Thursday, February 28, 2013


Aude Cohen-Skalli, Diodore de Sicile. Bibliothèque historique. Fragments, Tome 1: Livres VI-X. Collection des universités de France. Série grecque, 486. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2012. Pp. cxl, 428. ISBN 9782251005713. €75.00.

Reviewed by Catherine Rubincam, University of Toronto (

Version at BMCR home site

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

The Bibliotheke Historike of Diodorus represents an extraordinary challenge to scholarship. First of all, the text of the 15 books (1-5 and 11-20) that have come down to us more or less intact – a mere three-eighths of the original forty – runs to over 400,000 words. Second, its author, by his own profession (DS 1.3.5-8) intended his work to be something like a survey textbook of all the history worth knowing, down to his own lifetime, which would dispense readers from having to go through the many more specialized works that he used in producing it. He did not anticipate, of course, the eventual destruction of those more specialized works. An army of scholars has laboured for the past 150 years on the intricate task of reconstructing this huge body of lost historiography, so as to identify Diodorus' sources and the information he drew from them. The extreme size and diversity of contents of the Bibliotheke, together with the fragmentation of scholarship generated by the discipline of source criticism, have greatly complicated the task of producing new editions and commentaries on it. It is no accident that no commentary to the whole surviving work has been published since that of P. Wesseling (1746), although in recent years an Italian team has begun making progress towards that end (cf. BMCR 2009.12.03). The volume under review represents a significant contribution to the 20-volume Budé edition (which began publication in 1972 with M. Casevitz's translation of Book 12). The earliest published volumes of this edition comprised a newly edited text with a facing-page translation, and very little explanatory material. In more recent volumes, however, the introductory "Notice" and the "Notes complémentaires" have expanded considerably, so that each more resembles a volume of "translation and commentary".

This volume (Fragments – Tome I: Livres 6-10) is the third to appear among the four designed to encompass the 25 fragmentary books of Diodorus' Bibliotheke Historike: two predecessors, both by P. Goukowsky, contained, respectively, Books 21-26 (Fragments – Tome II [2006]) and Books 27-32 (Fragments – Tome III [2012]). This publication represents also an important milestone on the way to completion of the full 20 volumes of the Budé edition: still to appear are a fourth volume of fragments (of books 33-40) and four volumes devoted to complete books (5, 13, 16, and 20). That it should have taken 40 years (1972-2012) to achieve the publication of three- quarters of the projected 20 books reflects the difficulty of the undertaking: both the very long period of time included in Diodorus' summary of World History (beginning with the mythical period and ending with Julius Caesar's first consulate [60/59 BC]) and the complexity of the historiographic traditions that underlie it require the combined expertise of a team of scholars. Furthermore, whereas other translations published in the late 20th and 21st centuries have been based on the Vogel/Fischer Teubner text (1888-1906), the Budé edition is unique in offering a new text, reflecting more recent textual scholarship (see the authoritative statement of the principles on which this edition is founded by F. Chamoux in his "Introduction Générale" to volume 1 [1993]).

The task of dealing with a pentad of fragmentary books is necessarily much more complex and difficult than the production of a translation and notes on one of the complete books. This difference is reflected in the enormous bulk of the introductory "Notice" (140 pp.), the five "Notices du livre" (92 pp.), and the "Notes complémentaires" (187pp.), compared to the mere 122 double pages (= 244 single pages) occupied by the text and translation of these five books. The introductory "Notice" deals exhaustively with the Fragmentary Transmission of the Text (IX-XXIII), the Branches of the Indirect Tradition (XXIV-LXXVII), and some important Historiographic Questions (LXXV-CVI), before going on to supply a Table of Concordances (CIX-CXII; necessary because of the well justified decision to group the fragments in a different order from that used by earlier editions, such as the Loeb), an extensive Bibliography (CXIII- CXXXI), and a Conspectus Siglorum (CXXXIII-CXL). This publication began as the author's doctoral dissertation, the defence of which (2009) earned a unanimous vote of "distinction" from a panel representing the Sorbonne in Paris and the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa. It shows an impressive depth and breadth of knowledge concerning the relevant scholarship, a commendable lucidity in the exposition of the sources and MS traditions of the various groups of fragments, and an ability to make judicious decisions on the organization of the complex supplementary material, and in the wording of the translation.

Cohen-Skalli begins (VII-XII) by summarizing the evidence concerning the loss of Books 6-10 and 21-40 of the Bibliothêkê, accepting Casevitz's dating of this to the 15th century A.D., rather than Goukowsky's argument for an earlier date. She goes on to present (XII-XV) an analysis of the "fragmentary" status of these lost books based on the work of P. Brunt, D. Lenfant, and G. Schepens. There follows (XV-XXIV) a brief history of the publication of the fragments, which notes that the Vogel/Fischer Teubner edition (1888-1906) "can be considered as the last scientific edition", since C.H. Oldfather's more recent Loeb edition of these books (1939 and 1946) reproduced the Vogel/Fischer text, whereas F.R. Walton, who edited the Loeb edition of books 21-40 (1957 and 1967) used the more recent editions of some of the Constantinian Excerpts to improve the text. Her subsequent discussion of the sources of the second pentad fragments gives pride of place to the Constantinian Excerpts ("which furnish nine-tenths of the published fragments" [LXV]), dealing lucidly with both their history and their reliability, and then proceeds to list the various author-excerptors responsible for the citations of Diodorus that comprise the remaining fragments: first the Christian writers (Tertullian [II cent. A.D.], Sextus Julius Africanus [III cent. A.D.], and Eusebius [III-IV cent. A.D.), and then the Byzantines (John Malalas [early VI cent. A.D.], George Syncellus [c. 810 A.D.], the eklogê historiôn [probably IX cent. A.D.], the florilegia [various dates from IX cent. A.D. on], Tzetzes' Chiliades [XII cent. A.D.], Eustathius' Commentaries on the Iliad [XII cent. A.D.], plus two other sets of scholia). For each of these sources Cohen-Skalli gives full details of the MS tradition, explaining her choice of a particular published edition as the basis for the text here published, as well as the means by which she checked problematic MS readings. This section is completed by an exposition of "The principles of the edition" (LXV- LXXVI), which more systematically explains the thorough process followed in establishing the text of the different types of fragments. She proceeds to justify the decision to propose "a new classification – and consequently, a new numbering – of the fragments of books VI-X" (LXXI), on three grounds: (1) the need to represent faithfully the boundaries of the individual excerpts in the Constantinian collections (obscured by previous editions' grouping of several excerpts into "chapters"), (2) the desire to facilitate the reader's comparison of two fragments from different secondary sources that clearly derive from the same passage in Diodorus' text, and (3) the importance of arranging the fragments in an order that reflects the latest scholarship. The argument that the canonical order (unchallenged since the editions of Dindorf and Vogel/Fischer, published over a century ago) badly needs adjustment is a strong one, and follows the path taken by Goukowsky (Fragments: Tome II [2006]).

A few examples will illustrate the improvements made in this edition, in terms of: (a) text, (b) translation, (c) organization, (d) supplementary notes. The following comments derive from a necessarily limited sampling of the following fragments, representing a selection of sources:

(i) DS 6.1 (Budé) = 6.1 (Loeb) - Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica 2.2.52-62 [Mras 1954-56]

(ii) DS 6.4 (Budé) = 6.5 (Loeb) - Iohannes Malalas, Chronographia, 1.13, p. 13, 35-36 and 38-52 [Thurn 2000]

(iii) DS 6.9.1-2 and 6.9bis.1 (Budé) = 6.6.4-5 + 6.7.1-4 (Loeb) - de Virt. et Vit. 21-22 [Büttner-Wobst 1906] and an Odyssey scholiast [Ludwich 1885]

(iv) DS 7.5+7.5bis, 5ter, 5quater (Budé) = 7.4.4-5.12, 7.6, 7.7 (Loeb) - Eusebius, Chronica 1, p. 283.18- 289.21 [Schöne 1875], supplemented by Syncellus, Ecloga Chronographica 366.11-367.3 [Mosshammer 1984], de Insid. 21 [de Boor 1905], and de Virt. et Vit. 26 [Büttner-Wobst 1906]

(v) DS 8.4 (Budé) = 8.3 (Loeb) - de Insid. 24 [de Boor 1905]

(vi) DS 8.3 (Budé) = 8.4 (Loeb) - de Virt. et Vit. 31 [Büttner-Wobst 1906]

(vii) DS 10.32 (Budé) = DS 10.15 (Loeb) - de Legat. 2 [de Boor 1903]

(viii) DS 10.33 (Budé) = DS 10.16.1 (Loeb) - de Sent. 89 [Boissevain 1906].

(a) The Budé text generally differs little from that of Oldfather's Loeb edition (vol. 3: books 6-8 [1939]; vol. 4: 9-10 [1946]), which was drawn from Vogel 1890. The only exception is (ii), where H. Thurn's recent edition of Malalas' Chronographia (Berlin 2000) has made significant changes to the text. The full apparatus criticus provided by Cohen-Skalli for each fragment, however, enables the reader to understand the textual history and have confidence in the improvements proposed by various editors.

(b) Cohen-Skalli's French translation of the fragments whose text remains essentially unchanged reads at least as well as that of Oldfather into English. Here again the Budé offers much more discussion and explanation of terms whose meaning is less than straightforward, which effectively takes the reader into partnership in the understanding of the text.

(c) Cohen-Skalli's reorganization of the fragments was designed, as explained above, to preserve the boundaries of each fragment, to facilitate comparison of several excerpts of the same Diodoran passage from different sources, and to reflect the latest scholarship on the order in which they probably stood in Diodorus' text. Like the full apparatus criticus and the explanations of points in the translation, these organizational strategies remind the reader constantly of the distance that separates a 'book' artificially reconstructed from small excerpts from the lost complete text. Oldfather's Loeb edition, which aimed primarily to make the Bibliotheke easily accessible to modern readers, naturally elided such issues. Although the printing of comparable fragments in parallel columns has some significant advantages, the consequent interweaving of texts can sometimes cause confusion, as one tries to follow the thread of text and notes (some printed as footnotes, others as endnotes) from page to page, and refer to the apparatus, located at the end of each fragment.

(d) The supplementary notes are extremely comprehensive – sufficient, in fact, to constitute, together with the very extensive "Notice" and Bibliography, a full commentary on these skeletal texts (187 pages of endnotes, plus footnotes to the translation). Their content is admirably thorough and judicious, including references to other similar ancient accounts, discussion of scholarship on the possible inter-relationship of these different accounts, and comments on the textual tradition, translation, and proper ordering of the fragments.

This new publication of these sadly fragmentary books, so crucially important for our understanding of how Diodorus designed his Bibliotheke, is to be welcomed wholeheartedly. The meticulous care it devotes to every aspect of scholarship makes it a worthy addition to the Budé Diodorus.

