Monday, December 9, 2013


Luisa Breglia, Alda Moleti, Maria Luisa Napolitano, Renata Calce (ed.), Ethne, identità e tradizioni, Vol. I: la "terza" Grecia e l'Occidente; Vol. II: Graikoi ed Hellenes: storia di due Etnonimi. Diabaseis, 3. Pisa: Edizioni ETS, 2011. Pp. xvii, 722; x, 180. ISBN 9788846730930. €55.00.

Reviewed by Maria Beatrice Bittarello, Rome (

Version at BMCR home site

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

The first volume of this publication is a solid collection of good-level essays, (with some outstanding pieces), focusing on the construction of ethnic (and state) identity in northwest Greece, Sicily and Magna Graecia. The essays were presented at a conference held in Naples in January 2011 as part of collaborative research involving several Italian universities and financed with public funding by the Italian state.1 Most authors were involved in this project; a few others were invited to attend the conference. The second volume is a monograph by the late Renata Calce on the history of the ethnic names Graikoi and Hellenes. Calce's book is carefully and widely researched, and its main argument on the origins, complex history and final overlapping of the terms Graikoi (that the author convincingly links to the Mycenaean civilization and to the regions of Euboea and Boeotia) and Hellenes is original and well argued. This monograph also represents a useful background for several contributions in volume I.

The thirty-two articles in volume I, of which twenty-nine are in Italian and one each in German, English and French, are organized by regions, though there are no sub-headings. The book includes abstracts (in English) of all the papers. The first article, by Barbara Kowalzig, looks at Aeginetan identity from an economic viewpoint. The myths of Aeacus, the cult of Zeus Hellanios, and Aegina's mythic pan-Hellenic xenia are all connected to the efforts made by the islanders to establish the image of an island 'hospitable' and 'fair' (towards foreigners), which facilitated their economic activities. Kowalzig's argument that, in the end, civic and economic identity converged is interesting from a cross-cultural point of view.

Four articles focus on the Gulf of Corinth. Klaus Freitag argues that the Gulf of Corinth represented a unity and stresses how its peculiar spatial configuration of the Gulf region favoured interconnection and phenomena of ethnic identity-shifting (as at Boulis and Kalydon). Maurizio Giangiulio's fascinating analysis concentrates on Corinth's mythology, on its appropriation of external (Boeotian, Thessalian and Eastern) elements, and on the reasons why the city's elites engaged in the competitions at the Olympic Games. The author identifies the foundations of Corinthian identity in this city's relationship with the sea. Claudia Antonetti focuses on the links between Corinth and its colonies in northwest Greece (Corcyra, Epidamnus, Ambracia) from the classical to the Hellenistic period, with a stress on numismatic evidence and on aspects of Timoleon's figure, exploring how a new reading of the link between motherland and colonies as parental and loving emerges in Timoleon's age. Stefania De Vido analyses how the link between Corinth and Syracuse evolves from the time of the Athenian expedition in Sicily. The author connects the issues with Philip II that Corinth faced in Greece to Timoleon's expedition and convincingly reads Timoleon as the longa manus of the Macedonian king.

The next group of papers deals with northwest Greece and Delphi. Cristina Carusi re-examines the much-debated issue of the peraia chora in relation to northwest Greece, focusing principally on Leucas and Corcyra. Her persuasive conclusion is that continental enclaves were of great importance, as they allowed control of naval traffic. By examining the high number of manteis from northwest Greece (Acarnania, Elis), in spite of the absence of a renowned oracular centre, Nicola Reggiani's very interesting contribution highlights how mantic specialisation is connected to geographic marginality and linked to the seer's genealogy. Mario Lombardo offers a detailed analysis and a new interpretation of Delphi's imprimatur on colonisation, using the concept of "intentional identity" as well as methods borrowed from oral history. Eduardo Federico examines Minos, Delphi and Cretan identities, showing how, by the use of competing variants, the same myth could be adopted and re-told by different actors‒i.e. Delphi's clergy, Knossos, the Eteocretan cities, the poleis of Magna Graecia‒for differing ends.

