Thursday, January 31, 2013


Robin Osborne, The History Written on the Classical Greek Body. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. xv, 260. ISBN 9780521176705. $29.99 (pb).

Reviewed by Daniel King, University of Exeter (

Version at BMCR home site


The History Written on the Classical Greek Body presents Professor Osborne's Wiles Lectures, delivered at Queen's University, Belfast in 2008. The work provides an effective argument for the importance of the classical body as a subject of study to readers outside the discipline and, to a lesser extent, a good introduction to the issues for those familiar with the subject. This review will provide a broad discussion of each chapter, and then append some methodological questions to the end of the discussion.

Osborne's work is concerned with how scholars write the history of Classical culture; with how the history which is constructed on the basis of the seen body differs from that based on oral and written discourse (1). He provides a series of snapshots of different types of seen body, which investigate the way visual material refuses to conform to the interpretative categories which obtain in textual or literary accounts of Classical society. For Osborne, by attending to this discordance it will be possible to deconstruct many of the social, political, and ethnic categories which historians apply to Classical culture.

In chapter 1, 'Writing History on the Classical Body', Osborne lays the groundwork for his argument by examining the way historians have conceived history on the basis of textual narratives. The primary point, here, is that this type of historiographical approach is constrained by language's innate capacity for categorisation and division (8). The problem, as Osborne sees it, is that the world classified and structured by texts does not always exist in artistic media; if language polarises, and hierachises by necessity, then art does not: '...there are things that words do—not just can do, but always do—that images do not, or do not necessarily do' (12-3). Osborne attempts to divorce the study of the body and, more broadly, the study of history from the classificatory and structuring processes of language and the text. As the author acknowledges, this is an approach fraught with methodological difficulties, not least of which is his own reliance on language to communicate his point. Nevertheless, such pitfalls are carefully avoided, and his approach is (potentially) provocative and productive. This said, however, the reviewer felt that greater treatment might have been given to how textual discourse and the sensory appreciation of the seen body interact: how are cultural discourses (especially those reflected in, and created by, textual representation) shaped by, and how do they themselves inflect, how one engages with the world at a sensorial level? It is a point that Osborne is well aware of; but the chapter would have been enhanced by a more sensitive, and fuller, engagement with this issue.

Chapter 2, 'The Appearance of the Classical Greek Body', focuses on modern assumptions about Greek athletic culture. Osborne suggests that scholars have read onto the muscular bodies of classical sculpture and pottery a fantasy of Greek athletic and gym culture: 'A fantasy world is conjured up by mixing together elements of textual descriptions of the ancient with the categories promoted in textual description of the modern world' (29). Osborne shows on the basis of an analysis of Plato's Symposium, and the Hippocratic Nature of Man and Airs, Waters and Places, that ancient viewers often didn't think in terms of muscular development and didn't associate the gymnasium with a place for athletic training and muscular enhancement: beauty was less a question of muscularity than one of 'good condition', and medical writers had little interest in musculature in comparison to the condition of the flesh—was it moist or dry?—and the condition of the body's joints. This assertion is then taken further by two claims: first, that there is no reason to assume that those who created Greek sculpted bodies were primarily or solely concerned with emphasising the body's muscularity; and, second, that the lines drawn on the body of classical vase painting are intended to express the way in which the body might be characterised by its potential vitality and movement. The lines on the body render 'an impression of action and of character' (52), not musculature.

The next chapter ('The Distinguished Body') marks a change in methodology: the focus is, hence, on the way in which distinctions made in Classical texts are not discernible in visual material. The chapter begins by considering the representation of the body on sympotic pots and grave stelai; the last third is dedicated to comparing this visual material to ethical classifications made in Aristophanes and Theophrastus. Throughout the first third, Osborne is at pains to show that the visual material emphasises the importance of relationships, rather than stressing the categories of age, sex, and occupation. Although these qualities were often marked on both pots and grave stelai, for Osborne they emerge within the context of a concern for how the individual interacted with those around him or her—how clothes were worn in displays of modesty, how couples engaged with each other during the course of their life together (77). In the last third, Osborne suggests that the principal difference between visual and written media was the primacy of agency. Aristophanes and Theophrastus demonstrate a similar concern with people's 'ways', with how they interact or might interact in given situations. This is expressed, however, in different terms: in Theophrastus, especially, not only is the primary subject male, but the author is primarily concerned with how these males may be understood from the analysis of their actions, practices, and mannerisms, rather than with how they present themselves visually.1

Chapter 4 deals with the depiction of citizenship in painted and sculptural representations of the body. Osborne's analysis of the visual imagery in this context is set against the analysis of the references to astos and politēs in (among others) Aristotle, Plato, and Lysias. Against this backdrop, Osborne makes two points. He shows, firstly, that Athenian sculptors and painters showed little interest in depicting the precise markers of formal citizenship status. Qualities such as the beard, the himation, or the knobbly stick which are taken by Heinemann (among others) as markers of the Athenian 'Bürgerstock' in Athenian vase paintings are, for Osborne, used primarily to depict social roles and identities, rather than designating formal citizenship; in the case of portrait statues, the depiction focused more on how an individual operated as a citizen, rather than on his inherent difference from those outside the community of citizens or on precise markers of citizenship status. Osborne's argument that visual representations divide the citizen community, rather than divide it from those that are not citizens, is compelling; my only (minor) quibble here is that I don't quite see how it contradicts or resists a subtle, supple reading of the literary material: do the literary works examined here establish categories which can't be mapped onto the visual material, or are both media concerned with similar ethical categories which are potentially slippery?

The concern with how the Athenian citizen body is separated from others is reformulated in Chapter 5, 'Foreign Bodies'. Osborne begins this chapter with Herodotus' Histories and the Hippocratic Airs, Waters and Places. The textual presentation of foreignness as dependent on both natural and cultural difference forms a context for the way in which visual representations depict otherness. He considers the way in which natural bodily characteristics are shown on pots to indicate ethnicity, suggesting that, outside of mythological narratives, slavery and ethnicity are not always explicitly emphasised. Two examples—Negro alabastra and head vases—where foreignness is emphasised are, for Osborne at least, representative of contexts in which the image invites the viewers / users to associate with the represented other; through the use of perfume or the consumption of alcohol consumers can associate with, and assimilate to, the foreign world depicted on or by the pots (140). Osborne then explores how clothes (and other cultural phenomena) appear to be used less to depict absolute ethnic status than to refer to a contextual process in which images play with concepts of identity relevant to particular contexts in which the image is presented. For Osborne, 'what it is to look Lydian [through dress or adornment] on Athenian pots is quite a different matter from being Lydian.' (148); clothes rather provide an opportunity for Athenians to think through, adopt, play with, concepts of foreignness.

Chapter 6, 'Dirty Bodies' deals with what Osborne sees as the corporeal invisibility of pollution. His argument here makes two points: firstly, that the categories of polluted and pure (or 'purificated'!) are indiscernible in figurative representations of the body and in the flesh; secondly, that pollution operates as a system of social control which enlists the divine world to help enforce social order. These two arguments underpin a third claim, that the invisibility of the condition is an essential element of the experience of being polluted as it rests on the assumption that the divine world can see and recognise those who are polluted, and is capable of taking action against them, even if the mortal world can't. Osborne juxtaposes his view of pollution as a system of social control with the traditional Douglasian approach to pollution as a system of categories designed to provide a cognitive hold on the world. Osborne's argument is strongest when he critiques this approach to pollution at a conceptual level. His positive claims for the 'invisibility of pollution' or the polluted body require—for this reader at least—more (or better) evidence. The assertion that it is hard to discern who is, or who is not, polluted in visual representations of the body aside, the idea of the invisibility of pollution seems difficult to support. While certain forms of pollution might be invisible, others clearly were not. Osborne cites, for example, a law from 3rd century Dyme, in Achaia, in which the wearing of gold, decorated clothing, purple, and make-up is forbidden (173): it is difficult to see how pollution is not visible in this instance—indeed, it appears purification is invoked explicitly in a situation in which visible display is precisely at issue. Osborne's interest in the divine continues in the final chapter, 'Godsbodies'(!). Here, he historicises the depiction of the divine body by mapping changes in the way in which these bodies are represented in statuary onto a broader shift in how the divine is perceived, and related to, by humans. Discussion begins by showing that the textual representations of the divine in Homer and Hesiod emphasise the gods' active engagement with the world, while their appearance remains fundamentally elusive. Osborne then traces the development of the concept of divine appearance from the archaic period—in which gods' bodies are recognisably anthropomorphic ('gods' bodies remain bodies that might belong to mortal men or women' [196])—to the Classical period. For Osborne, the fifth century marks a new point in the history of the representation of divine bodies. He traces a Pheidian revolution in which the statues of Athena Parthenos and Zeus Olympios replicate the shocking equivalent of the divine epiphany. This Pheidian 'revolution' is embedded in a different way of viewing and conceiving divine beings—Athena Parthenos or Zeus Olympios especially—as incommensurate, detached from their narrative based effects in the world. Osborne's discussion develops well the notion of religious viewing proposed by Elsner2, showing that the process of religious viewing might be engaged in very differently depending on the manner in which the divine figure was represented, and the way in which that figure might be conceived.

Three final comments. The History Written on the Classical Greek Body provides an excellent introduction to various areas of Athenian social, cultural or political history to which the study of the body can contribute; and, at times, it also provides a number of precise and persuasive readings of particular issues in the visual presentation and reception of the Classical body. Classicists and historians of the body will find much here that is provocative and useful. This said, there are a number of methodological comments which need to be made. Firstly, The History Written on the Classical Greek Body is structured by the dichotomy between the textual (narrative / linguistic) and the visual (painting / sculptural) world. This structure works well in some contexts, but less so in others: the treatment of pollution is one example where a considerable amount of evidence for how the body might be viewed is textual. I felt, also, that the work lacked the unity across the various chapters which would have made it a more compelling argument for Osborne's approach and his views about the reshaping of our understanding of Athenian social history: at the very least, the structure developed in Chapter 1 didn't seem to be adhered to throughout, and it was not always clear how all the discussions developed the central contention of the book. Finally, the presentation of this book will leave a number of readers frustrated. The work would have benefited from tighter copy editing: one reads, for instance, about a '... unique gravestone like no other.' (124); this, and a number of typos (cf. the errant 'is' in the second paragraph on 189) are just a couple of (minor) examples.


