Monday, October 31, 2011


József Krupp, Distanz und Bedeutung: Ovids Metamorphosen und die Frage der Ironie. Bibliothek der klassischen Altertumswissenschaften, Neue Folge, 2. Reihe, Bd 126. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2009. Pp. 200. ISBN 9783825356781. €40.00.

Reviewed by R. Alden Smith, Baylor University (

Version at BMCR home site

Krupp states near the beginning of his well-written and well-researched book, "Ironie bedeutet entweder, etwas sagen und vorgeben, es nicht zu sagen - oder die Sachen durch anders lautende Worte aussprechen" (14).1 Such saying/not saying and an author's expressing what he wishes to say in a different and unexpected manner is an aspect of the manipulation of distance that sheds light on how irony functions. Taking Plato's Socrates as the ancient embodiment of irony, Krupp moves through various postmodern thinkers such as Derrida, Barth, de Man and Schlegel, the last of whom suggests that irony pushes the limits of human communication and is thus opposed to language (20). For Schlegel irony is a kind of "transcendental buffoonery." To distinguish irony from mere humor, Krupp follows Hegel and Kierkegaard, the latter of whom sees irony as subjectivitatis significatio. Like Frye (Anatomy of Criticism), Krupp sees irony as discrete from satire because satire is a "militant" form of irony with less moral force (30). He also reviews Baudelaire's consideration of humor and laughter that regards irony as an aspect of caricature. Krupp closes his discussion with the Gadamerian concept of irony as "antitext," a portion of the text that essentially works "against" the narrative (43).

In his second chapter, Krupp considers individual passages, beginning with that of Lycaon, contrasting its frivolous moments with its epic grandeur, which is undercut by Ovid's humorous tone. The passage's irony can be seen in Lycaon being punished at Jupiter's hands—the same hands that had earlier meted out punishment to rebellious giants. Further, the reference to the setting as palatia caeli increases the irony by contextualizing the punishment in a distinctively Roman setting. Thus, Krupp discusses the concilium deorum of Metamorphoses 1, with which he compares the opening verses of Aeneid 10, balancing the modern reader's horizon with the Romanization of the text (cf. Barchiesi, ed., Ovidio: Metamorfosi, Volume I, Libri I- II, ad 1.172.). The irony is heightened by Ovid's dubbing Jupiter princeps, for Jupiter's speech, rife with inconsistencies and logical fallacies, deconstructs itself (58f.). Years ago Heinze had seen the episode as comical (Ovids elegische Erzählung, 11f.), an aspect of which is the egocentric rhetorical flourish of the god: just as the punishment is too harsh for the crime, so Jupiter's rhetoric is too self-serving and aggrandizing for a god of his stature. Yet Krupp is careful not to press too closely the association of Jupiter with Augustus or Lycaon with Ovid.

Krupp now moves on to consider selections from Ovid's Theban cycle. Picking up on an observation of Feldherr (Metamorphosis and Sacrifice, 27-29) about vision in the Ovidian narrative, Krupp notes that the myth of Actaeon, formerly chiefly a tale of transformation, has in Ovid's hands become a matter of seeing and being seen. When Diana comes into Actaeon's view, her attendants pour around her (circumfusae) like water and as such cannot cover the goddess' nakedness. Krupp also considers the irony of the situation in light of the sexual violation of the goddess' grove. While Krupp perhaps overemphasizes the significance of uisa est as it is used to describe the perception of Diana's violent nature, his positing of the accidental inuentio of the goddess by Actaeon as the basis for irony is surely correct: Actaeon begins as the spectator and winds up as the spectacle. Krupp also touches on the curious Kreutzung der Gattungen in the passage, which includes a seemingly quixotic reference to Virgil's seventh Eclogue (Arcades omnes). With that reference, in particular, Ovid contrasts the world of the Metamorphoses and that of Virgilian pastoral (83f.).

Next, Krupp considers Narcissus, whose ironic story is embedded between two other such figures, Pentheus and Tiresias. (Tiresias is ironically both male and female, blind and visionary; Pentheus' zeal to see thronging females goes too far.) Considering Narcissus's fate against the backdrop of images in Catullus and Propertius, Krupp sees the tale's chief paradox as the distortion of the Delphic dictum gnothi seauton. Qua character, Narcissus not only contrasts ironically with Echo, the aural counterpart to his visual equivalent, but also with Pygmalion, who in tactile manner can vivify art. By contrast, Narcissus cannot touch the youth beneath the surface of the water and thus will die—or rather become the flower from Catullus 62. While not entirely original, Krupp's handling of Ovid's echo of Catullus' multi illum pueri, multae optauere puellae (62.42) is skillful, for he nicely expounds how the text reflects the character.

Turning to Echo, Krupp acknowledges the work of Rosati (Narciso e Pigmalione), emphasizing the ironic tone of phrases such as "uisa est uox" (3.349) and "imagine uocis" (3.385). The vignette's opening words contrast vision and sound (adspicit and uocalis, lines 356f.), thus heightening the irony that is reinforced by Echo's repetitive speech. Narcissus, who relies on sight, turns only to the "text" of Echo's words after all possibilities of sight are exhausted. Verbs such as exspectare emphasize vision, and Ovid employs visual adjectives such as eburneus that have erotic overtones indebted to elegiac poetry. (That adjective foreshadows a similar usage in the Pygmalion story, where the word suggests erotic transformation.) A statement of Nietzsche helps Krupp further analyze the Narcissus tale in terms of physical and psychological dimensionality. Krupp's departure from Elsner's notion that Narcissus is both ideal artist and ideal viewer is a gentle and welcome correction (Krupp, 105; cf. J. Elsner, Roman Eyes, 133).

As Krupp explains that Ovid's representation of Narcissus may find its roots in the ontological skepticism of fifth- century thought, his analysis wanders (albeit with interesting observations). Patience on the reader's part, however, pays off as Krupp, returning to his analysis of the passage, observes that the tears Narcissus sheds physically connect the image to an aquatic source (110). He further notes that Ovid's address of Narcissus via apostrophe introduces a pathetic tone. Such apostrophes not only offer a commentary on the story as it proceeds but also amount to a parekbasis (Schlegel's term employed by Rosati in Narciso e Pigmalione to explain dramatic irony). Explaining that parekbasis represents an ironic intrusion into the narrative, Krupp cites and expands on Rosati's analysis of the vocative adjective unice applied to Narcissus at 3.454 (cf. Rosati, 43). Narcissus' monologue is regarded as evoking the elegiac tradition represented by Propertius. Ironically, Narcissus is the prototypical spurned elegiac lover (116); when he has Echo and Narcissus part, Ovid transcends the elegiac intertext to invoke the bucolic tone of Virgil's Eclogues (Krupp, 119; cf. Jeff Wills, Repetition in Latin Poetry, 347).

To begin his fifth chapter, which focuses on the stories of Atalanta and Adonis, Krupp touches on observations by Miller (Ariadne's Thread) that recast afresh Schlegel's concept of parekbasis. Specifically, Krupp develops Miller's idea about irony as a disruption of the text's linearity (121). Turning to the Adonis story, Krupp adopts Gérard Genette's terms to develop the theme of irony as transgression (metalepsis, a kind of textual border violation). Such transgression opens the possibility that what goes on "outside the text" (extradiegetic material) must be viewed against what goes on within the text (diegetic material). This analysis is balanced with Krupp's interpretation of the lack of linearity in Ovid's Metamorphoses, for which Krupp adopts Miller's analogy of the labyrinth.

Krupp next considers the interplay of the tale of Adonis and Venus in relation to that of Cinyras and Myrrha. Especially nice is Krupp's comparison of Cupid's absence from the Venus and Adonis story to Cupid's denial of helping Myrrha in that tale. Krupp also shows the similarities of the Adonis tale to that of Atalanta. In the Adonis- Venus narrative, Krupp interprets the kissing of the couple as a symbol of metalepsis—a clever observation, given the ironic similarity of Adonis and Cupid (133). In the case of Atalanta, the reader is "consulted" about the relation of Atalanta's body to her swiftness, which shrinks the boundaries between the reader's perspective and the narrative voice.

Krupp now turns to the issue of Ovid's indebtedness to Hellenistic poetry (cf. Knox, Ovid's Metamorphoses and the Traditions of Augustan Poetry, 27-47). Following Meyers, Galinsky, et al., Krupp briefly considers the models from Bios to Nikander in terms of complexity and finesse as well as Ovid's deviation from his Hellenistic forebears (143). Krupp avers Galinsky's seminal observation that Ovid tends to referre idem aliter, expanding upon that statement by suggesting that Ovid juxtaposes serious and comical themes. Ovid's synthesis reflects the Hellenistic practice of expecting a learned audience (145). Such oscillation between humor and seriousness is paralleled by the movement between truth and disillusionment (cf. also Hardie, Ovid's Poetics of Illusion, 22).

As he nears his monograph's conclusion, Krupp turns his attention to the "Little Aeneid" (Met. 13.623-14.605), for which Ovid employs the different semantic fields of irony and parody. Quintilian once called parody a figure of thought, pointing out that its nature is imitative (Inst. 9.2.35). The difference between a parodic allusion's new and original context, Krupp argues, is comparable to Derrida's notion of différance (cf. also Garth Tissol, The Face of Nature, 183). Inasmuch as the Aeneid had been, already in Ovid's lifetime, catapulted to the center of the poetic curriculum (151), both parody and irony function as marks of distinction between the original Virgilian locus and new Ovidian context; thus, there is no such thing as univocality when it comes to these two devices.

As Krupp begins to unpack the text of the "Little Aeneid," his discussion gains its legs. Having reviewed scholarship relevant to the passage, Krupp calls attention to the fact that Ovid's account of Aeneas' katabasis lacks the telos-orientation that one finds in Virgil (158). Thus Krupp observes that Ovid's account of Aeneas' mission is one of many tales rather than the narrative's centerpiece. Nevertheless, that Ovid wanted his "Little Aeneid" to be read in light of his immediate epic predecessor is clear from numerous intertextual references, as Papaiouannou has shown (Krupp, 163f.; Papaioannou, Epic Succession and Dissension, 49f). Krupp shows that Ovid, in following but also deviating from the basic Virgilian plot line, gives his text an ironic tone (168).

Krupp closes his discussion with Achaemenides' account of the Cyclops. One aspect of this story's significance is that it breaks up the Aeneas narrative and makes it seem that Virgil's account of the story is just one of many versions, the latest of which is Ovid's own, as Ovid reintroduces Homeric material through a new character, whose very presence helps to convey Ovid's constantly shifting hierarchies (175). Krupp's four-page conclusion recapitulates the main thrust of the book in establishing irony as a major compositional technique in the Metamorphoses, reminding the reader of how Ovid uses irony to create textual space or distance between the reader and the narrative together with its intertextual models.

