprenantes que la troisième de couverture du livre assure que ses épreuves ont été soumises à non moins de trois correcteurs. Tous font l'objet d'une fiche individuelle soigneusement rédigée, mais qui ne comporte pas la provenance du fragment - lacune inexplicable, même si les neuf "contextes" très brièvement présentés (p. 19) n'apportaient manifestement aucun éclaircissement sur l'origine ou la chronologie des objets. Moins du tiers d'entre eux peut être considéré comme complètement publié, c'est-à-dire illustré soit par un dessin, une photo et un profil (119 objets), ou plus simplement par une photo (65 objets de l'appendice, avec des clichés de qualité très inégale). On peut donc s'interroger sur l'intérêt des fiches restantes, qu'auraient pu avantageusement remplacer des tableaux de comptage indiquant le nombre de fragments attribués à un type donné et les différents groupes d'argile attestés (indication qui manque dans les fiches). On peut par ailleurs douter de l'utilité du fastidieux travail consistant à indiquer les couleurs de pâte en référence au code Munsell, surtout, comme c'est le cas ici, lorsqu'aucun décodage en clair n'est proposé. Les limites de ce système sont aujourd'hui évidentes pour quiconque (l'auteur de ces lignes compris) l'a appliqué de manière systématique : absence de protocole rigoureux d'observation des pâtes (sur une cassure fraîche ? en surface ?), diversité des couleurs sur un même fragment (selon l'exposition au feu, entre cœur et surface...), subjectivité du regard du descripteur (en fonction de sa vue, de sa fatigue, de l'intensité de la lumière...). Cet instrument très lourd à manier n'a apporté à ma connaissance, depuis son introduction en archéologie, aucun progrès significatif, et pourrait s'effacer au profit d'indications en clair en apparence plus subjectives, mais certainement plus utiles.

L'étude des argiles, traitée dans une partie spécifique (p. 155-158, soit une grande page), est renvoyée aux lendemains où elle pourra se fonder sur des analyses de laboratoire. Pourtant, le simple examen autoptique aurait parfaitement permis de procéder, selon des critères classiques, à une première répartition en groupes, travail qui semble bien, du reste, avoir été effectué par l'auteur ; mais s'il indique que l'on peut distinguer de six à huit groupes différents, il ne nous fournit que peu d'informations sur ses principes de classement. Son analyse de leur utilisation différenciée dans le courant de l'histoire du sanctuaire demeure donc, en l'état, faiblement étayée.

Le chapitre de conclusion (p. 159-181) rassemble l'ensemble des données – typologie, chronologie et contexte de découverte - et propose d'attribuer les terres cuites à trois édifices distincts : la "résidence" construite vers 540 et abandonnée quelque trois décennies plus tard ; le temple, qui remplace cet édifice vers 490 ; l'édifice elliptique, daté traditionnellement de la même époque. Comme le souligne l'auteur à différentes reprises, le dossier archéologique est très lacunaire, puisque toute la zone n'a pas été fouillée, et qu'il existait évidemment d'autres édifices à ses marges. Son étude, fondée sur quatre diagrammes qui auraient gagné à intégrer la documentation ancienne, lui permet de distinguer trois principaux pics : entre 540 et 510, en relation avec la "résidence" ; entre 500 et 480, époque de construction du temple ; entre 320 et 280, avec la réfection de son décor et la création, peut-être, de celui de l'édifice elliptique. La tentative de restituer des complexes unitaires à partir de ces disiecta membra est bien menée, même si l'on peut regretter que l'auteur n'ait pas composé de planches récapitulatives pour chacun des ensembles ainsi recomposés. Plus que pour le décor de la "résidence" ou du temple, pour lesquels cette étude confirme des points déjà acquis, c'est la question du grand édifice elliptique (p. 175 sq.) – interprété, selon les auteurs, comme un bouleuterion/comitium ou comme un édifice de spectacle - qui retient l'attention. Sur ce point, on est loin d'être frappé par l'"inattesa chiarezza" évoquée par F. Roncalli dans sa préface (p. 5), d'autant qu'il est difficile de raisonner sur le décor d'un édifice dont ne nous sont fournis aucune mesure, aucun plan, aucune restitution. Contre l'idée reçue selon laquelle il aurait été édifié en même temps que le temple, l'auteur propose de le dater du début de l'époque hellénistique, ce qui lui permet de faire l'économie de l'hypothèse bancale d'une construction publique demeurée deux siècles sans décor. Toutefois, compte tenu du chaos stratigraphique du site, il me semble très difficile de tirer argument de la centaine de fragments sur lesquels repose l'analyse, apparemment concentrés dans le secteur de cet édifice, moins parce qu'aucun élément incurvé censé s'adapter à la courbe de l'édifice n'a été retrouvé (p. 176, note 58) – les plaques pouvant sans difficulté avoir être fixées sur une surface courbe -, que parce que rien n'indique que cet édifice en grand appareil, reconstruit en blocage au début de l'époque romaine (moins sans doute comme "restaurazione antiquaria", p. 177, que parce qu'il avait conservé une fonction pratique) ait été couvert avec une charpente en bois qui aurait nécessité ce type de protection. Cette hypothèse encore bien fragile devrait être contrôlée par l'examen de l'ensemble des fragments du site et par une étude architecturale approfondie des vestiges du bâtiment. Sous le titre cryptique de Considerazioni, la fin du chapitre offre une bonne mise en contexte des types catalogués par rapport à ceux attestés à Caere et dans les grandes métropoles étrusques de Véies, Faléries et Orvieto.

