Friday, February 28, 2014


Stuart Elden, The Birth of Territory. Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press, 2013. Pp. xi, 493. ISBN 9780226202570. $30.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Justin Zaremby, New York, New York (

Version at BMCR home site


Contemporary political theorists continue to question the normative value of the nation state which, since the seventeenth century, has served as the fundamental unit of political and territorial organization. Given the inability of certain states to protect basic human rights and the continuing plight of stateless refugees, theorists study alternative forms of political organization, including international non-governmental organizations and supranational bodies like the European Union, offering normative critiques of the state of international play. Stuart Elden tackles a more basic question than the failings of the nation state in The Birth of Territory through a historical and textual study of the central geographic concept of territory. Elden's book is more a contribution to the study of geography than to political theory, but it will be useful for scholars in both fields.

Where previous authors have tended to discuss the word territory in stagnant terms, Elden offers close readings of key Western thinkers to show that the word has evolved in meaning and relevance. Territory, Elden explains, is an oft used, but little understood concept that underlies historic debates about political power from the ancient to modern worlds. He describes his work as a "genealogical account" as that phrase was used by Foucault. That is, while he proceeds through historical study of key texts that use the word territory (and its semantic predecessors), he does not assume that the meaning is constrained by authorial intent. Instead, the term gains meaning both through the intent of individual authors in their writings, as well as through the term's use in the broader scholarly and political community. He seeks the definition of territory not merely in given texts, but in an atmosphere in which those texts are debated across centuries. Elden explains that "[t]he approach employed is thus both textual, with all references traced back to their original languages, and contextual, in which texts are resituated in their time and place. . . it is avowedly political, undertaking this work as part of a wider project that aspires to be a 'history of the present.'" (8). In telling that history, Elden reflects upon debates about politics, religion, space, property, and origin from ancient Greece to early modern Europe.

Elden structures the book chronologically, developing a lexicon of terms and a list of concepts that shape modern understandings of territory. Chapter 1, "The Polis and the Khora" attempts to discern concepts of territory from ancient Greek texts, focusing on authors like Homer, Euripides, Aeschylus, Plato, and Aristotle. Elden begins his analysis with a study of the concept of autochthony, the idea that man springs naturally from the earth, as a way to explore the relationship between location, the person, and polis. He begins to build a vocabulary that includes concepts of place, boundary, community and politics. Chapter 2 focuses on Roman authors, including Julius Caesar, Cicero, and Tacitus. Elden examines the use of terms ranging from imperium to territorium, focusing on how Roman authors explore concepts of private ownership and geography during both the republic and the empire.

Chapters 3-6 explore the medieval period to show how concepts of territory were tied together with concepts of religious power and political sovereignty. "The Fracturing of the West" provides a survey of early medieval figures from Saint Augustine to Isidore of Seville to the author of Beowulf. Describing the world after Rome's fall, Elden explores new ideas of exchange, political conflict and identity. In "The Reassertion of Empire," Elden ranges from discussing concepts of territory in the false Donation of Constantine and political ritual under the reign of Charlemagne, to an examination of the rise and evolution of cartography. In "The Pope's Two Swords," Elden explores the idea of the body politic through the work of John of Salisbury and the distinction between secular and church power. He then continues his exploration of the split between secular and temporal power, and the rise of temporal theorists like Dante and Marsilius of Padua in "Challenges to the Papacy." Chapter 7, "The Rediscovery of Roman Law" adds jurisprudence to the equation, looking at how the concept of territory grew out of the codification of Roman law under Justinian. Elden continues his discussion of the political nature of territorium by focusing on how the law helped to establish clear sovereign boundaries over territories.

As Elden turns to the Renaissance and early modern period, his focus shifts from debates between church and state to debates about how to accommodate the expansion of maps from Europe to the New World. Chapter 8, "Renaissance and Reconnaissance" surveys the writings of authors ranging from Machiavelli and Thomas More to Erasmus and Shakespeare. Finally, Chapter 9, "The Extension of the State," extends the conversation to the scientific revolution, discussing figures like Spinoza and Descartes, and social contract theorists like Hobbes and Locke. In his Coda, "Territory as a Political Technology," Elden reiterates his basic thesis that territory should be understood as an evolving term, best expressed in the modern world as a "bundle" of political technologies which act as the "extension of the state's power." That is, territory reflects various ways in which the state expresses itself. It is "not simply land, in the political-economic sense of rights to use, appropriation, and possession attached to a place; nor is it a narrowly political-strategic question that is closer to a notion of terrain" (322-23). Instead, territory seems to be space not merely in a physical sense, but in an intellectual sense—it is a space in which various historic political, military, economic, and geostrategic debates play themselves out.

Elden's book is filled with engaging insights about a number of authors. Unfortunately, as the book progresses it becomes increasingly difficult to find a clear narrative thread. He achieves his stated purpose, of showing that territory as a concept has evolved in the West, but at a clear cost. By the time Elden has moved to the middle ages, it is difficult to glean more than scattered insights into individual authors. Those insights, of course, are valuable on their own. Nevertheless, the book often feels choppy and in his movement between authors and time periods, the book ends up feeling more like a survey of Western political thought than a sustained argument about the idea of territory. Elden does reveal the diversity of views about territory throughout Western history and makes a compelling case for revisiting the basic terms that define the international political system. The value of Elden's book may only be revealed, however, if (as they should) political theorists begin to grapple with questions of geography and territory in a more systematic way.


Paulos Kalligas, Πλωτίνου, Εννεάς Πέμπτη. Αρχαίο κείμενο, μετάφραση, σχόλια [Plotinus' Fifth Ennead. Ancient Greek text, translation, commentaries]. Βιβλιοθήκη Α. Μανούση, 12. Athens: Κέντρον Ερεύνης της Ελληνικής και Λατινικής Γραμματείας, 2013. Pp. 460. ISBN 9789604042593. €20.00 (pb).

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

Version at BMCR home site

Scholars from countries whose language is other than English, French, Italian, Spanish, or German may have their time and energy consumed by the dilemma between writing in an idiom read worldwide – thus making their contribution to a given field of research reach the international community – and writing in their vernacular – thus enriching its literature and giving their fellow countrymen the comfort of reading their own language.

I cannot tell whether Paulos Kalligas is tormented by such dilemma, but I can affirm that he, who has published extensively both in English and in Greek, is one of finest examples of someone who is capable of standing on the summit of ancient philosophy scholarship without neglecting his own idiom.

Kalligas published a translation, with commentary, of Porphyry's Life of Plotinus in 1991; the first Ennead appeared in 1994 (reprinted in 2006), the second in 1997, the third in 2004, the fourth in 2009, and the fifth in 2013. His ongoing series of translations of and commentaries on Plotinus' Enneads is a major achievement in Plotinian studies, an achievement that unfortunately will remain unknown to a good number of researchers. A sign of this is that none of the previous volumes was reviewed for BMCR.

This volume, like the others, includes a short prologue, ancient Greek text and modern Greek translation on opposite pages, and commentaries that fill more than half of it. In the prologue, Kalligas makes very general statements about Plotinus' second level of reality, the intellect, which is the more or less coherent common thread of the treatises Porphyry arranges in the fifth Ennead. Also in the prologue, he enumerates (10, n. 1) the most important differences between the ancient Greek text he prints and that of Henry and Schwyzer's maior and minor editions, and all the corrigenda as well. This makes the reviewer's work much easier.

On this level of scholarship, and with the aid of so many existing translations, commentaries, and studies of Plotinus' writings, there is no sense in assessing the "correctness" of the translation. Even less in Kalligas' case, for he does not have to decide whether he will translate, for instance, νοῦς as "intellect", "mind", or "spirit"; λόγος as "(formative) principle", "reason", "argument", or "discourse"; οὐσία as "essence", "substance", or "reality", as modern Greek has preserved these words.

Yet, he is not immune to difficulties of translation: at V.1 [10] 1.22, e.g., he has to translate θυμός as "νοῦς" because the prominent meaning of that word in modern Greek is "anger". The problem with this choice is that (i) it introduces a strong intellectual nuance where there should be none (in my opinion),1 and (ii) it does not keep the strangeness of Plotinus' formulation: the θυμός of soul. Plotinus says in context that the soul, when it values the sensible things more than itself, is not able to receive the nature and power of god in its θυμός, which seems to be its innermost part. If we are acquainted with Plotinus' philosophy, we know that, to be united with the one, the soul must deprive itself of all form and intellectual activity, so that receiving god "in its mind" sounds weird.2

Kalligas' translation is very clear and more concerned with philosophical precision than with style, leaving no room for Plotinus' (sometimes intended) obscurities and (not uncommon) inspired prose (especially in V.1 [10], V.5 [32], and V.8 [31]). As an example of undesirable clarity of translation, one could think of Plotinus' intense apophatic pronominal ambiguity in V.2 [11] 1.1-15,3 which Kalligas seems to neglect. An example of desirable stylistic elaboration which immediately comes to my mind concerns Plotinus' mirroring of oppositions at V.5 [32] 8.23-4: πῶς οὐκ ἐλθὼν πάρεστι, καὶ πῶς οὐκ ὢν οὐδαμοῦ οὐδαμοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν ὅπου μὴ ἔστιν, thus translated by Kalligas: πῶς εἶναι παρὼν χωρὶς νὰ ἔχει ἔρθει, καὶ πῶς, χωρὶς νὰ βρίσκεται πουθενά, δὲν ὑπάρχει πουθενὰ μέρος ὅπου νὰ μὴν εἶναι.

Kalligas adopts the procedure of capitalizing the initials of Plotinus' first principles ("One/Good" and "He/Him/His" etc.; "Intellect", "Being", "Life" etc.; "Soul", "Nature") and some other terms. Several translators do the same, wishing to improve the text's clarity. But, again, it sometimes makes plainly clear that which is not clear and which, being ambiguous, is more powerful. A good example is, once again, Plotinus' use of indefinite pronouns in the passage of V.2 [11] mentioned before. I wonder how Kalligas will translate, e.g., the first sentence of VI.9 [9] 1, where Plotinus says that "all beings are beings τῷ ἑνί", employing τῷ ἑνί consciously and ambiguously to denote at the same time that the intrinsic unity of all beings and the absolute unity that is the cause of all beings. Besides, there seems to be occasional inconsistency in the capitalization of some initials: I cannot understand, for instance, why Kalligas writes Ψυχή in V.1 [10] 2, but ψυχή in V.2 [11] 1, if in both chapters Plotinus refers to the hypostatic soul (in opposition to individual souls, which are not capitalized). Kalligas does this even inside the same treatise: in V.9 [5] 3 he uses the majuscule initial for Ψυχή, but in the first lines of V.9 [5] 4, where Plotinus is speaking of the same soul, Kalligas uses the minuscule initial. If such a strategy to make the text clearer is not employed with extreme attention it makes the text even more confusing, for the reader is automatically led to believe that the distinction between majuscule and minuscule initials has a purpose and is always in operation.