1.   It is, of course, a very difficult text to pin down, but this reviewer thought that the chapter would have benefitted from an analysis of ps-Aristotle, On Physiognomics
2.   Compare Elsner, J Roman Eyes: Visuality and Subjectivity in Art and Text (Princeton, 2007).

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Tamiolaki on Maffi on Tamiolaki, Liberté et esclavage. Response to 2013.01.10

Response by Melina Tamiolaki, University of Crete (

Version at BMCR home site

I thank Professor Alberto Maffi for his review of my book,Liberté et esclavage chez les historiens grecs classiques, Paris, Presses Universitaires Paris-Sorbonne 2010. His comments and criticisms definitely promote scholarly debate on a significant topic of Greek civilization. I would like, however, to address some points of the review, which give an unrepresentative picture of the purpose and content of my work.

1. Maffi finds insufficient my justification for studying the concepts of freedom and slavery in the works of the three major Greek historians of the classical period (Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon). In his opinion, "…in the three great historians a relationship between freedom and slavery is not always noticeable and, in any case, it is not even the main theme of their thought".

Leaving aside the fact that an examination of all sources (literary and non-literary), as AM seems to suggest, would clearly exceed the limits and scope of a monograph, it is hard not to conceive the relationship between freedom and slavery as crucial in the historical works of Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon- which are, moreover, preserved in their entity: this is proved in the first place by the numerous occurrences of the terms related to freedom and slavery in their works 1 and further corroborated by their intertextual dialogue (e.g. Thucydides builds upon the Herodotean freedom and slavery antithesis in his description of the Athenian alliance; Xenophon further elaborates this scheme in his narrative about Sparta). More importantly, it is not by chance that the few specific studies which touch upon the topic of the interrelation of freedom and slavery, deal with the classical historians, and not, for instance, tragedy or Aristophanes.2 This direction of recent research thus legitimizes the systematic broadening of this perspective to these authors, which has been attempted in my book.

2. Maffi is right to note that the main focus of my work is literary; yet his final assertion that the book "did not lead … to a better understanding of the historical events described by them [the classical historians]"distracts attention from the occurrences in which I have proposed historical interpretations: for example, p.128-129 (about Aeginetan autonomia), p. 133-137 (about the liberation program of the Spartans during the Peloponnesian War), p. 142-148 (about the identity of the Messenians of Naupactus), p. 150-152 (about the Athenians' views concerning the common perception of the helots and their allies as slaves), p. 160-181 (about the clause of autonomia, in the Peace of Antalcidas); I also advance suggestions about controversial issues concerning historical events in the footnotes. Furthermore, the appendices of the book are not "critical exegeses of two famous passages (Thuc. 1.101.1 and Xen. Hell., 3.3)", as Maffi notes, but offer historiographical and historical interpretations of two important events of Greek history: the revolt of the helots in 464 BC and the Cinadon conspiracy. Finally, Maffi's observation that "Persian history…plays an important role in the book, and yet the references are reduced to the synthetic works, though important, of Briant and Sancisi-Weerdenburg" is misleading, since the book obviously cites many more references on Persian history (such as the studies by J. M. Balcer, S. C. Brown, M. Flusin, A. K. Grayson, A. Kuhrt, C. Tuplin, J. Wiesehöfer).

3. Maffi remarks that the third part of the book "…is actually a small separate monograph on the philosophical and political thought of Xenophon". This statement, however, misinterprets the inclusion of all of Xenophon's works in my analysis by creating the impression that the third part of the book is not related to the previous two. Recent studies in Xenophon have emphasized the author's unity of thought. 3 In my work I pursue further this line of Xenophontic scholarship. I show the continuities and ruptures between the historical and philosophical thought of Xenophon concerning the concepts of freedom and slavery and explore their possible connections and divergences with the ideas of his predecessors.

4. Concerning the term nomos, Maffi comments: "I note that the references to the meaning of the term in the legal-historical context of the period appear to be very succinct, if not inaccurate, as, for example, on p. 221, n. 71, where Tamiolaki writes, among other things: 'De plus, la distinction entre la loi et la coutume n'est parfois que méthodologique, puisque la loi peutêtre considérée comme une évolution de la coutume, dénotant son expression juridique et politique dans une société organisée: ce qui est une pratique abstraite (la coutume) deviant ainsi une obligation concrète', a statement that no historian of the law would consider acceptable".

Nevertheless, the phrase Maffi cites is not given as a definition of law in ancient Greece, but as a tentative explanation of the (double) function of the term nomosin Herodotus' history. Finally, concerning the term "déconstruction", which according to Maffic rates confusion, I alert the reader (p. 76, n. 223) that this word is employed in the book as a more marked alternative for the word "challenge, contest".


1.   To mention just the words stemming from eleuth- and doul-, for the former the TLG gives 80 occurrences in Herodotus, 101 in Thucydides and 134 in Xenophon; for the latter, 96 in Herodotus, 78 in Thucydides and 115 in Xenophon. Of course, the terminology of slavery is more varied. See further in my book, Liberté et esclavage chez les historiens grecs classiques, (Paris, Presses Universitaires Paris-Sorbonne 2010), « tableau de terminologie de la liberté et d'esclavage », p. 418-430.
2.   Mainly the book of P. Hunt, Slaves, Warfare and Ideology in the Greek historians,(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998) and the article of K. A. Raaflaub, "Freedom for the Messenians? A Note on the Impact of Slavery and Helotage on the Greek Concept of Freedom", in N. Luraghi-S.Alcock (eds.), Helots and their Masters in Laconia and Messenia,(Cambridge (Mass)/London: Harvard University Press 2003), p. 169-190.
3.   Besides the studies collected in the recent volume by F. Hobden and Chr. Tuplin (eds.), Xenophon: Ethical Principles and Historical Enquiry,(Leiden/Boston : Brill's 2012), the books of V. Azoulay, Xénophon et les grâces du pouvoir. De la charisau charisme,(Paris : Publications de la Sorbonne 2004), P. Pontier, Trouble et ordre chez Platon et Xénophon,(Paris : Vrin2006), and more recently of V. Gray, Xenophon's Mirror of Princes. Reading the Reflections,Oxford: Oxford University Press 2011), are fine examples of this tendency of recent scholarship.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Emeri Farinetti, Boeotian Landscapes: A GIS-based study for the reconstruction and interpretation of the archaeological datasets of ancient Boeotia. BAR international series, S2195. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2011. Pp. xiv, 425 p.; CD. ISBN 9781407307503. $162.50.

Reviewed by Samuel D. Gartland, University of Oxford (

Version at BMCR home site

Boeotian Landscapes will be of fundamental importance to the study of this part of Central Greece. Closely based on a doctorate submitted at Leiden in 2009, the work provides a wealth of information on the landscape and settlement of ancient Boiotia with particular focus on the Archaic to late Roman periods, and comprehensively digests all previous archaeological work published in Boiotia (until 2006). The work is clearly laid out, copiously illustrated, and is invaluable to any study that involves consideration of the Boiotian physical environment or the archaeology of the region.

The book is divided into two main parts. At forty-two pages, Part I ("Research framework and methodology") is by far the shorter. It provides a rigorous statement of the theoretical basis for the work and its methodological intent. The history and application of concepts that are of central importance to Farinetti's approach (including "Community Area", "Landscape", "Taskscape", and "Settlement-Chambers") are usefully and succinctly discussed alongside a survey of the use of Geographical Information Systems in a regional context. This is followed by a consideration of geology and soil-types and then an extended discussion of the methodology chosen to deal with Boiotian archaeological data. Boeotian Landscapes is full of the self-critical analysis for which the Boeotia Project has become known and Farinetti takes care to point to the limits of our knowledge and her own abilities (for instance, p.19). This has the effect of reinforcing the reader's confidence in the work, and the arrangement of discussion is logical and considered throughout.

Part II ("The Boeotian landscape") begins with well-composed surveys of the topography and environment of Boiotia and the current state of archaeological research. After these, the main focus of Part II is centred on a detailed description of the sub-regions of Boiotia (Chapter 2.3.1-14), and this is the section that will be most employed by non-specialists wishing to find information on a specific Boiotian area. This survey of Boiotian chorai is based explicitly on the model established in John Fossey's Topography and Population1 (p.27), though Farinetti's survey has fourteen areas rather than Fossey's nineteen because of smaller places such as Tegyra and Siphai not getting their own section and the Oropeia not featuring. Farinetti starts with the Koroneiake, and continues in a clockwise circuit of the Kopais in eight parts before crossing to the Thespike and progressing eastward, following the Korinthian Gulf to Plataia, then to the Thebais, Anthedonia and ending in the Tanagrike.

A topographical setting is provided, with a detailed description of situation in relation to other sub-regions, and identifying principal settlements as well as a particularly careful analysis of mountain features with modern observation coupled with analysis from earlier work such as that of Philippson. Each of these descriptions is accompanied with a map delimiting the sub-region and locating archaeological evidence on a modern topographical map. Next comes consideration of the boundaries of each sub-region, succinctly stated with a clear and full exposition of evidence from the ancient sources to the early travellers of the region. This can be a slippery area in less capable hands, but Farinetti clearly knows her stuff and integrates many considerations neatly and usefully for the reader. In the third element "Physical Land Units" her empirical analysis comes to the fore, with information on the types of land (sub-divisions of Mountainous, Hilly and Plains) broken down into percentages, based on the area's physiography. The next section, and one that I know has already been excitedly perused by early economists, considers land capability and resources, with information on metal deposits and good stone, as well as sites of their exploitation.

"The Archaeological Record" follows this with a tabulated breakdown of all known find areas, and is accompanied by a graph illustrating the proportion of components found within different research frameworks (rescue excavation/ accidental discovery/ extensive surveys etc.). This is especially important in an area such as Boiotia where archaeological coverage of the landscape has been uneven and the primary information lacunose, and helps to allay bias in the archaeological record. For instance, the reader can see at a glance that the majority of the information from the Haliartia has come from surface survey (p.148), whereas the record from the Thebais has a high number of prehistoric elements because of personal specific research interests of archaeologists (pp.194-195), and in Lebadeia the correlation of find locations with the construction of the modern road network is emphasised (p.93). This critical model is carefully applied across all the chorai and I have found that the images and discussion also make an excellent teaching aid to undergraduates interested in using archaeological data sensibly and sensitively.

