Saturday, August 31, 2013


Adelheid Müller, Sehnsucht nach Wissen. Friederike Brun, Elisa von der Recke und die Altertumskunde um 1800. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 2012. Pp. xii, 615. ISBN 9783496014713. €99.00.

Reviewed by Constanze Güthenke, Princeton University (

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Table of Contents

This heavy book is the lightly revised version of a deservedly prize-winning doctoral dissertation. It is, on one level, a thoroughly contextualized biography of the lives and writings of two women who played an active role in the developing discourse of German antiquarian-archaeological research around 1800. In addition, it is an exhaustive yet subtle map of how the knowledge of antiquity was articulated in that period more generally, a real and cognitive map including actors, networks, their own material conditions and environments, the material objects and monuments of antiquity, and the ideas, conventions and premises that framed the expression of such knowledge, by men or by women.

Friederike Brun, a German-Danish writer of bürgerlich origins, and Elisa von der Recke, a German-Baltic aristocrat, both wrote on the basis of their experience of visiting Italy, especially Rome, and both participated in a scholarly discourse and a scholarly world that was changing. By around 1800, aesthetic individual perception and rational historical classification went hand in hand in defining what expert knowledge of antiquity was made of. Historicism, that is, the understanding and interpretation of culture as time-bound, and familiarity with a steadily increasing amount of ancient monuments and artefacts that challenged notions of the canon were parameters for approaching antiquity that were just as important as the awareness of an idealising classicism and the cognitive and intellectual function of sense perception and direct experience.

This was the period when autopsy, the seeing for oneself, could acquire maximum value in judging and in understanding the ancient world. This period (the German technical term used here is 'Sattelzeit') straddles an earlier, broader antiquarian attitude and a later, increasingly specialized and institutionalized discourse of professional scholarship. The travels and publications of Brun and von der Recke coincide with the rise of a scholarly and scientific discourse that could, in the case of Rome and in Rome, still be exercised in a non-institutional, semi-private network. Within such a social and intellectual network, they, as much as some of their male peers, could actively produce knowledge in a way that a few decades later already would be noticeably more restricted by disciplinary conventions.

Müller's book is organized into three large parts. Wissensgenese, 'Generation of Knowledge', begins with brief biographical sketches of the two women, whose parallel lives overlapped only once, in Switzerland, where their itineraries crossed. Against this brief meeting, however, stands an overwhelmingly intricate network, meticulously put together in the 600-plus pages of this book, of shared acquaintances, frequented social circles, correspondences, literature read and consulted, and places visited and studied that linked those two women, who were well aware of each other's existence. The first part continues to give an account of the classical education Brun and von der Recke did and at the same time did not receive: Müller gives evidence of their express desire to learn classical languages, the little of which they knew (as was typical) mostly through their brothers' tutors, the literature available in translation, as well as the status quo of writings on ancient history, mythology, art history, archaeology and travel literature that would have been accessible to them.

The second part, Spielräume des Wissens ('Places of Knowledge', though 'Spielraum' carries a sense of 'leeway' or 'room for manoeuvre', as well as hinting at 'play'), gives both a general and a specific account of the itineraries that brought both women eventually to Italy, an account that could in its detail and value stand almost as a short book in its own right. These include the steady development of the social and intellectual networks that prepared the way to Rome. Both von der Recke and Bruns spent time in centres of learning such as Göttingen, Berlin, Geneva, Leipzig, Weimar or St. Petersburg, often assisted by family connections, even though both women forged close relations quite independently with figures in scholarly, artistic and aristocratic circles who were invested in the study and collection of ancient artefacts. Müller offers a panorama, as always based on extremely detailed archival research of primary sources, of the scholarly sociability found in such locations of knowledge as urban centres, courts, spas, private libraries and collections of art works and casts such as those in Dresden, Potsdam, Dessau or Göttingen. These spaces added up to a rich propedeutic itinerary, and a contemporary practice of learning ways of seeing and classifying long before either of the two women reached Italy.

The third and last part, Wissen schaffen auf klassischem Boden ('Creating knowledge on classical ground'), charts the actual experiences of both women in Rome and its environs, the precise ways in which they saw, studied and conversed about the topography, ancient monuments and new material finds, and again the close network of antiquarian scholars as guides on site with whom they connected, particularly Aloys Hirt and the Danish scholar Georg Zoëga. Figures like Hirt and Zoëga were themselves marginal in a way: each had had to rely on patronage, recommendation and the slow creation of his own persona as an expert, rather than on institutional certainties. Rome around 1800, poised between the earlier conventions of the Grand Tour and looking ahead to the developing framework of specialised research, was in Müller's terminology a universitas that was non-institutional, yet still linked to a specific sociability in which the modes of knowledge exchange could transcend gender. It was a place where women were travelling (often in the entourage of husbands, brothers or patrons) and present in conversation more than we normally assume, a 'women's paradise', as Brun put it; at the same time, this world of relative liberty was also one of a specific microcosm with its own rules and strictures.

Müller presents several detailed cases of how Brun and von der Recke acquired, contextualised, and contributed to the debates over classical knowledge: Brun's interest in mythological and historical relief sculpture, for example, which she shared with Zoëga, or von der Recke's topographical and architectural explorations. Müller's exposition is always in close dialogue with the changing realities of a city in which new finds and archaeological projects happened at an exponential pace, yet in which models of seeing and describing, such as Winckelmann's ekphrastic art history, created strong templates.

What distinguished both Brun and von der Recke is that they published their work, thus literally inscribing themselves within a developing archaeological-antiquarian discourse in which professed emotional responsiveness to art works co-existed easily with extensive cross-referencing and footnoting, technical drawing and measuring, and appeals to shared bibliography and debate. Even so, the written version of scholarly performance, such as it arrived in the public sphere, had gender markers attached to it. Brun's archaeological and thematic interests were also reflected in her volumes of personal poetry (something Müller only hints at), while her Roman diaries and descriptions were deliberately addressing a learned audience. Von der Recke's Roman writings, initially published as short contributions in periodicals, were published under her own name, yet in an edition authorized by the Weimar archaeologist and director of antiquities Karl August Böttiger, who added independent footnotes and commentary. Müller rightly points out the ambivalences: women's scholarly writing was not easily integrated into scholarly debate, especially as it made the jump from private, or semi-private, to public. At the same time, engagement with it happened, and both Brun and von der Recke showed considerable self-confidence and independence in being active participants in the performance and creation of classical knowledge.

It is important to Müller that her study not be read as unearthing the gender-specific side of a canonical discourse, simply "adding" the women's voice. Instead, she very carefully outlines a moment in time in which consciousness of a subjective, "own", individual perspective expressed vis-à-vis ancient, historically past sources, played an important epistemological part in the creation and communicability of knowledge. In this way, while bringing the participation of female scholars and writers more strongly into the foreground, she draws important conclusions for the structuring and the growing institutionalisation of academic and scholarly discourse around 1800 and afterwards much more generally.

It is for this reason that Müller's book would deserve a much wider international readership than the current book will likely have. (Beautifully and flawlessly produced in large format, with six hundred pages of extremely rich and far- reaching documentation and high-quality reproductions of images, it is compendious as much as important, though it is not always made easy to keep the focus of its argumentation. The wealth and quality of information can bury the lead, despite the relentless German thesis convention of subsections into third decimal points.) The conventions of German classical scholarship were and are lasting in the field. By way of drawing attention to the gendered and the gender-transcending aspects of encountering antiquity around 1800, Müller's book does not only elucidate the performative voice of the scholar, but just as importantly she emphasizes just how fundamental social, national and international networks and the articulation of scholarly knowledge within them and through them were to the constitution of what we do say and can say about antiquity.

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Silvia Montiglio, Love and Providence: Recognition in the Ancient Novel. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. ix, 256. ISBN 9780199916047. $74.00.

Reviewed by Jeffrey T. Winkle, Calvin College (

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Silvia Montiglio's book concerning recognition scenes in the ancient novel is an intricate, challenging work and one which will certainly be the foundation for much more exciting scholarship to come.

In the opening chapter Montiglio tackles recognition scenes in Chariton's Callirhoe and Xenophon's Ephesiaca. Beginning with Callirhoe, Montiglio reads the novel against Homer's Odyssey as well as various works of Greek tragedy, especially Euripides' Alcestis, with a particular eye to the role that a character's voice plays in recognition scenes. Montiglio explores various expectations of spoken dialogue in various genres: in epic the voice of a character is rarely put forward as a mark of identity in recognition scenes (the recognition by Eurycleia being a notable exception) and the inherent unnaturalness of theater (e.g. all actors are male) poses problems for a playwright seeking to keep his recognitions believable. Despite many borrowings from epic and tragedy, Chariton's Callirhoe employs aspects of the "voice of the beloved" frequently used in Hellenistic poetry as the primary means of recognition: one lover's hearing the voice of the other leads to instantaneous recognition as opposed to the slow, drawn out recognitions we see in tragedy.

By contrast, the recognition scenes in Xenophon's Ephesiaca are, as in tragedy, complex, drawn out and, to the modern eye, unnatural. This section devotes much space to the seeming clumsiness of these recognition scenes —repetitive, various recognitions mirror each other too closely. Montiglio counters that a contemporary audience would likely not have been bothered by the lack of verisimilitude; she notes that, like tragedians, the authors of Greek novels tended not to sacrifice complexity to plausibility: it is the elaborate choreography of the scenes that is primarily prized. Montiglio goes on to note how Aristotle's opinions on proper recognition in his Poetics have biased the conversation and also suggests that if a contemporary audience did indeed attend to the unnaturalness of Xenophon's recognitions, it may have read them as a kind of parody of traditional recognitions seen elsewhere. The chapter concludes with an exploration of the passivity of many of the novelistic heroes and the common need in these narratives for a third party as an agent of recognition.

Next Montiglio attends to recognitions in Achilles Tatius' Leucippe and Clitophon and Longus's Daphne and Chloe. Montiglio sees in Leucippe and Clitophon a novel that playfully challenges novelistic stereotypes with characters seemingly aware of novelistic conventions. Recognitions therein often undercut novelistic clichés—lovers fail to recognize each other's voices, episodes of misidentification pile up, and the novel itself ends without the usual consummation of lovers' desires. Here Montiglio sees particular influence from New Comedy.

Daphnis and Chloe, Montiglio argues, is also particularly influenced by comedy, especially Menander. As in many comedies, the identities of the characters of Longus's novel are kept hidden from the reader as well as from the characters themselves. Recognition is ultimately tied to the erotic awakening of the principals: Eros is the divine force that guides the narrative arc; it is also aided by comic patterns routinely seen in Plautus and Menander: namely, that lowly characters who are about to reclaim their true, elite status still appear as beautiful and well-educated before their recognition Attractiveness and erudition go hand-in-hand with social position. Daphnis and Chloe also displays its reliance on comic models and its distinction from other novels in scenes of recognition and a rare reconciliation between principals and rivals (as we see in Plautus's Rudens) .

