Friday, November 30, 2012


Ulrich Gehn, Ehrenstatuen in der Spätantike: Chlamydati und Togati. Spätantike - frühes Christentum - Byzanz. Reihe B, Studien und Perspektiven, Bd 34. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2012. Pp. 590. ISBN 9783895008610. €98.00.

Reviewed by Benjamin Anderson, Cornell University (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

As the first monograph devoted to late Roman honorific statues, this study fills a significant gap in the literature on late antique art and archaeology. The volume, a "leicht überarbeitete Version" (9) of the author's dissertation, is hefty: over three hundred pages of discursive text, a catalog of over two hundred pages comprising 68 entries, and 47 plates, one in color. There is no index.

This is not a user-friendly book. There are numerous typographical errors, many minor, but some presenting obstacles to understanding.1 The absence of an index makes it difficult to track discussion of individual monuments through the multiple chapters in which they figure. In theory one would have to read the entire book to locate all discussions of a single monument, but the main text has not been edited for readability. Chapters four, five, and six deal directly with the honorific statues in question, while the framing chapters treat topics from the essential to the ancillary in equal depth with extensive quotations from the secondary literature and minute weighing of questions whose import to the broader investigation can become obscure.

These are questions of style, however, and this is a book of substance. The first chapter contains the most thorough discussion of the clothes worn by late antique elites since Delbrueck's Consulardiptychen, and incorporates more recent finds (the "Trierer Prunkschild," the wall paintings of Silistra). These and other visual sources (especially the statues and diptychs) are compared with the written record (especially Lydus), and two basic "costumes," based around the chlamys and toga respectively, are defined according to their constituent parts. Preserved realia (textiles, fibulae) are not discussed, although a correspondence between depiction and reality is often assumed. Thus the "stiffness" of the togas on ivory diptychs, not noticeable on statues, is interpreted as an attribute of the "consular" toga (58); the possibility of a medium-specific representational convention is not considered. The discussion of the significance of (lost) polychromy on marble statues is important (e.g., at 25; cf. 221, and the hypothetical reconstructions depicted on the Farbtafel).

The second and third chapters trace the earlier history of the elements of costume that appear on the fifth-century statues. The second chapter focuses on the introduction of military elements, especially the chlamys and fibula, into tetrarchic costume. The third chapter follows fourth- and early fifth-century developments, both on state monuments (Arch of Constantine, Arch of Galerius, the obelisk base in Istanbul, the Column of Arcadius) and on the "senatorial sarcophagi." In the early fourth there is a sartorial gulf between emperor and elites, as on the Arch of Constantine, where Constantine's chlamys contrasts to the senatorial togas. This gulf gradually narrows, beginning with the appearance of the chlamys on sarcophagi of later fourth-century elites. In this development Gehn sees a new senatorial consciousness of station ("senatorisches Standesbewusstsein," 129) that overrode the distinction between "clarissimi of birth" and "clarissimi of function."

Chapter four addresses the honorific statues preserved from the eastern half of the empire. Gehn orders the material into four chronological groups (early Theodosian, middle Theodosian, late Theodosian, and post-Theodosian). All preserved statues are assigned to the period between ca. 390 and 500, a shorter span than was assumed by some earlier scholars. Thus, for example, the Justinianic dating of three statues from Corinth is rejected as resting on an insupportable association between poor quality and late date (157).2

In the fifth chapter, Gehn turns to the more limited corpus of honorific statues from the west. In Rome one finds "partial independence of senatorial representation from the imperial model" (186), reflected in the fourth-century perseverance of the older toga type. Nevertheless the chlamys and new toga are adopted in Rome by the early fifth century, a development that is understood to reflect the influence of the "court art of Constantinople" (188).

Chapter six, on the "iconology" of late antique statues, begins with the question of correspondence between costume and rank or office. Gehn follows Ševčenko, Foss, and others in associating the chlamys at Aphrodisias with the praeses Cariae, the toga at Aphrodisias with the consularis Cariae, and the toga at Ephesus with the proconsul Asiae. The togate statue of Pytheas in Aphrodisias presents a problem, as the honoree was apparently a private citizen. Gehn attributes his costume to a position in the "ausdifferenziertem Illustrat" or to a sinecure, thus avoiding an interpretation as "Statususurpation" (205). The discussions of preserved statues from other cities are briefer. Roman togate statues may represent consuls or urban prefects, and those depicted wearing the chlamys in Corinth may be proconsuls of Achaea. Gehn hesitates to posit a strict correspondence between costume and rank, concluding that both chlamys and toga were "adäquate Ausdrucksformen der spätantiken Reichsaristokratie" (221). A slightly different formulation appears in the book's conclusion: the costumes were "in einem groben Sinne rangbezeichnend" (318).

The second part of chapter six is dedicated to attributes. Rotuli go with the chlamys, mappa and scipio with the toga. The question is whether mappa and scipio must refer to consular duties, or whether they became conventional at some point. Here again Pytheas is important, as he carries both, but appears to have been a privatus. Gehn concludes that the attributes are not to be considered insignia of office "im strengen Sinne" (231).

Chapters seven, eight, and nine are dedicated to those elements that accompanied honorific statues: inscriptions and portraits. In chapter seven, Gehn considers inscriptions from the east of the empire, which place particular emphasis on fairness, alongside ancillary themes such as bilingualism, acquaintance with the muses, and geographic origin. Just as interesting is what is left out: ἀνδρεία, understood as skill in battle, is an imperial monopoly (272). Western inscriptions form the subject of chapter eight, and display a greater emphasis on nobility of birth.

Chapter nine, on portraits, follows the scholarly consensus of the last few decades in positing an "eine unüberbrückbare Kluft zwischen dem Herrscher und allen Untertanen" (293), supposedly reflected in the separate development of the portrait types appropriate to each. Once such a chasm has been assumed, the similarities between portraits of emperors and officials are explained via appeal to a magistratical portrait type "der gleichermaßen die Teilhabe an der kaiserlichen Macht und die Unterscheidung von der kaiserlichen Person ins Bild zu setzen geeignet war" (309) or to the concept of a "Zeitgesicht" (314).

The catalog of monuments is an invaluable resource. Entries are divided into three major groups (porphyry monuments, post-Constantinian monuments from the east of the empire, monuments from Rome and Italy). The second category, by far the largest, is subdivided according to find-spot; Ephesus and Aphrodisias predominate. There is also an introduction to the study of the two Roman "consuls" in the Palazzo dei Conservatori preceding the individual entries (523-525) and mention of the existence of unpublished statues that could not be included (e.g., 389, 437).

The entries begin with basic information on current location, find-spot, material, dimensions and bibliography, followed by the "Datierung" and a substantial discussion. It is not always clear if the dating represents the author's current opinion. Cat. no. O 45, a chlamydatus (or chlamydata) from Corinth, is set in the "1. Hälfte des 6. Jahrhunderts?," an opinion that is qualified but not rejected in the following discussion (482-484). In the main text, however, this statue is included among the three Corinthian statues (cat. nos. O 43, O 44, and O 45) that are firmly reassigned to the last third of the fifth century ("... die zeitliche Einordnung ins letzte Drittel des 5. Jahrhunderts und damit die Aufgabe der traditionellen Datierung gefordert ist," 157).

Gehn's study presents an accurate formulation of the state of the question regarding these statues, and it is very useful to be able to peruse the entire corpus in a single volume. The general picture is of a substantial body of evidence straining against interpretive strategies that it may have outgrown. The theory of correspondence between rank and costume is one example. Gehn refrains from rejecting it, and surely there were loose codes of etiquette on this point, but his distinction between "Chlamyskostüm" and "Togakostüm" is more descriptive than Delbrueck's "Stadtkostüm," "Dienstkostüm" and "Togakostüm." The theory of the "unbridgeable chasm" between emperor and subject may be wearing thin. Here too Gehn takes a moderate position, and surely no non-emperor was ever portrayed with the diadem. But the overarching narrative is clearly one of the costumes of fifth-century elites "catching up" with innovations first seen in imperial costume in the late third and fourth centuries.

Both theories derive from the image, beloved of late antique orators, of society as an elegant hierarchy anchored in the quasi-divine remove of the emperor. This image existed alongside a reality marked by vicious power struggles among those elites who were the recipients of honorific statues, in which the line between permissible ambition and status usurpation was set more by immediate circumstance than by firmly established codes of etiquette. "Here shines the semblance of a iudex, there of a togatus, / and here again of an armatus," writes Claudian of the statues of the praepositus sacri cubiculi Eutropius (Eutr. II.72-73). The omnipresence of Eutropius's image, in all possible guises (chlamys, toga, and full military garb), has become the object of the rhetor's reproach, but who begrudged him the same while he was in favor? Claudian's invective was written to flatter another presumptuous non-emperor, Stilicho, who was honored with two statues in the otherwise exclusively imperial Forum Romanum, before he too fell from favor a few years later.3 The challenge is to accommodate the more arbitrary and seemingly chaotic aspects of late antique power structures, within which codes were regularly broken and etiquette regularly breached, within an account that also acknowledges the potency of the ideal of hierarchy and order. Gehn's considerable labors have set us in a better position to tackle these questions.


1.   Particularly distracting examples, listed by page or plate number, follow. 29: For "Kat. Nr. O 21 Abb. 94 a. b." read "Kat. Nr. O 35, Taf. 23"; for "Kat Nr. O 29, Taf. 23 Abb. 1" read "Kat Nr. O 29, Taf. 19." 45: The Tunisian site known as Sidi Ghrib is first referred to as "Sidi Ghraib," then on 46 as "Abu Ghraib" (!). 69: The triptych purportedly at "Taf. 41, Abb. 5" is not illustrated in this volume. 100: The city of Satala is referred to as "die Stadt Salata." 149: "Die Chlamysbüste aus Stratonikeia" is not "Kat. Nr. O 22," but rather "Kat. No. O 34, Taf. 22." 152: "Der Statue des Oecumenius ... legt den Oecumenius ... fest" (?). 304: For "Kat. No. W 3, Taf. 21" read "Taf. 37." Tafel 1: Cat. no. O 2 is alabaster, not porphyry.
2.   Following Amelia R. Brown, "Last men standing: chlamydatus portraits and public life in late antique Corinth," Hesperia 81 (2012), 158-161.
3.   For these and other examples of presumptuous fifth-century monuments ("Aufwendige Denkmalformen"), see Franz Alto Bauer, "Statuen hoher Würdenträger im Stadtbild Konstantinopels," Byzantinische Zeitschrift 96 (2003), 504-507.

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Paolo Mastandrea, Linda Spinazzè (ed.), Nuovi archivi e mezzi d'analisi per i testi poetici. I lavori del progetto Musisque Deoque. Sottotitolo, Venezia 21 - 23 giugno 2010./ Supplementi di Lexis, 60. Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert editore, 2011. Pp. 261. ISBN 9789025612658.

Reviewed by Carole Fry, Université de Genève (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

Lancé en 2005, le projet Musisque Deoque, vise à la constitution d'un outil informatique de recherche lexicale et métrique en poésie latine. Le recueil ici passé en revue doit d'une part informer sur l'état d'avance de ce projet et d'autre part présenter quelques résultats que celui-ci a permis d'obtenir, notamment en critique intertextuelle.

