Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Costis Davaras, Philip P. Betancourt, Hagia Photia Cemetery II: The Pottery. Prehistory monographs, 34. Philadelphia: INSTAP Academic Press, 2012. Pp. xix, 164; 21 p. of figs, 70 p. of plates. ISBN 9781931534635. $80.00.

Reviewed by Jo Day, University College Dublin (joanna.day@ucd.ie)

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[The table of contents is listed at the end of the review.]

This is the second volume in a proposed series of three that present the results of the excavation of the cemetery at Hagia Photia, in eastern Crete. The first volume published the tomb groups and architecture of this important Early Bronze Age site,1 and included a selection of the ceramics found in the graves. This volume focuses exclusively on the ceramics from the tombs, presenting a detailed catalogue and analysis of shapes, fabrics, and craftsmanship in the third millennium BC. The principal authors, Costis Davaras and Philip Betancourt, are two of the foremost scholars in Cretan archaeology today and their substantial knowledge of the Aegean Bronze Age enriches this publication.

There are two main divisions within the publication: Part 1, 'The Pottery', features an Introduction and a catalogue of Cycladic style and Cretan style ceramics from the site; Part II is entitled 'Discussions and Conclusions'. A substantial multi-authored appendix presents the petrographic and chemical analysis of the pottery. At the back of the book are twenty-one pages of figures, predominantly line drawings of vessel profiles, and 65 plates of black and white photographs of the ceramics. A further five colour plates illustrate the main fabric groups identified in the Appendix. A concordance lists the museum and catalogue numbers for the ceramics under discussion and a useful reference list includes the standard titles expected in such a ceramic study, although the most recent publication is from 2009.

The cemetery at Hagia Photia contains about 300 tombs, ranging from simple pits to more elaborate shaft graves with side chambers, some of which contained at least 10 individuals. Most of the tombs can be dated to the Early Minoan I period, ca. 3100-2650 BC, and it is presumed that they held the remains of the inhabitants of a sizeable town located somewhere in the vicinity. The most noteworthy feature of the cemetery, however, is the preponderance of Cycladic- style material culture, referred to in this volume as "Cycladicizing", as well as much rarer examples of actual "Cycladic" material. Tombs and their contents demonstrate a close relationship with the Cycladic islands to the north, which led to early hypotheses that Hagia Photia was a Cycladic colony on Crete. In particular, the ceramics show a close affinity with the Kampos Group of Early Cycladic I, chronologically equivalent to Early Minoan IB. Finds of obsidian and metal at EM I sites show that contact with the Cyclades was not uncommon at this time, and other sites on Crete also feature Kampos Group shapes (e.g., Petras Kephala, Poros-Katsambas, Gournes), but the material from Hagia Photia comprises the largest such assemblage. This detailed presentation of the ceramics is therefore to be welcomed.

Following a two-page general introduction, the volume progresses straight to the catalogue of 1448 pieces of Cycladic- style pottery. This is organised by vessel shape; the entry on each shape commences with a brief introduction, including comparanda or parallels from beyond Hagia Photia, followed by the individual catalogue entries. The standardised format makes it easy to search for information throughout the publication, and each individual catalogue entry includes some or all of: catalogue number, museum number, illustration number, tomb context, shape, dimensions, surface colour with Munsell references, detail of decoration, and bibliography. The catalogue of Cretan pottery contains only 81 entries, the majority of which (73) are dated to EM I, with eight LM III pieces reflecting later re-use of the cemetery. One other jug is identified as Anatolian in origin. The organisation of the Cretan pottery catalogue varies from the preceding one on Cycladic style material, with ceramic styles as the primary grouping, which are then divided according to shape, e.g., Lebena Style includes cup and pyxis shapes.

A full list of all the shapes and styles discussed in the volume would be inappropriate here, but some brief points of interest follow. Firstly it should be noted that the ceramics are predominantly from a single stylistic period, EM IB,with little evidence for any chronological development. This means that the assemblage is a valuable resource for untangling Final Neolithic – Early Minoan chronology, bridging the gap between the recently identified EM IA (e.g. at Petras Kephala) and the long-established EM IIA periods. Pyxides of various shapes, as well as pyxis lids without vessels, are the most numerous type of ceramic vessel recovered from the tombs. Another very common shape is the bowl with tab handle (234 examples recovered), apparently rarely found outside this site. The twelve frying pans from the site have tab handles too as opposed to the more common pronged version of the (later) Keros-Syros group, but the authors refrain from suggesting their own interpretations of these enigmatic vessels. Only 36 chalices were recovered, of both the shallower Cycladic type and the more conical Minoan style, a surprisingly low number from a cemetery containing so many graves. Certain ceramic vessel types appear only once: a spoon, and a tripod cooking pot, the latter of interest because of the lack of tripod legs in EM I ceramic assemblages, although this find perhaps implies that the pattern may simply be due to the current predominance of funerary rather than domestic find contexts. Jugs represent only 2% of the total number of vessels; this low figure combined with the few chalices and the emphasis on closed vessels, such as pyxides and bottles, suggests a rather different funerary ritual from those typical of contemporary east Crete. The authors extrapolate from the practices represented by the assemblage that "A majority of people who were buried in the cemetery were not Minoans." (p.113).

A programme of petrographic and chemical analysis was undertaken by P.M. Day, A. Hein, L. Joyner, V. Kilikoglou, E. Kiriatzi, A. Tsolakidou, and D.E. Wilson, alongside the macroscopic and morphological study, and is presented in the Appendix. Thin section petrography was carried out on samples from the six main ware groups identified in the assemblage (red/brown burnished; dark gray burnished; fine gray burnished; dark-on-light painted; red slipped; dark burnished and incised) and across a variety of shapes. Instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA) was carried out on 27 samples from both ceramic traditions. Detailed results of both sets of analyses are presented. Petrography identified nine fabric groups, which combined with the results of INAA, can be divided into material with local, Cretan, and Cycladic origins. The Cycladic-style ceramics were made in two low-fired calcite tempered fabrics, with additional grog and organic temper, and are local to the Siteia region. Only the bottle, a distinctly Cycladic shape, may have been made in the Cyclades and imported to Crete. Locally manufactured Minoan-style pottery was supplemented by imports from elsewhere on the island.

The availability of petrographic and chemical comparanda from other east Cretan sites such as Kalo Chorio and Petras, as well as Kampos assemblages from Poros-Katsambas and Ano Kouphonisi (in the Cyclades) enabled the authors to move beyond analysis of a single site and to draw some interesting conclusions about Early Bronze Age I ceramic and craft tradition on a wider scale. The Cycladicizing ceramic material from Hagia Photia is attributed to three production centres, defined as "one or more workshops that made ceramics in a specific style, with a particular technology and decorative system" (p. 95). These centres "could have consisted of a single workshop, a group of closely related workshops, or a more loosely related series of places sharing similar technologies and styles" (pp.95-96). A production centre is not to be confused with stylistic or ware groupings, the most common ways of categorising the ceramics of EM Crete. Based on technological and decorative similarities, bowls with tab handles, frying pans, and some spool pyxides are grouped as coming from Production Center One. This centre may have had links with the northeast Aegean, and exhibits many parallels with material from Chios. Production Center Two most likely was located in eastern Crete and provided the majority of ceramics for the cemetery, which have a lustrous red or reddish brown surface. The third production centre made only bottles and bird-shaped vessels; it may well have been located in the Cyclades and the vessels imported to Crete. Distinguishing the diverse origins of the ceramics at Hagia Photia deepens our understanding of the roles of pottery, craftsmanship and exchange networks in EBA I communities, but one must hope that adding "production centres" to the already elaborate system of ceramic classification will be beneficial rather than confusing, and that the term will be used only where adequate scientific data supports it.

The funerary nature of the ceramics is highlighted in the General Discussion section. The assemblage as a whole does not represent the range of vessels required by a settlement, and is probably a combination of those used in funerary ceremonies or later visits to the cemetery, and those deposited with the dead. Many of the vessels were apparently unused prior to being placed in the grave. The reported deliberate breakage of small numbers of vessels on the stones used to seal the graves suggests a ritualised role for at least some of them, and the promise to discuss this further in Volume III will be eagerly awaited. The authors conclude that the ceramics formed part of a package of artefacts deliberately chosen by the inhabitants of Hagia Photia to assert a non-Cretan identity – i.e. that they were a Cycladic community living in Crete (p. 113). Archaeologists are well aware of the dangers of equating pots with people and seeking identities in material culture, but the authors make a persuasive case in this instance, and there can be little doubt that, at least in their funerary practices, these people were different from their contemporaries on Crete.

Analysis shows that not all tombs contained pottery, and that the majority only had 1-5 vessels. A link between high status individuals and grave goods of any type is difficult to identify, but quantity rather than quality may have been the distinguishing factor. Unfortunately, lists of individual tomb assemblages are lacking in this volume, making it impossible for a reader to explore these subtle distinctions. Another flaw is the discrepancy between the ceramic catalogue and the Appendix: the petrographic results discuss "Dark-on-Light" ware, which elsewhere in the volume is referred to as "Hagios Onouphrios". Both names refer to a pottery style with dark (brown or red) paint on a buff ground, and both occur here as a result of authorial preference. It is a pity that one term could not have been agreed upon for the sake of consistency within the volume. The many illustrations of vessels are useful comparanda, although it is somewhat of a shame that more plates were not printed in colour. Some minor typos were noted throughout, a few of which are mentioned here: Plate 8 is labelled "Figure 8" in the heading; p. 34 features the erroneous "and it persist at little later"; p. 80 "oppose vertical handles" should read "opposed"; p. 107 has "the tomb was closed on in a previous period".

Minor problems aside, this book will be indispensable to specialists working with the ceramics of Early Minoan I–II Crete and Early Cycladic cultures, as well as to anyone with an interest in craft production and the movement of goods and ideas. It does need to be read in tandem with volume I, however, which provides detailed information on the cemetery itself and on the find contexts of the individual ceramic vessels.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Catalog of Cycladic Style Pottery
3. Catalog of Cretan Pottery
4. General Discussion; App. A. Petrographic and Chemical Analysis of Pottery, by P.M. Day, A. Hein, L. Joyner, V. Kilikoglou, E. Kiriatzi, A. Tsolakidou, and D.E. Wilson


1.   C. Davaras and P. Betancourt (2004) The Hagia Photia Cemetery I: The Tomb Groups and Architecture. Philadelphia: INSTAP Academic Press.

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Umberto Roberto, Le 'Chronographiae' di Sesto Giulio Africano: storiografia, politica e cristianesimo nell'età dei Severi. Collana dell'Ambito di Storia dell'Università Europea di Roma. Soveria Mannelli: Rubbettino Editore, 2011. Pp. 288. ISBN 9788849830804. €24.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Christophe Guignard, Universität Basel (christophe.guignard@unibas.ch)

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Les Chronographies de Julius Africanus, auteur palestinien de la première moitié du IIIe siècle, considérées comme la plus ancienne chronique mondiale chrétienne, ont longtemps été négligées par la recherche. Après avoir collaboré à une nouvelle édition des fragments de l'œuvre, dirigée par M. Wallraff dans la collection GCS, 1 Umberto Roberto donne, dans cette importante monographie, des clefs de lectures essentielles en dégageant ses grandes orientations et en la replaçant dans son contexte, celui de l'Orient romain sous les Sévères.