Following this Montiglio devotes a chapter to Heliodorus's novel alone; for her, the Aethiopica is arguably the most complex and layered of the extant novels. Recognitions in this novel are full of allusions to Homer, Aristotle, Euripides, and New Comedy (among others) and are concerned, more than in the other novels, with the hermeneutic issues and linguistic barriers involved in their unfolding. Aethiopica, unlike novels in which recognitions occur serendipitously, presents characters who continually misinterpret tokens and carefully weigh evidence before acknowledging the identity of others. At a glance it may seem that this quality would make the Aethiopica more realistic than other novels, but Montiglio shows that Heliodorus, in stressing the visual and theatrical nature of recognitions—the main thrust of which is simply to dazzle the spectator/audience—, presents characters that are mainly "tragic" in their aspect and deliberately distanced from the more comic types we see in, say, Daphnis and Chloe. Overall the Aethiopica contains many competing notions of recognition, for instance the instinctual "call of blood" which aids recognition and the Platonic notion that true love is not discovery but rediscovery; but despite this situation, Montiglio argues that Heliodorus's recognition scenes are comparatively more smoothly woven into the fabric of the narrative than in other Greek novels.

Next Montiglio moves on to the Roman novel, beginning with a section on Petronius's Satyrica, brief since the novel as we have it contains few recognition scenes. Montiglio attends to the recognition of Encolpius by Lichas (Satyrica 105), accomplished by Lichas's grabbing of Encolpius's genitals, and argues that what we have here is a kind of inversion of recognitions found in the Greek novels. In Petronius, recognition brings pain, not happiness and thus principals in the novel try to avoid being recognized. Like the Greek novels, Satyrica is full of allusions to epic and tragedy—Montiglio argues that the Lichas/Encolpius scene is a dark riff on the recognition between Odysseus and Eurycleia—but rather than use them to raise the tone of the narrative, Petronius employs them to undercut, invert, and mock. Apuleius, too, shows little interest in recognition scenes despite borrowing many thematic features from the Greek novel. Broadly, the Golden Ass adheres to a kind of recognition—reunion—return structure seen in other novels, but as in Petronius, recognitions in the Golden Ass are not synonymous with better fortune or homecoming; in fact, the opposite occurs—when Lucius is, as an ass, discovered or recognized as it inevitably leads to suffering. As Montiglio puts it, "Recognitions are among the ways cruel Fortune forestalls his plans of escape" (177).

Even when Lucius does escape into the arms of Isis his hermeneutic problems continue: he shifts from being an "underinterpreter" (e.g his gullibility and naïvete prevent him from seeing the dangers of magic or recognizing the thrust of cautionary tales along the way) in Books 1-10 to an "overinterpreter" (e.g. seeing meaning and direction in vision and dreams where there may be none) in Book 11. Because Lucius never recognizes events or people for what or who they truly are we and because Apuleius throughout seems to undercut the typical role of recognitions in the Greek novels, we ought, Montiglio argues, to see Lucius as a dupe rather than a saved, blessed Isiac convert.

The book concludes with a look at early Jewish and Christian narratives, Apollonius of Tyre, Joseph and Aseneth, and the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions in particular. In these Montiglio uncovers many thematic and structural links shared with the Greek novels, although noting that in these texts recognitions tend to be built around autobiographical narratives and to privilege familial relationships rather than the reunion of lovers. Because of the religious sheen of these narratives, recognition is inextricably wrapped up with conversion. In Joseph and Aseneth, the discovery of love does not bring about recognition but rather leads to a spiritual crisis for Aseneth; this ultimately fosters conversion, which then leads to true change, reunion, and understanding of her own identity. Recognition has a distinct moral element, often presented not as serendipity but rather as a reward for goodness.

In the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions, narrative recognitions are given even more prominence than in the Greek novels, but here the key to recognition is understanding one's family history. Gone are the usual tokens acknowledged by separated lovers: recognitions point the principals in a vertical, heavenly direction rather than back to their geographical home. Gone also are the virtuous lies and disguises found in the Greek novels; in their place we find a narrative in which a change in dress is not meant (primarily) to deceive but rather indicates spiritual transformation. For example, in Acts of Paul Thecla dresses as a man in order to renounce her identity as an earthly woman and also as a "symbol of sacred initiation" (223) into the mysteries of Christ.

Montiglio's monograph is a useful, exhaustively researched piece of scholarship and a welcome addition to the growing body of work on the ancient novel. This text will help dispel lingering doubts concerning the legitimacy of the ancient novel's place in the canon of worthy works from Greco-Roman antiquity. While there has been an explosion of scholarship on the novel in the last 30 years or so (particularly on Apuleius) there still seems (at least to me) a sense that the Greek novels are something of a neglected step-child. Using recognition scenes as an interpretive springboard, Montiglio deftly demonstrates how richly layered and markedly different these works are, even with plots and characters which, at a glance, appear extraordinarily similar to one another. By teasing out the myriad allusions to Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Plato, Aristotle, Menander, and Plautus (among others) Montiglio roots the ancient novels firmly and broadly in the entire tradition of Greco-Roman literature while at the same time demonstrating the striking originality of the ancient novelists. These are works that do not float free of tradition, but rather continually look back, tweak, riff, and are a link in the chain of narrative influence which stretches back to Homer and forward to the present day.

Montiglio's book, like the best scholarship, invites more scholarship. I conclude with a few observations as to where future work might go in light of this monograph.

• Montiglio rarely raises issues of historical context and readership (though do see pp. 71, 79, 156, and 210- 211). Dating the novels is notoriously difficult, but perhaps an extension of her discussion of a dialogue between novels (chapters 2 and 3) could help answer long-standing questions.
• The dizzying mix of tragic and comic themes raises questions concerning the original reception or interpretation of the novels. Who were these novels written for? Were they ever intended to transmit a serious religious or philosophical message? Does the appearance of the novels indicate a watering down or elevation of education standards or literary tastes in antiquity? An application of Montiglio's findings and say, Graverini's recent work on serio-comic readings of Apuleius 1 would prove most interesting.
• The Epilogue certainly gives a number of suggestions for an examination of recognition scenes beyond the classical moment, but I imagine that much of Montiglio's argument and discoveries would also fruitfully apply to narrative studies of the New Testament and the various Lives of the Saints. 2
• I noticed only one typo—p. 111: "This be" ought to be "Thisbe".


1.   Graverini, L. 2007. Le metamorfosi di Apuleio: Letterature e identità. Ospedaletto, Italy: Pacini Editore. Montiglio cites this work for other purposes but does not engage the line of inquiry suggested above.
2.   I imagine an application of Montiglio's arguments and findings to works such as Ramelli, I. 2007. "The Ancient Novels and the New Testament: Possible Contacts," Ancient Narrative 5, 41-68 or Brandt, J. 2005. Ancient Fiction: the Matrix of Early Christian and Jewish Narrative. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. For example, how might readings of Mary Magdalene's or Thomas' recognition of Christ (John 20:11-29) or Paul's concealment and then revelation of his identity as a Roman citizen (Acts 22:22-29) play out along the lines of Montiglio's arguments?

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Thursday, August 29, 2013


Güven Gümgüm, Il Martyrion di Hierapolis di Frigia (Turchia): Analisi archeologica e architettonica. British Archaeological Reports, International Series, 2385. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2012. Pp. 169. ISBN 9781407309774. £31.00.

Reviewed by Ergün Laflı, Dokuz Eylül Üniversitesi (

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This book is dedicated to the martyrium of St. Philip in Hierapolis, a Roman city located in classical Phrygia in southwestern Asia Minor. The martyrium is usually named after the Christian apostle Philip, but from early times there has been some dispute as to the actual identity of "Philip of Hierapolis". Little reliance can be placed on traditional accounts of Philip, owing to the evident confusion that arose between him and the evangelist of the same name, who appears in the book of Acts.1 The presence of the martyrium as well as several churches indicates the importance of Phrygian Hierapolis in Early Christian history as Phrygia is known as the center of Montanism2 in the literature of Early Christianity. The book is a systematic archaeological and architectural analysis of the martyrium of St. Philip that was excavated by the Italians in 1957-1958, 1961-1963, 2001 and 2004-2008 and previously studied by P. Verzone.3 It is very common in archaeology that several years should pass before excavations complete their field activities and assess all their results. So, too, in Turkey it always takes longer than usually expected to have concrete archaeological results in the form of final publications. Indeed, Turkish archaeology is especially vulnerable these days to such criticism, since there are several hundred excavations without any concrete final publications.4

The book consists of 169 pages with black and white photos as well as illustrations on each page. The major focus of the book is the function of the martyrium and the reason for its construction. After the preface by A. A. Ippoliti the book is divided into seven main chapters: an introduction to Phrygian Hierapolis (chap. 1), an archaeological history of the discovery and excavations of the martyrium (chap. 2), followed by an architectural presentation (chap. 3), pointing to the techniques and materials applied (chap. 4), the architectural elements (chap. 5), concluding with a proposal for the reconstruction of the building (chap. 6) and an appendix on the stratigraphic units of the walls (chap. 7 = appendix). The text ends with an extensive abstract in English. Chapters 3 to 7 are, however, the main focus and the major contribution of the book to Early Byzantine architectural history.

After the first short introductory section on the city of Hierapolis and its urban character during the Roman-Early Byzantine periods (pp. 4-7), in the second chapter (pp. 8-25) previous studies on martyria are discussed. Since the complex was enormously large it took years to assess the results; here numerous useful photographs from past excavation seasons are presented. In the last part of this chapter the cult of St. Philip is explained with a detailed discussion of the literary and syllographical evidence. The book also seeks to explain why Philip was buried in Hierapolis. An open question is the transformation of the pagan cult of Apollo into the Christian cult of St. Philip. Both of these short chapters are clear and useful.

Chapter three is dedicated to the architectural problems of the complex. At the beginning the methodological approaches of the architectural analysis are clarified. From these passages it becomes apparent that the dating of the building is evaluated by the author architecturally, i.e. through architectural elements, mural painting, ornamentation etc. The periodization of the building is based on the analysis of each of the architectural units such as central space, tribelon, doorways etc. In his "periodizzazione e fasi dell'edificio" Gümgüm establishes five periods between the 4th and 21st century A.D. with several architectural phases and reuses according to all the architectural criteria (pp. 29-48). The main construction, however, belongs to the 4th to 9th century A.D. as the coin finds indicate that the 4th and 5th century as well as the 11th century were the most active periods for the use of martyria. The definitive abandonment of the area occurred in the 15th to 18th century. This descriptive chapter is based on the presentation of materials, and no detailed arguments are discussed. The use of archaeological evidence is very brief, but compiled in a coherent and scientific way.