Several articles focus on Phocis, Parasopia and Boeotia. Luigi Gallo examines issues pertaining to the history of the koinon of Phocis, focusing in particular on coinage, on the Phokikon and on the war against Thessaly as means to stress the federal state identity. Angela Kühr examines the myth of the daughters of Thespis and Greek traditions (on Iolaus, worshipped in Thebes) on the colonisation of Sardinia to highlight the possible interconnections between colonisation in the West and Boeotian identity. Anna Di Gioia looks at the role of mythic genealogies in the construction of groups' identity, arguing convincingly that the relationship with both Thessaly and Locris had great importance in the definition of the Phocian identity. Luisa Prandi re-examines some well-known texts on Plataea's relations with both Boeotia and Athens, analysing in detail conflicting traditions, showing how variants have a political importance, and highlighting the undervalued importance of Parasopia. Mauro Moggi focuses on the image of Thebes in Herodotus and manages to offer some new insights on the ancient historian's carefully constructed (and distorted) representation of Thebes. Cinzia Bearzot focuses on the history of Orchomenus and on myths as a source of information for history, showing how sagas were re-crafted for political ends. Nicola Parise surveys the state of current research on the archaic coinage of Boeotia. Luisa Breglia looks at myths founding ethnic identity, and highlights the changing political as well as cultural functions of the many traditions on pre-Cadmean peoples in Boeotia. Alda Moleti argues that Zethus and Amphion in the Antiope by Eubulus are none other than Pelopidas and Epaminondas. This hypothesis has consequences for the comedy examined as well as for better understanding the political situation in Athens and Thebes. Marcello Lupi focuses on the Boeotian koinon and, by a close examination of Orchomenus and Hyettos, manages to highlight the peculiarity of the Boeotian politic model with respect to the Athenian and Corinthian models.

Five articles touch on Magna Graecia. Alfonso Mele re-examines the cults linked to Orestes at Metauros and Stesichorus's works, connecting them both to the changing situation in Magna Graecia at the end of the First Sacred War. Luca Cerchiai and Mauro Menichetti show how an Homeric myth was overturned and re-read in a positive light by the Locrians. By using various means (which included his privileged relationship with Achilles), Aiax Oileus was transformed into a politically expendable figure in favour of Locris and against this city's competitors in Magna Graecia. Amedeo Visconti examines P.Oxy 2.221 and argues that it is likely that the Homeric commentator Hippys of Rhegium mentioned traditions referring to Orestes' weapons. Michela Nocita attempts to evaluate the presence of Western Locrians outside Magna Graecia, noting how this appears to be related to economic and political factors. Lavinio Del Monaco's new direct examination of the inscribed lamina found at Casa Marafioti at Locris in 1910 allows him to re-interpret the text.

Two articles deal with Hellenistic kingdoms. Maria Intrieri takes into account the role played by Corcyra in the wars of the Hellenistic basileis, and highlights how the island attempted to pursue an independent political course. Adele D'Alessandro's and Giovanna De Sensi Sestito's intriguing analysis of the role played by Cineas of Thessaly in Pyrrhus' strategy in Greece and Italy manages to highlight both the importance of the Epyrotan king's Thessalian roots (De Sensi Sestito) and how certain traditions on the Pelasgian origins of Rome may originate in Cineas' propaganda (D'Alessandro).

Four contributions focus on Aetolia, Ithaca and Elis. Bruno D'Agostino argues that the traditions connecting Odysseus's mother Anticleia to the sanctuary of Athena Alalkomene served Ithaca's inhabitants' politics in relation to Corinth. Ugo Fantasia's analysis of the myths on Heracles' deeds in the northwest of Greece illustrates well how myths are recycled and used for political reasons. Claudio Biagetti examines Aetolian mythic traditions on the river Evenus and on Mount Taphiassus to highlight the presence of non-Aetolian elements which were used to construct identity and useful political connections between Aetolia and other regions of the Greek world. Damiana Baldassarra's interesting analysis of the mythic traditions involving the river Alpheus highlights their changing functions in relation to the both mythic and real geography of Elis.

Three articles close the book. Maria Letizia Lazzarini examines an Orphic lamina from Hipponion, proposing some corrections to both her own previous reading of the text and to other scholars' recent interpretations. Pierre Ellinger's fascinating article explores the traditions on three cults of Artemis in Patras, highlighting how in the course of its history Patras managed to shape its profile as "Artemis' city", in opposition to Sparta. Paola Grandinetti's contribution is of great interest, since it reports on new archaeological discoveries of documents in Corcyra (and elsewhere) that compel scholars to change current evaluations of feminine autonomy in economic contracts in ancient Greece.

