Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Keith Maclennan, Virgil Aeneid I. London: Bristol Classical Press, 2010. Pp. 188. ISBN 9781853997167. $24.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Matthew Carter, The University of Western Ontario (

Version at BMCR home site

[The reviewer apologizes for the lateness of this piece.]

[The volume's table of contents is included at the end of the review.]

This useful edition, like the author's two previous Aeneid commentaries for Bristol Classical Press (reviewed here, 2004.06.38 and 2008.07.53), offers vocabulary and grammatical help for students, along with interpretative notes "very heavily dependent upon Austin" (p. 7).1

The introduction provides biographical and historical information ample enough for a student audience, although Maclennan's discussion of the poet's career is not sufficiently critical of the accretion of romantic lore that is Donatus' Life of Virgil. Throughout this section the author shows his fine grasp of a major facet of Virgil's art: the ability to present and sustain multiple points of view at once. Maclennan invites the reader to compare the end of Georgics 1 with the end of Georgics 2, "how things are" versus "how they might be" (p. 15). This is a commendably efficient way to present the idea of the "two voices" that resonate not only in the Aeneid but throughout the Virgilian corpus.

After four pages on Rome's history with Carthage, and seven more to summarize what happens in the Aeneid, Maclennan offers two welcome additions to the format of his previous introductions: a good discussion of Virgil's afterlife in European literature and music (pp. 29-33) and a set of specimen translations of Aeneid 1.81-92, presented in chronological order, by Gavin Douglas, John Dryden, and David West. The collocation of these three versions will make it easy for teachers to generate classroom discussion about the art of translation itself.

The extended treatment of metrical matters (pp. 35-43) is for the most part satisfactory, and especially good on ictus and accent, although one feature of Maclennan's guide to scansion may confuse beginners. Here is how he presents line 60:

sēd pǎtěr | ōmnǐpǒt|ēns spēl|ūncīs | ābdǐdǐt | ātrīs

The long marks here are, misleadingly, visually identical to the macrons he prints over the naturally long vowels in his Latin indices.2 A student could thus be forgiven for thinking that sed, omnis, and ab contain long vowels or for failing to see that a metrically long syllable may yet contain a short vowel.3 The suggested syllabification is also misleading: in Latin, "a single intervocalic consonant is assigned to the onset of the following syllable" (omnipo|tēns, spē|luncīs).4

The commentary notes themselves are economical without ever being over-terse, and make good use of Austin, though readers deserve to know just how useful that older commentary is; Maclennan cites Austin fewer than twenty times, which seems somewhat stingy in light of the author's admitted "heavy dependence."5

As a practical matter, Maclennan's commentary offers especially good coverage on the portions of Aeneid I included on the newly-pared-down Advanced Placement syllabus (1-209; 418-440; 494-578, non amplius) that goes into effect in 2012; this coverage, along with the affordable price, should make it possible for teachers to adopt the book with confidence. The Focus series, with its fuller bibliography and more generous citation of Greek, remains the better choice for university students,6 but Maclennan has produced an enjoyable, eloquent, and effective volume, carefully tailored to the needs of beginners.

Some more detailed observations:

p. 83, on. vv. 25-8: fuller citation of Theognis and Callimachus is needed.

p. 87, on v. 65: Ennius is cited from Warmington's Remains of Old Latin I (Loeb, 1935, revised 1956) here and elsewhere with the abbreviation W, but the work is missing from the bibliography on p. 52-53.

p. 87 on vv. 76-9: Maclennan winningly attributes to Aeolus "the exaggerated (perhaps ironical) humility of a servant." However, because of the way the rest of the note is presented, Maclennan's momentary assumption of the persona ("it's such a bother for you, madam, just to decide what you want") could be mistaken for an actual translation of Virgil's tuus, o regina, quid optes | explorare labor.

p. 88, on v. 93: Maclennan cites the Oxford Classical Dictionary for the prayer stance with raised arms: it would be more helpful to cite a primary source (e.g. Iliad 5.174, Διὶ χεῖρας ἀνασχών).

p. 98, on vv. 200-1: Maclennan calls the pistrix "an alarming but unknown creature": we can be more exact; see now Horsfall's commentary (Brill 2006) on Aeneid 3.427.

p. 112-13, on vv. 315ff.: An excellent note on Harpalyce, but it is tendentious to refer to her as a "gipsy bandit." Even so, Maclennan makes a simple and elegant point about Harpalyce as a model for Camilla.

p. 116, on. v. 343: Maclennan's note implies that there is critical consensus in favor of Huet's emendation auri for the universally transmitted agri, but auri was already rejected as trite by Heyne, and Conte in his new Teubner edition (2009) rightly prefers agri.

p. 133, on vv. 485-87: There is an incomplete sentence beginning "if at the moment of ransom".

p. 139, on vv. 539-40: The author does a good job explaining why neuter /hǒc/ (<*hod-ce) scans long; students should also be aware that it always has this scansion. p. 144, on vv. 592-3: Nisbet and Hubbard's commentary (OUP, 1970) is cited without bibliographical information.

p. 153, on v. 661: Maclennan translates bilingues "with forked, snake-like tongue"; this may be going too far (Servius offers merely "fallaces", "deceitful"). There are a few macrons missing from words in the index of names (pp. 164-168): Bēlus, Īllyricus, Oenōtrī.

There are also macrons missing from words in the cumulative vocabulary list (pp. 169-188): āēr; ārdeō, ārdēscō; coniūnx; dehīscō; dēsuētus; flūctus; fōrma; frūstum; lāpsus; mīlle; nūllus; nūntiō, -āre; nūtrīmentum; ōrdior, ōrsus; ōrdō; ōrnātus; ōstium; pūrgō; rēgnō, -āre; rēgnum; rēx; succīnctus; ūllus, ūllius, ūllī; vīscera

Table of Contents

Preface 7
Introduction 9
1. Tantae molis erat… 9
2. The Aeneid and Roman history 10
3. Virgil's life and writings 14
4. Virgil's predecessors 15
5. Rome, Carthage, and Dido 19
6. Summary of the Aeneid 22
7. The Aeneid after Virgil 29
8. Translating Virgil 33
9. Metre 35
10. Virgil's use of metre and language 40
11. Reading Virgil 46
Some reading 52

Aeneid I: The Latin Text 54

Notes on the Text 77

Index 1: Literary, grammatical, and metrical terms 163
Index 2: Names etc. 164

Vocabulary 169

Abbreviations 188


1.   P. Vergili Maronis Aeneidos Liber Primus, ed. R. G. Austin, Oxford 1971.
2.   Maclennan alone is not to blame; this problem has arisen in many other commentaries, including the Focus series (books 1 and 2, ed. Randall Ganiban, 2011.03.29 and 2009.05.24; book 3, ed. Christine Perkell, 2010.11.23). Although the formatting will not be easy, there remains a need for metrical symbols to be superimposed above the low-profile diacritical markings that should be used uniformly to indicate vowel length.
3.   Maclennan made this second point clearly in his Aeneid 6 introduction (p. 42 n. 53) but does not make it in the present volume.
4.   Michael Weiss (2009), Outline of the Historical and Comparative Grammar of Latin. Ann Arbor: Beech Stave Press. p. 67.
5.   Austin named: ad 95-6; 106-7; 119; 200-1; 275; 315ff., 376, 402-4; 435; 439; 448-49; 502; 544; 573; 617-18; 636; 724.
6.   Instructors may also wish to consider the newly published reader by Peter Jones, Reading Virgil: Aeneid I and II. Cambridge intermediate Latin readers. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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Elizabeth Heimbach, A Roman Map Workbook. Mundelein, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 2010. Pp. vii, 140. ISBN 9780865167261. $22.00 (pb).

Reviewed by R. Scott Smith, University of New Hampshire (

Version at BMCR home site


In an important article on cultural literacy in the Latin classroom, Kenneth Kitchell identifies several ways in which lack of knowledge about the ancient world prevents students from making progress in language acquisition, especially in the upper levels.1 To demonstrate his point, he provides numerous examples of passages that, without extensive understanding of Greco-Roman culture, would baffle even the student well trained in verb forms, case usage, and syntax. A common theme running through these passages is the dazzling array of geographical and ethnic references found in Latin literature. Take, for instance, just the first line of the Deucalion episode at Ovid, Met. 1 (p. 216): Separat Aonios Oetaeis Phocis ab arvis; or the geographical challenges that Caesar's Gallic Wars presents (p. 217); or the topographical knowledge required to make sense out of Horace, Satire 1.9 or any of Cicero's orations. In other words, although Kitchell does not say it outright, ignorance of geography and topography remains one of the major roadblocks to the understanding and enjoyment of Latin literature. Heimbach's new workbook, the product of thirty years' experience in the high school classroom, is therefore a welcome addition to the arsenal of tools that instructors of Latin can employ to provide their students with the cultural background to tackle ancient texts.

The book consists of thirteen chapters, arranged by topic, covering not only ancient Italy and the Roman empire, but also more narrowly focused topics such as the Bay of Naples, Pompeii, Greece, Gaul, ancient Epics (essentially the travels of Ulysses and Aeneas), and Roman writers. Each chapter essentially follows the same pattern. First, the student encounters an introductory narrative keyed to a specific map. Numerous exercises that test the acquisition of this knowledge (some questions are posed in Latin) follow, as well as a blank map on which to practice. This is a pedagogically sound organization. A nifty feature entitled "Ire Ulterius"—for which, as Heimbach says, students will need "a dictionary, an encyclopedia, a history book, or the Internet"—encourages students to take command of their own learning. Questions in this section range from simple (p. 26: "Research the derivation of the name of the continent of Europe. Retell the myth briefly") to more complex tasks (p. 54: "What are some of the ways scholars have been able to find out what the Forum looked like at different periods of Roman history? How did they discover information on specific buildings like the Temple of Vesta in order to restore it accurately?"). Rounding out each chapter are suggestions for classroom and individual projects (my favorite: make a topographical model of Rome out of quick-drying clay). Three sets of certamen questions, as one might expect from a veteran of secondary Latin teaching in Virginia, are also included in the volume. A teacher's guide is available with additional goodies, including access to electronic copies of the maps (which is not as exciting as it seems: see below).

The introductory narratives that introduce the maps are, though generally terse at an average of a page and a half, full of useful facts aimed at students unfamiliar with the ancient world. Within this limited space Heimbach efficiently weaves in historical, cultural, and mythological information that contextualizes the identity of a place—which, for ancient readers, was not so much about a point on a grid as about its nexus at the crossroads of space, time, and tradition. Thus, Cyprus and Crete are not only to be identified as islands, but also understood in relation to their deep cultic and mythical associations. On the whole the information is correct and appropriate for its audience, but there are occasions where the information is imprecise, based on outdated research, or erroneous (the last is thankfully rare).2 Teachers may wish to have at hand a copy of Claridge's Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide (2010) or Coarelli's Rome and Environs: An Archaeological Guide (2007) for further reading.