Chapter four is about the construction techniques and building materials: according to stratigraphic analysis, nine masonry techniques were used in the building, which are displayed in fig. 111, p. 53. These architectural techniques are compared with other 4th to 5th century buildings in Hierapolis such as the martyrial complex, the theatre, the great baths, the bath church, nymphaeum of the springs and the cathedral.5 Also construction materials (irregular stones, travertine blocks, brick and wood) and pavements (opus sectile, white marble mosaic and travertine floors) as well as roofing materials are presented in detail. This chapter is also a descriptive one and especially mural descriptions and photos are very useful for future research. Chronological aspects of the construction techniques that were established by stratigraphic sequences are, however, problematic and not sufficiently specified.

Beside the architectural analysis of the Hierapolitan martyrium, stress is laid on the description of architectural elements presented in chapter five. Here bases, capitals, frames, shelves, pillars, capitals of pillars and liturgical elements (ambons, altar tablets etc.) are featured. Each element was sorted by type and each type was represented with related finds in standard catalogue form. Some of these finds are in situ; in the catalogue, however, very few of them were dated. In this part it is stated that the development of the capital shape in Hierapolis dates to the 5th to 6th century A.D. An assessment of the arguments in relating to architectural elements and a general conclusion with the evidence they provided is lacking; some generalizations about their workmanship, masonry, stone sources, chronology, quantity and quality would have been of considerable use.

Chapter six is dedicated to the architectural reconstruction of martyria through comparison with contemporary buildings in the eastern Mediterranean, such as the Golden Octagon of Constantine in Antioch, the martyrium building at Caesarea Maritima, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, and the octagonal building on Mont Gerizim with regard to stylistic plan and architectural effect within the urban plan. The goal here is also to provide a basis for the future restoration projects of the building. In association with the reference to 38 niches found in the building, the use of hollow terracotta vaulting tubes (in Italian, tubi fittili) for the construction of vaults in Byzantine Constantinople in religious buildings like Saraçhane (St. Polyeuctus) and Gül Camii (St. Theodosia) has been reconsidered, although no possible explanation for the use of clay tubes in the niches was offered evidently to make vaults less heavy, such as at San Lorenzo Maggiore in Milan, Ravenna, Rome and Tunisia. On p. 98, with figs. 248-249 the reconstruction of the first phase has been illustrated. In the Early and Middle Byzantine periods the building received various additions, renovations and restorations which Gümgüm briefly displays in his fig. 109, p. 52. The great earthquake that occurred in the second half of the 7th century caused extensive damage to the martyrium so that the original plan (and probably function) changed several times after that date. This chapter is clear enough and provides some important comparative examples which were establish a better understanding of this building.

The appendix, the longest section of the book, is comprised of the stratigraphic units as well as a catalogue of the walls. Not all of the walls, however, are illustrated. Ten phases for the construction and use of the walls between the 4th and 20th century are established. Each wall has been numbered and briefly described according to its construction materials. Except for a short periodization (p. 102), an assessment of the evidence is lacking. It is, therefore, difficult to use the data provided in this section.

As for the conclusions it should be noted that this architecture-based book is one of the few contributions to the history of religious architecture in Early Byzantine Asia Minor. It is dedicated to a complex building in western Anatolia that is still a significant gap in Byzantine archaeology. But there are several mistakes in English and German literature, in its abstract in English as well as lots of editing errors and confusions. Several important bibliographical references were ignored.6 The bibliography contains several mistakes in terms of spelling, grammar etc. The structural and functional logic of the building is still a massive question to be answered. Small finds (glass, clay unguentaria) and their contribution to the chronology and function of the building have been neglected. Comparative wall studies with other contemporary sites in western Asia Minor during the Early Byzantine period, such as those at Ephesus, Laodicea on the Lycus, Miletus, Aezani and Sardis, would be of use for the future research and a better understanding the regional patterns of architectural style.

As a whole, though, the book offers a good combination of archaeological results of past campaigns and architectural history with average quality photos and drawings. Especially the descriptions concerning the wall techniques are useful in the relation to the architectural chronology of Early Byzantine rural areas, since this type of research is very meager. It offers an encouraging and scientific base for an intensive restoration project of the martyrium of St. Philip in the future.

[The reviewer would like to thank to Dr. Alexander Zäh (Maintal), Dr. Chris S. Lightfoot (New York), Dr. Eva Christof (Graz), Dr. Maurizio Buora (Udine) and Dr. Hadrien Bru (Besançon) for reading and making some important commentaries on this text.]


1.   This confusion started with a report by Polycrates of Ephesus in Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History (Hist. eccl., III., xxxi. 3, V., xxiv. 2).
2.   W. Tabbernee, Montanist inscriptions and testimonia: epigraphic sources illustrating the history of Montanism, Patristic Monograph Series 16 (Macon, GA 1997) 507-508.
3.   Two important contributions on the martyrium of Hierapolis in the 1960s are P. Verzone, Il Martyrion ottagono a Hierapolis di Frigia. Relazione preliminare, Palladio 10, 1960, 1-20; and P. Verzone, Hierapolis cristiana, in: Corsi di cultura sull'arte ravennate e bizantina, XII (Ravenna 1965) 613-627.
4.   Almost at the same time as this book appeared, new reports on the martyrium of Hierapolis were published and so are not considered in the book: F. D'Andria, Il santuario e la tomba dell'apostolo Filippo a Hierapolis di Frigia, Atti della Pontificia Accademia romana di archeologia, Rendiconti 84, 2011/2012, 3-52; and M. Piera Caggia/F. D'Andria/T. Ismaelli (eds.), Hierapolis di Frigia V: Le attività delle campagne di scavo e restauro 2004-2006 (Istanbul 2012). For a partial bibliographical list of Italian excavations in Hierapolis: "Missione Hierapolis, Bibliografia".
5.   Not sufficiently considered is the publication on the cathedral of Hierapolis: G. Peirano, La cattedrale di Hierapolis. La storia, il Museo (Torino 2008).
6.   The following important references were not considered for comparisons to the building: A. De Bernardi, Due esempi di architettura euclidea. Il martyrion di San Filippo a Hierapolis. Il teatro di Segesta, Annali della Scuola normale superiore di Pisa 3/24, 1994, 467-489; F. W. Deichmann, Das Oktogon von Antiocheia. Heroon-Martyrion, Palastkirche oder Kathedrale? Byzantinische Zeitschrift 65, 1972, 40-56; and F. W. Deichmann, Märtyrerbasilika, Martyrion, Memoria und Altargrab, Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Römische Abteilung 77, 1970, 144-169.

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Timo-Christian Spieß, Die Sabinus-Briefe: Humanistische Fälschung oder antike Literatur? Einleitung - Edition - Übersetzung - Kommentar. Bochumer Altertumswissenschaftliches Colloquium Bd 86. Trier: WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2012. Pp. 320. ISBN 9783868213508. €32.50 (pb).

Reviewed by Theodor Heinze, Wiesbaden (

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Table of Contents

In his elegy Amores 2, 18, Ovid cites several of his mythological epistles that have come down to us as his Epistulae Heroidum in the loose manner of an Alexandrian catalogue. He adds immediately that his friend Sabinus has written epistolary responses to six of these letters: Odysseus to Penelope, Hippolytus to Phaedra, Aeneas to Dido, Demophoon to Phyllis, Iason to Hypsipyle and Phaon to Sappho. Ovid mentions Sabinus again at Pont. 4, 16, 13-16 as the author of Odysseus' letter, of an unfinished dierum … opus (a georgic or a calendar poem) and possibly of an epic poem called Troezena, Troesmen or Troesmin in mss., this being all we know about him.

Now, circumstances of transmission provide us with three mythological letters that purport to be rescriptiones to three of Ovid's heroical letters: Odysseus to Penelope, Demophoon to Phyllis and Paris to Oenone. The text (330 lines in all) is first found at the end of five incunable editions of Ovid's Heroides (a list on p. 76): Treviso 1475?, newly discovered by the present editor Spieß at Göttingen SUB (GW: M28768); Parma 1477, which also bears exclusive testimony to two passages in Ovid's Heroides (16, 39-144 and 21,145-248), the authenticity of which now is undoubted; Vicenza 1480; Venice 1486 and 1492. It has been printed in most editions of the Heroides up to Loers' (1829-1830), the letters being attributed in edd. Treviso 1475? and Parma 1477 to "A. Sabinus, eques Romanus celeberrimus vatesque, Nasonis temporibus floruit. Qui has omnes responsiones et alias edidit, quae non reperiuntur." But ever since Aldus Manutius' edition of 1502, doubt has been cast upon this attribution to Ovid's friend.

When Otto Jahn discovered in 1837 what has to be considered a second-hand reference (J. G. Weller, Altes aus allen Theilen der Geschichte, vol. 2, Chemnitz 1766, 244-260, here 248 to the humanist Angelus Sabinus alias Angelo Sani resp. Angelus de Curibus Sabinis (fl. 1460s-70s) who, in the dedicatory letter to his Paradoxa in Iuvenali of 1474, claimed authorship of these letters, this attribution found general acclaim, and the practice of printing these letters along with Ovid's Heroides was discontinued.

The tide rolled back again, when B. Häuptli 1 found out that ed. Parma 1477 contained not only the two additional passages of Ovid's Heroides mentioned, but also the three response letters Heinrich Dörrie had overlooked. He concluded that both the two Heroides passages and the three response letters must go back to one and the same manuscript, and that the Vaticanus Urbinas 353 is a descendant of this manuscript. As Domizio Calderini (1446–1478), believed to be the humanist editor of ed. Parma 1477, was not likely to be deceived by a fake set up by a contemporary humanist and in particular by a personal enemy such as Angelo Sani was, Häuptli concluded that the three response letters were the work of an unknown ancient poet.

But again, this view has been contradicted in favour of Angelus Sabinus by B. Geise on the grounds of the missing manuscript transmission of the three response2 and by Chr. Meckelnborg / B. Schneider, who argued that there was no proof for Calderini's editorship.3

The book under review, the revised version of a doctoral dissertation submitted to the Classics faculty of Bochum University in 2010/2011, addresses the authorship question once more. To let the solution out immediately: Spieß opts for an unknown post-Senecan imperial poet of the first or second century and tackles the question through a linguistic commentary, preceded by an edition and a translation. In the introduction (pp. 11-77), he presents a succinct sketch of the problem (pp. 11-19), a discussion of the method employed (pp. 19-33) and a summary of the results (pp. 34-75).