Le volume est précédé d'une introduction (Paolo Mastandrea e Luigi Tessarolo, « Introduzione. Le edizioni di Musisque Deoque : metodo, prassi e tipologie testuali », p. 1-11). Il y est rappelé que les avantages qui distinguent cette base de données à finalités intertextuelles, que l'on trouve sous l'adresse , de celles qui l'ont précédée, telles BTL, Poetria noua ainsi que les bases de données fournies par le portail Brepolis, tiennent non seulement au choix que l'on peut y faire des places métriques, des types de vers, des proximités plus ou moins extensives, mais aussi à la prise en compte qu'elle permet d'un choix de variantes – de tradition directe ou indirecte, appuyée d'un état des manuscrits – ainsi que de péritextes explicatifs, notamment grammaticaux, jugés significatifs (p. 3). La mise à disposition d'un nombre considérable de textes poétiques épigraphiques est également un notable avantage. On complètera cette utile lecture par ce que l'on trouvera publié sur le même sujet mais dans une perspective plus programmatique par M. Manca, L. Spinazzè, P. Mastandrea, L. Tessarolo et F. Boschetti sous le titre de « Musis deoque : Text Retrieval on Critical Editions » dans le Journal for Language Technology and Computational Linguistics 27 (2012), p. 129-138, pdf ici.

D'un point de vue général, il faut saluer le choix de ne pas étendre l'information au-delà du 7e siècle. Assurément, cette judicieuse décision en indisposera quelques-uns, mais dispensera désormais les classicisants d'avoir à se dépêtrer d'une turba d'auteurs néo-latins et médiévaux avant de parvenir aux occurrences antiques les plus tardives des mots à forte fréquence. En revanche, limiter le corpus aux seuls poètes paraît véritablement problématique, car cette restriction tendra à enfermer encore davantage ses exégètes dans la seule poésie ; or la poésie s'explique aussi par la prose et notamment par les informations de grammairiens qu'il faut solliciter bien au-delà des bribes de commentaires que l'on trouve proposées en lien.

Cinq articles sont consacrés à des aspects techniques particuliers. Andrea Bacianini, « Musisque Deoque e la rappresentazione informatica della poesia figurata » (p. 15-28) dresse une histoire bien intéressante du carmen figurarum pour en arriver à signaler que les difficultés de représentation informatique de ce genre d'œuvre ont été résolues par l'insertion d'une icône donnant accès à une image de la pièce entière.

Martina Venuti, « L´apparato digitale di Virgilio » (p. 29-34), évoque la difficulté que l'on rencontre à maîtriser un choix pléthorique lorsqu'il faut le rendre pleinement informatif. Celui qui s'effectue sur la tradition directe n'est que celui auquel est confronté n'importe quel éditeur. La tradition indirecte présente, quant à elle, des difficultés plus consistantes ; les variantes et explications des grammairiens sont ainsi retenues quand elles sont philologiques, mais omises quand elles sont di cultura generale (p. 34). On gardera toutefois à l'esprit que les variantes proposées, et cela quels que soient les auteurs et passages considérés, ne sont jamais qu'un choix jugé proprio motu significatif et qu'il ne faut en aucun cas se dispenser d'effectuer une vérification dans une édition critique.

Isabella Canetta, « Lauinia/Lauina (Aen. 1,2) : variante testuale e testimonianze indirette » (p. 35-41), reprend ce dernier problème puis rappelle à l'utilisateur qu'il est présumé exploiter l'entier des données fournies par les liens et ensuite que l'hésitation graphique possède une histoire qu'il est bon de considérer.

Elisabetta Saltelli, « Poesia epigrafica : le nuove acquisizioni in Musisque Deoque » (p. 43-57), évoque l'apport épigraphique d'une base de données qui permet une exploitation extensive d'un matériel dont la richesse excède de très loin celle du seul recueil de Buecheler-Lommatzsch. A l'usage, on constate toutefois que c'est assurément dans le commentaire des inscriptions métriques que la recherche profitera le mieux de ce nouveau corpus, notamment par le fait que, lorsque cela a été possible, les auteurs ont ajouté en icône le cliché qui permettra de se faire une idée de l'état réel du support et ainsi de confirmer ou de révoquer les corrections et/ou restitutions qui ont été proposées.

Linda Spinazzè, « Risalire alle fonti : dall´edizione Musisque Deoque ai testimoni manoscritti » (p. 59-71), rappelle que cette base de données fournit des renseignements non seulement sur un certain nombre de variantes manuscrites mais aussi sur les témoins qui les portent, sur leur origine, sur leur date et sur la bibliothèque qui les renferme.

Mise en regard de l'évolution que j'évoquais d'entrée, la partie du livre soumise jusqu'ici à revue prend valeur de document-témoin. Elle est en effet, à ma connaissance, l'une des premières à avoir été écrite afin d'assurer la promotion d'un outil de recherche informatique. La seconde partie de l'ouvrage (« Letture del testo assistite dalla strumentazione elettronica », p. 75-249) doit faire valoir son efficacité par la présentation de résultats qu'il a permis d'obtenir. Les titres des articles qui leur sont dévolus donnent une idée de leur diversité :

Tiziana Brolli, « Polifemo e le metafore nautiche » (p.75-87), suit, depuis Homère puis Euripide, les traces non seulement du mât de navire qui sert de bâton à Polyphème mais aussi des métaphores dérivées, évoquant la distension de son ventre plein. De cascades de termes en apparentements conceptuels, une chaîne s'ancre dans Ennius puis traverse les temps jusqu'à Ennode.

Crescenzo Formicola, « Oltre l´archetipo: ipostesti lettarari e testimonianze codicologiche (specimina da Lucrezio e Sidonio » (p. 89-97), fait valoir que la recherche d'intertextes peut amener à clarifier une tradition confuse. Je ne retiendrai ici qu'un seul exemple, celui de la leçon arescit de LVCR. 6,841 qui, parfois omise au profit de conjectures, trouve ainsi à se conforter de Pétrone (134,2) et de Juvencus (2,746). On remarquera que cet exemple, qui validerait une lectio difficilior, a nécessité la consultation d'une édition critique imprimée, car MQDQ ne fournit pas d'indication de variante à propos du passage de Lucrèce ici considéré.

Alessandra Romeo, «Memorie `georgiche´nell´epos ovidiano : in margine al mito di Esaco nell´XI libro delle Metamorfosi» (p. 99-108), relie cet épisode tout d'abord avec ceux qui, dans le livre 19 de ces mêmes Métamorphoses, évoquent la mort précoce, le meurtre involontaire et les lamentations funèbres, puis emprunte à l'épisode d'Aristée des Géorgiques de quoi argumenter son propos.

Alessandro Franzoi, « Note di lettura al testo dei Remedia di Ovidio » (p. 109-116), considère le très difficile texte des distiques 363-364, 395-396, 607-608 et du vers 589 et fournit la démonstration la plus pédagogiquement éclairante de ce que MQDQ – qui ne mentionne aucune variante – est à même de fournir, notamment par la capacité qu'il possède de sélectionner les occurrences en fonction de leur place métrique.

Alessandro Fusi, « Sulla tradizione di Marziale » (p. 123-136) montre que l'absence d'archétype appréhendable a conduit les éditeurs à négliger les variantes qui n'apparaissent que dans une seule des trois branches de la tradition, faisant valoir que la communauté d'erreurs entre familles doit être interprétée comme un signe de contamination mutuelle. Le cas de l'épigramme 9,25 et de quelques autres (3,3 ; 9,73), servent d'exemple.

Enrico Mari Ariemma, « Da Marsiglia a Sagunto : prove di guerra civile da Lucano a Silio Italico » (p. 137-155), considère la manière dont Lucain, en calquant son récit de siège de Marseille sur celui de Sagonte tel qu'il le lit chez Tite-Live, influence ensuite Silius dans sa propre description du siège de Sagonte. L'argumentation, toujours très élaborée, permet parfois de deviner l'apport de MQDQ dans des liens recherchés dans des analogies de clausules ou des reprises verbales à implantations tactiques identiques (agger ; desuper urbi p. 145).

Emanuela Colombi, « L´allusione e la variante : Giovenco e Silio Italico » (p. 157-185), propose un breuiarium de l'intertextualité constitué par un bref catalogue raisonné des avatars de l'intrication d'un hypotexte et d'un hypertexte. On le trouvera hiérarchisé selon le degré de la visibilité du signifiant et celui du déplacement sémantique ; il y est donc question de synonymie, de substitution, de contraste, etc.

Amedeo Alessandro Raschieri, « Lettori tardoantichi e medievali di Avieno » (p. 187-195), use de l'intertextualité pour montrer comment reconstituer l'histoire de l'influence et de la circulation antiques et médiévales d'un texte dont il ne subsiste aucun témoin antérieur à 1477.

Luca Mondin, « Simplicitas ignava : testo e intertesto di ALC. AVIT. carm. 2,98-99 » (p. 217-225), confirme par l'influence de Prudence (psych. 245-246) la lecture ignaua de ALC. AVIT. carm. 2,99. La correction ignara est proposée par MQDQ.

Maria Nicole Iulietto, « Il De apro mitissimo di Lussorio ( c.292 R=Happ=287 SB) » (p. 228-238), en fait de même en appuyant la lecture mitissimo contre les variantes proposées par MQDQ, qu'elle enrichit de quelques autres. L'argumentation est ici purement thématique et se fonde sur la tradition qualificative de la Mysie.

Paola Paolucci, « Dall´Alcesta centonaria ad alcune chiose di lectura nella tradizione e monte del Salmasiano (Par. Lat. 10318) » (p. 239-249), en redresse les vers 134 et 145 par l'exploitation de variantes qui ne sont pas toujours fournies par MQDQ. Conduit selon la méthode intertextuelle, l'examen révèle un peu de l'histoire des ancêtres perdus du Codex.

Pour des raisons de place et de compétences personnelles, je m'abstiendrai de commenter les deux contributions touchant à des domaines postérieurs à l'antiquité. (Andrea Cozzolino, « Echi medievali del I Libro della Pharsalia », p.117- 122 ; Angelo Luceri, « Un ritratto d´altri tempi : Naucellio, Epigr.bob. 7 e una possibile eco umanistica », p.198- 216).

De manière surprenante, le trait commun à l'ensemble de ces travaux est qu'ils n'auraient pas été effectués avec l'aide de MQDQ que l'on ne s'en apercevrait pratiquement pas. En effet, rien ne les distingue de ce qu'aurait produit un philologue appliquant les méthodes les plus classiques de sa discipline et en tout cas inaptes à satisfaire l'attente suscitée par la promesse des nuovi mezzi annoncés par le titre. De la polyvalence et de l'efficacité de MQDQ, on ne recevra donc que la preuve indirecte, puisque son apport propre n'est signalé qu'à deux reprises (p. 90 ; 117) et seulement de manière parfaitement anodine. On aurait pu attendre des contributeurs un peu plus de cette uis docendi qui aurait fait voir au benoît lecteur en quoi MQDQ leur a permis d'atteindre à des résultats qui seraient autrement restés hors de portée. Il n'y a donc, sur ce plan-là, rien de véritablement instructif à attendre de ce recueil qui, hors ses premières contributions et malgré ladite promesse de nuovi mezzi, n'offre rien de vraiment neuf ni même de clairement ordonné ni de pédagogique à son malheureux lecteur, une fois de plus martyrisé par ce ressassement kaléidoscopique qui prospère par la multiplication néoplasique de nos modernes colloques.

Il reste que ce volume apporte la preuve renouvelée que, si la méthode intertextuelle s'est imposée comme le procédé par excellence d'une heuristique littéraire contemporaine désormais assez bien installée pour devenir conformiste, elle trouve à s'étendre profitablement au-delà de son domaine standard. Devenant le moyen d'appréhender un peu de l'histoire des textes, elle se fait l'auxiliaire objectif de l'ecdotique. Ce qui ne va pas sans poser quelques problèmes de méthode, puisqu'il faut désormais distinguer parmi les variantes d'une part celles qui, autrefois considérées comme parasites, sont aujourd'hui vues comme peut-être séparément révélatrices des strates d'une Rezeptionsgeschichte, et d'autre part celle qui, dans son unicité, sera proprement porteuse de l'authenticité auctoriale.