The arrangement allows easy consultation, and the command of the array of information that Farinetti enjoys is evident in the simple and comprehensible manner in which the information is digested and presented. A feature of this is the relocation of a lot of the archaeological information into a 141 page appendix. This lightens the centre of the book and makes it easier to comprehend for those more interested in an archaeological summary than in an extensive discussion.

The largest part of the survey of chorai is taken up with discussion of the chora landscape and reflects the chronological focus of the book in focusing only on Prehistoric and Greco-Roman settlement explicitly. The discussion includes such information as burial areas, cult places/religious areas and forts and fortifications, and reads as an excellent introduction to the landscape and the settlements within it. The section finishes with discussion of long-term settlement trends, and Farinetti's knowledge of more recent periods comes to the fore to emphasise change. Each sub-region also has a map representing the known settlements and the walking times. This makes readily visible a rich landscape of asty-chora relationships, as well as demonstrating Farinetti's excellent use and presentation of GIS methods.

There are three appendices to the work and the first of these is included in the book. The CD inside the back cover then continues with Appendix II, an excellent fifteen-page description of the physical geography of Boiotian sub- regions based on Philippson's topographical work on Boiotia,2 and Appendix III, a 50-page spreadsheet of the units of archaeological evidence used in the book. Also on the CD is a collection of all the images from the sub- region catalogue in colour.

A small criticism of Boeotian Landscapes might be that more of Farinetti's reflections have not been added to the PhD submission on which this book is based. Section II.4 "Landscapes of Ancient Boeotia" begins to demonstrate the possible application of all of this information and Farinetti clearly has a compendious knowledge of and great affection for the region. The majority of this section is taken up with a useful discussion of long-term settlement trends that brings the discussion back to a regional level and offers the reader a cohesive picture of Boiotia. However, only a few pages were left for her own reflections on the history of Boiotia. Given the exhaustive treatment she has offered in the rest of the work (which stretches to 425 A4 pages, plus the extra information contained on the CD inside the back cover) this brevity is understandable, but feels tantalising and rushed compared with the majority of the book and would have been a natural candidate for expansion (or failing that, deletion). In this section, the work of Frederick Cooper should have been mentioned in the discussion of the fortified landscape of the confederation (pp.254-256).3 There is also no index, but given the clear ordering and encyclopaedic feel to the book, this is not problematic.

Boeotian Landscapes is a successor to John Fossey's Topography and Population, but the works are different in many respects. Where Fossey's work has the immediacy and occasional caprices of a solo adventurer (as so much of Boiotian scholarship), Farinetti's work is proof of the value of combining individual dedication with the rigour that comes from working as part of a team. In this, Boeotian Landscapes reflects the general strength of contemporary Boiotian studies, with archaeological and increasingly also historical research being conducted in the collaborative spirit necessary to understand this large and fascinating region.

Boeotian Landscapes marks a watershed in the accessibility of the physical environment of Boiotia and the archaeological data from the region. It is already more widely held (in UK institutions at least), than Fossey's 1988 work. This is excellent news for the field, and testament to the achievement of the author and also the possibility that the book presents to advance interest in Boiotian studies. Because the task the work sets itself is so comprehensive, it is already out of date, but it will be of enduring value to students of Greece at all levels, and should serve as a model for comprehensive summary of regional archaeological data. It is the most useful and usable publication yet to emerge from the work of the Boeotia Project and will be cited in work of any length that considers Boiotia. It is neatly produced and free from typographical errors. The bibliography is extensive and should now be considered the place to commence enquiry into the physical landscape of Boiotia.


1.   Fossey, J.M. (1988), Topography and Population of Ancient Boiotia, Chicago.
2.   Philippson, A. (1951), Die Griechischen Landschaften. Eine Landeskunde: Vol. 1.2 Das Östliche Mittelgriechenland Und Die Insel Euboea. Frankfurt.
3.   Cooper, F.A. (2000), "The Fortifications of Epaminondas and the Rise of the Monumental Greek City". In City Walls: The Urban Enceinte in Global Perspective, edited by J. D. Tracey. Cambridge. pp. 155-91.

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Tomas Hägg, The Art of Biography in Antiquity. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. xv, 496. ISBN 9781107016699. $110.00.

Reviewed by Michael Stuart Williams, National University of Ireland Maynooth (

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The great Swedish scholar Tomas Hägg died in August 2011. The various tributes to him after his death would no doubt have gladdened him, but not only that: their literary form would surely have fascinated him too, with the modern obituary's inevitable balancing act between curriculum vitae, telling anecdote, and personal testament.1 Certainly this book, which was completed before his final illness and which was seen through the press by his friend and colleague Stephen Harrison, provides ample evidence of his capacious interests, combined with a talent for careful, thorough and generous consideration of all aspects of a phenomenon and the observations made of it by others. More than once throughout the text we are reminded that biographies are often self-portraits, and perhaps it is permissible to read something of Hägg into his version of Plutarch in particular: "his obsession with human nature" matched by "a keen historical curiosity" and "that marvellous gift of becoming interested in almost anything he wrote about" (243). We might also read a certain amount of approval into the later characterisation of Plutarch's attitude to the biographical tradition as "unpolemical as well as relaxedly inconsistent" (279). The author of the Parallel Lives is naturally granted a chapter to himself, but in this regard he might seem also to emerge as the work's presiding spirit. The result is an endlessly interesting volume that is as enjoyable to read as it evidently was to write.

The jacket design puts the emphasis on the last three words of the title, and Hägg does indeed give a notably full and inclusive account of "biography in antiquity". What stands out is the range of authors and forms discussed; in seven chapters we move from Xenophon through Hellenistic authors and anonymous Lives,2 via the Christian gospels and Roman biography, through to Plutarch and a final chapter on the lives of philosophers and holy men written under the Roman empire. Christian biography in late antiquity then features in a brief epilogue. This arrangement means that Suetonius's Lives of grammarians and of Caesars are granted only eighteen pages in the chapter on Rome – only a little more than is devoted in a previous chapter to the fragmentary Hellenistic biographers Satyrus, Hermippus and Antigonus. But that is part of the real virtue of the book, that it chooses to focus not merely on the most prominent examples but on the "latitude and diversity" (xi) of biographical writing as it seems to have been practised and understood in the ancient world as a whole.

With this in mind, then, equal note should be taken of the title's reference to the art of biography. An allusion to the work of Paul Murray Kendall,3 this is an indication both of Hägg's determination to keep in mind modern as well as ancient biography, and also of his desire to keep the focus of his study on the biographical (as opposed to the strictly literary or historiographical) character of each individual work. His prolegomena, despite explicitly engaging with the study of modern biography, therefore reject any "systematic treatment of biographic theory and practice" in favour of "a series of statements or comments under various catchwords" (1). In effect, the approach we are offered relies on the close reading of individual texts, supplemented now and then by a broadly narratological analysis intended to reveal the areas to which a biographer devotes his greatest attention. The texts analysed in detail in this way are not confined to the most extensive or most obvious examples: they include Tacitus's Agricola; Isocrates's Evagoras; the apocryphal Infancy Gospel of Thomas as well as the "sayings gospel" attributed to the same apostle; the anonymous Contest of Homer and Hesiod; and Lucian's satirical Alexander. In this company, even partial or fragmentary biographies, such as Plato's Phaedo or Aristoxenus's Life of Pythagoras, begin to look staid and conventional,and together these writings provide a far-reaching context in which to place the more familiar biographical narratives of (among others) Suetonius, Plutarch, and Diogenes Laertius. At the same time, Hägg is sceptical of providing any account of a developing tradition with its own insistent conventions. Plutarch's practice may again be considered emblematic in this respect. His Lives, argues Hägg, maintain no fixed form but reflect only a consistent set of interests; we encounter "habits, but no rules" (281).

Nor should we assume even that a biographer always applied the same techniques in every work. Hägg focuses his chapter 1 on three biographical works by Xenophon – his Memorabilia of Socrates, his Agesilaus and his Cyropedia – and resists any suggestion that these represent a progression on Xenophon's part towards a developed idea of what a biography should be. Instead he prefers to emphasise the distinctive aims and interests on show in each work, and the purposes for which each was written. Although we may identify common strategies and effects across these works, and in other biographical writings from antiquity, this is as far as Hägg is willing to go. Here as throughout, then, the intense focus on individual texts tends to throw into stark relief the choices open to and made by each biographer when it came to organising and presenting a Life. The use of anecdotes to illustrate character; the inclusion of a proleptic (but otherwise unindividuated) childhood, and an extended and exemplary death-scene; and even the choice of a broadly chronological ordering of events – all of these can be found across multiple biographies, but none can be said to be definitive or even compulsory. The remaining chapters reveal many of these same techniques at work, but in the end the accumulation of examples provides not an argument but rather a set of variations on a theme.

The fragmentary Hellenistic biographers of chapter 2 are thus securely established as biographers, with their own habits and idiosyncrasies – Hermippus, for example, emerges as a specialist in death-scenes – but perhaps inevitably offer evidence above all for the persistence of anecdotes as a means of characterisation. Texts such as these, which survive through excerption, must of course give this impression; but so too do the Lives studied in Hägg's chapter 3, which he follows David Konstan in designating as "open texts". Such works as the Life of Aesop, the Life of Alexander of pseudo-Callisthenes, and various ancient Lives of Homer seem at times to be little more than compilations of anecdotes arranged in an order roughly resembling a life. It may be, however, that these Lives, which very rarely admit of an individual author, reveal the forces at work in shaping a biography more than their more literary counterparts do. Certainly the Christian gospels, apocryphal and canonical, which form the subject of chapter 4, imply that a Life could be built up from anecdotes and sayings until it forms a coherent and recognisable story. Hägg here offers a very interesting model of these authors identifying gaps in the gospel stories and filling them with whatever informative or imaginative material was available.