Dans son premier chapitre, l'auteur pose un double cadre, en retraçant le développement de l'histoire universelle et en rappelant le contexte historique dans lequel s'inscrivent les Chronographies. Le ch. 2 aborde la culture d'Africanus et ses rapports avec sa « patrie », Aelia Capitolina, la colonie romaine installée par Hadrien sur le site de Jérusalem, et avec Édesse et sa communauté chrétienne. Les Chronographies y sont également situées dans une certaine continuité avec la tradition historiographique judéo-hellénistique et les réflexions chrétiennes antérieures sur l'histoire et la chronologie ; l'originalité d'Africanus est toutefois soulignée.

Le paradigme historiographique qu'Africanus inaugure est développé dans le ch. 3, notamment sous l'aspect de sa capacité à intégrer les données de l'histoire — et, moyennant une lecture évhémériste, des mythes — de la Grèce et de l'Orient dans un schéma d'interprétation christocentrique, qui représente « la grande novità di Africano » (p. 85s). D'autre part, grâce à l'idée de translatio imperii, cette synthèse chrétienne réserve une place essentielle à Rome (ch. 4) : la coïncidence historique entre restauration de la μοναρχία par les Césars, hégémonie mondiale et Incarnation du Sauveur constitue le synchronisme fondamental sur lequel se base la vision de l'histoire universelle dans les Chronographies (p. 122). En prenant position dans le débat sur l'autochtonie d'Athènes, Africanus affirme l'unité du genre humain — idée sur laquelle convergent universalisme chrétien et universalisme romain — et nie la primauté de la culture grecque (ch. 5). Il cherche au contraire les origines de la civilisation en Orient, région qui est aussi le berceau du christianisme. Par ailleurs, à la manière d'autres intellectuels de la Seconde Sophistique, Africanus allie l'activité politique à l'engagement culturel, dans une période qu'U. Roberto situe après les Chronographies (ch. 6).

La conclusion (p. 223-229) est précédée de deux utiles appendices, consacrés respectivement aux sources non chrétiennes des Chronographies et à l'influence de celles-ci sur les chroniques postérieures.

Bien que la discussion des questions complexes de transmission et d'attribution des fragments soit limitée au strict nécessaire (mais toujours présentée avec clarté), l'apport de la monographie d'U. Roberto sur ce point ne saurait être sous-estimé, ne serait-ce que parce qu'il prend parfois position en faveur de l'authenticité de fragments qui n'ont pas trouvé leur place dans l'édition GCS (p. 138, n. 4 ; 147, n. 23 ; 198s. ; 199, n. 9 ; voir aussi p. 116, n. 16, et p. 200, n. 10, pour une question de critique textuelle).

C'est un ouvrage riche et stimulant que celui d'U. Roberto et il faut saluer tout particulièrement la nouveauté que constitue le fait qu'il n'émane pas d'un historien du christianisme ancien, mais d'un spécialiste d'histoire romaine : en tant que tel, il apporte sur bien des points un éclairage nouveau.

Concernant les questions liées à la biographie littéraire et religieuse d'Africanus — ce que nous avons appelé le « problème africanien » —, U. Roberto, qui place la publication des Chronographies avant l'été 221 (p. 20 et passim), s'inscrit dans la ligne suivie depuis plus d'un siècle par l'immense majorité des chercheurs : cette œuvre serait ainsi antérieure aux Cestes (qu'on peut situer avec certitude entre 227 et 230). Par conséquent, Africanus aurait nécessairement été chrétien lorsqu'il écrivit cette dernière œuvre, bien que cette affirmation ne soit pas aisée à concilier avec sa nature et son contenu : imprégnés de religion grecque, les Cestes paraissent ignorer le christianisme. Il s'agit là d'un problème délicat et complexe, qu'il n'est évidemment pas possible de discuter ici.2 Nous relèverons seulement que l'ouvrage d'U. Roberto a l'intérêt de la renouveler l'approche traditionnelle en supposant une forte influence du christianisme édessénien : c'est au milieu chrétien d'Édesse qu'Africanus devrait l'ouverture au dialogue avec le paganisme et les autres religions qu'il lui prête et son christianisme serait à comprendre en tenant compte du milieu religieux et culturel complexe qu'il y aurait fréquenté (p. 57). Il faut toutefois relever que cette approche, pour intéressante qu'elle puisse paraître, fait une large place à des conjectures. En effet, parmi les rares informations que nous possédons sur le séjour d'Africanus à Édesse et ses rapports avec Bardesane, aucune ne concerne l'aspect religieux.

Par ailleurs, tout en soulignant à juste titre les différences profondes entre les Chronographies et les Cestes, peut-être U. Roberto tend-il parfois à les aligner excessivement. Ainsi, la célébration de Rome constitue sans doute un lien essentiel entre les deux œuvres (p. 134 ; cf. p. 229). Néanmoins, le rapport à l'empire mériterait une approche plus différenciée. Le seul fait que, dans les Chronographies, la place de Rome soit subordonnée à un schéma chronologique organisé autour de la manifestation du Christ — ce qu'U. Roberto souligne à plusieurs reprises — crée une différence irréductible. Le rapport à l'Orient, également, semble différent : alors que les Chronographies sont bel et bien marquées par une « centralità dell'Oriente » (p. 166, 168), d'un point de vue culturel, les Cestes regardent résolument vers la Grèce (voir par ex. F12,19,16-19 GCS).

Tout en croyant utile de formuler ces quelques critiques, nous aimerions souligner qu'elles concernent des aspects secondaires de l'argumentation, sans remettre en cause les principales analyses de l'ouvrage d'U. Roberto : l'effort de relier les Chronographies au contexte politique et intellectuel sévérien, la mise en lumière de l'importance donnée à Rome par le synchronisme entre la venue du Christ et l'établissement de l'empire, la valorisation de l'Orient face à la culture grecque — pour se limiter à ces quelques exemples — font de sa monographie un instrument essentiel et incontournable pour la lecture de l'œuvre historique d'Africanus.


1.   Julius Africanus, Chronographiae. The Extant Fragments. Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller, NF 15. Berlin ; New York : Walter de Gruyter, 2007.
2.   Nous avons brièvement esquissé notre position dans Guignard, Ch., La lettre de Julius Africanus à Aristide sur la généalogie du Christ. Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur, 167. Berlin ; Boston : Walter de Gruyter, 2011, p. 6 et 7-9.

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Evina Sistakou, The Aesthetics of Darkness: A Study of Hellenistic Romanticism in Apollonius, Lycophron and Nicander. Hellenistica Groningana 17. Leuven; Paris; Walpole, MA: Peeters Publishers, 2012. Pp. xii, 299. ISBN 9789042926547. €58.00.

Reviewed by Mark Payne, The University of Chicago (mpayne@uchicago.edu)

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Evina Sistakou has made outstanding contributions to the study of Hellenistic poetry over the last two decades. Her work is perhaps less well known in the English-speaking world that it could be because her first three books were published in modern Greek, and one can only hope that the excellence of this new book will spur an English translation of her monograph, The Geography of Callimachus and Hellenistic Avant-Garde Poetry (Athens, 2004). Hopes for the future aside, however, The Aesthetics of Darkness is an innovative exploration of what nineteenth-century Romanticism might tell us about Hellenistic poetry, or, more precisely, why the question of their resemblance is worth revisiting.

For Sistakou is not the first scholar to discern analogies between Romanticism —and, especially, late Romanticism — and Hellenistic poetry. From Pfeiffer's protest against the then fashionable idea of an Alexandrian Ivory Tower in the History of Classical Scholarship (Oxford, 1968), to Bonelli's equation of Alexandrianism and the fin-de-siècle in Decadentismo antico e moderno (Turin, 1979), late Romanticism has made fitful, but continuous, appearances in classical scholarship as a doppelgänger of the new kind of poetry that began to appear in Alexandria in the early third century BCE.

The explanatory power of this modern double has been challenged as well as embraced, and Sistakou wisely eschews big picture attempts to identify a common history behind the two poetries. Other than a brief nod to E. R. Dodds and Romantic irrationalism in the "Afterword," socio-political parallels are not part of the project, nor is she interested in matching the development of Hellenistic poetry to the evolution (or devolution) of nineteenth-century Romanticism. The goal envisaged in the introductory chapter, "Charting Darkness," is not to explain why either poetry is the way it is, but rather to show how the one can help us read the other. The dark Romanticism described by Mario Praz in The Romantic Agony (Florence, 1930, Engl. Transl. Oxford, 1933) provides a thematic criterion for the selection of Hellenistic poets in this book, but the readings themselves are inspired by the full panoply of Romantic modes, from the Gothic novel, to Romanticism proper, to Decadence.

What this method yields is a central triptych of chapters devoted to three major figures of Hellenistic poetry — Apollonius, Lycophron, and Nicander —, each of whom offers a generic variant of dark Romanticism: dark epic, dark tragedy, and dark didactic. The first chapter, on Apollonius' Argonautica, would justify the rubric of dark Romanticism on its own. Sistakou synthesizes Medea as Gothic heroine with the poem's landscapes of terror, sublimity, and the uncanny to produce a thorough reassessment of the poem's claim to literary innovation. Her reading adds greatly to the characterological analysis of Medea by considering the kinds of Gothic predicament she embodies (sexual rebellion against tyrannical father; flight from the castle; etc.), as well as delineating the poem's progress (or decadence) from a poetics of character and action to a poetics of mood (her approach bears comparison with Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht's fine-grained appreciations of literary atmosphere in Atmosphere, Mood, Stimmung: On a Hidden Potential of Literature, Munich, 2011, English translation Stanford, 2012).

The second chapter, on Lycophron's Alexandra, is also superb. Sistakou draws on the closet plays of Romanticism — Shelley's "lyrical drama" and Byron's "mental theater," as these reach a kind of fruition in Browning's dramatic monologues — to analyze the speech of Lycophron's Cassandra as a kind of Gothic "tomb discourse": what Antigone might have sounded like, for example, if she had a play all to herself. This chapter's epigraph is especially well chosen — Wordsworth's vision of druid sacrifice from the 1850 Prelude —, for what Sistakou gives us is a Cassandra who is at once a pure consciousness haunted by history, and a Gothic maiden imprisoned by her virginity, obsessed with the figure of the male anti-hero who would deprive her of it. Apart from its intrinsic merits as an analysis of Lycophron's poem, Sistakou's reading may bring us as close as we are likely to get to understanding what the pleasures of the lost Pleiad of Hellenistic tragedians might have felt like.