The effectiveness of a Roman map workbook largely depends, one might reasonably argue, on the quality and accuracy of the maps. The publisher boasts of "20 new maps" (i.e., maps and city plans), which, as noted on the copyright page, were created by "mapping specialists." This aspect of the book is disappointing. Outright errors are few; I noticed that Alesia was placed on the south coast of Spain, and the greater and lesser Syrtes are marked as cities on the African shore on p. 20. But the production is on the whole poor, both in conception and design. Although the basic cartographic maps (that is, those based on big geographic features like Italy and the Mediterranean basin) are generally clear and attractive, there are some curiosities. Why, for instance, are names not mentioned in the narrative included on the big map of the Mediterranean? Do students meeting this material for the first time really need to know the Albis, Vidua, and Vistula rivers? On the other hand, the maps with narrative content are strangely composed, often light on specifics, and often more confusing than helpful. For instance, the map on p. 75 presents puzzling movements of the Gauls. On p. 79 the caption reads "Roman History: Punic Wars," but the campaigns depicted are only for the second Punic War and even then light on content and baffling. On p. 85 the map of "The Roman Empire under Trajan" virtually replicates the much better map of the Roman Empire in chapter 2, but neither provides provincial boundaries—and yet, the map of Italy in chapter one is divided up into the Augustan administrative districts, without comment.

The plans of cities and towns (Rome, ch. 4; Pompeii, ch. 6; Athens, ch. 9) are particularly unattractive and frustrating. For instance, although the Odeon in Pompeii is presented as a building to be learned and the word is on the plan, there is no diagram that even comes close to looking like an Odeon (though the large theater, unnamed, is quite prominent). The map of the Roman Forum is exceptionally poor. There are so many mistakes and infelicities in this map that I relegate the list to a note rather than detain the reader here.3

It is unfortunate that these plans are so unsightly and problematic, for there is much in this book that can and will doubtlessly benefit the student of Latin. The book is aimed at the middle and high school levels. Given the new focus of the AP Latin exam on Vergil and Caesar, teachers will appreciate the maps of Aeneas' travels and of Gaul, but a future edition of this book may wish to tailor these chapters to meet the specific needs of the AP Latin teacher more fully. In conclusion, it is a pity that, for all the benefits that the text and exercises will bring, teachers will have to pay twenty-two dollars for a set of not terribly attractive or helpful maps. Chris Scarre's richly illustrated and annotated book of maps, despite its own faults, remains only half the price. Readers who want to judge for themselves whether the benefits outweigh the one poorly designed aspect of the book can do so; in addition to the link to Googlebooks provided at the beginning of the review, the publisher also gives a preview of certain chapters.4


1.   Kenneth Kitchell, "Latin III's Dirty Little Secret: Why Johnny Can't Read Latin," New England Classical Journal 27 (2000) 206-226.
2.   A few examples from ch. 4, pt. 2 (Roman Forum): "The porch of this [sc. the Temple of Castor] was used for public speeches before the rostra was built" (p. 51). This is imprecise, supposing Heimbach means the Julian rostra; the temple was used for public contiones, but the Republican rostra coexisted with this building. In discussing the Curia's relatively small size, Heimbach states (p. 51), "There were never more than 300 senators so the Curia was not designed to accommodate large crowds." This is simply not true. Up to Sulla there were 300 senators; Sulla raised the rolls to 600 members, Caesar to 900, and Augustus (post triumvirate) reduced it down to Sullan levels; by the beginning of the third century it had risen again to around 800. See Lily Ross Taylor and Russell T. Scott, "Seating Space in the Roman Senate and the Senatores Pedarii," TAPA 100 (1969) 529-582. On p. 73 Heimbach notes that "scholars agree that in the seventh century BCE, Rome came to be ruled by the Etruscans;" recent work, however, has come to question the whole notion of Etruscan hegemony in Latium. Heimbach is also keen to present the Latin words with the correct quantities of vowels for virtually everything, which is laudable, but there are over thirty places where the quantities are either wrong or unmarked.
3.   First, the buildings mentioned in the text. The Temple of Saturn is pentastyle, not hexastyle, and there is an inexplicable gap separating what I suppose is meant to be the top staircase with the (supposed) lower staircase. The Temple of Castor is 6x9, not 8x11, and there is no cella drawn. The Basilica Julia is not identifiable as a building, but merely a series of squares that, one presumes, represent columns. The east end only has one row of columns when it should have three. Worse, there are no lines outlining the overall shape of the building; no walls are identifiable. The case is similar for the Basilica Aemilia. One might consider such criticism excessively picky, yet Heimbach stresses the transformation of the basilical form into a Christian church, emphasizing the change in orientation and access from the long side to the narrow side. Looking at the drawing on the map, one cannot make out any walls, much less access points. Even though the following are not mentioned in the narrative, surely the mapping specialists should have taken care to draw these buildings accurately. The Temple of Vespasian is oriented the wrong way and does not have columns. The Temple of Concord has a strange checkerboard pattern drawn around the wide back portion, and it does not have its frontal columns. Nor does the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. The Tabularium is poorly drawn. The drawing of the Regia is remarkably imprecise. Why the mapping specialists did not check their work against widely available archaeological handbooks such as Claridge, Coarelli, or Richardson is astonishing.
4.   See Preview Bolchazy.

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Jonathan Edmondson (ed.), Augustus. Edinburgh Readings on the Ancient World. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009. Pp. xxviii, 543. ISBN 9780748615940. £95.00.

Reviewed by Alberto Dalla Rosa, Universität zu Köln (

Version at BMCR home site


Edmondson's selection of fifteen essays on Augustus is a fine addition to the series of Edinburgh Readings on the Ancient World and should be praised as an excellent didactic tool for English-speaking, graduate students of ancient history. In accordance with the purpose of the series, Edmondson presents here some of the best scholarly work on Augustus published in the last fifty years, by important historians such as Ronald Syme, Fergus Millar, Jean-Louis Ferrary and Werner Eck.

The Note to the Reader (pp. xiv-xv) should be not overlooked by those not accustomed to the editorial principles of the series. For the essays (each of them is a chapter of the book) come from a number of different journals and books, one can find significant differences in the citation styles in use; similarly, in some cases the bibliography is at the end of the chapters, in other ones is given in full in the footnotes. All the works cited by the editor at various stages (general introduction, introductions to each part, guide to further reading, etc.) are to be found at the end of the volume, together with a chronology, an index of the consulates and the renewals of the tribunician powers of Augustus, a general index and a glossary. A full list of the different abbreviations used is handily placed at the beginning of the volume (pp. xvi-xxviii). Some work has been done on the text of the essays as well: every quotation from Latin and Greek has been translated into English (mostly by the editor himself) and placed within squared brackets; longer quotations have been replaced altogether with the English text, leaving the original in a footnote. Explanatory glosses have been added to make technical terms more clear. The size of some essays has been slightly reduced (particularly in the footnotes) in consultation with the authors and in two cases a brief postscript has been added to bring the content up to date with more recent studies. Werner Eck and Jean-Louis Ferrary took the occasion of this republication to introduce a number of minor modifications in their articles. The result is inevitably a lack of uniformity that reminds more of a medieval schoolbook than a modern handbook. Nevertheless the volume is easily readable and all essays share the same font and layout.

In the general introduction Edmondson points out briefly some of the key facts of the restoration of the Republic and of the political and cultural agenda of the first princeps, hinting at the most important epigraphic and archeological discoveries.1 Then he turns to a useful and well documented outline of the modern historical research on Augustus starting from Mommsen. Of course much space is given to English scholars, with a particularly vivid description of the antipathy between Ronald Syme and Hugh Last, but German, French and Italian studies on the subject are well represented and placed in their political and historical context.

The following fifteen chapters are divided in four sections, each one preceded by a concise foreword in which the editor introduces the reader to the authors and the subject of the chapters. Part I "The novus status: From IIIvir rei publicae constituendae to princeps" deals with Octavian/Augustus' rise to power. The section is opened by the famous and beautifully written article "Imperator Caesar: A Study in Nomenclature" by Ronald Syme. There follows the equally famous "Triumvirate and Principate" by Fergus Millar, here in the revised version of 2002 2. Chapter 3 is the fundamental essay of Jean-Louis Ferrary of 2001 on the powers of Augustus (translated by Edmondson). In chapter 4 John Rich examines the key role of the military commands of Augustus and his co-regents in the foundation of the new regime. Chapter 5 reproduces the seminal article by Nicholas Purcell of 1986 on Augustus' wife Livia. A brief postscript by the author gives account of the growing bibliography on the subject in recent years. Part II "Res publica restituta" focuses on some of the most important administrative and social reforms of the Augustan era; it opens with an essay by Kurt Raaflaub on the political significance of Augustus' military reforms (Chapter 6), followed by Werner Eck's description of the pragmatic character of various administrative reforms of this period (transl. Claus Nader); Chapter 8 reproduces Andrew Wallace-Hadrill's interpretation of the much debated Augustan marriage laws; in Chapter 9 John Scheid's article (transl. Edmondson) stresses the importance of religious rituals in the legitimation of the princeps. Part III "Images of power and power of images" takes inspiration from the well known book of P. Zanker and includes essays by Tonio Hölscher on the monuments related to the battle of Actium (ch. 10, transl. C. Nader), by Maria Wyke on the different images of Cleopatras in the Roman propaganda (ch. 11), by Peter Wiseman on the important role of the goddess Cybele in the Augustan ideology (ch. 12), and finally by T.J.Luce on the disagreements between the elogia of the Augustan forum and Livy's tradition (ch. 13). Part IV "The impact of Augustus in the Roman provinces" draws examples from regional cases: in the first essay Walter Trilmich provides an overview of Augustus' building programme at Emerita in Lusitania (ch. 14, transl. Nader); a postscript by the author brings the article up to date with the most recent excavations and studies. The final chapter is an excerpt of Glen Bowersock's book "Augustus and the Greek World" (ch. 15).

Given the enormous bibliography in the subject, the editor could have picked a completely different set of studies and yet have come to the same good result. Therefore there is no reason to lament the absence of this or that essay.3 By deliberate choice, Edmondson did not reproduce any excerpt from Syme's "Roman Revolution", Zanker's "Power of Images" or Nicolet's "Inventaire du monde", for students should read these works in their entirety. Limits of space prevented the inclusion of any Italian author, but the interested reader can find English versions of studies by Arnaldo Momigliano, Emilio Gabba and others.4 Edmondson's selection is oriented towards essays of fairly general purpose and relatively recent publication: apart from the opening and the closing chapters, the other ones reproduce papers written or reworked after 1980. The editor avoided printing here studies that, despite their importance, could be seen as obsolete. This is particularly true for Ferrary's article on the powers of Augustus, which is nowadays the most recent and widely accepted treatment of the subject: it includes the most important progress made in this complex field of study and contributed to changing the long-standing communis opinio on the imperium consulare/proconsulare of the emperor.

Given the composite character of this publication it is normal to find some incoherences that could perhaps confuse the less experienced reader. For example, Millar suggests that Augustus could have been proconsul in his provinces while holding the consulate in 27 BC (p. 81), but this view is rightly rejected by Ferrary in the following chapter. Another case is provided by the triumphal arch for Augustus in the Roman forum, about whose construction phases and celebratory purposes there is much debate and therefore the reader should not be surprised to find different points of view in the articles by Rich (p. 148), Scheid (p. 282) and Wyke (p. 362). In these cases an explanatory sentence should perhaps have been inserted, just to make clear where in the historical research progress is made and where the issue is still open.5 The postscript added by Trillmich at the end of Chapter 14 is of particular interest, for it compares the hypotheses proposed by the author in 1990 with the results of more recent excavations. As the editor points out (p. 424-25), this allows the reader to understand how new evidence can overturn previous reconstruction and why the historian must always be ready to modify or abandon his or her previous theories in the light of new data and new interpretations of existing materials.