But how were there known to be gaps? Evidently authors and readers in antiquity had firm ideas of what a Life ought to look like. Indeed, the same is true today; I have never yet met anyone except a scholar of biography who was troubled by how it ought to be defined. Even Hägg, in carefully resisting any explicit comment on the boundaries of biographical writing, shows by the texts he has chosen to include that, like the rest of us, he knew a biography when he saw one. Clearly any account of a literary genre needs to be supplemented by an awareness of the cultural context. The fundamental claim made for biography is that it represents (a) life, much as a portrait represents a person. But a portrait need not always be judged by its success in presenting a facial likeness; in medieval Christian icons, and perhaps even in Renaissance court portraiture, a person might best be represented in terms of attributes and appurtenances. Similarly, the governing principle of biographical writing is that it should conform to (our idea of) the shape of a life – which could perhaps bear closer examination. When Arnaldo Momigliano was deliberately reductive in calling a biography "[a]n account of the life of a man from birth to death",5 he was simplifying not only biographical writing but life itself, as it is lived and experienced. Quite how a text can come to stand in for something we know from the world is, to some extent, still mysterious. Certainly an account of generic conventions and expectations goes some way towards bridging the gap. But if life is lived forwards and understood backwards – or if, as many experiments in (auto)biography would appear to suggest, it is experienced and relived in defiance of chronology – then we may need to adjust accordingly our own understanding of what kind of shapes may be given to a Life.

These comments are mine and not Hägg's, whose conclusions are kept deliberately modest and brief. For the most part he offers a review and collocation of previous scholarship on major issues; hence Suetonius in chapter 5 is granted his now customary recognition as an artful arranger of facts and anecdotes, and chapter 6, on Plutarch, acknowledges its particular debt to the work of Timothy Duff. Finally, chapter 7 notes the proliferation of ethical biographies under the empire, with Pythagoras as their exemplar and even the efforts of Lucian conforming, rather surprisingly, to the prevailing model: "philosophical, spiritual, and ethical Lives" (387), told primarily through anecdotes rather than precepts. The brief epilogue notes both that this description could be extended all the way back to Xenophon, and that it can be seen to have continued in late antiquity in the Lives of Christian saints. In all of this, Hägg's reliance on the work of others is fully and generously admitted, and can hardly be cause for complaint; it will be a rare reader to whom everything covered here is already familiar. For many of us, indeed, the most useful part of the book may be its appendix on further reading, which gives full details of texts, translations, commentaries and studies of the major texts discussed throughout.

In an age of multi-authored handbooks and conference proceedings – which of course must have their place – Hägg's book is a reminder of the value of a comprehensive overview of a broad topic by a single individual. The consistency and inclusiveness of his approach allows the varying choices made by each ancient biographer to stand out against those made by others engaged on the same (or a similar) task. Without attempting to be systematic, or to put forward any general or definitive theory, Hägg enables us to grasp the individual interests and habits of a rich assortment of ancient biographers; he brings within our grasp the best and most recent scholarship (not always the same thing); and thus vastly improves and clarifies our understanding of each author in particular and of the scope of biographical writing in general. The pre-eminent value of Hägg's book, then, is that it is a cogent and reliable guide to the whole field of biographical writing in antiquity – a parting gift to students and scholars alike, who now have this excellent volume as a place to start.


1.   Three eloquent tributes may be found, for example, at the site of the Nordic Byzantine Network.
2.   Hägg uses "life" to refer to a life as it was lived, and "Life" as it was written up as biography. I follow his practice in this review.
3.   Paul Murray Kendall, The Art of Biography, (New York: Norton, 1985).
4.   Plutarch, Cimon 2.3, quoted by Hägg on p. 271.
5.   Arnaldo Momigliano, The Development of Greek Biography: Expanded Edition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993) 56.

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Andrew B. Gallia, Remembering the Roman Republic: Culture, Politics and History under the Principate. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. xiv, 319. ISBN 9781107012608. $95.00.

Reviewed by Sarah H. Blake, York University, Toronto (

Version at BMCR home site


Andrew B. Gallia's Remembering the Roman Republic: Culture, Politics and History under the Principate is a rich and rewarding study of the dynamics of Roman public memory throughout the interconnected realms of, as promised in the subtitle, culture, politics and history. Gallia presents six case studies falling between 68 and 117 CE, each of which centres around a moment wherein the remembered meaning of the Roman Republic or of concepts associated with the Republic was in some way marshalled, mediated, manipulated or otherwise manifested by political actors. The framework within which these case studies are set is a particularly labile one; Gallia works with a broad concept of memory as a cultural and social phenomenon, as experienced and expressed both by individuals and collectives, and as instantiated through a wide range of media. Further, Gallia's definition of memory insists on the dynamism of things remembered and on the plurality of ways to remember. The 'Roman Republic' under discussion here is never a fixed storehouse of information that can be accessed directly, but emerges rather as a moving target that resists singular interpretation. Hence the progressive aspect of the titular gerund Remembering is particularly apt.

The book seems at first to be travelling down well-trodden paths. It invites direct comparison, for example, with Alain Gowing's 2005 Empire and Memory: The Representation of the Roman Republic in Imperial Culture; 1 the two books share a similar theoretical framework, each working from the touchstones of scholarship on memory such as Maurice Halbwachs' "collective memory," Jan Assmann's "cultural memory", and the work of Paul Connerton and of Fentress and Wickham on "social memory."2 Gallia builds on foundations laid by Gowing and others in a useful way. Gallia's book diverges from Gowing's not only in the period covered (while Gowing looks at the Principate broadly from Tiberius to Trajan, Gallia concentrates his study on the fifty year period following the fall of Nero) but also in the openness with which memory as a structuring principle is employed. Gallia describes the nature of memory within Roman culture as 'complex and decentralized'; he sticks to this fundamentally open definition as he explores how the 'competing memories of the Republican past, operating in a wide range of contexts and media, helped to shape and were shaped by an ongoing process of negotiation and debate, through which the emperors and their subjects struggled to define Roman identity under the Principate' (8). Certainly the question of memory is so vital to any study of Roman culture that multiple and increasingly sophisticated books on the topic are to be desired.

The remembered Republic that takes shape in these pages is not the well-ordered whole familiar to us from textbooks. Rather, the Republic emerges as a fragmented and evolving network of associations, with tentacles extending through multiple cultural, political and literary arenas. Some of these tentacles function as both deep roots into the past and live wires in their contemporary moment; for example, the concept of libertas. The notion of political liberty is profoundly Republican, even to the point of standing in as shorthand for the Republic itself. A central concern of the book is negotiation of the seeming paradox of libertas under the Principate. Gallia illustrates in Chapter One, 'Freedom', how the rebels led by Vindex and Galba in 68 CE deployed a remembered meaning of libertas rooted in moral discourse; Galba's public commemoration of his own prestigious Republican ancestors and the staging of a metaphorical manumission for those 'enslaved' by Nero's tyranny served to activate the social dimension of libertas as a moral virtue, one not necessarily incompatible with the political conditions of the Principate. Here Gallia conveys well an Imperial age sense that the Republic was both a closed chapter in history and also the continuing fount of Roman identities. The tension between the Republic as a signifier both for rupture and continuity in elite Roman identity brought out in this chapter recurs as a concern throughout the book.

This argument extends into the second chapter, 'Rebuilding,' which centres on Vespasian's rebuilding of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus after its destruction in the struggles of 69 CE. Gallia underscores the gravity of the assault on Roman public memory entailed in the devastation of this quintessential Roman lieu de mémoire; he also conveys clearly the stratification of the physical and textual history of the monument though its associations with Republican triumphs over tyranny in its dedication in 509 and re-dedication after the destruction caused by Sulla in 86 BCE. Gallia's approach is at its finest here as he invokes the multiple voices and histories constructed on this cornerstone of Roman republicanism. He balances these accounts deftly and suggests that Vespasian succeeded in redefining the meaning of his temple as a monument to Roman imperialism, thereby muting its associations with the triumph of libertas over tyranny. Gallia, working as he is with multiple ancient traditions in addition to a mass of contemporary scholarship on arguably the most central place in Roman culture, religion and history, does a fine job of elucidating the complexity of the question and, rightly, does not force any conclusion. In this sense, the author's own approach mirrors the multifarious nature of memory's operation: it is pervasive and yet resists capture.

The power of remembered things to resist manipulation by those in power is the subject of the next chapter, 'Control,' which documents Domitian's execution of the Vestal Virgin Cornelia in 91 CE. Gallia layers the description of Cornelia's trial in Pliny's letter 4.11 (full-text included in an appendix), with other literary accounts of her previous trial in 83 CE, of other historical trials of Vestals, and with the topography of punishment in the city of Rome itself. As described by Pliny but elaborated by Gallia, Cornelia's refusal to be touched as she entered the subterranean tomb recalls the long-standing sacrosanctity of the Vestal's robe. Her gesture, working as an illustration of both her innocence and her access to the deep memory of the Vestals in the Republican city, ultimately calls into question Domitian's exercise of total political and religious control and pretensions to the Republican-flavoured virtue of severitas.

Gallia's next chapter, 'Persuasion,' invokes a kaleidoscopic vision of the role of oratory as a public practice and expression of libertas for generations of the senatorial elite. Working with Pliny's letters and Tacitus' Dialogus de Oratoribus and Histories, Gallia focuses on the actions and reactions of senators in response to the injustices of Domitian's reign, as filtered through the comparable period of amnesty and commemoration of the victims of Nero's reign, itself filtered through the remembered lives and deaths of Cicero and Cato Uticensis, as figures for the lost moral authority of Republican political oratory. This chapter conveys a very convincing sense of polyphony, both diachronic and synchronic. One thus gets a sense of the richness of the conversation among the elite so often obscured in scholarship on Imperial control of memory and discourse that focuses solely on the emperor's actions as an individual, as Gallia does himself in the previous chapter. The conclusion here is, accordingly, less satisfying but perhaps a more authentically open: 'the complexity of the relationship between Republican and Imperial oratory was something that every member of the Roman aristocracy had to negotiate on his own terms' (176). Taken together, these two chapters show Gallia's ability to adapt his method to the material under discussion.