The third chapter, on Nicander's Theriaca and Alexipharmaca, approaches the works of Nicander that survive in their entirety through a comparison with Romantic science and the poetics of sensation. This is the only chapter in which the focus on dark Romanticism perhaps obscures as much as it reveals. Sistakou's readings are attentive and well informed, and her alignment with critics who have seen Nicander's attitude to suffering as voyeuristic anti-humanism is understandable. Her exemplary account of Nicander's sinister Nature could even have been augmented by a comparison with the "dark ecology" that Timothy Morton, in Ecology Without Nature (Cambridge Mass., 2007), has identified in the poetry of John Clare and other Romantic poets: a more useful comparative framework, perhaps, than Erasmus Darwin and William Bartram.

Indeed, what I missed in this chapter was an account of the troubled history of the didactic poem at the cusp of Romanticism itself, from the pronouncement of its redundancy by Schiller, in "On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry," to Schelling's heralding, in The Philosophy of Art, of a didactic poetry to come, in which the genre would shed its subjectivity, and merge with philosophy as an instantiation of knowledge as such. For while it is certainly true, as Sistakou points out, that the Romantic poets' engagement with science is now a vibrant topic of scholarly interest, this engagement for the most part took place in forms other than the studiously discrete vignettes of the didactic poem that Nicander employs so masterfully, and more attention to the form of Nicander's work would have been welcome here.

One interesting outcome of Sistakou's focus on dark Romanticism is that it reveals Callimachus as marginal in many respects to the aesthetics of Hellenistic poetry. All eras have their significant others, of course, who bring characteristic trends into sharper relief through contrasts in theory and practice (one might think of Walter Savage Landor's long-sustained classicism on the margins of English Romanticism), but it is uncanny to think of Callimachus as the Other of an era whose poetics have often borne his name (Sistakou's Callimachus is not the Roman Callimachus either). The book raises interesting questions about the relationship of dark and light Romanticism in Hellenistic poetry, not just the eschewal by Callimachus of the grisly themes and florid tone that Apollonius, Lycophron, and Nicander relish, but the cheerful otherworldliness of Theocritus' bucolic Idylls as well.

Evina Sistakou's book promises a dark new future for the reading of Hellenistic poetry. Quibbles about the third chapter aside, The Aesthetics of Darkness makes the poems of Apollonius, Lycophron, and Nicander available as objects of transhistorical literary pleasure in a way that few studies have succeeded in doing. The high standards and rich rewards of the book's comparative method deserve to set a new agenda for the study of Hellenistic poetry alongside the intertextual philology that has traditionally dominated the field, and the historicist approach to courtly setting that has complemented it in recent years. The book is well presented and very largely error free, as is typical of the Hellenistica Groningana series.

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Monday, April 29, 2013


Liz James (ed.), Constantine of Rhodes, On Constantinople and the Church of the Holy Apostles. With a new edition of the Greek text by Ioannes Vassis. Farnham, Surrey; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012. Pp. xvi, 250. ISBN 9781409431671. $124.95.

Reviewed by Anthony Kaldellis, The Ohio State University (kaldellis.1@osu.edu)

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Table of Contents

A composite book for a composite poem: Sometime between 913 and 959, Constantine of Rhodes wrote a poetic description of some monuments of Constantinople (on the one hand) and of the church of the Holy Apostles (on the other), which he dedicated to the emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos. The two parts, along with some panegyrical addresses to the emperor – a total of 981 verses – were later awkwardly put together by Constantine himself or an editor, and partially preserved in a single fifteenth-century manuscript (Athos Lavra 1161). The text ends abruptly so we are likely missing part of the section on the Holy Apostles, of uncertain length. The present volume contains a new critical edition by Ioannes Vassis, preceded by a brief Introduction and followed by an Index nominum and Index verborum notabilium. The text is accompanied by a facing translation attributed on the title-page of the chapter (15) to V. Dimitropoulou, L. James, and R. Jordan, though the Acknowledgments attribute earlier versions of it to a much longer list of names; those three only "brought it to a conclusion" (xi). The Greek indexes are followed by James' Commentary on the Translation (ch. 3), which provides basic explanations of the places, events, people, and literary references in the poem, with much bibliography. There follow three interpretive chapters combining literary and art historical analysis by James. These treat the poet and the poem (4), the account of Constantinople (5), and that of the Holy Apostles (6). The volume thereby offers a comprehensive study of the poem in addition to the text itself. A similar collaborative volume (in Italian) was recently published on Procopius' account of Hagia Sophia (with text, translation, very detailed notes, and interpretive chapters combining philology and art history).1 This may be a trend.

Chapter 4 surveys scholarly proposals about the date of the poem(s) and concludes that there is no way to narrow it down beyond placing it within the long reign of Constantine VII, though the exclusive dedication to him points to one of the periods of his sole reign (913-920, 945-959). The reign of Romanos I and his sons (920-945) is excluded based on the assumption that it would have dangerous, indeed treasonous, to praise Constantine VII alone. But how do we know that? The chapter then surveys proposals about the stages of the poem's composition, about possible earlier and later versions that may have circulated, and theories about how the version that we have came together. While producing interesting hypotheses (including interpolations detected by Paul Speck), it seems that this discussion has been aporetic too. Vassis and James even break the poem down in slightly different ways (cf. 5 with 134-135.) The chapter also examines proposals for the occasions of the poem and how it might have been delivered (in relation to the emperor and the monuments), and concludes with a useful discussion of Constantine's technical-architectural, classical, biblical, and patristic vocabulary.

One of the main points that James drives home in her chapters (5-6) on the two main parts of the poem is that ekphrasis was not meant to provide a detailed and objective scholarly description that we can use to reconstruct a monument or work of art. It was instead meant to evoke a vivid impression of experiencing it.2 The audience, after all, already knew the monuments first-hand. Literary goals shaped the selection of material and emphasis. James does not merely insist on this understanding of ekphrasis in the abstract but fleshes out the themes of the poems and the specific impressions that the poet was trying to create. The first part of the poem (discussed in chapter 5) describes the columns of Justinian and Constantine, the Senate house and statue of Athena, a column with cross, the Anemodoulion (weathervane), the column of Tauros and statue of Theodosios, and the column of Arkadios. The poem is a key source for those interested in the late antique monuments of Constantinople as well as for classicists (because of the detailed description of the doors of the Senate house--which were taken from the temple of Artemis at Ephesos and adorned with mythological scenes—as well as that of the statue of Athena). But first we have to understand the poem's choices. In a nuanced reading, James shows that Constantine constructs a specific imperial past for the city and thereby links his imperial patron to the great emperors of the early Byzantine period, primarily to Justinian and secondarily Constantine the Great.

Constantine's poem on the church of the Holy Apostles has occasioned more discussion. While the building no longer exists, this was the second most important church in the capital. Its annex served as an imperial mausoleum, and it is said to have been the model for San Marco in Venice. In chapter 6, James surveys past attempts to reconstruct its architecture from this description as well as from those of Procopius and Nikolaos Mesarites. Those attempts were vitiated by a poor grasp of the literary genre of ekphrasis: they assumed, for example, that a description would not omit major pieces of information, failing to realize that coverage is selective based on literary thematics. Thus phases of architecture and decoration were postulated based on omissions in these texts. Constantine's emphasis is on the marble decoration and mosaics of the interior. James argues that the poet's selection and the order of presentation was meant to reinforce a general narrative about the Incarnation and Salvation: he was not interested in the date and phases of its construction and modification.

The exposition is clear throughout and the arguments persuasive. I have two minor quibbles. First, let us put a moratorium on Paul Lemerle's concept of encyclopedism, which he proposed as the key for the era of Constantine VII and which Byzantinists mention whenever that emperor comes up. Just because a poem describes more than one monument does not necessarily make it a project of "codification and encyclopedism" (143). Lemerle's concept is misleading and inapplicable even to the materials that he himself placed under it.3 Second, Constantine gives the architects Anthemios or Isidoros the Younger (he is not sure which) more credit for the building of the Holy Apostles than he does to Justinian. James asserts that "this serves to underline the Christian rather than the imperial nature of the church" (197). But how does that follow? Anthemios is nowhere presented as a Christian figure in the tradition (compared to Justinian?). It is likely that Constantine is highlighting the role of "craftsmen" who work under an emperor's direction in a way that would make his own poem for Constantine VII analogous to the church built for Justinian by Anthemios. His literary ekphrasis in this way rivals or emulates its own subject matter, a tactic with precedent in the tradition.4

This book is a solid and useful contribution on many levels: philological, historical, and art historical. It offers a model of interdisciplinary collaboration that promises great things for the future. It showcases advances in the study of ekphrasis that leave us with a softer knowledge of architecture but also a more nuanced understanding of the texts, their politics, and themes.5


1.   P. Cesaretti and M. L. Fobelli, Procopio di Cesarea, Santa Sofia di Costantinopoli: Un tempio di luce (Milan 2011).
2.   A key work for this understanding of ekphrasis is R. Webb, Ekphrasis, Imagination and Persuasion in Ancient Rhetorical Theory and Practice (Ashgate 2009).
3.   P. Odorico, 'La cultura della Sylloge,' Byzantinische Zeitschrift 83 (1990) 1-21; and P. Van Deun and C. Macé, eds. Encyclopedic Trends in Byzantium? (Leuven et al. 2011).
4.   A. Kaldellis, 'Christodoros on the Statues of the Zeuxippos Baths: A New Reading of the Ekphrasis,' Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 47 (2007) 361-383.
5.   Readers interested in a multi-media view of these monuments (useful for the classroom too) should use the book together with the website Byzantium 1200, with credible digital reconstructions (to a degree hypothetical, of course).

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Stefano Maso, Carlo Natali, Gerhard Seel (ed.), Reading Aristotle's Physics VII.3: "what is alteration?" Proceedings of the European Society for Ancient Philosophy conference organized by the HYELE Institute for Comparative Studies, Vitznau, Switzerland, 12/15 April 2007. Las Vegas; Zurich; Athens: Parmenides Publishing, 2011. Pp. xvii, 152. ISBN 9781930972735. $65.00.

Reviewed by Giovanna R. Giardina, Università di Catania (giardig@unict.it)

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

Il libro è così strutturato: una 'Introduction' di Robert Wardy; testo greco della versione α con la traduzione eseguita, per ogni porzione di testo, dagli studiosi che si sono occupati di quella specifica porzione e armonizzata da Maso e Seel; testo greco della versione β con traduzione di Maso e Seel; 'Preliminary Remarks' di Morison e Seel; sei studi specifici; due studi in appendice: Seel, 'The Logical and Semantic Background of Aristotle's Argumentation'; Primavesi, 'Aristotle, Physics VII.3.245b3-248a9: Towards a Fuller Synopsis of the Two Versions'. Chiudono il libro la bibliografia e tre indici: dei luoghi, dei concetti, dei termini greci.