La bibliographie5 (p. 183-185), dont les titres les plus récents remontent à 2003, comporte moins de 50 entrées, un chiffre modeste en regard de l'ancienneté des études de coroplastique étrusque et de la multiplication des recherches menées au cours de ces dernières années.6 On note en particulier l'absence de toute mention des volumes 2 et 3 de la série Deliciae fictiles, parus respectivement en 1997 et 2006,7 ainsi que celle plus compréhensible, compte tenu de sa date de parution récente, du précieux corpus de N. A. Winter.8

En refermant l'ouvrage, on peut se demander si ce catalogue manifestement prêt de longue date pour la publication, et qui contient la matière d'un gros article, n'aurait pas mieux trouvé sa place à l'intérieur du volume Caere 4, en replaçant ces terres cuites dans le contexte topographique et architectural qui leur fait ici cruellement défaut ; mais puisqu'il s'agit d'une monographie, on est fondé à regretter qu'elle ne prenne pas en compte le reste du matériel coroplastique trouvé dans la zone. Une telle étude aurait mieux justifié le prix exorbitant de ce volume très aéré (il comporte une quinzaine de pages blanches et, de la p. 120 à la fin, plus du quart de chaque page est vierge).9 Au lendemain de l'effondrement du système de financement traditionnel des publications scientifiques, on demeure partagé entre la reconnaissance envers l'éditeur Fabrizio Serra pour avoir arraché aux limbes des titres voués à une fin inéluctable et la perplexité devant un système éditorial qui tend désormais à interdire au particulier, et à un nombre toujours croissant de bibliothèques, l'acquisition du livre imprimé.


1.   1, Il parco archeologico, 1988 ; 2, Il teatro e la sua decorazione, 1989 ; 3, Il deposito arcaico di Vigna Parrocchiale, 1992 ; 4, Vigna Parrocchiale, scavi 1983-1989, 2003. Aucun d'entre eux n'a fait, à ce jour, l'objet d'un compte rendu sur ce site.
2.   La fig. 141 correspond au n. 588 de la p. 128.
3.   La correspondance est la suivante : Pl. I, 1 (n. 3), 2 (n. 51), 3 (n. 85), 4 (n. 87), 5 (n. 110), 6 (n. 111) ; pl. II, 1 (n. 119), 2 (n. 122), 3 (n. 139), 4 (n. 187), 5 (n. 232) ; pl. III, 1 (n. 233), 2 (n. 219), 3 (n. 276), 4 (n. 277) ; pl. IV, 1 (n. 309), 2 (n. 352), 3 (n. 385), 4 (n. 404), 5 (n. 529), 6 (n. 530).
4.   Les n. 51, p. 28, et 182, p. 58 et 60 ; et surtout la série complète n. 560-589, doublée aux p. 123-134 (on rectifiera en outre, p. 32, le second n. 82 en 83 et, p. 109, le second n. 460 en 469).
5.   L'usage flottant des majuscules dans les titres anglo-saxons ne fait ici que refléter le désarroi de la plupart des éditeurs face à cette question épineuse.
6.   Pour le site même, voir, en dernier lieu, V. Bellelli, " Ricerche nell'area fra l'edificio ellittico e il "tempio di Hera". Primi dati sulle campagne 2003 e 2005 " Mediterranea 5 (2008) p. 65-89 (avec planimétrie générale) ; voir aussi, dans ce même volume de la revue, le mobilier de comparaison du sanctuaire cérétain de S. Antonio (p. 91-137).
7.   Le quatrième volume de cette série est actuellement sous presse.
8.   Symbols of Wealth and Power. Architectural Terracotta Decoration in Etruria and Central Italy, 640-510 B.C. , Ann Arbor, 2009 (notamment p. 543-546, avec référence aux fragments de Vigna Parrocchiale, dont les plus anciens sont daté autour de 580).
9.   L'éditeur n'en propose pas de version on line.

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Roald Docter, Kristina Panayotova, Jan de Boer, Lieve Donnellan, Winfred van de Put and Babette Bechtold, Apollonia Pontica 2007 (second edition). Gent: Department of Archaeology, Ghent University, 2010. Pp. 188. ISBN 9789078848042.

Reviewed by Thibaut Castelli, Université de Reims (

Version at BMCR home site

Cet ouvrage est le premier livre concernant la nécropole d'Apollonia du Pont publié dans une langue autre que le bulgare. Il fournit ainsi une première étude sur un secteur d'une nécropole pontique assez largement fouillée, mais dont les résultats sont peu connus des non-bulgarophones. Il met à disposition des chercheurs un riche matériel, qui inclut la céramique commune, fort peu étudiée jusqu'ici, et non pas seulement les « beaux vases ». Le livre contient les résultats du travail mené en 2007 par une équipe d'archéologues de l'université de Gand dirigée par Roald Docter. L'équipe belge a participé durant quinze jours aux fouilles de sauvetage d'un petit secteur de la nécropole d'Apollonia du Pont aux côtés des fouilleurs bulgares dirigés par Kristina Panayotova. L'ouvrage se concentre sur la description et l'interprétation des structures découvertes, ainsi que de 5388 fragments, majoritairement céramiques, dont 339 éléments sont publiés et illustrés par des dessins et parfois par des photos. L'ensemble date du Ve au III e siècle avant J.-C. Cet ouvrage ne constitue, cependant, pour les auteurs eux-mêmes qu'un recueil de remarques préliminaires précédant l'examen plus approfondi des artefacts.