Chapter 5, 'Inscription,' contrasts two men who combined public life with writing lives: Silius Italicus and Frontinus. In both the Punica and the Strategemata, these two Domitianic-era authors refer to Republican-era exempla, but 'reflect a way of thinking about Rome's past in which the libertas of the Republic was no longer a realistic alternative to the present system of government.' For these men, the Republic is just one field from which to draw examples of (in this case) military heroism; Greek or even Carthaginian cultural examples are now just as relevant to Imperial-age readers. The chapter tries to show how these two texts, each with their own unique literary and political biography, yet similarly understand the past as a container of ideas which have meaning in the present, and similarly downgrade the special meaning of the Republic as an alternative to the Principate. Gallia's conclusion is once again open, almost minimalist. The chapter – while laying out the interplay between these two disparate authors working with disparate historical examples in deeply different texts – yet finds coherence in the question of self-commemoration and the immortality sought by these authors as conductors of, among other things, the virtues of the Republican past.

Finally, in Chapter 6, 'Restoration,' Gallia turns to a series of coins minted under Trajan which are re-issues of Republican era coins, and which were carefully selected to highlight exempla virtutis associated with Republican era notables. He traces out how once again libertas is invoked and reworked, now in the context of commemoration, to convey the renewal of moral freedom offered by Trajan's good government. Trajan's coinage thus seeks a form of continuity with a certain vision of the virtues of the Republic as for the first time in a century 'the accomplishments of people outside the imperial house are commemorated on Roman coinage' (245), unproblematically 'subordinated to the authority of a single, solely powerful princeps' (246).

I have discussed each chapter in this book individually to reflect the somewhat fragmented nature of Gallia's argument. Throughout this book, the central concept of memory is occasionally obscured as Gallia admits himself in his conclusion: "Tracing the multiple facets of Republican memory may strain the argument's cohesiveness at points, but even that is not entirely accidental. If there is a unifying thesis for the above discussion, it is that the multiplicity of contexts in which the Republican past could be remembered contributes to the basic incoherence of 'the Republic' itself as an object of Roman memory" (251). The book deals with many subtopics under the umbrella of 'Roman remembering': the preservation of history through ritual action; the competition intrinsic to political commemoration; the unwritten history of words and images; the strata of the past made visible in Rome's urban topography; the contemporary power of remembered trauma as it refracts through amnesty, vengeance, reparation, and memorialization; and, finally, the role of memory at the social, political and familial level in the formation of elite Roman male identity. Any one of these rich topics could have been emphasized, privileged, or individually theorized more fully, but Gallia's approach presents these ideas swarming together, letting certain key ideas and phrases reverberate throughout. A stronger hand might have benefitted the argument in certain densely-layered sections, but the overall effect is quite pleasing, and very readable. The prose throughout is clear and jargon-free.

Certainly, individuals will find points with which to quibble across the 'unruly mass of material' (248) arrayed and analysed here, where depth has occasionally been sacrificed for breadth. Gallia provides the apparatus for such disagreement, however, in his meticulous footnoting and bibliography. Moreover, the strength of the book is in its inclusiveness and openness; Gallia does not close down other avenues in his interpretations but rather layers interpretations upon interpretations, making many fine and insightful observations along the way. While I do not subscribe to all of Gallia's individual conclusions, this book should be read and admired both for taking on such a complex question with circumspection and sagacity and also for doing so with the kind of critical spirit that prefers to multiply rather than subtract and is thus infinitely more valuable.


1.   Gowing, A., Empire and Memory: The Representation of the Roman Republic in Imperial Culture (Cambridge, 2005).
2.   Halbwachs, M., Les Cadres sociaux de la mémoire (Paris, 1925); id., La Mémoire collective (Paris, 1950); Assmann, J., "Kollektives Gedächtnis und kulturelle Identität," in Kultur und Gedächtnis, ed. J. Assmann and T. Hölscher, 9-19 (Frankfurt am Main, 1988); id., Das kulturelle Gedächtnis: Schrift, Erinnerung und politische Identität in frühen Hochkulturen, 2nd ed. (Munich, 1992); Connerton, P., How Societies Remember (Cambridge, 1989); Fentress, J. and C. Wickham, Social Memory (Oxford, 1992).

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Monday, January 28, 2013


Thomas J. Heffernan, The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. xxvii, 557. ISBN 9780199777570. $99.00.

Reviewed by Sarah Klitenic Wear, Franciscan University of Steubenville (

Version at BMCR home site


Heffernan's edition, translation, and commentary of The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity will be considered the definitive work on the subject. It is adelight to the scholar, teacher, and student of late Latin or early Christianity. This volume offers a comprehensive and expansive introduction to the historical background of the third-century martyrdom of Perpetua that uses evidence from historical, literary, and material culture. This book will be of use to the scholars working on Perpetua or other martyrs in late antiquity, particularly those interested in the social status of women in late antiquity, as well as teachers of intermediate and upper-level Latin courses or those teaching seminars on issues in late antiquity. While the text is rather expensive for students, it includes the Latin text, the Greek text (which is excellent for the students who know both Latin and Greek, as they can readily compare the two versions), a readable English translation, a vocabulary list, notes on grammar, and a discussion on the late Latin of the Passio, as well as a lengthy historical introduction. I used this volume as one of two texts in an upper- division course on early Christian biography, and it did not need to be supplemented with other materials on Perpetua. Because of on its huge success in the one course, I will readily adapt this text for a number of other seminars in the future.

The lengthy introduction (100 pages) is divided into three sections: the personae in the Passio; the date of the Passio, and the language of composition. The first section, on the personae, includes a lengthy discussion on the introduction to the work (exordium) and the redactor who composed the exordium. (While Heffernan does not try to identify the redactor by name, he does speculate on his rank and background.) In his discussion of rhetorical devices used in martyrdom stories Heffernan exhibits a grasp of early Christian biography (demonstrated by his frequent references and comparisons to the Martyrdom of Polycarp, the Martyrdom of Saints Ptolemaeus and Lucius, and the Acts of Justin, among others). This section also provides lengthy discussions on the major figures in the Passio: Perpetua, Revocatus, Felicity, Saturninus and Secundulus, Saturus, Tertius, Pomponius, Hilarianus, Minicius Opimianus, Pudens, Dinocrates, as well as other minor figures. Heffernan considers their social standing in part by providing an analysis of their names. The treatments of Perpetua's father and Perpetua herself are the highlights of this section, because they describe the social position of women in late antique Carthage, particularly in the account of Perpetua's relationship to her father and his role as paterfamilias, a role usurped by Perpetua herself. This section, as well as a subsequent section on Matrona Dei, which covers Perpetua's shift in identity from Roman matron to a Christian matrona Dei, will be useful for those interested in the history of women in the Roman Empire.

Using several types of evidence, Heffernan dates the composition of the work between the end of 206 and late 209. Using internal evidence, Heffernan points to remarks made by the redactor and a datable historical allusion to the celebration of the games on Geta's birthday. He further discusses the dating of the work in light of its manuscript tradition, which is also treated in appendix I, on manuscripts and editions (which gives a detailed description of each of the major manuscripts used by Heffernan, including photographs of select folio pages—again, this addition makes this volume an excellent teaching tool for those introducing students to the art of manuscript study.) Also using references found in Tertullian, Heffernan sets the date for composition between the end of 206 and late 209, partly on the evidence ofTertullian's De Anima, which contains the earliest allusion to the Passio. . The third section of the introduction deals with the language of composition. This section addresses the question of the relative dating of the Latin text and the Greek text, prioritizing the Latin, given historical inconsistencies in the Greek. In addition, Heffernan examines Roman military nomenclature, technical terms, and legal formulae as used in the Latin and Greek traditions of the manuscripts.

Sections IV, V, VI consist of the Latin text, English translation, and commentary (appendix II; the Greek text). The commentary section is immense and offers great insight into the text, which Heffernan treats with sensitivity. This section begins with a general overview of each chapter of the Passio examining parallels in Pauline literature and other early Christian literature, as well as historical practices in the African church, particularly sacramental theology. After the summary and general literary analysis, Heffernan offers a line by line account of the Latin text in the commentary section. Here, he makes notes on unusual usage of Latin syntax typical of later Latin, while providing context for technical terms, and references to scripture. Heffernan's commentaries on chapters four and ten are particularly laudable, especially his interpretations of Christian imagery in chapter four, which features the rather perplexing ladder image, which he refers to the Mithraic mysteries in North Africa. In addition, Heffernan sheds some light on the reception of Perpetua's dreams by providing the example of a fourth-century sarcophagus depicting Perpetua's first dream. He also supplements literary parallels and historical analysis with material evidence in his interpretation of chapter ten, Perpetua's final dream narrative. Here, Heffernan describes the dress of Pomponius in light of representations of Christ the Good Shepherd found on depictions found in the catacombs of Domitilla and in the cemetery of Peter and Marcellinus. In his commentary on, He draws the lanista who oversees the final gladiatorial contest as a composite figure of Christ-Pudens-Mercury-Hermes, and provides numerous parallels from classical and Christian literature and art to support this claim.

Heffernan's volume is a multidisciplinary study that will be of use to Classicists, art historians, and those interested in early Christian literature. Because it embraces so many fields, moreover, it is highly recommended for professors wishing to introduce students to the culturally rich world of late antiquity.

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Javier Andreu, David Espinosa, Simone Pastor (ed.), Mors omnibus instat: aspectos arqueológicos, epigráficos y rituales de la muerte en el Occidente Romano. Colección Estudios. Madrid: Ediciones Liceus, 2011. Pp. 607. ISBN 9788498229332. €40.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Fábio Duarte Joly, Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto (

Version at BMCR home site

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

This book is the result of a conference held in Spain in 2009, sponsored by the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, in Tudela, and by Bellatrix, a research network for the study of Antiquity. Its overall objective is to address the funerary phenomenon in the Roman West focusing upon its material, sociological and ideological dimensions.