Nella sua 'Introduction' Wardy discute la collocazione di VII.3 all'interno dell'intero libro VII della Fisica, ma soprattutto formula "an aporetic agenda", che scaturisce anche da un confronto fra le due versioni del testo (poiché egli non è convinto tanto quanto Ross dell'inferiorità della versione β e anzi mostra come le due versioni propongano, in taluni casi, questioni dissimili) e che solo in parte è stata tenuta in considerazione negli studi successivi (cfr. Morison per il confronto dell'argomento linguistico di 245b9 ss. con Metaph. VII.7 e IX.7, e de Haase per la lettura di APo. II.19 ai fini dell'interpretazione degli stati intellettivi dell'anima).

Benjamin Morison, 'Commentary on 245b3-246a9', mette a fuoco soprattutto due questioni. La prima riguarda le li. 245b4-5: Morison abbandona la spiegazione di Wardy, secondo il quale le cose che subiscono le qualità sensibili "per se stesse" sono quelle di cui Aristotele parlerà alle li. 246b12-17 (analogamente Tommaso, In Phys. Liber VII, Lectio V, 1843, pensa che l'alterazione ammessa da Aristotele è quella che le cose subiscono per se stesse in quanto la subiscono dalle qualità affettive, mentre sarebbe un'alterazione secondaria quella che comporta il mutamento di forma, figura e stato, che Aristotele non considera come vera alterazione), e ritiene che Aristotele potrebbe avere in mente enti che sono affetti dalle qualità sensibili in modo derivato oppure perché affetta è una loro parte. La seconda questione riguarda le li. 245b9-246a4: Morison nota che il modo in cui in VII.3 è utilizzato l'argomento sui paronimi non è coerente con il modo in cui Aristotele parla dei paronimi in Cat. 1a12, perché il bronzo non è nella statua come suo soggetto, e chiama in causa Metaph. IX.7.1049a18-24. Di certo, l'argomento che Aristotele assume qui allo scopo di distinguere i casi di generazione (denominazione paronima) dai casi di alterazione (denominazione omonima) ricorre più volte nelle sue opere (Phys. I 7, 190a14-31, Metaph. VII.7.1033a5 ss., GC II.1.329a13-24) con un'altra funzione, quella cioè di differenziare il suo sostrato naturale da quello di alcuni filosofi precedenti, soprattutto di Platone.

Questi i contributi più rilevanti offerti da Ursula Coope, Commentary on 246a10-b3: a) puntualizza che qui virtù e vizi non sono semplicemente alcuni stati, ma sono tutti gli stati (questa interpretazione si evince già sia dalla versione β del testo sia da Simplicio In Phys. 1065.7-9); b) ragionando sul fatto che quando una cosa ha la sua propria virtù si dice perfetta ed è massimamente in accordo alla propria natura, Coope pensa che la condizione della cosa che ha la sua propria virtù o il suo proprio vizio corrisponda, rispettivamente, all'avere una corretta disposizione a funzionare bene o a funzionare male, come quando svolge bene le sue funzioni un corpo sano mentre le svolge male un corpo malato (interpretazione già fornita da Simplicio In Phys. 1066.19ss., che riporta anche l'esempio del corpo malato che non può esplicare le sue naturali operazioni); c) ritiene che il τούτου della li. 246a16 si debba riferire a κατὰ φύσιν della li. 246a15 (un'altra soluzione, non del tutto dissimile da questa e ispirata a Simplicio In Phys. 1065.11ss., consisterebbe nel mettere in discussione la parentesi posta da Ross alle li. 246a13-16 e riferire τούτου a τέλειον ἕκαστον della li. 246a14); d) propone tre alternative, tutte riguardanti la ragione per la quale τελείωσις non è per Aristotele un'alterazione, delle quali ritiene fondata la terza: una cosa è perfetta quando le proprietà che essa ha già sono sviluppate in modo più pieno, per cui la perfezione non è un mutamento di proprietà. A proposito di questa alternativa il richiamo a An. II 5 è comprensibile, ma dovrebbe tenere maggiormente conto sia del fatto che per Aristotele il passaggio dalla facoltà alla funzione sensitiva non è alterazione ma potrebbe essere un diverso tipo di alterazione (417b7), sia che qui la percezione non è generazione. Invece, l'alternativa secondo cui la perfezione è definita solo nei termini del fine, per cui mentre nell'alterazione sarebbe essenziale il punto di inizio nella perfezione quest'ultimo non sarebbe essenziale, mi pare debole anche perché, se qualunque mutamento è sempre ἐκ τινος εἰς τι (225a1), Phys. V.1-2 prescrive chiaramente che entrambi i termini sono necessari affinché avvenga ogni tipo di mutamento, compresa la generazione.

Istvàn Bodnàr, Commentary on 246b3-246b20, divide il testo in tre sezioni, precisamente li. 246b3-10, 246b10-17 e 246b17-20. Relativamente alla prima sezione pone la domanda se il fatto che le virtù siano nei relativi indichi identità fra stati e relativi (cfr. la sua discussione della versione β li. 246a30-31 e di Cat. 6b15-17), oppure una relazione di dipendenza ontologica dei primi dai secondi, avvertendo che tale questione rimane priva di soluzione. Contro l'ipotesi dell'identità trova però indizi anche nella seconda sezione, a proposito della quale segnala anche che εἶδος e μορφή (246b15-16) indicano la forma sostanziale e non il quarto genere di qualità menzionato in Cat. 10a.11-12 e che le li. 246b14-17 andrebbero messe a confronto con Metaph. VIII.3.1043b14-18, che riprende Metaph. VII.8 e VII.15.1039b20-27. A proposito della terza sezione ritiene che Aristotele metta in campo elementi che risultano causalmente responsabili dell'alterazione degli enti, mentre nell'ultima frase riattribuirebbe a virtù e vizi la loro rilevanza causale, creando così quasi un contrasto fra l'efficacia causale degli elementi primi e l'efficacia causale delle virtù e dei vizi.

Fra i vari contributi offerti da Cristina Viano, Commentary on 246b20-247a19, occorre segnalare la riflessione su τὰ οἰκεῖα πάθη (247a3): si tratterebbe delle qualità affettive di Cat. 9b9ss., su cui Aristotele discute alle li. 9b34-10a5 mostrando come le qualità affettive che insorgono nell'individuo sin dalla nascita come affezioni della materia e che si manifestano durante la vita come passioni sono proprietà costitutive dell'individuo e complesse, in quanto si presentano sia come affezioni originarie sia come risultati di un'affezione. Questo tipo di qualità affettive costitutive dell'individuo avrebbero, secondo Viano, un ruolo chiave nella comprensione di come l'alterazione contribuisca alla generazione degli stati sia corporei che psichici. A proposito di ἡ ἠθικὴ ἀρετή (247a7), seguendo Ross, segnala che il modo in cui Aristotele mostra che la generazione di virtù e vizio implica alterazione delle facoltà sensitive dell'anima ad opera dei sensibili coinvolgendo piaceri e dolori ha un taglio molto fisico, ma mostra come questo non contrasti con la distinzione fra piaceri corporei e piaceri psichici di EN III.13.1117b28ss. Non tiene conto, invece, di EN II.2.1104b3ss., in cui Aristotele stabilisce precisamente che la virtù etica riguarda piaceri e dolori e parla, in riferimento alle Leggi di Platone, di una παιδεία ai piaceri e ai dolori il cui risultato è precisamente la virtù etica (cfr. Simpl. In Phys. 1073,3).

Frans de Haas, Commentary on 247b1-247b13, per interpretare queste linee ricorre a diversi passi aristotelici, in primo luogo tratti dal De anima. Significativo è, ad esempio, il collegamento che egli propone fra le li. 247b4-5, An. III.8.432a3-6, Metaph. XIII.10.1087a15-21 e APo. I.18 per mostrare che, per quanto la conoscenza intellettuale abbia come oggetto l'universale, essa è sempre collegata a un oggetto sensibile a cui l'universale inerisce. Analogamente, HA. VI.3.562a17-21, ma anche Metaph. IX.10.1051b23-32, gli consentono di puntualizzare come qui sia il vedere che il contatto siano strettamente connessi al movimento senza però identificarsi con esso. Così il pensare sarebbe una sorta di contatto della mente con il suo oggetto senza che si debba supporre per il pensiero un inizio e una fine. Questa interpretazione mi sembra coerente con quella di Simplicio, In Phys. 1076.4ss., il quale afferma che il passaggio dal non essere in atto all'essere in atto, come il vedere e il contatto, è ἀχρόνως, a differenza della generazione e dell'alterazione. Da ultimo, ricorrendo ad APo. II.19.100a3-9 e 14-15, spiega con molta chiarezza le li. 247b9-13, e cioè come la conoscenza consista in un arrestarsi agli universali, per cui gli stati intellettivi dell'anima sono stati statici che escludono la generazione oltre che l'alterazione.

Carlo Natali, Commentary on 247b13-248a9, divide queste linee in tre sezioni. Per quanto riguarda 247b13-17, puntualizza che "ciò che noi non diciamo", sia nel caso di chi passi da una condizione nella quale non può utilizzare la scienza a una condizione in cui, al contrario, la utilizza, sia nel caso di chi da non sciente diviene sciente, significa che entrambi questi casi non sono casi di generazione. A differenza di quanto ha stabilito in An. II.5, in Phys. VII.3 Aristotele nega che il passaggio dal non essere sciente all'essere sciente sia alterazione (per spiegare questa difficoltà lo stesso Simplicio In Phys. 1079.6ss. è costretto a ricorrere alla teoria platonica della reminiscenza e a Plotino, Enn. I.1.9). Per Natali, Aristotele sa bene che i due casi sono differenti fra loro, ma tali differenze non avrebbero rilevanza per il discorso di VII.3, che indaga un senso molto ristretto di alterazione, da cui entrambi i casi sono esclusi. A proposito di 247b17-248a6 respinge la connessione di 248a2-6 con 247b18-248a2, e considera corretta la connessione di 248a2-6 con 247b17-18, ritenendo che 247b18-248a2 vadano poste tra parentesi. Infine, mostra il rapporto fra 248a6-9 e 245b4-6, sottolineando come l'espressione κατὰ συμβεβεκός costituisca l'esito della dimostrazione, dalla quale risulta che il funzionamento dell'anima intellettiva non è alterazione, ma è connesso all'alterazione del corpo.

A queste analisi puntuali seguono, come ho detto, due appendici. Seel, indagando il senso dell'alterazione in VII.3, per prima cosa suppone una riformulazione delle definizioni di alterazione di. 245b3-4 e 245b4-5 nel senso che, per ogni x e ogni y, x è alterato da y se x è affetto da y per se stesso. Un'indagine accurata, in cui prende in considerazione diversi passi aristotelici, quali Phys. V.1-2 e VII.2, GC I.4, I.7 e 10, lo conduce a congetturare che tale definizione corrisponda al senso ristretto dell'alterazione di Phys. VII.3 con questi requisiti: y è una qualità sensibile; x subisce un mutamento almeno in una delle sue qualità sensibili u; questo mutamento è causato da un contatto diretto con qualcosa che possiede la qualità sensibile y; le qualità sensibili u e y appartengono allo stesso genere di qualità; la qualità che x acquista da questo processo causale è identica a y oppure è collocata fra u e y su una scala comune. Seel mostra, infine, che esempi di alterazione che non possono essere considerati tali sulla base di VII.3 non soddisfano almeno uno di questi requisiti, il che induce a concludere che l'espressione "essere affetto per se stesso" debba essere inteso nel senso di questa formulazione completa della definizione molto ristretta di alterazione. Oliver Primavesi, infine, fornisce una sinossi completa delle due versioni di VII.3, nella quale espressioni che sono trasposte in una delle due versioni sono stampate due volte (pur con distinzione tipografica) in modo da avere totalmente ricostruite le due versioni l'una a fronte dell'altra.