As said above, the volume comes with a set of helpful tools. The chronology lists many events from the birth of Augustus in 63 BC to the deification of Livia in 42 AD and then jumps quite abruptly to modern times listing the dates of important publications, exhibitions and epigraphical discoveries that have been referred to in the introduction. The glossary is very general and is aimed at students with little knowledge of the Latin language and Roman culture for it includes terms like senatus, consul and so on 6. In the index of abbreviations journal names are given in italics, while series are not: this fact should perhaps be indicated at the beginning of the section (p. xxiii).

A few mistakes should be corrected: on p. 8 Mussolini's "Repubblica Sociale Italiana" is surprisingly translated with "Italian Socialist Republic" while the right term is "Social". Mommsen's "Staatsrecht" consists of three volumes (in five actual books) and not two, as written on p. xxvi.

The price of the hardcover version is not accessible to everyone, but a paperback edition should appear shortly. In conclusion this is a valuable publication for every student interested in Roman history and in the age of Augustus. Experienced scholars too will find useful to (re)read the essays in this slightly updated version. This is not a reprint, but a well introduced and annotated republication of the original works. This fact makes the book particularly useful for teaching purposes, for the editor's work is just a starting point to introduce graduate students to the complexity of historical research, with its methods, debates, mistakes, biases and clever reconstructions.


1.   English-speaking students can now benefit from Alison Cooley's translation and commentary of the Res Gestae (Cambridge, 2009) based on John Scheid's edition of 2007.
2.   To be found in Millar, F.; Cotton, H. & Rogers, G. M. (eds.); "Rome, the Greek World, and the East", vol. I: The Roman Republic and the Augustan Revolution (Chapel Hill, N.C.–London, 2002).
3.   The inclusion of Luce's article is perhaps the only weak point of the selection. In fact, despite the interesting comparison between the texts of the elogia and Livy's information, the author comes too easily to suspect that there was a deliberate attempt by Augustus to correct Livy's version of the career of great men of the Republic. Furthermore the emperor is presented as if he were the author of all the elogia without much discussion.
4.   see for example Momigliano, A.; "The Peace of the Ara Pacis". Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 5 (1942): 228–31; Gabba, E.; "The Historians and Augustus", in: Millar, F. & Segal, C. (eds.): Caesar Augustus: seven aspects (Oxford, 1984): 61–88; Barchiesi, A.; The poet and the prince: Ovid and Augustan discourse(Berkeley–London, 1997); Fraschetti, A.; "Livia the politician", in: Fraschetti, A. (ed.) Roman Women (Chicago, 2001): 100–17. Some of these titles are cited by Edmondson.
5.   Similarly the quotation of Res Gestae34 (p. 84) translates Mommsen's conjecture potitus, while the new and correct reading is potens as rightly pointed out by Edmondson in his introduction (p. 9).
6.   Defining a proconsul as a magistrate operating "instead of a consul" can be misleading. Proconsuls are Roman generals that, despite not being consuls, still had consular powers by mean of prorogation or direct assignment through a popular vote (e.g. P. Cornelius Scipio in Spain in 212 BC).

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Matthew Robinson (ed.), A Commentary on Ovid's Fasti, Book 2. Oxford Classical Monographs. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp. xiii, 572. ISBN 9780199589395. $165.00.

Reviewed by Joy Littlewood, Dorchester-on-Thames, Oxon (

Version at BMCR home site


The value of a long gestation is convincingly vindicated by Matthew Robinson's impressive commentary on the second book of Ovid's Fasti. Wide-ranging source material and perceptive textual criticism, astronomical, philological and historical discussion are aligned with comparative opinions from modern Fasti scholarship and presented with confidence and understanding derived from his long familiarity with Ovid's complex work. While this commentary's breadth of scholarship will satisfy experts in the field, less experienced students at the graduate, perhaps even undergraduate, levels will learn a great deal from its clarity of exposition, which is agreeably enhanced by an elegant style and dry humour.

The reader is alerted to Robinson's thoughtful selectivity and the intelligent construction of his commentary by his choice of general points in the slender introduction, which aims to avoid duplicating introductory material present in other recent Fasti commentaries. Broadly speaking, these cover astronomy, generic range and variety and divergence between a 'suspicious' or 'supportive' reader-audience. A final section of the introduction, on Text, on Alton, Wormell and Courtney's Teubner version, directs readers to the online availability of Burman's 1727 commentary with its wealth of conjectural material by Nicolaus Heinsius.

Students of Fasti will welcome the clarity of Robinson's scientific introduction to Ovid's astral phenomena—modestly described as 'a little basic astronomy'—which is followed by a summary of literary astronomical studies written during the past 15 years by himself, Hannah, Gee and Fox. An illuminating feature of the commentary is a close engagement with astronomical information to extend his interpretation, suggesting, for example, sexual innuendo in the various risings of Arcturus and Arctophylax (164-5) and a possible literary subtext in the tale of the Raven, the Bowl and the Snake (197-200).

A discussion of the predominance of metapoetic and generic play in Book 2 is initiated by linking Fasti with Propertius' fourth book through the programmatic character of Ovid's two-faced Janus and Propertius' Protean Vertumnus (pp. 3-7). Defining Book 2's proem (lines 1-18) as a literary introduction to Fasti, 'a dense nexus of allusions to various proemic, closural and otherwise metapoetic passages', Robinson neatly disposes of the troublesome enigma of this proem's relationship to Book 1 and the possibility that it might have been a (discarded) dedication to Augustus. The commentary contains many enlightening explorations of literary play such as, for example, Ovid's generic adaptation of Livy's 'Rape of Lucretia', multiple voices in the Laudes Termini (659-78) and the extensive negotiation of the source material which Ovid might have drawn on for his story of Arion (114-117) and the song of the dying swan (128-134).

Robinson's allusion in his introduction to the discontinuity of Ovid's calendric narrative (7-9) invites engagement in the commentary with links which the poet may have intended to signal, or at least to adumbrate, between juxtaposed but apparently disconnected passages. This aspect of Fasti has been aptly described as the poet's 'hermeneutic alibi'.1 Guiding his readers' through February's etymological association with purification, he establishes, by way of a group of mythical Greek murders, a link by chthonic association between the two major festivals of this month: the Lupercalia, a state ritual of purification, and the Parentalia, when offerings are brought to ancestral tombs. This is the first of many such links which enhance our appreciation of Ovid's internal structuring: to cite just a few, the impia facta (line 38) of the Greek family crimes with the pia facta mentioned in line 117, namely the virtue of Arion's dolphin, as well as the impiety of family miscreants (procul impius esto!) from Greek tragedy who are unwelcome at the Roman family feast of the Caristia (623-6). Similarly, the lilies of Gabii, decapitated by Tarquin in a coded message (706-8), herald, as symbols of violated innocence, the rape of Lucretia (789-90). Most intriguing is Robinson's argument that the festivals of Quirinalia and Feriae Stultorum are linked by the credulity of the early Romans who accept the newly deified Quirinus as meekly as they once accepted Fornax, the goddess of the oven. His conclusion, that 'comparison between these two passages, which we might have initially expected to be unthinkable, is now unavoidable' (321), won over this, initially sceptical, reviewer during the period of writing the review.

The introductory chapter which engages with Ovid's attitude to the regime sensitively replaces the now dated labels of 'Augustan' and 'anti-Augustan' with the more flexible 'supportive' and 'suspicious' readers. These new designations serve Robinson well in his commentary where, having cited relevant scholarship on both sides, he is well-placed to prolong critical interpretations with new points, intimating the reactions of 'supportive' or 'suspicious readers,' and countering these with possible objections. Two examples of this, which take their starting points, respectively, from Ovid's comments on the magic rites of the goddess Tacita (355-7) and the swallow's early arrival (853-6), lead into a penetrating discussion of the recurrent theme of speech and silence in Fasti 2.

Violence and political uneasiness surface not infrequently in the second book of Ovid's Fasti. There are hints of this in the heading which Robinson gives to his account of the Parentalia, the day on which offerings were taken to family tombs, on page 331: Romulus, Remus, the Parentalia and the Lemuria. The commentary on this passage is rich in Roman funerary ritual, supported by useful source material for the chthonic nature of the Lares. At the same time the sinister undertones which link Ovid's story of the Parentalia with his Lemuria (Fasti5. 419-92) are emphasized and Dea Muta's mutilation by Jupiter and rape by Mercury on their journey to the Underworld, followed by the birth of the Lares, (2.583-616) is cogently interpreted with reference to Augustus' purposeful appropriation of the cult of the Lares Compitales. As the Princeps intrudes again in the feast of the Caristia, where family losses evoke memories of civil conflict, readers are reminded that February 21st was the anniversary of the death of Augustus' grandson, Gaius Caesar.

In a book in which three rapes—of Callisto, Lara and Lucretia—are rendered horrific by the brutal silencing of the victim, the myth of Tereus, Procne and Philomela hovers persistently at the edge of Ovid's readers' consciousness. Robinson examines the climax of Fasti2, Lucretia's rape in the context of the Regifugium in over 80 pages of meticulous critical analysis with close reference to its divergence from and correspondence with Livy's version of the same story. His emphasis is, rightly, on interpreting Ovid's powerful narrative of Lucretia's violation to satisfy a tyrant's whim. The passage concludes with the founding of the Roman republic and the poet wondering whether spring is about to follow the first swallow. This reminder that the coming of spring traditionally heralded better times is accompanied by a sharp observation that vernal anticipation directly follows (and is disappointed by) Ovid's unsettling contrast of Augustus with Romulus (lines 149-52).

Largely unsullied by typographical errors, the commentary is supported by a substantial bibliography and three thoughtful indices (verborum, locorum, nominum et rerum). It is directly followed by two useful appendices. The second gathers together in tabular form all the February festivals inscribed in different Roman Fasti. These are aligned with the contents of Fasti 2, providing at a glance an illustration of Ovid's close correspondence of material, the thematic connections within each group of narratives and the revolution of the constellations. The first engages with the thorny question of Fasti's revision. While indicating the principal areas of scholarly contention and the validity of 'exilic' and 'pre-exilic' readings, Robinson concludes that, regardless of the date, or even location, of Fasti's composition, the focus of Ovid's calendar poem is Augustus and his engagement with Roman religion, while the poet's exile in AD 8 inevitably imposes on a wide variety of passages both new significance and poignant resonances. Dynastic change and Ovid's personal misfortune during the last decade of his life sensitizes our perception of 'multiple voices and multiple perspectives' (531).

The second book of Ovid's Fastiis one of the most powerful and most unsettling of the surviving six. Robinson's close engagement with Ovid's wide-ranging source material, together with his own depth of understanding, accentuate the impact of this narrative of death and purification, placation of ancestral spirits and peremptory silencing of violated women. At the same time his unflinching, but not over-imaginative analysis of latent meanings, implied by juxtaposition or a pregnant phrase, penetrates the political undertones which appear to lie not far beneath the surface.2 This commentary is a splendid contribution to Ovidian studies and a valuable reference book for specialists in Augustan literature.


1.  Stephen Hinds, (1987), 'Generalising about Ovid', Ramus 16, 4-31.
2.  Cf. Quintilian Inst. 9. 2. 65: id genus quod et frequentissimum est…in quo per quamdam suspicionem quod non dicimus accipi volumus…latens et auditori quasi inveniendum.