Table des matières

I. La transmission fragmentaire du texte, IX
A. La perte du texte, IX
B. La catégorie du "fragment", XII
C. Les éditions, XV
D. Principales traductions en langues modernes, XXIII
II. Les branches de la tradition indirecte, XXIV
A. Les Extraits Constantiniens, XXV
1. Project et réalisation des Extraits, XXV
2. Composition du recueil, XXVIII
3. Fiabilité des Extraits Constantiniens, XXXVI
4. Les manuscrits, XXXVI
B. Témoignages d'auteurs, XLVII
1. Apologistes et écrivains chrétiens, XLVIII
2. Érudits byzantins, LV
C. Principes de l'édition, LXV
I. Questions de chronologie, LXXXI
II. Questions thématiques: le regroupement kata genos, XCII
III. Un cas singulier dans l'étude des genê: hypothèses sur la place de Rome dans le récit des archaiologiai, XCVII
Notice, 3
Texte et traduction, 26
Notice, 37
Texte et traduction, 50
Notice, 77
Texte et traduction, 94
Notice, 121
Texte et traduction, 134
LIVRE X, 163
Notice, 165
Texte et traduction, 186
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Lázaro Gabriel Lagóstena Barrios, José Luis Cañizar Palacios, Lluís Pons Pujol (ed.), Aquam perducendam curavit: captación, uso y administración del agua en las ciudades de la Bética y el occidente romano. Cádiz: Universidad de Cádiz, 2010. Pp. 557. ISBN 9788469363737.

Reviewed by Lavinia De Rosa, Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali (

Version at BMCR home site

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

The volume gathers the proceedings of an international conference held in Cádiz organized by the Seminario Agustín de Horozco de Estudios Económicos de Historia Antigua y Medieval. Its aim was to address the collection, use and administration of water in the towns of Roman Baetica, as well as its links with Hispania and the rest of the Roman West, from a multidisciplinary perspective by bringing together specialists in historical and environmental fields. This recent approach in Roman hydraulic studies, which draws on geologists, speleologists, engineers, is influenced by current global water problems.1 The papers—6 invited lectures (ponencias invitadas) and 22 submissions—deal with different locations in the Roman West, but chiefly focus on ancient Spain. They are all written in Spanish, except for one in English, one in Portuguese, two in Italian, and two in French.

We read about the urban water supply, the water supply in the countryside, water legislation, water-connected religious and cultural aspects, economic uses of water, and public baths. Many papers contribute to our knowledge of ancient water systems in various locations – as Mérida, Córdoba, Tempul, Consuegra – by reporting on new archaeological discoveries or field explorations, or editing already available documentation; others, instead, provide overviews on general themes or reflections on special situations in the Roman West.

This variety of topics is undoubtedly an asset, as are the book's many illustrations, which include ancient drawings, historic landscape paintings, and recent photographs, as well as graphs and tables. On the other hand, overall the volume appears uneven in quality and depth, as is often the case with conference proceedings. Gathering the contributions into thematic sections would have facilitated consultation, as would an introduction.2

Since the general trend in hydraulic studies has traditionally been the analysis of individual aqueducts or the water management systems of a single town, papers gathering evidence for a wide area as a whole are especially welcome additions to the field.3 Studying the topic in a broader geographical and administrative context—such as that of a Roman province, for example—is a more effective way to shed light on how ancient people came up with technical and political solutions to their water supply needs in relation to the environment resources. This is borne out by Francisco Beltrán Lloris' reflections on irrigation systems in Tarraconense, based on a study of epigraphic documents of water controversies between neighbour communities. Lázaro G. Lagóstena Barrios points out the combined use of GIS and online databases with traditional historical and archaeological sources to investigate water management, with a special focus on Baetica. María del Mar Castro García also combines traditional and innovative approaches in her study of the Mellaria and Italica aqueducts.

General studies of aqueducts in a given area are especially valuable, considering how difficult it is to gather information about surviving structures. This is especially true of Spain, where scanty epigraphic evidence makes it hard to precisely date most known aqueducts, although it would appear that none is earlier than the imperial age, as José María Blázquez Martínez shows in his description of the principal aqueducts of Hispania. Chronological uncertainties are also addressed in the paper by Lluís Pons Pujol and Lázaro Lagóstena Barrios, who look at the available evidence for the aqueducts of Mauretania Tingitana.

Considering that the paucity of evidence in Spain is indeed a problem, it is regrettable that the studies in this volume only deal with the most spectacular and easily accessible remains of aqueducts, neglecting a number of less well- preserved ones; moreover, their authors usually limit themselves to mere descriptions, although usually detailed. It would have been desirable for them to include all the aqueducts in a given area, however recorded—in literature, archaeologically or topographically—including those we cannot date. This is what Cristóbal González Román has done: he lists all the aqueducts of Baetica in a table providing chronological, descriptive and bibliographical information. So far 44 aqueducts are known in the area, a minimum to update as new discoveries are made.

What we miss in this volume is a spatial and chronological quantitative analysis of aqueduct distribution in the areas under study, as related to the laws and administration of towns and their uses of water; in other words, we would like to know how many aqueducts were built in a given area and when, and how many of them supplied colonies or municipia, and for what purposes. There is a real advantage to this kind of synthesis. It would help us to gain a more pragmatic understanding of the impact of aqueducts, "una de las grandes aportaciones de Roma a Hispania" (Blázquez Martinez, p. 126), which were mainly built, as it seems, on the occasion of new foundations or changes in government organization. Without a distribution trend, based on whatever evidence is currently available, one runs the risk of being left with nothing but a sequence of unconnected, if still useful, data.

However, although a comprehensive view is still out of reach, some conclusions can already be drawn, and it is regrettable that they are not adequately brought out in this volume. For example, it is remarkable that aqueducts in Spain were frequently used to supply facilities in Baetica like the salazones, or fish-salting workshops, as well as military camps in Mauretania—unusual in the ancient world for security reasons, since the water channels could provide easy access in the case of an enemy attack.

A final discussion of the arguments put forward by the contributors would have been desirable; it is unfortunate that the concluding lecture by Prof. Dr. D. José María Blázquez (Real Academia de la Historia), scheduled in the program of the meeting, was not included in the volume.

Table of Contents

Les aqueducs romains , le territoire et la « gouvernance » de l'eau. Philippe Leveau.
El agua y las relaciones intercomunitarias en la Tarraconense. Francisco Beltrán Lloris.
El agua en las ciudades de la Bética: organización y funciones. Cristóbal González Román.
Polisemia e polimorfismo della cura aquarumtra repubblica e impero. Anna Domizia Bianco.
Estudiar el agua en la Antigüedad: una metodología para su investigación en el marco de la Bética romana. Lázaro G. Lagóstena Barrios.
Los acueductos romanos en Hispania. José María Blázquez Martínez .

Las conducciones romanas de Mérida. Nuevos datos para su conocimiento. Mercedes Gómez de Segura Iriarte, Pedro Dámaso Sánchez, Nuria Sánchez Capote, Isaac Sastre de Diego.
El abastecimiento de agua a la Colonia lulia Augusta Faventia Paterna Barcino. Carme Miró i Alaix.
La continuidad de los sistemas hidráulicos. Nuevos testimonios en Córdoba. Antonio Moreno Rosa, Guadalupe Pizarro Berengena.
Nuevas aportaciones al estudio hidráulico del acueducto romano de Tempul. Jenny Pérez Marrero, Isabel Bestué Cardiel.
El Municipium Sexi Firmum luliumy el agua. El acueducto y la producción de salazones. Elena Sánchez López, Jenny Pérez Marrero, Margarita Orfila Pons, Isabel Bestué Cardiel.
Identificación de un nuevo acueducto en Baetica: estudio preliminar de recientes hallazgos en la Sierra de Lijar. Angel David Bastos Zarandieta.
A captação e o uso da água em Bracara Augusta. Rui Morais.
Valeria: el foro como ninfeo, el ninfeo como templo, ¿qué es qué? Angel Fuentes Domínguez, Mónica Montoro Castillo.
Sierra Aznar ¿ castellum aquae o caput aquae? Esperanza Mata Almonte, Francisco de Borja Zuleta Alejandro, Lázaro Gabriel Lagóstena Barrios, Luis Cobos Rodríguez.
Arqueología experimental en las termas romanas de San Juan de Maliaño (Camargo, Cantabria- España). María Luisa Ramos Sáinz, Raquel Vigil de la Villa, María Lacal Ruiz, María José Alcega Martínez.
Public Baths in the Roman and Islamic Medieval World: some Reflections on Hygienic and Moral Issues. Ieva Reklaityte.
Captación y traídas de aguas en la ciudad hispano-romana de Consabura (Consuegra. Toledo). Francisco Giles Pacheco.
Estudio arqueológico de la presa romana de Consuegra (Toledo). Santiago Rodríguez Untoria.
La presa romana de Muel: novedades de hidráulica romana en el Valle del Ebro. Paula Uribe Agudo, Ma Ángeles Magallón Botaya, Javier Fanlo Loras, Manuel Martínez Bea, Rafael Domingo Martínez, Ieiva Reklaityte, Fernando Pérez Lambán.
Captación y almacenamiento del agua en el oppidum iberorromano de Zahara de la Sierra (Cádiz). Luis Cobos Rodríguez, Luis Iglesias García.
Control y uso del agua en las villas de la Bética. Alejandro Fornell Muñoz.
Sobre los sistemas de regadío en época romana. El caso del territorio de Tarragona y Almería. Alberto Prieto Arciniega, Isaías Arrayás Morales, Mª Juana López Medina
Drenaje de espacios agropecuarios romanos: concepción e identificación. Daniel Martín-Arroyo Sánchez.
Infraestructuras hidráulicas en el territorio de una colonia romana de la Bética: el caso de Astigi, Colonia Augusta Firma (Écija, Sevilla, España). Pedro Sáez Fernández, Salvador Ordóñez Agulla, Sergio García-Dils de la Vega.
Presencia y significado de las aguas saladas y salmueras en la Antigüedad. Nuria Morére Molinero.
El agua en la escritura pública del poder: panegíricos, legislación imperial y leyes municipales. José Luis Cañizar Palacios.
Leggi prediali e regolamenti cittadini: realizzazione e gestione degli acquedotti africani. Massimo Casagrande.
Notas sobre ius aquarum en la Bética. Carlos Sancho De la Calle.
Les aménagements fluviaux dans le delta du Rhin: représentations anciennes de l'organisation romaine des eaux deltaïques. Melissa Simard Morin.
El uso del agua en la cultura visual romana. Irene Mañas Romero.
Captación y uso del agua en contextos funerarios y rituales. Estructuras hidráulicas en la necrópolis de Cádiz (siglos III a.C. - I d.c.). Ana María Niveau de Villedary y Mariñas, Verónica Gómez Fernández.
Los acueductos de Mauretania Tingitana. Estado de la cuestión. Lluís Pons Pujol, Lázaro G. Lagóstena Barrios.
La gestión integral del agua en la provincia Hispania Ulterior Baetica. María del Mar Castro García.


1.   A good example of this approach is Vers une gestion intégrée de l'eau dans l'Empire Romain : actes du colloque international Université Laval, octobre 2006, édités par Ella Hermon.
2.   A short description of the conference is available on the website.
3.   Some especially significant recent studies in this vein are published in the proceedings of the international conferences organized by Frontinus-Gesellschaft, notably Cura aquarum in Sicilia, Cura aquarum in Campania, Cura aquarum in Ephesus, Cura Aquarum in Israel.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Dennis Pardee, The Ugaritic Texts and the Origins of West-Semitic Literary Composition. Schweich lectures of the British Academy, 2007. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press (for the British Academy), 2012. Pp. ix, 149. ISBN 9780197264928. $55.00.