Malgré tout, étant donné l'état d'inconnaissance où nous sommes de la réalité d'influences exercées par des textes disparus dont nous pourrions ne même pas soupçonner l'existence, on conservera toutefois une hygiénique méfiance à l'égard de constructions qui pourraient bien nous informer davantage sur celui qui les effectue que sur le texte commenté. Il y a parfois dans la démarche intertextualiste quelque chose d'étrangement proche de la pratique projective telle que l'a conçue Hermann Rorschach : « Voici l'intrication d'un hypertexte et d'un hypotexte : dites-moi ce que vous voyez ... ».

On notera enfin que certaines contributions se distinguent par la mise en relief graphique des marqueurs intertextuels. Le lecteur, toujours pressé, parfois inattentif, lassé de complications parfois portées par des écritures sans grâce, y trouve une bienvenue facilité de lecture qui gagnerait à s'ériger en norme.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012


Vassilios P. Vertoudakis, Το όγδοο βιβλίο της Παλατινής Ανθολογίας. Μια μελέτη των επιγραμμάτων του Γρηγορίου του Ναζιανζηνού. Athens: Institut du Livre–A. Kardamitsa, 2011. Pp. 285. ISBN 9789603542933. €21.30 (pb).

Reviewed by Christos Simelidis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (

Version at BMCR home site

[A table of contents, with translations of the chapter-titles, is given at the end of the review.]

This book (in English entitled 'The eighth book of the Palatine Anthology. A study of the epigrams by Gregory of Nazianzus') examines various literary and linguistic features of epigrams written by the fourth-century Cappadocian father of the Church, Gregory of Nazianzus. Its primary focus is Gregory's 254 funerary epigrams, which constitute the eighth book of the Palatine Anthology (AP), making Gregory by far the most extensively represented author in the AP.

Part I offers a concise survey of Greek epigrams up to the time of Gregory. Here, Vertoudakis lucidly summarizes our knowledge about Roman and Byzantine collections of epigrams, especially the AP and the later anthology compiled by Maximos Planudes in 1301. No epigrams by Gregory are found in the Planudean Anthology, and the only explanation offered for this is their possible absence from Planudes' (now lost) sources for this Anthology. However, Planudes is likely to have consciously decided not to include epigrams by Gregory, because he appears to have compiled such collections as handbooks to use in his teaching1 and because his earlier collection of hexameter poetry (Laurentianus 32.16, dated 1280) already included a selection of Gregory's poems and epigrams. If indeed these collections were to serve as teaching material, this might also explain the exclusion of the 'pornographic' epigrams from Planudes' Anthology, since the Byzantines would normally not censor classical texts.2

Part II surveys the contents of Gregory's funerary epigrams, which refer either to relatives and friends or to 'enemies'. The latter fall in two groups: organizers of festivities inside the churches of the martyrs, and grave-robbers. Vertoudakis presents a representative selection of epigrams in the original Greek followed by translations of his own and helpful comments. He also addresses the frequent repetition of language and thought in Gregory's poems. In the epigrams this repetition takes the form of similar epigrams on the same subjects, such as the more than fifty funerary epigrams on his mother and more than eighty against grave-robbers. In trying to explain this, Vertoudakis makes an interesting and intelligent suggestion: writing time and again on these subjects might have been a form of ascesis for Gregory in the same way ascetics had continually to repeat short prayers. 'In his epigrams, Nazianzenus seems to combine the poetic- rhetorical exercise (γύμνασμα) with the anchoritic ascesis' (81).

Part III examines Gregory's epigrams in the framework of the literary tradition where they belong. Vertoudakis discusses language, intertextuality, exempla, style and metre. Not surprisingly, a wide range of classical authors have been the source of language and inspiration for Gregory, such as Homer, Hesiod, Hellenistic poets and later authors. As Vertoudakis rightly argues, Gregory's epigrams follow closely a well-established, traditional genre. For this reason, they can be distinguished from the rest of his poetic production, which is mostly autobiographical, theological and moral, and has a special and sometimes unique character within the tradition of Greek poetry. It follows, as Vertoudakis shows well, that Gregory is more classicizing from every point of view in his epigrams than in the rest of his poetry.

A few points of detail on this Part. i) p. 154-155: Ι see no connection between AP 8. 37. 3 ἐξεσάωσας and Archilochus 5. 3 West. Gregory certainly borrowed this form from ancient literature, but I think that Od. 4. 501 ἐξεσάωσε θαλάσσης is a likelier source for Gregory's use; ii) p. 156, n. 254: a reference to Stephen Halliwell, Greek Laughter: A Study of Cultural Psychology from Homer to Early Christianity (Cambridge-New York, 2008) would be helpful here; iii) p. 172, n. 283: for the Anacreontic poem on the cicada see Albrecht Dihle, 'The poem on the cicada,' HSCP 71 (1967), 107-113.

Part IV emphasizes the significant role played by rhetoric in the fourth century AD for the development of a Christian literature within the classical tradition. It also describes Gregory as a transitional figure between the dying pagan world and the emerging Christian Middle Ages.

This book is a welcome and useful addition to the literature on later Greek poetry. While readers of all levels can profit from Vertoudakis' book, it is clearly aimed primarily at Greek-speaking undergraduate and graduate students.

Table of Contents

Prologue (Πρόλογος) 13
Introduction (Εισαγωγή) 15
PART I: THE EPIGRAM, THE PALATINE ANTHOLOGY, AND GREGORY (Το επίγραμμα, η Παλατινή Ανθολογία και ο Γρηγόριος) 25
1. The Greek epigram until Gregory's time (Το ελληνικό επίγραμμα ως την εποχή του Γρηγορίου) 27
2. Collections and anthologies of epigrams (Συλλογές και ανθολογίες επιγραμμάτων) 35
The collection of Cephalas (Η συλλογή του Κεφαλά) 39
3. Gregory in the Palatine Anthology (Ο Γρηγόριος στην Παλατινή Ανθολογία) 40
Palaeographical issues (Παλαιογραφικά ζητήματα) 46
The fortunes of Gregory (Γρηγορίου τύχαι) 52
The Anthology of Planudes (Η Πλανούδεια Ανθολογία) 54
4. The Palatine codex and the rest of the manuscript transmission (Ο Παλατινός κώδικας και η λοιπή χειρόγραφη παράδοση) 56
5. Editions and translations (Εκδόσεις και μεταφράσεις) 61

PART II: THE STRUCTURE AND THEMES OF THE EPIGRAMMATIC COLLECTION (Δομή και θεματολογία της επιγραμματικής συλλογής) 69
1. The personal background (Το βιωματικό υπόβαθρο) 71
2. The themes of the epigrams (Οι θεματικοί κύκλοι των επιγραμμάτων) 77
Introductory epigram (Εισαγωγικό επίγραμμα) 82
Basil of Caesarea (Βασίλειος Καισαρείας) 83
Gregory the Elder (Γρηγόριος ο πρεσβύτερος) 90
Nonnus (Νόννα) 93
To himself and family affairs (Εἰς ἑαυτὸν και οικογενειακά) 96
Kaisarios (Καισάριος) 100
Gorgonia and Alypios (Γοργονία και Αλύπιος) 102
Martinianus (Μαρτινιανός) 103
Relatives of Gregory (Συγγενείς του Γρηγορίου) 104
The family of Basil of Caesarea (Οικογένεια του Βασιλείου Καισαρείας) 107
Other persons (Άλλα πρόσωπα) 110
Against participants in drinking parties (Κατά συμποσιαστών) 115
Against grave-robbers (Κατά τυμβωρύχων) 117
3. Excursus: for reading or inscription? (Excursus: Για ανάγνωση ή για χάραξη;) 120

PART ΙΙΙ: ASPECTS OF CLASSICISM: THE EPIGRAMS AND THE LITERARY PAST (Όψεις του κλασικισμού: Τα επιγράμματα και το λογοτεχνικό παρελθόν) 125
1. The language of the epigrams (Η γλώσσα των επιγραμμάτων) 127
Vocabulary (Λεξιλόγιο) 134
2. Intertextual substrate (Διακειμενικό υπόστρωμα) 140
α. Homer (Όμηρος) 141
β. Hesiod (Ησίοδος) 148
γ. Lyric poets (Λυρικοί ποιητές) 151
δ. Tragic poets (Τραγικοί ποιητές) 155
ε. Hellenistic poets (Ελληνιστικοί ποιητές) 159
Callimachus (Καλλίμαχος) 159
Theocritus (Θεόκριτος) 168
Other poets of the Hellenistic period (Άλλοι ποιητές της ελληνιστικής περιόδου) 175
ζ. Epigrammatists (Επιγραμματοποιοί) 178
η. Poets of the Imperial period (Ποιητές της αυτοκρατορικής περιόδου) 187
3. Ancient Greek and Biblical exempla (Αρχαιοελληνικά και βιβλικά exempla) 191
4. Style and poetic rhetoric (Ύφος και ποιητική ρητορική) 197
Figures of speech (Σχήματα λόγου) 198
Σωρείτες παραδειγμάτων (Priamel) 202
Repetitions (Επαναλήψεις) 205
5. Prosody and metre (Προσωδία και μέτρο) 210

The literary fourth century and the tyranny of rhetoric (Ο λογοτεχνικός τέταρτος αιώνας και η τυραννία της ρητορικής) 219
PART V: BIBLIOGRAPHY (Βιβλιογραφία) 235
[English] Summary 255
Tables (Πίνακες) 261
1. Tables of sources (Πίνακες πηγών) 261
2. Tables of names, themes and selected words (Πίνακες ονομάτων, θεμάτων, επιλεγμένων λέξεων) 279


1.   Cf., for example, E. Fryde, The Early Palaeologan Renaissance (1261-c. 1360) (Leiden-Boston-Cologne, 2000), 229, and C. N. Constantinides, Higher Education in Byzantium in the Thirteenth and Early Fourteenth Centuries (1204-ca. 1310) (Nicosia, 1982), 79.
2.   Cf. N. G. Wilson, Scholars of Byzantium, rev. ed. (London, 1996), 231 and id., 'The Church and Classical Studies in Byzantium,' Antike und Abendland 16 (1970), 68-77.

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Giovanni A. Cecconi, Chantal Gabrielli, Politiche religiose nel mondo antico e tardoantico: poteri e indirizzi, forme del controllo, idee e prassi di tolleranza. Atti del convegno internazionale di studi, Firenze, 24-26 settembre 2009. Munera, 33. Bari: Edipuglia, 2011. Pp. 413. ISBN 9788872286227. €50.00.

Reviewed by Alessio Antonio De Siena, Torino (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

Come segnalato nei Ringraziamenti dai curatori, il carattere eterogeneo e il numero notevole di questi contributi ne ha scoraggiato una ripartizione tematica, a vantaggio di quella cronologica già seguita nel convegno, a sua volta ordinata in tre macrosezioni; le principali tematiche – poteri e indirizzi, forme del controllo, idee e prassi di tolleranza - vengono però subito definite e precisate, in riferimento ai saggi raccolti, nella Introduzione di Giovanni Cecconi.