Le livre est organisé en huit chapitres, dont cinq, qui jouent un rôle central, sont consacrés à la publication des différentes catégories d'objets découverts. Une bibliographie est présente à la fin de chaque chapitre. On trouve à la fin de l'ouvrage un tableau de concordance entre le catalogue des découvertes et les numéros d'inventaire des objets.

Dans le premier chapitre, Kristina Panayotova replace les fouilles de ce secteur dans le cadre plus général des travaux accomplis dans les nécropoles d'Apollonia où ont été découvertes depuis plus d'un siècle près de 2200 tombes. La nécropole, située à Kalfata/Budjaka au sud d'Apollonia, le long de la mer, a été utilisée du milieu du Ve au début du II e siècle avant J.-C. Ce chapitre richement illustré présente succinctement les rites et le mobilier funéraires tels qu'ils sont connus par les fouilles.

Dans le chapitre suivant, Lieve Donnellan présente les structures fouillées par l'équipe gantoise à Kalfata/Budjaka : une tombe à ciste datée, grâce à deux lécythes, entre 375 et 350, une tombe à fosse datée grâce à un autre lécythe entre 350 et 325 et une seconde tombe à fosse datée, grâce à deux lécythes, entre 375 et 350. Dans ces trois tombes ont été retrouvés des restes humains. Six dépôts funéraires de céramique datés du Ve au IIIe siècle ont été retrouvés, sans pouvoir être associés à une tombe précise. Une krépis orientée NE/SO pourrait marquer la limite occidentale de cet ensemble de tombes. Dans cette krépis, on a trouvé des fragments céramiques et osseux. Au nord de la krépis, il semble y avoir une décharge constituée d'une concentration de débris céramiques, d'os et de pierres. Ces fragments céramiques sont l'objet d'étude principal des auteurs. On peut regretter qu'ils ne tirent pas davantage de conclusions de l'examen des structures fouillées.

Babette Bechtold et Roald Docter publient ensuite 181 fragments de céramiques communes et de cuisine, en faisant usage d'une typologie qui leur permet de proposer des datations par comparaison avec d'autres céramiques trouvées notamment à Athènes et Isthmia et, parfois, à Apollonia. La plupart de ces fragments sont datés entre la seconde moitié du Ve et le IIIe siècle. Une très large majorité de ces vaisselles réalisées à partir de deux types de pâtes (grise et rouge) – ont été attribuées à des fabricants locaux. Il faut saluer l'effort important de publication et d'identification de ces fragments de céramique commune qui ont longtemps été laissés de côté par les fouilleurs. On peut regretter, cependant, dans cette étude préliminaire, l'absence d'une comparaison avec d'autres sites de la mer Noire, qui pourrait permettre de préciser les datations des vases. Comme le soulignent les auteurs, le profil céramique d'Apollonia présente certaines spécificités, comme la plus grande popularité des chytrai par rapport aux lopades, l'inverse de la situation d'Athènes à la même époque. Pour des études ultérieures, les auteurs devraient prendre en compte davantage les spécificités pontiques, en termes de type, de chronologie et de diffusion, de ces céramiques communes.

Jan de Boer publie, dans le quatrième chapitre, des fragments provenant de 41 amphores de transport. Il en date la plupart entre le milieu du IVe et le début du IIIe siècle. Ainsi, sont notamment publiés un timbre amphorique d'Héraclée du magistrat Herakleides II daté entre 350 et 320 et des fragments de neuf amphores de la même cité, des fragments de six amphores thasiennes, de quatre amphores rhodiennes, de quatre amphores de Mendè, d'une amphore de Chersonèse et d'une amphore de Sinope. On retiendra surtout de ce chapitre l'attribution à une production apolloniate des fragments de neuf amphores. Les auteurs justifient cette interprétation par la similarité d'aspect avec la pâte des céramiques communes attribuées aux ateliers locaux. Pour la plupart, elles ressemblent à des amphores d'Héraclée et seraient le résultat de l'installation à Apollonia de potiers héracléotes. Il faut ici rappeler le débat concernant l'attribution des amphores dites à timbre englyphique. La grande majorité des amphorologues attribue depuis longtemps cette catégorie d'amphores à Héraclée du Pont.1 L'archéologue bulgare Petar Balabanov s'appuyant sur la découverte de nombreux timbres de ce type près d'Apollonia considère, à l'inverse, que les amphores à timbre englyphique sont produites dans cette cité.2 Les auteurs prennent donc un parti en quelque sorte intermédiaire en affirmant la présence, à côté des amphores produites à Héraclée (il s'agirait notamment d'amphores timbrées), d'une catégorie d'amphores attribuables à Apollonia. Cette hypothèse nécessite, comme les auteurs le reconnaissent eux-mêmes, d'être plus sérieusement étayée par des éléments supplémentaires comme des analyses physico-chimiques des pâtes.

Babette Bechtold et Roald Docter publient, dans le cinquième chapitre, 70 fragments de céramiques à vernis noir, peintes et à engobe rouge. Il s'agit pour l'essentiel de produits importés, principalement d'Attique mais aussi d'autres centres producteurs non identifiés. Les produits identifiés comme apolloniates sont peu nombreux. La plupart de ces céramiques ont été réalisées entre la fin du Ve et le IIIe siècle. Il faut noter à ce propos que d'autres cités de la mer Noire ont eu aussi leur production locale de céramiques vernies, peintes et à engobe comme à Kallatis et Istros où il existe une production de céramiques à vernis noir.3 Des analyses physico-chimiques des pâtes permettraient sans doute aux auteurs de réévaluer à la baisse la part des importations céramiques dans cette catégorie de céramique.