The two volumes pay attention to several aspects of ancient Greek history, highlighting the connections between myths, economy, ethnicity and politics; for example, the contributions focusing on peculiar forms of federalism linked to ethnicity, as in the federal states of Boeotia and Phocis, or to ethnic shifting in the Gulf of Corinth are of great interest. As declared in the introduction to volume I, most articles deal with myths and try (rather successfully, on the whole) to connect them to politics, economy, history and culture in general. This could be seen by some as questionable; nonetheless, since the contributors, though inspired by different theoretical models and methodologies, explore these issues in great detail, cautiously and paying attention to every and each variant, the results seem to be well-anchored to the sources and to current discussions of Greek history and ethnicity. In particular, the papers by Kühr, Prandi, Breglia and Bearzot offer useful discussion of the methodological problems involved in the interpretation of alternative versions of myths. This is especially relevant because most contributions in this volume focus on re-shapings of old sagas and re-craftings of myths by specific political actors.

The style is generally clear, with only occasional obscurities (e.g. p. 300; p. 404 top) generally due to the length of sentences. 2 There is an issue with ancient names, since some contributors adopt the Italian form of ancient names, some use either the Greek or the Latin form (e.g. Hypothebai p.295/ Ipotebe elsewhere). This may be a little confusing for non-Italian readers, though it is partially solved by two indexes (of mythic and historic characters and of ethnic and geographic names) that refer to the principal lemma. Two other indexes (of ancient sources and of modern authors) usefully complete the volume. One further problem is the low number of maps. There are some detailed maps of some regions (Ambracia, Leucas, Corcyra); however, at least one general map of the Greek world would have been of use, since many of the contributions make references to the geographic space of Greece and Italy.

On the whole, the two volumes are a valuable 'state of the art' picture (completed by rich bibliographical references) of several issues connected to the construction of ethnic identity in the ancient world, which recommends this publication to academic libraries.

Table of Contents

Volume I
Luisa Breglia, Alda Moleti, Maria Luisa Napolitano Presentazione IX
Indice XV
Barbara Kowalzig "Identità greche tra modelli religiosi ed economici: il caso di Egina" 1
Klaus Freitag "'A channel for Ethnicity'. Zur Rolle des Korinthischen Golfes im Spannungsfeld zwischen Raumgestalt und der Ausbildung von Staatlichkeit im antiken Griechenland" 19
Maurizio Giangiulio "L'orgoglio di Corinto. Identità e tradizioni locali tra Oriente e Occidente da Omero a Pindaro" 29
Claudia Antonetti "La madrepatria ritrovata. Corinto e le poleis della Grecia nord-occidentale" 53
Stefania De Vido "La madrepatria ritrovata. Corinto e Siracusa" 73
Cristina Carusi "La Grecia nord-occidentale e il problema storico del rapporto fra isole e peree" 89
Nicola Reggiani "I manteis della Grecia nord-occidentale" 113
Mario Lombardo "Delfi e la colonizzazione in Occidente" 139
Eduardo Federico "Minos, Delfi e l'Occidente: Identità cretesi a confronto attraverso una rilettura di Hdt. 7, 169-171" 161
Luigi Gallo "Appunti per una storia del koinon focidese" 187
Anna Di Gioia "La duplicità di Phokos e l'identità dei Focidesi" 197
Angela Kühr "Going West: Thespians in Sardinia" 219
Luisa Prandi "Il separatismo di Platea e l'identità dei Beoti" 237
Mauro Moggi "I Beoti e la Beozia in Erodoto" 253
Cinzia Bearzot "L'antica egemonia di Orcomeno in Beozia: fortuna di un tema propagandistico" 271
Nicola Parise "Rassegna delle monetazioni arcaiche di Beozia" 285
Luisa Breglia "Barbari e cultori delle Muse: i Precadmei'" 293
Alda Moleti "Problemi di coppia nell'Antiope di Eubulo" 319
Marcello Lupi "Suddivisioni civiche e suddivisioni federali in Beozia: uno sguardo da Orcomeno" 337
Alfonso Mele "Oreste a Metauros" 353
Luca Cerchiai "Mauro Menichetti Aiace e Cassandra nella tradizione locrese" 373
Amedeo Visconti "Una testimonianza di Ippi su Oreste nel Reggino?" 383
Michela Nocita "I Locresi e i loro coloni fuori dalla Magna Grecia" 399
Lavinio Del Monaco "Ancora sulla lex sacra dal tempio di Casa Marafioti a Locri Epizefirii" 415
Maria Intrieri "Politica e propaganda: Corcira nelle lotte fra basileis" 431
Adele D'Alessandro, Giovanna De Sensi Sestito "Cinea Tessalo e la strategia di Pirro in Grecia e in Occidente" 457
Bruno D'Agostino "Le avventure di Antikleia" 489
Ugo Fantasia "Eracle ad Ambracia e dintorni" 497
Claudio Biagetti "Fra Eveno e Tafiasso: leggende, territorio e storia ai confini dell'Etolia" 521
Damiana Baldassarra "Il ruolo dell'Alfeo nell'epica ambientata nel Peloponneso occidentale" 545
Maria Letizia "Lazzarini In margine alla laminetta di Hipponion" 565
Pierre Ellinger "Le maître et son fidèle esclave: Artémis Limnatis et l'identité de la cité de Patras" 573
Paola Grandinetti "Speculazione femminile?: formule di contratto tra donne a Corfù e in altre zone del mondo greco" 587
Abbreviazioni 597
Indice delle fonti 607
Indice dei nomi propri di personaggi storici e mitici 647
Indice dei nomi etno-geografici e di altri nomi propri 665
Indice degli autori moderni 683
Abstracts 707