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Eleonora Cavallini (ed.), Omero Mediatico: aspetti della ricezione omerica nella civiltà contemporanea. Nuova edizione aggiornata. NEMO. Confrontarsi con l'antico 7. Bologna:, 2010. Pp. 289. ISBN 9788895451497. €32.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Michela Rondina, Università di Urbino (

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La storia della tradizione dei classici impone una riflessione metodologica di carattere generale e una scelta a livello di contenuti. Se in passato la storia della tradizione classica ha occupato una parte ancillare rispetto allo studio dei classici in sé, negli orientamenti contemporanei la 'ricezione' del classico è parte integrante del classico stesso. Dal punto di vista metodologico, l'utilizzo delle fonti moderne può essere indirizzato principalmente ad una rivalutazione dell'antico, oppure l'analisi dei vari modi in cui il mondo moderno ha risposto a quello antico può essere maggiormente focalizzata sulle risposte e sui contesti moderni.

La questione epistemologica è dunque complessa e riguarda, oltre al metodo di indagine, anche la selezione dei contenuti, se e in che modo bisogna discriminare all'interno delle varie forme di ricezione dell'antico.

Negli anni recenti, diversi volumi si sono occupati della ricezione dei classici nella produzione culturale contemporanea, inserendosi a vario titolo nel filone di studi sull'influenza del classico nella civiltà odierna. A proposito, in particolare, di ricezione omerica, il volume Omero mediatico. Aspetti della ricezione omerica nella civiltà contemporanea si segnala per gli aspetti innovativi sul piano dell'apporto scientifico e metodologico alla disciplina. Il lavoro si incentra sull'eredità della tradizione omerica in un ampio ventaglio di prospettive, in ambiti e forme espressive molto differenti tra loro, spaziando dal campo letterario a quello musicale e a quello delle arti visive e figurative. Rispetto alla prima edizione del 2007, questa nuova edizione riveduta e aggiornata è frutto di ulteriori indagini e approfondimenti, che hanno conferito al lavoro "un assetto più organico e una concatenazione logica più serrata e incisiva tra i diversi contributi"(p. 6), che risultano accomunati da un'accurata selezione e da una maggiore coerenza del materiale.

Nell'introduzione Eleonora Cavallini, la curatrice della raccolta, in maniera puntuale ed efficace, espone le ragioni che hanno condotto alla scelta dell'epica omerica come paradigma antico di riferimento, in quanto "l'idea che l'antichità ci trasmette dell'epica omerica è...quella di un' 'opera aperta', continuamente suscettibile di riletture, reinterpretazini, trasformazioni: una sorta di work in progress, destinato a perpetuarsi nei secoli fino ad avvalersi dei nuovi, sofisticati media messi a disposizione dalla moderna civiltà tecnologica" (p. 5).

Il volume si apre con un saggio di Sotera Fornaro, L'ambiguo ritorno: sondaggi su Omero nella letteratura italiana del Novecento (pp. 9-38), che inaugura la "sezione letteraria". In esso si esaminano alcuni esempi della ricezione omerica nella letteratura novecentesca, in chiave ora parodica ed attualizzante (Savinio, Isgrò), ora legata al tema della guerra e dei reduci (Malaparte, D'Arrigo), ora a quello del matrimonio (Moravia, Malerba, La Spina). L'autrice riesce a mostrare, ancora una volta, "l'ineludibile vitalità degli archetipi omerici" (p. 36) nella cultura contemporanea.

Procedendo nella lettura del volume, il saggio di Francesco Lucrezi, Il canto di Ulisse: Omero, Dante, Primo Levi (pp. 39-46), affianca le figure dell'Ulisse omerico e poi dantesco a Primo Levi, nella sua disperata ricerca di una spiegazione della perduta umanità, della morte della parola. Le tre figure dell'Ulisse omerico, Dante stesso e Primo Levi sono assimilate secondo l'autore dalla scelta del viaggio che, sola, può dare un senso alla vita e sopravvive nella testimonianza della parola, a vantaggio dei navigatori successivi.

Alla figura di Ulisse è dedicato anche il saggio di Giovanni Cerri, Pascoli e l'ultimo viaggio di Ulisse (pp. 47-66), nel quale è svolta una scrupolosa lettura del poemetto di Pascoli "L'ultimo viaggio", compreso nella raccolta dei "Poemi Conviviali" del 1904. L'autore individua un'interpretazione 'onirica' del poemetto: l'Ulisse pascoliano che non riconosce i luoghi fantastici che ha visitato in gioventù, poiché essi vivono trasfigurati nel suo ricordo, muore nell'estremo tentativo di ottenere una risposta alla domanda sul proprio io, sulla propria identità, prefigurando così la caratteristica esistenziale dell'uomo novecentesco. L'affascinante analisi condotta da Cerri è sostenuta da validi riferimenti testuali a passi non solo omerici, ma di altri autori antichi e moderni, ed è suffragata dal confronto con altre due opere di Pascoli, il carme "Il ritorno" ("Odi e Inni", 1906) e "Cavallino" ("Myricae", 1891).

Elena è la figura ispiratrice del contributo di Carlo Brillante, L' Elena Egizia di Hofmannsthal: una rilettura del mito greco (pp. 67-96), che mostra come le innovazioni di miti antichi spesso ricalchino versioni meno note degli stessi, assumendo però significati nuovi. Un egregio e poco ovvio esempio di tale possibilità è il dramma l'Elena Egizia di Hofmannsthal, che ricerca una moderna versione di Elena partendo dagli ambiziosi presupposti di riconferire vitalità e attualità al mito. Come sostiene Brillante, la ricerca di un mito che colga verità esistenziali autentiche e profonde si compie in Hofmannsthal attraverso un meditato percorso di confronto con l'antico. La lezione di Hofmannsthal è una lezione di metodo, che Brillante analizza accuratamente passo per passo nella struttura dell'"Elena Egizia".

Un'illuminante dimostrazione di quanto, per la vita di un classico, sia necessaria la sua rivisitazione, è condotta da Eleonora Cavallini, Cesare Pavese e la ricerca di Omero perduto (dai Dialoghi con Leucò alla traduzione dell'Iliade), pp. 97-132. L'affascinante e rigorosa ricostruzione dello scambio epistolare tra Pavese e Untersteiner in seguito alla pubblicazione dei Dialoghi con Leucò mostra quanto il rapporto, quasi casuale, tra i due uomini di cultura si sia rivelato fruttuoso per lo studio della cultura classica in quel periodo. Il comune interesse storico-antropologico e filosofico nei confronti del mito greco da parte dei due studiosi portò alla realizzazione di un progetto innovativo per l'epoca: una traduzione quasi 'letterale' dei poemi omerici rispetto alle versioni fino ad allora disponibili. L'utilizzo della mitologia greca da parte di Pavese nei Dialoghi con Leucò racchiude un interesse verso i miti come modelli interpretativi dell'uomo e del suo destino, grazie anche al loro potere 'universale', antropologicamente parlando. Cavallini, quindi, riconosce a Pavese l'importante merito di aver contribuito a una riscoperta di Omero in termini significativi per le inquietudini dell'uomo moderno. Il saggio è suffragato da una ricca documentazione iconografica sull'attività di Pavese, tra cui si segnala la riproduzione di alcuni suoi frammenti autografi di traduzione di Iliade e Odissea. A conclusione del contributo, un'appendice illustra una rappresentazione multimediale dei Dialoghi con Leucò che anticipa i due saggi successivi, incentrati su cinema e televisione.

Ricco di stimoli è anche il saggio di Giorgio Ieranò, Ulisse alla deriva: l'epopea tragica di Stanley Kubrick (pp. 133-152), sul significato comunemente attribuito a "odissea" in rapporto al film 2001 Odissea nello spazio di S. Kubrick (1968). L'indagine di Ieranò si allarga a un'interpretazione globale della produzione cinematografica di Kubrick, pervasa da un senso di tragicità nella visione dell'esistenza umana. L'attenta ricostruzione dei riferimenti e del contesto in cui lavorò il regista, portano l'autore a individuare le numerose suggestioni del mito odissiaco nel corso dell'opera di Kubrick, anche attraverso un puntuale collegamento con l' "Ulisse" di James Joyce.

Proseguendo nell'ambito filmico, Martin M. Winkler in Leaves of Homeric Storytelling: Wolfgang Petersen's Troy and Franco Rossi's Odissea, pp. 153-164, si occupa di due trasposizioni cinematografiche dei poemi omerici: il film Troy di W. Petersen (2004) come adattamento dell'Iliade e il film televisivo Odissea di F. Rossi (1968) come versione dell'Odissea. Nella prima parte della sua analisi, Winkler mostra come, in Troy, le scelte di regia e l'opportuno uso della tecnologia e della macchina da presa possano evocare ed esprimere le similitudini naturalistiche e le atmosfere suggerite dai versi di Omero. Anche l'adattamento di Rossi per la sua Odissea rivela scelte felici: tra le tante, la rappresentazione degli dei antichi senza incorrere nel ridicolo. Rossi sceglie di inquadrare statue di marmo accompagnate da voci fuori campo che conferiscono solennità alla trasposizione. Winkler chiude il suo saggio difendendo le possibilità dei moderni adattamenti dei testi classici ricordando che il poeta Orazio ammoniva a non sottovalutare il nuovo a favore dell'antico.

Oltre alla "decima musa", il cinema, come ricorda Winkler (p. 176), anche l'ambito musicale si presenta foriero di nuovi contenuti per l'indagine sulla ricezione omerica. Alessandro Bozzato, nel saggio Omero nella musica lirica contemporanea. Le Odysseus' Women di Louis Andriessen, pp. 179-193, introduce la discussione sulla presenza di Omero nella musica contemporanea, esprimendo convincenti considerazioni sulle caratteristiche della comunicazione musicale in rapporto a quella cinematografica e letteraria; analizza quindi l'opera Odysseus' Women di L. Andriessen (1995), composta per lo spettacolo Odyssey, che associa danza e testi recitati da personaggi omerici: Calipso, Circe e Nausicaa. Assente è Penelope, in quanto è l'unica a non restare abbandonata, e assente è anche lo stesso Odisseo, che però è evocato nella nostalgia delle tre donne, secondo il loro personale e differente punto di vista. La rielaborazione di Andriessen delle tre figure mitiche femminili presenta, rispetto alla tradizione precedente, tratti originali, che l'autore del saggio interpreta come un "risarcimento morale" verso personaggi sfruttati e ingiustamente subordinati (pp. 191-192) .

Il personaggio mitico di Calipso ha ispirato anche il dialogo teatrale composto da A. Döblin nei primi del Novecento, "Dialoghi con Calipso sulla musica". Elisabetta Zoni, in La retorica degli dei. Calipso maestra di musica in Alfred Döblin (pp. 195-216), attraverso un complesso approccio multidisciplinare, ricerca sapientemente gli elementi che hanno portato Döblin a inserire Calipso in un discorso sulle teorie estetico-musicali; nei dialoghi il mito omerico è reinventato all'insegna della "creatività e dello sperimentalismo espressionista", e Calipso diventa una dea musicale che, nelle sue prerogative di divinità femminile origine della vita, è l'unica a sopravvivere nel drammatico epilogo. I tre aspetti di Calipso, donna, dea musicale e dea creatrice, trovano un parallelo, come nota Zoni, nella rappresentazione del pittore simbolista F. Khnopff (p. 215).