As for the method (p. 19-23), much of it resembles recent Echtheitskritik of Ovid's Heroides, 4 which rests on linguistic and metrical singularities and, where appropriate, on Bertil Axelson's criterion for determining a given text's priority. Following this trend, Spieß supposes that parallels or the lack thereof, ranging from Ovid to Cinquecento humanist poets, not individually, but in their overall tendency, reveal the provenance of these texts. To this end, he pays particular attention to rare words, collocations, turns of phrase and syntactical phenomena, to motifs, topoi and the structuring of groups of verses, to internal coherence, knowledge of myths and, last but not least, metre. The premise on which his decision rests is, apart from the observation of the poet's imitation of poetic models, that an elaborate style with occasional dark, unclear or deviating passages would be an argument for ancient provenance, whereas the same phenomena with a simple and clear style would be an argument for humanist authorship (p. 23).

This permits him to show by means of an exemplary list of imitations that the humanist Angelus Sabinus in his undisputed epic De excidio civitatis Leodiensis on the fall of the city of Liège in 1465-1468 cannot be the author of the response letters, as one would have expected a majority of imitations not from Vergil, but from Ovid (p. 26-33).

Spieß then summarizes the results of his commentary in a list of conclusive passages (p. 34-53) and presents the results of his research into the metre of the three letters, which reveals a rule-abiding, if non-conformist versifier in terms of ancient metre, as already Häuptli had maintained (p. 53-67). On this basis, he discusses the cas de figure for the solution of the authorship problem (p. 69-75).

In the introduction's final section (pp. 76-77), Spieß rehearses the ancient editions. For his text, he relies on the editions of Loers and Häuptli and the apparatus provided by Johann Christian Jahn (1828) and Loers. Although he surmises on the grounds of the evident textual corruption that there was a manuscript tradition (see also p. 23), there is no discussion of its character (some awareness at p. 77). Neither does he mention the Vaticanus Urbinas 353, written before 1482, the only ms. of these letters, perhaps a copy of ed. Parma 1477.

The edition (pp. 79-107) is equipped with an apparatus, which does not claim to be exhaustive. The text is notoriously corrupt and difficult. Spieß has much praise for the conjectures of N. Heinsius, but nevertheless adopts his own solutions in ten places (1,101; 2,4; 2,74; 2,83; 2,100; 3,10; 3,26; 3,28; 3,36; 3,68). There is no list of deviations from Loers' authoritative edition, nor does he highlight the new readings of ed. Treviso 1475? (1,47; 2,18; 3,7). His editorial decisions generally are well argued, though punctuation, always a matter of dispute, could have been given a different treatment in several places.

The translation, facing the text, has been done deliberately in German prose, as Häuptli's is metrical (a short note on translations at p. 77). Although it has no literary pretensions, it is at times felicitous, but often also odd, long-winded or even incorrect (1,17 "nachdem ich ihren Anführer Rhesus getötet hatte": Rhesus was killed by Diomedes).

The commentary (pp. 108-296) is a lemmatic commentary on single words, collocations or (parts of) sentences, while sections on entire passages are rare. It offers for each of the three letters first a summary of the Briefsituation of the Ovidian letter, then a summary of the Briefsituation of the response letter and a Gliederung (rather, a line-by-line overview of the contents of the letter). Although the authorship question is in the forefront, the commentary helps the neophyte as well as the advanced reader with the difficulties of the text in terms of textual criticism, linguistic and metrical explanation and mythological detail. Unfortunately, Spieß does not bother to discuss all textual variants; even if emendations are evident, the mistakes would have merited attention in view of a history of the text. The sheer mass of linguistic parallels and literary models extensively adduced by Spieß demonstrates how deeply steeped these letters are in the literary code of Augustan and Neronian poetry, in particular Ovid, Seneca, Vergil, and the love poets. Spieß also comments on points of contact both with Ovid's letters to which these letters respond and with the rest of the Ovidian corpus of heroic letters. And he engages time and again in fruitful discussion of Häuptli's decisions and comments, even correcting him (p. 276 ad 3, 55-56). While refraining from taking issue with a number of points of detail, the reviewer found the explanatory material sensibly chosen and informative throughout.

The section "Literatur" (pp. 297-320) lists the works referred to throughout the book, but is not a full bibliography. In particular, the list of further Ovidian editions on pp. 302-303 is not exhaustive (missing e.g. P. Ovidii Nasonis Heroides et A. Sabini epistolae, e Burmanni maxime recensione editae. Cura Davidis Jacobi van Lennep, qui et suas Animadversiones subiecit. Amstelodami 1809, 2nd ed. 1812, quoted secondhand on p. 140). For humanist authors, Spieß usefully refers to the excellent website musisque deoque directed by Paolo Mastandrea (Università Ca'Foscari, Venice), but does not indicate online availability of early prints (Parma 1477) and editions such as Angelus Sabinus, De excidio civitatis Leodiensis (quoted p. 18 n. 45) or Jahn 1828, even if digitized by a reliable institution such as the Munich Digitizing Centre (part of the Bavarian State Library), or even Loers' edition (1829/1830).

As for their reception history, Spieß notes an apparent imitation of 3,44 in Gerolamo Bologni's (1454–1517) Candidae (1,1,53f.). One may add that Marcus Alexander Bodius (16th c.) significantly wrote response letters to all the fifteen single letters of Ovid , because he did not like the Sabinus-letters; similarly, Francesco Dyni (17th c.) wrote response letters to all but those letters that had not yet received a response from the hand of Sabinus.5

Spieß' attempt to solve an open research problem is meritorious. His dating of these letters to post-Senecan imperial times is not quite new, as Häuptli preceded him in this, but is much better documented and argued, despite the spin given to the evidence more than once. He certainly shifted the burden of proof to those who continue to believe in their humanist provenance. But although, or rather because, one finds few parallels from humanist poetry in the commentary (40 odd references, many of them of a general nature, on 190 odd pages full of references to ancient poetry), one has to bear in mind the low degree of focus to which the method employed can lay claim, as regards lack of research on humanist texts or, what is more, lack of decisive or exclusive criteria (why not compare the Odysseus letter with the Renaissance Responsio Vlixis ad Penelopen per Angelum vatem egregium recently pubished by Meckelnborg and Schneider?6). Reasonably, Spieß himself underscores the problematic nature of his argument.

Less meritorious is the fact that Spieß does not interpret these letters as works of art, dubbing them a rhetorical school exercise, while Häuptli found in them "phantasievolle … Reaktionen der Addressaten" (p. 359). Nor does he address the question why the author chose to write these particular three letters. They have a certain charm of their own and merit further interpretation.

The overall production of the book is excellent at a reasonable price. Few typographical errors and oddities (e.g. Latin u instead of v) have escaped an otherwise well executed proofreading.


1.   B. W. Häuptli (ed., tr., comm.): Publius Ovidius Naso, Ibis – Fragmente – Ovidiana. Lateinisch-deutsch. Artemis and Winkler, Zürich 1996 (Sammlung Tusculum), 118-141. 354-374.
2.   B. Geise, Die Tres Epistulae A. Sabini - antik oder humanistisch?, in: Osnabrücker Online – Beiträge zu den Altertumswissenschaften 5, 2001, 1-15.
3.   Christina Meckelnborg, Bernd Schneider (intr., ed., tr., comm.): Odyssea. Responsio Ulixis ad Penelopen. Die humanistische Odyssea decurtata der Berliner Handschrift Diez. B. Sant. 41. K. G. Saur, München, Leipzig 2002 (Beiträge zur Altertumskunde, Bd. 166), reviewed by J. L. Butrica, BMCR 2002.10.21, p. 6.
4.   Spieß p. 21 n. 52 expressly refers to W. Lingenberg, Das erste Buch der Heroidenbriefe. Echtheitskritische Untersuchungen. Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2003 (Studien zur Geschichte und Kultur des Altertums, Neue Folge, 1. Reihe, Bd. 20), reviewed by J. A. Richmond, BMCR 2003.08.17, for priority criticism.
5.   H. Dörrie: Der heroische Brief, 1968, 108-109 resp. 110-111; C. Ritter (ed., tr., comm.): Ovidius redivivus: Die Epistulae Heroides des Mark Alexander Boyd. Edition, Übersetzung und Kommentar der Briefe Atalanta Meleagro (1), Eurydice Orpheo (6), Philomela Tereo (9), Venus Adoni (15). Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim, Zürich, New York 2010.
6.   See footnote number 3.

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Odile Lagacherie, Pierre-Louis Malosse (ed.), Libanios, le premier humaniste. Études en hommage à Bernard Schouler (Actes du colloque de Montpellier, 18-20 mars 2010). Cardo, 9. Alessandria: Edizioni dell'Orso, 2011. Pp. viii, 242. ISBN 9788862743174. €25.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Delphine Lauritzen, Centre d'Histoire et Civilisation de Byzance, Paris, CNRS-UMR 8167 Orient et Méditerranée (

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Table of Contents

This fine collection of seventeen articles (in French, English, Italian and Spanish) is dedicated to Bernard Schouler, in recognition of his pioneering research on the fourth-century sophist Libanius from Antioch. The main theme – Libanius as the first humanist – ensures the coherence and quality of the volume and allows this book to stand out among the increasing number of critical studies produced on Libanius over the past twenty years (no fewer than 130 publications, among which are around thirty books, as Malosse points out in his foreword). The volume takes into account all the genres in which Libanius excelled (official speeches, declamations, progymnasmata and letters). Following the innovative path opened by Schouler,1 the authors focus on Libanius' 'Hellenism' rather than on the interest that his texts can have for history. The idea is that many themes of Libanius' work can be seen as pre-figuring what was to be, about a millennium later, the humanist movement: political thought, care for education, the importance granted to language, psychological analysis, the use of rhetoric and its commitment to the good, and finally the reinterpretation of the history and mythological inheritance of classical Greece (p. v).

The chapters are grouped together in four units. The two first articles contextualize the overall theme (I) 'L'humanisme chez Libanios, Libanios chez les humanistes'. In (1) "Libanios le premier humaniste", Bernard Schouler sets the line of this collective reflection. To him, the fact that the Byzantines called Libanius 'the little Demosthenes' can be interpreted not only with reference to the purity and vigor of his style but also with respect to the political and ethical model represented by Demosthenes. Luigi-Alberto Sanchi builds on this view in (2) "Diffusion et réception de Libanios à la Renaissance", showing how the abundance of surviving manuscripts proves that Libanius' reputation as an essential figure of Greek paideia was important both in Byzantium and in the West. The pairing of these two essays convincingly suggests that late antique Antioch and Renaissance Europe shared many common features, particularly the rediscovery of the great authors of the past and their use for 'humanistic' purposes.