Reviewed by Philippa M. Steele, University of Cambridge (

Version at BMCR home site

This book is a publication of the 2007 Schweich Lectures on Biblical Archaeology, delivered by the author at the British Academy in November-December of that year. The Schweich Lectures are, in the words of the original stipulation, 'devoted to the furtherance of research in the archaeology, art, history, languages and literature of Ancient Civilisation, with reference to Biblical Study',1 and in practice this has meant over the last hundred or so years that they have covered a wide variety of topics, often of an interdisciplinary nature. The focus of Pardee's 2007 lectures was in the area of ancient 'languages and literature', with each of the three lectures highlighting in a different way the importance of the surviving Ugaritic literary texts to the broader study of West Semitic literature.

Consistent with the broader aims of the Schweich Lectures, the book is aimed at those with 'a general interest in the ancient Near East and, in particular, in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament' (p. ix), which is to say that it will inevitably appeal to multiple groups and to scholars and enthusiasts of several different disciplines. The interdisciplinary approach underpinning the work is undoubtedly a strength, but inevitably the intended breadth of appeal corresponds with a relatively limited treatment of some aspects of the book's subject. Broadly speaking, however, a good compromise between accessibility and depth has been reached.

The book reproduces Pardee's lectures as three separate chapters, adhering closely to the original presentation but adding a great deal of contextual information in the form of copious footnotes throughout the text. Following a short Preface (p. ix-x), the first chapter gives an overview of Ugaritic language and writing ('Alphabetic Origins', p. 1-40), the second looks in detail at the Baal Cycle and its composition ('Ugaritic Literary Compositions', p. 41-77) and the third compares the Ugaritic and Hebrew belletristic traditions in search of common literary features ('Literary Composition in the Hebrew Bible: The View from Ugarit', p. 79-124). There is no separate concluding chapter, but Chapter Three ends with the briefest of valedictory sections, labelled a 'Summary' (p. 124).

Chapter One acts as an extended introduction to Ugaritic, with expositions of its decipherment, its linguistic features, its writing system and its textual corpus. Some aspects of this treatment are difficult to pitch to a general audience, and one wonders how accessible, for example, the discussion of the graphic and phonemic inventory of Ugaritic would be to those who are not epigraphic specialists (perhaps more accessible in a spoken lecture than in written form). Although this is not entirely necessary to the book's overall purpose, we are given a description of the three different forms of Ugaritic script (one 'standard' alphabet, a reduced alphabet probably used for another language, and a third with a slightly different inventory that may be linked with South Arabian), which in turn hints briefly at the multilingual population of Late Bronze Age Ugarit. However, the broader context of Late Bronze Age Ugarit as a 'literal Babel of scripts and languages', in the words of Thomas G. Palaima,2 does not receive much attention as the focus is placed firmly on Ugaritic literature in Chapters Two and Three. Readers keen to learn more about Ugarit itself would be advised to begin by turning to Marguerite Yon's 2006 book about the site.3

It is an encouraging sign from the outset that Pardee's treatment of Ugaritic linguistic and cultural features is methodologically both transparent and sound. Where he is presenting his own opinion about a debated issue, he indicates this clearly, as for example on the date of the invention of the Ugaritic alphabet, in his opinion probably in the thirteenth rather than the fourteenth century BC.4 In discussing the linguistic affinities of Ugaritic, which belongs undoubtedly to the West Semitic group but whose exact place is difficult to ascertain, Pardee makes very clear the limitations of such a survey: he admits, for instance, that although Ugaritic can be seen to belong to the 'cultural continuum' of the Amorites at Mari (p. 23), this cannot be quantified linguistically because of the difficulties associated with attempting to classify Amorite, a language surviving in inscriptions of limited number and content. A conclusion on the exact affiliation of Ugaritic is perforce correspondingly vague: it is 'more closely related to the Canaanite languages than to Aramaic or to Arabic', while relations with Amorite cannot be quantified, but Canaanite is labelled as a 'linguistic cousin' (p. 25).5

Chapter Two moves the focus to literary and contextual study, looking at the small proportion of Ugaritic texts (only about fifty out of two thousand) that can be described as belletristic in nature. Of these, an obvious choice for close study is the Baal Cycle, which survives on a set of six clay tablets written by the scribe ʾIlîmilku. A part of the chapter is dedicated to an in-depth examination of the tablets in question, with a view to demonstrating rather than assuming that they can be seen as part of the same 'cycle' of stories (p. 61-72). This section more than any other demonstrates the strength of the interdisciplinary enquiry underpinning the book, with the author not only approaching the question of the Baal Cycle from an inter/intra-textual literary perspective but also presenting the results of his own research on the epigraphy and pinacology of the texts.

The discussion of the Baal Cycle also benefits from a prosopographical investigation into their scribe, ʾIlîmilku (p. 42-9), beginning with the long colophon with which he signed the last tablet of the cycle, CTA 6. The investigation complements the study of the texts themselves very well, and goes some way towards illuminating the role of the inscribers of Ugaritic literary texts. However, it is rare to find such texts signed and so ʾIlîmilku remains an isolated example which cannot be assumed to be representative of the mechanisms of the literary tradition at Ugarit. Pardee's argument that this 'scribe' was also the author/poet of the cycle is thought-provoking, but he admits that he may be reading too much into the damaged text from which his hypothesis arises (RS 92.2016), which requires partial restoration and a small amount of imaginative interpretation.

Chapter Three shifts the focus yet again, towards a comparative literary study of Ugaritic and Hebrew texts. The belletristic priorities of Hebrew literature can be shown to be somewhat different from those of the Ugaritic examples, with a move away from long narrative poetry so that long narrative sections are in prose and poetry is represented only in shorter pieces. However, Pardee successfully and concisely demonstrates that common motifs may be found, pointing towards the inheritance of some aspects of a pre-existing West Semitic literary tradition by the authors of certain texts of the Old Testament. The literary strategy of 'parallelism', illustrated in long quotations from a number of Ugaritic and Hebrew texts, is presented as a structural device that can be seen to evolve from one tradition to the other (p. 79-91). Further common strands may be found by considering shared poetic imagery (p. 92-106). The final section of the chapter, which considers types of writing, might appear at first to present some tenuous links between particular attested texts (for example, the attempt to isolate examples of Ugaritic literature that conform to the Hebrew model of 'wisdom poetry', p. 110-12), but overall is a convincing exposition of shared literary trends in the two languages.

The lack of a concluding chapter might be taken to imply that the various strands of Pardee's investigation into Ugaritic literature are never quite tied together, but in fact his argument progresses with such clarity from beginning to end that the cumulative impact of the work is not in doubt. His aim to trace 'the general outlines of one of the foundations of that cornerstone [i.e. the Hebrew Bible as a cornerstone of Western culture]' (p. 124) has been achieved, and he has also provided an account of Ugaritic language and literature, and its import for the general study of West Semitic literary traditions, that will appeal to enthusiasts of the ancient Near East and of Old Testament studies. This is not a book that one can easily dip into and out of, but reading it from cover to cover is a journey into several fascinating areas of linguistic, epigraphic and literary study.


1.   See the British Academy web page on the Schweich Lectures.
2.   T.G. Palaima, 'Cypro-Minoan Scripts: Problems of Historical Context' in Duhoux, Y., Palaima, T.G. and Bennet, J. (eds.), Problems in Decipherment, Louvain-la-Neuve 1989, p. 147.
3.   M. Yon, The City of Ugarit at Tell Ras Shamra, Winona Lake 2006.
4.   P. 11 and n.18. Pardee has discussed the issue of dating further in D. Pardee, 'The Ugaritic Alphabetic Cuneiform Writing System in the Context of Other Alphabetic Systems' in C.L. Miller (ed.), Studies in Semitic and Afroasiatic Linguistics Presented to Gene B. Gragg, Chicago 2007, p. 181-200.
5.   A useful and more exhaustive treatment of the linguistic affiliation of Ugaritic may be found in J. Tropper, 'Is Ugaritic a Canaanite Language?' in G.J. Brooke, A.H.W. Curtis and J.F. Healey (eds.), Ugarit and the Bible, Münster 1994, p. 343-353.

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Matteo Martelli, Pseudo-Democrito. Scritti alchemici: con il commentario di Sinesio. Edizione critica del testo greco, traduzione e commento. Textes et Travaux de Chrysopoeia, 12. Paris; Milano: S.É.H.A.; Archè​, 2011. Pp. xvi, 524. ISBN 9788872523193. €45.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Carlo Scardino, Universität Basel​ (

Version at BMCR home site

Die unter dem Namen des Demokritos verfassten und heute nur in Exzerpten erhaltenen Schriften zur Herstellung von Purpur, Gold, Silber und Edelsteinen gehören zu den ältesten alchimistischen Werken der antiken Literatur und sind nicht nur in Europa, sondern, wie syrische und arabische Testimonien belegen, auch im Orient rezipiert worden. Die vier Traktate sind Ende des 19. Jh. zum ersten Mal in der verdienstvollen Ausgabe von Berthelot und Ruelle1 herausgegeben worden. Seither hat zwar die Erforschung der pseudo-demokritischen Schriften wichtige Fortschritte gemacht, doch fehlte bisher eine neue kritische Edition. Diese Lücke hat jetzt das ausgezeichnete Buch von Martelli gefüllt. Neben der neuen Edition der Texte zeichnet sich der Band durch eine umfangreiche Einleitung und einen sehr ausführlichen Kommentar aus.

Der erste Teil der Einleitung (S. 1-60) enthält eine detaillierte Beschreibung der Codices, in denen Pseudo-Demokrits Schriften überliefert sind. Diese sind: M = Marcianus gr. 299 (10.-11. Jh.), B = Parisinus gr. 2325 (13. Jh.), C = Parisinus gr. 2275 (15. Jh.), A = Parisinus gr. 2327 (15. Jh.), L = Laurentianus gr. 86,16 (15. Jh.), V = Vaticanus gr. 1174 (14.-15. Jh.). Hinzu kommen ein in Cambridge und zwei in London aufbewahrte syrische Manuskripte sowie zwei moderne lateinische Übersetzungen. Martelli legt auf Grund des Vergleichs anderer Sektionen dieser Handschriften – etwa der Listen der alchimistischen Zeichen – überzeugend dar, dass die jüngeren Pariser Codices nicht einfach Abschriften von M sind. So enthält der Codex B zum Teil bessere Lesarten als M, die schwerlich das Resultat von Korrekturen eines scriba doctus sein können, sondern vielmehr vermuten lassen, dass dieser Codex nicht von M, sondern von einer älteren Vorlage von M abgeschrieben und durch den Vergleich mit anderen byzantinischen alchimistischen Anthologien kontaminiert worden ist (S. 31: "appare difficile pensare che i numerosi casi evidenziati in cui il Parigino si discosta dal Marciano siano semplicemente il frutto di interventi congetturali da parte del copista"). Ebenso weisen die übrigen Codices wie A Kontaminationen mit anderen Quellen auf und sind deshalb mehr als nur das Ergebnis der Kollation von M und B, zumal A einige in diesen Handschriften fehlende Sektionen enthält, die offensichtlich aus anderen Quellen stammen (S. 39-43). Unsicher sind dagegen die Verhältnisse für L und V. Martellis Bemerkung bezüglich V (S. 54), dass erst eine präzise und umfassende Analyse aller Codices und nicht nur einzelner Ausschnitte genauere Auskunft über die Genese der einzelnen Handschriften und über ihre Beziehung zu den anderen Zeugen geben kann, gilt selbstverständlich für das gesamte alchimistische Schrifttum. Wohl aus diesem Grund hat Martelli auf das Entwerfen eines stemma codicum verzichtet. Sehr fruchtbar erweist sich das Hinzuziehen der syrischen Versionen, welche wahrscheinlich im 6. Jh. übersetzt worden sind und somit einen griechischen Text als Grundlage haben, der älter als die mittelalterlichen Handschriften ist. Zwar ist auch die syrische Version von Berthelot und Duval größtenteils bereits 18932 herausgegeben worden, doch auch in dieser Hinsicht muss, wie Martelli S. 59 richtig bemerkt, über seine Untersuchung hinaus noch viel Grundlagenarbeit geleistet werden. Insbesondere müssten die Zitate aus dem pseudo-demokritischen Werk in anderen syrischen Texten kollationiert werden. Dasselbe gilt für die von Martelli nur am Rande im Kommentar berücksichtigte arabische alchimistische Tradition (etwa im Corpus des Jâbir bin Hayyân), die einer gründlichen Aufarbeitung noch harrt.