Winfred van de Put présente, dans le sixième chapitre, 26 vases athéniens, dont la majorité à figure rouge. Il s'agit notamment de lécythes, mais aussi d'une kylix et d'un cratère à colonne. Il date les céramiques trouvées dans ces tombes du milieu du IVe siècle, tandis qu'entre les tombes les fragments dateraient du Ve siècle. Le lécythe no. 300 pourrait ne pas être attique comme l'auteur l'affirme, étant donné la pâte plus claire et le vernis de mauvaise qualité visibles sur les photographies.

Roald Docter présente enfin différents types d'objets (tuiles, statuettes…), plus difficiles à classer. L'auteur note la présence assez inhabituelle à Apollonia en contexte funéraire de quatre pesons pour filets de pêche et métiers à tisser et d'un fragment de meule en basalte.

Dans les conclusions, Roald Docter revient sur différents points : l'absence de vaisselle liée à la préparation culinaire dans les dépôts funéraires, la fragmentation importante des vestiges céramiques et osseux en dehors des tombes et les destructions rituelles des vases. La fragmentation est attribuée à diverses activités autour de ces tombes : la destruction d'anciennes tombes par la réalisation de nouvelles fosses et également les visites faites aux tombes, notamment pour préparer des repas communs, les perideipna. Les destructions rituelles de vases sont obtenues par percement de la base ou par cassure du col des lécythes ou du pied des amphores. Par exemple, près de 70% des vases relativement intacts présentent un percement du fond. L'auteur précise la chronologie des différents ensembles, les tombes, les dépôts et les groupes céramiques épars. Si on compare avec ce qui est connu des autres secteurs de la nécropole, notamment par la publication des fouilles franco-bulgares, on retrouve les mêmes phénomènes.4 Cependant, il semble que dans le reste de la nécropole les anciennes tombes n'aient pas été perturbées par les tombes plus récentes.

Cet ouvrage est remarquable par l'attention portée aux fragments retrouvés hors des tombes, attention plutôt rare, même pour des fouilles récentes. Ce point explique la brièveté des descriptions consacrées aux tombes en elles-mêmes, que certains pourront regretter. Même si quelques points sont discutables et pourront être améliorés dans la publication définitive de ces fouilles belges, il faut souligner l'effort de publication qui permet de mettre à disposition rapidement les résultats des fouilles (la première édition de l'ouvrage date de 2008) pour la communauté scientifique.

Introduction (Roald Docter)
The Necropolis of Apollonia Pontica in the Kalfata/Budjaka Locality (Kristina Panayotova)
The excavation of Squares C7, D7 and E7 (Lieve Donnellan)
Preliminary Observations on the Plain and Cooking Ware Fragments (Babette Bechtold, Roald Docter)
Preliminary Observations on the Greek Transport Amphorae (Jan de Boer)
Preliminary Observations on the Black Glazed, Painted and Red Slipped Ware Fragments (Babette Bechtold, Roald Docter)
Preliminary Observations on the Attic Figured and Related Wares (Winfred van de Put)
Varia (Roald Docter)
Concluding Remarks on the Finds Assemblage of Squares C7, D7 and E7 (Roald Docter)
Index of Inventory and Catalogue Numbers (Roald Docter)


1.   Yvon Garlan, « Les graveurs des timbres amphoriques d'Héraclée pontique », in A. Avram, V. Lungu, M. Neagu (éd.), ΦΙΛΙΑΣ ΧΑΡΙΝ. Mélanges à la mémoire de Niculae Conovici, Călăraşi, 2008, p. 71-72.
2.   Petar Balabanov, « The Origin of Amphorae with Englyphic Stamps », Dominique Kassab Tezgör et Nino Inaishvili (éd.), Production and Trade of Amphorae in the Black Sea, Istanbul, Paris, 2010, p. 19-22.
3.   Pierre Dupont, « Recherches de laboratoire sur les productions céramiques du Pont Ouest et Nord-Ouest : état de la question », Il Mar Nero, VI, 2004-2006, p. 59-66.
4.   Antoine Hermary (éd.), Apollonia du Pont (Sozopol) la nécropole de Kalfata (Ve-IIIe s. av. J.-C.) fouilles franco-bulgares (2002-2004), Paris, 2010.

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Jean-Pierre Aygon, Corinne Bonnet, Cristina Noacco (ed.), La mythologie de l'antiquité à la modernité: appropriation, adaptation, détournement. Interférences. Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2009. Pp. 419. ISBN 9782753508644. €20.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Nicola Montenz, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan (

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Table of Contents

L'ampio volume miscellaneo curato da Jean-Pierre Aygon, Corinne Bonnet e Cristina Noacco raccoglie ventotto saggi, preceduti da una prefazione congiunta dei tre curatori, contenenti gli atti di un importante convegno interdisciplinare svoltosi presso l'Université de Toulouse II-Le Mirail tra il 24 e il 26 gennaio 2008. Il volume dimostra il successo di un'iniziativa mirante a far convergere le diverse voci di antichisti, medievisti, studiosi dell'Umanesimo e del Rinascimento e, infine, modernisti, sul tema della mitologia e del lungo percorso (dall'antichità ai giorni nostri) dei suoi riusi, dei riadattamenti subiti nel tempo e nei generi letterari.