Distanz und Bedeutung dovetails nicely with the important recent work of scholars such as Barchiesi, Rosati and Hardie, while also acknowledging the seminal contributions of von Albrecht, Otis, Galinsky and others. Does Krupp's analysis prove that in the Metamorphoses Ovid is a heavily ironic poet? In a sense, even though he analyzes only select episodes, it does. Krupp does not insist that every episode has an ironic quality. Rather, his point is that when Ovid chooses to employ irony, he can do so with the best of them. Admittedly, some of Krupp's analyses are stronger than others (e.g., his treatment of Narcissus and Echo is particularly good). His exegesis of theory, if less appealing than his application of it to his many well-thought-out analyses of passages, is nevertheless useful. All in all, Krupp is at his best when he balances theory and text, which he does, for the most part, successfully. By emphasizing Ovid's ironic qualities, Krupp has neatly carved out a place for Distanz und Bedeutung, which represents an important and welcome contribution to Ovidian scholarship.

Table of Contents

1. Einleitung, 11
2. Die Codes des Textes: Lycaon, 47
3. videre/videri: Actaeon, 67
4. Illusion und Ironie: Narcissus, Echo, 85
5. Ironie und die Aufhebung der Linearität: Adonis, Atalanta, 121
6. Ironie und Parodie: Die Aeneis-Episode, 147
7. Schluss, 175
Literaturverzeichnis 179
Register 193
Stellenregister 193
Namensregister 196
Sachregister 198


1.   I wish to thank Susannah Brister, Kirsten Kappelmann, and Hillary Shellnut for assiduous assistance.

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Valerie M. Hope, Janet Huskinson (ed.), Memory and Mourning: Studies on Roman Death. Oxford/Oakville, CT: Oxbow Books, 2011. Pp. xxiv, 200. ISBN 9781842179901. $50.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Edward M. Schoolman, University of Nevada, Reno (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

The premise of Memory and Mourning: Studies on Roman Death, an edited volume based on two conferences held with a similar title in 2008 and 2009 in the Department of Classics of the Open University, is to present a range of studies on the confluence of memory with the surrounding traditions, material creations, and emotions of death in the Roman world. As the introduction by Valerie Hope notes, this multivalent field has grown significantly in recent decades, and some of the contributors to the present volume have previously worked on topics relating to death and memory while others are new to the field. The 10 contributions collected here illuminate the various ways in which a wide range of literary evidence (from poetry to oratory to history) and material culture (from funeral portraits to tombstones to mementos of the deceased) can be brought to bear on the role that the creation of devices for memory plays in the rituals and traditions surrounding death in Rome (or at least the death of those of certain levels of status). Rather than organize the volume by the material or methodology, the editors have innovatively arranged the chapters to follow the progression of dying from the deathbed to the funeral to the commemoration of the dead.

Noy's opening contribution highlights the Roman perspectives on and illustrations of a 'good death' – that is, a peaceful death at home surrounded by family members – and its domestic setting. Dipping into depictions in literature and representations on funerary monuments and archaeological evidence to address the value placed on a death at home, Noy suggests that the overriding factor was the maintenance of ritual after death and in particular the issue of final requests, the creation of a death-mask, and the disposal of the body. The fear of a death away from home was connected to improper or inadequate expressions of these three facets.

The next two contributions by Graham and Erker focus on the actual practice of Roman funerary rituals from complementary perspectives. Graham's chapter looks at the multiple interactions and experiences with the body after death (from female mourners whose role was to wash and anoint to male onlookers within the house to later funerary specialists), and how these different relationships and the material nature of the body of the deceased contributed to the formation of competing memories among those who had been close to the deceased. Erker's work takes a narrower view in which the divide in the roles played by men and women in funerary rites is key. These obligations were both religious and social, with woman involved in ritual mourning and the preparing of the body, while men's roles were significantly externalized, offering eulogies and sacrifices, although the activities of both groups contributed to the preservation of the memory of the deceased.

The issue of the literary representation of these rites is presented in the following three contributions. Houghton's chapter reassesses the value of extracting descriptions of death, ritual and burial in elegiac poetry without acknowledging the transformation of this material within its contexts. This literary analysis connects the ideas of love and death, disregarding the older ideas of elegiac poets as death-obsessed, but treating death like other major facets of Roman society. The use of death and funerals in history is taken up in Schultze's look at their depiction in Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and in particular the funeral oration, a custom which Dionysius reports to be not only a Roman innovation, rather than Greek, but also a superior custom. Through the specific cases of the funerary rites for Lucretia and Coriolanus, Schultze argues that, for Dionysius, the recording of orations or the descriptions of funerals is connected to his concept of the role of historian. In dealing with the realm of oratory, in this case the Pro Rabirio Perduellionis Reo of Cicero, the contribution of Brooke points to the defense by Cicero of Rabirius as dominated by the language and image of burial. In addition to setting up the strange context of this seldom studied oration, the main focus is on the way in which the trial reflected on Roman traditions, and how revisiting old events and dead men is used as a tool to influence memory. Although all three contributions differ in their approaches to the depictions of death, they all suggest various ways in which the recording of such effects influences memory and emotion.

The final four contributions all deal with the events after the funeral and in particular focus on the commemoration of the dead in varying media and with different designs. A single monument, a second century funerary altar dedicated by Iulius Secundus to his wife and daughter, is at the core of the chapter by Huskinson. This monument, through its decorative scheme, portraits, and texts, helped to guide the commemoration of the two women, who died at sea. Huskinson suggests that the way in which the altar presents its subjects 'tames' the violent manner of their death, providing the observer with a way to memorialize the deceased and recognize the bereaved in a way separate from the circumstances of their deaths. Carroll's contribution also centers on funerary monuments, but considers the broad category of those monuments set up by freedmen for themselves as well as their former owners who often listed the manumission of slaves in their wills. The manumission of slaves on their deathbed had a number of significant advantages for owners, as it not only proved to be a show of great ostentation, but also created a group of individuals for whom the perpetuation of the memory of their owners became a permanent part of a yearly cycle of funerary rituals. Epigraphic and visual evidence from monuments commonly depicts freedmen and patrons together, or lists freedmen supporting the extended memory of their patrons. This process was, as Carroll's evidence suggests, ultimately controlled by the patrons, who could dictate in their wills the position that freedmen would be accorded in connection with the upkeep of their memory as an extension of the operae freedmen were obligated to perform, but also reflected the new status granted to the former slaves by their patrons.

Veering away from material monuments, one of the Silvae of Statius offers a rich venue for investigating the literary category of consolatio in Hull's chapter. This close reading of the poem attempts to destabilize the categorization of this work as simply that of a consolation and demonstrates the many shades of social, political, and religious commentary layered in the text. On its surface, the poem is addressed to Claudius Etruscus on the death of his father, but combines the form of a consolation with political language and parallels to imperial behavior, as well as ideology on issues such as pietas and obligation, turning what might have been a tool for memorialization into something greater. The final chapter by Hope primarily engages texts designed for memorials on objects rather than as literary items. The epitaph of Allia Potestas, a 50-line poem, provides the initial point of inquiry, as it concludes with references to specific items designed for her commemoration, in particular a portrait and a bracelet. Although they only survive as references in this poem, both of these items would have played important though different roles for various audiences, including the author of the poem. The portrait, along with the epitaph, may have been as much a public reminder as a private one, preserving an idealized vision of the deceased Allia; the bracelet, inscribed with her name, would have been a far more intimate reminder as 'mourning' jewelry. It is a fitting conclusion as it points out that remembering the dead, and the perpetuation of their memory, was not limited to a specific place, or even a specific moment, but was ever present in Roman society.

This volume presents many ways in which memory (both collective and individual) is created, maintained, and adjusted in the actions and memorials connected to Roman death. Significantly, as is common with many volumes that originate in conferences, the individual contributions rarely engage directly with one another, and the divisions between methodological approaches remains strong. However, although many of the contributions overlap thematically and diverge significantly with respect to their arguments and approaches, this volume's main value as a whole is in the way it presents serially the social responses to death in Roman society as well as a multiplicity of ways to understand the rituals around death as active components in shaping memory.

Table of Contents

Valerie M. Hope, Introduction (pp. xi-xxiv)
David Noy, 'Goodbye Livia': Dying in the Roman House (pp. 1-20)
Emma-Jayne Graham, Memory and Materiality: Re-embodying the Roman Funeral (pp. 21-39)
Darja Šterbenc Erker, Gender and Roman Funeral Ritual (pp. 40-60)
Luke B. T. Houghton, Death Ritual and Burial Practice in the Latin Love Elegists (pp. 61-77)
Clemence Schultze, 'The sole glory of death': Dying and Commemoration in Dionysius of Halicarnassus (p. 78-92)
Eleanor Brooke, 'Cause ante mortua est quam tu natus es': Aspects of the Funeral in Cicero's Pro Rabirio Perduellionis Reo (pp. 93-112)
Janet Huskinson, Bad Deaths, Better Memories (pp. 113-125)
Maureen Carroll, 'The mourning was very good'. Liberation and Liberality in Roman Funerary Commemoration (pp. 126-149)
Jean-Michel Hulls, Poetic Monuments: Grief and Consolation in Statius Silvae 3.3 (pp. 150-175)
Valerie M. Hope, Remembering to Morn: Personal Mementos of the Dead in Ancient Rome (pp. 176-195)
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Friday, October 28, 2011


Olga Spevak (ed.), Le syntagme nominal en Latin: nouvelles contributions. Actes de l'atelier du centre Alfred Ernout. Université de Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV), 11 octobre 2008. Kubaba. Série grammaire et linguistique. Paris: L'Harmattan, 2010. Pp. 229. ISBN 9782296132054. €21.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Katherine McDonald, Cambridge University (

Version at BMCR home site

[Table of contents below.]

Anyone who doubts that there are many "new contributions" to be made to the study of noun phrases in Latin should consider purchasing a copy of Olga Spevak's new volume, the result of an international workshop at the Université de Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) on 11th October 2008. The variety of approaches, the thorough use of data from corpora large and small, and wide range of comparative knowledge displayed are all very impressive. But I was particularly struck by the willingness of all the contributors to engage fully with a wide range of complementary approaches taken from modern linguistic theory – something which is, even now, not always the case in the study of Classical languages.

After Olga Spevak's initial introduction, which outlines the arguments of all the contributors, the book is divided into two halves. The first half deals with word order within noun phrases, with contributions from Spevak (two chapters), Kircher, Viti and Martín Rodríguez. The second half, titled "What is a noun phrase in Latin?", comprises studies on the more problematic and marginal examples of noun phrases (including ablative absolutes, noun + adverb phrases, and others) with chapters by Touratier, Ripoll, Bodelot, Orlandini/Poccetti, and Fry. A table of contents is included at the end of this review.