A synopsis of, short general introduction to, and specific bibliography about each treatise act as a prelude to the commentaries. Both experts and novices will benefit from the lucidity, erudition, and mastery of secondary bibliography with which Kalligas conducts his detailed comments. The commentary to V.3 [49], for instance, amounts to 45 pages, in which nothing is superfluous. Of course, one could note an example or two of disagreement, or complain that Kalligas does not make the comments one expects him to do. Nevertheless, this reflects one's own concerns, not Kalligas' limitations, of course.

The ancient Greek text of this volume shows around 40 deviations from Henry and Schwyzer's editions.4 Kalligas adopts suggestions proposed by several scholars (Sleeman, Harder, Creuzer, D'Anconna, Igal, Theiler, Jahn, Gollwitzer, Ficino), keeps the reading of the manuscripts on a few occasions, and seems to have a predilection for Kirchhoff's emendations, which he follows in ten passages. By his own hand, he proposes at least ten textual emendations of significance, most of them justified in the commentaries. I will remark only a few of them.

Since I have not seen the manuscripts and I do not have paleographic expertise, I am not able to make definitive judgments; nevertheless, I think Kalligas has improved the text of the following passages, as his emendations seem to be possible and to make perfect sense:

V.1.9.12-13: he prints ἀπιστήσειε instead of ἐπιστήσειε, present in the manuscripts, printed by H-S, and accepted by everyone.

V.3.11.13-14: he proposes ἐφιέμενος for ἐνδιάμενος or ἐνδιαθέμενος, a passage which H-S consider corrupt.

V.3.15.23: πάντη instead of πάντα.

On the other hand, I am afraid these choices are not as good as those mentioned above:

V.1.6.20: τὸ in place of τῷ (manuscripts and H-S). I cannot see any philosophical or philological reason for this, since it disposes of the correct and understandable τῷ λόγῳ in favor of the dubious construction τὸ λόγῳ τὴν γένεσιν προσάπτοντας αὐτοις <ἀποδόσει> αἰτίας καὶ τάξεως.

V.2.1.2: transposition of the εν in ἐνέδραμε, and alteration of ἐκείνως to ἐκείνῳ: <ἐν> ἐκείνῳ πάντα . . . ἔδραμε. Again, this is philologically unnecessary and impoverishes the text. The apophatic power of the passage comes from the ambiguity and contradiction extirpated by Kalligas: "the one is all things and not a single one of them: for it is the principle of all, not all, but it is all in this way: it so to speak runs inside" – where, given the fact that the neuter plural takes the verb in the singular, we can understand at the same time that the one runs inside all things and that all things run inside the one. It is not all things, but it is all things! With Kalligas' text, we have "it is not all things, but all things are in it". The adversative ἀλλά loses its purpose too.

V.5.12.31: τῴ instead of τὸ, which is suppressed in H-S: γενόμενον τῴ τε καλόν. . . Another emendation that seems hard to justify philologically and that produces a grammatically weak text. It also should be said the Kalligas' translation seems to ignore the coordination imposed by his text: ἐνῶ τὸ Ὡραῖο δὲν τὸ γνωρίζουν ὅλοι καί, ὅταν παρουσιαστεῖ, νομίζουν . . . I think we should have γενόμενόν τε τῷ for such a translation.

V.3.12.23-5: emendation of ποιήσασαι ποιήσασθαι δεῖ . . . μένει (for ποιήσασαι ποιήσασαι δὲ ἐκεῖνο . . . μένειν. The text is corrupt, according to H-S. δεῖ and μένει seem very clever (although, it must be clear, I cannot judge its paleographical possibility), but I still haven't found any reason for the middle ποιήσασθαι.5

All these, as I said, are nugae in the face of the superhuman labor involved in one person editing, translating, and commenting on all Plotinus' treatises. As I said at the beginning of this review, Kalligas' translation is a major achievement in Plotinian studies. I do hope that scholars in Neoplatonism pay attention to it.


1.   It must be said, however, that θυμός in this passage is translated as "mind" or something similar by most translators: cf. A. H. Armstrong's Loeb translation: "have an idea"; and this is the meaning proposed by Sleeman and Pollet's Lexicon Plotinianum.
2.   Kalligas considers this passage – ἐν θυμῷ βάλοιτο – a reference to Iliad 15.566 – ἐν θυμῷ ἐβάλοντο (the Argives receive Aias' words "into their heart"). I am not sure about it but, if he thinks Plotinus has Homer in mind here, this seems to me another good reason to avoid νοῦς.
3.   See Michael Sells, Mystical Languages of Unsaying (University of Chicago Press, 1994), 28 ff.
4.   I say "around 40" because I had at first counted 46, as informed by Kalligas himself; however, some of them are (1) given as different deviations at different lines, although in fact one deviation that begins at one line and ends at the following (e.g. V.3 [49] 11.13-14; V.8 [31] 3.29-30), or (2) to be found in one of the editions of Henry and Schwyzer (e.g. V.1 [10] 7.6; V.7 [18] 2.12).
5.   See also V.9.10.5: preservation of ἤδη of the manuscripts instead of ἡ δὴ (Harder, H-S); V.3.2.6: the insertion of οὐκ before ὑφ' ἑαυτοῦ; and V.4.2.16: ἀδιάκριτον instead of διακριτόν or διακριτικόν. Kalligas provides strong arguments for the defense of the last two, but I am not sure yet if I agree with him. Unfortunately, it will be impossible to discuss them in this review.


Mary Nyquist, Arbitrary Rule: Slavery, Tyranny, and the Power of Life and Death. Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press, 2013. Pp. xiii, 421. ISBN 9780226015538. $45.00.

Reviewed by Thomas E. Strunk, Xavier University (

Version at BMCR home site


The subject of Nyquist's book is a great contradiction haunting the history of modern Western Europe: the struggle for political freedom and democracy in Western Europe and the concurrent toleration and promotion of servitude in extra-European lands, which were often advocated by the same individuals. The origin of these incongruous forces is not to be found in early modern Europe itself, but rather, as Nyquist shows, in antiquity and its understanding of freedom, tyranny, and slavery. Although her study is predominately concerned with early modern Europe, Nyquist grounds it accordingly in Greco-Roman law and political thought on servitude and political freedom. She then examines with great detail and nuance the influences of this tradition on French and English writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as they refined, refuted, and reformed their arguments on liberty, absolutism, and enslavement.

Following an introduction that maps out the scope of the question and outlines her approach to it, Nyquist devotes the first full chapter to slavery and antityrannicism in ancient Greece and Rome. Her exposition of Greco-Roman slavery and tyranny strikes me as largely correct, though incomplete. She wisely relies on Raaflaub's The Discovery of Freedom in Ancient Greece as a guide to understanding Greek freedom and slavery. Nyquist focuses on Aristotle's Politics and its significant discussion of the natural slave and the tyrant. Aristotle is an obvious author to emphasize in a study on slavery, and his influence on the later writers Nyquist investigates is undeniable. However, since her work covers antityrannicism and freedom as well, she gives insufficient attention, I believe, to important authors and works such as Plato, the Republic in particular, Livy, and Cicero, all of whom are mentioned in the first chapter but are generally under-utilized throughout the book (Thucydides and Tacitus, who were immensely influential on the political thought of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, are omitted altogether.). Plato's portrait of the tyrant in book nine of the Republic, for example, has been foundational for its portrayal of "the tyrant" in antiquity and immensely influential for Aristotle, Cicero, and Livy, whose depiction of Tarquinius Superbus is omitted (though L. Brutus' execution of his sons is discussed). I do not want to put too fine a point on this as Nyquist's primary concern is with writers of the early modern period, but as Nyquist seems aware, entitling her first chapter "Ancient Greek and Roman Slaveries," ancient views on freedom, slavery, and tyranny were not monolithic.

These criticisms notwithstanding, Nyquist accomplishes a great deal in framing her discussion of ancient slavery and antityrannicism. First, she clearly delineates the different kinds of slavery with which the ancients were chiefly concerned: chattel, political, and ethico-spiritual (although the latter does not play an important role in the study). She then clearly articulates the connections between the Greek idea of political slavery and Aristotle's concept of the natural slave in Book one of the Politics; this connection is key both for Western political thought and for Nyquist's study. The Greeks of course often described tyranny as political slavery by analogy to the despotism of the individual master over a slave. Moreover, tyrants were often described as conquerors over their own people (e.g., Livy's portrayal of Tarquinius Superbus and Tacitus' depiction of Tiberius); the tyrant thus subjected his fellow citizens to slavery by war, the primary means of acquiring slaves in antiquity. This trope would become commonplace for antityrannical rhetoric well into the nineteenth century and beyond. Further, the Greeks understood themselves to be worthy of political freedom since they engaged in the political system as equals, and thus any attempt to enslave them would be unjust, whereas barbarians were naturally inclined to tolerate absolute monarchy. Here is where Aristotle's concept of the natural slave plays a pivotal role: those peoples the Greeks defeated in battle, often enough governed by an autocrat, became easily associated with the natural slave and thus undeserving of the political freedom of the Greeks and later Romans. The perdurance of this line of thought, Nyquist argues, directly influences modern Europe's frequent insistence on political liberty for Europeans and at the same time the acceptance and active promotion of servitude for non-Europeans.

In succeeding chapters, Nyquist very effectively explores how these ideas were used by early modern writers and political thinkers from Bodin and Milton to Hobbes and Locke. Through these writers she traces the recurring questions that framed political debate for centuries. Can an individual relinquish personal freedom? At what point has a contractual state been established? Do citizens have the right to resistance or did they surrender that right at some prior time?

Nyquist's great success is in demonstrating how these thinkers argued either for absolutism or liberalism in a way that was compatible with concurrent acceptance or rejection of chattel slavery. She points out that antityrannicism flourished in countries that did not allow chattel slavery, yet these very countries (England, France, and the Netherlands) were feverishly engaged in colonizing and enslaving millions of non-Europeans. The reader quickly discovers that a writer's opinion on political freedom rarely corresponded to what may strike us as the analogous opinion on chattel slavery. Milton and Locke were antityrannical liberals who accepted chattel slavery. Nyquist rightly contextualizes Locke's views on slavery by reference to his involvement in New World governance and economics, such as his revisions of the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, which explicitly allowed for chattel slavery, and his position as secretary and treasurer of the English Council for Trade and Foreign Plantations (327–328). Nyquist quotes (365) Dr. Johnson (Taxation No Tyranny 1775): "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?" Bodin, on the other hand, was an absolutist, but cogently advocated against chattel slavery. Then there were those who may appear consistent to readers in the 21st century: Hobbes the absolutist also supported chattel slavery, while Henry Parker was a radical liberal and an opponent of chattel slavery. Nyquist's most important contribution is her use of the ancient theories of tyranny, natural slavery, and freedom, to explain how seemingly contradictory opinions about domestic liberty and colonial slavery could be maintained together, while refusing to attribute them to mere "hypocrisy (365)." Nyquist seeks her explanation in the ancients and their understanding of tyranny, natural slavery, and freedom.