Molto opportunamente, i curatori hanno disposto l'amplissima materia del volume in sei consistenti macrostrutture (parties), raggruppando così, in ordine tematico, i diversi contributi (pp. 17-57; 58-125; 127-196; 197-263; 265-322; 323-382), che sono seguiti da un capitolo conclusivo (Transpositions mythologiques), a cura di Pascal Payen. In coda al volume compaiono le sinossi dei singoli interventi (pp. 389-403), i profili biografici degli autori (pp. 403-411), le bibliografie di riferimento (pp. 413-419) e l'indice sommario (pagine non numerate). Molto opportunamente, si diceva, perché l'estrema eterogeneità della materia trattata appare, grazie all'intervento degli editori, organizzata in modo chiaro e facilmente percorribile dal lettore, che non ha mai la percezione di trovarsi disorientato o confuso.

La prima parte del volume discute usi e riusi della mitologia nella poesia e nella filosofia greca. C. Calame affronta con agio le multiformi rivisitazioni del mito di Elena, analizzandone criticamente la figura all'interno dei diversi generi letterari (e, lato sensu mediatici) in cui apparve, dai poemi omerici a oggi. Dedicato alle funzioni del mito nella filosofia platonica è invece il testo di E. Jouët-Pastré, in cui la studiosa mostra con grande chiarezza come in Platone mito e ragione siano sentiti come complementari, e come proprio il mito possa contribuire a far emergere la verità del logos filosofico, preservandolo dagli eccessi della razionalità e dell'irrazionalità. Il saggio di G. Pironti mostra (rivelando in ciò una continuità d'impostazione con quello di Calame) come l'assenza di una versione canonica di un mito lo renda aperto a riletture, adattamenti e, talora, veri e propri détournements.

Ampio raggio d'analisi diacronica mostra la seconda parte, che, aprendosi con un articolato studio di J. Peigney sulle allusioni ai mostri mitici nelle commedie di Aristofane, si conclude con un'analisi del Libro delle parabole della Genesi di Meister Eckhart (J. Casteigt). Viene inoltre affrontato il problema del riuso del mito come topos argomentativo prendendo come paradigma l'Eunuchus terenziano (M.H. Garelli), seguito da una soddisfacente disamina della presenza di figure mitiche (anche attraverso il marcato reimpiego di un intertesto tragico) all'interno del Bellum civile di Lucano (F. Ripoll). L'attenzione al dettato intertestuale appare pronunciata in questa sezione, i cui contributi mirano a chiarire (e vi riescono in modo eccellente) l'apporto fattivo della memoria letteraria alla creazione di nuovi prodotti letterari o di raffinate nuances, oppure, ancora, come nel caso di Meister Eckhart, alla fondazione di una teoria metafisica dell'immagine.

Imperniata sulle multiformi sfaccettature dei riusi di paradigmi mitologici è anche la terza parte, dedicata nel suo complesso al medioevo. La consistente fusione tra cultura latina, miti classici e scandinavi e la storia descritta nei primi libri dei Gesta Danorum è il punto di partenza per una documentata analisi del metodo storiografico di Sàssone il Grammatico, nell'importante contributo di D. Lacroix. Attraverso una non dissimile analisi comparativa, che tocca l'antichità latina, di testi quali il Roman de Thèbes, il Roman d'Eneas, l'Ylias di Giuseppe di Exeter e l'Historia regum Britanniae di Goffredo di Monmouth, F. Mora giunge a tracciare il complesso percorso intellettuale da cui è scaturito il motto della renaissance del XII secolo, attribuito a Bernardo di Chartres: [...] nos esse quasi nanos gigantum humeris insidentes. Al centro dello studio di C. Noacco è invece l'interesse, nel XII e XIII secolo, per i miti di metamorfosi. Con particolare finezza ermeneutica la studiosa evidenzia le diverse finalità dei riusi di tali miti all'interno di lais e novelle cortesi: fine didattico, compensatorio (perché si sostituiscono a una realtà deludente) e iniziatico. Nel contributo successivo, studiando gli ampi riferimenti mitologici presenti—in modo a tutta prima sorprendente—all'inizio del Roman de Tristan en prose, e relativi alla genealogia del protagonista, O. Linder li interpreta come coerenti con l'ideologia aristocratica che sta alla base del testo. Chiude la sezione uno studio dei riusi medievali delle scene di violenza sessuale presenti nelle Metamorfosi ovidiane. L'autrice, M. Possamaï-Perez, mostra come tali paradigmi di violenza non soltanto siano riabilitati dagli autori cristiani, ma siano impiegati per indicare la forza con cui Dio, attraverso l'amore, colpisce l'anima del fedele.