Questo libro è uno strumento utilissimo per la comprensione di Phys. VII.3 sotto diversi profili: innanzitutto perché si concentra su una porzione limitata di testo di cui mette a fuoco gli aspetti testuali, esegetici e filosofici; in secondo luogo perché valuta VII.3 in rapporto agli altri scritti di Aristotele e quindi ne fornisce un'interpretazione globale; infine perché si apprezza lo sforzo che è stato fatto dagli autori di confrontare le proprie posizioni ermeneutiche e di collegarsi fra loro, oltre che lo sforzo dei curatori di armonizzare i contenuti dell'intero libro. L'esito finale è certamente quello di un volume imprescindibile per i futuri studi sull'argomento.

Table of Contents

Foreword, Stefano Maso xiii
Introduction Robert Wardy 1
Greek Text with English Translation (harmonized by Stefano Maso and Gerhard Seel) 15
- Version α 17
- Version β 27
Analysis and Commentary:
Preliminary Remarks, Benjamin Morison and Gerhard Seel 37
Commentaries on the six Sections of the Chapter 43
- 245b3-246a9 by Benjamin Morison 43
- 246a10-246b3 by Ursula Coope 57
- 246b3-246b20 by István Bodnár 73
- 246b20-247a19 by Cristina Viano 85
- 247b1-247b13 by Frans A. J. de Haas 99
- 247b13-248a9 by Carlo Natali 109
The Logical and Semantic Background of Aristotles's Argumentation, Gerhard Seel 121
Aristotle, Physics VII.3.245b3-248a9: Towards a Fuller Synopsis of the Two Versions, Oliver Primavesi 131
Bibliography 137
Index Locorum 143
General Index 147
Index of Greek Terms 151
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Therese Fuhrer, Almut-Barbara Renger (ed.), Performanz von Wissen: Strategien der Wissensvermittlung in der Vormoderne. Bibliothek der klassischen Altertumswissenschaften, nF, 134. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2012. Pp. vi, 230. ISBN 9783825358327. € 35.00.

Reviewed by Jakob Fink, University of Copenhagen (jfink@hum.ku.dk)

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

This volume places itself in a fine German tradition of studies of the transmission of knowledge in Greek and Roman culture.1 The volume attempts a sociologically inspired approach to texts and other source material (works of art, mainly), the focus being on 'performance' of knowledge. Under this heading the editors understand any act that intends communication in some way and implies learning of some sort.

Susanne Bickel, 'Sichtbar und geheim: Aspekte altägyptischer Performanz von Wissen', offers an account of the transfer of knowledge among Egyptian scribes, who are identified as a distinct social group exactly through their mastery of literacy. She points out that the vast majority of texts which deal with issues relevant for transferring knowledge concern themselves with transmitting the 'professional identity' of the scribes themselves rather than with transmitting professional knowledge as such. Grave inscriptions, for example, address themselves to members of the same social group, i.e. other scribes. Mastery of writing, then, is a social marker. Within the group of scribes, however, secrecy in the form of restricted access to certain pieces of information, to certain important locations, and to socially important activities acted as a way of establishing a social order among the scribes themselves.

In 'Die Erfindung des Experten: Über Sophisten und ihr Auftreten', Martin Hose treats the following question: 'how did the sophists succeed in being conceived of as "sophists"?' (29: 'wie konnte es den Sophisten gelingen, als "Sophisten" wahrgenommen zu werden?'). In spite of the quotation marks around sophists, this question seems to me to presuppose that the sophists of the first generation already had a conception of themselves as "sophists", which seems doubtful. Hose investigates how experts such as Gorgias, Protagoras, Prodicus and others made themselves known to a wider Greek audience as teachers of potentially valuable knowledge. He points out that these men skilfully used political and Pan-Hellenic events, such as embassies or the games at Olympia, to promote themselves. Gorgias' spectacular appearance at Olympia, and the erection of statues of him at this site and elsewhere, are evidence for this clever use of branding. Apart from these ways of making themselves known, the "sophists" dressed in a peculiar fashion, charged fees, so as to stress the value of their teaching, and surrounded themselves with numerous pupils.

John T. Hamilton, 'Der pythagoreische Kult und die akousmatische Mitteilung von Wissen'. This short contribution takes on a difficult task. Hamilton wants to focus on the 'acousmatics' among the Pythagoreans, those followers of Pythagoras who, having listened to their master, kept silent about what they had heard in contrast to the 'mathematicians', men like Hippasus, who wanted to advance and develop Pythagoras' doctrines (and so gave them away). Hamilton fully appreciates the methodical difficulties connected to the study of Pythagoras and his disciples, and proposes, reasonably enough, not to prove the historical reality of the divide between acousmatics and mathematicians, but rather to take it as a challenge and approach it as a provocation. He points out that the acousmatics might have supported their insistence on listening and keeping silent by philosophical considerations (training in attending to the pure, incorporate voice of reason). Thus, historians of philosophy should not dismiss the acousmatics as naive or fanatic followers of Pythagoras.

Antje Wessels' 'Gescheit(ert)e Strategien der Vermittlung von Wissen? Zur Arztszene in Plautus' Menaechmi (876–965)' deals with the conditions under which knowledge is transmitted and received in a scene from Plautus' comedy Menaechmi (in which a pair of twin brothers are mistaken for each other). The scene to which Wessels turns her attention involves a physician who has been summoned to cure one of the brothers, whom the physician and the father in law assume to suffer temporarily from madness. Predictably enough, though, the physician attends to the other brother who is perfectly well. This literary design makes it quite clear that the physician performs as an expert not only on the basis of his own expectations and beliefs—he assumes that the brother is ill and so interprets anything the brother does or says as a sign of his illness—, but also on the basis of the expectations of his client, the father in law, who perceives the physician and his trade with some suspicion. In this amusing paper, Wessels points out that the scene from Plautus is not simply a matter of scolding doctors and their suspected charlatanry. The physician fails not because he is a quack, but precisely because of his competence; a point that will only be obvious to the audience with its knowledge concerning the true identities of the characters of the play.

Fabian Goldbeck, 'Strategien der Wissensvermittlung in Rom: Zum sog. tirocinium fori in der späten Republik und der frühen Kaiserzeit'. This fascinating contribution describes the gradual changes in the training of young Roman men for participation in political life, the tirocinium fori, from the last days of the Republic well into the Imperial period. This is, broadly speaking, a story about the Senatorial class's gradual loss of educational power to professional teachers of rhetoric, both Greek and, more problematically, Latin, and to professional law experts. The maiores appear to have had no explicit strategies for transferring skills and knowledge to the young during their apprenticeship, but were expected to know how to deal with political institutions – apparently they 'taught' through their example – and to keep an eye on the conduct and associations of the young. With the emergence of professional teachers of rhetoric and law their hold on introducing new generations into political life gradually gave way.

In 'Wissensinszenierung bei emotionaler Nähe: Senecas ad Helviam de consolatione' Henriette Harich- Schwarzbauer interprets an exceptional text in Roman consolatory literature, Seneca's consolation to his mother, which is the only example in this genre of a son instructing his mother. Seneca's job is a delicate one since he has to strike a balance between his own authority as a man of knowledge and the natural authority and superior experience of his mother. Harich-Schwarzbauer brings out how Seneca manages to cast himself both in the role of the humble son hesitating to instruct his mother directly and in the role of the exiled son, with integrity and authority concerning matters of grief and how to overcome it. This versatile use of his own role as a son leads Seneca to abandon some conventions of consolatory literature.

Elke Hartmann, 'Die Kunst der edlen Selbstdarstellung: Plinius der jüngere als Kunstkenner und Euerget'. This well- written contribution offers an analysis of Pliny the younger's Ep. 3.6 in which Pliny describes a newly purchased Corinthian bronze sculpture that he orders to be erected in a public space. Pliny has to balance between a show of good taste, which involves some expertise in Greek art, and the suspicion of being too Greek in his cultural inclinations. He manages this by a manoeuvre corresponding, in some sense, to the rhetorical locus classicus "I'm no great speaker, but…" in as much as he assures the reader that he is really just an amateur when it comes to art. By exposing the sculpture publicly, he conveys an image of himself as the public benefactor placing the common good before his private interests. By way of conclusion, Hartmann suggests that Ep. 3.6 should be read as an attempt by Pliny to distinguish himself as an individual from the Senatorial aristocracy rather than as evidence for the shared values of this social group.

In 'Autor-Figurationen: Literatur als Ort der Inszenierung von Kompetenz' one of the editors, Therese Fuhrer, describes a number of ways in which authors, primarily Latin (she adduces Cicero, Seneca, and Augustine), represent themselves as knowledgeable or competent in their respective fields. The means by which an author fashions himself as competent are highly interesting and still very much in use among present day scholars. The author may position himself socially by dedicating his text to a prominent person. He may point out that he has been asked to write on the subject and that this was a demanding task so as to indicate his competence. Further, he may relate facts about what led him to write the text, how it differs, positively we are to assume, from other texts in the field and he may discuss the correct use of technical terms so as to show his mastery of the subject in question. Fuhrer points out how these, and other, strategies of self-fashioning are put to use in a variety of ways by her three authors according to the agenda of the respective author and his social context.

Christoph Markschies, 'Wie vermitteln apokryph gewordene christliche Schriften Wissen? – ein Prospekt'. This contribution describes two texts from a corpus that can only be defined with difficulty: Christian texts that, for some reason or other, became apocryphal. Markschies offers a fine description of the two texts, the Interrogatio Bartholemaei and the Passio Andreae, both of which contain pieces of knowledge (concerning winds and childbirth respectively). He has, however, almost nothing to say about the performative aspect of how this knowledge is conveyed (the bound Devil is questioned by Bartholomew, but we are not quite told what this means).

Guy G. Stroumsa, 'Bibel und paideia – "Textgemeinschaften" in der Spätantike'. As was the case with the previous chapter, this contribution is impeccable in the treatment of its subject matter but only marginally addresses the theme of the volume under review. Stroumsa offers a brief account of early Christian responses to pagan paideia with an emphasis on the concept of authority. The role of textual communities, especially monastic ones, in establishing a text or an author as an authority is stressed, as is the role of this social condition for the canonization and interpretation of canonical texts.

