Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Renate Bol, Marmorskulpturen der römischen Kaiserzeit aus Milet. Milet, Bd 5: Funde aus Milet, Teil 2. Berlin; New York: De Gruyter, 2011. Pp. xx, 215; 112 p. of plates. ISBN 9783110251845. $225.00.

Reviewed by Dimitris Damaskos, University of Western Greece (;)

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

This book is part of the series published by the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (DAI) with the results of the excavations in Miletos (Asia Minor). These excavations, carried out from 1899 onwards, represent one of the most important projects undertaken by the DAI. The multi-volume series Milet. Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen und Untersuchungen seit dem Jahr 1899 and the six volumes of the related series Milesische Forschungen have contributed enormously to our knowledge of the archaeology of Miletos and of Asia Minor in general. The publication of another book in the series is consequently highly welcome, all the more so for being the first comprehensive discussion of a large group of finds like the Roman sculptures.1

The book is edited by Renate Bol, who has brought together contributions by thirteen authors, including both well- respected archaeologists and young scholars just beginning their career. Many of the sculptures have already been published in articles and monographs; some statue bases and inscriptions associated with the city's sculpture are also being republished. As is only to be expected in a research programme of such a vast scope, the study has been going on for a long time, as is evident from the varying quality of the photographs, though most are of high quality. In a few instances the reader might have liked shots of the sculptures taken from additional angles — for example, the back view of the Caryatids from the Theatre showing how the marble was worked in order to attach them to the building. The bibliography is almost exhaustive and the indexes are highly detailed.The book has the imprimatur of the DAI and its careful editing. Printing errors are generally of little consequence, but what might have been avoided is the extremely small print of the captions to the text illustrations , for which readers will definitely require a magnifying glass.

In addition to the importance of this book in expanding our knowledge of Roman sculpture in Asia Minor,2 readers will come away with a better understanding of the function of sculpture in the city of Miletos. The way in which the chapters have been organized according to the sculptures' find-spots is very helpful in this respect. Thus the volume is divided into nine chapters, which discuss the sculptures found in or connected with nine different buildings in Miletos. A final chapter, where the works are grouped according to statuary types, examines monuments and reliefs of unknown provenance.

The comprehensive Introduction by Bol outlines the basic characteristics of the objects from the point of view of their function in the architecture and gives a brief description of the types most frequently found. Idealized sculpture predominates and there are few statues of emperors and Milesian citizens. We are even less well informed about the decoration of private houses, since no houses are sufficiently well preserved. But above all the Introduction examines the relationship between the sculptures and the creation of the city's identity in the Imperial period. As Bol points out, many studies have been published in recent years looking at this subject in relation to various regions and cities in the Imperial period. Idealizing sculpture has been interpreted in this light, as it reflects the Milesians' major cults. The most important was the myth of the birth of Apollo, their main divinity, worshipped in the area as Delphic Apollo ("Δελφίνιος"), who was depicted on most buildings in the city due to the presence of his great sanctuary in neighbouring Didyma.

In the second part of her Introduction Bol examines the role of those citizens who acted as patrons of the arts; their extensive catalogue of benefactions are attested in inscriptions3 and may be related to sculptures. Finally in the third part modifications made to the sculpture in Late Antiquity are examined. This means their re-use, often after the structures containing them had been rebuilt, as is the case of the Theatre stage or the Baths; the sculptures in question are generally busts or honorific statues of patrons. Also of interest are the idealized sculptures subjected to Christian destruction or simply the carving of crosses on naked bodies .

The main body of the catalogue begins with the sculptures from the Great Harbour Monument. It was most probably a monument to some maritime victory of the first century BC., as indicated by reliefs depicting a Marine Thiasos and figureheads. In typical fashion the victory was expressed through a tripod, now lost, which once stood atop the monument, referring directly to the cult of Apollo.

The monument in the atrium of the Bouleuterion, dated to the early Imperial period, may be linked with the posthumous cult of a hero-founder of the city. The reliefs with figural decoration feature Leto with other mythological beings. The close link between the city and the cult of its main deity and one of its benefactors is particularly highlighted in this monument.