Im zweiten Teil der Einleitung (S. 61-124) gibt Martelli unter Berücksichtigung der gesamten Tradition einen analytischen [rather: „systematischen"?] Überblick über die alchimistischen Werke des Pseudo-Demokrit, welche die Färbung von Stoffen (Purpur) und vor allem die Herstellung [?] von Metallen (Gold, Silber, Edelsteine) beschreiben, sowie über das Exzerpt aus der Moysis Chymica und den Kommentar des Synesios, wobei die bisher nur teilweise erforschte indirekte Tradition (Zitate) natürlich nur punktuell berücksichtigt werden konnte (S. 66 "l'intero Corpus alchemicum è una miniera inesauribile di citazioni tratte dal nostro autore, il cui studio permetterebbe di recuperare preziose informazioni sulla sua produzione. Un tale sforzo, tuttavia, supererebbe gli intenti del presente lavoro"). Beim vorliegenden pseudo-demokritischen Werk handelt es sich um eine Epitome, die aus verschiedenen Traktaten bestand und in einem zweiten Schritt in die Form, wie sie in den Handschriften überliefert ist, gebracht worden ist. Auf Grund verschiedener Parallelen und Indizien (wie das Vorkommen eines Κλαυδιανόν genannten Stoffes, vgl. S. 91f.) datiert Martelli das ursprüngliche Werk wohl mit Recht in die Mitte des 1. Jh. n.Chr. Damit ist auch klar, dass es nicht von Bolos von Mende, der im 2. Jh. v.Chr. wohl in Ägypten lebte, verfasst worden sein kann. Indessen ist die Figur des Bolos für das Nachleben von Demokrits Lehre sehr aufschlussreich, zumal bei ihm die Lehre des Abderiten mit orientalischer Weisheit assoziiert wird. Martelli schließt sich den Forschern an, die schon im Werk des Demokritos ansatzweise ein Interesse für Fragestellungen der Alchimie zu erkennen glauben (S. 113-114): "Da ciò che rimane di Bolo sembra emergere l'associazione tra Democrito e la figura del φιλόσοφος φυσικός, impegnato nella ricerca e nell'applicazione di quelle virtù nascoste della φύσις che regolano i rapporti e le interazioni tra le sostanze vegetali, animali e minerali: l'applicazione di tali leggi alla medicina, alle pratiche tintòrie o alla manipolazione metallica accomuna un ampio bacino di opere che, in età tardo-ellenistica ed imperiale, accentuano la fama di Democrito come profondo conoscitore di varie 'scienze' e delle loro applicazioni"). Insofern bildete also der Name des Demokritos, der zum Archegeten dieser Wissenschaften gemacht wurde, die passende Autorität sowohl für Bolos' Sympathie-Lehre als auch für den kaiserzeitlichen Verfasser dieser alchimistischen Traktate. Was Synesios betrifft, so legt Martelli auf Grund der Testimonien glaubhaft dar, dass der Alchemist nicht mit Synesios von Kyrene, der später in Alexandrien tätig war, identifiziert werden kann.

Im dritten Teil der Einleitung (S. 125-172) gibt Martelli einen umfassenden Überblick über die Entwicklung der Alchimie. Dabei versucht er, eine Verbindung Pseudo-Demokrits zu Ägypten glaubhaft zu machen, wo seit der Zeit der Pharaonen umfassende Kenntnisse über die Metallurgie vorhanden waren, und meint – etwa gegen Fowden, der den fiktionalen Charakter solcher Legenden betont3 – hinter den narrativen Mustern, die auch für den Hermetismus typisch sind (man denke z.B. an die Offenbarung des Hermes Trismegistos), und sogar in der legendären Figur des persischen Magiers Ostanes, der Demokrits Lehrer gewesen sein soll, einen historischen Kern ausmachen zu können. Da jedoch alle Quellen, die über Ostanes sprechen, aus der Kaiserzeit und der Spätantike stammen (dass der Magier in Xerxes' Gefolge gewesen sei, wird erst von Plinius NH 30,8 berichtet, während Herodot nichts darüber sagt), kann man annehmen, dass diese fiktionalen Geschichten wohl erst in dieser Zeit entstanden sind, wobei es allerdings unmöglich ist, die Entstehungszeit dieser Legenden genauer zu bestimmen.

In der Einleitung vermisst man indessen einen Abschnitt über die sprachlichen und grammatikalischen Besonderheiten in Pseudo-Demokrits Schriften, die, wie die Edition zeigt, ziemlich stark von der Standardsprache abweichen. Ebensowenig wird der Versuch unternommen, den (ursprünglichen) literarischen Charakter dieser Werke zu beschreiben, die an manchen Stellen durchaus noch Spuren rhetorischer Ausarbeitung aufweisen (man beachte etwa im Text S. 204 die π-gehäufte Alliteration (l. 220-222), die an dieser Stelle zusammen mit einigen rhetorischen Fragen der Argumentation besonderen Nachdruck verleiht).

Es folgen die Edition und die Übersetzung der vier Traktate (S. 180-255). Martelli gelingt es dabei an vielen Stellen vor allem dank der konsequenten Berücksichtigung der syrischen Versionen, den Text von Berthelot und Ruelle zu verbessern: Etwa S. 188, l. 70 γενομένην statt γέαν / γαίαν der Codices (gut im Kommentar S. 294-295 besprochen); S. 200, l. 189 χρῖσον wie V gegen die anderen Codices; S. 214, l. 74-75 ἡ ἀσώματος statt ἀπὸ σώματος (mit der überzeugenden Diskussion im Kommentar S. 366-367) und ebenso S. 236, l. 41 dank der lateinischen Übersetzung von Pizzimento der Zusatz von <μὴ> (einleuchtend im Kommentar S. 404-405 erklärt). Die folgenden Kritikpunkte sind vor allem als Anregung für die weitere Auseinandersetzung mit diesen Texten gedacht: S. 184, l. 46 ist die von Martelli gewählte Lesart von B περιὼν τῷ βίῳ, "quando era in vita" mit dem pleonastischen dativus limitationis τῷ βίῳ, der ursprünglich eine explikative Randglosse gewesen sein könnte, m.E. schwer zu verteidigen. Besser scheint die Lesart τοῦτο der Codices MV zu sein; wenn man in den Text eingreifen will, ist eine Lösung wie περιιόντι τῷ βίῳ "im Laufe seines Lebens" zu erwägen. Anstelle der cruces desperationis könnte man S. 186, l. 58 nach Ὁ δὲ οὔτ' <…> ἄν τις auch eine längere lacuna annehmen, etwa mit einem saut du même au même nach οὔτ' (im Kommentar S. 289-290 nicht erwogen). Ebenso könnte S. 212, l. 62 der Satz λευκότατος ὁ χαλκός ursprünglich eine marginale Glosse gewesen sein. Merkwürdig ist schließlich S. 224, l. 11 die Reihenfolge der Wörter σὺν καὶ πᾶσι mit καὶ zwischen Präposition und Substantiv (man würde καὶ σὺν πᾶσι, allenfalls σύν τε πᾶσι erwarten). Im Kommentar fehlt die Begründung für diese ungewöhnliche Wortstellung. Die Übersetzung ist grundsätzlich korrekt, manchmal wird der griechische Text allerdings ziemlich frei wiedergegeben: S. 199 ist διὰ τὸ ἐν ἀγνοίᾳ τῆς ὕλης ὑπάρχειν αὐτούς "poiché non conoscono la materia" statt z.B. "a causa della loro permanenza nell'ignoranza (vel non conoscenza) della materia" etwas schwach; S. 229 ist für Καὶ τοιούτων χρεία ἐστίν; statt "Sono necessarie tali sostanze?" die Übersetzung "Si fa uso di tali sostanze?" wohl besser (vgl. S. 237, wo χρεία mit "utilizzo" wiedergegeben wird). Ob es sich S. 241 bei κίτριον statt um "limone" nicht eher um den "cedro" (citrus medica) handelt, wäre zu erwägen und im Kommentar zu diskutieren, zumal die Zitrone erst später bekannt wurde.4

Es folgt der ausführliche Kommentar der Exzerpte (S. 257-464), in dem Martelli nicht nur die sprachlichen und textkritischen Probleme bespricht, sondern unter Zuhilfenahme der gesamten einschlägigen antiken und modernen Literatur versucht, die einzelnen Stoffe, die für alchimistische Prozesse gebraucht wurden, zu identifizieren und die beschriebenen Verfahren zu erklären. Die Ergebnisse dieser akribischen Arbeit stellen nicht nur einen gewaltigen Fortschritt für das Verständnis dieses Werks dar, sondern bilden die Grundlage für jede weitere Beschäftigung mit der antiken alchimistischen Literatur.

Ein Literaturverzeichnis, Indices der verschiedenen Stoffe, Namen und zitierten Stellen sowie das Inhaltsverzeichnis schließen den Band ab (S. 464-523).

Insgesamt hat Martelli mit seinem Buch, das sich durch die Sorgfalt der Edition5 und durch den reichen und ausführlichen Kommentar auszeichnet, ein Standardwerk vorgelegt, das gewiss über die Fachgrenzen der Klassischen Philologie hinaus für alle, die sich mit der antiken und der mittelalterlichen Alchimie beschäftigen, von großem Nutzen sein wird.