The first part of the book – "Ideological, social, and ritual approaches to death in Rome" – is composed of articles that analyze the funerary practices and conceptions of death in Rome. Maureen Carroll interprets the funerary monuments as illustrating the aspects of preservation and destruction of memory, integration and competition in society, and social and economic mobility. Donato Fasolini deals with one particular case of social integration in Rome: the mentions of tribal affiliation in inscriptions related to deceased children, a fact that reveals a concern in portraying them as potential citizens. Francisco Marco Simón reveals another face of death in Rome, one related to real and symbolic violence, as exemplified by the violent deaths of "bad emperors", like Nero and Vitellius, by the use of torture and mutilation, and by magical-religious practices aimed at a symbolic murder, as expressed in the tabellae defixionum. Barbara Borg criticizes the thesis that changes in the patterns of building tombs after Augustus represented only a reaction to the political and social context of the Principate, which would have induced a retreat to the private and familial sphere, in spite of the public exhibition of power and prestige. Freedmen as well as members of a social and economic elite continued to promote themselves through funerary monuments, while adapting themselves to the decorum imposed by the princeps. Ana Rodríguez Mayorgas studies aristocratic funerals as a form of oral gentilicial memory, and indicates how this social practice prevailed over the building of tombs in the fourth and third centuries BC.

The three remaining articles of this part discuss the ideology of imperial power. Pierre Assenmaker analyzes how Octavian represented Caesar's apotheosis following the conception of catasterism current in the Hellenistic monarchies. The author also advances the idea that Octavian has appropriated the theme of pietas concerning his relation to Caesar as a reaction to its use by Sex. Pompeius to honor the memory of his father, Cn. Pompeius. Alessandra Bravi also focuses on Caesar's apotheosis as promoted by Octavian, but compares it with that of Titus, as expressed in his triumphal arch. While the former was rooted in a tradition well established in the Republican political culture – the association of Venus with military victories and with the notion of felicitas –, the latter transmitted the image of a victorious peace that has even absorbed the religious identity of the enemy, as symbolized by the Jewish menorah. Finally, Takashi Fujii takes into account Greek inscriptions from Cyprus to explain how the emperors, living and dead, were incorporated into the system of the Roman imperial cult in the East.

The second part of the book, "Archaeology of death in the Roman West," is devoted to case studies, mostly focusing on Hispania and reviewing the thesis that the process of Romanization of the Iberian Peninsula was largely responsible for the diffusion of burial practices. Desiderio Gil illustrates funerary habits in Roman Hispania, pointing out the influences from Narbonensis as an intermediate area between the Italic and Iberian peninsulas, but also suggesting the possible preponderance of local components to explain the various forms of burials. Isabel Rodà de Llanza examines the Italic component in the funerary practices in Barcino and Tarraco, stressing the influence of the city of Narbo. This aspect is also developed by Ana Elena Garrido in her article on the Roman funerary architecture of Barcino. Ana Ruiz Osuna draws attention to the hybrid character of chamber tombs in Baetica, arguing that it is not very helpful to classify them according to homogenizing labels such as "Roman" or "Punic" types, and Charlotte Tupman advocates a method of analyzing the cupae of the Iberian Peninsula that considers their specific local contexts, rather than taking them as a priori Roman-inspired. Also considering the pressing need for new methodological approaches, Judit Prast proposes the concept of "funerary unity" to interpret the necropolis located at the eastern suburb of Tarraco.

The third part, "Death and epigraphic habit," looks at inscriptions, mainly from Roman Spain and Italy, to emphasize the diversity of such evidence and its similarities and differences with the more usual patterns in the Roman Empire. From a more general point of view, Angela Donati briefly treats the language of funerary inscriptions, which reveals elements such as names, length of life, and tomb dimensions. Judit Végh examines aspects of the epigraphic habit in Hispania in Late Antiquity, underlining the continuities and ruptures with the epigraphic habit prior to the third century AD, and Ángel Jordán Lorenzo uses the epigraphic evidence of Hispania Citerior in the first century AD to analyze the strategies employed by those who dedicated inscriptions to promote themselves through the description of the deceased.

More specific studies in this part of the book include that of Joaquín Gómez-Pantoja, José-Vidal Madruga, and Antonio González Cordero, who examine a particular type of funerary monument, the U-shaped or symmetrically halved monolith, which is mainly located in the Spanish province of Cáceres. Lucio Benedetti and Maria Carla Spadoni study the penetration and diffusion of Latin in and around Perugia to argue that linguistic Latinization in this region occurred before the Roman conquest and thus it had been advanced by local social groups rather than imposed by the conqueror. Simone Pastor examines funerary inscriptions of gladiators that have been found in excavations in the northern area of the ancient amphitheater at Salona (Split, in Croatia), evidence hardly found outside the Italic context. Javier Andreu Pintado discusses the epigraphic habit in the territory of Vascones, stressing the necessity of an historical, archaeological, linguistic and ethnic approach to understand the diversity of the evidence found in this area. Finally, Diana Pi studies late Christian inscriptions of Tarraco, and shows how this evidence reveals the process of consolidation of Christianity among the middle and upper strata of the population.

In general, this book offers to the reader a selection of consistent approaches that aim to analyze the Roman conception of death as well as the archaeological and epigraphic evidence related to funerary practices in Rome and the Western provinces. On the one hand, the book stresses that continuities and ruptures between Republic and Empire should be taken into account regarding the conception of death and its political and private dimensions in Rome. On the other hand, in the field of epigraphic and archaeological studies of the Roman provinces, the book reinforces the shortcomings of the traditional meaning of Romanization as the imposition of Roman culture on another. It must be remarked that all articles point out that both the ideology of death and the funerary phenomena have to be understood as dynamic, multifaceted, and therefore difficult to study through interpretative models that presuppose uniform and linear evolutions of practices and beliefs.

Table of Contents

A. Arnaldi, 'Ricordo di Lidio Gasperini'
J. A. Pintado, D. Espinosa, and S. Pastor, 'Introducción'

I. Aproximaciones ideológicas, sociales y rituals a la muerte en Roma
1. M. Carroll, 'Death and Society: Social and economic aspects of death in the Roman world'
2. B. E. Borg, 'What's in a tomb: Roman death public and private'
3. A. R. Mayorgas, 'Individuo y familia en la memoria aristocrática de la República Romana'
4. P. Assenmaker, 'Les défunts Pompée et César dans les propagandes de leur héritiers: L'exploitation politique des conceptions philosophiques et religieuses liées à la mort à la fin de la République'
5. D. Fasolini, 'Designaturs rei publicae ciuis: L'ascrizione tribale dei menori'
6. A. Bravi, 'Immaginario dell' apoteosi e politiche imperiali a Roma tra Cesare e i Flavi'
7. T. Fujii, 'Imperial cult and imperial death in the Roman East: Emperors represented in Cypriot inscriptions'
8. F. M. Simon, 'Consideraciones sobre 'la mala muerte' en Roma'

II. Arqueología de la muerte en el Occidente Romano
1. D. V. Gil, 'Espacios, usos y hábitos funerarios en la Hispania Romana: Reflexiones y últimas novedades'
2. I. R. de Llanza, 'Imago mortis: El componente itálico en el mundo funerario de Tarraco y Barcino'
3. A. B. R. Osuna, 'Cuevas, tumbas-pozo, hipogeos y tumbas a nivel de superficie: A la búsqueda de una nueva ordenación tipológica de los enterramientos de cámara en Baetica'
4. C. Tupman, 'Interpreting the cupae of the Iberian Peninsula: A question of local identities'
5. J. C. Prast, 'Prácticas y rituales en las áreas funerarias del suburbio oriental de Tarraco'
6. A. G. Elena, 'Aproximación a la arquitectura funeraria romana de Barcino (Barcelona) en época alto- imperial'

III. Muerte y hábito epigráfico
1. A. Donati, 'Il linguaggio delle iscrizioni sepolcrale'
2. J. L. G.-P. Fernández-Salguero, J. V. Madruga, A. G. Cordero, '¿Un raro tipo de monumento sepulcral?'
3. L. Benedetti, M. C. S. Cerroni, 'Morte e usi epigrafici: Su alcune iscrizioni dalla Regio VII'
4. S. Pastor, 'Vita e morte dei gladiatori Salonitani: Urne gladiatorie da Spalato, analisi e nuove interpretazioni'
5. A. A. J. Lorenzo, 'Estrategias de auto-representación en la epigrafía funeraria de Hispania Citerior en el siglo I d. C.'
6. J. A. Pintado, 'Mors Vasconibus instat: Aspectos del hábito epigráfico funerario en territorio de Vascones'
7. D. G. Pi, 'El paisaje epigráfico tarraconense en época tardoantigua: Las inscripciones paleocristianas'
8. J. Végh, 'Vita, mores et aetas: Aspectos del hábito epigráfico funerario en la Hispania tardoantigua'

Índices analíticos
a) de fuentes
b) Índice onomástico
c) Índice topográfico
d) Índice de materias
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Sunday, January 27, 2013


Matthew S. Rindge, Jesus' Parable of the Rich Fool: Luke 12:13-34 among Ancient Conversations on Death and Possessions. Early Christianity and its literature, 6. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011. Pp. xix, 299. ISBN 9781589836143. $36.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Reinhard Feldmeier, Göttingen (

Version at BMCR home site

Die Studie stellt eine in der Exegese eher vernachlässigte Parabel aus dem lukanischen Son-dergut in den Mittelpunkt. Entgegen der verbreiteten Meinung, hierbei handle es sich um eine verhältnismäßig schlichte Kritik der Habgier, betont R., dass dieser Text eine Reihe von Be-sonderheiten aufweise, die einer näheren Betrachtung wert seien. Deren auffälligste sei die Tatsache, dass Gott hier selbst spreche, indem er den Reichen einen Narren schilt und ihm enigmatisch ankündigt, dass „sie heute Nacht dein Leben von dir fordern" (Lk 12,20). Hinzu kommt, so Rindge weiter, dass die Parabel nicht auf prophetische Prätexte verweise, sondern in der Hauptsache auf weisheitliche.