Nyquist also highlights the important role Hebrew scripture played in shaping the political thought of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Throughout the book, Nyquist addresses the significant passages from Genesis, Deuteronomy, Judges, and I Samuel which influenced the debates over absolutist monarchy, slavery, and freedom. Not surprisingly the political thinkers Nyquist explores were capable of turning passages to their own political ends, such as the monarchy of Nimrod (Gen. 10:8-10), Jephtha's sacrifice of his daughter (Judges 11), and the Israelites' demand for a king (I Sam. 8), all of which were used to justify freedom, slavery, republicanism and absolutism. Their inclusion is an important reminder, particularly for classicists, that early modern political thinkers did not resort solely to the Greeks and Romans for their inspiration.

Some of the most enjoyable and informative parts of the book are Nyquist's discussions of iconography, such as the pileus, the freedman's cap, and the frontispieces of Hobbes' De Cive. These are insightful because they demonstrate how authors and artists appropriated ancient symbols and sought to convey ideas beyond the written word. Although I imagine there is much more that could be done in this area, Nyquist shows great dexterity in analyzing both written and visual texts.

Nyquist's epilogue sums up her study with two highly effective quotations. The first is from a letter of George Washington on the tyranny of taxation without representation, in which he unfortunately writes: "The crisis is arrived when we must assert our rights or submit to every imposition that can be heaped on us till custom and use shall make us as tame and abject slaves as the blacks we rule over with such arbitrary sway (366)." Washington, as is clear by the end of Nyquist's study, is the heir of Locke and Milton, as is the United States itself in many ways. Yet Nyquist also shows how Washington's discordant collocations could be reconciled. To do so, she quotes from Phillis Wheatley, a contemporary of Washington, whose poem dedicated to William, Earl of Dartmouth, Nyquist believes, represents the first time the discourse of antityrannicism was employed to demonstrate the injustice of chattel slavery.

Aside from the omissions in chapter one, there is one further significant flaw in Nyquist's book. The greatest challenge in reading Arbitrary Rule is its lack of historical context. It is a long book, over 400 pages, and it would be difficult to argue for a longer book. However, the political environment in which these political thinkers wrote and acted largely has to be inferred (the aforementioned context on Locke is the exception). Nyquist's book, while covering roughly from 500 B.C.E to 1800 C.E., aspires to contribute to our broad understanding of freedom and servitude, yet provides few historical details. A brief example. Nyquist frequently alludes to the trial and execution of Charles I, but never gives any details on this dramatic moment in European history. This is an oversight in writing as much as it is an omission of information – 400 pages on political thought could use some dramatic interludes. Where is the vivid narrative of the king in the dock? Where is the gripping image of the monarch being led to the scaffold? How did we get to this point in English history? Of course, Milton, Hobbes, and Locke are writing with these events in mind, but their circumstances are never narrated or discussed by Nyquist. While it would be impossible for Nyquist to provide the historical context for the entire time period she discusses – after all this is not a work of history, but rather of political thought – a sketch of the dramatic historical events of seventeenth century England would have been helpful and most likely engaging reading.

Another fault, albeit minor, is the absence of a comprehensive bibliography. Authors are included in the index, and citations are provided in the copious notes, but their very abundance encumbers the reader trying to recall the full citation for a particular work, whose importance may not be felt upon its first mention. The lack of a bibliography is an unnecessary impediment to fellow researchers, who may wish to further Nyquist's line of inquiry.

These criticisms aside, Nyquist's book is impressively researched, persuasively argued, and clearly written. Anyone who is concerned with freedom, tyranny, and servitude in the modern or ancient world would do well to read Arbitrary Rule. For classicists, Nyquist records the influence and development of antiquity's fundamental beliefs on these matters. For those interested in contemporary politics, Nyquist has clarified the origins of many of the political ideas that have shaped our modern world. Most significantly, Nyquist clarifies with great care and subtlety the intricacies of sixteenth and seventeenth century political thought with regard to freedom, servitude, and antityrannicism.


Gernot Michael Müller, Lectiones Claudianeae: Studien zu Poetik und Funktion der politisch-zeitgeschichtlichen Dichtungen Claudians. Bibliothek der klassischen Altertumswissenschaften, Bd 133. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2011. Pp. 495. ISBN 9783825358174. € 58.00.

Reviewed by Claudia Schindler, Universität Hamburg (

Version at BMCR home site

Die Frage nach der generischen Einordnung von Claudians politischen Gedichten gehört zu den in der Claudian-Forschung am intensivsten traktierten Fragen. Während die ältere Claudian-Forschung die Opera maiora in „Panegyriken", „Invektiven" und „historische Dichtungen" einteilt, betrachtet Hofmann (1988) den Claudianus maior als poetische Innovation, die eine bis zu Coripp reichende Traditionslinie „Panegyrischer Epik" initiiere.1 Gernot Michael Müller geht in seiner Monographie wiederum von der Frage nach der literarischen Verortung von Claudians politischen Dichtungen aus. Er beanstandet, dass in den frühen Versuchen einer generischen Zuordnung der Gedichte formale und funktionale Aspekte getrennt behandelt worden seien, was zu Unschärfen in der Gattungsbestimmung führe. Sein Vorhaben ist demgegenüber eine gattunsgtypologische Analyse von Claudians politischen Dichtungen, die auf den bisherigen Ergebnissen der Claudian-Forschung einerseits zur Gattungsfrage einerseits und andererseits auf Ansätzen der modernen Gattungstheorie basiert.

Nach einem Abriss über den Stand der Claudian-Forschung nähert sich Müller dem Phänomen der Gattungsgenese anhand von zwei modernen Ansätzen: Voßkamps Theorie von Gattungen als literarisch-gesellschaftlichen Institutionen und den Ansätzen strukturalistischer Gattungstheorie nach Hempfer et al. Aus dem ersten Ansatz leitet Müller die Klassifikation von Claudians Gedichten als „erfolgreiche historische Bedürfnissynthese" (48) ab: Claudians Dichtungen beginnen in politischen Standardsituationen, von denen sie sich mit einem wachsenden Erfolg des Dichters emanzipieren, so dass sie schließlich Stilichos „Bedürfnis" nach einer positiven Darstellung seines politischen Handelns befriedigen. Aus dem zweiten ergibt sich für ihn die Notwendigkeit, nicht einzelne Formelemente einer literarischen Gattung, sondern die Beziehungen dieser Elemente untereinander zu analysieren. Er will auf dieser Basis eine „strukturale Poetik der politisch-zeitgeschichtlichen Dichtungen Claudians" (57) schreiben, indem er die Relation zwischen epischen und epideiktischen Elementen herausarbeitet und die Interaktion von konstitutiven Elementen und Wirkkontext sichtbar macht.

Der Hauptteil des Buches gilt den „Lektüren" der einzelnen Claudian-Gedichte, die Müller in der Reihenfolge ihres (mutmaßlichen) Entstehens einer Analyse unterzieht. Dabei gelingen ihm neue und interessante Blicke auf die carmina maiora Claudians. Für das erste erhaltene Auftragsgedicht Claudians, den Panegyricus auf die Anicier-Brüder Olybrius und Probinus (Prob.), zeigt Müller, dass „panegyrischer" und „epischer" Teil sinnvoll ineinandergreifen und sich der Dichter so nicht nur als Panegyriker, sondern auch als historischer Berichterstatter über die Leistungen des Theodosius profiliert. Prob. sei nicht von Claudians späteren Dichtungen zu trennen, so dass Camerons Trennung zwischen dem Panegyriker („panegyrist") und dem Propagandisten („propagandist") Claudian zu kurz greife.

Für den ersten Panegyricus auf einen Angehörigen des Kaiserhauses, den Panegyricus auf das dritte Konsulat des Honorius (3 cons. Hon.) erkennt Müller eine ähnliche Technik: Auch wenn das Gedicht seiner allgemeinen Grundstruktur nach dem basilikos logos folge, lassen sich zwei Inhaltslinien ausmachen, von denen die eine den Honorius betreffe und nach den Prinzipien des basilikos logos gestaltet sei, die andere einen episierenden Tonfall aufweise und auf Theodosius bezogen sei. Die „epische Szene" am Schluss des Panegyricus, in der Theodosius dem Stilicho die Vormundschaft für Honorius und Arcadius anvertraue, gebe sich als historischer Tatsachenbericht, der dem Postulat Glaubwürdigkeit verleihe. Müller erkennt also für Prob. und 3 cons. Hon. eine gemeinsame Funktion, die hinter dem panegyrischen Schema, das jeweils den Adressaten der Gedichte gelte, in den epischen Teilen jeweils ein Lob des Theodosius sichtbar werden lasse. Dabei sei 3 cons. Hon. strukturell komplexer als Prob., und während in Prob. die epische Handlung durch einen Musenanruf eingeleitet werde, um anzuzeigen, dass hier die „innere Motivation des Theodosius" offengelegt werden solle, sei die Rolle des Erzählers in 3 cons. Hon.die eines reinen Berichterstatters; ein Musenanruf fehle, weil er der Intention des Dichters zuwiderliefe.

Im Falle der Invektive gegen den oströmischen praepositus sacri cubiculi Rufinus (Ruf.) wagt sich Müller an das vieldiskutierte Problem der Datierung und der Zusammengehörigkeit der Gedichte. Er sieht eine konzeptionelle Ähnlichkeit zwischen Ruf. 1/2sowie zwischenProb. und 3 cons. Hon.: Ruf. 1 biete eine Götterhandlung, Ruf. 2 eine historische Erzählung. Gegen Döpp argumentiert Müller für die Trennung bzw. die Eigenständigkeit der beiden Gedichte: Ruf. 1 solle Stilichos Sieg über Rufin feiern, obgleich ein solcher Sieg faktisch nicht existiert habe. Es gebe kompositionelle Unterschiede zwischen Ruf 1 und Ruf. 2; so bleibe zum Beispiel die Handlung von Ruf. 2 ganz ohne mythische Elemente. Ruf. 2 sei in das Jahr 397 zu datieren, das Gedicht diene dazu, Stilicho von der Verantwortung für das „noch immer ungelöste Gotenproblem" zu entlasten. Gegen die Trennung von Ruf. 1 und Ruf 2 ist allerdings einzuwenden, dass sich die beiden Rufin-Gedichte zumindest ihrer literarischen Konzeption nach als Einheit präsentieren, wie aus zahlreichen konvergierenden Vergil-Reminiszenzen2 und den komplementären Eingangs- und Schlussszenen deutlich wird. Selbst wenn die beiden Rufin-Gedichte also in einem zeitlichen Abstand zueinander entstanden sein sollten, müssen sie aufeinander bezogen werden, wie Müller auch selbst erkennt. Dass die innere Diversität der beiden Rufin-Bücher so markant ist, dass sie eine unterschiedliche Datierung rechtfertigt, scheint mir der Text nicht herzugeben.