1.   M. Berthelot / C. E. Ruelle, Collection des anciens alchimistes grecs, II, Paris 1888.
2.   M. Berthelot / R. Duval, La chimie au Moyen Âge. 2. L'alchimie syriaque, Paris 1893.
3.   G. Fowden, The Egyptian Hermes: a Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind, Cambridge 1986.
4.   Vgl. Chr. Hünemörder, "Citrus", in: Brill's New Pauly [[volume? year? page?]]. Antiquity volumes edited by: Hubert Cancik and, Helmuth Schneider, Brill Online, Reference.
5.   Bedauerlich sind die vielen Akzentfehler: So etwa S. 39 απὸ statt ἀπὸ; S. 40 ἥγουν statt ἤγουν; S. 85 ἠ statt ἡ; S. 97 Anm. 127 und 129: ἤ statt ἢ; ibid. Anm. 128 Ὀπλομαχινόν statt Ὁπλομαχικόν; S. 144 ἐμβαλε statt ἔμβαλε; S. 150 ὃτι statt ὅτι; S. 190, l. 80 ἤ statt ἢ; S. 198, l. 172 φευκτόν statt φευκτὸν; S. 226, l. 25 ουδὲ statt οὐδὲ; S. 242, l. 223 ἄν statt ἂν; S. 246, l. 277 ἱκανάς statt ἱκανὰς; S. 393 οὔτω statt οὕτω; S. 412 μεταλλεύομενα statt μεταλλευόμενα; S. 413 μεταλλευόντα statt μεταλλεύοντα; S. 414 ἀρχαίοι und δεχόμενην statt ἀρχαῖοι und δεχομένην; S. 455 οἴνου statt ὄνου. Hinzu kommen wenige Druckfehler: S. 16, Anm. 50 Shluß statt Schluß; S. 39 atrimenti statt altrimenti; S. 81 ripota statt riporta; S. 108 Anm. 199 do statt so; S. 188, l. 67 im Apparat: tractato statt tractatu; S. 206 ad l. 1 im Apparat ist die lateinische Übersetzung des syrischen Textes unklar. Sind vis und pertinent anstelle von vim und perninent gemeint? Bei diesen Monenda handelt es sich jedoch überwiegend um Kleinigkeiten, die weder die Bedeutung noch die Substanz der Arbeit insgesamt schmälern. ​

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Jonathan Ben-Dov, Wayne Horowitz, John M. Steele (ed.), Living the Lunar Calendar. Oxford; Oakville, CT: Oxbow Books, 2012. Pp. viii, 387. ISBN 9781842174814. $60.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Lorenzo Verderame, "Sapienza" Università di Roma (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

Questo corposo volume raccoglie diciotto contributi presentati alla conferenza Living the Lunar Calendar, svoltasi nel 2010 presso il Bible Lands Museum di Gerusalemme. I contributi raccolti coprono diverse aree e periodi: due sono dedicati alla Mesopotamia (Horowitz, Bloch), tre all'Egeo (Beckman) e alla Grecia classica (Hannah, Marzillo), quattro alla tradizione giudaica (Ben-Dov, Feldman, Stern, Schiffman), tre al cristianesimo (Mc Carthy, Nothaft, Dickens - Sims-Williams), quattro a differenti argomenti come la Russia medievale (Gorodetsky), la tradizione delle culture pre-colombiane americane in generale (Iwaniszewski) o dei nativi nordamericani in particolare (Walton), la Cina e il Giappone (Tsumura). Il contributo di Steele travalica i limiti spazio-temporali confrontando un medesimo fenomeno in due culture (Mesopotamia e Cina) e in tal senso va valutato anche il contributo di Depuydt, nonostante il titolo ponga l'accento sul calendario greco.

Nell'introduzione, i tre editori (Ben-Dov, Horowitz, Steele), presentando in generale i contenuti del volume, offrono una dettagliata e puntuale rassegna delle più importanti problematiche relative all'impatto del calendario lunare sui sistemi politici, sociali, religiosi e amministrativi delle culture appena elencate. Le problematiche che emergono sono la questione dell'intercalazione e la sua determinazione da parte dell'autorità politica, la relazione tra osservazione e previsione, la coesistenza o opposizione di diverse tradizioni e infine la determinazione e l'uso di sistemi di computo del tempo.

L'ampiezza dell'argomento e dei confini spazio-temporali affrontati nei contributi superano lo spazio a disposizione per un commento adeguato e, soprattutto, le competenze dello scrivente. Ne risulterà necessariamente una descrizione superficiale e semplicistica in alcuni casi, dettagliata in altri, a seconda della familiarità con l'argomento trattato.

Wayne Horowitz nel contributo che apre il volume («Sunday in Mesopotamia») si concentra non sulla luna, ma sul sole e sul suo ruolo nel calendario lunare mesopotamico. Sebbene molti dei cicli annuali, comprese le stagioni, siano collegati al sole, il calendario mesopotamico è principalmente di natura lunare. Horowitz identifica nel giorno 20 del primo mese dell'anno (Nisan) l'unica data legata al ciclo solare a essere realmente svincolata dal sistema luni-solare.

Il contributo di Yigal Bloch («Middle Assyrian Lunar Calendar and Chronology») è dedicato alla revisione della cronologia del periodo medio-assiro in Mesopotamia alla luce di considerazioni sull'originario calendario assiro e l'introduzione del calendario babilonese da parte di Tiglathpileser I, nonché sul sistema di intercalazione in generale.

Sabine Beckmann («Beyond the Moon: Minoan 'Calendar'-Symbolism in the 'Blue Bird Fresco'») interpreta l'affresco raffigurante l'uccello azzurro proveniente da Cnosso come «a combined practical calendrical and spiritual/medical/magical function not using astronomy, but agricultural phases as expressed in the meanings implied by certain plant images» (p. 63). Proprio l'identificazione e l'interpretazione dei cinque motivi vegetali sono l'oggetto del suo contributo. La loro disposizione nell'affresco scandirebbe lo scorrere dell'anno legato alle stagioni. Per ognuna delle piante identificate sono fornite impressioni generali e dettagli sul loro uso nella farmacopea greca. Purtroppo non c'è alcuna discussione della sequenza o struttura dei motivi che giustifichi quello che l'autrice chiama «a perennal 'epochologio'», né viene discussa la relazione di questi motivi con il resto delle rappresentazioni dell'affresco.

L'elemento vegetale, in questo caso l'ulivo, ritorna nelle conclusioni del contributo di Robert Hannah dedicato alla periodicità dei giochi olimpici e delfici («Early Greek Lunisolar Cycles: The Pythian and Olympic Games»). Il problema della determinazione di questi eventi riguarda più in generale l'integrazione del ciclo solare e delle stagioni nel calendario lunare. L'autore discute i diversi metodi utilizzati, come il ciclo degli otto anni (octaeteris) o il sorgere di determinate costellazioni, descritti nelle fonti letterarie e non, per giungere infine a discutere i cicli naturali legati alle stagioni, come, appunto, quello della fioritura dell'ulivo.

Patrizia Marzillo («What To Do on the Thirtieth? A Neo-Platonic Interpretation of Hesiod's Works and Days 765-8») parte da un'esposizione della teoria dell'allegoresi e della sua tradizione nel Neo-Platonismo, per affrontare un esempio di tale esegesi in Proclo. In un passo delle Opere e i giorni (765-8) Esiodo discute del giorno 30 del mese quale momento adatto per la distribuzione delle razioni ai lavoratori perché «gli uomini sanno distinguere e seguire il vero». Il riferimento al giorno 30 e la conseguente spiegazione di Esiodo hanno dato origine nell'antichità a diverse interpretazioni. Tra queste l'autrice discute in dettaglio quella allegorica di matrice neo-platonica prodotta da Proclo.

Leo Depuydt propone un lungo contributo sulla determinazione dell'inizio del mese lunare e il ruolo svolto in tal senso dal crescente lunare («Why Greek Lunar Months Began A Day Later than Egyptian Lunar Months, Both before First Visibility of the New Crescent»). Sebbene il titolo del contributo si riferisca alla Grecia e all'Egitto, Depuydt affronta con ampiezza di dettagli la questione in altre tradizioni che adottano il calendario lunare, come l'antica Mesopotamia o la moderna cultura islamica.

Jonathan Ben-Dov («Lunar Calendars at Qumran? A Comparative and Ideological Study») riprende la questione degli elementi solari nel calendario lunare di Qumran attraverso un'analisi delle fonti primarie e una rassegna delle precedenti interpretazioni. L'autore analizza alcuni testi legati ai cicli lunari alla luce dei paralleli con le teorie lunari babilonesi e discute, infine, l'ideologia che governa l'adozione di un determinato calendario.

Ron H. Feldman («Taming the Wild and Wilding the Tame: The Shifting Relationships between Humans, God and Nature in the Qumran and Rabbinic Calendars») si incentra sulla differenza tra tempo "addomesticato" («tame») e tempo "selvatico" («wild») per descrivere le due tendenze esistenti all'interno della tradizione giudaica, basate rispettivamente su di un calendario "calcolato" di 364 giorni (Qumran) e un calendario luni-solare basato sull'osservazione (tradizione rabbinica). Le due tendenze hanno marcato questa dicotomia enfatizzando la celebrazione dello Shabbath (calcolato/addomesticato) o del novilunio (osservato/selvatico). L'autore conclude considerando che entrambe le tendenze rappresentano due facce di un medesimo processo mirante a relazionare l'elemento umano con il tempo e soprattutto con i cicli cultuali da esso dipendenti. Tale processo rappresenta una strategia di controllo da parte dei gruppi dominanti («Calendars are models of and for social practices of time; a dominant calendar projects the ideology, practice and authority of the dominant group», p. 202).

I contributi di Sacha Stern («The Rabbinic New Moon Procedure: Context and Significance») e Lawrence H. Schiffman («From Observation to Calculation: The Development of the Rabbinic Lunar Calendar») si concentrano sul problema del calendario lunare nella tradizione rabbinica. Stern analizza dettagliatamente la procedura di determinazione del novilunio da parte del consiglio rabbinico e come questa sia stata parte di un'ideologia di opposizione al potere politico. Schiffman presenta una panoramica dell'evoluzione del calendario giudaico a partire dai precedenti sistemi cananaici sino alla tradizione medievale.

Entrambi i contributi di Daniel P. McCarthy («The Harmonization of the Lunar Year with the Julian Calendar by Anatolius, bishop of Laodicea») e Carl Philipp Emanuel Nothaft («Between Crucifixion and Calendar Reform: Medieval Christian Perceptions of the Jewish Lunisolar Calendar») sono dedicati alle correnti, tradizioni e relativi metodi adottati all'interno del Cristianesimo per calcolare la Pasqua, una data vincolata al calendario ebraico divenuta di difficile computazione a causa dell'adozione del calendario giuliano. Mentre McCarthy si concentra sul pensiero e l'opera di Anatolio di Laodicea (III sec. d.C.), Nothaft analizza in generale il rapporto della tradizione cristiana con il calendario giudaico.

Il problema della determinazione della Pasqua ritorna anche nei successivi due contributi sulla tradizione cristiana. Mark Dickens e Nicholas Sims-Williams («Christian Calendrical Fragments from Turfan») pubblicano infatti alcune tavole calendariali inedite provenienti dall'Oasi del Turfan e utilizzate per determinare appunto il calendario liturgico, e in particolare la Pasqua. Queste tavole erano usate anche per scopi iatromantici. I documenti pubblicati sono in siriaco (nr.1-6) e in sogdiano (nr. 7-13) e appartengono ai circa 1100 documenti cristiani redatti rinvenuti presso il sito di Bulayïq.