The Nymphaeum in the Agora was rebuilt in the time of the Emperor Titus in 79–80 A.D., but part of its decoration dates to the reign of Gordian (241–244 A.D.), as the excavated inscriptions show. The statues were set in 27 niches in the facade and constitute a group depicting divinities, demi-gods, figures from the train of Dionysos, and heroes. Statues of youths and athletes survive in fragmentary condition, while there is evidence for two statues of the Emperor Trajan from inscriptions. As is invariably the case with statuary in decorative programmes on large buildings from the Imperial period, the choice of works is never left to chance but reflects specific policies. Thus in Miletos the focus on the nymphs in the iconography of the sculptural decoration is hardly surprising, given that there was a Temple of the Nymphs on the Sacred Way leading to the Temple of Delphic Apollo at Didyma.

The Market Gate was built with financial contributions from the citizens in the early years of Hadrian's reign. Two headless marble statues, larger than life-size, are connected with this monument and have been interpreted as images of Hadrian which decorated two niches at first-story level. In one the emperor is shown wearing a breastplate with the figure of a female barbarian, bound and kneeling at his feet, while in the other he is depicted in the classical Diomedes type.

The Heroon in the Theatre precincts is a monumental funerary building also from the time of Hadrian; some slabs from a frieze with erotes which decorated the architrave have been preserved. The heroa within the walls of Miletos are important complexes from the Hellenistic and Roman periods and show the relevance given by the Milesians to the cult of their heroes or heroized dead.

The Baths of Faustina are one of the most significant monuments in the city. They took their name from Faustina the Younger, who is mentioned in a number of inscriptions as commissioning the complex. Architectural and sculptural decorations are so closely intertwined that one can speak with confidence of a unified programme. The sculptures date from the second half of the second century A.D. up to the Late Antique period. Typical groups feature the Muses, Asklepios with related divinities, and river gods. A lion from the frigidarium stands out by virtue of the stone carving evidence it preserves: for the most part it has kept its original, archaic form, but its foreparts show that they were fashioned in the Hellenistic period and some small areas were reworked when it was installed in the Baths.

Around the time when the Baths were built there was an extensive renovation of the Theatre, which also shows evidence of other construction phases. The group of archaizing Caryatids and Tritons, which functioned as supports for the scaenae frons (stage-front), is typical, as is the frieze with Erotes on the exterior. It was on the stage of the Theatre that the famous torso of Apollo was discovered. Now in the Louvre, this work much celebrated by scholars and intellectuals, including the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, is one of the sculptures marking the transition from the Late Archaic to the Severe Style. Both an examination of its find-spot and a statue base found in the orchestra attest to the sculpture having been erected in the Theatre after the mid-second century A.D. For mainly historical reasons it must have come from the archaic temple of Apollo in neighbouring Myous and been re-used in the decoration of the Theatre. Unravelling the history of this important statue accounts for one of the most significant chapters in this book.4

Relatively few fragments of sculpture in the round or reliefs have been preserved from the Serapeion and the Roman villa on the slope behind the Theatre. The works published in the final chapter and which cannot be attributed to any specific building are mainly busts, fragments of draped and naked figures, reliefs and table-legs.

This last group is numerically the smallest. And it is a great advantage for anyone studying Miletos to be able to associate sculptures with the buildings in which they once stood. This has been achieved thanks to the painstaking way in which the study of the excavated finds has been combined with the wealth of evidence from inscriptions. Moreover the precise dates given by the latter provide a whole group of dated sculptures, which in turn is extremely helpful in dating other works from sites for which we do not have the same amount of information. . A most welcome volume!


1.   It is the second part of the fifth volume in the series (which is devoted to small finds), the first part of which publishes the Megarian bowls.
2.   See recently also the volume, Andria, F. D' – Romeo I., (eds), Roman Sculpture in Asia Minor: Proceedings of The International Conference to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Italian Excavations at Hierapolis in Phrygia Held on May 24-26, 2007, JRA Suppl. 81, 2011.
3.   See the three volumes of the series Milet (vol. VI) published between the years 1997-2006.
4.   See extensively, Bol, R., „Der 'Torso von Milet' und das Kultbild des Apollon Termintheus in Myus," Istanbuler Mitteilungen 55 (2005) 37-64.

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