Almut-Barbara Renger and Andrea Stellmacher, 'Die Modellierung des Styliten Simeon (d.Ä) im Zusammenspiel von text, Bild und Performance'. This chapter investigates the ascetic practises of Simeon Stylites, who presumably spend most of his life on top of a pillar in Syria. It is not quite clear to me what the authors mean when they claim that Simeon's body is represented as a highly conventionalized 'knowledge-body' (173: 'Der körper dieses Asketen erscheint in den Texten und Bildern als hochstilisierter Wissenskörper ...'). What, one wonders, is a knowledge-body? But this aside, the two authors offer a clear account of Simeon's ascetic practices as ways in which this man cast a role for himself as a noticeably pious person.

Isabel Toral-Niehoff, 'Warum geheimes Wissen nicht vermittelt werden soll – oder doch? Die Einführungsdialog der "Nabatäischen Landwirtschaft"'. In an esoteric text called the Nabataean Agriculture the probably fictive translator of the text into Arabic, Ibn Wahsiyya, offers a first rate example of self-fashioning in Arabic scientific prose. Toral-Niehoff focuses on the foreword in which Ibn Wahsiyya narrates how he came upon the rare work, how he had to persuade an old man of the Nabataean people (Chaldeans, i.e. old Babylonians) to hand over the work for translation, and how his expertise made it possible to manage the translation at all. Ibn Wahsiyya casts himself as the 'heroic scholar' who goes to any lengths to find valuable knowledge and persists in persuading the keeper of this knowledge to pass it on.

The contributions yield some interesting results although it is not entirely clear that these results follow from the focus on 'performance' (many articles, in fact, approach their material with the aid of rhetorical analysis). That being said, the reader will learn a lot from this collection of essays, beautifully edited with only minor and insignificant misprints.2


1.   See the works by, e.g., Manfred Fuhrmann, Wolfgang Kullmann, Jochen Althoff, Markus Asper, Sabine Föllinger, Ralf Lengen, Thorsten Fögen.
2.   I found only two: page 31, line 28: 'Ἀθηαίοις' = Ἀθηναίοις; page 179, line 8: 'gen' = den.

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Nadia Scippacercola, Il lato oscuro del Romanzo Greco. Supplementi di Lexis, 62. Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert editore, 2011. Pp. 209. ISBN 9789025612702. €45.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Tim Whitmarsh, University of Oxford (tim.whitmarsh@ccc.ox.ac.uk)

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Scippacercola sets out to capture the creepy, eldritch undertow that persists throughout the five Greek novels. These are not, she shows, straightforward narratives of 'ideal' love; butchery, death and resurrection, nocturnal visions and fear are everywhere. In Scippacercola's library, they would be catalogued alongside Jess Franco films (rather than Rafik Schami's celebrated Die dunkle Seite der Liebe, the bejewelled classic of Gastarbeiter literature that is apparently alluded to in her title).1

Three core chapters explore three themes: human sacrifice, dreams, and the play between life and death. Her procedure is immersive. There is plenty of summary and paraphrase, plenty of quotation. She begins each of her chapters with a preamble, then takes us through the novelists in turn (sometimes including Antonius Diogenes and Iamblichus; Longus is largely omitted).

Reading the book, one gets a strong feel for the weirdness that percolates these texts. What's lacking, however, is any kind of consistent intellectual framework, and hence any strong overall thesis. Sometimes, certainly, there are interesting insights along the way. Thus for example she points (p. 34) to interesting points of contact between Clitophon's account of the immolation of Leucippe in Achilles Tatius (3.7-8) and Aristomenes' of that of Socrates in Apuleius (Met. 1.14), even if the implications are not fully developed. She offers some acute narratological observations. She unpacks well the restricted focalisation of Leucippe's sacrifice, mentioned above (p. 46); and also the split perceptions of the impending sacrifice of Charicleia and Theagenes in Heliodorus (p. 64); and Clitophon's excessive reactions in prison to hearing the false report of Leucippe's death (p. 138-9). On other occasions, she draws effective parallels between episodes in the novels and other cultural phenomena. The well known parallel between the novelists' brigands known as the boukoloi is explored again on pp. 36-9; the novels' dreams are placed in dialogue with Artemidorus (1.2.6, on p. 83; again a well known passage); the Hippocratic treatment of epileptic possession is suggestively discussed next to Xenophon's (pp. 89-90); the reappearance of Chariton's Chaereas, apparently from the grave, is fruitfully compared to 'psychomantic invocation' (pp. 125-6).

Yet most of this material has already been treated more systematically and in greater detail elsewhere.2 Indeed, it is the limited engagement, at the conceptual level, with the existing scholarship that holds the book back most of all. When she does address others' ideas, Scippacercola tends to absorb rather than process: so, for example, the discussion of dreams in Achilles and Heliodorus (pp. 76-85) is dependent on Shadi Bartsch's Decoding the Ancient Novel, and the discussion of the ghost theme in Xenophon rests on Puiggali and Stramaglia (pp. 86-91).3 More striking still are the bibliographical absences. The most obvious examples are Morgan's classic pieces on Cnemon's story and on the 'sense of the ending' in Heliodorus, and Winkler's on Calasiris and narrative strategy (which significantly preempts her discussion of, e.g., Thyamis' dream on p. 83).4 The bibliographical coverage is, indeed, patchy overall: in addition to numerous standard novelistic reference-points by e.g. Anderson, Billault, Feuillâtre, Lalanne, and Paulsen (and my own edited Cambridge Companion), there are items of more direct relevance to her theme that are not included.5 A cynic might observe that her bibliographic reach into Italian scholarship is much more impressive than into that of other languages (I reckon about 1/3 of items listed are Italian).

It is not until the last 6 pages (165-70) that one is presented with any kind of synthetic overview. Here we read that in Chariton the horrific moments are false perceptions of reality, and generate ironic disjunctions of perspective; in Xenophon, they create suspenseful projections of possible (but unfulfilled) outcomes; in Achilles, they are more intense, and are sometimes genuinely designed to cause disquiet, though they can be playful too; in Heliodorus they again serve to generate suspense, but also to emphasise the particular links this novelist forges between the real world and the supernatural.

This is thus a principally literary reading of the texts, and her conclusions are unobjectionable as far as they go. Neither the dynamic role of horror within the plot nor its emotional affect is, however, fully mapped out. There is an immense scholarly literature on e.g. Gothic horror fiction that could have been used to build a more purposeful account. Yet limiting an interpretation of this theme to the literary (in the narrow sense) is already too limited. Horror necessarily reaches beyond the formal and aesthetic, into psychoanalysis, cultural criticism and gender studies. Of these, gender is no doubt the most important for the ancient novel: particularly in the light of Helen Morales' brilliant study of sublimated violence in Achilles Tatius, any study of these texts must surely confront the fact that most horrors, real or imagined, are inflicted upon women's bodies. 6 Another major absence from her bibliography, in this connection, is Julia Kristeva's Powers of Horror, a classic that draws strong connections between the representation of horror, abjection and sexuality.7

In terms of future directions, the most suggestive section is the glossary of terms describing horrific visions and responses to them: this could form the basis of a powerful study of the aesthetics of the novelistic 'dark side', and of the emotional response projected onto readers. It is indeed intriguing to see just how widespread and persistent is this terminology.

This book covers interesting material, then, but does so rather thinly. Specialists may wish to consult it for its treatments of individual episodes (and, as I say, for the useful glossary), but overall it does not have quite the intellectual purchase that the rich topic deserves.


1.   Schami, R. (2004) Die dunkle Seite der Liebe. München. Trans. (2009) by Bell, A. as The Dark Side of Love. Northampton, MA.
2.   This is particularly true of narratology. See Hägg, T. (1971) Narrative Technique in Ancient Greek Romances: Studies of Chariton. Stockholm; and the relevant chapters in De Jong, I.J.F, Nünlist, R. and Bowie, A. eds (2004) Narrators, Narratees, and Narratives in Ancient Greek Literature: Studies in Ancient Greek Narrative, volume 1. Leiden; De Jong, I.J.F. and Nünlist, R. eds (2007) Time in Ancient Greek Literature: Studies in Ancient Greek Narrative, volume 2. Leiden; De Jong, I.J.F. ed. (2012) Space in ancient Greek literature: Studies in ancient Greek narrative, volume 3. Leiden.
3.   Bartsch, S. (1989) Decoding the Ancient Novel: The Reader and the Role of Description in Heliodorus and Achilles Tatius. Princeton; Puiggali, J. (1986) 'Une histoire de fantôme: Xénophon d'Ephèse V. 7', RhM 129: 321-8; Stramaglia, A. (1999) Res inauditae, incredulae: Storie di fantasmi nel mondo greco-latino. Bari.
4.   Winkler, J.J. (1982) 'The mendacity of Kalasiris and the narrative strategy of Heliodorus' Aithiopika', YCS 27: 93-158; repr. in Swain, S. ed. (1999) The Greek novel. Oxford: 286-350; Morgan, J.R. (1989) 'The story of Knemon in Heliodoros' Aithiopika', JHS 109: 99-113; repr. in Swain, The Greek Novel: 259-85; Morgan, J.R. (1989) 'A sense of the ending: the conclusion of Heliodoros' Aithiopika', TAPA 119: 299- 320.
5.   Anderson, G. (1982) Eros sophistes: Ancient Novelists at Play. Chico; Billault, A. (1991) La création romanesque dans la littérature grecque à l'époque impériale. Paris; Feuillâtre, E. (1966) Études sur les Éthiopiques d'Héliodore. Paris; Lalanne, S. (2006) Une éducation grecque: rites de passage et construction des genres dans le roman grec ancien. Paris; Paulsen, T. (1992) Inszenierung des Schicksals: Tragödie und Komödie im Roman des Heliodor. Trier; Whitmarsh, T. ed. (2008) The Cambridge Companion to the Greek and Roman Novel. Cambridge. Directly relevant to Scippacercola's themes: e.g. Plastira-Valkanou, A. (2001) 'Dreams in the Novel of Xenophon Ephesius', SO 76: 137-149; Ballengee, J. (2005) 'Below the belt: looking into the matter of adventure time'. In Branham, R.B. ed. The Bakhtin Circle and Ancient Narrative. Groningen: 130–63; Burrus, V. (2005) 'Mimicking virgins: colonial ambivalence and the ancient romance'. Arethusa 38: 49-88.
6.   Morales, H. (2005) Vision and Narrative in Achilles Tatius. Cambridge.
7.   Kristeva, J. (1982) Powers of Horror: an Essay in Abjection. Trans. L. S. Roudiez. New York.

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Sunday, April 28, 2013


Edward McCrorie (trans.), Homer. The Iliad. Johns Hopkins new translations from antiquity. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012. Pp. lxiii, 482. ISBN 9781421406428. $25.00 (pb). Contributors: Introduction and notes by Erwin Cook.