Michael L. Gorodetsky («Lunar Tables in Medieval Russia») si occupa delle tavole lunari che, assieme alla descrizione di altri fenomeni celesti ominosi, si ritrovano nelle antiche cronache russe chiamate letopises. I cicli lunari da una parte servivano a calcolare la Pasqua, dall'altra si ricollegano a un antico calendario di origine pagana. L'autore concentra l'analisi sulle tavole contenute nell'opera di S. Cirillo di Belozersk, databili a cavallo tra il quattordicesimo e il quindicesimo secolo.

Stanisław Iwaniszewski («Telling Time with the Moon: An American Overview»), dopo un'interessante introduzione teorica sulla misurazione del tempo, offre una panoramica generale dei sistemi calendariali nelle culture pre- colombiane del Nord, Centro e Sud America, descrivendo la documentazione a disposizione e le relative interpretazioni per ricostruire i calendari adottati.

James Walton («Lunar Ceremonial Planning in the Ancient American Southwest») dedica il suo contributo alla cultura Chaco (800 - 1200 d.C.), la quale, sebbene poco nota, ci ha lasciato numerosi indizi archeologici che possono essere interpretati da un punto di vista archeoastronomico. Mediante un'analisi comparativa con culture vicine (Hopi e Zuni) è possibile ricollegare l'orientamento delle strutture Chaco alle celebrazioni del calendario lunare e a quelle del ciclo solare. I momenti cruciali del calendario sono identificati nei solstizi, nelle fasi lunari e nelle posizioni delle costellazioni nelle varie stagioni.

Susan Tsumura («Adjusting Calculations to the Ideal in the Chinese and Japanese Calendars») analizza le evoluzioni dell'originario calendario luni-solare cinese, successivamente adottato anche in Giappone, e i cambiamenti intervenuti nei secoli in un costante equilibrio tra osservazione, previsione e ideologia.

John M. Steele («Living with a Lunar Calendar in Mesopotamia and China») esamina l'impatto del calendario lunare nei differenti aspetti della pratica quotidiana nella Mesopotamia del I millennio e gli aspetti cerimoniali e cultuali che accompagnano la pubblicazione dell'almanacco nella Cina dei primi tre secoli d.C. La panoramica dei casi discussi porta a considerare la rilevanza del calcolo e delle previsioni rispetto alla semplice osservazione della luna nei sistemi calendariali in Mesopotamia e Cina, tracciando anche una distinzione tra le ragioni, una ideologica, l'altra pratica, che sottostanno ai due sistemi.

La centralità di un fenomeno come il calendario lunare in un così grande numero di culture e l'ampiezza dei casi presi in considerazione hanno portato logicamente il volume a perdere compattezza. Alcuni contributi si sono concentrati sullo specifico e pochi hanno abbracciato una visione più ampia e generale. In quasi tutti i contributi, tuttavia, emergono le questioni rilevate dagli editori nell'introduzione: il problema dello sfasamento del calendario lunare rispetto al ciclo solare, l'equilibrio tra osservazione e previsione, il modo in cui le diverse culture, e, al loro interno, le diverse tradizioni hanno ovviato a tale incongruenza.

Nonostante questa fisiologica incongruità, il volume costituisce un'importante raccolta di contributi su un argomento che gli editori, in gruppo o singolarmente, hanno promosso in questi anni con convegni e raccolte di studi. A loro va il nostro riconoscimento per aver riportato l'attenzione su un aspetto centrale in tutte le culture, ma a lungo trascurato dagli studiosi, come quello della scansione del tempo.

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Kostas Kalimtzis, Taming Anger: The Hellenic Approach to the Limitations of Reason. London: Bristol Classical Press, 2012. Pp. 224. ISBN 9780715640791. $120.00.

Reviewed by Audrey L. Anton, Western Kentucky University (

Version at BMCR home site

This book is an ambitious study of Ancient Greek understandings and treatments of anger. The author successfully illustrates the literary, cultural and especially the philosophical development of the nature of anger and how anger might be tamed. While Kalimtzis's project joins many other similar works, it deserves to be part of the debate as it is a concise yet thorough study that advances arguments more than it echoes the works of others.

Chapter one offers a profound investigation of the concept of anger found in the poems of Homer and its relation to two aspects of soul—thumos and phrene. Kalimtzis explains that thumos is a kind of life force that is often responsible for extreme passions. phrene is the deliberative aspect of the mind that calmly considers and calculates what is to be done. Kalimtzis adds that a well-ordered person in Homeric texts is one whose thumos is kept inside his phrene as if the latter were the receptacle of the former. Kalimtzis argues that anger is related to one's perception of the integrity of his honor. However, anger is not simply directed at the damage done, but rather at the person who deigns to cause such damage. That is why sincere apologies can assuage anger even if the damage is irreparable and why repairing damage means nothing without an apology. From here, Kalimtzis convincingly argues that anger is related to friendship throughout the Homeric tradition. One is most angry with a friend for dishonor, though one is most likely to forgive a friend if he apologizes. One also seeks honor and praise from persons admired and respected (i.e., not enemies). While anger is about perceived slights and dishonors, honor is about being held in esteem among friends. This connection between anger and friendship resonates throughout the book.

In his second chapter, Kalimtzis describes anger's movement from the poetic arena to philosophical and political conversations. Unlike prior Homeric representations of anger, the philosophical treatment of anger sought to identify its causes. Kalimtzis begins with the paradox of anger, which is essentially the quandary of how it could be the case that anger is that which mobilizes one to fight, yet it is difficult for one to fight one's own anger. Additionally, one of anger's functions is to preserve the angry agent; however, anger often leads to self-destruction. Kalimtzis's main point here is that philosophers recognized a purpose for anger; anger was not merely a nuisance that needed to be suppressed. The Pythagoreans held that inappropriate anger was limitless, and that order must be restored to the angered soul. However, the Pythagoreans held that anger could be tamed by introducing calming harmonious influences. Logos restores order. However this force is not the agent's reason, but rather cosmic order, suggesting that the target of reform is not solely the agent. One's situation might be in disorder and that flaw causes anger. Therefore, the solution may involve making things right again.

In chapter three, Kalimtzis examines Plato's various discussions of thumos, which Kalimtzis claims Plato used as an exact synonym for anger. In this section, Kalimtzis indicates that Plato's unique contribution was a critique of the appropriate function of anger and keen description of aberrant expressions of anger. While Plato seems optimistic about the possibility of harmonizing the soul, says Kalimtzis, the harmonizing requires conditioning over time. Kalimtzis focuses on how anger is portrayed in Republic. Towards enemies, anger can be appropriate. However, towards one's own countrymen, anger is only justified if expressing it has educational value. Kalimtzis observes that anger is the only emotion that can be sparked by other emotions, thought the converse is not the case. He writes, "Anger is thus not just one of many emotions in the thumos; figuratively speaking it grows sensory tentacles that link it to all the emotions over which it stands as a potential chastiser" (40). Anger not only affects other emotions, but judgment as well. Kalimtzis illustrates how a disharmony of the soul can lead to anger's rogue justification of our most irrational desires. When anger is not in line with reason, it invents reasons to justify indulging in pleasures. This phenomena, Alazoneia, is a way that anger impersonates and takes over reason.

In his fourth chapter, Kalimtzis argues that, while Plato did believe that anger could be tempered and that thumos could be educated, such education is "pre-cognitive" and "aesthetic-based." He explains that Plato maintained the need for aesthetic-based education of the thumos because this education must begin prior to the full development of the youths' reason. Therefore, the thumos must be reached on its own terms.

A second aim of this chapter is to illuminate what Kalimtzis diagnoses as a political shift. In Homeric times, such an education was instilled in a son by his father. The power differential was essential to the cultivation of the youth. In Plato's thinking, says Kalimtzis, the relationship is one between an individual and his polis. Therefore, the goal is not to please a paternalistic authority, but rather to be worthy of participating and serving in civic activities, which include the appropriate nurturing of the thumos of others.

Chapter five examines Aristotle's picture of anger. For Kalimtzis, Aristotle's view of anger is a process view. Since Aristotle viewed anger as a process, he was able to explain various phases of anger. Aristotle considers anger's character from the moment of arousal through to achieving retribution. In such descriptions, Aristotle manages to relate anger to the body, pleasure, pain, cognition, and mental states synergistic of a subset of these phenomena.

Beginning with an in-depth examination of orthogonal anger according to Aristotle, Kalimtzis structures the sixth chapter around a comparison between the person of complete practical wisdom (phronimos) and the gentle-tempered person (praos). Turning to the practical process of taming anger, Kalimtzis reminds us of Aristotle's instructions to aim at the extreme most like the mean. For this reason, we are to consider the praos, since anger and a desire for justice are more natural to men. At the end of this chapter, Kalimtzis synthesizes earlier discussions of Plato on taming anger with these recent insights into Aristotle's prescriptions to show how, since the thumos is the site of both anger and affection, anger is related to friendship.

In Chapter 7, Kalimtzis considers hatred and how it is related to anger. Kalimtzis argues that hatred is born of inappropriate and excessive anger. Drawing on Aristotle's distinction between the particular and general nature of the objects of anger and hatred, Kalimtzis explains how perverted anger can change into an emotion with no particular target —making it reckless and, oftentimes, inaccurate.

In his final chapter, Kalimtzis tells of how the early Hellenic picture is abruptly overthrown by a competing view of anger stemming from a notion of a just deity. First, Kalimtzis reviews teachings of various Stoic philosophers who maintain that Logos guides nature. Since Logos is divine, anger or frustration with its determinations is indicative of poor judgment and a lack of understanding. From here, the Judeao-Christian view of anger and God are introduced. Kalimtzis notes that the subjects are not to experience anger whereas a just God is justified in being angry towards His subjects. The result is a notion of anger void of any goal of taming it since the new goal is to eradicate anger among men. In his closing, Kalimtzis provides a brief commentary on social repercussions that such an extreme view of righteous anger yields.

Kalimtzis has successfully analyzed the meaning and role of an emotion central to ancient Hellenic societies. Kalimtzis synthesizes philological analyses of shifts in terminology, political history, philosophical texts and common sense phenomenological reflection to paint a convincing picture of how anger was viewed throughout ancient times. At a time when philosophy of emotion is rightfully enjoying a great deal of attention from scholars of ancient philosophy, Taming Anger is a welcome and meaningful contribution to ancient philosophical scholarship.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing Taming Anger is competition from many similar works. Works such as Leonard Mueller's The Anger of Achilles: Mênis in Greek Epic highlight the presentation of anger in poetry. However, Kalimtzis situates his own ideas as responses to such works. In addition, Kalimtzis's study spans all of the ancient period and pays close attention to philosophies as well as poetry. Susanna Braund's and Glen W. Most's edited volume Ancient Anger: Perspectives from Homer to Galen does the same, but Kalimtzis's approach is that of a single perspective with a coherent argumentative thread throughout the entire work. Perhaps the closest pre-existing work is William Harris's Restraining Rage: The Ideology of Anger Control in Classical Antiquity, to which Kalimtzis responds. In particular, Harris presents anger as something the Ancients sought to eradicate, suppress, or at least conceal. I agree with Kalimtzis that such a perspective is incorrect when applied to several of the thinkers that both authors address. For example, concealing one's anger was never Aristotle's aim. While the Stoics indeed advocated attempts to eradicate anger altogether, the mere burying of it was unacceptable. Kalimtzis's account offers an alternative to Harris's view that these ancient thinkers were overly concerned with appearances for political and social reasons. This is evidenced by the fact that Kalimtzis considers anger's role in friendship of primary importance and its concern with politics as epiphenomenally relevant. Just as the titles suggest, to restrain rage is to contain and conceal it. Taming anger involves the cultivation of an emotion that easily goes awry without proper education. Taming Anger has earned a spot among the many high-quality recent works on similar subjects. In fact, Taming Anger is evidence that the issues have not yet been settled and that we can expect continued attention to ancient perspectives of emotions in general, and anger in particular.