La quarta parte è dedicata allo studio delle tecniche di riuso e appropriazione della mitologia operate nel periodo compreso tra la fine del medioevo e il Rinascimento. C. Ferlampin-Acher spiega in modo convincente la funzione della presenza di retaggi mitologici—specie in relazione all'onomastica—all'interno del romanzo di Perceforest. Secondo la studiosa, l'uso di nomi desunti dalla mitologia classica avrebbe la funzione di conferire profondità storica al racconto, senza altre implicazioni, con l'eccezione di tre casi notevoli: Vénus, Sebille, Zéphyr—nomi impiegati al fine di ricreare, attraverso un abile procedimento di détournement, una mitologia borgognona. P. Maréchaux tratta nel dettaglio lo studio dell'allegoria, chiarendo quali siano i punti di rottura che separano i trattatisti, tra il XIV e il XVI secolo, dal modello di riferimento quintilianeo, ed enucleandone le posizioni alla luce della storia dell'ermeneutica coeva. Dedicato ai racconti di fate è il contributo di A. Hoernel, che dopo aver delineato le modalità di progressiva mitologizzazione di tale genere letterario e i suoi esiti in termini di "histoire mythifiée, fabulée par les humanistes", ne rileva la perdita delle caratteristiche primarie, con il conseguente passaggio al genere letterario della fable. P. Chiron si sofferma su una delle leggende più care al primo Rinascimento francese: quella di Dedalo e Icaro, oggetto, se mai altri, di importanti riadattamenti, in genere a fine edificante. La figura di Icaro, inizialmente connotata in modo negativo, subisce diverso trattamento dai poeti della Pléiade, che finiscono per identificarsi in lui. H.T. Campagne studia il genere della novella tragica, con particolare riferimento al quinto libro delle Histoires tragiques di François de Belleforest, mostrando come spesso tali novelle, di impianto mutuato dalla tragedia classica, risultino creatrici di nuovi miti, fondati su allusioni a quelli classici, grazie a un lavoro di riscrittura in cui creazione, adattamento e dissimulazione del modello procedono spesso in parallelo.

Al mito come vettore del pensiero moderno è dedicata la quinta parte, che si apre con un'accurata analisi del mito di Idomeneo, condotta da J.P. Grosperrin. Conducendo un'indagine ad ampio raggio, l'autore ne chiarisce le riprese cristiane e le diverse appropriazioni nel Secolo dei Lumi, da parte dei Gesuiti, di Mozart e di Crébillon. G. Cammagre si sofferma sugli articoli che, nell'Encyclopédie si occupano di mitologia, redatti, nella maggior parte, dal cavalier de Jaucourt. Particolarmente attento alle tesi degli evemeristi, Jaucourt rivela, secondo l'autore, un atteggiamento cauto, frutto di un approccio critico che mantiene a distanza il coevo movimento per la riabilitazione dei miti. M.C. Huet-Brichard affronta il tema della presenza della mitologia nella Légende des siècles di Victor Hugo. Ispirata alla Bibbia, la Légende mostra lo sforzo per la costruzione di un'epopea del futuro fondata su una riscrittura della mitologia, base necessaria per celebrare i grandi miti moderni. C. Imbert traccia, infine, un ampio quadro del tema della "melanconia degli dèi titanici" nelle opere di Pavese, de Guérin, Mistral, Blaga, D'Arbaud, indotti alla mitizzazione letteraria di una "terra" che l'avvento delle società industriali ha condotto alla morte.

La sesta parte, conclusione dell'ampio lavoro critico degli studiosi che hanno dato vita a questo volume, affronta il complesso tema del "détournement du mythe dans la pensée contemporaine". Dedicato alla triade gidiana Prométhée-Œdipe-Thésée, lo studio di W. Geerts mostra come il testo sia latore, nella visione del mondo di Gide, di una dimensione di liberté, e, come Prometeo, Edipo e Teseo divengano veicoli del pensiero dello scrittore. S. Vignes chiarisce come nell'opera di Jean Giono i riferimenti alla mitologia siano palesi, tanto nei nomi dei personaggi quanto nei titoli delle opere stesse, sottolineando lo stretto legame che, nell'ottica di Giono, apparenta la Provenza alla Grecia. Concentrando poi l'analisi sulla Trilogie de Pan, la studiosa mette in luce come Giono si appropri della figura di Pan, facendone un ambiguo principio perturbatore, attraverso il quale l'ordine del mondo è costantemente rimesso in discussione. A. Despax analizza le modalità attraverso cui la fusione di mitologia e cristianesimo che anima sovente l'opera e il pensiero di Pierre Emmanuel contribuiscano a fornire una spiegazione alla morte di Orfeo—tema spesso affrontato dal poeta—e a darle un senso. Il Bain de Diane, noto saggio di Pierre Klossowski, è al centro del lavoro di C. Chauvin, in cui lo studioso approfondisce l'analogia, tipicamente klossowskiana, tra le epifanie divine del mito e lo sfavillare delle parole degli antichi nelle lingue moderne. Portata alle sue estreme conseguenze, tale analogia è alla base della celebre e discussa traduzione dell'Eneide realizzata da Klossowski. Il saggio di F. Zambon, suggello ideale del volume, prende in esame due riletture apparentemente diverse della leggenda del Graal, mito quanto mai attuale nella cultura europea successiva al 1882, anno della prima Uraufführung bayreuthiana dell'ultimo dramma musicale di Richard Wagner, Parsifal. Lontani dalla peculiare forma di misticismo che anima Parsifal, si pongono, nel quadro della letteratura europea coeva, Les Chevaliers de la Table Ronde di Jean Cocteau e Le Roi pêcheur di Julien Gracq, che Zambon analizza. Lontano dal vaporoso esoterismo wagneriano, il Graal di Cocteau è "le rare équilibre avec soi même". Gracq, voltosi alle saghe arturiane per allontanarsi consapevolmente dal mito greco, vede nella ricerca e nella conquista del Graal un'aspirazione terrena, un atto di orgoglio umano: il possesso del Graal pone l'uomo in contatto diretto con il divino, eppure infligge una ferita mortale.