The fourteen articles that form the core of the volume are grouped in two units of unequal scope, In (II) 'Culture, pensée et action' the progression from one article to another is not always easy to discern: although all ten essays are concerned with Libanius' rhetorical practice, they appear more as a collection intended to illustrate various aspects of the main theme than part of a structured arrangement. The third ensemble (III) 'Humanité' is more coherent thematically but contains only four articles. Many articles would have benefited from being placed next to others that shared similar prospective or referred to the same works of Libanius, and we will stress in our review this aspect of interrelation which definitely prevails throughout the volume.

Three articles draw specific attention to the literary technique of Libanius, addressing the issues of the style and aim of his rhetoric. Mikael Johansson, (3) "Libanius' historical declamations and the sources", stresses that it is not possible to establish precise links to Herodotus in Declamations 9 and 10. However, in the so-called Philippics, Decl. 17-23, direct imitations of Demosthenes' style and content are certain. Thus, Libanius seems well to deserve his nickname of 'little Demosthenes'. Robert J. Penella, (8) "Menelaus, Odysseus, and the limits of eloquence in Libanius, Declamations 3 and 4", shows how both declamations present the same side of the case, i. e., the embassy to retrieve Helen, in two different ways. Libanius presents diplomatic speeches as having the potential to prevail over war, but since the Trojan War did happen, he also seems to imply that eloquence has its limits. In (16) "Libanius and the EU presidency. Career moves in the Autobiography", Lieve Van Hoof demonstrates that this work should not be considered as an objective account of his author's life, but rather as a literary re-construction with specific motivations.

Several articles set up Libanius' work as a mirror of the society of his time. Marilena Casella, (5) "Metafore animali, suoni onomatopeici e proverbi in alcune orazioni κατὰ ἀρχόντων di Libanio", displays how the animal world is presented as a mirror of man's by the rhetor of Antioch. Isabella Sandwell, (9) "Divination and human intelligence in the writings of Libanius", proves that the numerous references to divination and prophecy in Libanius' writings are indicative of the social attitude adopted in Late Antiquity towards such matters. This analysis places itself within the long tradition of attempting to distinguish between divine inspiration and rational foreseeing based on human experience, which is still topical today among cognitive scientists.

The two articles that focus on the correspondence of Libanius both emphasize that this part of his work well reveals his 'humanist' side. Guillermo Perez Galicia, (7) "Las cartas de Libanio como claves de la nueva retórica de la paideia", makes it clear that the letters of Libanius offer an insight into the 'socio-political' context — this expression is repeated no fewer than fourteen times in the first five pages of the article — of this 'new type of rhetoric' from the viewpoint of philanthropia, assimilated here to the notion of humanism. This interesting attempt could have called for further developments in the field of history of ideas. Bernadette Cabouret, (10) "Variations sur une recommandation", explores how Libanius adapted his eloquence to the specific rank and ethos of his correspondent, using the letter as an instrument to exalt moral qualities.

The two articles concerned with the rhetorical exercises attributed to Libanius present two rather different viewpoints on the same topic. Craig A. Gibson, (6) "Portraits of Paideia in Libanius' Progymnasmata", says that paideia is not only a matter of culture but aims also to build the necessary moral skills in students who are expected to become leading figures in the civic life of their city. By contrast Manfred Kraus, (12) "Les conceptions politiques et culturelles dans les progymnasmata de Libanios et Aphthonios", stresses the striking discrepancy between the classicizing moral ideas taught in the classroom and the reality of the late antique world, which was undergoing major and definitive changes at this point.

Another pair of articles directs our attention to Libanius's praise of urban life and its influence on human behavior. Gilvan Ventura da Silva, (11) "Qualche riflessione sull'idea di città nell'Oratio XI di Libanio", concentrates on the great central colonnaded street of the city as a factor in socialization, i. e., civilization. Catherine Saliou, (13) "Jouir sans entraves ? La notion de τρυφή dans l' Éloge d'Antioche de Libanios", goes one step further by providing an inspiring rereading of the notion of tryphè/voluptas as a positive value (baths, food and love) viewed as part of Libanius' strategy in building a proper Antiochian urban identity.

Another theme under investigation is the relation between Libanius and the Emperor Julian, seen as a speculum principis. Odile Lagacherie, (4) "Jeu et enjeux de la rhétorique dans les Discours XII et XIII de Libanios", argues that, as a kind of reply to the philosopher/emperor's contempt, both speeches stress the fundamental role of rhetoric as a guardian of the Hellenic tradition. Raffaella Cribiore, (14) "Defending Julian: Libanius and Or. 37", proposes a reading of the Against Polycles as a 'memory speech' mostly intended to defend the late emperor Julian from the accusation of poisoning his wife. Ugo Criscuolo, (15) "Considérations sur le dernier Libanios", reminds us that the brief stay of Julian in Antioch between July 362 and March 363 and the subsequent friendship between the emperor and the rhetor was the highlight of Libanius' life, who, until the end, recalled the memory of Julian as a model of political and ethical behavior who illustrated the virtues of the ancient world.

The conclusion comes as a '(IV) Contrepoint', on the perceptions of Libanius that were expressed by his contemporaries. In the final article, (17) "L'autre Libanios, ou Libanios vu par les autres", Gabriele Marasco underlines that, in contrast to the picture Libanius presents of himself, his contemporaries offer quite a different view. In Eunapius' Lives of the Sophists, the chapter on Libanius bears the marks of personal enmity, even if it casts a positive light on Julian's friendship and Libanius' devotion to the cause of Hellenism. Libanius appears beyond doubt to have enjoyed a certain prestige as an intellectual, even among Christians. However, the silence of such authors as Ammianus Marcellinus and John Malalas suggests that his political influence was not as great as he would have wished it to be.

Finally, the editors provide a useful bibliography of Bernard Schouler (three pages), followed by the main bibliography (nineteen pages). The general editorial accomplishment of the volume is remarkable, even though some minor concerns could be raised.2


1.   B. Schouler, Libanios et la tradition hellénique, Lille-Paris 1984.
2.   In the opening article, I counted more than a dozen typographical errors of various types: Schouler: l. 30 p. 1, '»' instead of '«'; n. 2 p. 2, missing accents in '(É)loge de St(é)phanos'; n. 2 p. 2 and n. 5 p. 3, a lack of consistency in the notes with the use of 'éd' or 'ed'; l. 14 p. 5, the plural 'les passe-droit(s)' is misspelled; n. 18 p. 6, a missing final period; l. 9 p. 8, an extra 'le'; n. 40 p. 10, 's'e(d)ntouraient'; n. 59 p. 14, an incomplete reference: 'Liebeschuetz 1972,***' (sic); l. 5 p. 15, missing 's' in 'il(s) sont installés'; l. 8 p. 15, 'se lient' instead of 'se liant'; l. 15 p. 15, reference to footnote 65 is numbered as 6; l. 16 p. 18, an inserted space in 'la( )quelle'. Three other articles, which have apparently been translated into French or quote French translations of Greek, contain the sorts of mistakes that one usually finds in such translations, though in this case they are so few that their authors deserve credit rather than blame: Sanchi: n. 20 p. 23, 'apré(è)s'; l. 17 p. 24, 'de la (d'une) durée de'; l. 24 p. 24, la 'plus part (plupart)'; l. 29 p. 24, 'en(tre) lesquelles'; Casella: l. 20 p. 56, 'pa(â)turage'; n. 40 p. 60, 'aboi(e)ments'; n. 40 p. 61, 'rancum(n)e'; n. 47 p. 62, 'le(s) coordonnées'; Kraus: a lack of consistency in the notes regarding the use of 'cf.' or not; and l. 13 p. 142, 'deuxième à(-) troisième siècles'. A few other mistakes appear passim (e. g., l. 33 p. 48, 'Le(s) corps des discours confirment'; n. 29 p. 52, 'un de ces homme(s)'; in the bibliography there is a lack of consistency in the use of 'éd' or 'ed'; pp. 217 and 218, Ph. Hoffman(n); l. 6 p. 223, Tu(r)key; and l. 35 p. 224, 'e( )i tiranni'.

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Mette Moltesen, Perfect Partners: The Collaboration between Carl Jacobsen and his Agent in Rome Wolfgang Helbig in the Formation of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek 1887-1914. Copenhagen: Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, 2012. Pp. 279. ISBN 9788774523307. 129.90 kr.

Reviewed by Ingrid Edlund-Berry, The University of Texas at Austin (

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For most visitors to the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, the museum represents a well-organized display of beautiful and interesting artifacts from the ancient world, including Egypt, Greece, Rome and Etruria, as well as Danish and French art, all housed in a spacious building in the center of Copenhagen. Less often, perhaps, do we stop and reflect on the origin and history of this and other museums and collections.

The history of collectors and collections has recently gained much interest, and Mette Moltesen's presentation of Carl Jacobsen in Copenhagen and Wolfgang Helbig in Rome serves as a masterful example of the breadth and depth of her research on people and objects. Although limited to one volume of text and Illustrations, the contents range over many different fields, and provide an intriguing view of many aspects of European cultural history at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.

The key figures in this book are the Danish businessman, Carl Jacobsen, whose father had started the Carlsberg Brewery, and Wolfgang Helbig, a German archaeologist who lived in Rome. Both father and son Jacobsen were patrons of the arts, and both were keen on creating and displaying what they purchased from Italy and elsewhere. In 1882, the younger Jacobsen created a small museum to exhibit part of his collection, and with this the concept of the New Carlsberg Glyptotek was born.

Wolfgang Helbig enters the scene a few years later, and for the next twenty-five years he and Carl Jacobsen collaborated in creating much of what became the highlights of the present museum. On the basis of the numerous letters between the two men and the records concerning the creation of the museum and its collections, Moltesen has been able to provide a detailed analysis of Jacobsen's passion for collecting and his goal to develop a splendid museum thanks to the services of Helbig who acted as his agent in tracking down desirable antiquities in Rome and negotiating their sale.

Both Jacobsen and Helbig were very influential figures in their respective societies, but Moltesen also paints the picture of the many links between individuals and their family connections as well as the locations that determined their success. Not only was Jacobsen influenced by his father's interest in the arts and the financial support he provided, but he also very much benefitted from the presence of his wife, Ottilia Jacobsen, who stood by his side even when she doubted the wisdom of his mania for collecting. Likewise, Helbig, who was trained as a scholar of the Classics and Classical Archaeology, married a Russian princess, Nadejda or Nadine Schakovskaia, who was in charge of the household, but who also opened many doors to other aristocratic families in Rome and elsewhere. Nadine was a scholar in her own right, and copied many inscriptions that were to be included in the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum. She and Helbig entertained colleagues and friends from many countries, especially at their home in the Villa Lante on the Janiculum, and she was also a great animal lover. One can only speculate on the variety of topics that would have been discussed among the guests, and the influence they may have had on future archaeologists, including King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden, who as a young boy visited there with his mother, Queen Victoria.