Den Panegyricus auf das vierte Konsulat des Honorius (4 cons. Hon.) stuft Müller als eher „konventionell" und als „weniger komplex" als die beiden vorausgegangenen Konsulatspanegyriken ein. Müller zeigt, dass hier eine Dreieckskonstellation zwischen Theodosius, Honorius und Stilicho vorliegt: Honorius solle als die Geschicke der westlichen Reichshälfte souverän lenkender Regent vorgestellt werden; daher werden die Leistungen des Theodosius in den Hintergrund gerückt, und auch Stilichos Kampagnen erscheinen als von Honorius initiiert. Dennoch werde Honorius noch nicht vollkommen autark dargestellt, sondern als eine Figur, in der Theodosius' Programm seine Wirkung zeige; Stilicho fungiere als Bindeglied zwischen Theodosius und der strahlenden Zukunft des Honorius.

Ebenfalls überzeugend werden die Beziehungen zwischen 3 Cons. Hon., Ruf. und dem Gedicht über den Gildo-Krieg (Gild.) herausgestellt. Müller zeigt dabei, wie Claudian seine Position im Laufe seiner Dichtungen subtil modifiziert und an die veränderten Verhältnisse anpasst, wobei Arcadius und der oströmische Hof immer stärker in den Fokus der Kritik geraten. Sicher ist Müller darin zuzustimmen, dass ein in der Forschung bisweilen angenommenes „zweites Buch" von In Gildonem nicht existiert hat. Ob der Dichter jedoch tatsächlich von einer Beschreibung der Schlacht von Theveste absieht, weil er nicht von dem Blick auf Konstantinopel, das er für den Gildo-Konflikt verantwortlich machen will, habe ablenken wollen, wäre zu diskutieren.

Für das Gedicht zum „Lob eines Ersatzmanns", den Panegyricus auf Mallius Theodorus (Mall.), beobachtet Müller, dass die episch-narrative Szenenfolge wider Erwarten nicht die Designation des Mallius biete, sondern die Rückkehr des Mallius ins politische Leben in den Mittelpunkt stelle. Er vermutet hierfür (überzeugend) politische Gründe: Mallius war Ersatzkandidat für Stilicho, der 399 selbst Konsul werden wollte, was angesichts der prekären außenpolitischen Situation - Stil. war vom Osten zum hostis publicus erklärt worden - nicht möglich war. Claudian mache sich in Mall. Stilichos Defensivposition zu eigen, indem er Mallius' Konsulat als Höhepunkt einer individuellen Erfolgsgeschichte darstelle und die aktuelle politische Situation weitestgehend ausblende. Dennoch werde durch Mallius' Entscheidung, aus dem otium in die Politik zurückzukehren, implizit eine Bewertung von Honorius' und Stilichos Politik vorgenommen, die wiederum zu einer indirekten Rehabilitierung Stilichos führe.

Das erste Buch der Invektive gegen den oströmischen Eunuchen Eutropius (Eutr.) will Müller gegen die gängige Forschungsmeinung nicht in den Sommer 399, sondern in das Jahr 398 und nach Gild. und Mall. setzen, da die Offenheit, mit der der Dichter hier Kritik übe, Eutrops Sturz voraussetze und Stilicho vom Makel der Verurteilung zum oströmischen hostis publicus befreit werden solle. Dieses geschehe, indem Stilichos militärische Leistungen hervorgehoben und das Scheitern des Ostens mit den weströmischen Erfolgen konfrontiert werden. Auf die Verbindung zwischen der Götterhandlung von Eutr. 2 und Ruf. 1 weist Müller zu Recht hin; ebenso beachtenswert ist seine Beobachtung, dass in Eutr. 2 die Verantwortung für den Aufstieg Eutrops viel stärker als in Ruf. dem Osten angelastet werde, Stilicho hingegen als vir vere Romanus erscheine.

Für die drei Bücher auf Stilichos Konsulat im Jahre 400 (Stil.) arbeitet Müller unterschiedliche Darstellungsstrategien heraus: In Stil. erkennt er eine Kombination von narrativer Darstellung und epideiktischer Rede. Durch die chronologische Episodenfolge von Stil. 1 werde das systematisch aufgebaute Lobgedicht zur „panegyrischen Biographie" (293) umgestaltet; dies ermögliche, die Entwicklung Stilichos zu einem „Helden von historischer Größe" (312) nachzuzeichnen. In Stil. 2 erkennt Müller eine „paradoxe Signatur" (327): Einerseits werde Stilicho als Herrscherpersönlichkeit gezeigt, deren Konsulat ein ganzes Zeitalter prägen werde, andererseits als „zufriedene[r] Vormund" (327), es gehe also in Stil. 1 und 2 darum, unter dem Eindruck, Stilicho gebe sich als Berater des Honorius zufrieden, seine Position als Machthaber festzuschreiben. Stil. 3 schließlich mit seinem römischen Bezugsrahmen - die Abgrenzung von den beiden früheren Büchern ist plausibel - solle Stilicho als Erneuerer erweisen, der die römische Macht dauerhaft wiederherzustellen vermöge. Durch Anspielungen auf die Aeneis, v.a. in dem Jagd-Epyllion, und die Reminiszenzen an das Augustus-Lob im sechsten Buch werde Stilicho als alter Augustus eingeführt.

Das Bellum Geticum (Get.) verzahne durch eine Durchdringung epischer und panegyrischer Strukturen historisches Geschehen mit mythisch-kosmischer Sphäre und zeige Stilicho als Vollstrecker der fata. Das Gedicht auf das sechste Konsulat des Honorius (6 cons. Hon.) sei eng mit Get. verbunden. Claudian marginalisiere die Schlacht von Verona und stelle Alarich als vertragsbrüchigen Barbaren dar, der von den fata zum Untergang verdammt sei. Zugleich weise der in dem Gedicht beschriebene processus consularis starke Bezüge zu3 cons. Hon. auf; doch erscheine in dem späteren Gedicht Honorius als der Hauptprotagonist des Festzugs: Hier sei das Ende von Stilichos „Betreuungsauftrag" (383) erreicht, Honorius werde als autarker Herrscher gezeigt.

Die wesentlichen Ergebnisse der „Lektüren" werden durch einen systematischen Teil vertieft. Müller weist hier nochmals auf das Ineinandergreifen von epischen und panegyrischen Elementen in Claudians zeitgeschichtlichen Dichtungen hin, die eine Trennung in „panegyrische" und „zeitgeschichtliche" Dichtungen nicht plausibel erscheinen lassen. Überzeugend arbeitet er heraus, dass Claudians politische Dichtungen trotz ihres individuellen Rezeptionsrahmens nicht isoliert zu betrachten sind, sondern sich zu größeren erzählerischen Einheiten zusammenfassen lassen, die über die Gedichtgrenzen hinweg aufeinander bezogen werden können. Weiterhin kann Müller im Œuvre von Claudians zeitgeschichtlichen Dichtungen drei Themenfelder isolieren: Die frühen Gedichte von Prob. bis Ruf. 1 befassen sich mit dem Gedenken an Theodosius und der Legitimation Stilichos. Ab Ruf. 2 spiele der Konflikt mit dem Osten eine wichtige Rolle. Zentral für die späteren Claudian-Gedichte seien die Gotenproblematik und der vom fatum garantierte Bestand Roms. 6 cons. Hon. wird von Müller überzeugend als „Abgesang auf Stilichos Herrschaft" (429) gedeutet; Claudian formuliere hier seine eigene „Entlassungsurkunde" (ebd.) – eine Deutung, die die vieldiskutierte Frage nach dem „Verstummen" Claudians nach 404 beantworten könnte. Müller zeigt schließlich, dass Claudian seine zeitgeschichtlichen Dichtungen durch die intensive Episierung zu überzeitlichen poetischen Modellen umgestaltet.3

Dass Claudian in der öffentlichen Wahrnehmung als Nachfolger Vergils positioniert werde, während er sich selbst durch pr. Stil. 3 zwischen Ennius und Vergil verorte, nimmt Müller als Hinweis darauf, dass Claudian mit seinem Werk die von Ennius und Vergil dargestellte Geschichte habe fortschreiben und seine eigene Zeit als wichtige Epoche der römischen Geschichte habe kenntlich machen wollen. Die Rezipienten sollen zugleich davon überzeugt werden, dass Claudian vor einem gemeinsamen traditionellen Wertekonsensus agiere. Formal will Müller die zeitgeschichtlichen Stücke in Claudians Œuvre als „episch-panegyrische Dichtung" (457) ansprechen, da keines der beiden Elemente prävalent sei und dies auch in der Terminologie zum Ausdruck kommen müsse.

Insgesamt handelt es sich bei Müllers Claudian-Buch um eine gründliche und lesenswerte Studie, die durch die Verbindung der Betrachtung von historischen Kontexten und literarischer Technik die Darstellungsstrategien Claudians überzeugend aufzuschlüsseln vermag. Gelegentlich wirkt die Darstellung etwas redundant, was ihr aber angesichts der Komplexität der historisch-literarischen Verflechtungen, die Müller in Claudians Dichtungen offenlegt, nicht unbedingt zum Nachteil gereicht. Ob man Müllers Vorschlag, Claudians politische Dichtungen als „episch-panegyrische Dichtung[en]" zu benennen, tatsächlich folgen wird, ist ebenso nachrangig wie die Frage nach der gattungsmäßigen Einordnung der Gedichte, die zwar den Rahmen von Müllers Untersuchungen bildet, für die Interpretationen jedoch faktisch keine Rolle spielt. In jedem Fall bieten seine Lectiones Claudianeae viele bedenkenswerte Ansätze und eine Reihe innovativer Interpretationen der Gedichte, die wesentlich zum Verständnis dieses zentralen spätantiken Autors beitragen.


1.   H. Hofmann, Überlegungen zu einer Theorie der nichtchristlichen Epik der lateinischen Spätantike, Philologus 132 (1988), 101-159.
2.   Vgl. C. Schindler,Est mihi prodigium cunctis inmanius hydris. La poétique de l' adversaire politique dans l' invective épique de Claudien In Rufinum', in: La lyre et la pourpre. Poésie Latine et politique de l' antiquité tardive à la Renaissance, hg. v. N. Catellani-Dufrêne et M. Perrin, Rennes 2012, 148-150.
3.   Hier berühren sich seine Ergebnisse mit C. Schindler, Tradition-Transformation-Innovation. Claudians Panegyriken und das Epos, in: Aetas Claudianea, hrsg. v. W.-W. Ehlers, F. Felgentreu, S.H. Wheeler, München/Leipzig 2004, 37.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


Anna Leone, The End of the Pagan City: Religion, Economy, and Urbanism in Late Antique North Africa. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. xxii, 319. ISBN 9780199570928. $150.00.

Reviewed by Catherine Conybeare, Bryn Mawr College (

Version at BMCR home site


Sometimes a picture is worth many pages of words. There is a remarkable photograph on the dust jacket of The End of the Pagan City (also, in black and white, on p. 208). Taken by the author in the Severan basilica of Lepcis Magna, it is described as an "ambo made of reused marbles". At a casual glance, I assumed it was a photoshopped pastiche: the juxtapositions of size, texture, color seem so outlandish, the adaptations of function so improbable; the very perspective of the image seems out of alignment. Leone's project in the book is to determine, solely through archaeological sources, the patterns of continuity and change in religious practices and use of urban space through a broad swath of North Africa in late antiquity; and, further, to determine whether observable change was driven by economic or religious motives. Looking at the jumble of stone and marble on her cover, I realize that the photograph is a summary representation of the near-impossibility of arriving at any clear answers. When was each piece of the pastiche moved to its current position? Why? How? From where?