La prima macrosezione, Grecia e Asia ellenistica, si apre con lo studio dedicato da Giorgio Camassa alla figura di Oreste e all'uso politico della sua figura fatto da Sparta in epoca arcaica: gli Spartani in piena espansione territoriale, di fronte alle impreviste difficoltà incontrate contro Tegea, anche al fine di evitare una pericolosa alleanza fra Tegeati e Messeni ilotizzati, nel corso del VI sec. a.C. concepirono l'idea di una symmachía da loro guidata (la futura Lega del Peloponneso) e la sancirono tramite la traslazione delle ossa di Oreste proprio da Tegea; probabile ma più difficile invece da accertare è la possibilità che la presenza, in una sezione dell'Odissea in cui si avverte chiara l'impronta spartana, di un Oreste vendicatore del padre, che anticipa l'atto sanguinoso che avrebbe altrimenti macchiato la figura del re di Sparta Menelao, sia da ricondursi alla stessa politica lacedemone di stampo egemonico.

Il saggio di Hans-Joachim Gehrke è centrato su un brillante contributo di Henrik Versnel relativo all'analisi delle Baccanti di Euripide come luogo di analisi dell'interazione politica e religiosa che caratterizzava la comunità della polis antica:1 da tale lavoro egli trae spunto per proporre la dicotomia "polis totalizzante– divinità totalizzante", che in ultima analisi gli consente di rivelare i meccanismi di integrazione culturale della polis classica, fra i quali è paradigmatico il binomio Atene-Dioniso.

Chiara Pecorella Longo – pur consapevole della difficile reperibilità di risposte univoche ed esaustive - sceglie di riprendere i problemi più dibattuti in merito al reato di empietà (asebeia) e alla sua definizione nel diritto attico; un punto di vista privilegiato sulla questione è offerto dal cosiddetto "decreto di Diopite", emanato probabilmente poco prima del 430 a.C., il cui testo è stato spesso messo in relazione proprio con l'introduzione del reato di empietà e con la procedura dell'eisangelia a esso relativa.

Sulla scorta di alcuni contributi di A. B. Bosworth e ricollocando le notizie fornite dalle fonti antiche in una prospettiva politica – a danno di quella morale da loro privilegiata, Andrea Zambrini analizza il difficile rapporto fra Alessandro Magno e i gimnosofisti indiani da lui tanto ammirati: si possono così comprendere l'incapacità greca di comprendere pienamente il ruolo ricoperto in India dalla locale casta sacerdotale e la speculare avversione dei brahmani – e degli indiani in genere - verso un esercito invasore e devastatore non solo della loro terra ma anche della loro cultura.

Federico Squarcini focalizza invece la sua attenzione su un fraintendimento dei "moderni", mettendo in discussione il valore etico dei celebri Editti di Aśoka, potente sovrano della dinastia Maurya convertitosi al buddhismo nel III sec. a.C. Affiancando una attenta analisi delle fonti primarie alle suggestioni della moderna sociologia dei processi culturali – e in particolari all'opera di Pierre Bourdieu2 – l'autore persegue con successo lo scopo di dimostrare che gli atteggiamenti e le scelte di politica religiosa, a volte intolleranti altre tolleranti, di Aśoka non devono intendersi come il prodotto esclusivo dell'intima disposizione morale del sovrano, bensì come l'esito del rapporto vincolante che legava tale disposizione d'animo all'insieme sistemico dei mutamenti storici e politici del tempo.

Nel suo ampio contributo Federicomaria Muccioli analizza le forme assunte dal Ruler Cult in età ellenistica in relazione al culto divino e agli onori eroici tributati nel mondo greco ai dinasti e ai capi politici nelle epoche precedenti. In un'ottica esemplificativa l'autore affronta tre casi paradigmatici – Ierone I, Lisandro, la tirannide di Eraclea Pontica: per loro tramite è possibile comprendere il progressivo mutamento di mentalità nel modo greco relativo al conferimento di onori e culti divini, annuncio della ben più decisa svolta in tal senso dell'età ellenistica.

La seconda macrosezione, Roma repubblicana e imperiale, parte con il saggio di F. Marco Simón sulla politica romana relativa ai culti indigeni e provinciali in Occidente. L'autore dimostra come la politica romana – nei confronti dei culti indigeni prima, di quelli provinciali poi – abbia subito un'evoluzione da un iniziale confronto, spesso repressivo (nei confronti del druidismo, ad esempio, o di particolarità culturali celtiche quali le bracae), a un successivo, e spesso riuscito, tentativo di integrazione nel sistema provinciale stesso; perciò, anche se forse non si può sempre parlare di una vera e propria politica religiosa, è indubbio che vi sia stata una cosciente strategia volta a ridefinire le cosmologie indigene e a incanalare nuove in forme rituali il lealismo verso il principe.

Valentina Arena concentra la sua attenzione sull'idea di libertà religiosa, notando come da un lato i romani non individuarono mai concettualmente tale nozione – evidentemente in contrasto con la stessa concezione repubblicana di libertas – e dall'altro come fosse un cristiano, Tertulliano, il primo a usare l'espressione libertas religionis, creando così un'innovazione ideologica, ovvero la nozione di libertà (religiosa) dall'interferenza statale.

Attilio Mastrocinque dedica un breve contributo al sempre maggiore significato politico assunto, nella tarda età repubblicana, dal culto della Bona Dea; un'importanza crescente che pare sia da mettere in relazione con il carattere dionisiaco di questo culto, soprattutto nelle sue celebrazioni nel mese di dicembre. Tale cerimonia infatti, affine a quella della Basilinna ateniese (che celebrava il rito segreto delle nozze di Arianna e Dioniso), fu l'occasione di un celebre scandalo che, nel 62 a.C., vide protagonista Clodio Pulcro.3 In seguito ne sfruttò la valenza politica Antonio, che si presentò come novello Dioniso accanto alla moglie Ottavia, novella Arianna; ciò però non fece che aumentare lo scandalo dei Romani rispetto alla successiva ierogamia del triumviro con Cleopatra. Dopo Azio fu Livia, moglie di Ottaviano, a prendersi cura del culto di Bona Dea.

Silvia Cappelletti prende le mosse dai passi delle Antichità Giudaiche in cui Giuseppe Flavio riporta dei privilegi concessi dalle autorità romane ad alcuni centri della diaspora e, focalizzando la propria attenzione sullo studio di una particolare comunità (Sardis), cerca di definire fino a che punto sia possibile distinguere la politica che Roma tenne in Giudea da quella sviluppata in diaspora, cercando così di cogliere tratti di continuità o di frattura in tale linea politica.

Giuseppe Zecchini sgombra il campo da un possibile equivoco: il paganesimo romano non può essere considerato tollerante perché il concetto stesso di tolleranza è estraneo al mondo antico. Roma ammette la coesistenza di molte religione etniche, purché esse siano compatibili con quella capitolina e a essa subordinate; perciò il cristianesimo, religione non etnica ma universale, che contrappone il Cristo a Giove, fu perseguitato, come in passato era toccato, per altri motivi, al culto dionisiaco e al druidismo.

James B. Rives realizza una messa a punto delle diverse visioni degli studiosi sulle basi legali delle accuse nelle corti romane che, dal 64 al 250 d.C., costituirono a livello locale l'opposizione romana alla cristianità, alimentata dalla preoccupazione che i cristiani si stessero separando dalla comunità più ampiamente intesa. Le successive persecuzioni organizzate da Decio, Valeriano e Diocleziano furono quindi solo il segnale che l'opposizione alla cristianità si era spostata dall'ambito locale alla comunità dell'impero nel suo insieme.

Mark J. Edwards sostiene che prima della "grande persecuzione" del 303 molti cristiani dubitavano della capacità dei demoni di intervenire nel mondo. Fu il filosofo Porfirio che affermò invece che essi erano addirittura capaci di inviare epidemie e terremoti; i cristiani perciò sfruttarono l'opera porfiriana – in particolare il testo Sulla filosofia tratta dagli oracoli - per dimostrare che la persecuzione dei cristiani era stata ispirata proprio dai demoni.

La terza e ultima macrosezione, Tarda Antichità, è aperta dall'articolo di Nicole Belayche che, esaminando attentamente la celebre riforma organizzativa del paganesimo "di Stato" attribuita all'imperatore Massimino Daia, ne mette in luce il carattere tradizionale e la sostanziale coerenza con la riorganizzazione territoriale voluta da Diocleziano; ne emerge che tale "riforma" pare essere più concretamente un mito storiografico.

Jörg Rüpke concentra la sua attenzione sull'importanza, spesso sottovalutata, delle cariche sacerdotali pagane in età tardo-imperiale. Mentre il clero cristiano andava definendo le proprie strutture, si è soliti credere che i sacerdozi pagani stessero perdendo importanza; è più corretto invece affermare che la tipologia di questi ultimi stava cambiando, come dimostrato anche dall'inserimento di cariche sacerdotali nelle carriere equestri e senatorie.

Barbara Scardigli prende in esame la politica religiosa di Costanzo, analizzando il suo atteggiamento relativamente conciliante non solo nei confronti degli ariani, come Teofilo e Ulfila, ma anche verso l'ortodosso Frumenzio; una linea politica evidentemente dettata da motivi non solo religiosi, ma anche economici e militari.

Maijastina Khalos focalizza la sua attenzione sulla difesa, operata da Temistio, della diversità religiosa, in particolare nelle sue orazioni 5 e 6; lo scrittore discute l'evoluzione delle politiche religiose e poi, facendosi portavoce delle istanze dell'imperatore Gioviano in tal senso, tenta di plasmare l'opinione pubblica.

Caroline Humfress utilizza un approccio comparativo, analizzando il diritto romano ed ecclesiastico come concrete pratiche sociali, allo scopo di portare in evidenza le esperienze e conoscenze necessarie per manovrare le dispute legali nell'ambito di dispute politico-religiose.

Concentrandosi soprattutto sull'analisi delle fonti ispaniche di età tardo-antica, Chantal Gabrielli ha analizzato le modalità della lotta mossa dal cristianesimo cattolico al priscillianesimo, e ad altri movimenti religiosi a esso associati come il manicheismo; in particolare nel contributo si sottolinea come, dalla fine del V secolo, venendo progressivamente meno la capacità di controllo del potere imperiale, la lotta sia stata guidata dalle istituzioni ecclesiastiche ispaniche e dalla Chiesa di Roma.

Francesco Maria Petrini ripercorre, in una serie di sezioni periodizzanti, l'evoluzione dei governi ariani in Italia fino alla loro eradicazione dovuta al successo di Giustiniano nella guerra Gotica; l'autore si dedica in particolare all'indicazione di proposte interpretative e di potenziali spunti di ricerca in merito alla vigenza della legislazione teodosiana in Italia nel V secolo e allo stato giuridico della chiesa ariana nel regno ostrogoto.

Francesco Grelle evidenzia il ripensamento radicale, in merito alla collocazione della disciplina della fede e degli altri culti, rappresentato dal Codex Iustinianus rispetto al precedente Codex Theodosianus; nella seconda edizione del Codice di Giustiniano, in vigore dal 534, l'ortodossia è infatti assunta come fondamento della coesione sociale e presupposto dell'ordine giuridico.

Completano il volume le Riflessioni Conclusive – affidate a Guido Clemente, John Scheid e Rita Lizzi Testa; gli abstracts dei contributi, in lingua inglese e in italiano; un indice analitico e un indice generale.

Visto l'arco cronologico amplissimo ricoperto dalle tematiche affrontate e la rinuncia in partenza ad affrontarne talune sfaccettature – sicché è esplicita l'esclusione, ad esempio, di studi di carattere antropologico (p. 8), era inevitabile che il volume non potesse offrire uno stato dell'arte esaustivo in merito alle politiche religiose in epoca antica. Tuttavia, i numerosi elaborati offrono uno spaccato ricco e convincente su determinate questioni, segnalandosi sia per il valore paradigmatico che per la completezza dei riferimenti bibliografici, sia primari che secondari. Ne consegue che il volume si segnala non solo come uno strumento utilissimo per chiunque sia interessato alle tematiche trattate, le quali vengono precisate e definite nei dettagli; ma si configura anche come una raccolta di suggestioni e di stimoli alla ricerca, talora valicando in tal senso perfino i confini cronologici assegnati.