All contributions are in French, apart from Carlotta Viti's, which is in English. However, each chapter begins with an abstract in English (or, in Viti's case, in French). Between these abstracts and Spevak's French summaries in the introduction, the volume makes it relatively easy for a speaker of either language to find articles which are of interest. Because of the variety of approaches, I will deal with each contribution separately in this review.

Spevak's introductory chapter, "Le syntagme nominal en latin: les travaux des trente dernières années", is somewhat misleadingly titled, since her discussion in fact outlines the principal arguments in the field from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, and deals in detail with the major works of the last forty years. She discusses the main issues surrounding noun phrases, principally: the placement of adjectives and other determiners; the particular difficulty of the position of genitive complements; and the disjunction of the elements of a noun phrase. She also traces the interaction of the study of Latin noun phrases with new approaches in linguistics, including typology, generative grammar, and cross-linguistic studies. Spevak's bibliography for this chapter, in particular, would be an excellent place for any student to start investigation into this subject.

"L'ordre des mots dans quelques syntagmes nominaux de la Guerre civile de César," by Chantal Kircher, examines the relative order of nouns and adjectives in noun phrases in the first book of Caesar's Civil War. Specifically, Kircher looks in detail at all the examples of noun phrases whose heads are animus, annus, dies, locus, populus, res and tempus (no rationale is given for the selection of these particular nouns, though I assume it is because of their relatively high frequency). Kircher's investigation, while broadly supporting the view that the order of noun phrase elements hinges mainly on whether the adjunct has a determining (after head noun) or qualifying function (before head noun), adds nuances to the picture which can only come from close investigation of a small corpus. First, it is clear from her examples that other factors may reverse the usual order, such as the presence of multiple adjectives, multiple nouns or a preposition. Second, her decision to talk of "tendencies" rather than fixed categories of adjectives based on their semantics is justified by her evidence that the same adjective can behave differently with different nouns.

Olga Spevak's third chapter, "La place des déterminants et leurs combinaisons," seeks to show that determiners are not a uniform group, but fall into categories with distinct properties which affect their position in the noun phrase. The determiners she investigates are: anaphoric is, demonstrative hic and ille, indefinites aliquis and quidam, numerical quantifiers (cardinal and ordinal), non-numerical quantifiers ( multus, paucus, omnis, totus, etc.), and the possessives meus and suus. Her statistics are taken from a corpus of Cicero (Att. 1-4), Caesar (Gall. 1-5) and Sallust (Catil. and Iug.), though a broader corpus of classical and post-classical prose is used to look at noun phrases with multiple determiners. Spevak's conclusions here add to the statements made by Marouzeau,1 particularly in regards to quantifiers and strings of multiple determiners. The conclusion of the second part of the paper, dealing with multiple determiners, presents the idea that the order of numeral + numeral, or numeral + indefinite, is based on semantics, numeral + demonstrative is based on pragmatics, and possessive + any other determiner is in free variation. On a side note, Spevak's 2010 book, which follows a similar approach, is cited by several contributors to this volume;2 readers may also wish to refer to J.G.F. Powell's review (BMCR 2011.06.30).

Carlotta Viti ("Observations on genitive word order in Latin") builds on the work of Devine and Stephens (2006), who, using a combination of the methods of generative-transformational grammar and pragmatics, observed that different head-nouns take their genitives in different positions.3 Viti, however, changes the focus from the head- noun to the genitive itself. This leads to some interesting results; in particular, she shows that (in Caesar's Gallic War) the genitive-noun order is more usually associated with singular genitives, while noun-genitive is more associated with plural genitives, or genitives of collective or abstract nouns, a result that it would be very interesting to see replicated using other data. Because of some exceptions for reasons of emphasis, she reiterates the idea found in other chapters of the book that both the semantics and pragmatics of the noun phrase are relevant to its word order.

"Quand le signifiant est aussi significatif: effets de sens dans l'ordre des mots du syntagme nominal chez Ovide," by Antonio María Martín Rodríguez is the only chapter in the book which deals closely with poetry, taking a detailed look at noun phrases in the Procne and Philomela episode in Ovid's Metamorphoses (6.424-674). The preference for the anteposition of the adjective, and the separation of the adjective from its noun, is clear in this corpus. While Martín Rodríguez notes that metrical constraints and euphony must take a role in the word order, he spends most of this chapter exploring the stylistic (uariatio, chiasmus, etc.) and symbolic motivations for the disjunction of the noun phrase. He considers these to be the most significant factors in word order in hexameter poetry for our reading of the text, since these are the elements which would be picked up by an ancient reader, but not always a modern one.

To begin Part 2, Christian Touratier ("Qu'est-ce qu'un SN dans une langue sans article comme le latin?") explores the difference between noun phrases, as traditionally defined in grammars, in languages with articles (French, English) and languages without articles (Latin, Russian). In this chapter, he seeks to create an overarching definition of noun phrases which can include both sets of languages equally, in part by distinguishing synthetic noun phrases (of one element, such as a proper noun) from analytic noun phrases (made up of multiple elements). The aim is to give us a new model of what makes the "typical" noun phrase, and to make this model consistent across as many languages as possible, rather than the definition changing based on the presence or absence of articles. The heavy use of abbreviations made this chapter tough going in places, though those with an interest in generative and functional grammar will find some thought-provoking arguments.

"Le SN composé d'un substantif et d'un adverbe," by Arhur Ripoll, discusses the use of adverbs to modify nouns. While many apparent examples of this phenomenon can be explained away, some striking examples remain. Ripoll puts these into various categories: among these are adverbs modifying nominalised predicates (i.e. nouns of action or nominalised adjectives), and adverbs with a metalinguistic function, which he claims describe the actualisation of the substantive rather than the substantive itself (e.g. uix uir, quasi sanguis, nunc frater, etc.). Unfortunately, there are nevertheless a limited number of examples, particularly in comedy, which Ripoll can only define as "idiomatic", since they cannot be explained further: these include expressions with hinc, undique, circa, ultra, infra and ibi.

Colette Bodelot's chapter, "Propositions complétives entrant en séquence avec un nom ou un syntagme nominal. Étude morpho-syntaxique et sémantique," investigates substantive clauses in Cicero's De officiis. Bodelot seeks to show how morphological, syntactic and semantic features in the sentence affect the relationship between substantive clauses and their associated nouns or noun phrases – definining the technical terms used could have made this chapter more accessible to a wider readership.

Anna Orlandini and Paolo Poccetti give us the only chapter with a truly diachronic approach to Latin noun phrases: "À propos des tournures exprimant une comparaison élative ("melle dulcior") et de leurs évolutions romanes." As the title suggests, this article looks at the Latin constructions comparative adjective + ablative substantive, such as melle dulcior, and their later development into Italian phrases such as stanco morto "dead tired". Orlandini and Poccetti analyse these as noun phrases, on the basis that they can be replaced with an adjective, e.g. "very sweet", which cannot be said of other comparatives such as maior fratre. The authors also use a wide range of comparative data from other Indo-European languages, including Greek, Slavic and Vedic Sanskrit.

The book's final chapter, by Carole Fry, is entitled "L'ablatif absolu en syntagme nominal qualifiant: dynamique énonciative, tactique et iconicité". As Fry points out, the ablative absolute causes unique problems of interpretation for the modern scholar precisely because Latin speakers themselves could not analyse its form accurately. Fry uses mainly examples from Republican and early Imperial prose and comparative examples from French in her analysis; she also adds a new perspective from cognitive linguistics, that of "iconicity".

While the book as a whole has a lot to offer, it has a few minor drawbacks. While sentences and longer passages of Latin are translated, words and short phrases are normally not, even where the precise meaning of the Latin is important to the line of the argument. Overall, a considerable degree of prior knowledge of technical terms is assumed – while this is a detailed and helpful volume in many ways, it may be hard going for those without some experience in Latin grammar and syntax, and indeed modern linguistic theory as well, particularly in Part 2. It is also worth noting that the focus of the book is firmly on Classical Latin, especially prose – and within prose, Caesar and Cicero are by far the best-represented authors. On that basis, this book may disappoint those looking for a more diachronic or wide-ranging approach, despite some references a broader range of sources in some chapters, and the diachronic approach of the Orlandini/Poccetti chapter as a whole.

There are several minor typographical errors (inconsistency in the use of italics for Latin words, for example), but I did not notice any which would cause significant confusion. A few other inconsistencies – for example, sometimes the summary at the beginning of the chapter is labelled "summary", and sometimes "abstract"; occasionally, abbreviations are used which are not included in (or not consistent with) the list of abbreviations in the front of the volume – could have been easily ironed out by the publisher.

Therefore, in spite of a few minor problems, this book has certainly succeeded in making a host of new contributions, which I would encourage Latinists to read if they wish to bring their knowledge of noun phrases completely up-to-date (or if they encounter curious students asking awkward questions about the ablative absolute). Since much of the book deals with relatively small corpora, this work may prove to be a starting point for others who can expand these authors' findings to larger data sets in future. I feel sure that this varied, thorough and affordable volume will quickly find a place on scholars' shelves and on undergraduate reading lists.

Table of Contents

Abbreviations 13
Introduction 15
Part 1 – L'ordre des composants du syntagme nominal
Olga Spevak – Le syntagme nominal en latin: les travaux des trente dernières années 23
Chantal Kircher – L'ordre des mots dans quelques syntagmes nominaux de la Guerre civile de César 41
Olga Spevak – La place des déterminants et leurs cominaisons 57
Carlotta Viti – Observations on genitive word order in Latin 77
Antonio María Martín Rodríguez – Quand le signifiant est aussi significatif: effets de sens dans l'ordre des mots du syntagme nominal chez Ovide 97
Part 2 – Qu'est-ce qu'un syntagme nominal en latin?
Christian Touratier – Qu'est-ce qu'un SN dans une langue sans article comme le latin? 121
Arthur Ripoll – Le syntagme nominal composé d'un substantif et d'un adverbe en latin 139
Colette Bodelot – Propositions complétives entrant en séquence avec un nom ou un syntagme nominal. Étude morpho-syntaxique et sémantique 163
Anna Orlandini et Paolo Poccetti – À propos des tournures exprimant une comparaison élative (melle dulcior) et de leurs évolutions romanes 183
Carole Fry – L'ablatif absolu en syntagme nominal qualifiant: dynamique énonciative, tactique et iconicité 199
Index of modern authors 221
General index 225


1.   Marouzeau, J. (1922) L'ordre des mots dans la phrase latine, vol. I Les groupes nominaux, Paris, Champion; (1953) L'ordre des mots en latin. Volume complémentaire, Paris, Les Belles Lettres.
2.   Spevak, O. (2010) Constituent Order in Classical Latin Prose. Studies in Language Companion Series (SLCS) 117. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
3.   Divinem, A.M., Stephens, L.D. (2006) Latin Word Order. Structured Meaning and Information, New York, Oxford University Press.