In einem ersten Kapitel gibt Rindge einen Überblick über die Auslegungsgeschichte von der Antike bis in unsere Zeit, die zeigen soll, dass der Zusammenhang von Tod und Besitz wenig beachtet wurde, obgleich dieser sowohl in paganen wie in jüdischen Quellen eine signifikante Rolle spiele. Durch ein doppelte Kontextualisierung der Parabel zum einen in der der jüdi-schen und paganen Literatur, zum andern im Kontext des Lukasevangeliums will R. die Para-bel als einen Beitrag zu einem Diskurs über Reichtum und Tod in der Zeit des zweiten Tem-pels deuten. Dazu behandelt er in den folgenden beiden Kapiteln zunächst mit Kohelet, Ben Sira, 1 Henoch und dem Testament Abrahams vier Texte des hellenistischen Judentums unter der leitenden Fragestellung des Zusammenhangs von Tod und Besitz. Dabei werden nach R. sehr unterschiedliche Aspekte namhaft gemacht, die vom Lebensgenuss bis zum Almosen, von der Fragwürdigkeit allen Habens bis zur Vererbung des Gehabten reichen. Das alles bie-tet eine Reihe von interessanten Information und zeigt, wie der Tod das menschliche Besitz-streben und die damit verbundene Haltung einer Absicherung des Lebens in Frage stellt. Dass dem aber ein übergreifender Diskurs zum Thema Tod und Besitz zugrunde liegt, vermag der Rezensent – so viel sei hier schon einmal kritisch angemerkt – nicht so recht zu erkennen.

Die frühjüdischen Texte werden im vierten Kapitel ergänzt durch griechisch-römische, die allerdings, wie eingangs gleich betont wird, an der Wechselwirkung von Tod und Besitz we-niger Interesse hätten als die jüdischen (p. 123). Mit einer gewissen Verwunderung stellt R. fest, dass in einschlägigen Ausführungen zwar Habgier als Quelle allen Übels bestimmt wird, dass dabei aber das Todesthema keine besondere Rolle spielt. Der Verfasser konzentriert sich dann auf zwei Texte: Lukians Dialog mit den Toten und danach (warum danach?) auf Senecas Briefe an Lucilius. Bei der Auslegung Lukians irritiert, dass der satirische Charakter des Wer-kes und damit auch der Aussagen zur Todesfurcht (selbst eines Sokrates) nicht in Rechnung gestellt wird. Insofern entbehren die von R. daraus gezogenen Schlussfolgerungen nicht einer gewissen Naivität, wenn Lukian zu einem Ethiker gemacht wird, der aus der Tatsache, dass es im Jenseits keine Steuern und keine Schulden mehr gibt, die Aufhebung aller sozioökonomi-schen Unterschiede folgere und damit das Horten von Schätzen „as a bankrupt enterprise" (p.134) kritisiere.

Die Ausführungen zu Seneca beginnen mit der überraschenden Feststellung, dass Senecas Lebenszeit und die Abfassungszeit der Briefe „place him in the same social milieu as Luke-Acts" (144). Bei dem solchermaßen kontextualisierten Stoiker werden dann wieder eine Reihe von Beobachtungen zu den Gefahren des Reichtums angeführt, ohne dass dabei die behaupte-te Interaktion von Reichtums und Tod und damit der Nutzen der Parallelen für die Erschlie-ßung der lukanischen Parabel nachwiesen würde. Erst recht wird nicht nachgewiesen, dass es in der Zeit des zweiten Tempels (zu der nebenbei bemerkt Lukian auf keinen Fall mehr gehört und Lukas nur sehr eingeschränkt) einen übergreifenden gesellschaftlichen Diskurs über die Wechselwirkung von Reichtum und Tod gegeben habe, in dessen Kontext die lukanische Pa-rabel zu stellen und auszulegen sei.

Entsprechend dürftig ist das am Ende präsentierte Ergebnis. Wohlgemerkt: Dass im 1.Jahrhundert verstärkt die Gefahren der Habgier diskutiert wurden und dass in diesem Zu-sammenhang neben jüdischen und paganen Texten (bei denen freilich andere zeitlich und inhaltlich näher gelegen hätten Dion von Prusas Rede über die Habgier) auch Lukas zu beach-ten ist, sei damit nicht bestritten, aber dies ist nicht die Pointe von Rindges Argumentation.

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Alberto Bernabé, Platón y el orfismo: diálogos entre religión y filosofía. Referencias de religión. Madrid: Abada Editores, 2011. Pp. 397. ISBN 9788415289104. €25.00 (pb).

Reviewed by José Baracat, Jr., Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (

Version at BMCR home site

Scholars' attitudes towards the relations between Plato and Orphism have usually fallen under two opposite poles: some identify massive traces of Orphic doctrines in Plato's works and regard them as evidence for a deep influence of Orphism on Plato; others, on the contrary, though they do not deny the many echoes of Orphism in Plato, do not interpret them as determinant for the philosopher, but minimize Orphic influence to the point of almost annulling it.

There is, however, a more nuanced approach, offered eminently by Auguste Diès in1927, and since early followed by scholars as Percival Frutiger and Pierre-Maxime Schuhl, which accepts the strong presence of Orphic elements in Plato, but also affirms the vigorous originality of Plato. The philosopher, accordingly, would not have been simply influenced by Orphism, but would have practiced a complex and creative "transposition" (Diès' term) of the mysticism of his times, giving to it more than what he takes from it. In doing so, Plato replaces the religious initiation that consisted of undergoing ritual trials with the pursuit of philosophical life's perfection; the banal divinization presented by Orphic tablets gives place to the human struggle to acquire moral resemblance with divinity, and Orphic divinization to the Platonic contemplation of intelligible reality.

Such is the line taken by Bernabé, an outstanding name in Orphic studies, author of numerous works, including the Teubner edition of Orphic fragments. In this superb book, a brilliant example of scholarship, the author develops, with incomparable rigor and documentation, the extensive and detailed comparison between Plato and Orphism required by Diès in order to illuminate how Plato has substituted religious initiation and ritual for philosophical initiation and morality as the prime conditions for achieving eternal beatitude.1

Bernabé examines Platonic testimonies regarding the set of myths, literary works, and rituals that the Greeks associated with Orpheus and his followers, collating them with other texts addressing the same Orphic questions, so that their liability can be fairly evaluated. Then, having presented a clearer idea of what the Orphic situation was in Plato's times, he evaluates the influence of Orphic literature, ritual practice, and imaginary on Plato, relying on the concept of "transposition" to define the way Plato quotes, alludes to or modifies Orphic doctrines in order to adapt them to his own.

Bernabé dedicates the first of the four parts of his book to Platonic testimonies on Orpheus' persona and his followers. The author's conclusions are that, despite a few exceptions (e.g. Apology 41a), Plato's opinion on Orpheus is very negative; in sum, a cowardly singer whom people thought to be son of a Muse and who was capable only of deceitful enchantment. Orpheus as poet was also distasteful to the philosopher, since his poems presented a spurious paideía and unserious teletaí. This is the reason why, in spite of being attracted to the antiquity and to the sacred status attributed to Orphic works, Plato avoids mentioning Orpheus in connection with ideas that were of great importance for the construction of his own system (such as the immortality of soul), but rather presents them as ancient or sacred tales.

As to the followers of Orpheus, Bernabé shows that Plato distinguishes four kinds of Orphics, as did others of his contemporaries; there were poets who followed poetic models of Orphic productions, such as those related to the teletaí or the oracles; there were those who lived according to the teachings of a so-called Orphic life, which prescribed, for instance, abstention from eating meat and from bloody sacrifices; a third kind were professional celebrators of rites, diviners, and initiators; finally, there were interpreters of Orphic texts who applied either etymological or allegorical methods to convey the texts' religious and philosophical doctrines. Plato regards favorably those who lived the Orphic life in an ancient, idealized past; among his contemporaries, the philosopher tolerated rightfully inspired literary followers and interpreters able to properly communicate the poetic meaning of the texts, on the grounds that the first, inspired by divinity, were venerable, and the second had discovered a working method for filtering out useful and positive traits of Orphic texts and rites. Plato could next use such "clean" message either for arguing against unbelievers (as Gorgias' Callicles) or for assimilating ancient ideas to his own doctrines.

In the second part, the longest of the book, Bernabé evaluates to what extent Orphic beliefs can be detected in several themes alluded, analyzed or transmuted by Plato: the cosmogonic and theogonic myths, the patterns of the cosmos, the immortality of soul, soul's relation to body (the notorious soma/sêma formula), the myth of Dionysius and the Titans, the images of the Netherworld, justice and retribution, the image of Zeus, and Orphic rites and philosophical initiation. Since it would be impossible to give here an account of Bernabé's analyses of each one of these topics, I will present his general conclusions and, then, his specific conclusions on the topic of soul's immortality, for this is the Orphic doctrine that most influenced Plato.

According to Bernabé, Plato maintains a relationship of both esteem and rejection with Orphic literature and doctrines. He admires some teachings that he values as profound and that agree with his own religiosity (soul's immortality is again the best example), but he despises traits of Orphism which he considers vulgar and unwashed, and which do not fit his philosophical, aristocratic sensibility (maybe the best example for this is the Orphic belief that ritual purification could free a person from his guilt without any further moral effort; Plato substitutes ritual and occasional purification for a lifelong practice of philosophy). For this reason Plato sometimes adapts the Orphic doctrines that he uses either by expurgating undesirable elements from them or by interpreting them symbolically; at other times he simply mocks the coarseness and triviality of Orphic "priests". Elsewhere he simply quotes certain Orphic verses as unproblematic literary material.

The Orphic doctrines on the soul's destiny, as Bernabé shows, are the ones that have left the deepest marks on Plato's thought, even though he must submit them to a radical process of transposition in order to accept them. What the philosopher knew about the theme probably was that soul is eternal and carried an original guilt, almost certainly for the assassination of Dionysius by the Titans, a guilt for which soul ought to suffer the punishment of being subjected to many reincarnations in this world of ours. Here the soul is in body, dead as if in a grave; by means of certain rites and prescriptions, the soul may reach a better destiny in the Netherworld, a banquet of righteous souls in the company of gods, and even divinization; if soul fails, it will be punished in the Netherworld and will reincarnate. The soul's reward or punishment depends on its ability, after the separation from the body, to produce the right answers, learned in Orphic initiation, when questioned by Persephone or other guards of the Netherworld. Plato takes from this that soul is eternal, subjected to metempsychosis, and rewarded or punished after leaving the body; but he suppresses the soul's original guilt, replacing it with the Charioteer myth in the Phaedrus. For Plato, the soul in this world is in body, not dead and inside a grave, but in a prison, bound by desire. The soul's salvation does not depend anymore on rites of initiation, but on moral behavior and on the practice of philosophy; after overcoming a series of reincarnations, a soul can reach the higher levels and stay with the gods, although it does not become a god itself. So the Orphic doctrine, now far from its original form, is thus transposed so that it fits Plato's moral and civic ideas.