1.   H. Versnel, 'ΕΙΣ ΔΙΟΝΥΣΟΣ. The Tragic Paradox of the Bacchae', in id., Ter Unus: Isis, Dionysos, Hermes. Three studies in Henotheism, Leiden 1990, 96-212.
2.   P. Bourdieu, Meditazioni pascaliane, Milano 1998.
3.   Cfr. W.J. Tatum, The Patrican Tribune. Publius Clodius Pulcher, Chapel Hill–London 1999, 62-86.

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Anne Lykke, Friedrich Schipper (ed.), Kult und Macht: Religion und Herrschaft im syro-palästinischen Raum Studien zu ihrer Wechselbeziehung in hellenistisch-römischer Zeit. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2.Reihe, 319. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011. Pp. xv, 327. ISBN 9783161500671. €89.00.

Reviewed by Ryan Boehm, Tulane University (

Version at BMCR home site

This volume is the result of a conference entitled "Kult und Macht. Zur Wechselbeziehung von Religion und Herrschaft im syro-palästinischen Raum in hellenistisch-römischer Zeit" held in May 2008 at the Georg-August- Universität Göttingen in connection with the Graduiertenkolleg "Götterbilder – Gottesbilder – Weltbilder: Polytheismus und Monotheismus in der Welt der Antike." The published volume consists of the majority of the papers read at the conference, as well as several additional contributions.

A brief introduction by the editors describes the main goals of the conference and the volume. The central focus of the conference was the question of political power and authority in Syria-Palestine and its effect on and relationship to cult and religion. The editors highlight the need for an interdisciplinary approach to these issues, and a particular goal of the conference was to bring together specialists in archaeology and Biblical studies. Working from this central question, the editors outline the main themes of the conference as follows: "Kulturkontakte, Kulturkonflikte und Inkulturation; Individuelle und kollektive Identitäten in ihrer Selbstdarstellung und ihre Entwicklung unter 'fremder' Herrschaft; Religionen, Kulte, Heiligtümer: Institutionen in öffentlicher und privater Sphäre; Herrscherkulte–Kulte der Herrscher."(VI) Twelve essays, spanning the Hellenistic to the early Islamic periods, follow this introduction.

Peter Arzt-Grabner's contribution ("Der 'Herr Jesus Christus' und 'Caesar, der Herr' – über die Anfänge einer Konfrontation") examines the use of the title kurios as applied to Jesus and Roman emperors in everyday texts on papyrus and similar media, which he takes as a case study for understanding the origins of the way in which the terminology and titulature of Christianity ultimately became engaged in a polemical discourse with that of the imperial cult. For Arzt-Grabner, the degree to which the title kurios became elevated to a central place in both Christianity and the imperial cult made an ideological conflict inevitable.

Per Bilde ("Der Konflikt zwischen Gaius Caligula und den Juden über die Aufstellung einer Kaiserstatue im Tempel von Jerusalem") returns to the old problem of Caligula's attempt to erect a statue of himself in the temple of Jersualem. Bilde gives a useful review of the sources, previous scholarship, and methodological observations on how to approach such instances of conflict (with particular focus on a comparative approach). Bilde then argues for a resolution of the discrepancy between our main Jewish sources (Philo and Josephus) and the brief notices of Tacitus, preferring to view the affair as a violent, armed conflict that was only resolved by the death of Caligula. Josephus and Philo were writing with a view to making a new beginning after the crisis, which accounts for the apologetic nature of their accounts.

Konrad Huber ("In der Vollmacht des Satans. Antirömische Herrschaftskritik in der Vision des 'Tieres aus dem Meer' in Offb 13, 1–10") analyses the imagery of the "beast from the sea" in Revelation 13. Huber offers a detailed and valuable reading of the context and parallels of the imagery of the beast both in its wider Biblical and Near Eastern background and seeks to place the passage more securely within the context of reactions to Roman ruler cult.

Hans-Peter Kuhnen ("Grenzen der Romanisierung. Massebenkulte und die Entstehung islamischer Kultbauten im Vorfeld des Limes Arabiae et Palaestinae") moves beyond the literary sources for the beginnings of Islam through a review of new archaeological research on early Islamic cult sites in Israel and Jordan. He puts his essay into the camp of scholars who view the origins of Islam as owing much to the Judeo-Christian context of the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire. Kuhnen conceives of the military zone of the Limes Arabiae et Palaestinae as a controlled contact zone between the populations of the provinces and the inhabitants of the desert. It is within this zone that Kuhnen traces the transition from the so-called Mazzevot sanctuaries of the Arabian tribes to early Islamic mosques, which Kuhnen argues constitute an important archaeological source for the beginnings of Islam.

Achim Lichtenberger ("Ein tropaeum Traiani in Arabia? Anmerkungen zur Tyche von Petra") raises the question of whether the image of Tyche holding a tropaeum on the reverse of civic issues of Petra from the time of Hadrian might reflect the existence of a monumental tropaeum set up by Trajan after his annexation of the Nabataean kingdom in 106 CE. This iconography is paralleled only in Adraa and Bostra, guaranteeing its special importance to the province of Arabia. Lichtenberger proposes that the iconography on the coins engages a real monument, like that set up by Trajan in Adamklissi after the Dacian wars. The suggestion must, as Lichtenberger admits, remain tentative, but it is an attractive possibility that sheds some light on the circumstances surrounding the Roman absorption of the Nabataean kingdom, for which we are very little informed, as well as the local response.

Anne Lykke ("Politische und religiöse Identitäten auf jüdischen Münzen (bis 66 n. Chr.)") surveys Jewish coinage as a source for the political and religious identity of the Jewish people in this period. Already with the so-called Yehud coinage of the Persian period, which combined direct borrowings from Athenian coins with deliberately archaizing inscriptions in the Paeleo-Hebrew script and local symbols (e.g. the lily), Jewish coins reflect a complex interaction local identity, religious concerns, and political realities. Lykke traces the intersection between political developments and concerns for Jewish identity through the periods of Ptolemaic and Seleukid domination, Hasmonean independence, and Herodian interaction with Rome. Finally, she identifies a clear shift in the numismatic record after the revolt of 66-70 BCE, when the official issues began to pay little heed to the religious sensitivities of the Jewish population, reversing the practices of the Roman procurators prior to this time.

Marion Meyer's contribution ("Die Stadtgöttin von Caesarea Maritima – 'Romanitas' im Bild") argues for a revised understanding of the significance of the iconography of the city goddess of Caesarea Maritima. This type subsequently was copied widely by cities in the province of Judaea. The combination of traditional elements from the repertoire of Hellenistic city goddesses and new features adopted from the iconography of Roman representations of Virtus or Roma have long struck scholars. Meyer first takes up the issue of the date of the original statue, opting for somewhere in the 60s CE rather than at the time of the city's foundation under Herod. Rather than viewing this inclusion of "Romanitas" into the iconography of the city goddess of Caesarea as a top-down imposition of Roman authority on an imperial city, as previous scholars have, Meyer prefers to locate this shift in the turbulent period of tensions between the Jewish and non-Jewish inhabitants of the city and views this as a self-conscious attempt of the city to position itself within the empire.

Inge Nielsen ("Herrscher und Bäder. Die Badegewohnheiten in Palästina in der hellenistichen und früh-römischen Zeit") examines baths and bathing culture as an index of cultural interaction between Jews and Hellenized populations. While ritual bathing was already a well-established custom among the Jews before the Hellenistic period, the widespread introduction of Greek and Roman bathing culture presents interesting questions of how far Jews accepted these practices. Nielsen presents a through survey of the evidence for the introduction of the miqveh (ritual bath) in palaces and private houses in the Hasmonean and Herodian period, and the construction of "secular" bathing facilities of the Hellenistic type in the wider region. Nielsen shows that Jewish traditions and rituals of bathing were largely compatible with Hellenistic and Roman bathing culture, though adapting it to some degree to make it suit their needs. In particular, the Jews stand out as the only group that altered the architectural form of the Roman bath (replacing the frigidarium with a miqveh) for religious reasons.

Markus Öhler ("Ethnos und Identität. Landsmannschaftliche Vereinigungen, Synagogen und christliche Gemeinden") casts a wide net, considering various types of associations (koina, collegia, politeumata), Jewish synagogues, and Christian communities through the lens of "ethnicity and identity." Öhler discusses examples of professional associations from various parts of the Hellenistic and Roman world. He goes on to suggest that the communities that made up Jewish synagogues in the Diaspora had much in common with other kinds of associations (especially from the perspective of non-Jews) and many were based on the origin of people who composed them. Finally, Öhler considers Christian communities from this perspective, especially the vexed issue of the role of ethnic customs like circumcision in early Christianity. He concludes that Christianity ultimately redefined the traditional terms of ethnic belonging to associations, appealing to a broader sense of belonging that transcended ethnicity, hence Tertullian's famous description of Christians as a "tertium genus."

Simone Paganini ("Priester an der Macht. Beobachtungen zum Verhältnis von Kult und Macht innerhalb des utopischen Gesellschaftsbildes der Tempelrolle") discusses the so-called "Temple Scroll," which she sees as not only a plan to construct a new temple in Jerusalem, but more importantly a new society centered around the priestly class and establishing new guidelines for cultic and ritual purity. Paganini focuses on the differences between the laws set down in Deuteronomy and the Temple Scroll, arguing that these changes are the key to interpreting this important text. The plan to build a new temple, in effect, stems from the need to signal a shift to the new society prescribed by the text.

Friedrich T. Schipper ("Herodes der Große und die griechische Athletik. Zwischen Hellenisierung, Romanisierung, und Herrscherkult") analyzes three passages from Josephus relating to Herod's patronage of Greek athletics: the introduction of games and contests in Jerusalem, the games in Caesarea Maritima, and Herod's donation to Olympia. In the case of Jerusalem, Schipper argues that Herod made important concessions to Jewish sensitivities by replacing the religious symbols of the crown with gifts and subtracting normal components from the games. This also would have meant that these games were not a locus of imperial cult. Outside of Judaea, Herod operated with much more latitude, behaving in the traditional mode of a Hellenistic king and Roman protégé. Shipper suggests we see these instances as examples of Herod's attempt to balance these two worlds.

Robert Wenning ("Tribale Frömmigkeit und royale Religionspolitik – Gottesverehrung der Nabatäer") turns our attention back to the Nabataeans, arguing that the question of the relationship between political authority and religion is complicated by the disparate tribal affiliations of the Nabataeans. Here myriad local divinities based on tribal and family groups never allowed cultic or religious authority to become sufficiently concentrated, even as Nabataean society moved toward greater urbanization with centers like Petra and Bostra. Although the Nabataean kings (particularly Rabbel II) sought to consolidate their power and elevate gods with supra-regional significance, like Dushara, to central importance, the overall fractured state of Nabataean society played a much more vital role in determining the religious landscape of the Nabataeans than the political will of the king. As such, Wenning's contribution is a useful reminder of the limitations of applying models too broadly across societies.

Each of these essays makes a valuable contribution to the scholarship on Hellenistic and Roman Palestine. The broad focus and interdisciplinary approach are certainly virtues of the volume in many respects, but the result is somewhat scattered. What precisely is meant by "Kult und Macht" remains vague, and perhaps more cross-referencing between these individual contributions might have advanced the discussion of this central theme further. The volume would certainly have benefited from a longer introduction, setting out a more precise definition of what is understood under the umbrella of "Kult und Macht" and exploring a broader theoretical basis for how religion, cult, ritual, and political power work together. However, the collection will certainly be of interest both to specialists in the religion, history, and archaeology of the region and to those concerned with the intersection and interrelationship of religion and political power. The text is well edited and mainly free of errors.1 Numerous illustrations and three indices also make the volume particularly user-friendly.