Reviewed by George L. Greaney, Hofstra University (george.greaney@hofstra.edu)

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I sometimes recall with fondness the first time I read Homer in Greek as an undergraduate. It was a thrilling and uniquely new experience for me which can be evoked even now with a rereading of even a hundred lines. I nourish the hope that some of that experience can be created by a translation; if not the same experience, at least a similar impact on the mind, for lack of a better phrase. So how can that impact be achieved? I find it remarkable but heartening that almost every year a new English version of The Iliad comes out and the main market for these volumes is the undergraduate or high school student who will first experience Homer via the medium of these translations. Perhaps when all is said and done, the most important aspect of these translations is the degree of interest they inspire in the student. Such a reader's first impression will probably be his or her only impression of Homeric poetry and even of the "world view" of "the Greeks." These "general readers" probably will spend no time thinking about the "nobility" (to quote Matthew Arnold) or faithfulness of the translated poem to the original. What really matters is whether the poem comes alive for them as a kind of literary adventure they will recall many years later, and whether Homer will become part of their intellectual apparatus for experiencing life. If the poem is merely an historical document—an important aspect for classical scholars—its lasting influence on these readers' minds may be minimal. What I think most translators would like to accomplish is to make their rendition an enriching and worthwhile reading experience.

The cover design of the book, which is a black and white 1965 photograph of a fiercely scowling Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) in the ring standing over a supine Sonny Liston, grabs one's attention and may seem incongruous at first, but anyone who has read the Iliad cannot miss the parallels of heroic battle with prize fighting—with a focus on the concept of a prize for victory (the Homeric γέρας).

The introduction and notes by Erwin Cook are helpful if mostly derivative. A classical scholar will find little in them that is new.1 But the intended reader may be coming to this poem for the first time. Cook's introduction might better be read after the poem itself, as it assumes a familiarity with the whole poem. There are also 46 pages of endnotes by Cook and two collaborators, Hal Cardiff (for books 1-12) and Natalie Trevino (13-24). These notes are concise and aimed at a reader without much knowledge of the text or its context. They seem just enough for such a reader and no more. The plot summary in the introduction is helpful and contains interpretive comments to acquaint the reader with how scholars read the poem.

McCrorie's English corresponds almost pari passu with the Greek, a notable feature also of Lattimore's classic translation.2 This is no mean achievement, but perhaps of little importance to those who cannot consult the Greek text as they go along. So, in one sense, this is a translation for those who need no translation, except as a means of getting more quickly through the Greek without needing to consult a dictionary or lexicon. But, on the other hand, those who would use the translation this way might not, for example, be willing to accept at face value McCrorie's rendering of certain words or phrases.

McCrorie's English lines follow no strict metrical scheme although one can detect a pattern of four stresses in many lines, alternating with lines of five or six stresses. As a whole this translation can be recommended for its readability. It flows nicely line after line and generally avoids ornate or archaic English, which suits the plain diction and forward momentum of Homer's Greek hexameters. Formulaic passages such as descriptions of feasting do not recur strictly verbatim but often the lines are the same. This repetitive aspect of the narrative should be preserved to be faithful to the orality of the original composition, I believe. However, perhaps inevitably, this translation presents some puzzling renditions of the original.

At 3.429 McCrorie translates δαμεὶς as "drubbed," but at 436 it is rendered "be downed" (δαμήῃς). It is difficult to see how using the word "drubbed" in one place is better than using the verb "to be downed" in both places. Earlier at 424 he translates the single word δίφρον as "a good chair." Again, why the choice to add this modifier, which corresponds to nothing in the Greek?

In general the diction is plain and unobtrusive, but sometimes a word choice is conspicuous and distracting. For example, at 9.9 we read "Atreus' son, his heart pierced by the great stress/hastened to tell his clear-voiced heralds to summon/every man by name…." I submit that the present-day American reader associates the word "stress" with a psychological context different than that of Homer's heroic world. By using the word "distress" instead, the faint connotation of psycho-babble can be avoided. I leave aside the question of the appropriateness of the word "pierced" to render βεβολημένος.

I could cite many more examples of translation choices in this book that I would find fault with; it is no great task to find examples as one gazes at the text from the Olympian vantage point of the reviewer. Flaws can be found in all of the translations of the Iliad now in print or out of print. Each of us who teach this text will favor one or another and probably use a slightly different set of criteria for judging. No doubt this version will find its constituency because it offers clarity and simplicity of diction and has the narrative energy to hold the reader's attention. In the hyper- stimulating world our students inhabit nowadays holding a reader's attention comes before everything else.


1.   Cook's 44 page introduction has 52 notes, the vast majority of which are references to the ideas of other scholars.
2.   Richmond Lattimore, trans. The Iliad of Homer. University of Chicago Press, 1951, 2011.

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Nils Rücker, Ausonius an Paulinus von Nola: Textgeschichte und literarische Form der Briefgedichte 21 und 22 des Decimus Magnus Ausonius. Hypomnemeta, Bd 190. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2012. Pp. 376. ISBN 9783525252970. €79.99.

Reviewed by Giampiero Scafoglio, Seconda Università di Napoli (scafogli@unina.it)

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Questo cospicuo e interessante libro, pubblicato nella prestigiosa collana "Hypomnemata", nasce dalla rielaborazione della dissertazione discussa dall'Autore nel 2010 all'Università "Friedrich Schiller" di Jena, con la supervisione di Meinolf Vielberg e Widu-Wolfgang Ehlers. L'argomento, lo scambio epistolare tra Ausonio e Paolino, sta recentemente riscuotendo notevole attenzione da parte della critica: da pochi anni se ne sono occupati David Amherdt (Ausone et Pauline de Nole, Bern 2004), Gillian Knight ('Friendship and erotics in the late antique verse-epistle', Rheinisches Museum 148, 2005, pp. 361-403) e Stefania Filosini (Paolino di Nola, Carmi 10 e 11, Roma 2008; cf. Latomus, 70, 2011, pp. 523-524).

L'introduzione (pp. 11-48) ripercorre la biografia, la carriera politica e la produzione poetica sia di Ausonio che di Paolino, ricostruendo lo sfondo storico e culturale del tempo, con la sua particolare complessità, soprattutto per quanto concerne il rapporto tra Cristianesimo e paganesimo. Il quadro generale resta nei limiti della compilazione, sia pur equilibrata e documentata; tanto più che non vi sono conclusioni sicure sulla posizione religiosa di Ausonio. Più utile è invece lo status quaestionis sullo scambio epistolare tra Ausonio e Paolino, di cui si mette in luce il valore storico- documentario (segnatamente in merito al conflitto ideologico epocale, "die Auseinandersetzung zwischen einem traditionell römischen und einem christlichen Kulturverständnis"), si discutono le edizioni moderne e la letteratura secondaria, divisa tra le due opposte interpretazioni, in chiave di vera comunicazione personale o di finzione letteraria (pp. 24-41).

L'Autore dichiara di considerare il rapporto con i modelli poetici un punto centrale dello scambio epistolare tra Ausonio e Paolino (p. 46): questo è infatti l'argomento del secondo capitolo (pp. 49-90), che prende le mosse dal ruolo dei poeti classici nella formazione della coscienza culturale della tarda antichità (pp. 49-55), per poi affrontare il caso specifico di Ausonio (pp. 56-60) e affrancarlo dal giudizio negativo invalso tradizionalmente, da Eduard Norden e Martin Schanz in poi, fino a H. Evelyn White e M. Lossau (pp. 60-66). Ausonio non si deve considerare "ein epigonaler Dichter", in quanto il suo talento non si può misurare nel confronto con Virgilio o con altri poeti del passato. Il suo approccio creativo (non servile) con i modelli emerge da un esame del Cento nuptialis, che è costruito con versi e stilemi attinti dall'Eneide, ma inseriti in un contesto nuovo che ne stravolge il significato, con esito originale: "die Lektüre wird so ungleich komplexer und distanzierter" (pp. 66-77). Nelle Epistole, i richiami intertestuali funzionano come "Mittel der Argumentation": il lettore è sollecitato a risalire al contesto da cui provengono le reminiscenze, che integrano e arricchiscono il messaggio ausoniano, come dimostra l'analisi dell'Epistola 24 a Paolino, con molteplici riferimenti a Virgilio, Properzio, Lucano, Seneca e Stazio (pp. 77-90).

Il testo delle Epistole 21 e 22, con apparato critico ridotto al minimo, riproduce l'edizione curata da Green, con una sola differenza: nella prima lettera, il v.12 è posposto al 13. Tuttavia la caratteristica notevole del testo edito da Rücker è la giustapposizione di uariae lectiones (in un apposito apparato laterale) sia a 21.12-13 che a 22.3 e 33-34: infatti le lezioni del Vossianus e del Parisinus Lat. 8500 (accolte da Green) sono affiancate da quelle del Bruxellensis 10203/5, del Parisinus Lat. 2122 e del Parisinus Lat. 7558. La spiegazione si trova nel capitolo seguente, un ampio e approfondito discorso sulla tradizione manoscritta delle Epistole di Ausonio: si tratta di varianti d'autore, riconducibili alla «Zwei-Editionen-Theorie», secondo cui il poeta stesso avrebbe ritoccato alcune delle proprie opere, già pubblicate; per quanto concerne le Epistole, le avrebbe revisionate per includerle in un'edizione commentata, da lui curata in tarda età (pp. 148-197).

Il testo delle due Epistole, con una precisa e duttile traduzione tedesca (pp. 91-97), è seguito da una ricostruzione della situazione (la scelta di Paolino di dedicarsi alla vita ascetica in seguito alla morte del fratello; il rimprovero che gli rivolge Ausonio, di aver rinunciato a una brillante carriera politica e di aver tradito la loro amicizia) e da un'interpretazione puntuale che analizza le argomentazioni, il linguaggio e i rapporti con i modelli (pp. 98-120). Tra questi, spiccano Cicerone, Lael. 91-92 (sulla sincerità insita nella vera amicizia), Tusc. 3.63 (con la versione latina di un brano omerico che parla del solipsismo di Bellerofonte, a cui Ausonio paragona il comportamento di Paolino), nonché Livio e Giovenale (per il richiamo a Tanaquil, a cui è accostata Terasia, la moglie di Paolino). Il topos del lamento e del rimprovero a un amico (pp. 120-141) è ben presente nella tradizione epistolare che va da Cicerone a Simmaco, con toni e motivi molto simili a quelli usati da Ovidio nella poesia erotica e didascalica, dagli Amores all'Ars amatoria, dalle Heroides ai componimenti scritti dall'esilio. Ai Tristia si ispira infatti largamente Ausonio (pp. 141-147).

Il problema dell'ordine delle Epistole è oggetto del sesto capitolo (pp. 198-210). Ma le lettere 21 e 22 sono inquadrate in un "Gedichtzyklus": sono considerate, dunque, "als Einheit, als literarisches Gesamtkunstwerk"; la controversa questione della loro cronologia relativa si rivela inconcludente (pp. 211-235). La natura squisitamente letteraria delle due Epistole è confermata dalla loro struttura e forma dell'espressione, in cui si riscontra l'influenza decisiva sia della poesia composta da Ovidio in esilio (pp. 236-244) che dell'Eneide (pp. 244-255). Inoltre le due lettere, in successione contigua, formano una 'Ringkomposition' che muove dal dolore causato dal silenzio dell'amico (prima parte dell'Epistola 21) e vi ritorna alla fine (seconda parte dell'Epistola 22), con riferimento ai Tristia di Ovidio; mentre al centro vi sono i temi della solitudine e dell'abbandono (seconda parte di 21) e del ritorno (prima parte di 22), in relazione con i libri 3 e 4 dell'Eneide (pp. 255-258).