In the third part, Bernabé examines Plato's methods of transposition of Orphic doctrines. The author describes seven methods – besides the manner of quoting, already mentioned, when Plato does not name Orpheus, but refers to the Orphic material as an ancient or sacred tale –: i. Omission: Plato omits elements from his Orphic quotations that are present in its original form but do not agree with his purposes (e.g. in Timaeus 40d, Plato relies on Orpheus' theogony, but omits the primal Night because the night occupies a different position in the dialogue); ii. Addition (e.g. Laws 715e, where Plato speaks of Zeus as the god who has "the principle, the end, and the center of all beings", "the end" being a Platonic addition); iii. Modification: Plato sometimes changes one or more terms when quoting his Orphic source, thus profoundly modifying the original meaning (e.g. in Cratylus 400c, Plato interprets the soma/sêma formula, not as "body/grave", but as "body/prison"); iv. Recontextualization: Plato puts the Orphic reference in a new context, thus suggesting that it is implied or contained by other doctrine (e.g. in Meno 81a, the context of the Orphic transmigration theory is the argumentation for the Platonic theory of knowledge as recollection, thus suggesting that anámnesis was implied by the Orphic doctrine); v. Interpretation of enigmas: the literary exegesis that attributes to certain texts the status of aínigma, so that they do mean what they seem to mean, but possess a second, symbolic, deliberately obscure meaning accessible only to those who hold the keys of its interpretation (e.g. Phaedo 62d); vi. Etymology: the interpretation of words that seeks in them a convenient meaning for those who are quoting them (e.g. Republic 364e); and vii. Mythology: Plato's most radical method of transposition, that consists in elaborating myths that contain elements acknowledged as Orphic but that are freely manipulated in order to be made to fit Plato's philosophical system and his moral requirements (e.g. Phaedrus 246a).

The book's fourth part is a recapitulation of the first three parts with the addition of very brief sections dedicated to the reception of Orphism by authors before Plato (Pindar, Empedocles, and Euripides) and after him (here only a few suggestions are given for further readings of the Stoics, the Middle Platonists, and the Neoplatonists). A thematically clustered appendix with the Greek text and Spanish translation of all Orphic and Platonic quotations in the book, an index locorum, and an index rerum close the book.

Bernabé's book, despite the impression this review may give, is very readable for non-specialists too, because of its clarity and organization. Bernabé is in full command not just of the ancient texts but also of the modern scholarly literature, and he deals with his literature in an exemplary and impartial manner, thus providing the reader with an inestimable instrument of research.


1.   A. Diès, Autour de Platon, II, Paris, 1927, p. 444 quoted by Bernabé, p. 228, n. 91.

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Elizabeth S. Belfiore, Socrates' Daimonic Art: Love for Wisdom in Four Platonic Dialogues. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. xvii, 304. ISBN 9781107007581. $99.00.

Reviewed by David M. Timmerman, Monmouth College (

Version at BMCR home site


Elizabeth Belfiore examines the manner in which the four erotic dialogues (Alcibiades I, Lysis, Phaedrus, Symposium) characterize both Socrates and his dialogic art. Socrates' erotic art is the art both of seeking wisdom and of seeking it together with others. In these dialogues Socrates refers to his practice as an erotic art and Belfiore clarifies this conception through close textual reading, cogent analysis, and a detailed explanation of the texts. In addition to explaining the characteristics of Socrates' erotic art and how the specific components of it are presented in each of the dialogues, Belfiore also pursues larger and inter-related goals. These include explaining the relationship of love (erôs) and philosophy, the role dialogic relationships with others play in the search for wisdom, and the role that recognizing one's lack of knowledge plays. Her work is part of a well-known pattern of reading Plato's dialogues as much as dramatic works as as works of philosophy.

Belfiore lays out five interrelated components of Socrates' erotic art – "erotic" here understood not in terms of sexual desire per se, but in the sense of seeking the good of wisdom and the best interests of the other person. First, the love involved here is a strong, passionate desire involving both devotion to and inspiration from the god Erôs. Second, and of great significance, is the recognition and admission of ignorance, which Belfiore takes not, as many have taken it, to be a mere ploy of Socrates. These two elements lead, thirdly, to a passionate desire for wisdom under the influence of and devotion to Erôs. Fourth is the claim Socrates makes to be greatly skilled in this pursuit, that is, in the technê of ta erôtika. Fifth, and finally, Socrates' erotic and daimonic art causes him to be committed to teaching others to recognize their ignorance and to pursue wisdom as he does. Having laid out this conceptualization of Socrates' erotic and daimonic art, Belfiore then turns to an in-depth analysis of how each of the four erotic dialogues contributes to our understanding of this art. This detailed specification of the elements of Socrates' erotic art and practice is ambitious and bold, and one surely open to critique. I for one am not convinced that the evidence in the four texts treated warrants such specification of the particular elements of Socrates' dialogic practice, but I nevertheless found Belfiore's work extremely interesting and informative. I am confident others will as well.

In Chapter 1, Belfiore takes up these themes and goals in her analysis of Alcibiades I. In the dialogue, Alcibiades says that he is interested in gaining the greatest power in the city. Socrates explains that this power is gained by learning to act well, which can only occur through gaining wisdom. Alcibiades must learn what he does not know and experience the Socratic shame that is the first step towards acquiring the desire to gain true knowledge – that is, to engage in Socrates' erotic and daimonic art. Belfiore demonstrates that in the dialogue Alcibiades gains an understanding of the erotic art through multiple stages. He ultimately comes to understand his own ignorance, Socrates' love for him, and the value of self-knowledge – that is, the sharing of love with Socrates and the practice of the erotic art. The art is here described as looking into the soul of another. And erôs becomes the power driving or spurring the quest for self-knowledge, non-physical love for another, and wisdom.

Belfiore next takes up Plato's Lysis, and her interpretation provides a clear explanation of the impasse (aporia) that the dialogue reaches as Socrates, Lysis, and Mexenenus attempt to answer the question, "What is the friend?" Because helping others in the search for self-knowledge is an integral component of his erotic art, enabling his interlocutors to reach the point of recognizing their lack of knowledge or wisdom concerning the friend is itself an inherent good. That is, "impasse leads to success" (70). Socrates' practice of his art is also dependent on another central component of it – that he is able to create friendly relations between the interlocutors. Belfiore notes that each of the erotic dialogues is set in a very intimate, private location. Socrates explains that the source of his art is the god Eros – hence the characterization of it as "daimonic" by Belfiore.

In the introduction to Part II, and in Chapter 3, Belfiore advances the fascinating interpretation that the subject of the Symposium is not erôs per se, but rather Socrates and his practice of the daimonic and erotic art (ta erôtika). In the dialogue, both he and his interlocutors describe him as skilled in this practice. In fact, he is shown to be a lover and a beloved, and to possess each of the skills and the understanding of the components Belfiore identifies as constituting the erotic art. Belfiore places particular focus on the emotional or erotic impact that Socrates' words have on his interlocutors, in terms both of their growing love of wisdom and of their growing love for him. She breaks down each of the speeches and what they reveal about each of the speakers. Through his reactions to the speeches, Socrates successfully encourages the other speakers to recognize their lack of wisdom and to commit themselves to ta erôtika. Socrates is presented as the model for practicing the erotic art and for pursuing love for true wisdom and knowledge.

In Chapter 4, Belfiore turns to an examination of Socrates' interactions with two specific interlocutors in the Symposium: Alcibiades and Agathon. Each one comes to the realization that they lack wisdom, but they do so in different manners. Agathon moves from initial pride in his own words to a realization of his deficiency. The same occurs for Alcibiades, but for him the realization includes intense shame.

Part III moves to the final of the erotic dialogues, the Phaedrus. In particular, Belfiore argues that the dialogue demonstrates erôtikê technê, the ability that Socrates shows in the third speech to combine erôs with friendship. Here, as in the Symposium, he demonstrates that he possesses all five elements of the erotic art. Belfiore differs from a common interpretation of the Phaedrus as a dialogue whose actual subject is rhetoric and rhetorical practice. Instead, the speeches "raise important substantive questions about whether or not any erotic relationship is compatible with friendship" (209). This love of the interlocutor, along with the mutual love of wisdom, is shown to be quite different from the typical lover-beloved (erastês-erômenos) relationship. The love they share is not primarily for each other, but rather for wisdom.

Chapter 5 is devoted to an analysis of the third speech in Phaedrus, the speech on the true lover. Here again Belfiore emphasizes that the subject is not rhetoric, but erôs. The conclusion drawn from all three speeches on erôs is that "an erotic relationship is incompatible with friendship" (215). This type of lover is concerned with his own physical pleasure, confers no good on the beloved, and worst of all denies the beloved the ability and opportunity to pursue wisdom. And so, Socrates' second speech "adapts Greek erotic-educational" models in that the lover and the beloved share "platonic" love, that is non-physical love, as well as love for wisdom and its pursuit. This is described by Belfiore as erotic madness, inspired by the god Eros, and while it sounds less than rational it is actually "the most rational of all human activities" (222).

In the final chapter, Belfiore takes up Plato's myth of the charioteer. Herein lies the final and full goal of Socrates' erotic art: to enable mortals to control both the good and unruly horses to the point that they are able to regain their wings, that is, to obtain the wisdom that they lack. Her analysis emphasizes the horse as an erotic symbol in Greek literature, the satyr-like nature of the black horse, and the significance of the choral imagery employed in the myth.

Belfiore set out in detail how the focus on Socrates and his erotic art sheds light upon and helps to answer some of the persisting questions and interpretive debates about each of the dialogues. Socrates' Daimonic Art provides a coherent and detailed interpretation of the character of Socrates and his philosophical practice in the four dialogues treated. Perhaps we finally know the true value of questions when we find ourselves asking them over and over again. What is Socrates up to in this dialogue? Toward what end(s) are his questions put? Belfiore provides rich and detailed answers to these questions. But as noted earlier, I believe Belfiore delineates a coherence in these four dialogues that perhaps even Plato would find a bit surprising.

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