1.   I note only the following: "tu polemou" for "tou polemou" (p. 29); "jüdische Tetrachen" for "jüdische Tetrarchen" (p. 145); "Farge for "Frage" (p. 248).

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Hadrien Bru, Le pouvoir impérial dans les provinces syriennes: représentations et célébrations d'Auguste à Constantin (31 av. J.-C.-337 ap. J.-C.). Culture and history of the ancient Near East, 49. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2011. Pp. xxiii, 420. ISBN 9789004203631. $196.00.

Reviewed by Leonardo Gregoratti, University of Udine (

Version at BMCR home site

[Table of contents is listed at the end of this review.]

La monografia di Hadrien Bru trova una giusta collocazione nell'ambito del diffuso interesse che con crescente vigore cerca di promuovere, all'interno del dibattito storico sull'impero Romano, una seria e rinnovata riflessione sulla figura dell'imperatore e sulle forme della presenza imperiale nel territorio provinciale. Il libro dello studioso francese è destinato ad apportare un contributo di indubbio valore al dibattito in corso proprio in virtù delle caratteristiche metodologiche della sua analisi.

Il ruolo e la presenza del potere imperiale sono analizzati nel corposo volume in modo estremamente dettagliato. La figura del princeps è presa in considerazione nelle sue numerose declinazioni attraverso una vasta gamma di forme di espressione relative a contesti territoriali estremamente diversi tra loro, ben oltre la mera sfera religiosa e cultuale, aspetto che già in passato era stato oggetto di vivo interesse presso gli storici del mondo antico.

Un secondo elemento di pregio è costituito dall'ambito geografico entro i cui limiti si è articolata la dettagliata ricerca di Hadrien Bru. Talvolta le regioni orientali e in particolare le provincie siriane (Syria, Giudea Arabia, e i territori Transeufratici) hanno ricoperto un ruolo secondario, quando non sono state trascurate del tutto, nell'abito di riflessioni territoriali su temi di ampio respiro, aventi per oggetto di indagine l'intera struttura territoriale imperiale. Anche sotto questo aspetto e relativamente ad un tema, come si è già detto, capitale, ovvero la multiforme presenza sul territorio dell'autorità imperiale, il lavoro di Hadrien Bru fornisce un'ottima visione complessiva, offrendo una sistematica trattazione relativa ad un settore finora indagato in modo sparso e discontinuo.

Il periodo preso in esame va dalla fondazione dell'impero con Augusto (31 a.C.) alla piena tarda antichità con la fine del regno di Costantino (337 d.C.). Attraverso l'analisi delle fonti principalmente letterarie, archeologiche ed epigrafiche l'autore indaga i modi attraverso i quali il potere rappresenta se stesso e la sua ideologia, senza trascurare i fruitori del messaggio politico e la loro capacità di percepire il messaggio della propaganda imperiale.

La prima sezione, L'empereur et l'espace syrien, riflette sul ruolo dell'imperatore quale misuratore ed organizzatore dello spazio e delle sue risorse. Il territorio civico e provinciale è organizzato, misurato e delimitato dall'autorità imperiale attraverso l'imposizione di limiti e suddivisioni precise oltre che attraverso la creazione di punti di passaggio, reali o ideali, posti in corrispondenza di luoghi significativi (ponti, archi). Il sovrano è padrone ideale del territorio abitato, degli elementi e delle risorse territoriali. In un contesto vicino-orientale il controllo dell'acqua assume un ruolo preminente sia sul piano reale che su quello ideologico. L'approvvigionamento idrico delle città, la costruzione di acquedotti, ninfei (Soada-Dionysias, Gadara) e terme con il supporto finanziario del potere centrale, oltre alla costruzione di canali come quello di Seleucia Pieria, sono percepiti e concepiti quale dimostrazione dell'effettivo controllo dell'autorità centrale sul bene più prezioso per la sopravvivenza di una comunità.

L'influenza delle scelte imperiali si manifesta nell'aspetto urbanistico delle singole città. Dotate di sostanziale autonomia locale, a differenza dei territori che costituiscono il dominio diretto della casa imperiale (foreste del Libano), le città si uniformano nelle scelte concernenti la loro organizzazione urbanistica, a modelli volumetrici e parametri assiali codificati, in qualche modo indicati e promossi dalla dirigenza imperiale quali ad esempio le celebri vie colonnate (Antiochia).

La seconda sezione, Représentations religieuses, politiques et artistiques, tratta in dettaglio tre diverse divinità, Zeus-Iupiter/Baal/Hadad, Dionysos/Dushares e Nemesis, il cui culto era diventato espressione, in periodi e ambienti sociali diversi, di aspetti ben definiti della ideologia e dell'azione imperiale. Sottolineando la continuità politica espressa dalla casata regnante e attuata attraverso il riconoscimento da parte dei nuovi monarchi della legittimità e dell'eredità dei precedenti imperatori e attraverso la loro divinizzazione post mortem, l'autore promuove una interessante riflessione sulla capacità dell'autorità imperiale di instaurare una sorta di "controllo" sullo scorrere del tempo. Il rapporto di continuità religiosa tra i monarchi ed i loro successori suggerisce la possibilità di una sospensione temporale della figura dell'imperatore, sostanzialmente rappresentato come immutato a suggerire di fatto l'esistenza di una eternità ideale del potere imperiale. L'imperatore risulta padrone quindi oltre che dello spazio anche del tempo.

L'ultimo capitolo della sezione prende in considerazione la presenza dell'imperatore nella società attraverso le rappresentazioni del corpo del monarca, illustrando alcuni esempi conservati della statuaria e della ritrattistica orientali.

La parte conclusiva, Célébrations organisation et promotion du culte impérial, tratta dei giochi, dei concorsi agonistici e delle feste organizzate e promosse dalle comunità orientali (Tiro, Gadara, Bostra, Antiochia). Sembra evidente dalla dettagliata analisi di tali fenomeni nelle province orientali, che tali avvenimenti non erano da considerarsi mere espressioni celebrative, quanto veri e propri veicoli per la trasmissione dell'ideologia imperiale presso un vasto pubblico.

L'evoluzione del culto imperiale nelle province siriane costituisce l'oggetto degli ultimi capitoli della monografia. Da stratagemma per conferire maggiore coesione alla realtà provinciale e includere nell'organizzazione imperiale realtà ai margini delle società civile, antitetiche rispetto al sistema culturale ed amministrativo di impronta ellenistica, il culto imperiale approda alla più tardo sistema di riorganizzazione in eparchie cultuali. Una strutturazione basata su più centri locali di riferimento ricettivi nei confronti degli indirizzi suggeriti dalla capitale provinciale: Antiochia.

In conclusione sono prese in considerazione le forme del culto imperiale negli stati clienti di Roma (Giudea, Commagene, regno Nabateo, Palmira, Osrhoene) sottolineando il ruolo dei monarchi vassalli nella promozione di tale culto e delle forme di rappresentazione del potere supremo romano. Vengono quindi chiariti alcuni aspetti connessi con il ruolo sociale e l'attività degli uomini coinvolti in prima persona nelle celebrazioni e nell'attività di culto (sacerdoti, siriarchi, governatori).

Ciò che emerge come dato incontrovertibile dall'eccellente trattazione di Hadrien Bru è l'estrema duttilità della rappresentazione del potere imperiale e delle manifestazioni del sentimento religioso nei confronti della casata imperiale. Ciò non sorprende. In un ambiente sociale estremamente composito nel quale sensibilità religiose di diversa origine, appartenenti a diversi substrati culturali, convivevano mescolandosi e influenzandosi l'una con l'altra, è evidente come una forma cultuale concepita e promossa dal centro del potere romano venisse declinata in forme diverse che meglio si adattassero alle diverse tradizioni culturali.

Table of Contents

Introduction: vocabulaire problématiques et prolégomènes
1 L'empereur géomètre
2 Lempereur et l'eau
3 Remarques sur les domaines impériaux
4 L'empereur un vecteur de l'axialité ?
5 Sanctuaires et monuments du culte impérial
6 Zeus-Jupiter maître et parèdre de l'empereur
7 Dionysos Dusarès et le culte impérial
8 Némésis et le culte impérial.
9 L'empereur et l'éternité
10 La puissance du nom
11 Les représentations impériales sculptées
12 Jeux concours et fêtes ou la théologie de la victoire impériale appliquée aux cités des provinces syriennes
13 L'organisation du culte impérial et les koina des provinces syriennes
14 Les États clients et le culte impérial
15 Les responsables des célébrations et des représentations du pouvoir impérial
16 Remarques sur quelques fonctions religieuses liées au culte impérial provincial
Appendix: Les empereurs romains dont la présence effective est attestée dans les provinces syriennes
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Christopher Allmand, The 'De Re Militari' of Vegetius. The Reception, Transmission and Legacy of a Roman Text in the Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. xii, 399. ISBN 9781107000278. $99.00.

Reviewed by Marco Formisano, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (

Version at BMCR home site


Vegetius, who lived between 383 and 450, has the misfortune of being the author of a text that lies at the very margins of Latin literature, by virtue of its being "technical" in nature and late antique in date. But, although it has only rarely been taken seriously from a literary point of view, the Epitoma rei militaris (see below on the title) has enjoyed a rediscovery over the past decade or two: two critical editions (Teubner and OCT) and many translations have appeared in English, German, Italian and Spanish (though, strangely enough, no edition has yet appeared in the Collection Budé) and some of these contain valuable introductions and/or rich commentaries.1

Though he seems a "minor" author today, Vegetius had the honor of a rich reception in the Middle Ages, Renaissance and beyond: with more than 300 manuscripts (both of the Latin text and of translations into vernacular languages) his fortune can be compared among Latin prose authors only to those of Cicero and Caesar. Machiavelli's dialogue Dialogo sull'arte della guerra, among the most important works of Renaissance Italian prose and certainly not a manual on warfare, unashamedly rewrites Vegetius without quoting him explicitly.2 In short, Vegetius' text was extraordinarily adaptable to different ages, contexts and disciplines well beyond its subject narrowly defined. And yet, despite this eloquent reception, modern Latinists have as a whole deemed Vegetius' text as unworthy of literary study and seem pleased to hand it over to historians as a source for historical reconstruction. Nothing could be more wrongheaded: the Epitoma rei militaris represents no less than the literary foundation of the discourse of war in Western culture.3

The object of Allmand's inquiry is—as the title programmatically declares—the reception, transmission and legacy of Vegetius' text in medieval Europe. His main purpose is "to help a modern-day reader appreciate how the contents of the De re militari may have been understood when read through the eyes of medieval man" (p. 3). Accordingly, with its emphasis on seeing "through the eyes of medieval man", this book belongs neither to the field of classics and its sub-field of late antique studies nor to the flourishing field of reception studies, but rather to medieval history, and history of a particular and rather old-fashioned kind.

Allmand is interested above all in the influence of Vegetius' ideas, both in the art of war and in other fields, such as politics and theology. He thus treats the Epitoma and other texts not, ultimately, as texts, but rather as sources, and the kind of reception he is investigating is not literary (it is not based on the relationships among different textual realities) but practical: he wants to see how much Vegetius is present in the medieval way of doing war, and occasionally in other fields. Insofar as Allmand is an historian, this is understandable enough, yet this study is entirely dedicated to a text and its reception.