Moltesen skillfully incorporates the biographical information about the two main subjects of her book into a broader context, ranging from the growth of Rome as the new capital of Italy and the many excavations conducted there, to the discovery of many of the statues that eventually were sold to Carl Jacobsen and other collectors. Thus the lives of individuals and their families are woven into the complex history of the creation and growth of the Italian archaeological administration, its national museums, and dealings with excavators, as well as contacts with foreign scholars and museums, including rights to excavate and to purchase antiquities.

Depending on the reader's personal interests, each topic covered in this book would almost merit a separate monograph or long article. The chapters on "Rome, the Capital of Unified Italy" and "Archaeology in Rome in the Years after Unification" open up new perspectives on the topography of Rome and the discovery of key monuments (such as the Servian wall) as well as destruction of villas and parks in the city. The sometimes dramatic discovery of individual objects is discussed in chapters such as "Masterpieces from Rome" and "Sculptures Found in Rome – The 'Horti Sallustiani'," and provide a useful and fascinating lesson in how to create or recreate find contexts even where many pieces of the evidence are missing.

Throughout the book, the darker sides of archaeology and collecting, that is, illicit sales and purchases and deceptive forgeries, are placed in a cultural, historical, and political context. As Italian archaeologists and museum directors were trying to establish their own identity, laws about excavating, buying and selling of antiquities were either not enforced or insufficient, and buyers and collectors such as Jacobsen in Denmark, Edward Warren in the United States, and John Marshall in Britain provided a flourishing market for antiquities dealers and agents in Italy, regardless of the legalities involved. Considering the sometimes very negative picture of Helbig that has arisen in connection with the discussion on the authenticity of the Prenestine fibula, it is helpful to get a sense of the cultural life of Rome where collecting and connoisseurship, and sometimes money and prestige took on different priorities depending on the individuals involved.

To fully understand what could be referred to as Jacobsen's mania for sculpture and Helbig's role as agent but also as scholar, Moltesen provides analyses of individual objects and their history from the time of discovery until they reached the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Thus famous pieces such as the portrait of Pompey the Great, the Niobid statues, and the bronze statue of Hercules become links between the past and the present, with Rome in the late 19th century as an important intermediate connecting point.

The layout of the book is pleasing, and the many illustrations add to the clear and carefully documented presentation of the topics discussed. The index and bibliography aid the reader in locating information for further study.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Jon Miller (ed.), The Reception of Aristotle's Ethics. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. 319. ISBN 9780521513883. $99.00.

Reviewed by Dhananjay Jagannathan, University of Chicago (

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Bernard Williams used to distinguish between two kinds of historical inquiry into philosophical texts.1 The first is the "history of ideas", which primarily looks sideways to the context of philosophical authors and is history before it is philosophy. The second is the "history of philosophy", which has some view to problems of present interest and is philosophy before it is history. Williams acknowledged that both inquiries are invaluable to the study of philosophical texts from the past, but he also intriguingly proposed that the products of these inquires and the sensibilities involved in conducting them might be so incompatible that it might well be a mistake to practice them together in considering a single philosopher or text.

As Jon Miller explains in his brief introduction, the thirteen authors he has marshaled to investigate the influence of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics on nearly every subsequent period of Western philosophy are each engaged in precisely this dangerous concoction, though the recipe varies. Miller refers to the historical task as Rezeptionsgeschichte, inaugurating a concept in philosophical studies familiar to students of classical literature. This mainly takes the form of illuminating details about the familiarity of later authors with the text of Aristotle as we know it and the many ways in which Aristotle's ideas were taught and transmitted. Where these contingencies bear on the philosophical thought of Aristotle's readers and inheritors, we are already engaged in Williams's "history of philosophy". It is noteworthy, however, that the strongest contributions to this volume identify a set of issues in Aristotelian ethical thought and consider what was made of them by those under scrutiny, a method not unfamiliar to historians of philosophy.

Those interested in ancient philosophy after Aristotle fare especially well. The complementary essays of Karen Margrethe Nielsen on Hellenistic philosophy and Christopher Gill on Roman philosophy provide a great deal of food for thought. Nielsen's essay serves as a methodological standard for the rest of the volume and deserves special attention here. The evidence for the period she treats is so thin and often fragmentary that an absence of direct quotation cannot be taken to represent a lack of influence and even familiarity. Nor, Nielsen argues convincingly, can we rely on tracing the inheritance of philosophical vocabulary in the Hellenistic schools from Aristotle, especially since Platonic antecedents can often be found. Philosophical influence must instead be detected by paying attention to philosophers' arguments and trying to reconstruct dialectical engagement. The Stoics make this difficult through their apparent lack of interest in citing earlier thinkers, but through exploring various issues, particularly the contribution of non-moral goods to happiness in Aristotle and the different species of value labeled by the Stoics, Nielsen shows how to carry out such a reconstruction in practice. Christopher Gill's essay is more historical in nature and shows how Aristotle's ethical thought was filtered through Stoicism in the Roman period, paying special attention to the emotions, moral development and, again, happiness. Here the treat is in the careful analysis of contemporary Aristotelian sources as they are presented in the sourcebook compiled by the late Robert Sharples. 2

Rounding out late antiquity are essays by Dominic O'Meara on Plotinus and Michael Tkacz on Augustine. Despite their claims to the contrary, neither succeeds entirely in showing that Aristotle's thought, and not simply the general tradition of ancient eudaimonism, made much of a mark on their subjects. In particular, the common ingredient in both seems instead to be the Middle Platonist synthesis of Plato's system with Aristotelian elements, tempered by a dash of Stoicism. O'Meara's essay is nevertheless engaging and highlights several striking features of Plotinian ethics. I learned less from Tkacz's unconvincing attempts to link Augustine to Aristotle via Cicero's (lost) Hortensius, especially since Aristotle's own Protrepticus, on which Cicero's dialogue is based, seems to be a product of the intellectual milieu of the Academy and not Aristotle's own mature thought.

Still there is at least the attempt to consider philosophical views comparatively and critically, a feature missing from Anna Akasoy's unfocused presentation of the translation and interpretation of Aristotle in Arabic and Islamic thought. While this is an area that clearly deserves more scholarly attention, the historical details are unenlightening absent a clearly demarcated object of inquiry. By contrast, another outstanding contribution is Kenneth Seeskin's treatment of Maimonides. The essay's focus on Maimonides's struggles to reconcile the doctrine of the mean with rabbinic prohibitions highlights the range of possible responses to Aristotle's moderate intellectualism about virtue. Seeskin's Maimonides draws on the divine life of contemplation described in Nicomachean Ethics X to ground a more thoroughgoing intellectualism than Aristotle's, one which incorporates a kind of Neoplatonic asceticism.

Anthony Celano begins his insightful treatment of the medieval commentaries on the Nicomachean Ethics with a discussion of the vexed and ancient problem of reconciling the accounts of happiness in its first and last books. Celano lays stress on the centrality of phronesis as the master practical virtue to any happy life, even the happiest life of contemplation. This schematic resolution of the problem sets the backdrop for a survey of the various paths taken by early commentators of the period, such as Robert Kilwardby and Philip the Chancellor, to understanding the relation of virtue to happiness, oftentimes in ignorance of the later books of the Ethics, where phronesis takes center stage. Celano concludes with illuminating discussions of the commentaries of Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas, who had the benefit of the complete text. For these thinkers, the faculty of moral intuition called synderesis takes over at least some of the work of Aristotle's phronesis. This move brings out how present-day interpreters of Aristotle remain in need of a better understanding of how phronesis relates to a grasp of moral principles.

The late Middle Ages are explored via two contrasting methods in Jack Zupko's focused analysis of John Buridan's commentary on the Ethics and its curious dependence on Seneca, and David Lines's grand tour of the many genres in which Aristotle's ethics was taken up in the Renaissance. Zupko makes clear that Seneca's presence in Buridan is in some ways not a surprise, given his status as the preeminent stylist and moralizer of pagan antiquity, but he also does well to explore how Buridan uses quotations from Seneca not just as a nice bit of rhetorical flourish, but as a resource for understanding virtue in the Aristotelian sense. Seneca's Stoicism is taken to focus on the perfection of intellect, which is part, though only part, of the full (Aristotelian) story about us. Lines's enjoyable survey gains considerable value from the substantive purpose to which it is put: showing how broad Aristotle's influence was in both specialized academic contexts and more informal ones, and likewise how variations in genre reflect the particular concerns of his readers.

In a very fine essay covering early modern philosophy, Donald Rutherford takes on the dogma that writers from Descartes and Hobbes down to Leibniz and Spinoza turned dramatically away from Aristotelianism. Rutherford corrects this largely self-generated image of modern philosophy in two respects, one minor and one major: first, by pointing out that a rejection of medieval scholasticism need not be a wholesale rejection of Aristotle himself; second, and more importantly, by showing that the case of natural philosophy and metaphysics differs crucially from that of ethics. The substance of Rutherford's study concerns Hobbes and Spinoza and how a conception of practical reason that owes much to Aristotle can be recovered in them. For Hobbes, the validity of this conception is at the political level, while for Spinoza, it is first-personal and dependent on our imperfect knowledge of the future. Claims of similarity and influence such as these are always disputable, as Rutherford acknowledges. In particular, it remains unclear how much Hobbes and Spinoza owe specifically to Aristotle as opposed to the Stoics or ancient eudaimonists more generally. But Rutherford is ultimately at pains to argue for the sheer diversity of sources these early modern thinkers drew upon, and this it seems safe to affirm.

Kate Abramson's essay on Hume and Aristotle marks a turn in the volume toward contemporary scholarship in ethics. For the Hume that Abramson champions is sent forth to do battle not with Aristotle himself but with neo-Aristotle, represented in the main by Philippa Foot and Rosalind Hursthouse. The battleground is moral psychology, specifically the supposed harmoniousness of the virtuous agent. Abramson argues that we sometimes find more commendable the person who acts in the face of temptation, and that neo-Aristotelians are ill-placed to accommodate this phenomenon using Aristotle's distinction between continence and true virtue. I entirely agree, and so should any card-carrying Aristotelian. But that is because temptation and continence are worlds apart in the cases that Abramson describes. Aristotle takes continence and incontinence (or 'weakness of will', akrasia) to involve holding to or abandoning one's rational resolutions in the face of the allure of disgraceful pleasures. That is why Neoptolemus cannot be called incontinent when he abandons his resolution to lie to Philoctetes for the noble pleasure of telling the truth (EN VII.9, 1151b17-22). Abramson's commendable temptations arise in cases of practical conflict, where what is, all things considered, best to do leaves out other worthwhile considerations. That suggests a positive neo-Aristotelian account of this phenomenon where Aristotle himself falls silent: we may allow the virtuous agent to feel the pull of these considerations and even regret at her inability to attend to them in the face of some more pressing demand. I do not, therefore, think the neo-Aristotelians' position is as hopeless as Abramson makes it out to be, though these are valuable philosophical issues that deserve to be paid more careful attention by proponents and detractors of Aristotelian ethics alike.

