Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Monika Frass, Rupert Breitwieser, Georg Nightingale (ed.), Calamus: Festschrift für Herbert Graßl zum 65. Geburtstag. Philippika, 57. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, Pp. 673. ISBN 9783447068567. €128.00.

Reviewed by Anna Novokhatko, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

The present volume contains 43 essays (by a variety of contributors, some beginners, others established scholars, all bar one writing in German) dedicated to the Austrian historian Herbert Graßl. This collection reflects various of his interests: social history, economic history, the study of transportation and movement, topography and geography, archaeology, Roman provincial history, the history of law, military history, studies in cult and myth. The chronological spectrum of the articles is also broad – spanning the Bronze Age to the American constitution of 1787.

The volume is arranged alphabetically according to the names of the contributors. Certain thematic areas are the subject of a number of the articles, the largest concentration being on archaeological investigations in modern Austria. Thus Paul Gleirscher (pp. 233-243) discusses lead figures representing birds of the Early Iron Age excavated in Frög-Rosegg in Carinthia and argues that these birds represent swans and not roosters. The epigraphist Franziska Beutler (pp. 43-49) argues that the military diploma (AD 138-140) and the inscription on a Roman funerary stele (ca. AD 153-155), both from the Roman province Upper Pannonia, refer to the same family, the names being of the veteran T. Aelius Veranus, his wife Aelia Vinilla and their children. The archaeologist and director of the Archaeological Park of Magdalensberg in Carinthia, Heimo Dolenz (pp. 111-155), reports on objects found in Roman building remains in Liebenfels in Carinthia. These were destroyed before 1971 and reconstructed on the basis of a collection of earlier documents and photographs. The author also speculates on the date and dimensions of the territory of the probable villa rustica in the province of Noricum. Clemens Eibner (pp. 177-183) re-considers the bronze sky-plate on an anaphoric clock from the Salzburg Museum (1st-2nd cent. AD) and puts it into the scientific, astronomic and engineering context of Alexandria and Rome. He argues that the sundial from Salzburg is an example of the high educative level of its time. Franz Glaser (pp. 221-232) contends that two reliefs found in Karnburg (Carinthia) which were believed to be medieval and to belong to the 11th or 12th century are in fact Roman and belong approximately to the 2nd -4th centuries AD. They represent not birds, as previously thought, but Danaides pouring water in the Underworld. Gernot Piccottini (pp. 361-380) analyses building remains and reliefs found in 1998 during the renovation of the church in the village Obermühlbach near the town of Sankt Veit an der Glan in Carinthia and argues that it is very probable that a Roman settlement already existed here by the middle of the 1st century AD. Günther E. Thüry (pp. 549-567) describes a fibula with an erotic inscription found in Wels in Upper Austria in 2011. The fibula is put into the context of fibulae with erotic inscriptions from other Roman provinces (particularly North-Eastern Gallia). Barbara Tober (pp. 569-580) discusses four fragments of Roman wall painting (arguably dated to the 3rd quarter of the 1st century AD) in the Hallstatt museum in Upper Austria, which allows her to speculate on the question of the chronology and interpretation of Roman settlements in northern Noricum. Ingrid Weber-Hiden (pp. 599-610) discusses the tombstones of freedmen and women and their inscriptions in the region of Carnuntum in Upper Pannonia. The author argues that the freedwomen arrived in Carnuntum from Northern Italy en masse in the first half of the 1st century AD. Later freedmen and women came in smaller groups, classified in some detail by the author.

Two further papers discuss archaeological finds in what is today northern Serbia and Croatia. Ekkehard Weber (pp. 593-598) analyses three dedicatory inscriptions found in modern Sremska Mitrovica in Vojvodina province, where the city Sirmium (the capital of the Roman province of Lower Pannonia) was situated, while Erwin Pochmarski (pp. 381-391) analyses the frieze with erotes and the inscription on the Arch of the Sergii in Pula (Croatia). His extension of the possible date for the construction of the arch from the usual 29-27 BC to the year 19 BC is convincing.