1.   For example, recent annual philosophy conferences have been themed on issues concerning emotion and virtue, such as the inaugural conference of the Center for the History of Philosophy at York University in 2011 and the 39th Conference on Value Inquiry and the Eighth Annual Marquette Summer Seminar on Aristotle and Aristotelianism. With the advent of Antonio DeMasio's seminal 2005 book, Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, Philosophers working in emotion theory began to reconsider ancient perspectives on the relationship between emotional and cognitive function. DeMasio convincingly demonstrates how the early modern views of the separation of reason and affect are not supported by modern science.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Charlotte Schubert, Anacharsis der Weise: Nomade, Skythe, Grieche. Leipziger Studien zur klassischen Philologie, 7. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 2010. Pp. 227. ISBN 9783823366072. €58.00.

Reviewed by Balbina Bäbler, Göttingen (

Version at BMCR home site

The fascinating figure of the wise Scythian Anacharsis, who travelled widely in Greece, where he conversed with Solon, and who was killed on his return by his own brother while trying to inaugurate Greek rites, was first mentioned by Herodotus and became a fixture in the tradition on the "Seven wise men". Schubert attempts to give a new interpretation of Anacharsis in his specific rôle as a Scythian nomad in the context of early Greek concepts of wisdom.1

The main methodological flaw of this work is the author's strongly schematic, i.e. structuralist, reading of the whole Herodotus narrative (outlined on pp. 6-19 and 20-37), in which she uncritically follows F. Hartog whose work The Mirror of Herodotus (Berkeley 1988) she regards as pioneering ("wegweisend", 158). Schubert's whole interpretation of the Scythian logos is therefore governed by a fixed preconception of what Herodotus wanted the Scythian nomads to be and excludes a priori any possibility that anything in this logos might be genuinely Scythian and not invented by Herodotus to illustrate his own notions of wisdom and his "bipolar" (194) worldview.

Now archaeologists and ancient historians working on Scythia have seen long ago how accurately Herodotus described Scythian traditions and customs, and especially in recent years the work of A.I. Ivantchik, today's leading expert on Scythia, has shown that Indo-Iranian, as well as archaeological, evidence leaves no room for any "invention of otherness" in Scythia.2 While Schubert cannot totally ignore the archaeological evidence, she regards these insights as only very recent and is quite unaware of current research;3 she also retains the obligatory structuralist jargon which is at times hardly comprehensible even for Germans but probably totally unintelligible for non-native speakers.4

Better written are chapters II ("Archäologie der griechischen Weisheit I: Die Sieben Weisen", 48-68) and III ("Archäologie der griechischen Weisheit II: Der Weisheitswettkampf", 69-92) where the author is obviously on familiar ground, i.e. Greek history of archaic and early classical times. Schubert explores the archaic conception of "wisdom" and its relation to the evolution of Greek political thinking; although the so-called Sages were well-known historical figures, the renowned circle of exactly seven of them is not known before Plato (69-75), and precise sources exist only about Solon (52-55). An important feature of Solon' teachings was the concept of moderation; the much praised isonomia meant the equilibrium of forces both in a healthy body and in a well governed state (55-59), and already in Herodotus it had acquired the political meaning of the opposite of tyrannis (59-68). This development also led to a change in the Greeks' perception of archaic wisdom, which seemed increasingly discredited because of its use in political rivalries. Schubert further explores this shift through the layers of tradition about the formation of the canonical circle of the Seven Sages in the 4th century BC. By then wisdom had become a contemplative, philosophical quality and no longer implied practical or political advice as in earlier times (88-90).

Ch. IV ("Die Botschaft des Skythenkönigs", 93-116) starts rather abruptly with Herodotus' narrative of Dareios' campaign against the Scythians and the "answer" their king Idanthyrsos gives to Persian demands of surrender, consisting in a bird, a mouse, a frog and five arrows (Hdt. 4,127f.). Schubert compares this version of the story with the one recorded by Clement of Alexandria (Strom. 5, 8, 44) and ascribed to Pherecydes (FGrHist 3 F 174): the sequence of the tokens is different (98), and Clement's version mentions a plough as additional token. This leads Schubert to the conclusion that Pherecydes preserved an older version, which Herodotus adapted for his purpose, since a plough would not have fitted in his picture of the totally alien nomads situated outside the common cultural space shared by Greeks and Persians (101-104). In order to accept this interpretation, one would, of course, have to share the assumption that Herodotus really had such a purpose and such a world view in the first place. At the end of the story (4, 134, 2), both Scythians and Persians prepare for battle – which, however, is not fought, since the Scythians start to pursue a hare that suddenly appears; in Schubert's view the historian tells this anecdote to mock "the widely diffused idealization of the Scythians" in his time (108f.). But is there enough evidence for the assumption of such an idealization? In Herodotus' time, Athenians were well acquainted with the region (see note 5), and the presence of numerous Scythians in Athens as a police force is a notorious source of merciless laughter in Aristophanes.

Ch. V (117-145), though entitled "Skythische Seher: Ambiguität der Weisheit", treats these diviners only briefly (135- 140) and mainly consists of a lengthy comparison of the world view attributed by Schubert to Herodotus and the work de aer. 12-24 (119-128, taken up again 167-174). Her aim is to establish "cultural classifications" in which to locate the kind of wisdom common to all Scythians. This forms a kind of background to ch. VI ("Anacharsis und die griechische Weisheit", 146-174), which deals with the specific Greek form of wisdom and the way of life fitting for a wise man: leisure, musical competitions, and the like. According to Schubert, Anacharsis foundered on the dangerous side of wisdom when he tried to import the rites of Cybele into his homeland (4, 76).

Since Schubert regards Herodotus as writing about the Scythians to fit them into his "complicated construction of identity and alterity" (17), she does not take at face value Herodotus' account of Scyles' and Anacharsis' troubles on their return (she assumes that Herodotus got the story of Anacharsis' ill-fated homecoming from Hecataeus, Aristeas, Pherecydes or some other "Vorlage": the possibility that he heard it at Olbia is not even mentioned); for Schubert the Scythians' refusal to adopt foreign ecstatic rituals as well as their criticism of Greek traditions and customs has to be ironical, "doubly ironical" or even represents a "double re-encoding" (21, 131, 162).5

Schubert seems to be unaware that Scythian religious beliefs, gods, and ritual conceptions are demonstrably of Indo- Iranian origin and that by taking this into account modern scholars have been able to explain many anecdotes in Herodotus' Scythian logos that formerly seemed strange or even fancifully invented.6 Thus Schubert misses an exciting opportunity to interpret the stories of Scyles and Anacharsis in the context of Scythian culture as we know it today. She never considers the religious background and the motivation of the Scythians' fatal reaction against Scyles' and Ancharsis' actions: her interpretation is predetermined by her preconception that Herodotus uses some older Greek tradition and manipulates it to make it fit into his basically structuralist worldview. She never asks whether any Scythian behaviour or action recorded by Herodotus might also be explained by contemporary Scythian realities.

Ch. VII ("Anacharsis und die Weisheit der Nomaden", 175-192) sums up Schubert's belief that Herodotus told the story of Anacharsis only to validate his own concept of wisdom, which has to conform to a culture's specific nomos: Anacharsis and Scyles were guilty of violating the boundaries of their own cultic space and punished accordingly, since (for Schubert) in Herodotus nomads are completely "immobile" in everything concerning cult and culture (179).

Thus, it never occurs to Schubert that Scythian religious and spiritual concepts might have been evolving: Ivantchik, however, has impressively shown how both older and newer Scythian cultural traditions are present in Herodotus' Scythian logos.7 The same holds true for the Scythian gods: everything we know about Scythian religion and culture belies the notion of an unchanging society. Herodotus himself certainly does not paint it as such: already his stay at Olbia and conversations with Scythian sources proves the contrary. During his time a once completely aniconic religion had already undergone deep changes under Greek influence, of which he must have been at least partly aware. 8

Summing up, Schubert declares Anacharsis to be the paradigm of a nomad, giving as her reason for the elaboration of this figure the Persian Wars which caused a new phase of definition of the self and the other (183-188), and repeating her basic assumption that for Herodotus human life was "bipolar" (193f.)

The book leaves an uneven impression. The parts concerning archaic Greek wisdom and Greek medical writing are interesting, but Anacharsis as a Scythian remains unexplained. This is basically due to Schubert's obvious ignorance about Scythia, the Scythians, and all the relevant research done during the last two decades. While the terms "nomad" and "Scythian" appear in the subtitle, Schubert does not really engage with the scholarly literature that might have given them real meaning. What is really necessary when dealing with these subjects is more interdisciplinary work, mainly with specialists having the necessary scholarly background in Scythian studies.


Bäbler 2011a: B. Bäbler, Das Land der Skythen – ein Wolkenkuckucksheim Herodots?, in: N. Povalahev, V. Kuznetsov (Eds.), Phanagoreia, Kimmerischer Bosporos, Pontos Euxeinos (Göttingen 2011) 103-139
Bäbler 2011b: B. Bäbler, Ein Spiegel mit Sprung: Das Skythenbild in François Hartogs "Le miroir d'Hérodote", in: N. Povalahev, V. Kuznetsov (Eds.), Phanagoreia und seine historische Umwelt. Von den Anfängen der griechischen Kolonisation (8. Jh. v. Chr.) bis zum Chasarenreich (10. Jh. n. Chr.) (Göttingen 2011) 111- 136
Ivantchik 2011: A.I. Ivantchik, The Funeral of the Scythian Kings: The Historical Reality and the Description of Herodotus (4.71-72), in: L. Bonfante (ed.), The Barbarians of Ancient Europe. Realities and Interactions (Cambridge 2011)