Manfred Kuehn would rather we not read Aristotle into Kant. There is no denying that Kant's ethics of autonomy sits uncomfortably alongside some formulations of Aristotle's eudaimonism, including Kant's own understanding of it, but Kuehn doesn't quite clinch the case, which seems to rest on his thought that Aristotle's ethics is based on our function as human beings while Kant's ethics is based on our function as rational beings who happen to be human. But one may reply that Aristotle takes our essential nature as humans to be rational and our goal to be rational activity, so more needs to be said. Likewise, when it comes to virtue, Aristotle is a good bit more rationalistic than Kuehn allows for. Certainly, it is wrong to say that virtue for Aristotle is merely a habit; rather, it is a state of the soul issuing in rational decisions (EN II.6, 1106b36-1107a2). Kuehn is right, however, to emphasize Kant's dependence on Stoic and neo-Stoic Christian sources for his thinking about virtue.

The volume concludes with Jennifer Welchman's narration of the vicissitudes of philosophical fashion in nineteenth-century English-language philosophy that consigned Aristotle to the status of historical curiosity before his triumphant return in the middle of the 20th century. The anxieties of doing moral philosophy after Darwin play a central role in this story, though one must here mention that the resulting emphasis on meta-ethics and the analysis of moral concepts is still very prominent in contemporary Anglophone philosophy. What Welchman describes as the revival of Aristotelianism in the past half-century thus represents a rupture in the contemporary landscape rather than a rapprochement. This complicated reception story reflects the difficulty of being faithful to the inevitably plural strands of thought within any period of philosophy, philosophers having always been a rather contentious bunch.

Almost without exception, the essays in this volume are both careful and provocative. They can certainly be read independently of each other, but the whole they constitute provides a fascinating experiment in a kind of historical scholarship seldom attempted even collectively in philosophy. Indeed, the sheer diversity of thinkers and ideas that Aristotle's ethical theory has inspired is perhaps all by itself untimely in the way Bernard Williams wanted history of philosophy to be, that is, disruptive of our intellectual and philosophical presuppositions.


1.   See "Descartes and the Historiography of Philosophy" in M. Burnyeat (ed.), The Sense of the Past: Essays in the History of Philosophy (Princeton UP, 2006), 257-64.
2.   R. W. Sharples, Peripatetic Philosophy, 200 BC to AD 200: An Introduction and Collection of Sources in Translation (Cambridge UP, 2010).

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Stéphane Bourdin, Les peuples de l'Italie préromaine: identités, territoires et relations inter-ethniques en Italie centrale et septentrionale. Bibliothèque des Écoles françaises d'Athènes et de Rome, 350. Rome: École française de Rome, 2012. Pp. x, 1201; 28 p. of plates. ISBN 9782728309078. €150.00.

Reviewed by Giulia Masci, Università degli Studi di Torino (

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Stéphane Bourdin offre al lettore con questa pubblicazione un'analisi dei popoli e dei conflitti territoriali in Italia centrale e settentrionale tra V e III secolo a.C., cioè tra il momento della strutturazione delle popolazioni celtiche nel nord Italia a cavallo tra la fine del V e l'inizio del IV secolo a.C. e la perdita dell'indipendenza politica da parte delle popolazioni italiche, che acquisirono lo statuto di foederati di Roma generalmente nel corso del III secolo a.C. Scopo del lavoro è una restituzione, il più possibile aderente alla realtà territoriale e politica dell'epoca, dei raggruppamenti etnici, non condizionata da teorizzazioni eccessive ma orientata dall'analisi delle situazioni concrete e finalizzata al conseguimento di una più precisa nozione di "popolo". Lo studio, non destinato ad un pubblico di neofiti, presuppone l'ampia letteratura e gli studi locali che l'hanno preceduto: presentando un approccio comparativo e uno sguardo d'insieme sostanzialmente inediti, il volume raccoglie e unifica i risultati dei molti lavori dedicati alle singole popolazioni o ai diversi gruppi etnici che negli ultimi anni stanno conoscendo discreta fortuna grazie alle recenti scoperte archeologiche ed epigrafiche e ai progressi compiuti nello studio di queste. Nell'insieme la scelta prospettica adottata, che costituisce l'elemento più originale del volume e ne giustifica la corposità, appare efficace e indispensabile nell'ottica di una comprensione della realtà etnica e insediativa della penisola italica in epoca alto-repubblicana che prescinda da una visione prettamente romano-centrica.

Il volume trae origine da una tesi di dottorato discussa all'Université de Provence; l'elaborazione successiva del testo ha beneficiato dei soggiorni dell'autore a Bologna e all'École Française de Rome in qualità prima di borsista e poi di membro, di seminari presso l'EPHE di Parigi, nonché di scavi e prospezioni archeologiche in Italia e Francia.

Il testo, assai corposo, è articolato in quattro parti, ulteriormente suddivise al loro interno in nove capitoli, cui si aggiungono quattro annessi finali. La prima parte, composta di due capitoli, è dedicata alle fonti disponibili per la conoscenza del tema e all'identificazione e alla localizzazione geografica dei gruppi etnici oggetto di indagine. I capitoli che costituiscono la seconda sezione si incentrano sull'organizzazione dei popoli, analizzando la terminologia della politica e dell'amministrazione nelle fonti letterarie greche e romane e nell'epigrafia di epoca preromana (capitolo 3), nonché le alleanze tra popoli (capitolo 4). La terza parte del volume presenta l'organizzazione territoriale approfondendo, nel capitolo 5, le modalità di insediamento e il rapporto tra i territori e l'identità etnica attraverso l'analisi dei modelli di occupazione e il caso di studio dei Celti nella Cisalpina, mentre il capitolo 6 si sofferma sul tema della frontiera, nella sua duplice valenza di fenomeno inter-etnico e politico. La quarta parte, infine, è tesa ad analizzare le relazioni interetniche dell'Italia preromana e si articola in una sezione dedicata alla mobilità individuale, di cui si mettono in luce le componenti di integrazione riuscita o mancata (capitolo 7), una sezione sull'emergenza di società multietniche, con i casi particolari dei Celti e della Campania (capitolo 8), e una sezione su realtà e soggettività dell'identità etnica, in cui vengono presentati i concetti moderni ad essa connessi, le categorizzazioni, la coscienza di sé e la strumentalizzazione dell'identità etnica nell'antichità (capitolo 9). Gli annessi, infine, presentano un'analisi del vocabolario delle fonti letterarie, la documentazione epigrafica e un vasto insieme di carte, di grafici e di figure. La ricca struttura è resa leggera da paragrafi brevi che rendono agevole la lettura consentendo una buona fruizione del testo.

In considerazione della tipologia e dell'ampiezza del lavoro, il volume non aspira a presentare esposizioni esaustive per ciascun popolo, quanto piuttosto a trarre vantaggio dalla trattazione complessiva per finalità comparative; nondimeno la sezione dedicata alla presentazione dei diversi popoli, che si pone quale introduzione alle tematiche politiche, sociali e amministrative sviluppate in seguito, vero fulcro dell'indagine, risulta puntuale e aggiornata sulle problematiche relative allo studio di ciascun gruppo etnico e offre un riassunto essenziale ma efficace delle vicende che lo hanno visto protagonista tra V e III secolo a.C., anche se talvolta, per esempio per le popolazioni dell'Italia nord-occidentale, la trattazione congiunta penalizza un po' la resa della varietà e delle specificità di ciascun gruppo. Il ricorso a schematizzazioni e modelli, necessario di fronte ad una tale quantità di materiali, risulta talvolta preponderante, appiattendo un po' la visione d'insieme. L'impiego congiunto delle fonti letterarie, epigrafiche e archeologiche, d'obbligo in questo tipo di analisi, consente uno sviluppo a tutto tondo dello studio e le differenti esperienze di Bourdin gli consentono di sostenere un lavoro di alto profilo scientifico.

Merito dello studio è il tentativo, riuscito, di discostarsi da un'analisi puramente evenemenziale, che caratterizza invece la maggior parte della letteratura presente, e, prendendo le mosse da questa, di indagare la costruzione dell'identità delle popolazioni preromane dell'Italia nella realtà delle pratiche politiche e amministrative e nell'interpretazione greca e romana successiva. Molteplici gli angoli prospettici che il tema impone di adottare e che orientano l'analisi della documentazione secondo direttive di ordine storiografico, sociologico, antropologico: pur dovendo confrontarsi con un'enorme mole di materiale, Bourdin dimostra di saper andare al di là di posizioni scientifiche acquisite contemperando nella propria indagine apporti di discipline differenti.

L'elemento meno convincente del volume risulta essere il titolo presente in copertina, che esclude il sottotitolo facendo sì che le aspettative vengano parzialmente disattese, poiché resta esclusa dalla trattazione l'intera Italia meridionale. Tale scelta, determinata, da un lato, dalla volontà di non appesantire un lavoro già molto ricco e dall'altro dal fatto che un'analisi dei rapporti interetnici nell'Italia meridionale ha già trovato in diverse sedi spazi di sviluppo e approfondimento, inficia nondimeno la completezza di un'analisi che, per la tipologia dell'approccio, avrebbe altrimenti potuto essere foriera di ulteriori risultati; non sarebbe stato insensato, al fine di alleggerire l'impatto dovuto all'ingente quantità di documentazione, ipotizzare una pubblicazione articolata in più tomi.

La ricchissima bibliografia si pone quale importante strumento di riferimento per gli studi sul tema, anche se, inevitabilmente, lamenta alcune carenze: mancano in generale le pubblicazioni degli ultimissimi anni che, proprio in considerazione della crescita costante di studi sulle popolazioni italiche, sarebbe stato importante inserire. D'altro canto, proprio perché in molte aree dell'Italia centrale e settentrionale solo in tempi recenti si è iniziato ad acquisire conoscenze più approfondite, adeguatamente supportate da documentazione archeologica ed epigrafica, sulle popolazioni preromane, sono ancora molte le lacune che permangono in merito all'organizzazione politica, insediativa e sociale ed è al contempo auspicabile che future scoperte conducano ad acquisire nuove conoscenze; pertanto, ferma restando la validità e l'utilità dello studio di Bourdin, si può sperare e credere che in futuro egli avrà modo di aggiornare le proprie riflessioni con nuovi risultati.