A number of papers deal with Roman provinces elsewhere. Peter Herz (pp. 261-275) speculates on logistic aspects of the transfer of troops by Septimius Severus from the borders with Parthia to Gaul during AD 195 and 196. Severus was to defeat Clodius Albinus at the Battle of Lyon in February AD 197. Anna Maria Kaiser (pp. 295-309) compares differentiated sources to identify Tacasiria, mentioned in the Notitia dignitatum, as Taposiris Magna. She discusses military organization in late Ancient Egypt. Renate Lafer (pp. 311-321) analyses the chronological and geographical context and the terminology of agonistic athletic behavior and leisure activities in Africa Proconsularis (Tunisia and Western Libya) during post- Augustan times. Robert Rollinger and Kai Ruffing (pp. 403-418) discuss archaeological, epigraphic and textual Greek and Latin evidence to interpret the uses of kelek, rafts made of inflated animal skins, in both military and civil contexts, in the area of Mesopotamia in the Roman Imperial period.

Other papers on archaeology cannot easily be grouped. Alexandrine Eibner (pp. 157-176) deals with the archaeology of music, focusing on Celtic wind instruments of the Late Bronze and Hallstatt Age such as horns and carnyces used in ritual and war. Through an analysis of the location of peak sanctuaries in Greece, Katja Sporn (pp. 465-477) argues that mountains in Greece were not considered divine in themselves, but were viewed as a means of communication with the divine. The only cult which suggests some kind of personification of mountains was that of Helicon, but even this seems to have been a Hellenistic interpretation of Hesiod's 'divine Helicon'. Karl Strobel (pp. 479-513) discusses the development, dynamics and ideology of the building programme in Rome from the Late Republic through Nero, Domitian and Trajan down to Hadrian. Wolfgang Wohlmayr (pp. 633-659) analyses the 1st century AD marble relief immured in the early Byzantine Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna showing the Apotheosis of Augustus: the sculptures depict the family of Divus Augustus –Antonia Augusta, Germanicus, Drusus Maior, the Emperor himself and a head-less personification. In her discussion of the Triptolemus pelike in Copenhagen (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek 2695) showing Triptolemus on the one side and Theseus on the other, Gerda Schwarz (pp. 439-450) finds parallels between these heroes. She argues that following Marathon and up until defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian War both were regarded as benefactors of Athens and were regularly depicted on vases.

Beyond the confines of the Greek and Roman worlds, the medical archaeologist Robert Arnott (pp. 12-34) claims that the inhabitants of the major urban settlements of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro had developed a structured system of medicine. The main focus of the article is the operation of cranial trepanation, which he discusses in detail, as seen in five known examples of skulls in Lothal, Kalibangan, Harappa and Neolithic Burzahom in Kashmir. The author outlines the evidence for cranial (not brain) surgery in ancient societies. Erwin M. Ruprechtsberger (pp. 419-437) discusses one of the four Umayyad stucco window plates with human figures found in Qasr al-Hayr al-Sharqi and argues that the plate, showing the figure of a rider with a bird, may depict falconry.