Qualche parola per concludere. La mythologie de l'antiquité à la modernité costituisce oggi uno strumento di grande importanza per chi voglia affrontare il tema del recupero, della variazione, del riuso e delle deviazioni—in una parola: delle metamorfosi—subìte dal mito classico dall'antichità ai giorni nostri. Composto da contributi eterogenei, tutti sostenuti da un saldo rigore metodologico di fondo e da un vivace afflato comunicativo, il volume traccia un percorso privilegiato per chi voglia studiare nel dettaglio l'impatto della mitologia nella letteratura occidentale. L'analisi puntuale di ogni singolo testo trattato, pur minuziosa, non si spinge mai ai limiti dell'oscurità e non mira a costituirsi in mero cammeo ermeneutico: è invece funzionale a mostrare modalità di ricezione antiche e moderne, permettendo al lettore di addentrarsi proficuamente nel laboratorio degli autori che hanno reso grande la letteratura europea. Il fatto che il campo di indagine degli studiosi sia circoscritto, con poche eccezioni, alla letteratura romanza, con particolare ma non esclusiva attenzione a quella francese, non dovrà essere considerato limitante. Al contrario, il genuino rigore dei metodi di analisi applicati e gli incoraggianti risultati critici ottenuti possono a buon diritto essere considerati come un punto di riferimento per futuri ampliamenti del campo di indagine—ad altre letterature o, addirittura, a forme mediatiche diverse da quelle prese in esame in questo libro.

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Elizabeth A. Meyer, Metics and the Athenian Phialai-Inscriptions: A Study in Athenian Epigraphy and Law. Historia Einzelschriften Bd 208. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2009. Pp. 167; 47 p. of photos. ISBN 9783515093316. €56.00.

Reviewed by Kostas Vlassopoulos, University of Nottingham (

Version at BMCR home site

Since their discovery in the nineteenth century the phialai inscriptions have generated a continuous and inconclusive debate. These 33 inscriptions, which date to the late fourth century BC, record multiple entries which are all variations of the same general formula: personal name x, living in [deme], having escaped personal name y, phiale (a bowl) by weight 100. A typical example of the most extended formula: Philon, secretary, living at Thorikos, having escaped Pherekleides, son of Pherekleides, of the deme of Perithoidai, phiale by weight 100. Since the late nineteenth century, these inscriptions have been related to freedmen and manumission on the basis of two observations. The first was the reference to the phialai exeleutherikai in the Acropolis inventories, which seemed to refer to the phialai mentioned in the phialai inscriptions and thus led to their interpretation as bowls offered by freedmen. But in what context? A second observation allowed scholars to connect them with a trial known as dike apostasiou, in which former masters could prosecute their slaves for 'abandoning them, or registering another person as prostates, or not doing the things that the laws command'. Freedmen convicted in such trials reverted to slavery, while those acquitted became completely free and escaped any remaining obligations towards their former masters. Accordingly, it has become universally accepted that the phialai inscriptions record the dedications of successful freedmen in a dike apostasiou. Even more, some of these inscriptions seem to record multiple trials taking place at the very same day or within a short period of time. It has appeared to many scholars that it is implausible that so many trials could have taken place in such a short period if they were genuine trials; consequently, they have argued that the dike apostasiou was or had become a fictive and collusive trial, which served as the Athenian equivalent to the manumission practices we find in other Greek communities. The recording of the phialai was the Athenian equivalent of the recording of manumissions in other Greek communities.

In this very interesting book, Elizabeth Meyer offers a radical reinterpretation of these documents, which completely dissociates them from freedmen and manumission. The book consists of two parts. Part I (11-80) reviews and criticises earlier views and offers a detailed presentation of Meyer's alternative interpretation. Part II (81-144) is a collection and re-edition of all 33 inscriptions, with full apparatus and commentary and accompanied by 47 excellent photos of the inscriptions.

In summary, Meyer's interpretation is the following: these inscriptions are inventory lists of phialai dedicated as tithes worth 100 drachmas from fines of 1,000 drachmas paid by unsuccessful prosecutors of metics through the trial known as graphe aprostasiou, which involved the prosecution of metics for not having a prostates or for failing to pay the tax of the metoikion (28). Meyer reviews the problems faced by earlier interpretations (17-28) and tries to establish why the procedure of aprostasiou against metics provides a more convincing framework for interpreting these inscriptions than that of apostasiou against freedmen (28-47); she further shows that we can link these inscriptions with various other measures taken by the Athenians between the 350's and the 320's to ameliorate the condition of the metics and to offer them better protection from prosecutions (47-58); she reviews the administrative process instigated by Lycurgus that led into the collection of all phialai on the Acropolis, their recording in the inventories of the phialai inscriptions and their melting down and rededication (59-69); finally, she offers a number of considerations based on the prosopography of the defendants and prosecutors in the inscriptions which according to her point towards the metic procedures rather than the freedmen ones (69-78).

In my view, Meyer makes a very convincing case concerning the administrative process that led into the creation of the phialai inscriptions. She argues that we should see this process as part of the religious and administrative reforms of Lycurgus. The phialai were transferred to the Acropolis from their original place of dedication (in Meyer's view the sanctuary of Zeus Eleutherios), inventoried in the phialai inscriptions and then melted down and rededicated. The information on the trials presented in the phialai records was inscribed on the phialai themselves and the scribes who created the inventories copied them straight from the objects (a nice illustration on 67). This ingenious interpretation explains the variety of formulas recorded on the phialai inscriptions. But equally importantly it provides a convincing explanation of the chronological context of the inscriptions. We avoid the chronological problems created by having to assume that all these phialai were dedicated by various people during a short period in the 330s and 320s: it is only the inventory of these dedications that took place in this period, while the dedications can have taken place many years or decades before. Even more, if these records are the peculiar Athenian way of recording manumissions, it becomes difficult to see why the Athenians only felt such a need to record manumissions for a short period in the 330s and 320s. But now Meyer offers a convincing explanation of why an inventory of these inscriptions was made at this particular point in time. The purpose of recording the phialai was not the public recording of manumissions, as earlier accounts posited.