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Mantha Zarmakoupi (ed.), The Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum: Archaeology, Reception, and Digital Reconstruction. Sozomena: studies in the recovery of ancient texts: edited on behalf of the Herculaneum Society, 1. Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2010. Pp. ix, 221, 78 p. of plates. ISBN 9783110203882. $147.00/€98.00.

Reviewed by Jan P. Stronk, Oude Geschiedenis – Universiteit van Amsterdam (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents.

This volume presents ten contributions by various authors on different aspects of the 'Villa of the Papyri' at Herculaneum, including investigation of the villa itself and of objects recovered from it. The first two chapters focus on new research (including the first open air excavations) conducted on the villa between the mid 1980s and 2009. Next follow two chapters on the wall paintings and the sculptural collection; two more chapters deal with questions related with the papyri recovered in the Villa; and two chapters discuss the reception of the Villa in the 18th century (when the building was first discovered and explored) and the 20th century. Two chapters on its real and on its virtual reconstruction conclude the contributions. The volume is the result of an Oxford conference held in 2007; all contributions are in English, with two chapters translated from the original Italian. Though the volume is clearly not aimed at a general audience, it is suitable for an informed readership from undergraduate level onwards. The blurb itself on the publisher's website informs us that this volume is aimed at "Academics, Libraries, Institutes." This is a noncommittal phrase. Nevertheless, the book is a welcome addition to the literature available on Herculaneum in general and the 'Villa dei Papiri' in particular.

In 'Rediscovering the Villa of the Papyri' (1-20), Antonio De Simone explains goals and progress of investigation in Herculaneum and, more specifically, the Villa since its initial discovery in the mid-18th century, while Maria Paola Guidobaldi and Domenico Esposito discuss (21-62) the 'New Archaeological Research at the Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum'. The account by De Simone is generally factual and clear, though I would have welcomed a larger map of Herculaneum ( replacing Plate 14, Fig. 27), e.g., inserted at the beginning of the first quire as a (king-size) fold out, to make his account easier to follow. To collect all figures at the end of the volume may be a defensible choice for a number of technical reasons, but in this case it is not helping the ease of use. Such a map might also have served the other articles, especially that by Guidobaldi and Esposito. Their excavation "revealed the presence of two other floors arranged on artificial terraces under the main storey," a feature that "was impossible to envisage on the basis of the Bourbon plans" (33), –that is, the plans, notably that by Weber, based on the tunnel excavations of the 18th century. The result of the excavations appear to fix the date of the Villa, in its present state, to the second half of the first century BCE, especially on the basis of added features like floors, decorations, and statues, suggesting that "it would be appropriate to lower the chronology of the first phase … to the third quarter of the first century B.C.E." (58). This means that the dating in the first half of that century, previously accepted, would no longer be tenable. The excavations also demonstrated that the upper floors of the Villa were being restored at the time of the Vesuvian eruption of AD 79, a restoration made necessary by several reasons. The photographs at the end of the volume are clear and illustrative: but the letter for the ramp in the captions for Figs. 38-39 (Plates 33-34) should be 'f' instead of 'e' (see Fig. 35, Plate 32).

In "Wall Paintings in the Villa of the Papyri: Old and New Finds" (63-78), Eric M. Moormann surveys the extant murals of the Villa, starting from a previous (1984) paper on the same topic and reassessing its contents. The majority of the preserved items belong to the Second Style — the style that was common when the Villa was built. It suggests that the owners appreciated this form of decoration for their Villa and preserved it for almost 140 years. Apart from the Second Style paintings the Villa possesses murals in Fourth Style as well. They "seem to come from the last decade of the Fourth Style and have a precious elegance, typical for Herculaneum" (78).

These latter paintings were probably executed between AD 68 and the moment of the eruption, possibly in a period when the Villa was undergoing restoration. The illustrations support the text nicely, though Fig. 1 Plate 40 is very small. So far, not all parts of the Villa have been located. Neither the service areas nor the family's private apartments, to mention a few examples, have as yet been identified. What has been excavated has yielded a large number ( more than 85: p. 88) of sculptures "of different styles, techniques, materials, and sizes, meaning that they must have come from different workshops at different times" (81). They are the subject of Carol C. Mattusch's paper "Programming Sculpture? Collection and Display in the Villa of the Papyri" (79-88). One of the problems one encounters studying the sculptural material is its faulty recording, notably during the Bourbon diggings, as well as the imperfect description or identification: "There are sculptures of literally every style that had been created from as early as the sixth century B.C.E. to as late as the 70s C.E. Some of the sculptures are marble, but most of them are bronze" (84). "It is clear that this collection of sculptures represents a broad range of collecting interests, rather than an all-inclusive program or theme" (ibid.). The paper discusses the problems regarding the collection, but in this form offers no direction to tackle this 'Gordian knot'. In this respect her 2005 book on the collection of the Villa seemed more promising.1

A key feature of the Villa obviously is its collection of papyri. The place in this volume of "Who Lived in the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum – A Settled Question?" (89-113), suggests that Mario Capasso will use the collection in an attempt to determine the owner of the Villa. Capasso's contribution focuses on four basic questions. He believes that, in spite of the evidence adduced by recent excavations, the (rural?) origin of the Villa lies in the first half of the first century BCE (90). He admits, nevertheless, that the absence of a complete stratigraphy of the whole complex is an absolute impediment to definite conclusions on the date of origin of the Villa. He believes, however, that the available evidence suggests three phases of habitation (91). Most people, especially in English-speaking circles, believe the Villa was built for Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus; Capasso argues that there is, at present, no incontrovertible proof that the Villa belonged to a particular family, though the Pisonian connection is the best grounded of all hypotheses because of Philodemus' many works recovered in the Villa. Though it is an interesting contribution, its use of papyrological evidence is relatively limited. David Sider, on the other hand, does fully discuss "The Books of the Villa of the Papyri" (115-127). Though charred, its papyri are the unique remains of a library with literary texts from antiquity. Due to their state and the methods of early researchers to unroll them, the papyri from the Villa often prove to be more difficult to access than papyri normally already are. The author most frequently represented in the Villa library is Philodemus, for several reasons considered a protégé of Piso Caesoninus. The number of Latin texts found so far is meagre. Whether there still remains part of the library to be excavated is a tantalizing possibility (126). It is a pity that Sider's contribution precedes recent developments in computerized tomography reading of the scrolls, though he hints at the possibilities this technique might offer. I believe Sider's contribution on the Villa books could have been more substantial. In "The Getty Villa: Recreating the Villa of the Papyri in Malibu" (129-138) Kenneth Lapatin mainly discusses J. Paul Getty's views on the Villa, which he, as much as possible in his time, knew first-hand. Though Getty's villa resembled to some extent the building in Herculaneum ( after Weber's plan), it was no copy of it. For instance, to fit the differing topography of the site at Malibu, many adaptations had to be made, one of them being that the outbuilding where the Villa's library had been located was omitted (133-4). Interesting though the story of Getty's villa may be, I believe this paper adds little to our understanding of the reception of the Villa at Herculaneum; unfortunately, part of this information is repeated by Favro (see below). More relevant appears the paper by Dana Arnold, "En Foüllant à l'Aveugle: Discovering the Villa of the Papyri in the 18th century" (139-154). The first part of the title of her contribution, 'Digging in the dark' [no orthographic error, but 18th century French], is taken from a 1749 letter by Charles de Brosses (151). It fairly describes the situation, both for the underground workers and those engaged in making sense of the discoveries. Arnold's chosen simile, to compare the work at Herculaneum to Sigmund Freud's attempts to access the human mind, occasionally seems a bit far-fetched but in the end not at all misguided when she describes the making of Weber's plan.

As contrasted with that plan, that essentially depicted the Villa as a two dimensional structure, we are today able to contemplate at least parts of the Villa in three dimensions. For a long time in the 20th century such 3D reconstructions were viewed as "not Academic", as Diane Favro explains in "From pleasure, to "guilty pleasure," to simulation: rebirthing the Villa of the Papyri" (155-179). Today, new techniques enable us to implement sufficient data in programs to "breathe life into the spaces illusively represented on Weber's plan" (160). Nevertheless, much has to be provided by researchers' visual imagination and interpretation of texts. A first attempt to create such an environment was Getty's villa that opened in 1974, though not all opportunities it offered were fully explored. The last attempts involve digital technologies led by scholarly expertise in the field. One such attempt, by Mantha Zarmakoupi, is explained in her paper, "The virtual reality digital model of the Villa of the Papyri project" (181-193), which succinctly describes her model developed at UCLA. Different from the Getty "reconstruction" and a virtual reconstruction by Capware in 1997, this recreation is based upon all available evidence and "distinguishes the material remains of the Villa from hypothetical additions" (184). The photos of the model are impressive, but unfortunately offer too little for the interested "visitor" of the Villa. Zarmakoupi and De Gruyter could have rendered a real service by adding a virtual walk through the Villa on a DVD-disk. As it is, the final impression, as with several contributions in this volume, is one of mild disappointment.

Despite my criticism of this volume, I stand by my remark in the first paragraph—that "this volume is a welcome addition to the literature available on Herculaneum in general and the 'Villa dei Papiri' in particular". One specific feature adding to the volume's interest is the excellent bibliography (197-213). A succinct General Index closes the volume. The book itself, as to be expected from a De Gruyter publication, is well produced and has very few typos.


1.   C.C. Mattusch, The Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum: life and afterlife of a sculpture collection, Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005.

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Christopher B. Krebs, A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus's Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich. New York/London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011. Pp. 303. ISBN 9780393062656. $25.95.

Reviewed by Olivier Devillers, Université Bordeaux III – UMR5607-Ausonius (

Version at BMCR home site


La réception de la Germanie de Tacite est au cœur de cet ouvrage : spécialement les lectures politiques ainsi que les récupérations idéologiques auxquelles l'opuscule a été soumis et qui ont fait de lui « un livre très dangereux ».

Le chapitre 1 (« The Roman Conquest of the Germanic Myth ») s'attache au moment de la rédaction de la Germanie, s'interrogeant sur ce que celle-ci pouvait signifier dans le contexte des années qui ont suivi la tyrannie de Domitien, à un moment où la Germanie était encore libre et où l'entreprise de Tacite pouvait apparaître comme un substitut littéraire à une conquête qui tardait à se concrétiser sur le terrain militaire.

Le chapitre 2 (« Survival and Rescue »), après avoir survolé rapidement l'époque médiévale – et une première réutilisation de la Germanie par Rodolphe de Fulda – détaille la redécouverte du manuscrit de Hersfeld, évoquant les figures de Poggio Bracciolini, d'Hénok d'Ascoli et de Silvio Piccolomini.

