Monday, September 22, 2014


Paraskevi Martzavou, Nikolaos Papazarkadas (ed.), Epigraphical Approaches to the Postclassical Polis: Fourth Century BC to Second Century AD. Oxford studies in ancient documents. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. xx, 370. ISBN 9780199652143. $160.00.

Reviewed by Denver Graninger, University of California, Riverside (

Version at BMCR home site


The sixteen chapters of this engaging volume emerged from papers first presented at Oxford, often at their ongoing Epigraphy Workshop, and contain arguments that are grounded in rigorous study of inscriptions ranging in date from the fourth century BCE to second century CE and concerned in some measure with aspects of 'the post-Classical polis'. In a concise and useful introduction, the editors Paraskevi Martzavou and Nikolaos Papazarkadas set the agenda for the collection and reflect on, inter alia, the growing recognition in recent historiography of the polis's continuing agency in post-Classical politics and the evolution of epigraphy from a discipline reliant on the research of a small, 'heroic' in-group to one now characterized by radically democratic access, exemplified above all by the PHI Greek Inscriptions database. Both developments are to be welcomed, but carry some risk. The term 'post-Classical polis' may become essentialist and obscure underlying and often diverging realities of power across city-states, while attention to the material context of Greek inscriptions must continue to serve as the basis for any serious epigraphic inquiry. The papers that follow largely meet this challenge.

The volume begins with the three chapters of Part I, 'Poleis and Ruling Powers'. Miltiades B. Hatzopoulos offers a rich, selective overview of outstanding problems in the interpretation of the 'Pistiros Inscription' (SEG XLIX 911). Hatzopoulos regards the inscription as a unilateral treaty between an Odrysian royal, probably Amadokos, and a range of Greek traders conducting business and/or residing at Pistiros, probably the archaeological site at Adzhiyiska Vodenitsa near the inscription's findspot. His new interpretation of ll. 20-27, including a critical re-punctuation, supplement, and redivision of words in ll. 24-5, lends support to the idea that Maroneia enjoyed a particularly favorable political relationship with Odrysian dynasts.

Peter Thonemann makes a series of editorial interventions in I. Priene 1, Alexander's fragmentary edict for Priene. All are persuasive. The most significant concerns l. 3, where Thonemann restores Ἕλληνε]ς̣ for the Πριηνεῖ]ς of the 'vulgate'; those 'Greeks' resident at Naulochon, which functioned as a harbor for Priene, thus receive political and fiscal privileges on par with the citizens of Priene themselves: 'Alexander's adjudication ... marks the moment at which "being Greek" in Asia Minor and the Levant ceased to be solely a matter of cultural prestige' (p. 29) and anticipated the later claims to 'Greekness' by Side and Mallos (Arr. Anab. 1.26.4, 2.5.9).

Jonathan R. W. Prag discusses the epigraphic evidence for the existence of a Sicilian identity in the Classical period and its developing influence under Roman rule in subsequent centuries.

Part II, 'Poleis in Conflict', opens with Angelos P. Matthaiou's re-edition, translation, and detailed commentary on a third-century BCE Chian decree concerning arbitration of disputes between the cities of Parion and Lampsakos (ed. pr. J. Vanseveren, RPh 63 (1937), 337-44 (BE (1938), 294)).

Georgy Kantor provides an edition of and commentary on SEG LV 838 (ed. pr. I. A. Makarov in Drevnee Sredizemnomorje: Religiya, obschestvo, kul'tura, Moscow 2005, 73-82), which details a reform of how popular juries were constituted in Roman Taurian Chersonese, where there was a shortage of eligible jurors. Kantor persuasively dates the inscription to early in the reign of Trajan and demonstrates how the provision for rejection of jurors (l. 17-9) reveals a Roman influence on local and traditional Greek practice.

The two chapters of Part III, 'The Social Economics of the Polis', discuss public subscriptions in the post-Classical polis. Angelos Chaniotis studies aspects of public finance for civic defense in the Hellenistic period. While contributors' generosity was publicly acclaimed on inscribed lists, these individuals could also received concrete improvements to their legal status, including, for example, citizenship for non-citizens. Such awards were often hereditary and thus helped to encourage future donations by the donor's descendants. Chaniotis suggests that the reciprocal nature of the process 'contributed to the aristocratization of Hellenistic society and politics' (p. 106).

Aneurin Ellis-Evans covers much of the same ground as Chaniotis, but from a broader perspective and with greater emphasis on the performative and ideological dimensions of public subscriptions in the Hellenistic period.