Al versante 'popolare' della musica contemporanea è dedicato l'innovativo saggio di Eleonora Cavallini, Cantare glorie di eroi, oggi: Achille nella popular music contemporanea (pp. 217-240), corredato da una nota di Elena Liverani. In esso viene presa in esame la figura di Achille come fonte d'ispirazione di alcuni testi musicali contemporanei. L'eroe è visto, rispettivamente, come un rude energumeno ovvero come un volontario idealista nella musica di orientamento pacifista di Bob Dylan e dei Led Zeppelin (anni '60 e '70), ed è quindi ben lontano dal più sfaccettato eroe omerico. Nel genere metal sono la truculenza delle battaglie omeriche e l'atmosfera di primitiva barbarie, presente in alcune parti dell'Iliade, a suscitare "una certa suggestione" (p. 226). In particolare, presuppone un'attenta lettura dell'Iliade l'opera Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy dei Manowar del 1992.

Passando all'ambito delle arti figurative, ai personaggi femminili nell'arte è dedicata la galleria di immagini selezionate da Claudia Boni in Figure femminili omeriche nell'arte contemporanea (pp. 241-268). Il repertorio mitologico, infatti, è sempre stato fonte di ispirazione per l'arte visiva nelle diverse epoche, con suggestioni sempre nuove; nell'arte contemporanea esso assume profonde valenze simboliche, come illustra Boni a proposito dell'iconografia delle figure omeriche di Atena, Andromaca, Calipso, Nausicaa, Circe, le Sirene, Penelope, Elena.

Il volume si conclude con le insolite e accattivanti osservazioni a proposito di una particolare e popolare forma comunicativa: il fumetto. Massimo Manca, in Omero a fumetti (pp. 269-289), si cimenta nell'impresa di analizzare e 'classificare' le numerose forme di ripresa del mondo omerico nei fumetti, delineando la Gestalt del fumetto nelle sue varietà di tono e pubblico. La vitalità di un mito si realizza proprio nella sua adattabilità e versatilità, che lo rendono immortale.

La raccolta di saggi su Omero mediatico costituisce, a mio avviso, un eccellente e non usuale esempio di come le questioni legate alla ricezione dell'antico e alla rivalutazione/riappropriazione del classico possano essere affrontate, sia dal punto di vista del metodo di indagine, sia a proposito della scelta dei materiali, di cui il volume offre un'esemplare panoramica.

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Henning Wirth, Die linke Hand: Wahrnehmung und Bewertung in der griechischen und römischen Antike. HABES: Heidelberger Althistorische Beiträge und Epigraphische Studien Bd. 4. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2010. Pp. 271; 12 p. of plates. ISBN 9783515094498. €49.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Katharina Rebay-Salisbury, University of Leicester (

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Table of Contents

Henning Wirth's book offers a comprehensive overview of Greek and Roman perceptions of and attitudes to the left hand. The book is based on a 2008 dissertation at the University of Heidelberg, which remains apparent in its structure. Its four main parts survey connotations of terms for left and right in Ancient Greek and Latin, explore the meaning of left and right in the intellectual world, discuss the significance of the use of the left and right hand and finish with the issue of left-handedness. The arguments are based almost exclusively on texts, in the disciplinary tradition of ancient history and epigraphy, whilst archaeological data such as funerary monuments, graffiti, coins, wall paintings and mosaics are merely used as illustrations and not as a source. Although the book pre-supposes knowledge of ancient Greek and Latin (terms are explained in the main text to underline the argument, but sections of texts are not translated in the footnotes), it is accessible to archaeologists and anthropologists as well.

The main points are summed up at the end of each chapter, and the last chapter provides a comprehensive abstract (p. 241-7). The appendix includes a list of abbreviations (following L'Année Philologique), a list of dictionaries and lexica as well as a list of secondary literature, a list of illustrations and an index of personal names, places and keywords. The cited literature reveals a balanced use of German, English, French and Italian scholarship and others. There are 19 high-quality black-and-white illustrations.

Chapter 2 (p. 13-48) analyses the use of terms for left in the Greek and Latin languages. This approach implies that from semantic insights and the ways in which terms are used one can understand the ontological categories of cultures and their understanding of the world. Staring with a short survey of the meaning of the German word links, Wirth moves on to investigating the use, meaning and connotations of σκαιός, λαιός, ἀριστερός and εὐώνυμος as well as laevus, scaevus and sinister. Whilst meanings of these terms overlap, they are not identical; the author notes that there are no synonyms with exactly the same meaning (p. 30). In the juxtaposition of left and right it quickly becomes apparent that left has primarily negative connotations and may be used to express evil, unfortunate, inconvenient, awkward, wrong or stupid. Exceptions in the field of early Roman divination remain (sinister meant fortunate in this context), and Henning Wirth succeeds in explaining semantic changes and changes in the preference of particular terms over time.

Chapter 3 (p. 49-112) on left and right in the Greek and Roman intellectual world is divided into sections on biology, religion and belief, divination and military system. Natural philosophers noted early the supremacy of the right side in the human and animal body. This had repercussions for explaining sex differences: the right side became associated with the male body and the left side with the female body, in regard to foetal development for instance. The fact that the heart is usually found at left side of the body did not fit the dualistic way of thinking about the body, but the contradiction could be explained away by claiming that the heart had to balance the otherwise colder, less active left side (p. 55). In the sphere of beliefs we find the same kind of dualism, with right being normally associated with luck and fortune, and left being associated with bad luck and misfortune. Whilst this has probably always been true for the Greek world, Wirth spends considerable time explaining that in the early Republic the reverse was believed and only gradually changed to a uniform system for the ancient world; traits of conservative thought were preserved longer in religious practices such as divination. Still, Olympic gods would be associated with the right side, chthonic gods with the left side. The left/right dualism in the religious sphere affected temple architecture, the way movement was choreographed through religious buildings, the way in which offerings were made and the way in which funerary rituals were carried out. The last section of this chapter explains left and right in the military system, emphasising the regulatory effect military order has. Wirth discusses the order of battle as well as strategies and tactics that involve choices between the left and right side. Furthermore, he discusses the sides on which weapons are normally carried and considers exceptions to these rules.

Chapter 4 (p. 113-208) represents the main part of the book and tackles the significance of the right and left hand in the Greek and Roman world in considerable detail. First, the role of the hands of the gods is investigated. In many cultures the hand is used as a symbol for divine intervention; this is particularly true if gods are imagined with anthropomorphic traits, such as in Oriental, Egyptian, and Greek religion, perhaps less so in early Roman religion (p. 120). The right hand of the gods is usually source of healing, protection and help, and yet punishment and destruction may also be administered by the right hand. In general, it seems again that the divine right hand is the active, the left hand the passive one. It comes as no surprise that the right hand of the Roman Emperor becomes a symbol of divine power. Because of her role as the goddess of trust, Fides is often symbolized by a right hand (p. 126). It is this right hand that plays a role in the handshake, which can confirm relationships and signal attachment between friends and family, but also seals deals and contracts between less familiar partners. Next, the role of the left and right hand in veneration and prayer is considered (p. 137). Wirth then reflects on the right hand of the winner (p. 144). Last in this section on the right hand, we learn about dismembering the right hand as a punishment (p. 148).

The role of the left hand in everyday life is subsequently discussed, particular in relation to common forms of garments, which enable or restrict movement and gesticulation. The active connotation of the right hand and the passive connotation of the left is reinforced through the style of dress. Perhaps because the de-emphasised, passive left side could be used to hide stolen goods, theft became associated with the left hand (p. 157). The explicit use of the left hand in sex and masturbation in the Roman world is grounded in a sense of secrecy rather than in an understanding that sex was considered bad (p. 161). Furthermore, the left hand had a stronger connection to the underworld, which had implications for religious and magic practices. Herbs used for potions in magic and healing were often recommended to be plucked with the left hand, sometimes involving the fourth finger (digitus medicinalis ) as particularly significant. Incidentally or not, this is also most often the finger on which rings of friendship and partnership are worn (p. 179). In the last section of this chapter (p. 185), handedness in relation to eating and drinking is discussed as a mundane as well as a socially and ritually significant practice. Again, the preference for the right hand and direction is apparent in almost all contexts, from entering the room to serving, drinking and eating; and yet several burial monuments attest that cups and beakers were held in the left hand. This is, however, most often the case when the right hand is occupied by a different task such as holding a wreath or confirming a relationship. Despite the preference for the right hand in almost all spheres of life, the left hand did not seem to have been considered impure or unclean in the Greek and Roman world (p. 194), as it is, for instance, in Arabian, Indian, or some African cultures. The issue of purity and impurity is, however, not further explored in this book. A brief comparison and juxtaposition of Greek and Roman attitudes to the use of the right and left hand repeats many of the points made earlier, but makes apparent that in the Roman world there is a greater diversity of spheres of life in which sidedness and handedness is an issue.

Chapter 5 (p. 209-240) evaluates how left-handedness was explained and how left-handers were perceived. Although right-handedness was considered the biological norm, cultural practices were employed to ensure the correct development. After a period of swaddling a baby, for example, the right hand was unpacked first to improve the motor development of the right side. Left-handedness had strong negative connotations, and whilst sometimes it was mentioned as a mere fact of curiosity, as in the case of the painter Turpilius (p.216), in other cases left-handers were clearly discriminated against. Roman law states that left-handedness is not a fault that would render the trade of a slave void. Being left-handed as a consequence of injury of the right hand was considered to be better than being a congenital left-hander, especially if this was a result of particular bravery in war. It was still better to be considered a cripple (mancus ) than a left-hander (p. 223). Finally, Wirth discusses left-handed gladiators and examines the personal lives of Tiberius and Caesar in regard to handedness. Basing his analysis primarily on Suetonius, he concludes that Tiberius most probably was indeed left-handed but, despite popular belief, Caesar was not.

On the whole, the book situates the subject well and shows detailed knowledge of the Greek and Roman world. Well written and carefully edited, it makes for an entertaining and enjoyable read. As an archaeologist, I wished for a stronger consideration of archaeological evidence, treating it systematically as a source rather than as illustration. In recent years, handedness has sparked the interest of many archaeologists1 and osteoarchaeological methods are appropriate for investigation of this topic. In-depth transcultural comparison and a more systematic use of ethnographic analogies (rather than vague references without citation) also remain desiderata, especially in the light of the fact that research on the left hand has had a firm place in anthropological scholarship since Robert Hertz' seminal study.2 The rich detail of Henning Wirth's compendium of Greek and Roman attitudes to the left and right hand and handedness will be very useful source in the growing body of scholarship on body theory in the humanities.3


1.   Uomini, N. T. 2009. The prehistory of handedness: Archaeological data and comparative ethology. Journal of Human Evolution 57, 4: 411-419 Fries-Knoblach, J. 2009. "Archäologische Erkenntnismöglichkeiten menschlicher Händigkeit," in S. Grunwald, J.K. Koch, D. Mölders, U. Sommer, and S. Wolfram (eds) Artefact. Festschrift für Sabine Rieckhoff zum 65. Geburtstag. Universitätsforschungen zur Prähistorischen Archäologie 172. 663-688. Bonn: Habelt.
2.   Hertz, R. 1909. La prééminence de la main droite: étude sur la polarité religieuse. Revue Philosophique 68: 553-580.
3.   Shilling, C. 1993. The Body and Social Theory. London: Sage. Joyce, R. A. 2005. Archaeology of the Body. Annual Review of Anthropology 34: 139-158. Porter, J. I. (ed.) 1999. Constructions of the Classical Body. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Federica Missere Fontana, Testimoni parlanti: le monete antiche a Roma tra Cinquecento e Seicento. Monete 4. Roma: Edizioni Quasar, 2009. Pp. 540. ISBN 9788871404257. €28.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Novella Vismara, Università Milano Bicocca (

Version at BMCR home site

[l'autore e l'indice sono elencati in fondo alla recensione]

Il volume si apre con una brevissima introduzione della curatrice la collana Moneta, Lucia Travaini, una presentazione, in lingua inglese, di Andrew Burnett, e un saggio introduttivo di Claudio Franzoni, importante per comprendere l'ambito nel quale si muovono gli antiquari oggetto di studio; si compone di sei saggi, piuttosto diversi tra loro per struttura e contenuti, che Federica Missere Fontana ha racchiuso tra una premessa, con la sintetica descrizione di luoghi e repertori consultati per l'indagine, ed un capitolo che dovrebbe essere conclusivo, ma che in realtà apre nuovi temi di discussione, tanto che suggerisco di cominciare la lettura proprio dal suo primo paragrafo. In esso, infatti, la Missere propone alcune chiavi di lettura del proprio lavoro, giustifica le scelte critiche di fondo, segnala le novità attributive raggiunte, elementi che spesso si perdono nei singoli capitoli a loro dedicati, nascosti dagli incisi che caratterizzano il modo di procedere nella disamina della Missere. Dalla lettura appare chiaro come ad essere al centro dell'attenzione degli studi della Missere siano i collezionisti di monete, la loro erudizione e la loro pubblicistica, piuttosto che le monete stesse, come invece si potrebbe arguire dal titolo.