Durant les années qui suivent (chapitre 3 : « The Birth of the German Ancestors »), ceux qui s'intéressent à la Germanie citent souvent celle-ci au service d'intentions politiques, dans le cadre des relations avec le Saint- Empire : soit le texte de Tacite sert à discréditer l'idée d'une grandeur germanique, et c'est alors la sauvagerie et la bestialité des anciens Germains qui sont en avant ; soit l'on cherche un soutien militaire auprès de ces peuples et l'on trouve dans l'opuscule tacitéen matière à illustrer leur bravoure ancestrale. Silvio Piccolomini et Giannantonio Campano illustrent cette ambiguïté. L'époque voit aussi Annius de Viterbe, sur la foi d'écrits faussement attribués à Bérose, soutenir que les Germains, à travers le Tuisto cité par Tacite, descendraient de Noé : une supercherie, mais qui s'ancrera dans les esprits.

Au cours du XVIe siècle (chapitre 4 : « Formative Years »), avec Celtis, H. Bebel, Aventinus ou J. Wimpfleling, se développe l'idée d'une patrie germanique, reposant notamment sur l'assertion tacitéenne selon laquelle les Germani étaient autochtones. Leur piété est alors retenue comme un trait caractéristique et il s'agit pour ces humanistes allemands de réfuter l'accusation de barbarie que contiennent en particulier certains écrits de Piccolomini.

La Guerre de Trente Ans marque, dans la première moitié du XVIIe. siècle (chapitre 5 : « Heroes' Songs »), les esprits et suscite la recherche d'une pureté germanique originelle, qui s'incarnerait tout particulièrement dans la langue allemande (M. Opitz, J.G. Schottelius). Parallèlement, les reproductions qui illustrent des ouvrages comme la Germania antiqua de P. Clüver permettent de visualiser les anciens Germains et imprègnent l'inconscient collectif. La Germanie de Tacite reçoit alors une consistance par le biais de l'image.

Le XVIIIe siècle (chapitre 6 : « The Volk of Free-Spirited Northerners ») met en exergue l'indépendance politique et la valeur guerrière des Germains – qui n'ont jamais été conquis. La diffusion des écrits de Montesquieu répand l'idée qu'il existe un « esprit national » déterminé entre autres par le climat et par le milieu géographique. Dans cette perspective, les Germani sont, sur la base de la mythologie, rattachés à un contexte nordique, et l'on s'intéresse non seulement à leur religion, mais à leur constitution, leur organisation politique ou leurs lois. Sur ces plans, la Germanie passe pour faire écho à un âge d'or.

Des guerres napoléoniennes à la proclamation du Premier Reich, le XIXe s. (chapitre 7 : « White Blood ») voit la notion de pureté germanique se teindre d'une connotation raciale, sous l'influence de théories anthropologiques et (para)scientifiques qui supposent la supériorité de la race caucasienne. Le cercle des lecteurs de Tacite dépasse les seuls milieux érudits et intellectuels, une popularisation que relaient les arts, comme la peinture ou la musique. Dans ce cadre, un rôle est joué par R. Wagner et par son cercle, lequel favorise la publication de l'essai sur l'inégalité des races de A. de Gobineau. Celui-ci sera lui-même repris, toujours à Bayreuth, par H.St. Chamberlain, époux de la plus jeune fille du compositeur, qui nuance de Gobineau sur deux points. Il introduit dans sa théorie une dimension antisémite et estime que le processus de déclin de la race nordique peut être enrayé, que celle-ci peut retrouver sa pureté.

C'est sur ce terreau que bâtira le National-Socialisme (chapitre 8 : « A Bible for National Socialists »), avec ses théoriciens (H.K. Günther) et ses maîtres d'œuvre (R.W. Darré), sous l'impulsion d'un Himmler profondément marqué par la Germanie qu'il avait lue lors d'un voyage en train. Si Hitler lui-même a paru réservé quant à l'exaltation des anciens Germains, il a su user de cette fibre. La pureté de la race devient doctrine officielle et la Germanie paraît offrir de celle-ci la meilleure illustration. On y puise même matière à justifier l'eugénisme prôné par les propagandistes du régime.

L'ouvrage de C. Krebs a à cœur de faire revivre un processus, selon un développement chronologique. Chaque période se construit sur la précédente ; il s'ensuit un « effet boule de neige » puisque l'exploitation idéologique de la Germanie s'enrichit sans cesse de nouvelles lectures, qui la détachent toujours davantage de l'original, jusqu'à l'avalanche finale que constitue son instrumentalisation dans le cadre du National-Socialisme. La focalisation sur ce processus entraîne de la part de C. Krebs divers choix et sélections. L'un est reconnu par l'auteur lui-même dans son « Épilogue » (« Another Reading, Another Book »), à savoir qu'est pratiquement absente « la Germanie non idéologique », celle des philologues, des archéologues et des historiens qui, à la suite de Beatus Rhenanus, se sont efforcés d'expliquer le texte pour lui-même, sans chercher à l'actualiser.

D'autres choix pourraient être signalés. Pour ne parler que de la littérature latine, il est à regretter que ne soient pas au moins cités les Getica de Jordanès, résumé d'un ouvrage plus long de Cassiodore consacré à l'histoire des Goths ; eux aussi ont été mis au service d'une certaine idée de la « germanité », comme le montrent le commentaire archéologique auquel la soumit G. Kossinna ou l'édition qu'en fit Th. Mommsen. De même, si la création, en amont, du concept de Germains par César est évoquée, peut-être aurait-il été intéressant, dans la perspective qui est celle de C. Krebs, de signaler le débat sur l'éventuelle interpolation des chapitres césariens sur les mœurs des Germains.

Cette approche sélective, enfin, existe pour ce qui concerne la Germanie elle-même, dont tous les chapitres ne reçoivent pas la même attention. Si l'affirmation du caractère autochtone des Germains et la description de leur apparence physique constituent de véritables Leitmotive, si les lignes sur Tuisto, sur les lois, sur le goût pour la boisson ou sur l'organisation politique reviennent fréquemment, d'autres passages connus, et débattus, telle la célèbre formule urgentibus imperii fatis (G., 33, 3), restent à la marge du débat. On regrettera également qu'il soit trop insisté sur les dimensions moralisatrices et poétiques de l'opuscule ; son articulation avec le jugement de Tacite sur le Principat en tant que régime (et non uniquement sur le principat de Domitien) n'apparaît pas assez nettement.

Le livre n'en témoigne pas moins d'une grande érudition et convainc de manière incontestable de l'actualité toujours renouvelée de l'Antiquité. À cet égard, son ton, lui aussi, mérite d'être relevé. Ainsi, la première phrase de l' « Introduction » (« The Portentous Past ») : « With the speed of those who know that their days are numbered, the SS detachment charge up the pebble-and-sand-covered driveway ». Volonté de visualiser se mêle à une interpolation quelque peu gratuite sur l'état d'esprit des soldats SS. Le but est avant tout de mettre en scène et de créer une atmosphère, voire de surprendre. Tant et si bien qu'en définitive, l'ouvrage se rapproche de l'esprit et des manières du documentaire, et il m'est arrivé, en le lisant, de songer, pour prendre un exemple, à la série The Barbarians (2006) de Terry Jones : même souci du découpage et du rythme, même volonté d'accrocher l'attention, même soin porté aux personnages et aux décors, même recherche de l'anecdote qui fait mouche, même propension à dresser des ponts entre l'Antiquité et notre époque…

Un tel rapprochement est dans mon esprit loin d'être péjoratif et, considérée dans cette perspective, la présente étude est une incontestable réussite : parvenant à passionner son lecteur, pouvant être lue pratiquement d'une traite, elle occupe, entre monographie pour spécialistes et manuel scolaire, le créneau – somme toute peu fréquenté – d'une vulgarisation haut de gamme, dont pourraient s'inspirer de futurs travaux destinés à faire connaître l'Antiquité.

Quatorze illustrations, un index. Pas de liste bibliographique, mais les notes (rassemblées en fin de volume) renvoient à l'essentiel des ouvrages cités et de la littérature scientifique (encore que je n'y ai pas vu L. Canfora, La Germania di Tacito da Engels al nazismo, Naples, 1979).

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Hazel Dodge, Spectacle in the Roman World. Classical World series. London/New York: Bristol Classical Press, 2011. Pp. 99. ISBN 9781853996962. $23.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Michael J. Carter, Brock University (

Version at BMCR home site

According to Tacitus (Ann. 13.31) that there were few events worth recording in the consulships of Nero and Lucius Cornelius Piso (AD 57), unless one wished to describe the mass of the foundations or the span of the timbers that the emperor used for his new amphitheatre in the Campus Martius. Later, the historian Cassius Dio would even apologize to his readers for besmirching the dignity of history by providing a lengthy and fascinating description of Commodus' arena antics (73.18). Times have changed. Perhaps it has to do with the recognition of our own fascination with mass entertainment spectacles: it is always tempting to see something of ourselves in ancient society. Hazel Dodge's new contribution, Spectacle in the Roman World, provides a brief overview of the main categories of Roman entertainment-spectacles. The book is a part of the Bristol Classical Press' Classical World Series, and is meant specifically for students in senior high school and early university. It might serve as a supplementary text for the sort of first-year "Roman Civilization" classes found at many universities. Indeed, instructors of such courses, especially those whose primary research interests fall somewhere outside the arenas or circuses of the Roman world, would also benefit from having this concise study to hand.

The book begins with an introductory chapter that very briefly considers the various forms of evidence for reconstructing the shows: archaeology, epigraphy, and reconstructions and re-enactments. This last form of evidence has proven to be quite valuable for our understanding of how gladiatorial combats, for example, might have actually taken place. Dodge references the important work of Marcus Junkelmann, though others have made important contributions as well.1 Reference is made to scientific study, in particular, to the osteological work on done recently on gladiatorial remains found in Ephesus, with a fuller discussion in the third chapter on gladiators. Overall, this discussion of sources, though understandably and necessarily brief due to the entry-level nature of this series, is nevertheless perhaps too brief. If meant for students, it gives little indication how a student would access the inscriptions or archaeological material for further study. Subsequent chapters cover the key spectacles: chariot racing in chapter 2, gladiators in chapter 3, animal spectacles in chapter 4, naumachiae and other aquatic displays in chapter 5, the phenomenon of spectacle in late antiquity in chapter 6, and a final chapter considering ancient contexts in general and modern perspectives. There follows an appendix describing the key features of the different buildings used for entertainment and then suggestions for further reading, divided by subject.