Irene Salvo leads off Part IV, 'Poleis of Honour', with a new study of SEG XXX 1073, a Hellenistic (probably after the Peace of Apamea) honorary decree for a Chian, who had performed a series of conspicuous benefactions on behalf of Chios for Rome and Roman citizens, including the commission and dedication of an offering to Thea Roma 'containing [a narration] of the birth of the founder of Rome [Romulus and] his [brother] Remus' (ll. 25-7). Following a concise survey of opinion about the nature of this dedication (the author hypothesizes that it consisted of a votive relief with a text), Salvo places this dedication in the context of increasing Roman entanglement in the Greek East in the Hellenistic period and the political and cultural adaptation of Chios to this new reality.

In the 'The Victor's Return, and the Categories of Games', William Slater argues that the eiselasis granted to victors in the Classical and Hellenistic period by their home cities did not consist in entrance through a newly demolished section of that city's circuit wall, but 'primarily in a formal entrance, presumably with friends and supporters from a gymnasium or guild, starting from a city gate and proceeding to a shrine where a garland was laid and a proclamation was made' (p. 145); associated honors granted to such victors by the city could include sitesis and some form of cash reward. The ideology of eiselasis survived well into the Empire, when many victors at so-called eiselastic festivals, first attested ca. 115 CE, did not in fact return home, as they were often engaged in a longer-term sequence of competitions, but did secure a pension. Slater helps to make the complications inherent in such a system – for imperial authorities, host cities, and competitors (and their guilds) – less bewildering through a culminating discussion of SEG LIV 734 (ed. pr. Suppl. Epigr. Rh. 67), a curious Rhodian inscription dated ca. 200 CE that details a local elite's earlier athletic victories.

John Ma meditates on a range of late Classical contexts for honorific statue dedication, and observes that the 'monument functions as the meeting place between the "hot" military and political event, and the "cold" world of stereotypical language and monumental time' (p. 171). Ma moves on to discuss a specific type that becomes more frequent in the Hellenistic period, so-called 'private honorific statues' that tended to be erected either by citizens to honor other members of their family or by members of royal courts to honor relatives and associates of the king.

Nikolaos Papazarkadas edits six new fragmentary inscriptions from Hellenistic and Roman Siphnos, each of which apparently records the award of honors by the Council and Assembly of the city. In a useful concluding discussion, the author observes that 'through these new pieces of evidence Siphnos emerges as an archetypal post-classical city-state ... perfectly capable of posing herself as an autonomous political entity, seemingly independent from the monarchic powers of the time and in close interaction with her neighbours' (p. 196-7).

The volume concludes with the five chapters of Part V, 'Institutions, Ethics, Religion'. Georgia E. Malouchou offers new editions of and commentaries on two fragmentary fourth-century BCE Attic inscriptions first published by the indefatigable Kyriakos S. Pittakes in the Ephemeris Archailogike in 1856 and 1860, discussed in the contemporary papers of Panagiotis Eustratiades, but not subsequently collected in IG. Both inscriptions have been located by the author recently in the Epigraphical Museum in Athens. The first, previously understood by Pittakes as a decree, is here reinterpreted as a record of phialai exeleutherikai. The second, a fragmentary mortgage horos, unusually inscribed on a door threshold, was discovered on the Athenian acropolis and probably belonged to a nearby property.

In answering the question 'Who were the Neoi?', Nigel M. Kennell discusses the lexical range of the word neoi and throws into high relief the military functions and political power of twenty- to thirty-year-olds in a range of post-Classical poleis; whether mentoring ephebes ('cadet neoi', p. 232) or sparring with older, entrenched politicians, no other citizen group was more active in defending the city.

Benjamin D. Gray reveals fascinating and extensive points of contact between the diction of some later Hellenistic honorary decrees, mostly from Asia Minor, and that of fourth-century theorists on education, ethics, and the polis, Aristotle above all.

Sofia Kravaritou reviews the tantalizing literary, archaeological, and especially epigraphic (IG IX.2 1099b; A. S. Arvanitopoulos, Polemon 1.4 (1929), 206-215) evidence for a cult of archegetai and ktistai in Hellenistic eastern Thessaly, and argues that the form of the cult was conditioned by local social and political circumstances, in particular the foundation of the city of Demetrias in 293 BCE by synoikism of a number of pre-existing settlements around the Pagasitic Gulf. Much here is vague and speculative, but plausible: 'royal ktistai' (regarded by the author as including at least Demetrius Poliorcetes and Antigonus Gonatas) 'and local archegetai are joined together via the transfer of the ritual associated with the traditional archegetes into a new ideological context imposed by the synoecism' (p. 274).

A. Schachter and F. Marchand offer preliminary editions of and commentaries on six new inscriptions discovered during recent survey in and around Boiotian Thespiai, including a new fragment of a victors' list from the Mouseia and an early Imperial official measure, probably a kotyle, which mentions an agoranomos and is adorned with a stamped medallion of Hermes.

Nearly all inscriptions discussed in detail include full, accurate translations into English and ample description of material context; many are also accompanied by reasonably clear photographs. A bibliography, index locorum, and subject index round out this well-edited volume.

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