1.   Schubert ignores earlier work dealing with the story of Anacharsis as part of the discourse of Greek ethnicity, e.g. B. Bäbler, Fleissige Thrakerinnen und wehrhafte Skythen. Nichtgriechen im klassischen Athen und ihre archäologische Hinterlassenschaft (Stuttgart/Leipzig 1998) 163-174; D. Braund, Scythian Laughter: Conversations in the Northern Black Sea Region in the 5th Century BC, in: P. Guldager Bilde, J. Hjarl Petersen (Eds.), Meetings of Cultures in the Black Sea Region: Between Conflict and Coexistence (Aarhus 2008) 347-367; and esp. the methodologically interesting considerations of the literary and archaeological traces of "identity switching" by F. Fless, A. Lorenz, Griechen, Skythen, Bosporaner. Zu den Problemen "ethnischer Etikettierungen" von Gräbern in den Nekropolen Pantikapaions, in: Eurasia Antiqua 11, 2005, 57-77.
2.   Ivantchik 2011; his earlier research is summed up in Bäbler 2011a.
3.   Cf. 102f. n. 302 and 157f. n. 465 where important works on the subject are omitted; on p. 142, Herodotus' Scythians are even located on the "Western" shore of the Black Sea.
4.   Her favorite sentence, repeated almost verbatim in various other articles (see, e.g., Schubert, Zum problematischen Verhältnis von res fictae und res factae im antiken Nomadendiskurs, in: A. Weiß (ed.), Der imaginierte Nomade, Wiesbaden 2007, 30): "Die Irreführung durch die sichtbaren Dinge, die Scheinbarkeit der gegebenen Objektivität des Faktischen stellt er dem Leser nicht explizit, aber deutlich in den formalen und inhaltlichen Mustern dar, die er verwendet." (15 f.) On this fashionable manner of speaking see now Bäbler 2011b, 113-115.
5.   The structuralist approach overlooks how well informed Athenians of the 430s were about the Black Sea Region, especially after Pericles' Pontic expedition; see e.g. D. Braund, The Sindians of the Taman Peninsula ca. 400 BC: Polyaenus' Tirgitao, Numismatics and Demosthenes' Grandfather, in: S.L. Solvyov (Ed.), Greeks and Natives in the Cimmerian Bosporus 7th -1st Centuries BC (Oxford 2007) 17-21.
6.   The groundbreaking work in a Western language in this respect was certainly A.I. Ivantchik, Une légende sur l'origine des Scythes (Hdt. IV, 5-7) et le problème des sources du Scythicos logos d'Hérodote, in: Revue des Études Grecques 112, 1999, 141-192. The basic book of D.S. Rajevskij, The world model of Scythian culture: Problems of the "Weltanschauung" of Iranian-speaking peoples of the Eurasian steppes (Moscow 1985) has regrettably never been translated from the Russian and thus remains virtually unknown in the West. A very good introduction to the Scythian pantheon can be found in Y. Ustinova, The Supreme Gods of the Bosporan Kingdom (Leiden etc. 1999) 67-174.
7.   Ivantchik 2011 (with the earlier literature on this phenomenon).
8.   Bäbler 2011b, 126-134 (summing up earlier research on Scythian religion).

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Claire Holleran, Shopping in Ancient Rome: The Retail Trade in the Late Republic and the Principate. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. xii, 304. ISBN 9780199698219. $125.00.

Reviewed by Miko Flohr, University of Oxford (

Version at BMCR home site

This is a highly relevant book that breaks important new ground in an area of Roman studies that has suffered from neglect both traditionally and in recent years: retail, though socially and economically a defining aspect of urban life in the Roman world, has not been high on the agenda of Roman scholars – neither of those studying urbanism, nor of those focusing on the Roman economy. While various scholars have focused on certain aspects of retail or certain datasets related to it (e.g. macella or bars), Holleran is the first to discuss the topic in a broad and thematic way. Thus, while the primary focus of the book is on the city of Rome, it provides a conceptual framework that will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on future debates on retail and consumer economies in the Roman world.

The argument, which is well-written and easy to read, starts, as far as the evidence is concerned, from texts. While archaeology features prominently throughout the book, it is primarily studied through publications, and does not tend to play a very decisive role in the argument. That is, the iconographic evidence is well-integrated into the narrative, but the discussion of architectural remains is, beyond Rome, limited to well-known sites, particularly Pompeii and, to a lesser extent, Ostia. However, while some archaeologists might have wished a more thorough analysis of this evidence, it is important to point out that this focus on texts does not really harm Holleran's argument. Rather, it is a logical consequence of her choice to focus on everyday retail processes and strategies: material remains of tabernae, macella and other commercial buildings, even at Pompeii, have simply less to say in this respect than texts have.

In making sense of the evidence, Holleran makes frequent use of parallels with other preindustrial societies for which our evidence for retail economies is more detailed. Particularly, early modern Europe and eighteenth-century London are used to sketch scenarios for aspects of the retail trade that are invisible in the evidence from Rome and Roman Italy. At the same time, the argument is well connected with current debates in the study of Roman economic history and demography, and shows an acute awareness of the structural complexity of the consumer economy of a preindustrial metropolis of one million inhabitants. This makes the book much more than a simple discussion of the evidence for buying and selling. Rather, Holleran offers a model of the Roman metropolitan consumer economy that helps us understand the often fragmentary and scattered pieces of evidence available. This model consists of five major components: wholesale trade, retail through shops, retail in markets and fairs, street trade and forms of trade directed towards elite consumption. It is around these 'mechanisms of distribution' that the narrative of the book is organized.


After a short introductory chapter that sets out the agenda of the book and puts it in its scholarly context, the first numbered chapter discusses, in generic terms, the relation between retail trade and the economy, discussing the nature of retail and some structural aspects of Roman society and Rome's urban economy that had an impact on it. Here, Holleran, while acknowledging the emergence of mass-production in certain branches of the economy, positions the argument a bit on the primitivist side of the Roman economy debate by emphasizing the small scale of manufacturing in general and the important role of social structures (and particularly the presence of slaves and freedmen) for our understanding of the retail economy. In Holleran's model, Rome's retail economy was to a large extent dominated by 'craftsmen-retailers', who were more often than not of servile or freed status (and were thus socially tied to the elite). As a consequence, the entrepreneurial possibilities of the freeborn poor were limited.

The second chapter deals with the ties between retail and the wholesale trade: as Rome depended on imports, so did the city's retailers. Holleran discusses the topography of import on the Tiber banks and the way in which the wharves and the horrea functioned as a hotspot in the commercial landscape of the metropolis, as well as the commercial fora connecting traders and retailers. She also makes a strong case for the city gates as key nodes in the commercial network, performing a similar role, but on a smaller scale, and oriented towards the rural hinterland.

Chapter three focuses on that canonical unit of retail – the taberna. Here, Holleran starts by signaling the ubiquity of tabernae in the archaeological record of almost any urban excavation in Roman Italy, but rightly emphasizes that their material remains rarely reveal anything about the way in which tabernae were used, as this use was, by nature, highly flexible. To understand the nature of commercial activities in tabernae, we need to rely, mostly, on textual evidence. This suggests that tabernae were used not only for retail but also for manufacturing and for the service industry. While tabernae were 'fundamental to the distribution system of Rome', their flexibility makes things a bit fuzzy. A slightly worrying implication of Holleran's argument is that it becomes very hard to see how important tabernae were in Rome's retail system: it is unclear what proportion actually was partially or completely devoted to selling consumer goods.

The subsequent chapter four deals with markets and fairs, starting with a discussion of the Roman macella and their location, followed by a discussion of the nature of the macellum, which Holleran sees as a market for exclusive, high-quality foodstuffs. While this certainly is an attractive idea for the macella of the city of Rome, one could argue that the evidence does not really make clear whether this was the case in smaller urban centres as well. The subsequent discussion of periodic markets ('nundinae') shows their importance in the retail economies of smaller cities, but Holleran rightly notices that the evidence for the city of Rome does not allow us to be completely sure as to where in the city they were held, and what role they performed. The same is true for mercatus or fairs.

Chapter five is the chapter that will probably have the largest impact on future scholarship. It introduces an aspect of the urban retail economy that is likely to have been omnipresent but thus far has received little or no attention at all from scholars: street trade. Holleran not only shows that there is a variety of evidence for street trade and hawking, but also discusses the spatial logic of street trade within the city, emphasizing how street traders, for good reasons, were to be found at crossroads, and near concentrations of people. More importantly, Holleran argues, street trade provided low-threshold income opportunities for freeborn poor, women and, particularly, immigrants, though part of the market was also occupied by institores, often slaves selling wares produced in the households to which they belonged.

The sixth and last chapter deals with elite consumption. The focus here is slightly different from that of the other chapters in the sense that it is the consumer more than the retailer who is in the center of the narrative. Holleran discusses the two main ways in which the Roman urban elite acquired its products – privately and publicly – and concludes that, despite all the ideology and rhetoric of self-sufficiency, elites were not at all independent from the market – buying luxury items in specialist stores or at auctions, which Holleran sees as fundamental to the circulation of luxury goods in Rome.

In a brief concluding chapter, Holleran emphasizes the fundamental role of the retail trade: despite the annona, retail was the most important mode of distribution in the city – both quantitatively and qualitatively – and because of the complexity of the Roman consumer market, the wide range of commodities sold and the variation in consumer strategies within the population, the retail trade was diversified, operating through a variety of channels, each satisfying another type of demand. Holleran sees this system as largely unplanned, 'evolving in response to the needs and desires of the population' (263). Thus, despite, being 'embedded' in socio-cultural structures on the level of individual agents and their strategies, the system as a whole was, essentially, a market driven phenomenon – albeit one that was subjected to certain institutional controls and regulations.

Holleran's book is a great contribution to our understanding of Rome's urban economy, and to debates on Roman urban economies in general. It uses a wealth of information and fits it into a credible framework that covers the Roman retail trade in all its variety – from 'normal' retail in 'shops' through markets and street trade to auctions and retailers visiting their clients at home. Of key importance is that Holleran consciously breaks with the old-fashioned (and often counter-productive) practice of organizing narratives about everyday economic processes by commodity. As Holleran herself notes (262), this allows her to shed light on the mechanisms of retail, rather than on the peculiarities of specific products. In this respect, her book sets a clear example for future scholarly work.

This book does not aim to be and must not be seen as the definitive account of Roman retail. Rather, it deserves to be a starting point for further debate. The argument makes one realize that there is a number of challenges that were beyond the scope of Holleran's agenda for this book, but that do deserve the attention of scholars in the future. In the first place, there is a clear challenge for archaeologists to find a way to integrate the material remains of retail architecture into the debate so that the possibilities of this evidence are more fully explored than now is the case. The remains of tabernae in particular are simply too numerous and too widespread to remain forever sidelined in serious academic debate on the history of Roman retail as, essentially, they still are. Secondly, there is a set of questions related to the relative historical position of Rome that are not directly relevant to our understanding of Rome's urban distribution system, but are essential to understand its meaning. To what extent, for example, did the retail system of the Roman metropolis differ, structurally, from that of other cities in the empire? More importantly, how did Rome, as a preindustrial metropolis, perform compared to other preindustrial metropolises? These are key questions that emerge from Holleran's work and that deserve our attention.

Moreover, they point to a methodological issue that the field will have to come to terms with: ancient historians are increasingly eager to use evidence from other historical periods as a 'parallel' to improve our understanding of the Roman world. Similarly, when discussing aspects of urban life in the city of Rome, there is a (more traditional) tendency to use evidence from other cities – particularly Pompeii and Ostia – as parallels in a similar way. Holleran's book is no exception. Yet while this is often extremely helpful, and partially is indispensable, it also tends to obscure the historical peculiarities of the Roman world in general and of the city of Rome in particular. The question thus is how, in the debate on the city of Rome (and in that on Roman urbanism in general) the comparative evidence can be used in a more confronting way, so that it not only fills in gaps, but also highlights differences.

However, since Holleran's book is the first analytical monograph in this oft-neglected field, it should be seen as a merit rather than as a problem that it evokes a couple of research questions, and it does not mean that it can be fully appreciated only once these questions are answered. Quite the contrary – it is to be expected that the model outlined in this book, in general, will provide a reliable basis on which future research can build, and it is to be hoped that 'Holleran 2012' will become a widely used standard reference for years to come.

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