Cominciando la disamina del volume secondo l'ordine proposto dall'autrice, incontriamo il primo saggio, dedicato in larga parte alle due traduzioni italiane del 1592 de Diálogos de Medallas, inscriciones ... di Antonio Augustín, una realizzata da Dionigi Ottaviano Sada e la seconda da un anonimo, che la Missere identifica in Alfonso Chachón .

L'analisi è condotta da un punto di vista biblioteconomico e la prospettiva giustifica il lungo inciso relativo alle varie edizioni della traduzione del Sada, altrimenti ridondante nell'economia del capitolo, mentre risultano eccessivamente contratte, spesso relegate in note, le osservazioni più propriamente numismatiche; felice eccezione l'inciso dedicato all'identificazione di una medaglia di san Pietro, trattata nel volume dell'Augustín e diversamente considerata dai due traduttori. Di argomento maggiormente numismatico è la seconda parte del saggio-capitolo dedicata alle critiche ed alle osservazioni mosse da Lelio Pasqualini, negli appunti del Codice Barberiniano Latino 2113 della Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, al volume dell'Augustín nella traduzione del Sada e agli studi di altri autori contemporanei. La terza parte del saggio è dedicata ad altri personaggi partecipi dei problemi collezionistici e dell'erudizione d'ambito romano del XVI secolo, in particolare Cesare Baronio, ed al problema della presenza delle monete false nei loro scritti e collezioni.

Il secondo saggio si sviluppa intorno al manoscritto 41 della Biblioteca Civica di Verona, contenete i disegni delle 1500 monete appartenute, commerciate o semplicemente viste, dall'antiquario Ludovico Campagni, autore dei disegni. L'organizzazione per famiglie delle tavole, comprese tra Domiziano, e parte della famiglia dei Flavi, e la famiglia dei Licini (quelle relative al periodo tra Pompeo e Tito non si sono conservate), è ripresa nell'organizzazione del capitolo: di ogni gruppo familiare, i Severi, ad esempio, o periodi, L'età dell'anarchia militare, la Missere riporta una sintetica descrizione del contenuto, e si sofferma a discutere alcuni aspetti da lei ritenuti di maggior interesse, anche in base alla presenza di alcune note autografe sulle tavole: a titolo d'esempio ricordo la questione delle monete con il ritratto di Antinoo

Il terzo studio prende l'avvio da documenti appartenuti a Francesco Angeloni e conservati nella Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana di Venezia, in particolare l'insieme di elenchi che si trovano in classe VI ms It. 204 (= 6012): si tratta di un complesso di carte dalla natura piuttosto disparata che spazia dal catalogo della collezione dell'Angeloni, agli elenchi relativi a quanto disponibili sul mercato, ai preziari od indici di valutazione delle monete, del quale la Missere descrive la varietà.. Il saggio prosegue poi con l'analisi dell'opera a stampa più importante dell'Angeloni, l'Historia Augusta e per avvicinarsi alla pubblicazione, la Missere prima presenta l'analisi e la fortuna del frontespizio, e quindi il confronto tra il Proemio dell'edizione dell'Historia Augusta del 1639, il Proemio dell'edizione del 1641 ed un Dialogo conservato manoscritto a Venezia, del quale vengono riportati stralci. Al centro della discussione la possibile natura di strumento economico della moneta romana e del suo significato quale fonte storica posta a confronto con l'autorità degli scrittori antichi. Questi concetti, unitamente a considerazioni di carattere estetico sulla qualità delle tipologie monetali, sono infatti presenti, pur con qualche diversità delle quali l'autrice da conto, in tutti e tre i i lavori dell'Angeloni. L'analisi della Missere prosegue con il confronto tra i Commentaires historiques di Jean Tristan de Sant'Armand e l'Historia Augusta dell'Angeloni e tra la figura dell'Angeloni e quella di Francesco Gottifredi; "per capire la relazione complessa fra i due antiquari" (p. 211), affronta una complessa analisi del tipo di rovescio VENERI VICTRICI SC di Faustina II compiendo "qualche digressione" (p. 211). Le digressioni, pur interessanti, sono però tali e tante che il paragone tra l'Algeloni e il Gottifredi si perde tra esse, e risalta semmai quello tra l'Angeloni e Giovanni Pietro Bellori. In realtà gli unici contati tra l'Angeloni ed il Gottifredi sono presentate nell'ultimo paragrafo del saggio, nel quale si narrano le vicende della vendita delle collezioni dell'Agostini, che, vivente, cerca di alienare la propria raccolta, e dello scomparso Angeloni: le vicende narrate descrivono il mondo del commercio antiquario nella Roma della metà del XVII secolo ed anche in questo caso gli incisi, per quanto interessanti, fanno sì che il tema principale trattato venga risolto in modo sbrigativo: "le trattative riprenderanno solo molti anni dopo e porteranno infine alle vendita della raccolta" (p. 232).

Francesco Gottifredi è anche il centro d'interesse del quarto saggio, dedicato all'analisi del rapporto tra la cultura antiquaria ed il commercio delle monete antiche, ambito nel quale Gottifredi era particolarmente famoso. La Missere prende l'avvio dalla lettura di un gruppo di minute di lettere, conservate presso la Biblioteca Oliveriana di Pesaro, che il Gottifredi scrisse in particolare a Peter Fytton, personaggio identificato dal contenuto delle missive, ma anche a collezionisti quali Camillo Massimo o Pietro Ottoboni. La corrispondenza rivela, pur con molte reticenze, la rete di procacciatori di monete che faceva capo al Gottifredi, i problemi legati al rispetto delle leggi di tutela, le contrattazioni, la valutazione della qualità dei singoli pezzi, i criteri di scelta ed i gusti dei singoli collezionisti, i problemi legati alla pulizia ed al restauro degli esemplari, ma soprattutto le perizie che il Gottifredi realizzava sull'originalità di numerosi esemplari, presenti in collezioni o che comparivano sul mercato antiquario. Seguendo lo stile dell'autrice, apro anch'io un inciso per sottolineare come proprio l'analisi di uno di questi falsi, un medaglione rappresentante Annio Vero e Commodo e la sua attribuzione alla mano di Gian Giacomo Bonzagni, metta chiaramente in luce il limite critico cui soggiace tutto il volume: l'eccessiva sintesi nella discussione critica che porta a considerare per acquisiti elementi che andrebbero approfonditi o per lo meno illustrati in modo più ampio, come nel caso dell'identità tra il "frate del Piombo" citato nella lettera in questione ed il Bonzagni, o la induce in errori veri e propri come il presentare quale opera originale coniata dal Bonzagni, e da lei riconosciuta in questa sede, un esemplare fuso (fig. 4.1).

Il saggio continua poi parlando del discernimento di altre serie false da parte del Gottifredi, illustrando la fisionomia di erudito che emerge dalla lettura delle minute dato che non vi sono opere a stampa a suo nome; dalla lettura appare uno studioso attento ai falsi, per altro ampliamente diffusi all'epoca, interessato al riconoscimento delle tipologie monetali, che cerca di realizzare, anche grazie al contato con altri studiosi, un volume sulle monete. Non manca l'analisi dell'abbozzo dell'opera del Gottifredi, conservato in un altro manoscritto dell'Olivierana, della quale si conservano, tra l'altro alcune delle tavole e dei commenti, alcuni di grande acume critico, che accompagnavano la descrizione delle diverse serie monetali. Una parte delle tavole realizzate per l'opera del Gottifredi, successivamente entrarono a far parte del volume Nummophylacium Reginae Christinae ... di Syvert Heverkamp del 1672: i commenti alla vicenda della Missere possono essere considerati solo un preludio ad una trattazione più ampia e meglio documentata dal punto di vista dell'impianto illustrativo. Il saggio dedicato al Gottifredi si chiude la descrizione dei tentativi operati, a partire dal 1652, dall'erudito per vendere la propria collezione e con un paragrafo a guisa di conclusioni.

Il saggio—capitolo 5 riguarda l'analisi di una copia del volume di Adolfo Occo Impp. Romanoru numismatum ... regestata da diversi antiquari e in Testimoni parlanti l'autrice ripropone, quanto scritto nella Rivista Italiana di Numismatica del 2006 senza sostanziali cambiamenti.

L'ambito culturale romano legato dell'antiquaria viene animato dalla pubblicazione, nel 1664, del volume Disputationes de usu et præstantia numismatum antiquorum romano da parte di Ezechiel Spanheim: la Missere, nel sesto capitolo-saggio, ne introduce la figura tramite i dubbi del Gottifredi, per poi passare a descrivere l'opera di Enea Vico, alla quale il giovane diplomatico tedesco si rifaceva. Chiuso l'inciso relativo a Vico, l'autrice ne apre uno per riassumere le posizioni di numerosi eruditi cinque-seicenteschi d'ambito romano, a riguardo di uno dei temi centrali del dibattito che, iniziato nel '500, si protraeva ancora all'epoca dello Spanheim e diventerà per lui centrale, e cioè dell'utilità dello studio della moneta antica, strettamente connesso con l'altro tema "forte" dei dibattiti dell'epoca, cioè la funzione della moneta nell'antichità. Chiusa l'ampia parentesi, l'autrice torna a parlare brevemente della prima edizione dell'opera dello Spanheim, cercando di identificarne i diversi modelli retorici e di spiegare le ragioni del suo successo. Il capitolo si chiude con la disamina dei testi di svariati numismatici, che, per la Missere, hanno reso le idee espresse da Spanheim un topos, ponendo fine al relativo dibattito, all'epoca dell'erudizione e con una disamina dei cambiamenti d'ordine metodologico avvenuti nella numismatica dall'opera dello Spanheim ai giorni nostri, ridondante ai fini dell'economia del già poderoso volume.

Infine il capitolo conclusivo, di cui ho già parzialmente parlato, nel quale l'autrice delinea anche le caratteristiche di una collezione e di uno studiolo dell'epoca presa in considerazione, i criteri che determinavano le scelte ecc. ..., continuando ad inserire nuovi personaggi nel già ricchissimo panorama

Chiudono il volume le abbreviazioni, l'ampia bibliografia — suddivisa tra fonti primarie, manoscritte od a stampa, le fonti secondarie (le interpretazioni critiche) ed i repertori numismatici — e gli indici dei nomi di persona.