In general, each chapter provides a summary of the basic outlines of the spectacles as scholars understand them now. For example, Dodge begins the chapter on gladiators with a review of the two principal theories about the origins of the spectacle, specifically whether it developed in Etruria or in southern Italy. This includes the citation of the most relevant literary sources and a (black and white) figure of a tomb-painting from Lucania. The chapter then considers the status and social origins of the gladiators themselves, followed by a review of armaments (here, illustrations would have helped). There is a short discussion of the cache of armour discovered at Pompeii, a discussion of training locations (especially the gladiatorial ludi in Rome), training techniques and the organization of the familiae. Gladiatorial graffiti from Pompeii receives special attention. Dodge also considers the case of gladiators in the Greek world. No discussion of the arena would be complete without mention of the evidence for female gladiators, and indeed we find it here too. The chapter also includes consideration of the amphitheatre, noting the Republican tradition of building temporary structures in the Forum. To explain the difficult elliptical shape of the amphitheatre, however, Dodge looks to Pliny's description of the rotating theatres built by Gaius Scribonius Curio (NH 36.116-120.), rather than to the more elaborate explanation of Katherine Welch, in particular.2 While this chapter on gladiators comprises a useful summary of the topic (as do the other thematic chapters), further information relevant to the arena is provided in chapter 7 ("Roman Spectacle: Ancient Contexts and Modern Perceptions"). For example, it is here that we find discussion of the so-called Senatus Consultum de Pretiis Gladiatorum Minuendis with its information on the costs of the shows and the ranking of gladiators, information which could further our understanding of the organization of gladiatorial familiae discussed in chapter 3.

Other forms of spectacle do not receive sufficient attention. For example, there is no review of the Greek-style athletic and musical competitions that eventually came to Rome in the imperial period. Although theatres themselves are examined in the appendix, actors and Roman drama are not discussed at all. Yet the festival days devoted to ludi scaenici (theatrical performances), even during the empire, far exceeded those devoted to the ludi circenses (chariot races) or the munera (gladiatorial combats). Mimes and pantomimes have also been excluded. This is unfortunate, though perhaps understandable since it is doubtful that their performances filled the amphitheatre or Circus Maximus like gladiatorial fights or beast hunts or chariot races could. Regardless of these quibbles, Dodge's book does what it sets out to do. It provides a brief and accessible introduction to the principal Roman spectacles.


1.   See, for example, E. Teyssier and B. Lopez, Gladiateurs: Des Sources à l'expérimentation, Editions Errance, Paris, 2005, or S. Shadrake, The World of the Gladiator, Tempus, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2005.
2.   K. Welch, "The Roman Arena in Late-Republican Italy: A New Interpretation" Journal of Roman Archaeology 7, 1994, 59-80, who builds on the earlier work of J.-C. Golvin, L'amphithéâtre romain: essai sur la theorisation de sa forme et de ses fonctions, de Boccard, Paris, 1988. Both works do appear in the section on further reading.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Radcliffe G. Edmonds III (ed.), The "Orphic" Gold Tablets and Greek Religion: Further Along the Path. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Pp. x, 385. ISBN 9780521518314. $99.00.

Reviewed by Alexis Pinchard, CNRS (UMR 7528), France (

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Edmonds has produced a coherent volume of six previously published and five new papers about what were once called "Orphic" gold tablets, authored by both prominent and less established scholars (Alberto Bernabé, Hans Dieter Betz, Claude Calame, Thomas M. Dousa, Radcliffe G. Edmonds III, Chistopher A. Faraone, Fritz Graf, Miguel Herrero de Jáuregui, Ana I. Jiménez Cristóbal, Dirk Obbink, Christoph Riedweg, Yannis Z. Tzifopoulos). These inscribed tablets, which have been discovered since 1879 in graves throughout South Italy, Crete, and Thessaly, have no parallel in the manuscript tradition, and they are now essential sources for the knowledge of Greek religion, especially concerning personal eschatology and mystery cults. Edmonds has added in this volume a new critical edition and original translations of the Greek texts of every known gold leaf (part I), along with a synoptic description of the graves in which each tablet has been discovered. What follows is a useful history of scholarship, a list of the principal editions and a concordance with other reference editions. The whole book is endowed with an index nominum (English words), an index locorum and an exhaustive bibliography (800 references). Papers previously published in other languages are translated into English, and all papers have been updated in order to make cross-references possible as well as to correlate with the reference system of Edmonds' new edition.

The papers faithfully reflect the broad diversity of the problems, views, and methods that the study of the gold tablets have raised. They are organized according to a polemical — but still argumentative — dialogue concerning the question of whether the tablets are really Orphic or not, and, more fundamentally, whether Orphism really was a unified religious and literary tradition or not. Orpheo-skeptics (Edmonds) coexist along with Pan-Orphists (Bernabé, Graf); advocates for an Orphic epic hieros logos as archetype for the tablets text (Riedweg) are placed side- by-side with those who emphasize the autonomous characteristics of the ritual dionysiaca (Calame). The reader is invited to draw his or her own conclusions.

Compared with the recent editions of gold tablets by F. Graf, S. I. Johnston and A. Bernabé,1 Edmonds' work does not introduce new texts (the tablet from Lesbos, mentioned in GJ 28, is still missing). But Edmonds sometimes suggests important new readings. A positive and negative critical apparatus allows the reader to evaluate these interpretations. For example, concerning B1.11 = GJ 2 = OF 476, Edmonds proposes to read καὶ τότ' ἔπειτα [τέλη σὺ μεθ'] ἡρώεσσιν ἀνάξει[ς] instead of the generally accepted καὶ τότ' ἔπειτ' ἄ[λλοισι σὺ μεθ'] ἡρώεσσιν ἀνάξει[ς], which is based on parallel formulae in Homeric epics and hymns. Actually, one may interpret the verb ἀνάξει[ς] as a future from ἀνάσσω, "to rule", or from ανάγω, "to celebrate". Edmonds' reading draws an interesting correlation with D1 and D5 (GJ 26a and 28 = OF 485 and 493a) where there is an allusion to some τέλη for the initiate. But, quite inconsistently, following here the Greek text as established by Bernabé, he translates D1 as "And you will go beneath the earth, having celebrated rites just as the other blessed ones", instead of "And below the earth there are ready for you the same prizes [or rites] as for the other blessed ones".2 However, it should be noted that the idea that there are rites even in the afterlife, which constitute the archetype of the terrestrial initiation ritual and the community in which the deceased become happy, is evidenced elsewhere in texts related to Greek mystery religion (e.g. Ps.-Plato, Axiochos 37d).

Only the new essays are discussed below.

In his own paper, Edmonds sharply criticizes both Bernabé and Jiménez's assertion that each of the gold tablets is similarly Orphic and Riedweg's reconstruction of an Orphic didactic hieros logos in which Orpheus would narrate his personal katabasis eis Aidou. Edmonds aims to show that the existence of such a unified sacred scripture, derived from an original source, is an unnecessary hypothesis because the gold leaf texts might constitute mere responses excerpted from hexametric oracles about the personal afterlife. One may admit that these oracles were thought to have been revealed by Orpheus, but Orpheus is only one of the possible voices of oracular authority, whose paradigm is to be found in the Trophonius oracle at Lebadeia, where Mnemosyne's spring guarantees the attainment of sacred knowledge. By attacking the unity of the "Orphic" eschatological corpus, Edmonds casts doubt on Orphism as a unified religious movement: there was no Orphic community as defined by the access to a single secret hieros logos, and the gold tablets do not preserve traces of an initiatory ritual that happened during the life of the deceased. But even if Edmonds is right in refuting a unified Orphic scripture resembling the Christian Bible (but today, who wants that?), is he right to conclude that Orphism, even if it is a modern construction, has absolutely no reality? This extreme nominalism overlooks the spiritual dimension of Orphism: to connect the substantial immortality of an individual with the internalization of epic heroism and with poetic kleos, as we see in the gold leaves (see Obbink and Jáuregui below), is not a general attitude in Greek religion. It would not be absurd to label this attitude "Orphic", even retrospectively. Moreover, the obvious diversity of the gold leaf texts might not be the proof that our grouping of the gold leaves is a mere artifact, but rather the sign of a living tradition that deals with something deeply important in human life, i.e., the consciousness of the permanent eventuality of death and the consequent hope. Orphism would thus be positively affirmed as a unity and would no longer be defined by what it is not, i.e., not a polis-sponsored religion.

Dousa's paper is the first serious published study about the possible connection between the gold tablets and neighboring Egypt, famous for its old afterlife rituals and its funerary texts since Zuntz mentioned this hypothesis in 1971.3 Dousa wonders whether the common motifs in the B tablets and in the Egyptian Book of the Dead (a tree close to a pool of water, the critical dialogue with the guardians of the Netherworld) are due to an influence of the Egyptian religion in Greece or to a spontaneous convergence. He concludes that, if any influence took place, the Orphics at least re-organized the motifs and gave a new meaning to old patterns, as Diodorus already suggested in antiquity. Although such a pioneering approach is absolutely necessary, other important comparative perspectives for analysis of the gold tablets, which would deal with other cultures and test methodologically more refined hypotheses, are missing in this volume. To compare isolated motifs, as Dousa does, might obscure the fact that the main difference between the gold tablets and Egyptian sources is concerned not with the place or the nature of the netherworldly tree or spring, but the roles played by Memory as an immortalizing power and the nature of immortality itself, which, in Orphism, marks a divergence from terrestrial existence. In Greece (see Obbink below), initiatory Memory draws parallels with poetic memory, which establishes an imperishable glory, so that the claim to a divine origin is not a "kratophanic" assertion similar to what we see in Egypt (p. 156), but rather the realization of the eternal essence of the soul. Egyptian texts, as presented by Dousa, do not reflect on the poetic tradition and its import on the nature of the individual soul. Finally, in the case of textual similarities, the methodological binary convergence/influence is not sufficient. A common inheritance ought to be considered, especially if one attempts a comparison with Iran and India.4 A similar view and wording about immortality could be found in this direction.

According to Jáuregui, the heroic soul of the Orphic initiate derives its main features from the epic terrestrial hero, but these features are transformed in the realm of afterlife. The epic tale was changed into a soteriological program, so that the personal immortality obtained in the world beyond by remembering the divine origin itself reflects the imperishable kleos granted by the professional memory of the epic rhapsodes. This is proven by the stylistic similarities between the claim of the poetic hero to belong to a superior genos and, in the gold tablets, the claim of the deceased's soul to its genos ouranion, i.e., its essential nature transcending every temporal incarnation. In accordance with this ontological shift, the social elitism of the Homeric epic has been changed into a spiritual elitism, but the words remain generally the same. Such an inheritance ensures the unity of the various types of Orphic gold tablets. The stylistic conservatism of the itinerant initiators may have been an excellent strategy to legitimate their radical novelty at the theological level. But does Jáuregui furnish the best interpretation of the undeniable correspondences he brings out? May we not understand both of these kinds of genos and immortality as being related through a structural difference rather by any historical process? In the larger context of the Indo-European poetic inheritance, as it is evidenced in Vedic culture, we could recognize that the heroic kleos worked from the beginning as a symbol of a more substantial immortality granted by special rituals and mental exercises.