Nel complesso il lavoro di Bourdin riassume in sé le più recenti tendenze degli studi storici e archeologici sulle popolazioni preromane d'Italia, offrendo un'analisi attenta e approfondita, foriera di risultati innovativi a livello di indagine comparatistica. Pur nella consapevolezza della potenziale temporaneità dei dati conseguiti, il volume si ritaglia un posto di rilievo negli studi sul tema, aggiungendo nuovi tasselli alla conoscenza della storia dei gruppi etnici dell'Italia nei secoli precedenti l'espansione di Roma.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Marianne Govers Hopman, Scylla: Myth, Metaphor, Paradox. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. xix, 300. ISBN 9781107026766. $99.00.

Reviewed by Christopher Francese, Dickinson College (

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At first sight we are dealing with a small mythographic subject: Scylla the sea-monster. Scylla of Megara, the daughter of Nisus, is dealt with only briefly. In fact this book tackles a larger issue at the heart of the study of mythology, the ontological status of mythological names. A puzzling thing about Scylla is the apparent inconsistency between how she appears in the Odyssey (insurmountable, horrific navigational hazard), in Greek art (anodyne, even lovely mermaid with a few barking dogs at the waist), and again in later poetry, where she is a pretty girl, the beloved of the sea-god Glaucus, metamorphosed into the Homeric sea-monster thanks to Circe's jealousy. What is Scylla, exactly? In the process of dealing with this question Hopman asks what any mythical name really represents. She provides a virtuosic analysis of Scylla's appearances across media and periods from Homer up through the Augustan age, showing great originality and superb command of sources and scholarship, and of all the various theoretical approaches one might apply to this problem. Among other things this case study, with its disciplined footnotes, is a handy primer on the state of the art in post-structuralist approaches to Greek myth.

Her central idea is that the mythical symbol "Scylla" is to be thought of as a composite of three semantic realms: dog, sea, and woman. Those three concepts and related metaphors are expressed in different ways in different periods and media. The Homeric Scylla represents the voracious, threatening maw of the sea, in a hero vs. monster story where, unusually, the monster wins. According to Homer, Scylla had a voice like a puppy (the etymology from σκύλαξ was clearly felt, Od. 12.86), and her six ravenous heads eat six of Odysseus' men (12.246). So the cultural associations of dogs (ravenous), sea (dangerous, engulfing), and to some extent woman, are active.

Surviving artistic depictions begin in the fifth century BC on vases and coins, and show her as a tripartite hybrid of attractive girl down to the waist, fishy tail below, with two or three barking dogs emerging at the join. While hardly monstrous, and having no close tie to Homer's text, these depictions nonetheless faithfully represent the three semantic realms: dog, sea, and woman. Later textual and artistic references can be analyzed along the same three axes, and spring from culturally specific associations and fears regarding the canine, the marine, and the feminine. What Scylla is, then, is not a quasi-person with parents and a biography, or a story that fits into some existing narrative pattern, but "a complex sign that is part of a system of cultural communication." (5) The main theoretical orientation here is semiotic-anthropological, in the tradition of Saussure and Geertz, but Hopman is appropriately eclectic in her methodology, drawing on everything from Jaussian hermeneutics, narratology, Proppian formalism, comparative mythology, historical linguistics, to good old-fashioned close reading.

A less careful scholar would probably argue that the monster Scylla is simply another reflex of the misogyny and gynophobia of Greek literate culture and leave it at that. Hopman does deal centrally with gender but takes a more subtle approach. The first four chapters deal with the Odyssey, and offer sensitive, illuminating readings of the episode, both in the broader context of the wanderings and more specifically alongside the Cyclops story, deftly bringing in the evidence of comparative mythology, and taking account of the broader concerns of literature and art from the geometric period. She emphasizes the darkness of the episode, as an instance of the failure of Odysseus' cleverness, and argues that "Scylla's voracity epitomizes a fundamental anxiety associated with the sea and its inhabitants in archaic thought" (65).

The emergence in art of the fifth century of the pretty Scylla is usually explained as deriving from a lost literary work that told the erotic and metamorphic version later preserved in Ovid. But in ch. 5 Hopman persuasively argues against this: it is actually a development of the preexisting merman type (bearded Triton), which also occurs on similar coins, and on vases of a type similar to the Scylla examples. Typhon is another instance of a monster fashioned through creative combination of earlier types known to the artists. And, as Hopman notes, the Sphinx, the Sirens, and the Amazons are also made more feminine and less monstrous in the classical period: "The feminization of female monsters is thus a distinctive and important feature of the fifth-century mythical imagination" (92).

The next two chapters deal with Scylla as female, first as "femme fatale." She is seen as a threatening figure in a few references in fifth-century tragedy and in some depictions in art of the classical period. This recoding of Scylla from impregnable monster to "highly sexualized female suggests that there was at least some degree of unconscious gynophobia in ancient Greece" (140). At other times Scylla looks more virginal, a huntress like Artemis, partaking in the "unchecked eroticism of the unwed parthenos" (155–56). Maidens are conceived of as wild animals in need of taming through marriage, as Scylla is untamed with her wild dogs and untrodden straits.

The eighth chapter on rationalizing treatments of the myth was the highlight of the book for me. For certain thinkers, such as Thucydides and Lucretius, Scylla was a favorite example of poetic fiction: a logical, biological impossibility. Historicizing rationalizers, intent on saving the myth from its own absurdity, say she was, in fact, a pirate ship called Scylla that had a prow in the shape of a puppy (σκύλαξ), hence the linguistic confusion (Palaephatus); or a courtesan with gluttonous, cur-like hangers-on (Heraclitus the Paradoxographer). These "misunderstood metaphor" interpretations, Hopman notes, capture important elements of the dog-sea-woman semantics. Plato uses the hybrid monster Scylla (along with Chimaera and Cerberus) as an allegory for the hybrid nature of the soul (Resp. 588c). Heraclitus' allegorizing Homeric Problems sees her as shamelessness personified, her dogs representing "rapacity, recklessness, and greediness." Meanwhile, geographers saw her as (residing in or being) a particular cliff in the straits of Messina, with Polybius connecting Homer's description ethnographically to local fishing methods (34.2.14–16).

These philosophical and historical handlings of Scylla in turn inflected later poetic versions in Vergil, Ovid, and especially the Ciris. The consistent mention of Scylla's inguen (groin or genitals) in Latin poetry, for example, reflects a philosophical tradition that saw her as representing sexual incontinence (inguinis est vitium et veneris descripta libido, Ciris 69). (Interesting factoid: the only mention of the sexual organs in the Aeneid, pube at 3.427, refers, non-Homerically, to Scylla's.) Geographical rationalization of Scylla as Scylaceum on the coast of Italy seems to underlie Vergil's nauifragum Scylaceum at Aen. 3.553. Aeneas does not have to actually encounter Scylla, Hopman argues, because she has been rationalized away (193).

Ch. 9 also shows a deft understanding of the mental world of Hellenistic and Roman mythographers. Hopman argues persuasively that the love story about Scylla the maiden transformed into the sea-monster was a Hellenistic innovation, which helped fit her into a story type they could recognize and understand: "maiden transformed into animal as a result of a failed transition into active sexuality" (cp. Io, Callisto, Proetides). The story now becomes aetiological, explaining traditional features of iconography and mythology, and thus contributes to the construction of a homogeneous myth corpus. Scholarly disputes about Scylla's parentage, and the strenuous efforts to distinguish the two Scyllae, come out of this scholarly impulse for biographical coherence and system.

Roman poets occasionally conflate the two Scyllae, which could be seen either as a colossal mythographic blunder or as an intentional strategy. Hopman adopts the currently most popular interpretive strategy for Roman poetry, that of looking for metaliterary games. When Vergil combines the two Scyllae in Ecl. 6.74–77 it is meant to signal his mixing of the genres in the Eclogues. In Propertius 4.4, the character of Tarpeia conflates the two, and it "emphasizes her moral turmoil and undermines her credibility" in a way that "prompts the reader to question the process of exemplification itself" (222–223). When Ovid conflates the two Scyllae in Amores 3.12.21–22 it "doubly illustrates the poet's ironic stress on the fictionality of his own discourse" (213). Perhaps, but it is also plausible that there were grammatici around who claimed that the two Scyllae were identical, and that these poets preferred that version. The point was to tie Homer's fabulous monster (emblematic of poetic fiction) to a love story (in keeping with their genres), and it didn't matter that much whether it was the Megarian Scylla, or Glaucus' beloved.

Chapters 10 deals with Scylla as a standard exemplum in Roman thought, illustrating variously female lust, female danger, sea-hazard, or an inhuman mother. This discussion sets the stage for a solid reading of Ovid, Metamorphoses 13.730–14.74 in chapter 11, one which assimilates and applies all the best insights of the last twenty years of Ovid scholarship. Ovid uses Scylla to reflect on questions of human psychology (gender differences, power of emotions) and on the dialectic between continuity and change in metamorphosis itself.

In the methodological epilogue, Hopman makes her own bid to unite the two Scyllae, claiming that Scylla Nisi and the sea-monster "should be included together . . . as emanations of the same mythical complex." This seems far-fetched. The Megarian Scylla is part of a very well-attested pattern of girls who consign their fathers and homelands to military defeat, either for love or for gain. Tarpeia is the Roman analogue, and there are a dozen others (see Jacoby on FGrH 293 F 1). But this claim exposes the radical proposition at the heart of the book. For Hopman, a mythical name like Scylla is not fundamentally a narrative and does not consist in a narrative pattern. A mythical figure should be defined as "a conceptual combination rather than in relation to a particular location, genealogy, or story." (259) The Megarian Scylla is "a localized version of the symbol," which can be "plugged into various tale types widely attested" (263). One can, she suggests, apply the same method to other hybrid entities like Echidna, Chimaera, Typhoeus, Pegasus, Medusa, the Sirens, Cerberus, and the Sphinx.

Hopmans' dog-sea-woman thesis, while broadly persuasive, does not really prompt us to reckon with the strangeness of some of the evidence or to consider how much we simply don't know about the ways in which people in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds experienced their own mythology. What strange local pride was it that prompted the city fathers of Cyzicus to have Scylla stamped on their money? Scylla glared from coins struck at the behest of the Roman outlaw general and master of the Scilian waves Sextus Pompeius Magnus in the late 40s BC, which makes a certain sense. But what was in the mind of the Carian noble who had a monumental Scylla sculpture put atop his mausoleum in the Hellenistic period? What is she doing on a bronze razor in a Punic grave at Utica?1 Scylla may be conceptually divided into three parts, but what she meant to people in these various different contexts is, we must acknowledge, largely irrecoverable.


1.   For these items and others, see Marie-Odile Jentel, "Skylla I," LIMC 8.1 (1997) Suppl., 1137–45. See also Geoffrey B. Waywell, "Scilla nell' arte antica," in Ulisse: Il mito a la memoria (Rome: Museali Editore, 1996), 108–119.

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