A separate set of articles is concerned with Greek and Roman social history. Ingomar Weiler (pp. 611-631) discusses the social status and the forms and terminology of punishment (especially flogging as a punishment for slaves) of participants in the Panhellenic games and also in local athletic competitions. Reinhold Bichler (pp. 51-62) argues that Cyrus' campaign which led him to the legendary people of Arimaspi in northern Scythia (who are supposed to have supported Cyrus' hungry army and received the appellation "benefactors" (εὐεργέται) in return) should be closely linked to ancient reports of Alexander's granting of gifts to the people of Ariaspai on the borders of Drangiana in the Achaemenid Empire. Bichler considers conflations of the two campaigns of Cyrus and Alexander in historiographical sources, provoked by phonetic similarities in the names of exotic peoples. Monika Frass (pp. 203-220) and Wolfgang Speyer (pp. 451-464) discuss the issue of deformity and disability in the ancient world. Frass considers deformed children and especially girls from a sociological, juridical and religious point of view, focusing on the story of Labda, the lame mother of the first Corinthian tyrant Cypselus. Physical deformity was symbolically extended to characterise other behavior. Speyer poses the broader question of (in)tolerance to the 'outsider', focusing on ecstatic religious communities such as the cult of Dionysus, the cult of the Anatolian mother goddess Cybele, Egyptian gods in Greece and Rome, and then Greeks, Jews, Christians and Chaldeans in Rome. His related discussion of the terminology of superstition reveals that this discourse was more developed in Latin than in Greek. Kaja Harter-Uibopuu (pp. 245-260) provides a stimulating discussion of Greek discourses of the honours accorded to benefactors by a city. The author takes into account a broad range of epigraphic and literary evidence from the 4th century BC until the 1st century AD. Rupert Breitwieser (pp. 77-92) discusses various conditions provoking goitre, the swollen neck disease common in Alpine and Gandharan regions. He considers Sanskrit, Chinese, Greek and Roman texts and also sculptures, reliefs and pictures. The disease was caused by the absence of iodine found in Mediterranean sea-water. Heribert Aigner (pp. 15-21) argues that the transfer of the relics of Saint Nicholas from Myra to Bari and Venice had parallels in the Roman (and even Hittite) ritual of evocatio ("calling forth" or "summoning away") of a deity, which aimed at transferring the favour of a tutelary deity to one's own side. In this anthropological approach, the author compares the story of the relics with other similar practices from the Trojan Palladium to those of the native Americans.

Some contributions discussing texts are on the cusp between philological and historical research. Sigrid Jalkotzy (pp. 277-293) argues the 3rd book of the Odyssey (Telemachos' visit to Nestor in Pylos) preserves some rudimental vestiges from Late Helladic Pylos. Comparing the various sources, scholia and inscriptions, Werner Petermandl (pp. 349-360) investigates the literary tradition of the story of Orsippos, who was the first to run naked and win the foot race at the 15th Olympiad (720 BC). Klaus Tausend (pp. 515-528) discusses the 'manoeuvre warfare' tactics of the Theban general Epaminondas, which sought to restrict the freedom of movement of enemy forces. The foundation of new cities in Peloponnese to strengthen resistance against the Spartans is interpreted in the context of this 'manoeuvre warfare'.

Eckart Olshausen's (pp. 341-347) is the first of a number of papers which seek to analyse vocabulary. In discussing the topic of forgiveness in Caesar's Commentarii de bello civili and the use of the terms bellum for 'civil war' and hostis for 'civil enemy', he argues that these terms are strongly marked and thus tend to be avoided by the author who prefers dissensio (civilis) and adversarius or inimicus. The choice of vocabulary thus constitutes an element in the self-image Caesar projects. Christoph Ulf (pp. 581-591) provides a 'close reading' of some late letters of Cicero to Brutus and invicem. Here the Roman concepts of dignitas, libertas and pax are discussed. The author places the letters in the political context of Rome between the murder of Caesar and the murder of Cicero. Gerhard Dobesch's (pp. 93-101) concerns are more broadly philological. He argues that Caesar's early literary works, the Laudes Herculis and the tragedy Oedipus, should not be considered peripheral to Caesar's work as a whole, and provides insights into the author's Epicurean views.

Both Anna Doblhofer-Bachleitner (pp. 103-110) and J. Michael Rainer (pp. 393-402) deal with juridical issues and connect Roman law to its modern successors. Rainer draws on Polybius and Cicero to illustrate the argument that the American 'mixed constitution' was influenced by the history of Roman law. Doblhofer-Bachleitner discusses the issue of plagiarism in Rome, while attempting to draw parallels with the defence of intellectual property in the modern world.

In a volume of this sort not all the articles are of the same quality. Apart from anything else they constitute gestures in honour of Herbert Graßl, and bear witness to the range of his interests and the influence of his work. The volume is carefully proofread but the lack of an index is unfortunate, as many of the most interesting articles discuss topics rich in archaeological and historical detail. The alphabetical order in which the articles are presented is also counterproductive; in not grouping the articles into subjects or themes it does not profit from comparisons made both within and between particular subject areas. Despite these remarks, this book has much that will interest scholars of Roman provincial archaeology and history in particular, and classicists and sociologists more generally. The essays, many of them insightful and erudite, are testimony to the breadth and openness that characterises contemporary archaeological and historical scholarship in Austria.

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