Volume II
Luisa Breglia e Alfonso Mele Presentazione VII
Indice IX
Introduzione Graikoi/Hellenes: quale identità? 1
I. Hellenes e Graioi/Graikoi in età micenea 7
1. Hellenes 7
2. Graioi/Graikoi 7
2.1. Demetra Graia in età micenea 10
2.1.1. Micene 11
2.1.2. Tebe 15
2.1.3. Pilo 22
II. Hellenes e Graikoi in Omero 25
1. Elleno ed Hellenes in Omero 25
1.1. Achille archos degli Hellenes e lo Zeus pelasgico di Dodona 27
1.1.1. Dodona 28
1.1.2. Zeus Pelasgico 33
2. Graia in Omero 37
III. Hellenes e Graikoi nei poemi esiodei 49
1. Elleno ed Hellenes nei poemi esiodei 49
2. Pelasgi nei poemi esiodei 52
3. Graikos nei poemi esiodei 54
IV. Hellenes e Graikoi in altre tradizioni arcaiche 61
1. Hellenes fra VII e VI secolo 61
2. I Pelasgi Egialei dell'Acaia Peloponnesiaca 61
3. I Graikes (Graikoi) di Protesilao 66
3.1. Alcmane 68
3.2. Sofocle 69
V. Tradizioni in lotta nel V secolo: greco-pelasgiche contra ellenico-deucalionidi 71
1. Le aporie di Erodoto 71
1.1. Atene-Argo-Larissa: un'intesa pelasgico-democratica 77
2. Pindaro e gli Alevadi 80
2.1. Neottolemo fra i Molossi 80
2.2. Gli Eubei e la Tesprozia 81
2.3. L'approdo ad Efira 87
2.4. Gli Helloi di Pindaro 95
2.4.1. Gli Helloi e le paludi 104
2.4.2. Hellos il taglialegna 109
3. La Tesprozia pelasgica di Erodoto 113
VI. Il recupero eziologico dei Graikoi di Eretria fra IV e III secolo 117
1. Aristotele e i Graikoi a Dodona 117
2. Licofrone 119
3. Callimaco 122
Conclusioni 125
abbreviazioni 129
Bibliografia 133
Indice delle fonti 151
Indice dei nomi propri di personaggi storici e mitici 161
Indice dei nomi etno-geografici e di altri nomi propri 167
Indice degli autori moderni 173
Abstract 179


1.   The project has already produced two other volumes: see BMCR 2011.12.13 and 2010.09.08.
2.   There are only a few typos: p. 25 "Bulis" for "Boulis"; p. 82 "foss eun" for "fosse un"; p. 301 n. 48: "dele" for "delle"; p. 305 n. 50: "delgi" for "degli"; p. 331: "problametica" for "problematica"; p. 392 "la sue fonte" for "La sua fonte".

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