Obbink's article would agree with such a synchronic perspective. The recitation or the inscription of the gold tablet texts, by recapitulating Homeric formulae, constituted a ritual act that made the addressee worthy of heroic cult status. As Obbink recognizes, the soteriological content of the gold leaves should not be separated from their poetic form. The stylistic similarity between the gold leaves and Homeric epic does not simply reveal ideological appropriation obscured by literary continuity, but rather the religious function of the leaves. Obbink refers to certain odes by Pindar in which the poet compares his poetry with an immortalizing libation to the Heroes; similarly, the water of Memory in the gold tablets could be understood as an allegory of the power through which poetic speech brings life to an individual soul. Thus Orphism may be seen as a religious practice that results from reflection on the ritual value of a Pan-Hellenic poetic tradition, rather than a special tradition with new theological and stylistic features.

Faraone reminds us that the prosaic synthema "Bull, you jumped in the milk" (A group) reflects Dionysiac religion as reconstructed from other early evidence. By uttering this statement, the initiate re-enacts the sudden motion of the god from life to death and back, as it is told in the Homeric episode of Lycurgus: the foam of the sea there had a milky aspect. It deals with a personal internalization of Dionysus' mythology, leading to an identification with Dionysus himself. Thus Dionysus would not only have been the mystic goal, but also the dynamic paradigm of every initiatic process.5 We might add that the means of salvation, necessarily at hand, does not stand outside its goal because salvation is not a matter of conquest through magic. In a way, every human being is already redeemed. As implied by another tablet family (group B, with Mnemosyne), salvation is granted by the recollection of the true nature of soul. To conclude, this book recaps 130 years of philological and theoretical research concerning the gold tablets. As a whole, it is an essential tool for the scholars interested in Classics and ancient religions. By raising difficult questions and exciting hypotheses, it brings us further along the path of Orphic studies.


1.   See A. Bernabé Pajarès, Poetae epici graeci. Testimonia et fragmenta. Pars II, fas. 2, Leipzig, 2005 (here abbreviated here OF), and Fritz Graf and Sarah Iles Johnston, Ritual Texts for the Afterlife. Orpheus and the Bacchic Gold tablets, London and New York, 2007 (here abbrievated GJ).
2.   As GJ do, op. cit., p. 39.
3.   See Zuntz, Persephone: Three Essays on Religion and Thought in Magna Graecia, Oxford, 1971, p. 370- 371.
4.   See Mendoza, J. : "Un itinerario hacio el más allá. Laminillas órficas de oro y Jaiminīya Brāhmaṇa 1.46- 50", in Orfeo y la tradición órfica. Un reecuentro, vol. II, A. Bernabé et F. Cassadesús (ed.), Madrid, 2008, p. 933-961; see also A. Pinchard, Les langues de sagesse dans la Grèce et l'Inde anciennes, Genève, 2009, p. 534-544. But comparison with Iran doesn't prevent to maintain some connection between Egypt and Orphism: in an unpublished talk ("The 'Orphic' Gold tablets: Near Eastern and Egyptian resonances", in 2006 at the Association of the Ancient Historians Annual Meeting at Stanford University), P.S. Horky argues that Egypt, while under the rule of the Achaemenid kings, might have constituted the intermediary through which Iran indirectly influenced Orphic eschatology.
5.   A. Pinchard (op. cit., p. 461 and 469) had already proposed the same interpretation, but he is not cited here.

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Platon Pétridis, La céramique protobyzantine de Delphes: une production et son contexte. Fouilles de Delphes, V, 4. Athens: École Française d'Athènes, 2010. Pp. 237. ISBN 9782869582033. €40.00.

Reviewed by Scott Gallimore, Wilfrid Laurier University (

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In this volume, Platon Pétridis presents a study of pottery from Protobyzantine (fourth to seventh century CE) deposits at Delphi, with emphasis on locally produced wares. He strives to underline the variety of wares produced at the site and to employ this material in refining our knowledge of Delphi's later history by situating his findings within the social and economic contexts of Greece and the eastern Mediterranean.

This book developed from Pétridis' long-standing interest in the history of Protobyzantine Delphi, including first- hand experience with the site's ceramic record.1 It is organized into three main parts, which examine Delphi's Protobyzantine history, locally-produced wares, and imported ceramics respectively. An appendix, by Calliope Kouzéli, outlines the results of chemical and mineralogical testing, including x-ray diffraction, atomic absorption spectroscopy, optical microscopy, and petrography, performed on 41 samples of local and imported wares. Overall, the organization is standard for a pottery volume, and Pétridis succeeds in tying all of the sections together into a single, coherent study.

Pétridis' aim is to provide a more comprehensive overview of pottery from this period than comparable ceramic volumes tend to offer. He points out that most studies focus on specific types of pottery (e.g. amphorae) rather than regional productions as a whole. His own emphasis is on a diverse category of ceramics produced by workshops at Delphi. Most of this analyzed material, which dates from either the fourth century CE or the sixth/seventh centuries CE, derives from the excavations of l'École française d'Athènes in the areas of "l'Agora romaine" and "le Secteur au Sud-Est du Péribole". Supplemental finds from other French and local Archaeological Service excavations are also presented.

A description of the history and archaeology of Delphi between the fourth and seventh centuries CE occupies part one of the book and is divided into two chapters. The first examines the evidence for Protobyzantine settlement at the site. Pétridis resists the standard account—that Delphi fell into ruin after the closing of the Oracle in the late fourth century CE—, arguing that the site was more prosperous than has previously been acknowledged and may even have expanded during this period. He supports this hypothesis with several types of evidence, including written sources, small finds such as coins and ceramics, careful analysis of stratigraphy, and a description of preserved monuments. The second chapter focuses on "l'Agora romaine" and "le Secteur au Sud-Est du Péribole", the areas where most of Pétridis' ceramic material was unearthed. Excavations at both sites were conducted over the course of several decades, with the most intensive investigations occurring in the 1990s. Evidence from "l'Agora romaine", located at the southeast corner of the Peribolos wall surrounding the sanctuary, shows that its plan changed little after its initial construction in the first half of the second century CE. This site produced a small number of fourth-century deposits, including several associated with an earthquake between 365 and 371 CE, containing a large number of ceramics of different types. In "le Secteur au Sud-Est du Péribole", lying directly southwest of the Agora, two primary phases of occupation were identified, the first of which, dating from the late fourth/early fifth century until around 580, comprised several private structures including a house. Following the abandonment of this house around 580, an artisanal quarter was established in which pottery production was an important enterprise. This second phase lasted only from approximately 590 to 620 CE, but produced a significant assemblage of local and imported wares.

The second and largest part of the book consists of two chapters dedicated to locally produced pottery. The first is a discussion of the evidence for ceramic production at the site (including kilns, wasters, moulds, kiln supports) and of the abundance of certain forms and a description of the fabric and decoration of local vessels. Much of the evidence derives from the late sixth/early seventh century CE artisanal quarter in "le Secteur au Sud-Est du Péribole". Information on production in the fourth century comes mainly from kilns identified in the Gymnasium, to the southeast of the sanctuary, and from finds in "l'Agora romaine". A diverse array of types was produced at Delphi, all of which may be divided into two fabric categories, designated by Pétridis as A and B and distinguished by the absence or presence of mica and calcite.

A lengthy catalogue of local wares comprises the second chapter of part two. Pétridis divides the material into storage wares, cook wares, table wares, lamps, ceramics for artisanal use, and miscellaneous finds, with further subdivisions based on form. For each distinct ceramic type, he provides an introduction with a detailed discussion of the nature of the finds, their method of fabrication, their characteristics, and their use. Throughout the catalogue, Pétridis demonstrates an in-depth knowledge of Roman pottery, including relatively obscure types such as bread stamps. His discussions are rich in detail, and often he provides intriguing critical assessments. When discussing weights, for instance, he includes several paragraphs dedicated to examining the many different functions these items may have had in antiquity.

A single chapter dedicated to imported pottery types identified at Delphi comprises the third part of the book. This material is important for its insight into the site's economic relations and for its ability to refine the chronology of local wares found in associated deposits. Pétridis does not include a catalogue for these finds but instead provides a brief summary of the various types encountered. This is in striking contrast to the pre-eminence that imported wares tend to have in pottery volumes, and it emphasizes Pétridis' focus on the local pottery. Most of the imports are Red- Slipped table wares, with African Red-Slip by far the most common. Amphorae, while rare, demonstrate diverse provenances, including the Aegean, Asia Minor, Egypt, Italy, and North Africa. Lamps from Corinth, Attica, and Africa were also identified.

Pétridis concludes his volume in the traditional manner of pottery reports. After a summary of the various local pottery types identified, he turns to a brief outline of the implications of this material for understanding Delphi's economic connections and social character. He notes Delphi's apparent prosperity, ascribing this to the site's continued control over the fertile Kirrha Plain. In addition, most of the imported ceramics come from North Africa, a pattern seen at other archaeological sites of this period in south and central Greece. Commenting on Delphi's social life, Pétridis observes that Christian symbols on numerous vessels, particularly lamps, could be reflective of religious preference and that the large artisanal quarter in "le Secteur au Sud-Est du Péribole" suggests a vibrant artisan class. Following these assessments, Pétridis' final pages examine how this ceramic material can contribute to our knowledge of Protobyzantine Delphi. He concludes, after noting a lack of evidence for any disruption between the fourth and early seventh century CE in the ceramic record or otherwise, that Delphi was relatively peaceful during this period. With respect to the overall abandonment of Delphi around 620 CE, the ceramic record provides few indications as to why this happened.

This book was written by a scholar who clearly possesses a substantial knowledge of Roman ceramics. It offers a detailed account of a local ceramic industry deserving of consideration from scholars interested in the economic history of Roman Greece and the eastern Mediterranean. The volume is well organized and well illustrated. Plates at the end provide large, clear images that will facilitate further identification of the various vessel types presented. In addition, Pétridis has included several photographs of microscopic sections of pottery samples to illustrate differences in fabric. This will help scholars in other regions assess whether any Delphian products are part of their assemblages. There are, however, a few difficulties that render the book less useful than it might have been.

First, Pétridis expertly describes the ceramic material from several excavations at Delphi, but omits quantification data and could have improved the clarity of fabric descriptions. While he does offer some quantitative statements, such as noting that the proportion of local ceramics increases in later centuries, he provides no data to corroborate these statements. Quantified data sets are among the most effective means of comparing pottery assemblages from different sites. The lack of such evidence in this report will impede efforts to compare other local ceramic industries in the eastern Mediterranean with that of Delphi. With respect to fabric descriptions, in the first chapter of part two, Pétridis outlines two fabric categories, A and B, characteristic of local wares. His description of each is based primarily on results of chemical and mineralogical testing. Of great benefit would have been a systematic description of each based on macroscopic characteristics, perhaps modeled on the system used by G.D.R. Sanders, for example for material from Corinth.2 In addition, Pétridis provides a fabric description for each vessel presented in his catalogue, but these entries contain no mention of whether that vessel falls into category A or B. Instead, he includes this information in the introductory section for each ceramic type. A more efficient and unambiguous approach might have been to provide a detailed, systematic description of both fabric categories, mention in the catalogue entry which category a vessel belongs to, and then describe any variations in colour, inclusions, surface, etc. exhibited by specific pieces. This would have eliminated much of the redundancy in describing the fabric of each piece individually and would have facilitated the identification of fabric groups from Delphi at other sites.