Leone's claim for archaeology is that it can "draw a picture that is not biased by doctrinal approaches or by theological disputes" (3). The problem with that, as emerges from her rather cursory survey of the parameters of her project in chapter 1, is that archaeology—in this instance, at any rate—cannot speak to theological disputes either. (Leone does not mention the possibility of latterday theological bias in the archaeology of Christian North Africa.) The great North African dispute of the fourth century, between Donatism and what became Catholicism, is archaeologically illegible. So too is the Arianism of the Vandals, who controlled North Africa from the 430s until the Byzantine re-conquest a hundred years later. What Leone is interrogating is a gradual shift to an urban environment that was predominantly, if indeterminately, Christian, complicated as it was by profound shifts in the economic infrastructure and the distribution of power.

Leone organizes her enquiry thematically; since we move, roughly speaking, from temples to churches, there is a loose chronological progression too. Chapter 2, "The fate of pagan religious architecture", focuses on temples, though there are also some remarks about private cult spaces. Temples, in general, were not destroyed; indeed, they remained officially under state control even after the edicts prohibiting their cult use. A fascinating edict from the Codex Justinianus (quoted p. 77, n. 168) decrees that the marble and gilded decoration of a "basilica" should remain intact; marriages should not be performed there, nor should horses be brought in! But this, as so often with legal pronouncements, seems to reflect a rearguard action: in fact, there was a pattern of reusing abandoned temples, both their space and their decorations, which were sometimes systematically removed and stored. Reuse as a church seems to have been rare—notwithstanding the aggressive intervention of Aurelius in Carthage, who placed an episcopal cathedra in the temple; Leone estimates 5% (62). Some were converted to private space, some to commercial use; some, it seems, simply stood. A church might, however, be built in a temple courtyard, or in the bath complex associated with a temple. In Madauros, a frigidarium was repurposed as a church (one can almost hear the jokes about that). From this complicated picture, Leone concludes that though religious change prompted the fate of temples, it did not structure the patterns of their reuse: "economy, expressions of power, and necessity were the driving forces that determined the conversion of pagan religious monuments" (82).

Chapter 3 addresses "Pagan continuity and religious attitudes". Although the last reference to restoration or rebuilding for the imperial cult is early in the period—the late third or early fourth century—the cult persisted in various forms, notably in the continuation into the Vandal period of the titles flamen perpetuus and sacerdotalis provinciae. These could be held by those who were demonstrably Christian; Leone lists all pertinent inscriptions in Appendix 1. Imperial cult statues form refractory evidence—too easily moved, impossible to determine whether, at a given moment, they carried ideological weight or were merely decorative—but Leone suggests, following Thébert, that "the centre of propaganda moved from the forum to the baths" (117) because of the presence of statuary there. She concludes that paganism was related to "culturally necessary actions and behaviours" which survived, whatever the progress of Christianity, in the secular sphere; late antique towns were "populated essentially by profane communities." 1

Chapter 4 looks at "The fate of statues" more generally. Once again, the reuse of statues was apparently favored over destroying them or commissioning new works; Leone makes the excellent point that the tradition of damnatio memoriae had accustomed a Roman audience to such reuse. There seems to have been a market for statues, possibly state-controlled; certainly, they were moved around and rearranged in an apparent urban horror vacui. Some may have been kept in temples now functioning as museums—whatever exactly that meant: a provision in the Codex Theodosianus says that these "images ... should be measured by the value of their art, not their divinity".2 A few were literally defaced, or had crosses carved onto them, but they were the exceptions. Even if the statues were taken down, they seem more likely to have been stored than destroyed.

Chapter 5 discusses "Spolia in churches", and—as we might expect from the cover image—the picture is messier than ever. Leone points out that the recycling of building materials was already common throughout the Roman period. Two things, however, make the North African record different. First, the import trade in building materials, especially marble, diminished drastically after the third century, and only revived with the Byzantine "explosion of urban monumentality" (190) in the early sixth century. Second, "local independent traditions" of stoneworking developed (206, 232) in urban workshops in the intervening period—for example, Corinthian capitals were produced to a distinctive North African design. Baths and theatres were most often dismantled for spoliation; this too may have been under state control. Spolia were reused, Leone observes, with a "pointed indifference" (how does she know?) to their original context (229); their aesthetic of irregularity and asymmetry she likens to Michael Roberts' "jeweled style", though to draw parallels between an idiosyncratic motif of late antique poetry and an architectural aesthetic born primarily of paucity and "convenience" (234) seems tenuous.

In conclusion, Chapter 6 asserts that "religion was not (apart from specific cases or events) a source of friction in Late Antique North Africa". Despite that parenthetical caveat, anyone who has read Brent Shaw's recent book may feel that this picture is rather too eirenic.3 But in archaeological terms, this may be true. Cities required to maintain urban monumentality did so largely through spoliation. There seems to have been no superstition attached to reusing material from temples for churches (though did Catholics and Donatists perhaps squabble over choice spolia?). Leone draws the conclusion towards which she has nudged us throughout the book, that economic considerations, not ideological ones, dictate the transformation of the urban landscape.

But Leone's account, despite its ambitious range, leaves many gaps. Differences of topography or urban power structures are occluded. (You would never guess from this book, for example, that the Vandals made Carthage their capital.) I longed for Leone to dig into the complexities of a particular city or site rather than flitting from example to example. (The exception is the descriptive account of Basilica I in Sabratha, 220-9 and Appendix 2; more typical is a "case study" in Chapter 5, again of Carthage, that covers one and a half pages.) Maps of sites indicating clearly identifiable "Christian" and "pagan" buildings would have illuminated her argument —see the exemplary map on p. 205 of Douglas Boin's new book on Ostia, a natural comparandum for this one.4 And although Leone often invokes the notion of monumentality, she never tells us what she comprehends within the term.

Above all, to what degree are the conclusions of the book shaped by the explicit focus on urban monumentality, when so much of the new Christian building was outside city walls? By this, I mean not just the extramural Christian churches that were nonetheless clearly attached to cities; what about truly rural churches, like the seventy-three charted in a single survey of central Numidia? Of these, Peter Brown writes, "The ruins of these churches represent a hidden Africa".5 Leone herself refers to the "large monumental complex of the basilica" at Theveste (204), with its "newly sculpted" decorations, which Brown discusses as an example of the "hidden Africa". The coastal cities may have been economizing; the hinterland, it seems, could still devote enormous wealth to Christian projects.

So the ambo from Lepcis Magna tells only part of the story; of complexity, yes, and indeterminacy, but also of what is not here. I am reminded of a passage in the wonderful novel by Hisham Matar, In the Country of Men. The young Libyan narrator tags along on a college trip to Lepcis Magna, and is awestruck by the ruins: "Absence was everywhere".


1.   This echoes the recent conclusions of Peter Brown: "The Christian church remained pinned into a niche of its own in late Roman society. It was kept there by the sheer weight of a profane Roman state and by the robustly secular attitudes of those who ran it." Through the Eye of a Needle (Princeton 2012), 383. (Leone uses an epigraph from an earlier work of Brown.)
2.   CTh 16.10.8, cited by Leone on p. 130: "simulacra ... artis pretio quam divinitate metienda".
3.   Brent Shaw, Sacred Violence: African Christians and Sectarian Hatred in the Age of Augustine (Cambridge 2011).
4.   Douglas Boin, Ostia in Late Antiquity (Cambridge 2013).
5.   Brown, Through the Eye of a Needle, 334.


Tim Whitmarsh, Beyond the Second Sophistic: Adventures in Greek Postclassicism. Berkeley; Los Angeles; London: University of California Press, 2013. Pp. xiii, 278. ISBN 9780520276819. $49.95.

Reviewed by Edith Hall, King's College London (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

Twelve years on from publishing his path-breaking monograph Greek Literature and the Roman Empire: the Politics of Imitation(Oxford and New York, OUP: 2001), with a few bestsellers on the ancient novel and the organization of knowledge in the imperial period under his belt in the intervening decade, Tim Whitmarsh now treats lovers of late antique Greek literature to a glittering collection of provocative essays. I use the term 'late antique Greek literature' apprehensively, because one of Whitmarsh's fortes is explaining what's wrong with conventionally accepted literary categories and labels, beginning with 'The Second Sophistic' itself. First known to have been used in the 3rd century CE by Philostratus, to mean a certain kind of rhetorical style, it swiftly became classical scholars' collective term of choice for the cultural phenomenon constituted by Greek literature produced between about 50 CE and 300 CE. Whitmarsh himself prefers the term 'postclassical,' which he intends 'to mark an aspiration to rethink classicist categories inherited from the nineteenth century.' Since the term postclassical was itself often used in the nineteenth century to designate Greek literature and language when they were thought to be locked into a process of permanent decline from the 'purity' of the classical period through 'contamination' by non-Greek ethnic groups including Jews and Arabs, its adoption by progressive contemporary scholars functions as an ironic, even subversive, reappropriation of one of the very 'classicist' concepts which 'postclassicism' sets out to resist.

The book contains fifteen essays, ten of which are updated versions of previously published articles, and five of which (the Introduction and chapters 2, 3, 11, and 14) are completely new. The careful revision of the older material, combined with the intellectual bravura of the Introduction, ensure that the book establishes and sustains throughout a lucid over-arching argument, or rather a set of interlocking propositions which cumulatively establish a new way of thinking about late ancient Greek literature. Whitmarsh proposes that there is a great deal more interesting literature from the period than has been appreciated by the academy. He shows that early imperial Greek poetry and poetics offer rich crops to the careful harvester; that our understanding of Hellenistic Judaism is in need of substantial revision; and that literature of this era reveals a new sophistication in the dialogues it conducted between literary criticism and cultural production. He ultimately reveals that investigating authors who have disappeared from the canon and whose works lie beyond hope of more than tentative reconstruction can nevertheless offer new prisms through which to refract the beams of light cast across the centuries by a poem, a dialogue, or a travelogue.

The single most important factor unifying the essays is the evaluative, or rather non-evaluative, approach. Whitmarsh's stated aim 'is to do away entirely with the idea of the culturally central, the paradigmatic, to dispense with hierarchies of cultural value.' A fragmentary epic in Greek by a Jewish poet is just as potentially interesting to him as the Aeneid of Vergil. Hierarchies of value, he argues persuasively, are of little use in understanding the supposed 'genre' of the ancient novel, which was a much more heterogeneous and plural phenomenon than is often appreciated. Whitmarsh amply demonstrates its diversity in his bravura chapters on the Lucianic Ass, the (profoundly influential) Alexander Romance, and Philostratus' cunning Heroicus. The second major point Whitmarsh makes is that poetry gives us a very different avenue into the minds of this era than prose—an argument which is impossible to dispute. It is also (although this point is not developed) highly suggestive for the ways in which we might begin to think about the relationship between 'literature' and imperial performance media (especially mime and pantomime).