Allmand's long and deep familiarity with both Vegetius and war in the Middle Ages is impressive; after a number of articles and books over the past forty years, this volume benefits from the author's study of more than three hundred manuscripts in numerous libraries. This background, along with the book's clear structure, makes it an indispensable tool for anyone who wishes to explore Vegetius' presence in the Middle Ages. The reader will find a great deal of information on manuscripts and medieval translations, glosses, excerpts and imitations, and this is its great strength.

The book consists of a short introduction and three parts. The first part, "The medieval reception", is devoted to the discussion of how extant manuscripts of Vegetius can, through their glosses and marginalia, help identify their medieval readers, in particular their social status and their ways of approaching Vegetius' text and the Roman tradition of the art of war. An entire chapter of this section is dedicated to the glosses by Petrarch contained in a Vatican manuscript. Scrutiny of the manuscripts can also help us identify other texts and authors with whom Vegetius was associated; these were not only other military tracts (mostly Frontinus' Strategemata) but also, and perhaps more revealingly, works in other fields of technical knowledge (Vitruvius and Palladius), Ciceronian philosophical works (De officiis and De amicitia), historians (Sallust) and medieval political authors (John of Salisbury and Giles of Rome). The second part of Allmand's study, "The transmission", investigates medieval responses to Vegetius in the writings not only of other military authors but also of political theorists and spiritual writers; particularly interesting are the chapters dedicated to Christine de Pisan, Denis the Carthusian and Machiavelli. Translations into various vernacular languages are reviewed here, organized by country, as is the evidence from illustrations (diagrams, drawings and illuminations) and excerpt collections, i.e. anthologies which put together the 'best' of Vegetius and fully decontextualized single passages from the entire work, ascribing to them the universal value of sententiae. In this book's third part, "The legacy", Allmand explores responses to Vegetius' texts within the military thought and practice of the Middle Ages. Two useful appendices complete the volume: the first contains a selection of terms used in the various medieval translations of the Epitoma, while the second is a list of extant manuscripts both of the Latin text and its vernacular translations.

As this summary shows, the strength of this book is that of a Nachschlagewerk; its detailed discussion of Vegetius' medieval reception is presented in a user-friendly way, allowing readers quickly to find what they might be looking for. Unfortunately, this strength is not complemented by a broader and more theoretically alert discussion of the role played by Vegetius in the formation of a specifically Western discourse of war or of his particular contribution to the fundamental contiguity between war and literature. In what follows, I wish to emphasize that my remarks are inspired by Allmand's work as a typical example of a certain kind of historical scholarship, especially when texts are its object of study.

I begin with the title of Vegetius' text. All modern editions and translations, following the authoritative manuscripts, give it as Epitoma rei militaris, a title which well reflects the textual form chosen by Vegetius.4 The label epitoma concisely illustrates the essence of Vegetius' thought, and his text is a significant representative of the literary production of his time: an epitomizing trend is deeply characteristic of late Roman culture and literature. Yet Allmand gives the title as De re militari without ever explaining or justifying his choice, and he only once, in passing and somewhat vaguely, refers to the fact that Vegetius' work might have another title: "A further title given to the work, Epitome (sic) /Liber institutionum rei militaris might be rendered as the 'Summary of/Handbook on war' or, in modern parlance, 'The A to Z of fighting war'" (p. 151).

Allmand's reading of the Epitoma is based on the conviction that it should be considered almost exclusively in accordance with Vegetius' intentions in general and his didactic goals in particular. More than once, for example, Allmand asks what Vegetius would have thought about the reception of his own text and whether he would have been satisfied with the practice of excerpting or interpreting his text in an original or unexpected way (see, for instance, p. 7). Elsewhere Allmand observes, first, that "a short excerpt, taken out of context, might be misunderstood or misinterpreted by even the best intentioned of the readers" and then that "excerpts almost inevitably reflected the interests of the person responsible for selecting them, with the result that no two collections are the same, the treatment given to particular books and chapters differing from one collection to another" (p. 331). These remarks make clear how this study understands reception: in essence, excerpts are not trustworthy because they "misunderstand" the original text by decontextualizing it, as if there could be any reception of texts which does not decontextualize.

Allmand's discussion of Machiavelli's 1521 Dialogo sull'arte della guerra deserves mention precisely because of the recognized high literary quality of the Italian text. Allmand throughout describes, and sometimes gives the impression of dismissing, Vegetius' text and later texts inspired by it as "manuals", but that label certainly cannot be placed on Machiavelli's classic Italian prose text. Readers familiar with it might be surprised to see how this sophisticated and finely structured dialogue, with its varied voices and points of view, is treated in Allmand's study merely as a reflection of contemporary history and political judgement.5

For those familiar with scholarship on the discourse of war and military texts of all ages, questions around applicability are at the theoretical core of any investigation. Allmand's study does not appear particularly well informed on the debate, presenting the problem of applicability as if it were exclusive to Vegetius' medieval readers and not a general characteristic feature of the literary art of war from antiquity onward.

By not anchoring its discussion of Vegetius' text in the ancient tradition of the art of war, this study excludes a factor fundamental to the understanding not only of the Epitoma rei militaris but more importantly its surprising successes. For in a period of military decline, Vegetius' (perhaps surprising) solution to the problem is a return to books; the veterum disciplina needs to be restored by means of reading and summarizing earlier texts. The author starts with texts, justifies actions with exempla which have come from a world of books, and returns inexorably to texts. Although the foundations for victory in war lie in ars and exercitatio, the equally important foundations for these qualities are in turn supplied by the epitoma itself: "For brave deeds belong to a single age; what is written for the benefit of the State is eternal" (2,3,7, trans. Milner).


1.   Philippe Richardot's 1998 monograph Végèce et la culture militaire au moyen âge remains fundamental for the type of intellectual history which goes beyond connoisseurship of the manuscripts.
2.   see M. Formisano, "Strategie da manuale. Vegezio, Machiavelli e l'arte della guerra", QS 55 (2002): 99- 127 and Id., "The Renaissance Tradition of the Ancient Art of War", in G. Beltramini (ed.), Andrea Palladio and the Architecture of Battle (Venice, 2009), pp. 226-239.
3.   Likewise, Vitruvius wrote a work which in the past had been marginalized in the scholarship as a "manual" without literary qualities, one whose utility as a source for historians of art and architecture is, moreover, extremely limited. But the De architectura is currently enjoying a great deal of attention precisely for its sophisticated textual qualities.
4.   See for instance N. Milner, Vegetius: Epitome of Military Science (Liverpool, 1996), pp. xvi ff.; and M. Formisano, Vegezio. L'arte della guerra romana (Milan, 2003), pp. 14 ff. The Latin form epitoma is discussed in the 2004 OCT edition of M. D. Reeve (p. v).
5.   His argumentation is largely that of Sidney Anglo's 2005 book Machiavelli. The First Century. This chapter would have profited in particular from Frederique Verrier, Les armes de Minerve. L'humanisme militaire dans l'Italie du XVIe siècle (Paris, 1997).

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Maggie Kilgour, Milton and the Metamorphosis of Ovid. Classical presences. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. xxiii, 373. ISBN 9780199589432. $135.00.

Reviewed by Erick Ramalho, Shakespeare Studies Centre, Brazil (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is at the end of the review.]

This is a book on Milton's changing modes of reading and reworking Ovid's verse in the setting of the multifarious strands of the reception thereof in early modern England and in the light of Ovid's handling of his own sources. Maggie Kilgour succeeds in arguing that Ovid becomes 'part of the fabric of Milton's thought' (p. 326) chiefly as the book brings out new interpretations with sound textual evidence of Milton's contextualised reading and re-reading (underlying his own literary output) of a multifaceted Ovid. Milton and the Metamorphosis of Ovid, published in the 'Classical Presences' series by the Oxford University Press, is a fine study of Milton and Ovid, mainly because of the way it addresses matters of classical reception in early modern English literature.

The book is divided into four numbered chapters between the introduction and the concluding chapter, along with an epilogue-like section. The Preface lays out the book's scope and method, which are further outlined in the introduction. The focus is on Milton's readings of Ovid also in response to Renaissance literary trends related to his work. The Introduction puts forth noteworthy observations on Ovid's revision of Virgil and how it may bear on the early modern reception of the two poets. It also offers valuable assessment of relevant scholarship on Ovid and Milton. As is made clear from the outset, the book is a study of how the Ovidian presence and influence changes (non-linearly, of course) throughout Milton's work from his earlier to his final writings.

Chapter 1 musters evidence for possible modes by which Milton read and adapted Ovidian material and technique in his early works (rightly including his neo-Latin verse). It considers Milton's appropriation of Ovid in connection with influential kinds of earlier Ovidian reception chiefly by Spenser and Shakespeare. Chapter 2 furthers the examination of Milton's early writings and what there is in them that might be ascribed to his reading of Ovid in relation to kinds of Ovidianism in the Caroline period. In the light of Ovid's poetic working with time in the Fasti in the context of the Augustan political use of the calendar, the chapter puts forth well-argued assumptions about Milton's (likewise historically contextualised) handling of time-related matters in Comus and in his Latin writings.

Both chapters 3 and 4 focus on Paradise Lost and its Ovidian aetiological change of forms in connection with artistic creativity. Chapter 3 deals with sources worked anew, particularly the Miltonic re-working of the Narcissus myth. Beyond his association with Eve in Paradise Lost Narcissus is considered in relation to poetic creativity and the Fall. Chapter 4 examines the Ovidian material underlying the poet's craft of creation in Milton's epic. Kilgour proceeds further with the contrast begun in Chapter 3 between divinely sourced creativity, along with its reliance on the changing of forms, and mere copying, which, fraught with envy, betrays the evil origins of its (un-creative) barrenness. These Miltonic notions are considered in the light of ancient usage in poetry or philosophy of ζῆλος, φθόνος, aemulatio and, above all, nuances of inuidia in Ovid.

The book's conclusion demonstrates a point of its own; namely, that matters of reception may be found in Samson Agonistes (amongst other of Milton's writings published late in his life) and read in relation to Ovid's (self-referential) thoughts on the topic in the verse he wrote in exile. Likewise the book's closing section, aptly titled 'Go Little Book' in the fashion of Chaucer, delves into Milton's Latin ode Ad Joannem Rousium and how it brings out matters of authorial self-representation and future reception in like manner to those in Ovid's work.

Kilgour also handles several kinds of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature as well as instances of Ovid's reception by continental poets like Dante and Petrarch. By reading Milton's Latin verse together with his writing in the vernacular, Kilgour is in agreement with major works in the field like John Hale's Milton's Languages: The Impact of Multilingualism on Style1 and Stella Revard's Milton and the Tangles of Neaera's Hair: The Making of the 1645 Poems.2 Revard's, it is worth recalling, is a study of (amongst other topics) Milton's verse in relation to Renaissance neo-Latin poetry. Whilst 'primarily an exercise in practical criticism' (p. xviii) Kilgour's book is informed, too, by a historical perspective. In this and other aspects it appears to bespeak the influence of Colin Burrow's outstanding book Epic Romance: Homer to Milton.3 Furthermore Milton and the Metamorphosis of Ovid was published in the same year as Estelle Haan's Both English and Latin: Bilingualism and Biculturalism in Milton's Neo-Latin Writings.4 The reader will profit from Kilgour's and Haan's respective analyses, for example, of Ovid's presence in Milton's Elegia Quarta.5

Kilgour's book is written in a crisp and lively style that tallies with its reader-friendliness. The Latin-less reader is aided by translations in brackets after every Latin or neo-Latin quotation. Greek prose is quoted in translation only, and Hesiod's original verse-lines are not provided in quoting (in prose translation) from Works and Days (p. 235). I have spotted but a few misprints in the whole book: on p. 65 for 'gives him the chance him to reflect' read 'gives him the chance to reflect'; on p. 114 n. 49 for 'between two works' read 'between the two works'; and in Ars Amatoria 1.663 quoted on p. 220, for 'osucla' read 'oscula'. In the Index, for 197 n. 96 read 197 n. 95 (in De Doctrina Christiana); for 187 n. 64 read 187 n. 63 and for 213 n. 131 read 213 n. 130 (both in 'Du Bartas').