Whether she is right about her other main point, which is the interpretation of the phialai records as trials involving metics and not freedmen is a separate story. I personally find that part of her argument largely unconvincing. There are many potential objections with Meyer's interpretation, but for reasons of space I want to concentrate on the four most serious ones.

(1) If Meyer is right that the phialai records have nothing to do with manumissions or freedmen, then how should we interpret the reference to the phialai exeleutherikai in the Acropolis inventories, on the basis of which the phialai records were originally interpreted as recording manumissions? Her suggestion is that the term exeleutherikai has nothing to do with freedmen, but should be linked to the cult of Zeus Eleutherios and interpreted as 'brought forth from Eleutherios' (54). But this is an implausible translation of exeleutherikai, and equally implausible is her suggestion that the metics who escaped conviction in aprostasiou trials called themselves exeleutheroi (55). Given that exeleutheros, though a rare term, is only attested in relationship to freedmen, Meyer's suggestion seems to be strained. We know that in other Greek communities freedmen made dedications of sacred objects on the occasion of their manumission, and this seems the most plausible interpretation of the phialai exeleutherikai.

(2) If the phialai are tithes, the natural assumption would be that they would be paid and dedicated either by the victorious metics in their own name, as with most Greek dedications, or by the defeated prosecutors, as e.g. with the convicted athletes in Olympia. The suggestion that the phialai are dedications of tithes of the fines, which were dedicated by the victorious metics but paid by the defeated prosecutors (59) seems strained. Meyer does not bring any parallels in which a dedication is offered by one person but paid by another and I am not aware of such examples either. If these are tithes, they must be either paid and dedicated by the defendants or paid and dedicated by the prosecutors. The formulas make it quite unlikely that they were dedicated by the prosecutors; consequently, it seems more plausible that they were dedicated by the defendants. If this is correct, it creates a grave problem for Meyer's interpretation of the phialai as tithes from fines in a graphe. Another explanation must be sought.

(3) The prosecutors include two minors acting together with their kyrioi (guardians) and one public slave (73). It is difficult to see how a minor or a public slave could bring a graphe, but this problem is perhaps not insurmountable. What is difficult to envisage is a circumstance in which a minor or a public slave might litigate against a metic as suggested by Meyer. Clearly neither category could act as prostatai; but how plausible is it that either a minor or a public slave would have acquired the rights to a contract to collect the metoikion and sue a metic for non-payment? I find this scenario largely implausible. On the contrary, it is easy to interpret these cases if they involve prosecutions against freedmen: both a minor and a public slave could conceivably own slaves and move against them for either 'abandoning them' or 'not doing the things that the laws command', i.e. the other two potential charges relating to apostasiou, apart from 'registering another person as prostates', which clearly would not apply in this case (18-9).

(4) If the phialai result from prosecutions against metics for not taking a prostates or not paying the metoikion, then there emerges an immediate problem: 16 of the phialai result from prosecutions against boys and girls. In what circumstances would it be possible to litigate against metic children? I know of no parallels for such an action against free children, and Meyer does not offer any either. I find it deeply implausible that they would result out of a charge for not taking a prostates: surely the prosecutor would prosecute the parent or guardian and not the minor. Is it possible they might result out of non-payment of the metoikion? According to the sources, the metoikion was 12 drachmas for males and 6 for females, but 'if the son pays, the mother need not' (29). The only way to interpret the passage is that metic women paid only if they were unmarried, divorced or widowed, i.e. if they were without a male kyrios; if they had a husband he would presumably pay the metoikion on behalf of the household, and if not, if the male son was old enough to pay (presumably as head of the household), then the mother had no obligation to pay as well. This must mean that children did not have to pay at all. From a comparative point of view, all cases of poll tax I am aware of do not apply to children, and many of them do not apply to women either: they tend to apply to male heads of households and other adult males living in them (or to women acting as heads of households). Even if we concede Meyer's point, that the prosecutor might prosecute the male children in order to avoid arguments like 'my son has paid, so I do not need to' (71), there would be no point in prosecuting a female child: accordingly, it is difficult to see how the phialai might result from prosecutions against metics. On the contrary, it is easy to interpret them if they result from prosecutions against manumitted slaves: manumitted children could certainly have obligations towards their former masters and they could be prosecuted for not meeting them.

Perhaps it is possible to meet the above objections, and in that case they will hopefully generate further fruitful debate. For the time being, in the view of this reviewer Meyer's argument that the phialai relate to metics and not freedmen is not convincing; although the precise procedure that has generated these records is still far from clear, some connection to freedmen is the only way in which the four objections above can be met, as far as I can see. Nevertheless, Meyer's book has provided a very useful collection and edition of the texts along with a convincing interpretation of their process of recording and publication. It deserves to be read with attention even by those who might disagree with the central interpretation and it will be undoubtedly be at the centre of any future discussion of these deeply fascinating inscriptions.

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