Every reader will have their own favourites amongst the essays. 'The Invention of Fiction' is an authoritative, succinct assessment of the various streams of discourse which flowed into the meandering river constituted by ancient fiction— epic, invention, drama, rhetoric, historiography, local history, erotic prose, Semitic and Egyptian narratives, alternative geographies. 'The Romance of Genre' and 'Metamorphoses of the Ass' present us with Whitmarsh fast-bowling gracefully at the wicket of the ancient novel, and knocking for six the lazy stereotypes about its contents that often dominate criticism. The relationship between epistolography and fiction in terms of their treatment of time, status and power comes under intense scrutiny in 'Addressing Power'; landscape, topography, and the aesthetics of agriculture, visual art and eros are at the centre of his discussions of the Heroicus (with interesting sideways glances at Dio Chrysostom's delicious Euboean Oration) and Achilles Tatius' Leucippe and Clitophon in chapters 7 and 8. The first two chapters of the section on poetry look at Greek epigrammatic poets' relationships with Roman patrons and with the Hadrianic context of Mesomedes' varied output respectively. The fruitful dissonance between imperial Greek poetry and prose provides the focus of the chapters on Lucianic paratragedy and the several prose authors discussed in 'Quickening the Classics', where it is especially pleasurable to find Strabo taken seriously as a literary artist.

In my view, however, the three most outstanding chapters—outstanding on the criteria of originality, lucidity, and potential influence—are 3, 4 and 13. Chapter 3, which is new, discusses the Sacred Inscription of Euhemerus of Messene (or alternatively of Akragas or Cos), supposedly a friend of King Cassander of Macedon. His name is today more commonly associated with a certain kind of rationalizing interpretation of supernatural elements in ancient mythology. Whitmarsh uses a discussion of this enigmatic text, at one level an account of a fictional voyage which clearly played against the wanderings of the Homeric Odyssey, to explore the relationship between fiction and philosophical experiment, especially philosophical consideration of the fictionality of the gods. It will be interesting to see whether Euhemerus figures in Whitmarsh's forthcoming study of disbelief in antiquity.

In chapter 4, Whitmarsh confronts head-on the 'problem' supposedly posed by ancient critics' alleged inability to distinguish between authors of fiction and the first-person narrators who speak in their fictions—more particularly, the problem supposedly presented by Augustine's apparent conflation of the author Apuleius with Lucius, the narrator of his Golden Ass. In a deft and amusing dissection of modern critical practice, Whitmarsh shows how the all-pervasive influence of Narratology and its analytical toolkit threatens to create a situation in which 'moderns start lording it over their benighted pre-Enlightenment predecessors'. Worse, it 'risks inattention to the reading instincts and habits of the ancients themselves.' This needs saying loudly and often. There are many ancient prose authors whose achievements are being misunderstood or diminished by forgetting about ancient critics' criteria of literary assessment in favour of Genette's.

But Whitmarsh saves his best until almost the last, in chapter 13. This elegant study of politics and identity in Ezekiel's Exagoge begins from the premise that scholars of all political hues have exaggerated the emphasis in Greek cultural production of the imperial era on defining the boundaries of Hellenism. The world of the Hellenized ancient Mediterranean, as Whitmarsh gently reminds us, 'was not one of passports.' In particular, literary scholars have tended to neglect the function performed in Jewish identity of the era by the Temple, at least until Vespasian destroyed it in 70 CE. Whitmarsh sees that scholars seeking 'a coherent articulation of subaltern resistance through literature' would do much better to look at Hellenistic Judaism than at the 'Greek' literature of the period, since Hellenistic Jews were composing literature in the language and genres of the colonizer, 'trying to dismantle the master's house by using his own tools.' This insight allows him to breathe exciting new interpretive life into what is actually by far the longest surviving chunk of Hellenistic tragedy. He reads this drama about Moses as commenting allegorically on the Alexandria in existence at the time the text was produced. The representation of Pharaonic Egypt 'can be seen as a coded political critique of Ptolemaic Alexandria.' This essay is a dazzling piece of work and will be impossible to ignore in any future account either of tragedy in antiquity or indeed of cultural politics under the Ptolemies.

Beyond the Second Sophistic is a quietly passionate and intellectually complex book. It is not an easy read—but then neither are many of the luxuriant and highly wrought works of literature its author exerts himself so consistently to help us to understand better. The world of late ancient Greek literature is a profoundly exciting and deceptive one, and there is no better guide to it working today than Tim Whitmarsh.

Table of Contents

Preface pp. vii-viii
Acknowledgments pp. ix-x
Abbreviations pp. xi-xiii.
Introduction: Beyond the Second Sophistic and into the Postclassical pp. 1-7

Part 1 Fiction Beyond the Canon
1 The "Invention of Fiction" pp. 11-34
2 The Romance of Genre pp. 35-48
3 Belief in Fiction: Euhemerus of Messene and the Sacred Inscription pp. 49-62
4 An I for an I: Reading Fictional Autobiography pp. 63-74
5 Metamorphoses of the Ass pp. 75-85
6 Addressing Power: Fictional Letters between Alexander and Darius pp. 86-100
7 Philostratus's Heroicus: Fictions of Hellenism pp. 101-122
8 Mimesis and the Gendered Icon in Greek Theory and Fiction pp. 123-134

Part 2 Poetry and Prose
9 Greek Poets and Roman Patrons in the Late Republic and Early Empire pp. 137-53
10 The Cretan Lyre Paradox: Mesomedes, Hadrian, and the Poetics of Patronage pp. 154-75
11 Lucianic Paratragedy pp. 176-85
12 Quickening the Classics: The Politics of Prose in Roman Greece pp. 186-208

Part 3 Beyond the Greek Sophistic
13 Politics and Identity in Ezekiel's Exagoge pp. 211-227
14 Adventures of the Solymoi pp. 228-247
References pp. 249-273
Index pp. 275-278


Silvia Ottaviano, Gian Biagio Conte (ed.), P. Vergilius Maro: Bucolica; Georgica. Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana, 2011. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2013. Pp. 220. ISBN 9783110196085. $84.00.

Reviewed by S. J. Heyworth, Wadham College, Oxford (

Version at BMCR home site

Silvia Ottaviano's edition of the Eclogues begins controversially, with the word Arcadiae, of which Vergil (rather than Gallus or Sannazaro) was supposedly the inventor, followed in the second line of the preface by a description of the herdsmen as living per agros ac siluas, as if this reflected the land usage or the diction of the book (in which siluae 22 times appears, ager only 7). But things improve markedly thereafter. She (like Conte for the Georgics) brings into the apparatus a number of 10th and 11th- century Beneventan MSS (collectively Λ), a move which strengthens our sense of the tradition; and her text admits a good number of unusual readings, both conjectures and neglected variants.

Though her own conjectures do not convince me, they are all thought-provoking, and the published discussions well worth reading: 3.102 hisce arte and 5.30 et ducere (MD 67 (2011), 203-13: note that incipere is regularly used with inceptive verbs, e.g. at 4.12, 6.39, 9.60); 9.45 nisi and 7.45-8 post 56 (MD 69 (2012), 199-215: it is very bold to break up the responsion of subject between the summer and winter pictures of 45-8/49-52, and the effect of departure/arrival in 53-6/57-60). The deletion of 4.23 also seems unnecessary: the repetitions are admirably suited to the mannered style of this poem and the Eclogues (cf. 5.62-4), and transposition from after 21 is easily explained. However, there are numerous persuasive deviations from the vulgate, such as 1.59 aequore; 4.52 laetantur; 4.54 quantus (which should be attributed Kovacs); 5.3 considimus (present), 28 feros siluasque (Markland; no need for montesque in the lemma); 5.38 purpurea; 7.46 grata (Peerlkamp), 48 laeto (even without the transposition); 8.74 hanc (Λ). It is also helpful if editors differ from their predecessors at points where there is little reason to prefer one variant to another, and this edition is excellent in that regard, offering the following: 1.63 labantur, 72 perduxit; 2.7 coges, 32 primus; 5.25 nec (Λ; nec also 6.2, but not at 9.38 or 10.62, presumably out of prejudice against R; Conte on the other hand normally prints neque rather than nec where the capital mss are divided, including Geo. 1.426, when R has neque against nec in M; but not at 3.216, where nec is for some reason preferred); 5.45 nobis carmen; 6.85 referri; 7.25 nascentem.

However, there are choices that I find less attractive. In Eclogue 1 Wakefield's hoc for hic (44) removes the climactic concentration on Rome (answering 26) before the culminating answer to 18 deus qui sit; in this position hoc would more normally refer back (as in the passages Ottaviano cites from the Aeneid), not forward. Gratwick's qui appears at 2.2 for the transmitted quid, even though Vergil does not otherwise use the form (Housman, CP 1237; Cynthia 171). At 2.12, in support of mecum rather than the me cum advocated by Bentley the apparatus discusses the construction after resonare, but without noticing that the stress here needs to be on me, and this is absent if we read mecum: in contrast to the rest of the pastoral world Corydon is not resting in the midday heat, but wandering (cf. 68 me tamen urit amor, in the corresponding priamel, marking evening). At 3.34 alter is unexceptionable (= 'one or other'). At 4.18 the vulgate at tibi (γω) should not be abandoned in favour of ac (found in R, whose ac is not followed in 26); the apparatus makes reference to Aeneid 1.174, but ac primum is a frequent locution at the start of sentences, whereas ac tibi is not found in this position at all in Augustan poetry, and at tibi occurs 25 times.

Sometimes too new punctuation changes things for the worse. At 3.9 an aposiopesis is preferred to a full stop as if Damoetas were going on to provide a verb or the sentence continued in 12; cf. Theoc. Id. 1.105. Paragraphing at 4.11 is misguided: the presence of que stands against a break of this kind here, and the separation obscures the significant play between regnat Apollo and te consule … Pollio. At 6.38 the absence of a comma at the end of 37 encourages us to take altius with lucescere: but the Lucretian passages cited in the apparatus show only that the sun was thought of as high in the heavens, and not that altius is an appropriate adverb with lucescere. True, we are advised that Vergil never postpones atque, but see Clausen's comments on this, and there is an alternative reading utque (Raf), read by Goold.

The apparatus is rich in references, but defective in not giving us the source of correct readings, e.g. at 3.91 (mulgeat); unclear in reading at 6.81 'infelix dist. M2'; and wrong in telling readers that the force of 5.8, reading certat, is solus Amyntas tam insolens est ut non uereatur tecum certare: this makes the verse into a comment on Amyntas whereas Menalcas must mean a compliment to Mopsus; Mopsus then plays with the sense of certare ('challenge') in indignation (9, 15), and Menalcas restores harmony by strengthening his compliment in 16-18. But with elegant brevity, '(cf. heroum)', it gives the reason for preferring parentis to parentum (R) at 4.26, and at 5.66 explains how altaria works in apposition to aras. At 10.44 there is a lengthy attempt at rebutting Heumann's te (recently advocated by Hollis, FRP 237, and E. Kraggerrud, Eranos 103 (2005), 35-7), on the basis that nunc opposes what follows on the madness of war to the preceding pastoral scene: so it does, but as Gallus's pastoral vignette has been offered to Lycoris, and hypothetically includes her, it is perfectly reasonable for the antithesis to be based on her current life (n.b. 23, 46-9), whereas Gallus is in pastoral Arcadia (13-15).