The book is in sum a skilfully woven work of criticism without a thread awry in its scholarly fabric. Book-length studies of a like kind, and also of Latin and Greek works little attended to in Milton scholarship, would be most welcome.

Table of Contents

Note on Editions
Introduction: Milton and the Renaissance Ovids
Milton's Ovidian art
Some other Renaissance Ovids
Ovid and Virgil
Beyond the Metamorphoses
Portrait of the artist as a young devil
Chapter 1: Choosing Ovids (1)
Mastering the arts of allusion
First flowers
Comus and the Translatio Ovidii
Chapter 2: Choosing Ovids (2)
More Ovids
Rereading Ovid's rapes
Poet of the year
It's about time
Milton and the passing of time
Masquing revolution
Chapter 3: Reflections of Narcissus
Forms of change
Ovid's original
Renaissance Narcissi
Milton's original copy
Falling, in love
Chapter 4: Self-Consuming Artists
Milton Narcissus
Envy and emulation
Ovidian invidia
Milton and the arts of envy
Falling poets
Sin and her originals
Conclusion: Last Words
The once and future Milton
Ovid's bad readers
The author as reader
The anxiety of reception
Reading Samson Agonistes
A phoenix too frequent
'The last of me or no I cannot warrant'
Go Little Book


1.   John K. Hale, Milton's Languages: The Impact of Multilingualism on Style (Cambridge, 1997).
2.   Stella P. Revard, Milton and the Tangles of Neaera's Hair: The Making of the 1645 Poems (Columbia and London, 1997).
3.   Colin Burrow, Epic Romance: Homer to Milton (Oxford, 1993).
4.   Estelle Haan, Both English and Latin: Bilingualism and Biculturalism in Milton's Neo-Latin Writings (Philadelphia, 2012).
5.   See respectively Kilgour (Milton and the Metamorphosis of Ovid, 51–54) and Haan (Both English and Latin, 62–5).

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Lucy Grig, Gavin Kelly (ed.), Two Romes: Rome and Constantinople in Late Antiquity. Oxford studies in late antiquity. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. xv, 465. ISBN 9780199739400. $85.00.

Reviewed by Raymond Van Dam, University of Michigan (

Version at BMCR home site


The city of Rome was one of the extraordinary accomplishments of Roman imperial rule. Rome was the first city in world history to have a population of one million residents, and its population seems to have remained steady for the three centuries from Augustus to Constantine. In part this great size and its long duration were contingent on the city's fortunate location. Increasing numbers of people moved to Rome already during the later Republic, as refugees from warfare in Italy, as displaced peasants, and as slaves, while the spoils of vast overseas conquest provided food and other resources. The migration of people and the supply of provisions could intersect so readily because the Mediterranean (and the Tiber River) provided transportation for bulk commodities. But in part too great size and its long duration were possible only because of a longstanding commitment by emperors. For centuries only emperors had the authority to underwrite the extraction of grain from provinces, its conveyance to ports in Italy, and its distribution at Rome. Great size was a consequence of political decisions, not an organic outcome of the ancient economy. Senators could not take over this burden on their own. By the later fourth century the population of Rome had dropped by almost one-half. But despite that reduction in size, during his tenure as prefect of Rome Symmachus still panicked when considering that emperors might renege on their commitment to the grain supply.

The supply of Rome was the single most important factor for creating economic integration in the Mediterranean world. After the fourth century the supply of Constantinople would play the same role in the economy of the eastern Mediterranean world. As a result, because the ancient economy was so closely linked to political power, cultural values, and social relationships, the outlandish bigness of Rome and Constantinople should be an important aspect of modern discussions of imperial politics, economy, and culture. Understanding the many meanings and significances of Rome and Constantinople raises significant questions about the best interpretive perspectives to adopt.

Two Romes is an important book, and the chapters are uniformly excellent discussions of their particular topics from the later Roman empire. Almost all the chapters adopt a very focused perspective that highlights specific moments within the cities. These chapters are not so much directly about Rome and Constantinople, as rather analyses of ancient texts about the cities, or of distinct characteristics of the cities, or of events that happened in the cities. The chapters hence offer an album of snapshots of the cities rather than an epic movie, more a series of two- dimensional skylines than three-dimensional landscapes or four-dimensional timescapes. In interpretations that rely primarily on close readings of texts, perhaps huge cities are just too big to bring into focus.

The authors and titles of all the chapters are listed below. Several ancient texts receive expert, and often compelling, new interpretations. Benet Salway suggests that the primary destination of the traveller who recorded his route in the Itinerarium Burdigalense was Constantinople, in order to conduct business with Constantine and his court. The desire to extend this trip to the Holy Land was therefore a subsequent outcome of first visiting Constantinople; Jerusalem had not been the initial destination. John Vanderspoel discusses the oration that Themistius delivered before Constantius at Rome in 357. Themistius was the spokesman for an embassy from the senate at Constantinople, and in the final section of his published oration he linked the emperor's success to his support for the new capital. Because this connection might have seemed offensive at Rome, Vanderspoel argues that this ending was not delivered as part of the oration at Rome. Neil McLynn suggests that a canon issued by the ecclesiastical council that met at Constantinople in 381 was not meant to acknowledge the new capital's superiority. In his perspective, because the eastern bishops had never accepted the primacy of Rome, by "awarding the bishop of Constantinople second place to Rome, they were…awarding him nothing." These bishops were intending to neutralize the church of Constantinople, not promote its authority. Andrew Gillett highlights Claudian's use of verse panegyrics in epic meter. His discussion nicely contrasts traditional prose panegyrics, which were addressed by the orators to the emperors or other powerful men being honored, with these new epic panegyrics, in which "the panegyrist speaks for the honorand to the audience."

John Matthews provides an extensive commentary and translation for an administrative inventory of the buildings of Constantinople from the early fifth century. Because this inventory was somewhat similar to the regional catalogues of Rome from late antiquity, it suggests the possibility of directly comparing the physical layouts of the cities. By offering just such a comparison Bryan Ward-Perkins emphasizes how monumental construction might have reflected the opposing trajectories of the two capitals. The surviving churches at Rome from the fifth century may have been larger than those at Constantinople, but their decorative marble columns and capitals were almost all recycled from abandoned classical buildings. In contrast, the new churches at Constantinople used newly quarried marble carved in the latest styles.

Other chapters discuss the infrastructure of the cities. James Crow's discussion of the water supply for Constantinople is a fascinating account of the underlying vulnerability of the new capital. In a city that was almost an island, fresh water was in short supply. The lengthy aqueduct completed by the emperor Valens provided water for the new districts of the city included within Constantine's walls. But because these districts were higher than the districts of old Byzantium, any subsequent disruption in the water supply severely affected the new baths and cisterns. In 626 the Avars effectively turned off the spigot by cutting the aqueduct. Carlos Machado surveys aristocratic houses at the two capitals. At Constantinople imperial patronage shaped the urban space, but at Rome aristocrats appropriated for their own private use public building materials such as statues and decorations, public spaces such as streets, and even the public water supply. Machado also gives examples of multiresidential buildings (insulae) that were converted into large aristocratic residences. In a parenthetical remark he suggests that this trend indicates demographic decline at Rome. This observation deserves elaboration, because during the fourth century the population of Rome, based on the estimates of Jean Durliat, apparently dropped by 50 percent to a mere 500,000 residents. The old capital was emptying out.

Consideration of these longer demographic trends underscores some intriguing oddities. Mark Humphries discusses the residence of Valentinian III at Rome for most of the decade before his death in 455. Not only had the bishops of Rome not yet created a papal Rome, but bishop Leo needed the emperor's support for his assertions of papal primacy. One way that Valentinian III demonstrated his authority was by restoring the Colosseum. Subsequently the supremo Odovacer and king Theoderic of the Ostrogoths followed his lead. The oddity is that by the early sixth century the population of Rome had fallen to perhaps 60,000 residents. By then almost the entire population could have fit into the Colosseum. The demographic collapse of Rome also affects Philippe Blaudeau's discussion of the ecclesiastical politics among the bishops of big cities, Alexandria as well as the two capitals, during the later fifth and early sixth century. Although the bishops of Rome continued to insist on their priority, by then Rome was about one-quarter or one-third the size of Alexandria and perhaps one-tenth the size of Constantinople. This vast discrepancy in population underscores the discrepancy Blaudeau stresses between Petrine ideology and Realpolitik.

The chapters in this book now need to be integrated into discussions of bigger themes and longer transitions, not just about Rome and Constantinople, but also about capitals and big cities in other premodern empires. For Rome some complementary perspectives are already available in Rome the Cosmopolis, ed. C. Edwards and G. Woolf (2003). In this excellent book some of the chapters discuss the high mortality rates due to endemic diseases and the consequent need for constant immigration, because large premodern cities could sustain their populations only by "importing" new residents. These sorts of studies emphasize statistical modeling and the judicious use of analogies from comparative studies. In their introduction to Two Romes Lucy Grig and Gavin Kelly provide an extensive overview of the modern bibliography about the two capitals from Constantine to Justinian. Their introduction highlights the realization that with regard to economy, demography, culture, and religion, Rome and Constantinople were not just static sites. They were also deeply implicated in networks and processes of authority. From one perspective, an overseas empire was necessary to ensure the supply of these capitals: big cities could not survive without the concentration of resources. But from another perspective, rulers demonstrated their power by extracting and centralizing resources: the integration of ancient empires required the presence of big cities and their excessive demands. Future studies of Rome and Constantinople in late antiquity will want to combine the predominantly textual studies of Two Romes with the comparative and theoretical perspectives of Rome the Cosmopolis.

Authors and Chapters

1. L. Grig and G. Kelly, "Introduction: From Rome to Constantinople"
2. L. Grig, "Competing Capitals, Competing Representations: Late Antique Cityscapes in Words and Pictures."
3. B. Ward-Perkins, "Old and New Rome Compared: The Rise of Constantinople"
4. J. Matthews, "The Notitia Urbis Constantinopolitanae"
5. J. Crow, "Water and Late Antique Constantinople: 'It would be abominable for the inhabitants of this Beautiful City to be compelled to purchase water'"
6. C. Machado, "Aristocratic Houses and the Making of Late Antique Rome and Constantinople"
7. M. Humphries, "Valentinian III and the City of Rome (425-455): Patronage, Politics, Power"
8. P. Van Nuffelen, "Playing the Ritual Game in Constantinople (379-457)"
9. R. Rees, "Bright Lights, Big City: Pacatus and the Panegyrici Latini"
10. J. Vanderspoel, "A Tale of Two Cities: Themistius on Rome and Constantinople"
11. G. Kelly, "Claudian and Constantinople"
12. A. Gillett, "Epic Panegyric and Political Communication in the Fifth-Century West"
13. B. Salway, "There but Not There: Constantinople in the Itinerarium Burdigalense"
14. J. Curran, "Virgilizing Christianity in Late Antique Rome"
15. N. McLynn, "'Two Romes, Beacons of the Whole World': Canonizing Constantinople"
16. P. Blaudeau, "Between Petrine Ideology and Realpolitik: The See of Constantinople in Roman Geo-Ecclesiology (449-536)"
17. A. Kaldellis, "From Rome to New Rome, from Empire to Nation-State: Reopening the Question of Byzantium's Roman Identity"
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