An additional criticism is one that concerns pottery reports in general, and not only this specific volume. As described above, Pétridis follows the standard organization for a pottery volume, beginning with a contextual introduction, presenting the material in a detailed catalogue, and concluding with brief assessments of economic relationships. The final section, which in pottery reports tends to range from several paragraphs to several pages, can leave one unfulfilled since in-depth synthesis is left for scholars engaged in subsequent studies.3 One would suspect, however, that the scholars studying the pottery would be the best suited to undertake the initial, detailed synthesis, situating a site and its ceramic record in the broader context of the Roman economy. The brief forays into these topics given in pottery volumes often do provide important insights and avenues for future study, as is demonstrated by Pétridis' own conclusions, but they could be expanded upon to provide significant contributions to our knowledge of the ancient economy. While this would increase the length of a pottery report, one would hope that future authors of pottery studies will see the benefit of dedicating more time and effort to the synthetic portion of the text.

This book is an important addition to the corpus of ceramic publications from sites in the eastern Mediterranean. Pétridis' focus on local wares dating from the fourth to seventh century CE is laudable and offers a paradigm for other scholars hoping to carry out studies of a similar nature. While Pétridis has left it to future researchers to synthesize his data into discussions of the economy of the later Roman Empire fully, this volume will still serve as necessary reading for scholars of Roman Greece and for anyone interested in the presentation of a local ceramic tradition.


1.   Pétridis, P., La céramique paléochrétienne de Delphes, Unpubl. PhD Diss., Paris, 1995.
2.   Sanders, G.D.R., "A Late Roman Bath at Corinth: Excavations in the Panayia Field, 1995-1996," Hesperia 68.4 (1999) 477-478.
3.   For instance: Reynolds, P., Hispania and the Roman Mediterranean, AD 100-700: Ceramics and Trade, London, 2010; Wickham, C., Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean, 400-800, Oxford, 2005.

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Monday, October 24, 2011


John N. Grant (trans.), Lilio Gregorio Giraldi: Modern Poets. I Tatti Renaissance Library 48. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011. Pp. xxxv, 363. ISBN 9780674055759. $29.95.

Reviewed by Werner Gelderblom, Radboud University Nijmegen (

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The 48th volume in the steadily growing and renowned I Tatti Renaissance Library Series is a useful edition and translation of Lilio Gregorio Giraldi's Dialogi duo de poetis nostrorum temporum by John N. Grant. In this work, consisting of two well-crafted dialogues, Giraldi (1479-1552) gives an overview of a great number of contemporary poets from Italy and the rest of Europe (mainly Latin, but also some of the vernacular poets are mentioned) in a form that Giraldi defines as a catalogue (catalogus). Over three hundred poets are mentioned and briefly described in no fewer than 107 pages of Latin text in the current edition. It will be easily understood that this makes not for very exciting reading, all the more since Giraldi's language is very repetitive and the discussions of the poets are almost never accompanied by a specimen of their works. Therefore, Giraldi's text has not much to offer for the general reader, but it is often used and cited by scholars of Renaissance literature, since it offers valuable information about the opinions on 15th- and 16th-century European poets in their own time and the circulation of their works, sometimes even on poets solely known from a mention in Giraldi's work. Grant's excellent edition, translation and notes will make the consultation and understanding of Giraldi's work easier.

In accordance with the series format, Grant offers a succinct and factual introduction in which he discusses the life and works of Giraldi and comments in greater detail on the date(s) of composition, literary qualities and Latinity of the dialogues. All important information for the novice reader of this work has been included; expert readers will appreciate Grant's discussion of the model for Giraldi's work, Cicero's Brutus, and his useful remarks on the peculiarities of Giraldi's Latin.

The edition has been based, as is often the case in the I Tatti series, on the main Latin text of a recent critical edition from Italy (ed. Claudia Pandolfi (Ferrara: Corbo editore, 1999)),1 but Grant has also consulted the sources (two contemporary editions) and an earlier critical edition (ed. Wotke, Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1894) for his edition. Moreover, Grant has emended the text at some places where he judged it necessary, most often to clarify incomprehensible grammatical constructions, which he considered as printing errors. He admits that this approach to the text may be tricky given Giraldi's slightly distorted Latin and, indeed, it is not fully clear why some strange constructions are not emended, where others are.2 Yet, the Latin text that Grant offers is very readable and his few 'emendations' are always well accounted for. Furthermore, the edition is admirably free of typos and other mistakes.3

The facing English translation is commendable for its accuracy and reads pleasantly.4 Grant has chosen to partly refrain from the repetitive language and superfluous constructions of Giraldi by varying the translation of often used Latin words and not always translating tautologic phrasings. However, in the case of the Latin word legere, probably the word used most often by Giraldi, which Grant does not always translate with 'read',5 this variation seems less felicitous, since it partly obliterates an important and remarkable aspect of the work: Giraldi's discussion of the poets is not based on who is writing, but on who is being read, and being widely read is one of the most important parameters in the evaluation of the poets. An inevitable problem in translating a work discussing the writings of more than three hundred other authors is that, for a fully accurate translation, one would have to be an expert on all these, often obscure, poets. That this is impossible, even for the informed translator that Grant is, is for instance noticeable in I.68 (p. 48), where the poetry of Sulpizio da Veroli is touched upon. Here, Grant thinks that argumenta in Lucanum indicates Sulpizio's 'commentary on the poet Lucan' (p. 49), but Giraldi, discussing Sulpizio's poetry, surely meant the eleven lines that Sulpizio added to the abrupt ending of the Pharsalia (and possibly also his Querela de interitu poetae).

Arguably the most essential parts of an edition of an encyclopedic work like this are the notes and other contextualizing material, and Grant does an excellent job in providing these. The most useful is the extensive biographical glossary (pp. 251-344), in which short biographies with essential information and some bibliographical references (understandably, only reference works have been used for most entries) can be found for all poets who make their appearance in Giraldi's work. In the notes, Grant provides other than biographical information that is necessary for understanding the text. The notes are factual and illuminating, but I would have preferred some more comments on the occasional literary strategies of the work (e.g. the sometimes occurring wordplays: Lippi/lippos (I.136-7 (p. 80)) and Portus/portu (I.173 (p. 98)), to name just two). In the notes too, Grant makes an occasional mistake in clarifying Giraldi's sometimes obscure remarks about three- hundred-plus poets. For example, when the author of the work writes about two brothers of Johannes Secundus who also wrote poetry, he is not talking about Nicolaus Grudius and Everardus Nicolai (p. 246 n. 40), but about Nicolaus Grudius and Hadrianus Marius, who, together with their brother Johannes, became known as the tres fratres Belgae very early.

The volume is concluded by a useful index, which is very complete and will not only help in finding the poets discussed, but also in finding place names and literary genres. The only thing that could have been improved upon in my view is the bibliography, which would ideally list every scholarly contribution on Giraldi, but which, in fact, does not even list all recent literature on the edited work.6

To conclude, Grant offers a very accessible and trustworthy new edition and translation of this important work for scholars of Renaissance poetry. Of course, this new edition in the I Tatti format does not answer all questions about Giraldi's dialogues. Thus, one may wonder how Giraldi collected and used his source material: the author has obviously pillaged other books (and their title pages) at many places, sometimes noted by the editor (e.g. p. 227 n. 22), but more often not. A complete study of the uses of sources by Giraldi could offer new insights in the editions he consulted and thus in the circulation of prints in the sixteenth century. One also wonders about the social circumstances in which a work like this, which now seems rather boring to write and read, could function. A general study of this and similar catalogue-like works may open our eyes for the interplay of forces in the literary and social circles of Renaissance Italy. This, however, is no criticism of the current edition, but an illustration of the fundament for further research that it will hopefully be.


1.   I have not been able to consult this work, since it is out-of-print and not readily available in libraries outside of Italy. This underscores the need for this new edition by Grant. The Latin text of Pandolfi's edition is available at (unfortunately, this very useful website is currently down. Given the financial situation in (Italian) Academia, it can only be hoped that this is a temporary problem).
2.   Of Grant's emendations, I would question the following: * the addition of dicitur quod before legi in I.57 (p. 44): it is easier to read legitur instead of legi; * the correction of omni to omnis, based on the grammatical difference between suus and eius, seems too sophisticated given Giraldi's Latinity.
3.   I only noted the following typos and mistakes: * I.133 (p. 78): after caeci ambo et ambo, lippi seems to be necessary (as in the Leiden 1696 edition, and followed by Wotke); * I.159 (p. 90): read nonnumquam instead of nonnum quam; * II.30 (p. 124): read nobilissima ... familia instead of nobilissimus ... familia (the source text has the abbreviated form nobiliss.).
4.   I noted the following mistakes in the translation: * I.11 (p. 22): ut in iis videretur voluisse has not been translated (but it could be considered redundant Latin); * I.43 (p. 38): ut sic dicam has not been translated; * I.144 (p. 84): dea translated as 'god' instead of 'goddess'; * I.171 (p. 96): christiani has not been translated; - II.30 (p. 124): cum commentariis has not been translated; * II.88 (p. 156): Ultrix iniustae tertia caedis erit not 'The third was the avenging goddess that brought unjust slaughter', but 'The third will be the avenger of the unjust slaughter'; * II.114 & II.144 (p. 172 & 192): the vocative Lili has not been translated; * II.174 (p. 208): solitus fuit has not been translated; * II.182 (p. 212): in hoc stadii curriculo has not been translated.
5.   leguntur (I.I.102 (p. 62)) translated as 'are written'; leguntur (I.176 (p. 100)) as 'are'; leguntur (II.20 (p. 120)) as 'is'; legissent (II.159 (p. 200)) as 'saw'; legitur (II.180 (p. 212)) as 'can be found'.
6.   E.g. two contributions by Claudia Pandolfi: 'Umanisti marchigiani nel De poetis nostrorum temporum di Lilio Gregorio Giraldi', in: Studi Umanistici Piceni XIX (1999), pp 150-164; and 'Un precedente della poetica Tassiana: De poetis nostrorum temporum di Lilio Gregorio Giraldi', in: Torquato Tasso e l'università. A cura di Walter Moretti e Luigi Pepe, Firenze: Olschki, 1997, pp. 343-356.

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