L'analisi dell'intertestualità prosegue con la rassegna di personaggi ed episodi leggendari rievocati mediante l'espediente del 'Katalog', con cui Ausonio mostra a Paolino, con l'evidenza esemplare propria del mito, "auf einer tieferen Ebene deutlich, was Schweigen, Feigheit, Selbstverliebtheit und religiöser Wahn bewirken können" (pp. 259- 313). Nell'Epistola 22 la presenza della poesia didascalica ovidiana, introdotta per spronare il destinatario a sottrarsi al controllo della moglie con l'esercizio dell'ars celandi e fallendi, si intreccia con i richiami allusivi ad alcuni miti narrati nelle Metamorfosi (Filomela e Tereo, Aconzio e Cidippe, etc.), a conferma della straordinaria ricchezza di reminiscenze e suggestioni di questa operetta, oltre che del ruolo centrale giocato da Ovidio tra i modelli: Ausonio svolge il compito di "Lehrdichter", o meglio "Lebens-Lehrer", che impartisce insegnamenti all'amico-discepolo, cercando di guidarlo "zu einem besseren Leben" (pp. 314-339).

I principali punti del discorso svolto nel volume sono utilmente ricapitolati nel riepilogo finale (pp. 340-345), seguito da un'ampia bibliografia e dagli indici (quello dei nomi e delle cose e quello dei passi citati).

Come si evince dal quadro sintetico fin qui delineato, si tratta di un libro equilibrato e solidamente documentato, che mantiene più di quello che promette, nel senso che non è solamente un'edizione commentata delle Epistole 21 e 22: è una monografia che esplora approfonditamente i rapporti di Ausonio con i modelli, mette in luce le motivazioni culturali e ideologiche sottese all'intertestualità, analizza le strategie, le strutture e le forme espressive della composizione poetica. È credibilmente dimostrata la natura letteraria (non strettamente personale) delle due Epistole, che "nicht nur historische Dokumente, sondern vor allem Literatur ersten Ranger sind" (p. 345). Unico limite di questo pregevole lavoro mi pare l'impostazione eccessivamente prolissa, con una tendenza alla sistematicità che talvolta ricade nella compilazione scolastica (per esempio pp. 11-24 e 49-60): una più accurata selezione delle informazioni avrebbe reso il volume più snello, più rapidamente ed efficacemente fruibile (in base alle esigenze della stampa scientifica), ma soprattutto avrebbe messo maggiormente in evidenza le acquisizioni innovative, degne di essere valorizzate.

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Jacqueline de Romilly, The Mind of Thucydides (first published 1956). Cornell studies in classical philology. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 2012. Pp. xviii, 195. ISBN 9780801450631. $35.00. Contributors: Translated by Elizabeth Trapnell Rawlings; edited and with an introduction by Hunter R. Rawlings III and Jeffrey Rusten.

Reviewed by Christopher Baron, University of Notre Dame (cbaron1@nd.edu)

Version at BMCR home site

Jacqueline de Romilly (1913–2010) published Histoire et raison chez Thucydide in 1956 to overwhelmingly positive reception, and her book marked a significant juncture in Thucydidean scholarship. As the editors of the English translation explain in their short Introduction, Romilly left behind the dominant approaches of nearly all who came before – either focusing on the "Composition Question" or treating the work as a mine of historical data – and considered Thucydides' text as an object of close reading, "a work of art deserving rhetorical and aesthetic analysis" (xi). Hers was the first sustained attempt to draw out fully the consequences of the notion that the historian shapes his or her work through selection and omission, emphasis, and style, and to illustrate the operation of these factors in detail in Thucydides. Romilly's book, along with that of Hans-Peter Stahl a decade later, helped send Thucydidean studies down the path they still follow.1 Most classical scholars have enough French to make their way through Romilly's original, though perhaps not the time. Nevertheless, except for the truly bilingual, it is easier to digest complex and rigorous arguments in one's native language. Those of us who think primarily in English thus owe a debt of gratitude to Rawlings, Rawlings, and Rusten for translating this seminal work of Thucydidean scholarship. Along with Stahl's 2003 translation of his own earlier work, we now have easy access to two landmark treatments of Thucydides, and two books still worth reading in their own right.2

The English translation presents Romilly's work largely in its original form but with some notable additions. These include section headings (where the French has only Roman numerals) and sub-headings (marked in the original by centered asterisks); a list of Works Cited, useful and necessary given the shorthand nature of Romilly's original citations, of works now more than seventy years old; and a brief Subject Index. The editors decided not to update the bibliography or the notes (viii) – a testament to the fact that Romilly's work still reads fresh. Elizabeth Trapnell Rawlings's translation stays close to the original and thus retains some of the occasional vagueness which scholarly French can produce. But she has done an excellent job of adjusting the syntax and idiom to create English which reads smoothly while still reflecting the stylistic flourishes and variation of Romilly's original. This is also accomplished by keeping Romilly's short, one-sentence paragraphs which she often employed to punctuate the beginning and end of her arguments (see, for example, the section on "Intelligibility and Generality," 23–27).

Four chapters, accompanied by a brief introduction and conclusion, cover narrative methods, battle accounts, antithetical speeches, and investigation of the past. In one sense, Romilly proceeds from histoire to raison: from a "simple" battle narrative to a more complex one, including speeches; from there to sets of opposed speeches; and finally to a narrative without reliable facts, constructed solely through reasoning. But this progression is only apparent, since Romilly demonstrates that Thucydides' hand is in firm control throughout his work, repeating specific language to mark (and make) connections in an attempt to reveal with clarity the truth of events. This was, perhaps, her most important achievement: to show that Thucydides' art is on display not only in the speeches, but in the erga sections as well. Her close analysis of Thucydides' selectivity, narrative structure, and use of "guiding threads" (fils conducteurs) in order to emphasize the ideas he wishes to impress upon the reader demolished the notion of "straightforward" historical narrative.

Her opening chapter, with its brilliant exposition of the Athenian attempt to blockade Syracuse and the successful resistance of the latter (6.96–7.9), remains a tour de force. This episode which seems to involve nothing more than factual details of military operations is instead shown to be carefully, even obsessively constructed, with the exact repetition of key phrases and precisely timed interruptions, in order to explain why events turned out the way they did – that is, expressing interpretation through the narrative itself. Thus, while it is true that Thucydides effaces the author from the text, this does not mean that he avoids interpretation and offers only facts, or that he achieves some sort of ideal objectivity; rather, he insists on communicating his judgments to the reader solely by means of the narrative (46). Similar demonstrations follow in chapter 2, revealing the tight connection between speech and action surrounding the Battle of Naupactus (2.86–92); in chapter 3, examining the principles and methods at work in the paired speeches (using Camarina, 6.75–88, as an example); and in chapter 4, where the sometimes awkward and problematic language of the Archaeology (1.3–19) turns out to be a product of Thucydides' complex and narrowly focused reasoning.

Romilly's findings bore crucial consequences for scholars' judgments of Thucydides. As she points out, for example, when other authors (such as Plutarch) give different details surrounding the blockade of Syracuse, we cannot assume that they are wrong or engaging in embellishment; rather, Thucydides has chosen to emphasize one point, they others (11). Overall, her successful demonstration of a unified authorial presence throughout the work laid to rest traditional concerns about the layers of composition scholars had been trying to find for more than a century.

It is, of course, a tricky thing to trace influence. Romilly's book clearly foreshadowed the future of Thucydidean scholarship. But her new approach did not win the field immediately, at least in the English-speaking world. In 1973, Virginia Hunter still could only express her hope that the old guard of positivism had finally fallen (and she looked to Stahl 1966 as the potential fatal blow).3 W.R. Connor, in his 1977 scholarship review, notes that Romilly's method, at least, had "won many American converts in recent years," but he places the emergence of a new Thucydides in the mid- 1960s amidst the crisis of authority connected with the Vietnam War; for Connor, Romilly had offered "a path that seemed likely to lead to the sources of Thucydides' intense power" as an author, without necessarily questioning the notion of objectivity.4 In a remarkable case of trans-Atlantic Zeitgeist, the year after Romilly's book appeared in France, Adam Parry completed his Harvard dissertation on "Logos and Ergon in Thucydides," in which he approached the work not as an objective description of the war, but as "a study of man's attempt to master the world by the intellect."5 At the time of his death in 1973, Parry was under contract with Oxford to expand the dissertation (which treated only the first two books of Thucydides) into a monograph entitled, interestingly enough, "The Mind of Thucydides." Sadly, that book was never written, but Parry had already published three articles dealing with Thucydides' language and the highly "personal" and "tragic" nature of the work.6

The translator and editors do not explain their decision to translate Romilly's title as The Mind of Thucydides. Whatever their reasons – and I assume they had Parry's unwritten book in mind – they chose well. "History and Reason" would not have done it justice. "History and Logic" comes closer to Romilly's intention but sounds far too dry to reflect the richness of her exposition. "The Mind of Thucydides" captures perfectly what Romilly was after: for all its "objectivity," Thucydides' work "is actually one in which the author's intervention is most profound" (3). His history of the Peloponnesian War is not a simple record of what happened. It is the product of his impressive analytical powers, his attempt to grasp and express the essence of why things happened, happen, and will happen in the manner they do.


1.   H.-P. Stahl, Thukydides: Die Stellung des Menschen im geschichtlichen Prozess (Munich, 1966). The work of John H. Finley, Jr. should also be noted here; his 1942 book on Thucydides was still concerned with the composition question, but his attention to style and language provided an important model for Romilly.
2.   H.-P. Stahl, Thucydides: Man's Place in History (Swansea, 2003).
3.   Thucydides: The Artful Reporter (Toronto, 1973), 5–8. As she notes, rumblings of this sort date back to Cornford's Thucydides Mythistoricus (1907). But she may be slightly unfair in lumping A.W. Gomme with the rigid positivists; he actually offers quite a positive review of Romilly's book in Gnomon 30 (1958), 15–19, including praise for her "excellent restatement of the truth . . . of the inevitable subjectivity of all historiography, and of its application to Thucydides" (16). And Romilly herself cites Gomme's Poetry and History (1954) on more than one occasion.
4.   W.R. Connor, "A Post Modernist Thucydides?" Classical Journal 72 (1977), 289–298, quotations at 295 and 290, respectively.
5.   Cited by Donald Kagan in his introduction to Adam Parry, Logos and Ergon in Thucydides (Arno Press, 1981), 2.
6.   Ibid., 3 (book contract), 8 (bibliography for Parry's articles). Kagan says Parry's dissertation was highly influential, but also cites Connor's quip (above, n. 4, 296 n. 23) about it being hard to obtain.

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