The 17-page preface of Conte's Georgics also begins inauspiciously, with six pages discussing and then rejecting theories about the revised edition of the second half of Book 4. Conte himself regards this as a mare's nest, reasonably enough — but treating the story so is hardly the way to reduce its prominence in scholarly debate. That said, the sentiments of 99-101 are well expressed and judged (though the assertion here of Vergil's repeated self-correction is at odds with the dismissal of nimia diligentia on 97), and the following pages contain much wise thinking on the manuscripts and text (e.g. the paragraph on orthography, 109-10; it is surprising he spells Molorc(h)i with the h at 3.19 given Morgan's demonstration (CQ 42 (1992), 553-8) that Molorchus is an aberration of scribes).

Conte's Aeneid was criticized for the failure to report on each page which MSS are extant. This has been corrected in this volume. However, in both parts the apparatus is sometimes positive, but more often not, without any obvious logic behind the choice. At Geo. 3.249, e.g., we read 'agris] aruis Φ' where there could be no ambiguity, but at 255 the correct sus goes unmentioned in the apparatus, even though all three extant capital MSS are corrupt (suus MP: usus R). Sometimes the format causes real uncertainty: at 3.418 one presumes that the variants succederet and succedere e are equivalent to succedere et in the text; but what of succendere? This awkwardness is exacerbated by the unpredictable presence of discursive comments. Despite the sound things said in the preface about the fantasies sometimes found in commentaries, several of them are paraded here (e.g. Servius at 1.6, 13, Sabbadini on 3.250-65), along with lengthy defences of vulgate readings, such as the placing of 1.257-8 after 256. If an editor wishes to give quick access to the information that helps determine the correct text, it would seem sensible at Geo. 1.341 tum pingues agni et tum mollissima uina to cite Hesiod, Works and Days 585 τῆμος πιόταταί τ' αἶγες καὶ οἶνος ἄριστος, where the loss of digamma has led to an apparent hiatus, which defends the MR reading against the easy alternative tunc agni pingues found in early medieval MSS. Likewise at 1.318 one looks for a reference to Lucan's imitation of concurrere proelia (1.40), and Pliny's reference (Nat. Hist. 18.341): R's consurgere will not then tempt. At 1.327 it is possible that R has the correct form, spumantibus; but at Aen. 10.291 uada non spirant (M) Vergil himself apparently offers a parallel to the unexpected fretis spirantibus. Such things mainly go unrecorded; even the specific citations in later texts are mentioned only where they exhibit variants, though they may be important where they back up the direct paradosis.

The text features one new conjecture: si for et at 3.159. This is not a palaeographically straightforward change: initial monosyllables do not seem to interchange as easily in the Vergilian tradition as in those poets who emerge in minuscule (R's nec for sed at Geo. 3.176 repeats the nec of 175, for example). Nor is it clear that the text is corrupt: the subjunctive (which lacks point in the emended text) suggests that quos pecori malint summittere habendo functions as an indirect question, the third object of inurunt: as well as details of descent farmers mark on their new stock which they intend for breeding, which for sacrifice etc.

Conte presents cogent arguments for, and prints, several variants and conjectures that are normally neglected: notably 2.514 penates; 3.535 arduos; 4.221 omnia (Peerlkamp); 4.331 duram; 4.348 fusis dum; 4.361 speciem. Less persuasive is inludunt (1.181), against the more widely transmitted inludant; he argues for a strong pause to break tum uariae inludunt pestes from the negated purpose clauses in the previous line (ne subeant herbae neu puluere uicta fatiscat); however, he does not explain the force of tum, which seems to imply continuity (the sentence lacks the links to context that would encourage us to take tum as 'in addition'). Indeed we might use the subjunctive inludant in an unorthodox continuation of the subordinate clause as a parallel to the case at 1.321 where ita … ferret hiems can be read as maintaining the subjunctive of the generic clause proelia uidi … quae … segetem … eruerent.

In accepting readings from outside the main tradition Conte shows less independence. Thus at 4.355 the apparatus cites Bentley's magni and Peerlkamp's nostri, but the unmetrical Penei is in the text. At 4.484 he keeps the improbable uento, though reporting Burman's excellent cantu. At 2.22 sunt alii (sc. modi) quos ipse uia sibi repperit usus he fails to print Scaliger's compelling emendation aliae quas … uias, though alie is in M (the only capital manuscript available), quas is given by M1, and the conjectural uias supposes the simplest haplography before sibi. Another easy error left intact is latis at 2.468 at latis otia fundis, where the evocation of latifundia is absurd amid the praises of a simple country life, while laetis is actually attested in Macrobius and the Scholia Bernensia.

Two radical moments come when Conte follows Goold in accepting transpositions suggested by Bentley. The placing of 3.120-2 after 96 is an excellent solution, and a striking sign of corruption in the early tradition, if right. Less successful is the transposition of 4.203-5, partly because the new home, after 196, is no more attractive than other places (218 Ribbeck), partly because the traditional home may be right: though 206-9 works well immediately after 202, it opens with a concessive clause allowing for the deaths of bees, the central topic of 203-5. By contrast 4.291 is printed (admittedly in italics) in the implausible position the numeration (and P) grants it. If maintained in the text, it needs to come after 293 (so R, followed by Mynors, e.g.; M puts it after 292). Conte thinks it was written by Vergil to replace 292 as part of a major revision after the death of Gallus, but he does not explain why this has left so meagre and pointless a trace. Given the uncertain position and the frequency of descriptions of the Nile in Roman poetry, it is more likely that the verse is an intrusion from a marginal parallel and not Vergilian at all.


Ladislav Stančo, Greek Gods in the East: Hellenistic Iconographic Schemes in the Central Asia. Prague: Karolinum Press, 2012. Pp. 261. ISBN 9788024620459. $35.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Jeffrey D. Lerner, Wake Forest University (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

The work is comprised of four sections. The first is an introduction in which Stančo explains that the purpose is to present "a sort of catalogue of everything that was produced in the Gandharan school, as well as in the broader framework of the art of the Kushan empire, above all in Bactria and Paropamisade, and which at the same time has some allusion to the art of the ancient Mediterranean in the sense of the icon, the image itself, and of its intentionally-created symbolic components, the iconographic symbols" (p. 9). The catalogue consists of imports of an assumed Mediterranean origin along with items produced locally by Greek and indigenous artists. The chronological emphasis is on the first two centuries C.E., although he begins with the eastern campaigns of Alexander the Great and looks as far as the fifth century C.E. Surprisingly, this section ends with Stančo explaining why he has been unable to include all the material that falls within the categories that he has just described. The result is that the work is "more of a sample, a cross-section" of the material under examination (p. 10). His focus is on presenting those iconographic models that he has determined were "transferred" to the east without explaining from where the original was produced and how each was then "transformed" without explaining how this change differed from the original version. A brief historical survey of the Hellenistic period then follows (pp. 12-18) on which he disproportionately relies on Tarn and Narain whose works have largely been superseded by information that has come to light in the intervening five decades since their work was published.1 Likewise, the two paragraphs devoted to Kushan chronology do not refer to publications dated after 2001.

The second and largest portion of the book consists of four divisions in which he discusses what he terms over twenty "Greek mythological figures in the east." Although his purpose is not to discuss style, he nevertheless includes a number of generalities. One example is in his discussion of the Winged Aphrodite from Tillya Tepe, grave 6 (fig. 3.5.5), wherein he claims that the "work is relatively close to Western tradition. It maintains a high standard of artistic execution, maintains the proportions and preserves a Hellenistic facies." The implication is that had the statuette been created by a local non-Greek artist the piece would have been executed in a lower standard, it would not have retained the proper proportions, and it would not have preserved a Hellenistic facies. But he nowhere offers an explanation as to how he formulated this analysis, such as offering a definition of "a Hellenistic facies" as he presupposes the reader will know what he means.

Some entries lack references to the figures represented, e.g., Adonis, while in other cases, such as in the discussion of Eros, not all the figures referenced are represented. Each entry is provided with a brief analysis, but quite often, as in the discussion of "Erotes-putti-garlandholders," nineteen figures are listed, but only four are discussed. Each figure is accompanied by a bibliography, although the criteria used in creating the citations are far from clear. As a result, the bibliography for a number of objects is not as complete as one might otherwise anticipate. For example, in the case of the famous sandaled foot of Aï Khanoum, identified as that of an enthroned Zeus (fig. 25 [353], p. 211), there is no reference to its initial publication and hence identification by Bernard.2 In the section, "Greek deities identified with Iranian or Indian ones" (pp. 227-235), Stančo focuses his discussion on Tyche, Heracles, Hermes, but does not explain why he does not include others as part of the analysis.

The conclusion is marred by a series of general assertions that lack evidence. For example, we are told that the reason that Apollo is always depicted with his bow and arrow(s) and not "as a poet with a lyre" is due to the fact that in the Hellenistic Far East society, "in particular the narrow ruling class…was continuously subjected to heavy pressure…and forced to wage a permanent battle to maintain its internal power and external borders. Neither in Bactria nor in India did the Greeks and Macedonians enjoy much peace time" (p. 238). Evidently, he feels that the depictions of Apollo with his lyre created in the eastern Mediterranean during the Hellenistic epoch was a period marked by peace. In other words, according to Stančo the eastern brand of Apollo with bow and arrow(s) was a bellicose god. What he does not understand is that the depiction of a ruler in similar attitude formed part of a long iconographic tradition of representing divine kingship which dates back at least as far as Naram-Sîn. It was precisely this practice that Antiochos I embraced as the reverse type on his coins. In this regard, Apollo—along with Helios—was part of a larger synthesis of Graeco-Iranian syncretism in which both gods represented the Iranian sun god, Mithras.3

Although he frames the book around the catalogue, each representation designated by a number, he nowhere makes references to particular items, but speaks only in terms of objects classed by the name of a deity. Thus, Stančo emphasizes the distinction between objects imported from the west and those produced locally in the east, but without explaining how he has been able to discern the place of their creation. He assumes that the distinction is real without offering proof as to the validity of the assertion. As a result, the charts indicating the amount of local and imported objects based on the items presented in the catalogue (243 fig. 385, 247-248 figs. 388-390) are suspect. The fourth section of the book is the bibliography.

Early on, Stančo explains why he dismissed any need to include a separate index of illustrations (p. 21). Unfortunately, this omission detracts from the work, since as a reference work one expects to find items and topics discussed in the text. Moreover, the illustrations in the text consist of simple line drawings by Polina Kazakova who was responsible for some 200 items. For the reader already familiar with the objects rendered their identifications pose no problem, but for those unfamiliar with their depictions they can be somewhat misleading, as they tend to lack many details.