Gli studi della Missere raccolti nel volume sono interessanti e ricchi di spunti; spiace che il desiderio da parte dell'Autrice di mettere a disposizione del lettore la propria erudizione e conoscenza, che non trova gli spazi sufficienti per distendersi in modo adeguato, venga a nocumento della trattazione critica dei temi proposti per il dibattito, soffochi le novità introdotte, che, come ad esempio nel caso citato per il capitolo-saggio 4, risultano scarsamente o nulla giustificate, renda alcune argomentazioni mutile e costringa l'autrice a rinunciare a presentare — come nel caso del capitolo-saggio 4 per la corrispondenza del Gottifredi, che di questa eccessiva sintesi è probabilmente la principale vittima — la voce diretta degli interessati.

Sommario: L. Travaini, Parole introduttive;

A. Burnett, Preface;

C. Franzoni, "Raccolte oziose e raccolte laboriose: aspetti del collezionismo tra XVI e XVII secolo";

Premessa dell'Autore; I Dialoghi di Agustín: gli antiqari a Roma tra lettura delle monete, perizia e scrittura; Le monete degli antiquari tra autenticità e falso: un campione del 'circolante collezionistico'; Tra Angeloni e Gottifredi: esperienze numismatiche nella Roma del primo Seicento; Cultura antiquaria e mercato di medaglie antiche nella Roma del Seicento dalle lettere di Francesco Gottifredi, "peritissimus et eruditus vir"; Confrontare la moneta con il libro: le postille ad Occo e la pratica antiquaria sulla via del corpus; Contro l'inutilità di collezionare monete: da Salomone a Spanheim e anche oltre; Conclusioni; Abbreviazioni; Bibliografia; Indice dei nomi di persona; Indice dei luoghi.

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Dominique Charpin, Writing, Law, and Kingship in Old Babylonian Mesopotamia (translated by Jane Marie Todd). Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2010. Pp. 182. ISBN 9780226101583. $55.00.

Reviewed by Rochelle Altman, Sivan College (

Version at BMCR home site


In Classical studies, since the 1990s, it has become increasingly clear that literacy was more widespread in society than had been previously thought. While many Assyriologists maintain that literacy was the exclusive domain of professional scribes and even kings, clergy, and generals are classed among the illiterate, Dominique Charpin has come to similar conclusions about Classical Babylonia. In this volume, Charpin focuses on the relationship between writing and law and, as we could expect from his previous works, makes a strong and convincing case for writing as a more wide-spread phenomenon than has been assumed.

Together with a new introduction and conclusion written by the author, the volume consists of eight chapters based upon reworked and updated previously published articles.1 In the Introduction, Charpin makes a number of points that deserves attention. He stresses the importance of context (1-2) and the purpose for which a text was composed (3). The importance of legal sources is brought out as "law was the foremost preoccupation of rulers" and "justice the first of a monarch's duties" (4). Finally, Charpin notes that political relations "reflect on the legal bases for diplomatic life" (4-5).

Chapter 1,"Reading and Writing in Mesopotamia: The Business of Specialists?" is arguably the most important chapter in the book as it prepares the reader for the reasons behind the spread of writing and its legal and political uses.

Charpin first reviews the cuneiform writing system. Because the system is seen as very complicated, the assumption has been that writing and reading were the realm of professional scribes. This concept of illiteracy extended to kings, generals, and clergy. Charpin demonstrated that the last was greatly overstated in "his book on the clergy of Ur."2 In this volume, he demonstrates that the concept of the illiterate king seems most unlikely in view of the texts from Mari (13-18). With regard to generals, Charpin cites the entertaining article by Simo Parpola wherein a general writes a letter requesting that a scribe be sent to him. While it is clear that the general was not a professional scribe, nevertheless, he was functionally literate.3 In respect of merchants, the consensus has shifted to acknowledge that "a great many Assyrians [merchants] knew how to read and write..." – because the Assyrian writing system was "highly simplified" (11).

This brings us to a very important point: "Why Cuneiform writing was not as difficult to master as is believed" (18). First, the apparent complexity of cuneiform rests on the fact that the "total number of possibilities [signs and combinations plus logograms] was very high" (19). This total, however, is the result of modern collations from across the life span of cuneiform – 3,000 years – and "not all values are attested in every period," nor are they attested "in every kind of text" (19). A scribe would require only those signs used in a given period. In the nineteenth century BCE, the syllabary in Cappadocia required only 68 signs.4 Further, in Old Babylonia, it "was possible for a scribe to write with only 82 signs" and, even in divinatory texts, "112 syllabic signs and 52 logograms" were counted in the corpus being edited (19-20). He also notes that "others have emphasized that there is no connection between the objective difficulty of a writing system and the literacy rate of a population" (19). As Charpin points out: "contemporary Japan has a higher literacy rate than France" (20).

Charpin also discusses one text that "may suggest, however, that some scribes practiced silent reading" (20-21). In this case, a letter had been delivered to the wrong person. The scribe opened the envelope and saw that it was not addressed to the king. As the scribe makes a distinction between the term he uses when reading for himself "(saw)" and the term for when reading for the king "(have him listen)," it raises the possibility that he read silently when sorting letters (20-21).

Charpin addresses one more disputed issue: were people expected to read public inscriptions? "While the traditional translation" of the epilogue to Hammurabi's stele "is 'may he have my stele read out', the text actually says, 'may he read'" (21-22). A recently published letter from Mari makes it clear that King Zimri-Lim expected "a portion of the people assembled on the procession route might be able to read" inscriptions (22).

In Chapter 2, "Outline of a Diplomatic of Mesopotamian Documents," he discusses the form of documents (25-35), the "constitution of archives" (35-39), and "access to archives" (39-41).

The focus of Chapter 3, "Old Babylonian Law: Gesture, Speech and Writing." is a subject of interest to Classicists: The Babylonians took the symbolic gestures and oaths for any contract very seriously indeed. "The complimentarity between gestures and words is particularly clear in the case of oaths" (45). While the usual expression was to "swear an oath," sometimes the expression is to "eat an oath." Tablets from Mari show that in one case parties to a contract "ate herbs" and in another "swore by herbs" (45). The concept perhaps being that by eating the herb it will be "transformed into a destructive force in the event of perjury" (46). Treaties seem to have been concluded by the symbolic gesture of spilling wine from a cup. An alliance was terminated by dirtying the cup used in the ritual (47). Treaties, as usual in antiquity, were concluded "by uttering oaths before the two kings' gods." (48)

Chapter 4 moves into the private sphere and deals with the "Transfer of Property deeds and the Constitution of Family Archives." Family archives chiefly consisted of the deeds in the exchange of real property, "inheritance, or a dowry" (53, 67). The custom of transferring deeds was wide-spread in Babylonia. "From the reign of Hammurabi on, the deeds thus transferred were designated by the expression tuppāt (or kanīkāt) ummātim." Ummātim is "the plural of literally 'mother' and in context clearly means 'point of origin'" (67). "The tuppāt ummātim were thus the old deeds of property, whatever their nature" (67). Charpin warns that we must beware of assuming "a gradual accumulation over their [family] history." "In Babylonia, poor people had no archives, but neither did the bankrupt" (68).

Essentially a practical collection of case law, Chapter 5 deals with "The Status of the Code of Hammurabi." Apparently the code was applied or served as guidelines (79). Unlike other law codes, Hammurabi's is unique in being remembered down the centuries. Portions had been used for training scribes and excerpts were quoted until the Achaemenid period (81).

In Chapter 6 Charpin discusses the Mesopotamian institution of the "restoration" edicts of the Babylonian Kings. An extension of the role of the ruler as shepherd was the maintainance of stability and the "correction of iniquitous situations . . . by the abolition of debts" (83). These edicts reflected the concept of an ideal past rather than a reform. The point seems to have been to reestablish social equilibrium (96).

While Hammurabi's code deals with private law, in Chapter 7 Charpin deals with his code in terms of international law. "The Hague Convention of 1907 CE required that its members not start a war without warning... Such measures are known to have been taken as early as the eighteenth century BCE" (104). Pacts of alliance were usual; when Hammurabi launched a war against the king of Larsa, the king of Mari, Zimri-Lim, "found himself, very much against his will, dragged into that distant conflict" (105). When it came to the annexation of conquered kingdoms, the specifics had to "be reconstituted on the basis of the legal documents" (106). After the defeat of Larsa, for instance, Hammurabi confiscated only the crown lands. There does not appear to be any known "genuine example" of international arbitration (112).

In Chapter 8, Charpin describes controlling cross-border traffic in a situation with about one hundred kingdoms in which, however, "constraints on freedom of movement were nevertheless very great" (115). What is clear is that "political borders played a role in restricting movement" (115). Foreign messengers were stopped at borders and given escort (116). Customs were levied on cargo and on diplomatic gifts (117). Writing played a crucial role in control of those who ignore borders -- nomads, traders, and messengers (125).

There is one other aspect of writing in antiquity that Charpin stresses in both Chapter Three and in the Conclusion, for this aspect is alien to modern societies. To the Babylonians the written word was merely a more permanent recording of living speech. The tablets were understood as having "a mouth (pī tuppim)" and also referred to as "the tablet's speech (awat tuppim)" (50). In fact, "the verb 'read' (šitassūm) is a form of a verb whose primary meaning is 'cry out, call'" (21).

In addition, they considered tablets not inscribed pieces of clay but living beings, in a civilization where the line between the living and the inanimate was not conceived the same way as it is in ours.. . . It is not surprising that tablets could be "killed." Tablets had a mouth (pum), which is why one could listen to them. Tablets could lie, like mouths.

Numerous ancient texts in both cuneiform (e.g., a letter from Ennando, King of Lagash) and alphabetic scripts (e.g., the stele of Kilamuwa, King of Yadi) indicate that stress and duration notation were to be written into the text, thus imitating the words as they were spoken. Once we understand this notation system, the modern reader may be able, like the ancients, to hear "the tablet's speech" and the voice of the absent author. Some preliminary work on how they indicated stress and duration in Mesopotamian tablets and inscriptions has been carried out, but more needs to be done.5

While Charpin demonstrates that writing was key to the development of law and was more wide-spread than has hitherto been believed, his conclusion that students received both divinatory and scribal training is not as certain. As a divinatory scribe would need to learn the logograms, this would be a scribal specialty. It would seem more likely that only some students received both divinatory and scribal training.

Writing enabled control over distance. It created stability and enforced a common language. Intertwined, writing and law developed together and gave birth to a complex, hierarchical system of legal precedents and judiciaries. Well produced and engagingly written, for readers who are interested in the history of writing, legal history and the relationship between law and writing in the Ancient Near East this book is required reading.


1.   Charpin's articles in French, including the originals of several chapters, can be found in pdf format at his site:
2.   Le clergé d'Ur au siècle d'Hammurabi (XIXe-XVIIIe siècles avant J.C.), Geneva/Paris, Librarie Droz, 1986.
3.   Parpola, Simo, "The Man without a scribe and the question of literacy in the Assyrian empire," in B. Pongratz-Leisten et al. (eds.), Ana šadî Labnani lu allik: Festschrift für Wolfgang Röllig (Alter Orient und Altes Testament 247), Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1997, pp. 315-324. (pdf available)
4.   The alphabet used for writing English contains 52 symbols: 26 lowercase and 26 uppercase. The forms are not the same and must be learned individually. The Romance and Germanic languages require even more symbols.
5.   For illustrations and my discussions of stress and duration notation see pages 22- 24 for Ennando and pages 29-31 for Kilumuwa in Rochelle Altman, Absent Voices: The Story of Writing Systems in the West., Oak Knoll Press (2004).