The book would have benefited mightily from more stringent editing and proofreading. One looks forward to the second revised edition.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction
1.1 Definition of the subject
1.2 Political continuity
1.3 A note on Kushan chronology

2 An iconographic analysis of the art of Gandhara, Bactria and the adjoining areas of the Kushan Empire
2.1 General remarks
2.2 Greek mythological figures in the east
2.2.1 Adonis
2.2.2 Aphrodite
2.2.3 Apollo
2.2.4 Ares
2.2.5 Artemis
2.2.6 Athena
2.2.7 Atlantes
2.2.8 Centaur
2.2.9 Cybele
2.2.10 Demeter

2.2.11 Dionysus
2.2.12 Dioscuri
2.2.13 Eros/Cupids
2.2.14 Harpocrates
2.2.15 Helios
2.2.16 Heracles
2.2.17 Hermes
2.2.18 Nereids
2.2.19 Nike
2.2.20 Poseidon
2.2.21 River gods
2.2.22 Sarapis
2.2.23 Tyche / City goddess
2.2.24 Zeus

2.3 Other schemes of Greek origin
2.3.1 Various themes
2.3.2 Drinking, dancing and erotic scenes
2.4 Greek deities identified with Iranian or Indian ones
2.4.1 Tyche-Hariti-Ardokhsho-Lakshmi
2.4.2 Heracles-Vajrapani
2.4.3 Pharro / Panchika / Hermes
2.4.4 Shiva - Vesho - Veshparkar with attributes of Poseidon, Zeus and Heracles
4 Conclusions
5 Bibliography


1.   Tarn, W.W. 1966. The Greeks in Bactria and India (2nd ed. Cambridge); Narain, A.K. 1957. The Indo-Greeks (Oxford).
2.   Bernard, P. 1969. Quatrième campagne de fouilles à Aï Khanoum (Bactriene), Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 113/3, 329-340, figs. 15-16; Bernard, P. 1970. Communication. Campagne de fouilles 1969 à Aï Khanoum en Afghanistan, Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres 114/2, 319.
3.   E.g., Iossif, P.P. and Lober, C.C. 2009. The cult of Helios in the Seleucid East, Topoi 16, 19-25; Erickson, K. and Wright, N.L. 2011. The 'royal archer' and Apollo in the East: Graeco-Persian iconography in the Seleukid empire, Proceedings of the XIVth International Numismatic Congress, Glasgow 2009, 163-167. Most recently, Iossif, P.P. and Lober, C.C. 2011. Apollo Toxotes and the Seleukids: comme un air de famille, More than men, less than gods. Studies on royal cult and imperial worship. Proceedings of the International Colloquium organized by the Belgian School at Athens (November 1-2, 2007), P.P. Iossif, A.S. Chankowskii, and C.C. Lorber eds. Studia Hellenistica 51, 251-252.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Saskia Hin, The Demography of Roman Italy: Population Dynamics in an Ancient Conquest Society (201 BCE – 14 CE). Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Pp. xii, 406. ISBN 9781107003934. $99.00.

Reviewed by Gareth C. Sampson (

Version at BMCR home site


This is the latest of a number of recent works on the topic of Roman Demography in the second and first centuries BCE of the Roman Republic. The work is a revised PhD thesis and follows the 2012 work by Luuk de Ligt1 who was Hin's doctoral supervisor at Leiden. The book has two stated purposes; the first of which is another attempt to redefine the long standing debate between two main strands of Roman population theory, namely the high and low counts for population size and growth. The second is to provide an overview of the topic of Roman demography, surveying a wide range of the differing types of evidence that are needed for anyone working in this field. The book has nine chapters divided into three sections: "economic and ecological parameters"; "demographic" parameters relating to mortality, fertility and migration; and "population size". The book is supported by two appendices and a substantial bibliography.

The first section, on economic and ecological parameters, has three chapters; the first of which acts as a short introduction. Here Hin provides a brief historiography of the high and low count debate, critiques both views and sets out her proposal for an intermediate position between the two traditional camps of limited and massive population growth. Hin also provides an overview of the key elements of her argument in the chapters which follow.

Chapter two explores the first of these key elements--the economic background. Hin sets out an analysis of the Roman economy in the period from the Second Punic War to Augustus to see whether there was enough capacity to support population growth or whether a slow economy would act as a break on the population. Hin discusses topics as varied as diet, the slave economy, the impact of empire, and the interrelationship between the growth of the city of Rome itself and the countryside, which was needed to support such growth. Ultimately Hin concludes that the Roman economy experienced real growth during this period and thus was able to support population growth.

In the next chapter, Hin provides an analysis of the ecological factors that affected Italy, in terms of climate and climate change. Here Hin introduces and discusses a range of factors from solar activity to plankton levels and concludes that during the Republican period the climate was still warming, which had a positive effect on Roman agriculture. Hin does question whether this would have an overall positive effect on population growth as she introduces the possible negative effects that a warming climate would have, namely a rise of diseases such as malaria. Overall however she concludes, as before, that the climate factors would support population growth.

In the second section, Hin moves onto examine the core issues of demography: mortality, fertility and migration. Chapter four provides an overview of the topic of mortality and is the largest chapter in the book, covering a wide variety of topics in varying depth across thirteen subsections. There are brief discussions on life expectancy at birth and the different types used, followed by a lengthier discussions on model life tables, covering both their possibilities they offer and their limitations. Hin uses a range of comparative data from civilisations as varied as Chile and sub-Saharan Africa and presents five different possible model life tables. This is followed by a brief discussion on variations in mortality levels, and short sections on geography, socioeconomic status and gender, followed by a lengthier section on infanticide. The theoretical sections are followed by case studies examining population recovery after the Second Punic War and another on the impact of warfare in the second century BCE.

Overall Hin argues that the impact of military service on the population was less than had previously been thought, falling primarily on men prior to marriage. The impact on families was therefore also less than previously thought. Hin further argues that the population of Italy possessed a number of mechanisms that allowed for a rapid post-war recovery following periods of heavy warfare and demographic rupture. It must be said that the structure of the chapter does little to help the argument, varying between lengthy debates on particular issues, interspersed with short sections where other topics are mentioned and swiftly discarded. Model life tables and infanticide are covered in depth, while socio-economic factors and gender are briefly discussed. The chapter also suffers from excessive partitioning into sub-sections, some of which are only a paragraph long, which jars the flow of the argument.

Chapter five provides an overview of the topic of fertility, examining the evidence to see if there was a decline in fertility across this period. Here Hin analyses key areas such as marriage and household formation, including arguments over the average ages of marriage, childbearing, and the key differences between the socioeconomic groups. The chapter is better structured than its predecessor with lengthier discussions of all the key areas. Ultimately Hin argues that it was unlikely that there was a structural decline in fertility, with the societies of Republican Italy possessing a greater flexibility when it came to issues of marriage age and childbearing, which could meet the changing circumstances families faced. Thus Hin argues that there was not a decline in fertility in the late Republican period.

Chapter six moves the argument onto the issues surrounding migration within Italy, especially between the countryside and the city, and in particular examines the various push and pull factors which drew people towards the cities. There are lengthy discussions on the causes and types of migration as well as an analysis on the role of Rome as the ultimate migrant city. Hin presents a lengthy discussion of the use of graveyards as evidence for mortality and life expectancy levels, accompanied by a demographic analysis of the migrants themselves. Finally the issue of the respective reproductive rates of the migrant and resident populations is examined. Hin finds that urban migration disrupted the natural fertility patterns and skewed the sex ratio within the cities. This was especially the case when it came to migration to Rome itself which magnified this disruption. Whereas previous chapters are concluded with a summary of the main points discussed, this chapter finishes with a sudden diversion into the issue of migration across the Alps, which somewhat disrupts the flow of the whole chapter.

Chapter seven opens the third and final section of the book (on population size) and offers a discussion on the key issue of the census and the recorded number of Roman citizens. Here Hin presents an overview of ongoing debate over the interpretation of the census figures, and the arguments over the high and low counts theories for the size and development of the Roman population. Hin then presents her own arguments for an alternative to the high and low count theories: a middle count. She begins by discussing why a new theory is needed and then examines the census process itself, in terms of the origins, purpose and evolution of the practice. Here Hin tries to trace the changing purposes of the census over the centuries. In taking the argument back to what the Romans wanted out of the census at a particular point in time, Hin supports the argument that Augustus changed the basis of the census, expanding it from men who were sui iuris to include woman and children who were sui iuris as well.

Based on this line of argument Hin then outlines an argument for the total population of Italy, based on the definition of the sui iuris element recorded in the census and therefore extrapolates figures for the growth of the population over the period 225 to 28 BCE. Hin argues that the Roman citizen population in 225 BCE was 4.95 million rising to 6.7 million in 28 BCE (8.2 million including slaves). Thus the population growth rate over the two centuries in question works out at 35.6%, equivalent to an annual growth rate of 0.18%. This, Hin argues, fits in with the 0.2% annual growth seen in other early societies and matches the evidence extrapolated from Egyptian papyri.

Hin then follows this important argument with a chapter examining archaeological evidence and its impact upon demographic arguments, which does again seem to jar in terms of the structure and flow of the book. Nevertheless Hin presents both the theoretical benefits and hazards of using archaeological evidence and then moves to examining a cross section of evidence from sites across Italy (in effect, re-examining the twenty seven sites used by Alessandro Launaro). 2 Hin addresses possible conclusions to this evidence comprehensively, pointing out the considerable biases and limiting factors, including the major issue that Launaro's evidence derives from the later part of the Republic and early Empire and does not fit easily with the period under study in this work. Hin argues that the evidence shows the growth of villas did not undermine the smallholding class in Italy in the late Republic and early Empire and that this conclusion could also be applied to the second century BCE. However the reader is still left with questions concerning the validity of this whole chapter, both in terms of its focus on one particular scholar's evidentiary base (and the poor chronological fit of that evidence), and its position in the book, following the book's key argument on her middle count theory in the preceding chapter.

Chapter nine provides a short summary and conclusion in which Hin reviews the key findings of her earlier analysis and examines the implications of her middle count theory on the size and growth of the Roman population across these two centuries. Hin again emphasises that, in her view, Roman Italy saw limited but steady population growth throughout the last two centuries of the Republic, resulting in a population size of 6.7 million by 27 BCE. This conclusion is followed by two appendices, the first containing the surviving census figures for the Republic and early Empire and the second providing supporting details for the calculations on population size found in chapter seven. The work is supported by an extensive bibliography.

Overall this is an interesting and thought provoking re-examination in the field of Roman demography which serves both as a refresher for the field as a whole and the latest entry in the ongoing debate around the size and development of the Roman population in the last two centuries of the Republic. Hin's conclusions are thought provoking and should stimulate further debate.


1.   Luuk De Ligt, Peasants, Citizens and Soldiers: Studies in the Demographic History of Roman Italy 225 BC - AD 100 (Cambridge 2012).
2.   Alessandro Launaro, Peasants and Slaves. The Rural Population of Roman Italy (200 BC to AD 100) (Cambridge, 2011).