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Monday, June 27, 2011


Riet van Bremen, Jan-Mathieu Carbon (ed.), Hellenistic Karia: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Hellenistic Karia, Oxford, 29 June-2 July 2006. Études, 28. Talence: Ausonius Éditions, 2010. Pp. 602. ISBN 9782356130365. €40.00.

Reviewed by R. Malcolm Errington, Philipps-Universität Marburg (

Version at BMCR home site

The volume under review is the publication of a conference held in Oxford in 2006. It makes a substantial contribution to a field that has seen major archaeological and historical activity in the last twenty years, which Riet van Bremen in her introduction summarises. In particular, epigraphic research has made significant advances; the number of important new inscriptions from the area, chronicled annually in the Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum, sheds new light on a multitude of facets of the political, social and religious life of Karian communities, especially in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. This volumeis now complemented by the recent publication of the Swedish conference commemorating 60 years of archaeological work at Labraunda.1

The Oxford conference volume contains 27 articles grouped in six sections. Most are in English, but three are in French and five in German. The collection as a whole presents a thorough and largely up-to-date survey of many Karian themes, and several of the studies will provide a stimulating basis for further work in the area. The conference was clearly a great success, as is the published volume, elegantly presented by Ausonius at a very acceptable price.

The sections are of unequal size and weight. Section I consists of a single contribution by François de Callataÿ and Fabrice Delrieux. They provide a respectful description of the Fonds Louis Robert and its coins, collected by the Roberts in Turkey. More than 400, mostly small bronzes, are Karian. The preparation of a catalogue is in progress and preliminary information is included in two tables.

Section II is more substantial, containing six thoughtful historical and archaeological papers related to Hekatomnid Karia. Gary Reger offers a careful discussion of the phases of Mylasan expansion in the Hekatomnid and Seleukid periods and pays especial atttention to the indentification of the "Little Sea", which was the object of a long dispute with neighbouring Iasos. Koray Konuk examines the possibility of identifiying the coins used to pay the ekklesiastikon at Iasos, mentioned in I.Iasos 20 (SEG 40, 949) and convincingly criticises Delrieux' attempt to link certain bronze coin issues with this inscription. Gianfranco Maddoli discusses the evidence of five recently discovered inscriptions from Iasos (now: PP 62, 2007) that shed new light on Hekatomnid and post-Hekatomnid Karia—most interesting are the first recorded use of the word "Maussolleion" for a cenotaph at Iasos and a late cult for Alexander and Olympias. Raymond Descat tries to identifiy the argyrion symmachikon mentioned in inscriptions from Miletos and Kolophon in the late fourth century. He rejects the identification with coins of Kolophon or Miletos and regards the "alliance" implied by the phrase as the Karian symmachia for which Alexanders were coined at Miletos for a few years under Alexander and after his death. This seems a reasonable solution to the numismatic problem. Two archaeological papers have been at least partly overtaken by events in the field. Frank Rumscheid argues persuasively that the "Uzun Yuva" in Mylasa was a cenotaph for Maussollos; unfortunately the discovery in 2010 by grave robbers shows that an actual burial took place there and suggests that the extremely prominent tomb was even earlier, perhaps even that of Hekatomnos himself. The same unprofessional discovery makes Olivier Henry's attempt to identify the large extra-mural tomb at Mylasa known as "Berber İni" as that of Hekatomnos more than doubtful.

Section III, entitled rather enigmatically "Carian Inflections", presents three papers on the Karian language by Ignacio J. Adiego, H.Craig Melchert, and Diether Schürr, which taken together offer a very useful and—even to the non-comparative linguist—largely comprehensible review of recent research in the field, but also drawing attention to the limits of what is, or even can be, known, as long as the current linguistic material is not expanded by new bilingual discoveries. Ender Varinlioğlu publishes four inscriptions from Kilikia and draws attention to some similarities with Karian names beginning Ko-: the significance of these observations remains unclear. Daniela Piras examines the development of language usage and onomastics to illustrate the gradual Hellenization, at least at a superficial level, of Karia in the Hellenistic period, and Pierre Debord has similar aims in his study of the mythical figures Chrysaor, Bellerophon and Pegasos, which shows how the Hellenistic world in Karia made use of both epichoric traditions and current Greek ideas.

Section IV, "The Role of the Landscape" comprises four archaeological papers. Christopher Ratté gives an account of four years of field survey on the hinterland of Aphrodisias, the Upper Morsynos valley. As with all such projects, dating difficulties of the find places make detailed interpretation problematic, but settlements of the late Classical and early Hellenistic periods were certainly found, including farms and forts. Lydian rather than Karian influence is traceable, and the village settlements seem to end at the latest in early imperial times, when the city of Aphrodisias dominated the area. Poul Pedersen offers a preliminary overview of research on the city walls of Halikarnassos. The wall goes back to Maussollos (no earlier traces have been found) and was carefully planned with a series of strategic fortresses integrated into the defensive system. Bernhard Schmalz reports on his work on the city walls of Kaunos, with particular attention to sections where repairs were needed, and shows the different techniques used. These sections offer no suitable criteria for dating the wall as a whole, since Schmalz establishes a general tendency as late at the later third century to use old-fashioned building techniques. Anne-Marie Carstens decribes a selection of apparently Hellenistic tomb-complexes on the peninsula of Halikarnassos, whereby the dating criteria remain unclear. She claims to be dealing with "landscaping", but the treatment of the concrete archaeological finds remains largely descriptive.

Section V under the title "Coastal Interactions" consists of five papers. The first is a systematic survey by Winfried Held of the known cults at Loryma. He emphasises the strong Rhodian influence and the associated presence of foreigners with their own cult activities in the hellenistic period. Only Apollo seems to be earlier. David J. Blackman discusses the archaeological and epigraphic evidence for Rhodian maritime bases around Rhodes and at several places on the Karian coast in a useful survey of the available evidence. Christof Schuler examines the largely epigraphic evidence for sympoliteiai in Lykia and Karia, and makes the reasonable suggestion that the influence of the political system practiced in Rhodes itself stood as model for restructuring the areas put under Rhodian control by the Romans in 188 B.C. A useful appendix summarises the scattered epigraphic evidence for this thesis. Hans-Ulrich Wiemer defends the standard view of the structure of the Rhodian Peraia going back to Fraser and Bean, as consisting of "integrated" and "subject" parts, against the recent sceptical view of Vincent Gabrielsen. The basic structure of the subject Peraia was dominated by koina, each with its own officials, not poleis, and these were clearly subordinate units, since some such communities had earlier been poleis. He is, however, sceptical about the possibility of making further progress on these questions. Alain Bresson surveys the topography of Knidos and supports the view of a re-location of the city in the fourth century. This is the only scenario that makes some sense of the inadequate sources for the description of the sea battle of 394 B.C. Section VI, "Cities", presents five papers. It begins with a survey by Angelos Chaniotis of the meagre evidence for early Aphrodisias. Apart from new evidence that the polis Aphrodisias existed under Rhodian rule in the earlier second century, little concrete information can be won for the early existence of the city. Roberta Fabiani's contribution analyses the evidence of the inscriptions of Iasos for the political structure of the city. She makes a good case for a change in the post-Hekatomnid period, when the number of phylai seems to have increased from four to five and the officials called archontes were replaced by prostatai. Riet van Bremen gives an excellent detailed discussion of the date of the temple at Lagina and provides what seem to me to be convincing arguments for a date in the second century after the Karians were freed from Rhodian rule. This excludes the frequently asserted connection of sections of the frieze with Rome and the Mithridatic Wars. Fabrice Delrieux discusses with particular attention to Karia the well-known Late Republican financial woes of the cities of Asia Minor, and Christine Bruns-Özgen concludes the book with an examination of a series of female statues found near Knidos (Aphrodites?) and provides stylistic arguments for dating them to the early Hellenistic period.

This useful collection ends with a composite bibliography and indices, which make reference to the individual articles much easier than in many such publications based on conferences. The editors are to be congratulated for producing such a user-friendly publication of these papers.


Acknowledgements 13
Riet van Bremen, Introduction 15
List of Maps 19
I Karian Numismatics and the Fonds Louis Robert
François de Callataÿ and Fabrice Delrieux, Karian Numismatics in the Fonds Louis Robert (Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres). 23
II Hekatomnid Karia and its Legacy
Gary Reger, Mylasa and its territory. 43
Koray Konuk, The Payment of the Ekklesiastikon at Iasos in the light of new evidence. 59
Frank Rumscheid, Maussollos and the "Uzun Yuva" in Mylasa: an unfinished Proto-Maussolleion at the heart of a new urban centre? 69
Olivier Henry, Hekatomnos, Persian satrap or Greek dynast? The tomb at Berber İni. 103
Gianfranco Maddoli, Nouveautés au sujet des Hékatomnides d'après les inscriptions de Iasos. 123
Raymond Descat, argyrion symmachikon et l'histoire de la Carie à la fin du
IVe s.a.C. 133
III Carian Inflections
Ignacio J. Adiego, Recent developments in the decipherment of Carian. 147
H. Craig Melchert, Further thoughts on Carian nominal inflection. 177
Diether Schürr, Spätkarisch: Regionalisierung und Lautenentwicklung. 187
Ender Varinlioğlu, Kodapa and Kodopa. 207
Daniela Piras, Who were the Karians in Hellenistic times? The evidence from epichoric language and personal names. 217
Pierre Debord, Chrysaor, Bellérophon, Pégase en Carie. 235
IV The Role of the Landscape
Christopher Ratté, New research on the region around Aphrodisias. 253
Poul Pedersen, The City Wall of Halikarnassos. 269
Bernhard Schmaltz, Kaunische Mauern: zwischen Stil und Pragmatismus. 317
Anne-Marie Carstens, The Sepulchral Landscape of the Halikarnassos peninsula in Hellenistic times. 331
V Coastal Interactions
Winfried Held, Die Heiligtümer und Kulte von Loryma. 355
David J. Blackman, The Rhodian fleet and the Karian coast. 379
Christof Schuler, Sympolitien in Lykien und Karien. 393
Hans-Ulrich Wiemer, Structure and development of the Rhodian Peraia: evidence and models. 415
Alain Bresson, Knidos: topography for a battle. 435
VI Cities
Angelos Chaniotis, New evidence from Aphrodisias concerning the Rhodian occupation of Karia and the early history of Aphrodisias. 455
Roberta Fabiani, Magistrates and phylai in late Classical and early Hellenistic Iasos. 467
Riet van Bremen, The inscribed documents on the temple of Hekate at Lagina and the date and meaning of the temple frieze. 483
Fabrice Delrieux, La crise financière des cités grecques d'Asie Mineure au Ier siècle a.C. et la lettre de Cicéron à Q.Minucius Thermus (Fam.XIII, 56). 505
Christine Bruns-Özgan, Aphroditen aus Knidos. 527
List of Abbreviations 539
Bibliography 543
Index of Sources 577
Index 593


1.   Lars Karlsson and Susanne Carlsson, Labraunda and Karia. Uppsala, 2011.

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